Archive for August, 2010

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So here’s what I’m thinking…

August 23, 2010

I had a thread on Greytalk going about this a week or two ago, so a warning to some Greytalkers that this will be in part cut and pasted from there.  But I need to provide some additional context for the blog readers, I think.

For those of you who know me personally or have followed the blog since its beginning, you know that dogs with osteosarcoma seem to end up in my family somehow.   Tanner, Annie, Crisco, Whitey, Apollo… just in the past 18 months.  In my Greytalk threads and in other contexts, many people have said that these guys are finding their way to me for a reason.

I’ll preface what follows with the caveat that I’m not Christian.  I don’t believe in god.  But do I believe in some kind of “meant to be”?  Some kind of karma?  I don’t know.  The point is:

Maybe it’s true. I’ve thought it myself many times. When Whitey came to us, and was diagnosed 2 weeks later, I was GRATEFUL that he was in our family. I was sad as hell for him, but nothing but purely grateful that he had come to us and ended up a part of our lives. What would have happened to him if he had still been getting bounced between foster homes? Or with someone who worked long hours, and may not have been able to care for him while he was sick? I told Whitey all the time how happy I was that he came to us.

We lost my heart boy, Crisco, nearly a year ago now. And when that happened, I was drowning. It was a week after losing our boy Sly (unexpectedly and traumatically) and within the 6-month period when we also lost Tanner, Annie and Abby. Crisco was the “last straw” and I literally sat on the couch for a week and did nothing but eat popcorn and watch movies of the “Bill and Ted” variety to keep myself from thinking. Left Lloyd to pick up the pieces of real life.

Then came Whitey. 11 years old. But the perkiest, strongest little dude that I’ve ever known. His osteo Dx made me get off the couch, because he needed me. I was lucky enough to care for him, lucky enough to know him. In his last days, he had metastasis in the radius and ulna of his remaining front leg, metastasis that had basically destroyed his spine, and mets in his lungs too. But Whitey had a will to be happy. So he still ran in the yard (short ways, but he ran), and he dug his one-armed holes, and he slept next to me with that one front paw resting on my face every night. He fought like hell until the very end. He was amazing. And he taught me that I don’t get to drown in my sadness, because others need me.

Y’know, for some reason, I can do this. I can essentially run a “doggie hospice” and still manage to get up out of bed each morning. (Well, there may be some prescription meds involved….LOL) Yes, it breaks my heart each time. My heart is in pieces on the floor each time. But the next one somehow puts it back together, just never exactly the same way.

So. Maybe they’re being sent to me. I guess in the end I have the personality for this. I’m a fighter, and a researcher, and I’m not afraid to tell vets what they will and will not do with my dog. I can give them my heart, knowing that it’ll be broken again, maybe in just a few short months.

What I can’t do, unfortunately, is keep on paying for this. Sad, but true.

I dream of having a “rescue” where I take in just the old boys, or the guys with special needs. Find them a permanent home, or a permanent foster home, if I can. And otherwise give them a home for life with our family. Other adoption groups who get senior boy bounces, or bounces with serious medical issues that render them unadoptable, could send them to us and we would love them. It would need to be small, in order for me to give each of them enough care, maybe 8 dogs or so at a time. In my head, I call it The Old Boys’ Club.

If there were any justice in the world, I would be independently wealthy and could just pay for this. Unfortunately, I’m the (unpaid) director of an adoption group, my husband works for the public school system, and we’ve paid for 2 international adoptions from China (and one more in the works). So this would have to be a non-profit that I would fundraise like crazy for.

If the universe, or god, or karma, or whatever, really is sending me these guys, I just wish I could figure out a way to do more for them.

So that’s my “what if?” dream.  Can I make it come true someday?  I’d need a lot of things in place first….the most obvious being start-up funding, but also vets and surgeons who can give discounts (on more than just spay/neuters), more volunteers including some who are willing to come to the house and help me here when I have some really sick ones and Lloyd is at work, and a whole bunch of other things that I have only just begun to think about.

There’s an all-breed senior dog advocacy group called Grey Muzzle, and they say on their website that, “We envision a world where no old dog dies alone and afraid.”  That is where my heart is too.  Right now, I am able to take them one at a time, as I continue to run MNGR.  But there are lots of greyhound adoption groups, and maybe taking the seniors is something I can do that others don’t.  So.  That’s what I’m thinking.

If anyone has input or suggestions, I would be happy to hear them.  And please, don’t tell me that I’m a good person or somehow special or whatever.  I haven’t had any choice in the matter until this point.  When Tanner died, I had sadness rushing over my head like water, and thought  would never see the surface again.  But the dogs who have come my way since then have come, and each time I had no choice but to love them with all my heart.  I’ve done what I needed to do for them, as best I can, and not without plenty of mistakes and regrets.  The thing is, they keep coming, and I’ve realized that I am incredibly lucky that they come to me.  Not the other way around.

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Odds and Endings (and Odd Beginnings)

August 18, 2010

Here I am again, still alive it seems. Missing my Apollo terribly. My girls don’t really understand, which is a blessing and a curse. They are 4 and 5, and both relatively recently adopted from China. Since Sunny has been home, we have lost 6 dogs. Since Maisy has been home, we have lost 3. But they also see the adoptable dogs come and go all the time, and at first I think Sunny was assuming that it was normal for all the dogs to suddenly disappear one day. Now I think they understand that the “house” dogs have a different status, and that when they go away it has something to do with being sick. But I think they may assume that the dog goes to live at the vet. I’m not sure. On the one hand, I am glad they have not had to grieve each dog with me. And on the other hand, it’s like a knife in my heart when one comes up and announces, “Apollo and Whitey and Palu die!”

Apollo was somehow significant for them, probably because they saw the way I protected and worried about him. This morning, Maisy was pulling a plastic balloon weight around on a string (like a leash), calling it “her Apollo” and talking to it softly.

Well, since many of you followed his journey, I’m sure a lot of you are wondering what happened. The last post before he died was a hopeful one. And in fact, it was not the osteo that killed him. He did NOT have osteo in his spine. We did new x-rays the day before we lost him. His spine was clear as day. His lungs were full of mets, though. Which is not even something I was thinking about, since he had no symptoms of that (except, perhaps, gooey eyes). He could have gone on for another couple months with those lung mets, though, and probably felt relatively good. But we could not get him out of pain from the herniated disc. He couldn’t tolerate the pain meds, and he was miserable.

At the vet appointment, we thought long and hard about whether to let him go that day, or to try one more pain med (Tramadol). After a lot of discussion, Dr M said that if it were her dog, she’d try the Tramadol for a day or two. I know she wouldn’t say that lightly, because I’ve seen the decisions she has made for her own hounds. We had gotten to a similar point with Whitey, where it was let him go or try the Tramadol, and the Tramadol bought him another couple good weeks. So we decided to try it.

It was a mistake. Apollo never recovered at all, and had a very rough final night. They say it’s better a day too soon than a day too late, and I think we were probably a good 12 hours too late on this one. But it was a herniated disc! It just seemed to me like that was something we ought to be able to fix. Especially since the prednisone had gotten us 3 really good days. But we couldn’t fix it. My poor sweet guy. Such a good guy.

The vet came to the house to let him go on Tuesday at 2pm. (As an annoying aside, you should really have to say more than “Hi Bob, it’s Lloyd,” when you make a call to the pet crematory.)

Two hours after Apollo left us, a new boy arrived from St Louis, MO, to join our pack. It wasn’t planned; it just happened that way.

The new boy is Eyore (yes, I know that Eeyore is supposed to have 2 E’s, but his does not). He is just about 9 years old. When we heard that Rescued Racers (Whitey’s group) had an Eyore, we knew he belonged here, with Tigger. Tigger was losing his Meet n Greet buddy.

Eyore is sweet as pie. He lost his old mom because she needed to take a job where she would be traveling all the time. He likes cheese, does not like thunder, and is ridiculously tolerant of the girls (who cannot pronounce his name and call him E-whore).

This is where the “odd beginnings” part comes in. Within a half hour of his arrival, I was convinced that he had osteosarcoma. Yes, you heard me correctly. He was limping on his right front leg, and the nature of the limp was just too familiar. Way too familiar. No one had noticed him limping before, although he had slipped and fallen on the hardwood floor at his temporary foster home in St Louis a couple days earlier. The first thing Lloyd said when he saw Eyore was, “He’s walking funny.” It was a subtle limp, but it was decidedly there.

I knew in my bones that this dog had osteo. And I had fallen in love with him already. I was sick to my stomach over it. Wednesday was Dr M’s day off, and I was hoping that if it was in fact just a soft-tissue injury, I would be seeing improvement by Thursday and not have to go in. Nope. So we went in on Thursday, me with my heart all soggy in my socks. I made Lloyd come with me, because I was so sure I would be getting bad news.

Dr M palpated him, and I could tell she was worried too. The first glimmer of hope was when she noted that he was a little painful (not as much) on the other shoulder in the same spot. So we marched down to the x-ray machine. Did one of each shoulder. When the first one came up, Dr M held it up to the flourescent ceiling light and said, “It actually looks pretty good.” I said, “Gimme that! I don’t believe you!” So we put it up on the light box and scrutinized it. Even though I was trying as hard as I could to see something there, there was nothing. We looked at the other shoulder, and it looked the same. We shot it again to be sure.

I asked Dr M about 10,000 questions to make sure she wasn’t going to change her answer. But Eyore does not have osteo. He subluxated his shoulder when he fell. She showed me on his body and on the rads where the scapula on the right side isn’t sitting as nicely against the humerus as the one on the left. And the bone pain I thought I was finding was actually an “insertion point” for a tendon, and the tendon was what was causing the pain.

I have never been so relieved in all my life. I could barely drive myself home. Legs of jell-o. So, thankfully, this boy should be with us for quite a while!

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Apollo

August 11, 2010

My sweet and brave Apollo,

I’ll never know what the first 9.5 years of your life were like, or why you lost your other family.  All I wanted was to make you a part of our family, and make you understand that it was really and truly forever.

You had a bit of a hard time trusting people, I know.  You were friendly and outgoing, but were wary of anyone who got too close to you.  I’m grateful that during our time together, you decided to let me in.  That in the end, you were able to take comfort from being close to me.  That you could lay your head on my shoulder and relax while I rubbed your face.

At Heartland, they said you were a “gentleman.”  That’s true.  You always had a dignified air about you, even when you let go a bit and ran just for the sake of running.  The way you sat on your bed watching the household goings-on, your long neck appearing even longer with your missing scapula, you were stately and magnificent.

When people came to adopt greyhounds here, I can’t even count how many times the families wanted to take you home instead of the adoptables.  Especially children, even though you never particularly cared for children.  They were all drawn to you.  Families ignoring vibrant 2-year-old females in favor of a big senior tripawd boy.  There was just something about you.  Always so gentle, so sweet.

You were a beautiful boy.  And that’s not just a mama talking.  The kind of beautiful that made everyone stop and remark upon it whenever we were out.  You had that Art Deco silhouette, everything tapered and elongated.  Delicate but strong.  Soft and sleek.  I remember the feel of your neck and chest under my hands.

I wish I had known you better when I had to make that life-or-death decision for you.  You had only been in our family for 4 months at the time.  I have questioned myself, doubted, regretted, reassured, and questioned again whether we did right by you to take your leg.  I only hope that you understood, at some level, that we were trying to help you.  That every decision was made out of love.

You amazed me from the first day after your amputation, when you hopped out of that clinic under your own power and only got better each day after that.  I know it was hard on you emotionally, but you were brave and you bounced back.  You just kept right on going through everything.  I remember clearly the day we took that video of you running in the front yard.  It was the day that you realized that you could still run.  From that point on, you were yourself again.  Having that video of you saves me.  It helps me remember that you had joy here.

I think that you were happy here, on 4 legs and on 3.  You would run in fast from the yard sometimes, just for the fun of it, or take off to the far corner if Brad was barking at something there.  You learned to recognize my MNGR shirts, and campaigned hard to go to every event with me.  I loved to see you so excited and bouncy, knocking into everyone, wagging your long whip of a tail, even jumping up at me with that one front leg.  It broke my heart when I couldn’t take you.  I always took you when I could; when it was not to hot, or too far for you to walk.  I just hated ever saying no to you, with your sweet expectant face.

I knew that you were feeling good when you would hop after me every time I went to the kitchen.  I could never turn you down, and I always produced some kind of tidbit for you.  I would try to finish up whatever I was doing in the kitchen before you finished eating your treat, or you would be bopping back in there, ears up, to wait for another.

I hope that I can always recall the sound of your high-pitched, hoarse but piercing bark.  You almost never barked, but when I came home, you would almost always meet me at the gate, barking that silly bark.  That was one of those times when I could count on some big tail wags from you.  Oh, those wags of your skinny, curly tail made me so happy.  I just loved that you loved me, after all you had been through.  I’d put myself between you and the rest of the thundering herd, so they wouldn’t knock you off balance.  I would lean over you and hug you, rub your prickly new fur under your chest where your leg used to be, kiss your head and tell you how happy I was to see you.  The house howl will never be the same without your high bark to get them started.

Oh, Pallo.  I miss you so much already, my honeybear.  You were such a huge piece of this family, our “pack.”  The girls love you too, even though you didn’t want to play with them.  They were always concerned about you, asking whether you were okay, showing me that they were being gentle around you.  They name their stuffed dogs Apollo, and draw pictures of dog-creatures named Apollo.  I am so glad that they got to know you too.

Thank you for being part of our family.  For trusting us, forgiving us, for trying so hard, and for loving us.  You have a space in my heart for you and only you.  I love you, my baby boy.

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Climbing again

August 3, 2010

Osteosarcoma is a roller coaster of hope and grieving.  You rise higher with each little bit of progress, each tail wag, each mini-jaunt in the yard that tells you your beloved pup is feeling good.  You rise higher with each clear x-ray film, each month of no metastasis, each pain med that you gradually wean away.  Almost inevitably, the day comes when you know that something is wrong; you feel the descent in the pit of your stomach.  Sometimes it’s just a little dip.  And sometimes, like spinal metastasis, it’s a crash that leaves you with a matter of weeks or days, and all you can do is hang on.

Today, we are slowly climbing again.  Or at least, we are level.  Holding on tight to hope, but bracing for disappointment.

Dr M called me today, and told me that the radiologist had looked at Apollo’s rads.  I saw the vet’s number on the caller ID and took a deep breath before picking up the phone, thinking I was about to hear the final and firm confirmation that he has bone lesions visible in his vetebrae.

But that’s not what I heard.  Dr F, the radiologist (who Dr M calls “a genius”) said that he doesn’t see evidence of bone lesions.  He said that he believes Apollo’s problem is a slipped disc.  (The only way to diagnose this with certainty is to do an MRI.)

Wait, what?  Totally not the news I expected to get.  And to be perfectly honest, I don’t really believe it in my heart.  I still “feel” like it is spinal mets.  I’m no radiologist, but what *I* saw on the rads looks to me like spinal mets.  Hell, given our doggie family history this past year, it’s just plain bound to be spinal mets.

However.  Maybe it’s not.

So!  If Apollo has a slipped disc, there are 2 things we could do.  We could do surgery (yeah, right – there’s no way I would put him through that… Imagine a 10.5-yr-old tripawd recovering from spine surgery), or we could try steroids.  Obviously, we are trying the steroids.  Once I wean him off the NSAID that he is on, I will start him on some prednisone and methocarbamol, and we will see if we get any improvement.

The mere possibility that we might get improvement is good news.  Better than any news I thought I was going to get from here on out.  And so it goes, downhill and uphill again.  By the end of the week, we should be getting a sense of which direction we are headed.  Hang on.

In other news, a couple weeks ago I got a necklace in the mail that means a lot to me.  Beth Wade of Beth Wade Design custom made it for me.  It has the names of all of our dogs, past and present.  From Abby Schnauzer to Tigger Greyhound.  It’s just exactly what I had in mind when I first spoke with Beth about it, and I’ve been wearing it every day.