Hello ER, I did not miss you.

Seven-months and one day, that is how long it took for Doug to have his first ER vet visit. Much, much longer than it took his brothers, something I had not missed at all. In fact, the last time I’d been at the same ER, in the same exact room, was when Jakey ruptured his eye ulcer.

I have been taking Doug to a local sanctuary shelter on the weekend. It gives us a chance to meet dogs over and over and see how they progress (and it makes Doug tired!). I’ve learned a lot about how dogs react to Doug and at the same time I’ve become more confused about how some dogs react to Doug. When it goes well, it’s easy to say yay. The confusion is among dogs who get to know him for a few minutes and then decided, no thank you. In sort of a big NO THANK YOU way. When it goes bad, I have found for the most part, it is the other dog that doesn’t react well to something about Doug and then Doug may or may not react to that reaction. The confusion is, what is it that Doug does that causes the other dog to have a problem.  Of the five dogs where there has been a problem, there was only one dog where Doug did not like the other dog (a male) and Doug was the instigator.  The other four (all female), liked him and then suddenly did not like him. These were all meet and greets so it’s not like they had spent too much time together. And for the record, play Doug does not come out right away.  He saves that for later. None of the ladies had met play Doug yet, but maybe they could sense it was coming.

On Sunday we had a second play session with a dog. He and Doug did great.  We then decided to meet one of the new dogs that had just come off of quarantine.   She was a tiny thing at about 35 lbs (probably a few months older than Doug). She had not been spayed yet so we were not sure how Doug would respond to her. He pretty much ignored her. She was more interested in sniffing him and then they both just did their own thing.  Good, right?  It was so good, that we started talking about how good it was.

That is when she dove into Doug’s face.

I honestly don’t remember much about those 5-10 seconds. She lunged, Doug’s head tried to move back, there was a ball of confusion and then the volunteer lifted the dog off of the ground, and thus, off of Doug. That is when I saw all the blood.

I ripped my cast off and used the wrap part to apply pressure to his nose. I got a water bottle to clean it and to try to tell if there were multiple blood sources.  I kept my voice normal ‘you’ll be fine bud – it’s ok bud – let’s get you to the vet bud’.

I got him into the car and started driving. I saw him move to the back of the SUV and cower. I thought to myself, no. NO. I had to mend this moment. I pulled over, got treats out, got into the back with him and turned the situation around. There is no need to cower, just wiggle babe, moms got you. You are fine and that situation is over and hey, here are more treats.

He wiggled towards the front as I got us back on the road.

I was told quickly that the mouth and nose bleed a lot, and that made me feel instantly better. They cleaned him up and it looked way less dramatic. He was unable to walk on one leg but there was nothing structurally wrong with it, likely just a muscle pull. His nose would heal. His mouth would heal. We got an antibiotic and pain meds and headed out.

He was a little off the rest of the night but I’m not sure I’d expect otherwise. I got him tucked into a well padded bed that I knew he would bleed all over (he did) and he fell right to sleep.

I went in to wash his blood off of me. Then I cried.

I hope this doesn’t change him.

I hope he still wiggles with delight when we see other dogs.

I hope he continues to loosely walk on leash.

I hope his joy continues to multiply every day he exists.

Those were the concerns my tears spoke to me.

I don’t know if this was ‘bad enough’ to disrupt any of who Doug is. I know he felt pain, I know he was scared, but from a human perspective, I think he felt calmness and cared for so most of me thinks he will bounce back. We’ll test him out with some of his friends to be sure.

I the meantime, I will over think why girl dogs do not seem to love Doug. I’m sure he does something that they dislike, it’s just not an obvious something that I can help him work on. The other dog did not have a scratch on her, I’m so happy about that. Part of me feels like the dog search is on hold, part of me says this was more than nothing but it doesn’t have to be something.

All of the parts of me are swirling right now. We’ll get it worked out.

Until then, Doug is fine. He will heal.

Here he is all cleaned up.  He won’t let me lift up his jowls so no photos of those wounds. IMG_3696IMG_3706

Doug and other dogs.

I have not fully accepted that I have a dog that loves other dogs. No wait, I’ve accepted it, I just tend to forget. After years of having a leash-reactive-didn’t-enjoy-the-company-of-other-dogs-never-once-play-bowed dog (Melvin), and a hunter of ALL animals that were not Melvin (Jake), I still tend to go into oh no mode when we run into, are approached by or even set up playdates or meet & greets.

It’s been A LONG time, since I have had a dog that pulls towards other dogs in a good way.  In fact, I know the date, It was September 19, 2008. The day Max died. That is how long it has been.

Doug loves other dogs. Loves. He cannot get enough of them, even when they perhaps have had enough of him.

Sitting is boring. IMG_3615

I try to take Doug with me on the weekends whenever I can. 1. to dog friendly places so that he can mingle with creatures of his own kind and 2. to continue our training of don’t chew on human feet.  On the latter, we always ask for willing participants, we don’t just dive in!

We have met some great dogs on our travels, Doug has loved them all. We have met some dogs that were, despite their owners saying otherwise, not so well-behaved. Doug loved them all. We have had some dogs lunge and snarl and even attack Doug. You guessed it, after a brief WTF moment, Doug just starts to wiggle and wants to try again with them. He’s like a perpetually drunk, super fun, frat guy that you just can’t be mad at because he’s so flipping cray and now he’s leaping off the roof into the pool.

Laying down is boring. IMG_3595

Here is where Doug and I differ the most. He is an extrovert. I am not. Well, all the tests will tell you I’m 50/50 introvert/extrovert but Doug is 15,000,000% extrovert. Trust me, we don’t pull energy from the same social situations.

On our search for the next dog, we have a few things working for and against us.

Working for us:

  • Doug.
  • Doug.
  • Doug.
  • My willingness to meet and greet with any and all dogs.
  • Time. We are in no rush.

Working against us:

  • Doug’s unrelenting energy. He tends to bring out the worst in some dogs who otherwise would not play as hard as him as they are suddenly thrown into the ring of Doug doesn’t stop. Even when they beg for mercy, Doug still wants to play. We are still searching for the dog that will play, but then will stop and will communicate to Doug to leave them be and stop pouncing on me in a NO SERIOUSLY, STOP way.
  • My not wanting two Dougs. One is plenty.
  • Me realizing that the next dynamic duo in this house, won’t be Melvin and Jake. This one took a while for me to figure out. With each dog we meet, I am faced with knowing that the next two, no matter how much I want it or need it, won’t be like my little soulful, odd couple were. I accept this, the next duo should be who they are, wholeheartedly. But I’m human and I miss Melvin and Jake as a pair and well…it takes time.
  • Doug’s unrelenting energy, take two.

I like that we are meeting a lot of dogs and that Doug is getting to know his tribe.  When I brought Melvin home to Max, I didn’t have to really think about their lifetime together, Max’s time was short. When I brought Jake home to Melvin, I was brining Jake home to the dog that would love any dog that I did and a dog that would have the patience to tolerate Jake as he worked out all his demons. The dog we add now, well chances are good that Doug and that dog will have more than just a few years together. Chances are good they will have some growing pains as siblings and chances are, they will break some shit in their wake. I know this because no matter what dog I add, Doug will be a part of the duo. Doug brings the joy and the funk and some well deserved destruction to this life.

Starring out the window, looking for his next sibling…IMG_3565

 

 

Where did we go?

This past week has been buuuuussssssyyyyyyy! Here a quick recap to explain our absence:

  • I was still in vacation mode.
  • We got house guests, two-legged and four. The four legger did not love Doug.  I’m not even sure she moderately liked Doug.  So it was gating and rotating.
  • I got a three-day migraine. Fun!
  • I fractured my hand. Doug was not responsible. My clumsiness reigns supreme.
  • My new work schedule started.  I now go into the office three days a week.

That last one has been the biggest change for me and for Doug. Not so much for me that there is a change to where I work during the day, but for me in that I worry how it will impact Doug.

What is worrying?IMG_3552

Doug has energy. We know this. When I’m in the home office, he keeps himself busy on various floors and rooms of the house. He plays with toys, he runs zoomies, he chews pillows (I can hear you, Doug!). He goes out back and runs more zoomies. But unfortunately, when I leave, Doug has not earned run of the house yet. He is still gated in the mudroom.

  • I leave.
  • He eats his Kong.
  • He repositions on his indestructible bed that had I to buy because he is, well, a destructor.
  • After an hour or so he wakes up and wants to chew. He avoids the toys and chews I leave him and instead chews the bed (fixed that), the rug, the legs to the indestructible bed.
  • Nap.
  • Repeat chewing.
  • Nap.
  • You get it.

So I set him up to have a half hour walk mid-morning and another mid-afternoon. I leave new Kongs for those visits. I check in on him to be sure he is behaving. IMG_3544

I have tried leaving him on the first floor in the house. I take all the pillows up. He ignores his toys and goes right for the couch cushions. Or the shag rug. Or the acrylic dining chairs. Napping in between each one. Why, Doug, why?

I would never eat these pillows, they feel way too comfy on my parts. IMG_3540

So this is what I have been doing for the last week, worrying and strategizing on how to make this work transition, easier for my boy. I’ve also been missing Jakey this week.  Oh grief, this week, you win.

We will be back to our regular blogging schedule next week! We have some meet and greets to tell you about.

Happy weekend!

 

Flashback Friday: to that time when Jake had a hole in his eyeball.

How was this one year ago?


The eye emergency: Part 1

Posted on August 12, 2015

Saturday: Jake’s eye with the little ulcer had improved. Jake’s eye with the ‘very deep’ (seriously, they repeated the very deep part about 15 times) was not improving. We’d been doing eye drops for about four days and they expected to see improvement with both. So, they took Jake’s blood, and made eye drops out it. I 100% expected the drops to look like blood and that after I put the drops in Jake’s eyes, he would look like one of the vampires in True Blood when they cried. (In case you didn’t see True Blood, the vampires cried blood). Instead, the drops were a milky liquid derived from his blood. And in a test tube. Add this to the list of things I never expected when I became a dog mom.

Sunday: We woke up, I fed him and then got him up on the couch for his eye drops (this is also known as the time he thrashes around like I am performing an exorcism on him). After I put the drops in, I looked into both eyes (knowing full well I had no idea what I was looking at or knowing if I’m qualified to notice a change). The left eye seemed fine. His right eye, the one with the deep ulcer, had A HOLE IN IT. I looked around the room and thought, it must be a reflection of a light or something, THERE CANNOT BE A GAPING HOLE IN HIS EYE. But there it was, a perfectly round hole and I could see into it and it was deep. No one had mentioned a hole but I knew it wasn’t good (I’m that smart). We were at the ER 20 min later.

ER: The ER was packed but they put Jake in a room immediately and the dr came in pretty quick. When Melvin and Jake are your dogs, you know the ER vets by name. He looked at Jake’s eye and said ‘it’s bad’ and left the room to call the ophthalmologist for an emergency consult. When he left, he told me to hold Jake very still, that any sudden movement could rupture his eye. Uh…what? I’m not qualified. I held him and then as any parent would do, I replayed all the sudden movements he’d had since seeing the hole. I then had a silent conversation with my crazy self that I of course didn’t try to rupture his eye and that I didn’t know there shouldn’t be sudden movements and then I continued along the silent conversation route saying there was no way to not jar him a little when putting him in his car seat since his body is not flimsy, it’s more like a cinderblock. And then I had an out loud conversation with Jake about how I needed him to hold his eye together. Crazy person, room three. The doctor came back and said he’d consulted with two ophthalmologists and both agreed that Jake should be admitted, sedated and have emergency surgery the next day. I sorta knew this was coming since they day the ulcer formed. My dogs like to push the limits on how far they can take each health conundrum.

Sidenote: You all know the extent of vet visits I have had with both boys. There are very few things we have not faced and very few tests we have not had. We have been to the ER so many times, I lost count. There have been surgeries, MRIs, Spinal taps and issues that vets had never seen before. Melvin almost had to have a lung lobe removed for cripes sake! But never, ever, never (and I don’t know how this is possible) but never have I had to leave a dog overnight. So I started sobbing. SOBBING. Which turned into an ugly cry and mumbling about things that didn’t even make sense to me. (For example, we were currently in the room that I was with my friend Virginia in when we thought we’d have to put her beagle MollieAnne down and I had gone out to get her (the dog) fast food and the only fast food close by was Roy Rogers and the cheeseburger and fries I brought her that night brought her back to life. And in my crying fit during the present time visit part of my mumbling was that being in the Roy Rogers room would certainly have to work in our favor too and Melvin would be with Jake in his condo and maybe I could bring them both Roy Rogers). The doctor just looked at me and nodded, even when I said ‘ROY ROGERS ROOM’. And the thing is, I have complete faith in this hospital. The Life Center is one of the premiere vet speciality hospitals on the east coast. But mama was overwhelmed and the thought of abandoning leaving Jake seemed impossible. They told me my reaction was normal (sometimes it’s kind to lie) and they let me come back to the ICU with Jake while they got him settled in. He pee’d on the way into his new condo and that made me laugh. So I sat with him for a while and then when they were ready to sedate him, I left. It sucked. I called every 15 minutes regularly to check on him but since he had to remain calm, me visiting him was not a good option.

Tomorrow, I’ll finish the hospital and surgery story. And we have a Melvin’s Project Joy giveaway for August coming too!

Until then, here is a little check-list for sanity. It’s some preparedness tips for ‘a just in case’ ER visit with your pet:

  • Write out all your pet’s meds and take a picture of that list. When in the ER with your pet, you will not be able to recall the name of the meds they take nor will mg/dosage be within your brain’s reach. Even if the pill your dog takes is called ‘pill’, that word will escape you.
  • If you think for one minute that the emergency will require your pet to stay, bring their critical meds with you. I had to go back and get Jake’s meds and True blood eye drops and bring them back over.
  • Have an emergency plan for the car (a blanket in the garage you can throw down, easy access towels, a plan to secure your pet (this is just a good idea in general for regular travel). I learned this one the hard way when Melvin had is first (of several) bout(s) of bloody poop. I know, I know, the glamour.
  • Keep a leash in your car. You will forget it and unless you can carry your pet, you’ll need the leash.
  • When your pet has blood work done, have your vet send it to you via email or print it out for you. Bring that most recent blood work report with you. They almost always want to do blood work. In Jake’s case, he had just had a full panel done a few days prior and having that saved us a lot.
  • Ask the ER vet about payment plans. Regular vet care is expensive. ER vet care is crazy expensive (albeit worth it).

If you’ll recall, Jake had surgery the next day and the term ‘hamburger eye’ was introduced after that.  Here are  a few photos that came after this conundrum….

IMG_5318IMG_5273IMG_5201IMG_5362IMG_5398IMG_5422IMG_5205

Update on Jake.

At Jake’s Oncology appointment, the oncologist was deciding how our future visits should go. She suggested that we be seen every three weeks, but alternate between oncology and neurology. Every three weeks took me by surprise, to see either of them. I was extra confused about why we would go to see neurology (at all). They had pretty much said ‘good luck’ (in the best possible way), as there are no treatment options for Jake’s spinal condition. We do laser therapy and electroacupuncture to help his good parts, but from a neuro standpoint, their work is done. So I asked: ‘I was told there was nothing they can do, why would we see them’. Her reason for suggesting we switch off between oncology and neurology is that they (the medical team) might not know for sure what is the cancer spreading and what is his spine when in comes to decline. So I challenged: “his spinal condition is not painful, in fact it helps some with pain since he has limited feeling in some parts. But his cancer is known to be painful, often very painful. So won’t pain be an indication”. She said, it should be.

I then did what I often do when it comes to making hard decisions for the boys, I took the lead: ‘I’m not going to be looking to you or neurology for guidance on when it is the right time to let Jake go. I will know.’ I said it so matter-of-factly, it caused her pause. And then I think it caused (her) relief.

Our regular vet and I have a system. She tells me when we have done all we can medically, and I take that knowledge and add it to what I know. For me, once we have done all that we can, the question is no longer medical. The decision is based on the science of love and joy. From the day I took all three dogs in I made them a promise to do right with the power to make decisions for them. We do this daily for our dogs, but when it comes to this last decision, well nothing feels so insurmountable.

So pain will be an indicator.  Also, Jake’s cancer is at the bottom of his spine and extends down his left hind leg.  So deterioration in that leg only will be a sign.  Also, since it’s a soft tissue cancer, it may invade his bladder or colon so if he stops being able to go potty, that will be a sign.

No one wants to think about these things but for us, in order to not dwell on it 24/7, we have to outline the medical parameters so we can get on with the joyful task of living. It’s definitely a challenge to not mourn them while they are still alive, but with Jake, I’m trying to save all that for later (or at least until the middle of the night once he’s asleep).

The only thing we dwell on right now is how much peanut butter we have left.

Woman, put peanut butter in my belly right now! IMG_8221

Super Jake.

Jake started radiation.  As quickly as he starts it, it will be over.  He only has to do three days.  To be honest, I’m much more concerned (at this point) about him being under anesthesia three days in a row.  I can worry about the side effects of radiation after that. The Oncology Service knows what they are doing. I dropped him off and his dedicated tech came out to get him.  When I picked him up, he was carried out to the car with his belongings.  It’s an awesome practice and I have complete faith in them. Since Jake has MRSP, he’s in a more secluded area which all know works out just fine.  No wonky lunging at other cancer patients!

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Jake is having a relatively new form of radiation available to pets called, Stereotactic radiation (SRT).  This radiation benefits Jake (personally) in two ways.  1. The protocoled radiation treatment for Jake’s cancer is 20 days of consecutive radiation (and anesthesia). That much anesthesia felt worrisome to me (and his medical team) since he is smooshy faced and has breathing issues. He is getting almost the same amount of radiation benefit in just 3 days.  2. Fewer side effects (hopefully).  If you are at all interested, here is a blurb about it (copy credit to The Veterinary Cancer Center). If you are not interested (we forgive you!) you can skip down.

Stereotactic radiation (SRT) and Intensity Modulated Radiation Therapy (IMRT) are becoming more readily available for animals. In the past, traditional radiation therapy to treat cancer in pets would usually result in significant side effects and many owners would decide not to pursue treatment because of this. IMRT and SRT are changing the way that we are able to treat cancer in pets, and they have great potential to improve both your pet’s quality and quantity of life.

What is Stereotactic Radiation or Stereotactic Radiosurgery? 
Stereotactic radiation, also known as stereotactic radiosurgery, involves delivering a small number of large radiation doses to the tumor, in the hope of causing maximal tumor damage while limiting the dose to the normal tissues. Usually this is done in 1 to 3 treatments over a short period of time. With stereotactic radiation, a large number of beams are directed at your pet from all different angles and the shape of the radiation beam is changed, during treatment, to deliver radiation where it is needed most.
What tumors can be treated with SRT? 
SRT can be used to treat a variety of tumors, including brain tumors, pituitary tumors, nasal tumors and other tumors involving the head and neck. It also can be used to treat tumors of the spine and some parts of the abdomen or chest. It can be used for pets when daily visits and anesthesia may be too dangerous.
Prior to radiation, I had our consult with the nutritionist (who I LOVE).  The plan is that I will keep Jake on his raw diet as long as he does not exhibit any digestive issues.  If he has a hard time during radiation, I will give him a bland diet (cooked lean turkey or beef and white potatoes), then go back to raw.  If he develops any ongoing digestive upset, we will change his diet to a cooked/balanced diet that the nutritionist will outline for us. You know I love a good plan!
For now, Jake is doing great. One day down, day two in progress!
Here is Super Jake after day one, keeping watch over his kingdom.
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March on.

One year ago today, the day after Melvin’s birthday, I took Melvin for a ultrasound at a specialist and heard the words ‘I have terrible news, I’m so sorry’ followed by, ‘…probably only days’, when I asked how long he had.

The days that followed were the some of the most impossible moments I have known. Those weeks when the prognosis was ‘any moment’, I was grasping at time, and love and air… I never knew how dark the night could be. I spun, out of control. I was afraid to leave him. I tried so hard to hold onto him and love him.

The knowledge of pending death is confusing and overwhelming and terrible and sad and you are forced into mourning, before the death even occurs.  One year ago, we weren’t given good news, much time, or any treatment options. But we were given love. So much joyful love. And that love is everything and trumps anything and everything we weren’t given. Seriously people, there are no guarantees.  We suggest love. Love is a solid plan.  Seek love, give love, love love.  Create reasons for others to love, high five love, shower in love. Let love own you and guide you and let it light up all the darkness.

Love can get help you through. Love can heal you. Love lives on.

Melvin was diagnosed a year ago – Jake was diagnosed 19 days ago. 8,328 hours separate the words ‘he has cancer’ between them.  Brothers in life. Brothers in death. Brothers in cancer.  These two have an odd sense of timing and really take their bond to the extreme!

Thankfully, last March does not define all the others. It does not represent this March.  Even though we are embarking on a cancer journey at the same time this year, we have opportunities we did not have last year.  Last March is over.  This March has just begun.

“Hey, psssst, lets get cancer one year apart.” “Ok, sounds fun!”IMG_9840