Archive for the ‘Personal Dogs’ Category

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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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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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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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Long-lost dog mama

February 6, 2012

Here I am! Yep, I’m still alive. Sorry it has been such a long time since I put up a new post. The new (human) children have more than settled in, so thanks for your patience in the meantime.

Whenever I have brought a new kiddo home from China, my biggest fear is how they will handle the dogs, since in the vast majority of cases, the kids growing up in orphanages there have never interacted with (or maybe never even seen in real life) any kind of dog. Let alone a dog who is as tall as they are — or taller! With Sunshine (my first daughter, adopted in 2009 at age 4), we had the hardest time. She was in sheer mortal terror for 5 days after she came home. Meaning, if she so much as glimpsed one of the dogs in another room, she would begin shrieking at the top of her lungs until it was out of sight. But on the 5th day, she woke up and decided “Okay, I’m over it.” I remember getting out of the shower and hearing her crying… I went out to see what was up, and there was Lloyd sitting on the couch with her — dogs all around. I said, “What the heck are you doing??” We had been keeping them separate, and trying to ease her into it in very small doses. He said, “She is crying because I will not let her sit on top of Brad.” And from then on she has been fine with the dogs. Her favorite is Tobey — our big, black 12-year-old who is almost totally inert and sleeps through most anything. For some reason she loves him, and when she leaves for school in the morning she will often say to me, “Mommy, you take care Tobey for me while I gone, so he not be sad, okay?”

Maisy (adopted in 2010, also at age 4) had no fear whatsoever. In fact, that child has no fear of anything. (We keep saying this will serve her well in 20 years, but for now — holy crap!) She waded right into the sea of dog faces at the gate on her first day home, saying “Ohhhh, doggies!” (in Mandarin). In addition to her generally fearless personality, Maisy had been raised in a foster family. So she may actually have been around dogs before, although we will never know for sure since at the time she didn’t have the words to tell us, and now she has almost totally forgotten her life there.

Milo and Poppy were in the middle of those 2 extremes, but on the milder side. They cried a bit for a day or two when the dogs would get too close to them, but it was blessedly minimal. Now they are totally over it, although we are still working on how to be gentle and all that good stuff.

Right now we have 9 dogs here with us…. The 8 personal dogs (Tobey, Chester, Brad, Hank, Eyore, Tigger, Boozer and Beaut), plus an “adoptable” named Mr. Peabody (aka Petey). Petey is a special case, and probably will never be adopted. He is just barely 2 years old, and never raced. He has a spinal injury that causes him to walk a bit wobbly (although he can run full-out — it just looks goofy), and also causes him to be incontinent for urine and semi-incontinent for feces. At my house he gets let out frequently and wears washable diapers at all times. MNGR’s vet says that he needs an MRI (about $1500) to determine the extent of the injury and whether surgery might help. If surgery IS an option, that would run another $3-$4K. We just don’t have the means to provide that for Pete-Feet. He is happy, and in no discomfort. He just is not housetrainable. But he is just THE SWEETEST boy around. Sunshine loves to play with him, and he loves to play with her too. He goes bananas playing with toys and running around. He also likes to snuggle, and always needs to stand with his head between your knees.

The rest of MNGR’s adoptables are in foster homes, or down with Kelly & Brad in Rochester. Kelly & Brad have been doing a FABULOUS job of getting dogs adopted! They’ve already placed 5 hounds since the start of the new year. So a big thank you to those guys for their hard work!!

Please come hang out with MNGR at a Meet n Greet sometime! The website schedule is newly updated. We are also doing the Twin Cities Pet Expo again this year at the Convention Center in Minneapolis. The dates this year are March 24-25. We’d love some volunteers, or just come visit our booth.

Oh, and if you will be out of town and need someone to watch your hounds, I have a new page on the website with info on boarding here at the “House of Roo” (aka Jen’s house).  http://www.minnesotagreyhoundrescue.org/boarding.htm

Hope everyone is having a great 2012! I’ll be trying to post more often and keep y’all up to date on MNGR’s happenings. Thanks everybody!

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Boozer

March 2, 2011

Well, here’s a little update on Boozer and his first week!  Let me tell you, I am head over heels for this little guy.  And little he is — my littlest hound by far!  He has settled in so well.  The first night, he climbed right up in bed and snuggled in at my feet.  He’s been in bed every night since.  He has learned that he is allowed on the couch, and that if he stands around in the kitchen looking cute,  I often hand over a treat.  He has playbowed me in the yard, and chased Tigger around a pine tree.  For almost 13, he is a perky and spry little dude.

I do think that he is at least mostly deaf.  But he uses the other dogs for cues, so he is able to keep up with what’s going on.  He came with a pretty deep-seated toenail bed infection on his front foot, but I’ve got that mostly gone.  But he looks really good for his age.

He did give me a hell of a scare yesterday though.  I found a lump behind his left knee, where the popliteal lymph node is.  Checked his other nodes, not swollen.  Couldn’t find any other injuries that could cause a swollen node.  So of course I am convincing myself that he’s got lymphosarcoma.  (As some of you know, our little White was diagnosed with osteo just 2 weeks after we adopted him, so I have a history here.)

We went to the vet this morning, and the wonderful Dr M told me that it is NOT a lymph node!!  The lymph node is actually underneath it, but it is a FATTY CYST!  We aspirated it, and it was nice oily clear yellow fat cells.   Dr M is now my very favorite person on Earth (she was already in the top 5!!), and I am so very relieved.

He is such a good little guy, even Eyore seems to like him.  And he has gone up to 11 hours without an accident here!!  So I suspect his other home was just stressful for him.  I love my new little boy!

With Eyore....My biggest and littlest boys

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If you were wondering where your bounced dog went (oh wait…you probably weren’t)

February 24, 2011

Yesterday we adopted a new family member, a 13-year-old brindle boy named Boozer, who has been with his current people since 2002. He has started to pee in the house, and since they have kids, they cannot keep him. Here’s what I say to that.

A message to Boozer’s people:

We are the family who is adopting your 13-year-old Boozer. I understand what it’s like when they start pottying in the house, especially when you are taking care of kids too… We had a 14 year old greyhound who did that too. His name was Palu. He wore diapers for the 2 years before his rear legs became too weak to walk and we had to help him die. Not a day goes by when I don’t wish I was still washing his 6 diapers a day, to still have that boy in my life.

While we had Palu, we also had 6 other greyhounds. Two of them had cancer and had their legs amputated. They were both doing chemotherapy at the same time. I sure do miss cleaning up post-chemo vomit, washing bloody bandage coverings, and helping them outside to potty in 17 inches of snow. Those two boys, Whitey and Apollo, were one of the biggest blessings in my life. I am so grateful that they found their way to me, after their other families found them to be too much trouble — even before the osteosarcoma.

We still have 6 greyhounds, mostly seniors, although thankfully none is seriously ill right now. Boozer will be our 7th. Oh, and we have kids too, just like you! Our 6-year-old has cerebral palsy and is missing nearly half her brain. She amazes me every day and her smile lights up any darkness. Our 4-year-old was left at an orphanage gate in Beijing on a cold March day. She’s the smartest and most creative child I’ve ever met. And in April, we’ll adopt our third daughter, a beautiful 3-year-old cancer survivor who is missing one arm and speaks no English. Can you believe how lucky I am? I can’t. I think Boozer will be a perfect addition to our home, and I am so happy to have him.

Are we saints? NO. We aren’t. Are we rich? Hell no! I’m a volunteer and a stay-at-home mom, and my husband works for the public schools. We are regular people. We are a family who believes in LOVE, compassion, and responsibility.

Don’t tell me that these dogs and kids are lucky to have us. We both know you’re saying that to make yourself feel better. For every drop of love we give them, they give us back oceans. We cannot imagine our lives without them.

I hope that your children are not learning from your heartless example, that family is only family when it is convenient. Otherwise, I’ll look for you under the bridges of downtown St Louis when you are old, incontinent, and…well…just not that much fun anymore.

Love,

Boozer’s Forever Mom