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Saying Goodbye

January 23, 2014

It’s my last night with my boy Chester. Tomorrow the vet will come to the house at 12:30 and they will kill him. The nice thing to say is “put him to sleep” or “let him go” or “euthanize him,” but the reality is that they will stop my boy’s beating heart and all the Chester that is in him will suddenly be gone. And I will never see my Chester again, not the way I want to see him: here next to me. Just in memory, which is not at all a good substitute.

The vet is coming to stop his heart because I called and asked her to, because I can’t bear to see him like this any longer. Weak and falling down and afraid and confused about why his body just doesn’t work anymore. He is almost blind, and mostly deaf, and sometimes a bit senile, but the hard part is that he is still Chester. He is aware, and alert, and wants his crock-pot beef dinner, and wants to go outside with everyone even though he falls on the ice and shivers. He wants to do all the things he has always done. His mind is still Chester, but his body is giving up.

These are the hardest ones, when they are not ready in their own minds. When they are still just going about their days like they always have. The ones that I have lost to cancer have been ready to go, and have told me as clearly as if they could speak words. Chester is not ready. I know he isn’t. But there is nothing more I can do to make his little body support him. He has already fallen badly enough to injure himself more than once, and I am afraid to leave him alone for even a few moments. I cannot let him be hurt and scared and alone.

So I will hold him tight while the housecall vet does her thing and tries not to look at me while I am sobbing into his neck. And I will tell him it’s okay and that I love him and that he should rest now. Even though the first part is a lie, and it is not at all okay, and I am broken. Again. And slowly he will stop breathing and the part of him that is Chester will be gone in that last breath. It will be up to my memory to try to recreate the exact way he moved, and the exact sound of his bark; and maddeningly these things become diluted over time.

At times like these I desperately wish that I could believe in the Rainbow Bridge or something like it. I never have, even as a child, but oh god to have that comfort now. To think that he will be young and whole and playing again. To think that someday I will see him – see ALL of them that I ache for. I wish I could believe it. But as it stands my only comfort in this is the absence of pain. The absence of fear. For him, thank goodness, although not at all for me. With each one lost the pain seems unbearable, but there is no choice except to bear it. And with each one lost, the fear is the same: that I will forget some essential detail that made him who he was. That the quintessential Chesterness will be lost to me, both in reality and in memory, forever.  That he will die, and then keep on dying.

So tomorrow I will give him the only thing left that I can give him: the absence of pain and fear. And I will hold his head in my hands, and I will try to fix in my mind the exact softness of his fur which makes it unlike the fur of any other dog but Chester. The way the top of his head smells, the weight of his paw in my hand, the way his tongue pokes out of his toothless mouth. Things that photographs can’t remember for me. And I will try to wrap my head around the fact that he is really and truly and utterly gone from me, that what I have just done is irrevocable. No bargaining with the universe or god or my own mind can make it turn out any differently. And at some point I will have no choice but to get up from his dog bed, empty now, and go on with the day.

I have 10 years’ worth of memories of him, so many good and funny and wonderful. There will be moments with him that I’ve forgotten that will sneak up and surprise me, little gifts of him dropped into my lap. And in time it will make me happy and sad and then happy again to remember them. But what I want, what I really really really want, is for my boy to just stay here with me.

ChesterGoodnight

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Adoptions of 2013

January 1, 2014
  • EVA
    CHEETCH
    ANDY
    GEM
    HEPBURN
    APRIL
    RUTHIE
    BETH
    CALLY
    CANDY KISS
    FRANNIE
    MRS PIGGY
    EVE
    RUTBAH
    OTTO
    FALLON
    LUKE
    CRICKET
    KC
    FUN
    MAGNET
    JAX
    LISA
    NALA
    SAM
    TOOLIE
    DENISE
    HALLEY
    AMY
    MERLIN
    BAYLIE
    CHELSEA
    CLOONEY
    NOVA
    ELFIE
    DRAGON
    FEET
    LILY
    ANGELINA
    HOOK
    OZZIE
    JEWEL
    FIONA
    MOCHA
    BEAR
    CHARLIZE
    EASI
    CLAIR
    LADY
    SHOWY
    MOLLY
    VERA
    COLO
    LENARD
    CLOUDY
    CANON
    LUCKY
    TYLO
    DAWSON
    MISSISSIPPI
    ELLA
    ABE
    SQUIRT
    SADIE
    BUCKLE
    RALPH

Huge thanks to all our adopters, volunteers and supporters! It has been a greyt year because of all of you. We look forward to finding loving homes for lots of hounds in 2014!

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And we’re home!

December 18, 2013
Kevin is home!

Kevin is home!

And doing awesome!

This morning they called around 9AM to tell me that he had had a very rough night. Had to be on a sedation drip to keep him quiet. Had to be cathed because he was not urinating on his own. Had not eaten anything. They wanted to keep him another day.

I said, okay fine, let’s reevaluate around 1PM. So I called back in the afternoon and was told he still would not eat or pee, but that they were weaning him off his fentanyl and IV drip and he was keeping his oral meds down. His bruising was bad and they had started the aminocaprioc acid (which everybody tried to tell me he would not need because he is only half greyhound — I should have insisted, lesson learned) but it looked awful. She said she preferred to keep him another night but then said “What do you think?” So I knew I could get him home.

I went around 2:30 to ‘visit’ him. Brought him a ham and cheese Which Wich, and brought what I would need to take him home. A choice of 2 slings, and the biopsy form for UPenn. I sat with him in an exam room for about 2 hours, most of which was waiting for the surgeon to finish another surgery. But during that time he ate the ham and cheese out of the sandwich a tiny bit at a time, and fell asleep against my leg. I told them he was going home.

He did NOT want the assistance of a sling to get out to the car. He hopped out there all on his own and ALMOST jumped in on his own (got a back end boost).

Since he has been home, he has amazed me. His mobility is just excellent. Much better than either Whitey or Apollo the day after surgery. (Apollo walked on his own the next day, but not nearly this well. Whitey made no attempt to support his own weight for a good week or more.) It’s a good thing this is not my first amp or I would think it was always like this! He tires quickly, but can walk on any surface and can get up and down from either side. Unbelievable.

He peed a gallon as soon as he got into the kennel yard (insisting on walking way out there). Came in and plunked down on the kitchen bed. Since then he has eaten 2 bowls of chicken and rice and drank a bunch of water. He gets up and down at will. He’s tired, but he’s doing great.

He has a ton of bruising and swelling. Looks pretty awful. Still a bit of seepage from the wound as well, but no big deal. He’s got a Fentanyl patch on for another few days, plus Rimadyl, Tramadol and Gabapentin for pain, and Cephalexin for antibiotic. And of course the Amicar for bleeding. (Which apparently Walgreens wanted $2000 to produce, so the clinic just gave it to me in liquid form.)

So far so good. We might even sleep tonight. He does not seem agitated, and can rest. Hopefully this is not just a honeymoon period before the hard part starts, but I know that is a possibility. Still, feeling pretty lucky here.

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Defending “Rescue”

December 17, 2013

In the midst of preparing for Kevin’s surgery and waiting for him to come home, I have been trying to arrange for the arrival of 3-4 new dogs to MNGR. They have difficult stories, and trying to make room for them in our program makes me think about what our responsibility is as a “rescue.”

Many people don’t know it, but in some circles ‘rescue’ is a dirty word. MNGR has many people who will not work with us, both within the greyhound racing community and the greyhound adoption community, because we use the word ‘rescue’ in our name. It’s a political statement to some, the same as saying outright that greyhound racing is cruel and dogs that come from that situation are ‘rescued’ from a terrible fate.

When I founded MNGR, I chose the name deliberately, knowing what the ramifications might be. I knew that we might be blacklisted in certain places. I knew it might offend people. But I believe it most accurately describes what we do. Here’s why.

We have been lucky to develop personal relationships with many trainers and breeders in the racing industry who send us their dogs when they are finished with them. We appreciate these relationships. Some of these people have become our friends, even though we disagree fundamentally about certain things. But these relationships allow us to see firsthand where our adoptable dogs come from, to know things about their past including where they were born, how they were raised, their medical histories.

But others in the industry refuse to send us dogs, because they don’t like the idea that we think we are ‘rescuing’ the dogs from them. I’ve had notes written by angry kennel managers, saying ‘This is not a rescue. The dogs would have gone to another group.’ Meaning they do not kill their dogs. They make sure they go to adoption groups. Which is great, and which we genuinely appreciate.

Here’s the thing though, and here’s why I maintain that it is ‘rescue.’ The people that breed and race these dogs do not have a plan for what happens to the dogs when they are done racing… except for sending them to non-profit, volunteer-run adoption groups. If not for these groups, a majority of dogs would not be rehomed. This is what happened prior to the early 1990s before greyhound adoption started to become prevalent.

The non-adoption-group options for racing greyhounds are few. They can be put down (humanely or otherwise); they can be sent back to the breeding farm to take up valuable space; or they can be given away by their owners (to be used as coyote hunters on farms, among other possibilities). Rarely do they become pets of their owners – most trainers/owners have far too many to keep them all. The people who produce these dogs for profit have no system set up to make sure the dogs end up in good places. They are not running adoption groups. They don’t do home visits or screen potential new owners. They depend on volunteer adoption groups to do this. If there were no adoption groups, bad things would happen to the dogs. Adoption groups rescue.

Moreover, while we do know plenty of people in the industry who honestly care what happens to the dogs and take good care of them while they are racing (although generally not the same kind of care one would give a house pet), we also know this is not always the case. Some owners will repair a broken leg, and some won’t. Dogs come to us having sat with a completely untreated fractured leg until it heals in whatever way it can, often causing lifelong pain. Dogs come infested with fleas. Dogs almost invariably come with worms. Dogs come completely unsocialized and terrified, never having been out of their outdoor run on the farm.

Don’t get me wrong. We are grateful that they come. We are grateful to be able to help them. But this is rescue. Plain and simple.

But calling ourselves a rescue comes with a responsibility as well. There are some adoption groups who choose what dogs they take in. Who cherrypick for the dogs who will be easiest to place…. Small, female, fawn, cat-safe. When I started MNGR, I never wanted to do this. To the greatest extent possible, I have always wanted MNGR to take whoever needs to come. To the greatest extent possible, we go to get new dogs with a number in mind that we can reasonably house, and take whoever needs to go.

Will we take one with a broken leg? Yes! Unsocialized and scared of people? Yes. Food aggressive and turned down by other groups? Yes. Seizures? Yes. Not a purebred? Yes. Blind? Yes. 11 years old and never been in a home? Yes. Teeth rotting out and needing a $2000 dental? Yes. Incontinent? Yes. Dying? Yes yes and yes.

I can give specific examples of dogs we have taken that meet all these criteria. Could we adopt out MORE dogs if we selected for pretty and young ones? Sure, but that’s not what rescue is. We take whoever needs us the most.

I would honestly rather take a dog who is old, or sick, or injured, or has the misfortune to be large and black and male all in one package. I know the small fawn female will have another place to go. I won’t lose sleep at night worrying about her. But the big snarky boy and the old brood mom? We might be their only shot. That is why we do this.

Which brings me to the newest dogs arriving at MNGR. These three boys are lurchers. A lurcher is a greyhound mix. Some look like greyhounds, others a little different. They are also called “cold bloods” (racers would be “hot bloods”). A staghound is a type of lurcher (a greyhound/deerhound mix) that is common in the Dakotas and Montana. In many cases, it will be impossible to tell exactly what the mix is. They just look “more or less” like a greyhound. Those of you who follow MNGR will remember some of the lurchers we’ve taken in: George, Fear, Fiona (and her sister Mocha, who may have been purebred), Dug, and Frannie, among others.

In many places, lurchers are used to hunt coyotes on farms. Living outside or in barns, bare minimum medical care. And imagine the kinds of injuries that might be sustained when a greyhound hunts and catches a coyote. When they are not good hunters any longer, they are shot or abandoned. This is the closest thing America has to the galgo situation in Spain. In other places, such as Ohio and Indiana, lurchers are used for hunting or “underground greyhound racing.” These are field trials, generally using live bait, with no kind of oversight from any governing body. Again, unsuccessful dogs are mostly shot or abandoned.

One of the dogs we will be getting has been living outside (in Ohio, in winter) with minimal shelter. One photo shows a frozen-over water bucket. His owner has 20-25 dogs that he uses for field trials. The rescuers have developed a rapport with him and are able to take the dogs he no longer uses, but the others are stuck there.

Another of the dogs we are getting is a victim of abuse/neglect. When he was found, he was full of parasites and 20 pounds underweight. And blind. Blind because of parasites and untreated infection. He is young, only 4-6 years old. The people at OLP describe him as courageous, smart, sweet, loving, and amazing. Super trainable, housebroken, and affectionate. He’s also beautiful. But unfortunately with his “special need” he will wait longer for a home.

Dogs like these need and deserve our help just as much as the “easy-to-place” dogs. They deserve to see what life SHOULD be like. To rescue them, we need everyone’s help. We need people to open their hearts to a dog who might not be EXACTLY what they imagined, but who will prove to be so much more. We need foster homes. We need adopters. Please help us spread the word about these new boys. Maybe one of them is meant to be yours this Christmas. We cannot rescue them all, but we can make a difference.

Tom, chained in the cold.

Tom, chained in the cold.

Rain, blind, looking for love.

Rain, blind, looking for love.

 

““While wandering a deserted beach at dawn, stagnant in my work, I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked the endless stretch toward me. As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. When he was close enough I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die. I said to him that I thought he was foolish. there were thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach. One man alone could never make a difference. He smiled as he picked up the next starfish. Hurling it far into the sea he said, “It makes a difference for this one.” I abandoned my writing and spent the morning throwing starfish.”
― Loren Eiseley

 

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Surgery today

December 17, 2013

Kevin had his surgery this afternoon. We went in for our consultation with the surgeon this morning. She looked at his rads and they did bloodwork, and didn’t find any reason to not proceed. So that all is good news. He came through his anaesthesia fine, and woke up quiet. He stays at the hospital overnight, and they will let me know in the morning whether he will be allowed to come home tomorrow.

I have 12 other hounds in the house but it is strange without him. I hate it when they are away from me. I will feel much better when he is back where I can see/touch him.

The first few days are generally awful. I expect not to sleep for a couple nights, as he will be restless. The Fentanyl patch can make them anxious and dysphoric, but he really needs the pain control. He’ll be wobbly on his feet, but restless. It’s hard, and it makes you question over and over whether you did the right thing.

But he is young (by my standards) and energetic, and otherwise healthy. I believe we are doing the right thing for him.

I’ve been in touch with UPenn about their study. What they are doing is really cool. From Dr Mason’s email:
“To be eligible for the trial the patients have to have a confirmed diagnosis (by biopsy) of osteosarcoma and assessment of expression of the vaccine target within the tumor (her2/neu). The dogs also have to have undergone the current standard of care for OSA which includes limb amputation with follow up chemotherapy (4 doses of carboplatin – we are avoiding adriamycin, the other commonly used drug in our chemo protocol as it may cause heart damage when used with the vaccine). Following this treatment we vaccinate the patients with the vaccine (this is currently done at the University of Pennsylvania and the dogs stay in the hospital for 21-24 hours after vaccination to make sure they do not have any adverse effects)- once every 3 weeks for a total of 3 vaccines. We then follow their clinical response, stage them every 2 months to look for chest metastases, evaluate their immune responses and look for any unwanted side effects. The vaccine is a modified bacteria known as listeria. The bacteria has been genetically modified in 2 important ways: > > 1) it now expresses a bone cancer molecule that is the target of the immune system > 2) it has been highly modified so that it is very easy for the body (and antibiotics) to kill it – increasing its safety. > > The bacteria is given to the patient and this stimulates a potent immune response against the bacteria and against the tumor molecule it is carrying. The bacteria is cleared by the immune system and the immune cells then go off around the body to find any cancer cells and kill them, preventing metastasis and prolonging overall survival – that is what we hope will happen.”

It’s going to be a huge time commitment if we do it. Philadelphia is a 2-day drive (each way) and I would need to go a bunch of times with him. But the dogs in the study are doing really well. This could save his life. So we will need to figure it out. Having 4 young kids and 25 dogs makes life difficult sometimes! LOL But at least now we know what the steps are. They are going to pack the leg sample in formalin, and I will take them the biopsy form tomorrow when I pick him up so they can send it all off to UPenn.

I did get a response from OSU and there is a chance Kevin can get the free chemo even though he is not a purebred greyhound. Great news! Waiting to hear more.

That is all I know tonight. It’s going to be a long week. I will feel so much better when I can see him tomorrow.

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Here we go again

December 12, 2013

Since the “What to Expect with a Leg Amputation” still gets a very depressing number of hits and comments, I thought I would take y’all along with us as we go through it yet again.

Our black staghound, Kevin, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma of the distal femur (knee) this morning. I’ve known it for about a week and a half, so this was just confirmation. And in the vet’s words, “There is no doubt.”

He started limping about 2 weeks ago, but even though he is about 9 years old, he does careen around like a crazy man so I thought there was some chance of a soft tissue injury. But he gave me a definite pain response when I pressed on his knee so I pretty much knew. Gave him a week to get better, just in case, but instead he got worse. The past 2 days he has been carrying the leg entirely.

So off for x-rays we went this morning. He was scared and it was pretty unpleasant getting all the rads done. I wanted to be damn sure that he was a good candidate for an amp, so we shot all 4 legs, a few views of his lungs, and his spine. The vet thought everything else looked normal, but we will have the radiologist look at it too of course. His heart and lungs sounded okay.

We already have our appointment for Monday at the referral clinic for an oncology and surgery consult. Possibly surgery that same day.

OSU still does the free chemo drugs for ex-racers, but Kevin is not an ex-racer (he is half greyhound, half deerhound) so it probably does not apply to us but I am planning to check. (NOTE: Now that Dr Couto is no longer with OSU, we suspect that the Greyhound Wellness Program might not be long for this world, and funding for free chemo drugs is limited. If you have a greyhound in this situation, contact them ASAP.)

The University of Pennsylvania has been doing research on an osteosarcoma vaccine, and there are clinic trials going on, so we will also be checking to see if Kevin might qualify for that. They want a particular kind of tumor, so we won’t know for sure until the pathology report comes back after surgery. (Then we will need to see if it is feasible for me to drive Kevin to Penn for the treatment, given the other 20 dogs and 4 kids I have to take care of. I will do this if it is at all possible, because the vaccine results are very promising.) Here’s a link to the study website: http://www.vet.upenn.edu/research/centers-initiatives/canine-cancer-studies

Poor Kevs. He is one of my “young” dogs. (I currently have four 12-yr-olds and an almost-14-yr-old in my pack.) I thought he would be around for a long time. I hope he still will be. He’s tripawding really well right now, so I am hopeful that his mobility after surgery will be good. But unfortunately these things ALWAYS seem to happen during snow-and-ice season. I just hate it. I hate osteo.

Kevin caught stealing an apple and lying on it.

Kevin caught stealing an apple and lying on it.

Kevin loves frosting containers.

Kevin loves frosting containers.

Kevin, right after we got him in Summer 2012.

Kevin, right after we got him in Summer 2012.

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Oldies but Goodies

August 6, 2013

I was looking something up about Whitey’s recovery from his leg amputation the other day, and came across this post from the end of 2009. Go read it first.

http://minnesotagreyhounds.wordpress.com/2009/12/27/2009/

I wrote it, obviously, and in fact I lived it. But I was still in tears reading it. Man, I still miss every last one of them. It seems like it all happened yesterday.

Since then, we’ve adopted a bunch more seniors. Whitey and Apollo both died in 2010, both of their osteosarcoma. Tigger (age 9 at adoption) came in February shortly before Whitey died. And Eyore (age 9 at adoption) came the same day that we let Apollo go. There has also been Boozer (sweet, sweet baby adopted at 13 years old, and gave us a beautiful year and a half), Sarge (age almost 12 at adoption and still with us), two staghounds (relatively young for me, only age 8 and 9 at adoption) named Frank and Kevin, and most recently Marvin Yellowstone (age 11.5 at adoption).

There are so many seniors out there waiting. So many, it breaks my heart every time I see one posted. It’s never their fault. They’ve lost the home they’ve known for most of their lives because of divorces, new babies, job losses, or worse — new carpet. And they don’t understand, and they are sad and scared.

But they have so much love to give, and so much life left in them. Even though their last people may have stopped caring a long time ago, gotten bored, gotten busy, whatever…. The dogs will still give their new people a chance. They will still trust, and they will still love with all they have. That’s what dogs do.

No dog deserves to spend his old age in a shelter, confused and missing his family. You can make a difference in that life. And the difference it will make in YOUR life will astonish you.

MNGR frequently has the opportunity to take in brood mamas from the Kansas farms. Sometimes as young as 7 or 8, sometimes as old as 10 or so. These ladies have put in their time working and raising babies for the racetracks, and they deserve a loving family and a soft place for their golden years. There are almost always brood mamas available, so please contact us if you might like us to bring one up from the farm for you. The alternative for these girls is not always a good one, and we can only take as many as we can place.

I also sometimes post seniors waiting with other groups to the MNGR Facebook page. If you ever want more info about any of these precious babies, please get in touch with me. Most groups are willing to move “special needs” and older dogs out of state to an approved home, and we can help with that! Don’t just look at the photos and feel sad. Or worse, don’t just scroll on by the photos to spare yourself the pain. If you can’t adopt, foster. If you can’t foster, donate. If you can’t donate, at least share the posts and give these sweethearts their best shot at forever.

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