Help feed shelter dogs!!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Panic/Don'tPanic/Panic/Don't Panic

Watson finally did eat his lunch a few hours later and then another meal and then some snacks. Whew. His appetite is fine. He's even stalking Waldo again for his rawhide treat. I think he just needed some rest and was too tired to eat when I was ready to feed him.

I was able to slip out and run some errands in between his needed bathroom breaks. Another whew. I hate coming home and seeing that I wasn't here to let him out when he needed. I know I can't be here for him all the time, but I can do what I can. It's an odd form of guilt.

Smile, you're on vomit watch.

Watson's situation seems to change by the second... so we had a nice walk this morning... and we just walked to the mailbox and back to return The Host to NetFlix. (As an aside, I'm not sure what the big deal is about that movie. Boring.) His energy seemed good and all seemed well.

Since it was Noon-ish, I thought I would feed the boys some lunch. Watson's appetite has been off the charts these past few days so my heart sank when he didn't touch his food. I tried to give him his Pepcid wrapped in cheese, but he didn't want that either. Suddenly within the span of 15 minutes he seems tired and possibly ready to hurl. He was also gulping down large quantities of water.

I suspect that he may be experiencing some stomach upset from a stolen pork chew from last night. We give small ones to Waldo, similar to those pictured left but only about 2" long. Watson got his hands on a remnant last night around 7pm and just would not give it up. Watson has food aggressiveness, something we were unable to break him of since we adopted him so late in life. I try to pry things out of his mouth if it's hanging out, but once it's in, I would have to trade my finger for it. Considering I write for a living, I'd rather deal with vomit on the carpet than an injured finger. So, I am hoping that that's "all" - just some stomach upset. Keeping my fingers/toes/paws/eyes crossed that this incident isn't anything major.

I'm a walkin' man....

So started the day off much like yesterday -- moist. I set my alarm for 5am but forgot to turn the damn thing ON.... argh... so I got up with Rich's alarm at 6:15am only to find that Watson had once again broken his threshold. Not his fault though. With the prednisone making him drink more water, he simply can't hold the increased volume overnight. Today was much less of a leakage, so it was easier to clean up. I'm headed out today to Petco during my lunch break to see if puppy piddle pads would work for him. I'll try that with the combination of waking up earlier to take him outside.

After the clean-up, I fed him his usual breakfast (although he is still ravenous and wanted to eat much more) and then we went for a stroll down the drive and around the neighborhood circle. We had to stop a few times for him to catch his breath (it's humid out too) and another few times for him to smell the proverbial roses (more like some other dog's poo and some roadside trash). All in all I think he had a good time out. He's sleeping on the floor of my office right now, snoring away. C'est la vie.

Monday, July 30, 2007

And to all a good night....

Prepping for bed and reading up on the Yahoo Canine Cancer board.... someone just asked if finding a lump on their cancer dog was something to panic about, and the reply was that panic is the new normal once you get a cancer diagnosis. I wholeheartedly agree.

Usually getting ready for bed is a benign event, but considering Watson's bladder issues from this morning, I am all nerved up for him. He, of course, is laying on the kitchen floor looking up at me and wondering why I am typing on this damn laptop so late at night. He has no clue. I am trying to take a cue from him and just go with the flow, but I still have a long way to go.

In the meantime, I will set my alarm for 6 hours max so that I can wake him for a bathroom break.

I also wanted to take a moment and thank Prince's dad Graham for sending such a nice comment during his time of grief. It makes me sad to have my eyes opened that people all over the world are walking the same path with their cancer dogs. I never knew and wish the universe had never shown me that there is a large community of us who are fighting or who have fought too many forms of canine cancer.

I hope for strength for us all to be a good enough advocate for our loyal canine friends.

Some new Watson photos

Haning out in the living room on his favorite dog towels....

Begging for food, even though Rich is merely reading a magazine......

Eating purloined rawhide....

Made it to the mailbox!

It's an odd feeling to realize that a hound like Watson who can wander for miles and miles now has to measure his days in steps. The past week was quite rough, not only because of the colitis, but because he was also having problems on the stairs to get in/out of the house. It was painful to see him stumble on weak legs and gasp for breath just to make it to the yard for a bathroom break.

Today, however, is another day.... he's obviously feeling much better.... Well enough to make it down our 300' driveway and back to check the mail. It's been over 2 weeks since he's walked that far in one trip and he did it with little effort! The roller coaster continues, but I will cherish these happy times as they come.


"Momma, is it time to eat yet????"

You're Number 1

Oh what a beautiful morning.... nothing like sleeping late and almost missing the trash guy. Good thing Rich has those long legs -- all the better to get himself and the bin to the end of the drive faster.

Meanwhile, I thought it was curious that Watson was sleeping so well. In fact, I always have a rush of panic when I see that he hasn't moved in a while. At last check at 4:30am, he was sleeping on his side in his favorite orthopedic bed. Same for 7:30am too when we all sprang out of bed at the sound of the trash truck. I grabbed the water bowl and thought I'd wake him up for a drink when... well, let's just say that it was a moist experience. Not that Watson needs me to air his dirty secrets in public, but he'd had some bladder control issues in his sleep. Not sure if this is because of meds or because he's just old.

So, upon waking him and cleaning him up, it was "buh-bye" to the dog bed (into the trash it went) and hello to the tub. Both boys got a bath first thing this morning (pre-coffee, by the way). Watson because of his accident and Waldo just because he's small and easy to clean.

On another note, Watson has developed a rabid hunger that has increased since last night. He seems to want to eat ALL the time. I can feed him every hour and he would still eat a full meal. He’s even stalking Waldo to try and steal rawhide/bully sticks right from his mouth. Although Watson is a beagle and has always been a good eater, I’ve never seen him quite this bad.

Besides the chemo on Friday, he’s on 1,000mg Omega3 fish oil twice a day. The onco stepped down his Prednisone from one tab to half tab this week; that will go down to a quarter-tab next week. And I recently started him on 140mg of milk thistle for his liver function yesterday. I've posted a question about his new-found need to eat on the Yahoo Canine Cancer forum and will see what they have to say.

In the meantime, back to work as my newsletter is due today.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Another good morning

Thank goodness, Watson is having another good morning. He slept through the night (we all did) and woke Rich up at 7am to be let out. He must have tried me first but I was sleeping like the dead. So far, he's had not one, but TWO breakfasts and is currently begging Rich for some eggs off his plate. The Elspar & CCNU treatment on Friday doesn't seem to have phased him very much. No vomiting, no more diarrhea, and his appetite is good.

Rich and I are hopefully heading out to do some errands. I haven't been out of the house in a leisurely fashion in over a week. Each time I was headed out was to run to the market to get something to help Watson or was shuttling Waldo to doggie daycare to get him out of the house so Watson could get some rest. In fact, Watson is so stable that we are even thinking of going to a movie. It will be nice to be out for a few hours and not be worried that Watson's colon is ready to blow.

Here's to another quiet, uneventful day (and hopefully many more of these to come.)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

All is well (for once)

What a great day so far... fingers crossed that it stays that way. Rich made it home in one piece from Logan after a walking safari to find central parking. (Apparently Logan airport needs to work on their signage!) Both Watson and Waldo were glad to see him.

Watson is having to great day today. The GI distress is gone, his energy is up and he's moving around quite well. He's lost some muscle all around, but I notice especially in his hindquarters since it's harder for him to get up the stairs out front. I'm not sure how much I should exercise him. I don't want to tire him out since he is on chemo, but I don't want him to waste away too much. The next appointment is for CBC/bloodwork at the end of the week.

On another note, I was sad today to find out that Prince was put to sleep today. He too was suffering from lymphoma and I began reading his dad's blog when I came across a post in the CanineCancer forum on Yahoo. Another great person the board, Marie-Alice Rousselle in New Orleans, sent me a Word doc of her dog's chemo. She calls it her "chemo diary". I have not read it yet since, frankly, I'm too scared to. Part of me doesn't want to know how bad it can get, yet the other part of me thrives on information. The file is still sitting on my desktop waiting to be opened. I look at the file often, but haven't had to guts to open it.

Tasks on hand this lovely, humid Saturday evening includes mopping the floor (with Rich's help), washing of dog towels, and overall scrubbing/de-germing the house. I am neurotic about smells and I'll be damned if I walk into my own house and smell remnants of poo, waste or anything else unpleasant. (Note to guests: Rich insists that it doesn't smell, and that it's all in my head. My response: "Hey, you missed a spot.")

Quiet morning...

Success! Hope and happiness this morning. Watson and I finally got our first full night's rest in almost 2 weeks. The diarrhea is under control and now that he's on a half-tab of prednisone, there isn't a need for a bathroom break every few hours. I still awoke at 3am in a quick panic. I was a tad confused since we both slept in the bedroom last night (as opposed to the living room) and for a moment I thought the past few weeks were all a weird dream. Then I realized what and where... I looked over at sweet Watson in his dog bed, curled up and fast asleep like old days. It took me almost an hour to fall back asleep because I just kept staring at him trying to burn that moment into my memory. He's slept by my side for the entire time we've had our house, so I can't imagine the day when I will look over from my bed and he won't be there....

He's feeling better after his Elspar and Lomustine treatments yesterday. Resting comfortably after a big breakfast topped off by some pumpkin to make sure the GI tract stays happy. I'm actually catching up on work and, of course, blogging. Even baby Waldo is being good this morning!

Rich just called. He's landed in Boston from his Seattle red eye; it will be good to have him home.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Happy Friday

Oh my gosh.... where do I begin about today? I've been away from any computer today so I have to cover ALL of today in one post. Here we go....

I guess I should start with last night, where I slept so hard that I missed the 1:30am alarm to let Watson out. He paid me back by leaving a gift for me on the floor. My fault... but I can't blame the guy. Thanks to his bladder on Prednisone and his colon out of whack, neither he nor I have gotten more than 2-3 hours of sleep in the past ten days. I woke up two more times during the night but he wasn't interested in going outside. I was a bit nervous since he's been drinking water like a fiend... so why WOULDN'T he want to go out unless something was wrong??

My worries were unfounded since by 7am, he was awake, hungry and had stolen one of Waldo's rawhide chews. I can't let him have any type of chews since his teeth are so bad. We don't need his current situation compounded by a broken tooth. Anyway, he seemed like he was back to his old self - following me around and waiting to be fed. He ate his breakfast and was resting comfortably for most of the morning.

I had taken the day off from work so that I could have enough time to get Waldo to doggie daycare, run to the supermarket and then prep for our drive to NEVOG. By the time I had driven to Millbury and back and then to the market (total time: 1.5 hours), I came home to find Watson in a deep sleep. I have to admit, I was jealous since I've been so exhausted.

In an attempt to get Watson's butt fountain under control, I took some advice from a few people on the CanineCancer forum on Yahoo and grabbed some Metamucil while at the market. I made his lunch and threw in a half teaspoon and WA-LA! That did the trick. Butt fountain no more. Thanks goodness too since I was nervous about spending that long in the car with him. 95/128 isn't the most friendly place to pull over and let your dog out on the side of the road. There's still so much construction going on that I would have just let him go in the car rather than both of us getting hit by a car.

Around 1pm, something wonderful happened.... I was sitting at my desk simultaneously trying to eat my microwave Lean Cuisine and print out directions to NEVOG when my phone rang. It was Kathy G. on a bike ride calling to see if she could swing by and see Watson. She'd recently returned from a 3-week-long bike trip and had just heard what was going on. When she realized just how emotional/crazy/sleep-deprived I was, she offered to bike over and drive us to the appointment. Can I just tell you how thankful I am for her?? It was her day off and instead of sitting in the hammock and reading Harry Potter, she willingly spent several hours in the car with us... on a nice summer day, too!

In brief, the visit to NEVOG went really well. Watson was his usual great self in the car. I had made him a block of ice made of water and chicken broth, so he had something cool to drink as it melted. Dr. Philibert at NEVOG was very professional and made sure I understood all of my options. My local vet had put Watson on Cytoxan and Prednisone, but Dr. Philibert said that wasn't his first choice. Instead, he put Watson on CCNU (Lomustine) and Elspar. There is some suspicion that there is central nervous system involvement due to a seizure a few weeks ago and
the CCNU will address that.

Upon checkout, they gave me a sheet that had all the information we discussed during the visit. I thought that was a nice touch.

We go back for round #2 of CCNU and Elspar in two weeks, and need a CBC blood check in one week to make sure we're on track. Dr. Philibert is stepping the Pred down from 1 tab to a half tab for a week and then a quarter tab for the week after; then he'll be off Pred.

So with the butt fountain under control, Watson is much less frantic. He nor I have had more than 2-3 straight hours of sleep per night so I am hoping that tonight's the night we can get back to normal. I miss sleeping in my own bed. I like the couch, but not for ten days straight.

Watson is resting comfortably right now after having a dinner of boiled rice, a few scoops of Innova Evo and a half teaspoon of Metamucil. Once I know his GI is back to normal, I will wean him off the rice and back onto wet food.

Today was just one of those days that has been good all around. I am thankful for the CanineCancer group and for Kathy for their support. Rich comes home on a red eye tonight/tomorrow morning and I can't wait to see him. Until then, Watson and I are headed upstairs back to our proper beds.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


So Watson did really well on the trip to vet and back to pick up his x-ray films for tomorrow's onco visit. Total round trip was about an hour and a half. Usually it's shorter if I am just dropping by to pick something up, but I brought him in so we, of course, had to socialize. I had a bowl of ice water in car for him (I drive a small SUV so I fold the seats down so he has a big area in back.) but he didn't drink enough. That is perhaps the only thing that worries me about tomorrow's trip. The drive to Waltham is longer than today's, so I will just have to be vigilant about making him drink.

I picked Waldo (our basset pup) up from daycare (his first day) and he is more than tired. I liked getting him out of the house and away from Watson for a while so the Old Man could get some rest. It worked. Waldo is so tuckered out that he can barely open his eyes. It will be nice and quiet for the rest of the night.

As for Watson's GI distress, the fasting seems to have worked. I only fasted him for about 6 hours and started by feeding some spoonfuls of Innova Evo wet food. No rumblings in the tummy yet (yes, I actually put my ear there to listen) so I will take that as a good sign.

All in all, I feel more calm about the past week. It's been such an upheaval - in schedule, in sleeping patterns, in everything - that I really felt out of it. Rich is coming back from Seattle a few days early so that also makes me feel better.

For once, I am shutting down the computer before nightfall. I'm going to enjoy some time with my boys. The next update will be late tomorrow after the onco appointment. I will either be hopeful or in pieces depending on what Dr. Philibert tell me.

Try again

Okay, so the fiber burger did not work. Damn it. I've read in several places that you should fast a dog with diarrhea, but I'm not sure if you're supposed to do that with a cancer dog. I'm not sure which is more important - the nutrition and calories or taming the GI distress. I've asked the Canine Cancer forum on Yahoo and am awaiting an answer. In the meantime, I will jump in the shower and then run out prep the car to get ready for the long round trip to the vet's office.

I've always been a person who schedules things, both short-term and long. However, it's weird now that my schedule is not based on actual time, rather on Watson's colon and bladder. I love him to death and am so neurotic about being here to let him out. He will literally pop up from wherever he's laying and make a beeline for the door. The least I can do is be around to let him out!

But again I question if this is the right path.... he's still here mentally.. but it's tough to see the changes in his body. He's thinned out a bit, but still has the slightly protruding belly (because of the enlarged spleen?? not sure since I forgot to ask the vet) He's a little unsteady on his feet but is also still determined to make it up the three steps out front. I was talking to Rich this morning about how we would know when it was time... I don't know how to quantify this situation. Is three more months of life worth it if you feel like shit for two of them??

I need to calm myself down and wait to hear what the onco says tomorrow. If he says this is the best life Watson will have, then I have to ask if it's a good life to be going #2 ten times a day from now until the end. I want to give him a chance to fight, but this is a road I have not traveled before. I don't know the way...... and I'm scared to lead myself and him down the wrong path. He trusts me to make the right decision and I am almost collapsing under that burden.


A few more bouts of colitis this morning, but Watson seems to have settled down. He just had a few beef jerky snacks and some water, and is resting on the dog bed in my office.

Our appointment with the oncologist at NEVOG is tomorrow so I need to drive to the vet in Holliston to get his chest x-rays before then. It's a 40 minute drive each way so I think I will take him with me. He's neither here nor there about car rides, but at least I can pull over if he needs to go #2. I don't want him stuck in house and needing to go. Horrible.

So I started writing down my questions for the onco tomorrow and I didn't realize I had so many. My biggest questions are about diet and nutrition. All this diarrhea can't be good for him, and even the local vet said Watson wasn't getting what he needed because of it. Of course, that sent me into a panic when I got off the phone. But there is so much info out there about supplements, etc. that I want to wait to see what the onco recommends. Until then, I hope the fiber burger continues to be a hit so that maybe Watson can have more comfortable BMs.

When you gotta go.....

So it's been another busy morning. Watson is experiencing the full after-effects of his first round of chemo, which means diarrhea every hour or two. We were up several times last night, each time he'd run to the door and I would hop off the couch and race to the door ahead of him. I am thankful that he has the mental acuity to try and let himself out. If he could just learn to work the doorknob, that would be great. =)

I sent Waldo off to daycare this morning in Millbury. A colleague from the gym brings her dog there and told me some great things. Waldo can go and get a day's exercise with other dogs and Watson can have some peace and quiet at home. While I was waiting to check Waldo in, I met a nice lady named Jenny who was bringing in her dog Molly for daycare. Jenny told me that her dog Weasley (sp?) was diagnosed with lymphoma too and did the 3-drug treatment. He was younger (7 years old) but despite the higher level of chemo, he didn't make it. However, she was very supportive and encouraging. I asked her if she would do chemo again and she said "yes, absolutely". She also reassured me that this period of colitis with Watson was temporary and the side effects of the chemo would subside over time. I just need to keep him eating and drinking.

Of course, I was in tears while I was talking to her, but it gave me alot of hope. It seems so dark right now... I hate seeing him in discomfort and I wish I could explain to him that this period of discomfort is a path to him feeling better soon. Despite the rough night we had last night, it seems like he is resting comfortably. Every once in a while, he pokes his head out of the living room and looks down the hall to see if I am still here. I love that look, and it tells me that he's still here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Guard dog

Watson was just outside doing his best impression of a lawn fountain when something across the cul-de-sac must have caught his eye. He let out two big barks and the fur on his back immediately stood up. Amazing that he can feel so crappy yet still be a guard dog.


It's 12:44pm and I am sitting down to my first real meal of the day.(Thank you, Lean Cuisine.) I am enjoying the stillness right now. Watson is napping by my chair, Waldo is napping on the dog bed behind my chair, and the house is just silent. Watson seems like he's having a middling type of day.... he's eating his chicken and I have managed to get his Pepcid and his Immodium in him.

I realized that I was also writing about all the negative things that are happening with him.. when really what I am trying to do is see him and enjoy him. He had the cutest little tail wag for me when I came home from the gym. He did his old man stagger walk (normal) down the hall and had this tiny little tail wag. When we first adopted him, I swear his tail couldn't wag as he never did. Then one day, he started wagging it. It was a few months after he came to our family, but I remember being so happy about that. That this oddball abused dog was settled enough to wag his tail and be happy for once.

So, I am thinking about that wag as I smile and type.

Long day already

I am late posting this morning because I woke up and hit the ground running. I covered a step class at the gym this morning at 8:30am, so I got the boys up early to get them fed, get Watson medicated, pooped, peed, etc.

We had an uneventful overnight. I set my alarm for 2am, but he woke up before then and ran to the door. After that pee break, I set my alarm for 4:3oam. When it went off, he was sleeping so soundly that I had to consider whether or not to wake him; I did wake him though since it's important to keep his water intake up. If he sleeps and doesn't drink, then we'd be dealing with dehydration later in the day, especially since it's literally supposed to hit 90 degrees later.

After class, I rushed home and at first it seemed all was well. There was a small accident on the rug, but at least he waited until we got outside to unleash the butt fountain. I need to call the vet again to see if I can up his dosage of Immodium. He's on 2 pills 2x a day, but I'm thinking he may need it 3x day. Poor guy -- can you imagine if that were you??

Now, I am waiting for a conference call to start. Watson is resting in the living room and poor Waldo is still in his pen. He's been on a destructive rampage lately and keeps harassing the Old Man, so in the pen he will stay until I can take him for a long walk.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


I just made an appointment with NEVOG (New England Veterinary Oncology Group) in Waltham to get Watson a second opinion. Not that our regular vet isn't fantastic, but these folks are specialists who see cancer patients everyday. In my heart of hearts, I just need to be told if what we're doing is right for him. I'm waiting for the vet to fax the referral and the diagnostic forms to NEVOG, they will triage and then call me for an appointment. I feel better just knowing that the wheels are in motion to get him some specialty care.

My life is filled with poo.....

Why...WHY goes he wait until the exact moment I step into the shower to poo on the new rug??

And a surprising LEAP!

With each new hour brings new things... I just came back from a long walk with Waldo. I let Watson out and he was actually pretty sprightly... he was literally leaping across the side yard like a puppy. Another good moment to tuck away in my back pocket for later.

Smells like dog farts....

Okay, so my sensitive sense of smell is mostly a blessing, except for right now... The chemo drugs make Watson's digestive tract a little flukey and, as a result, he just keeps farting... and farting.. and farting.. And anyone who has smelled a dog fart knows how bad it can be. Please someone tell me where to get a dog fart filter for the air conditioner.

Physically, he seems okay this morning. Appetite is good despite the obvious GI distress. He's laying on the cool tile floor in the hallway right now and seems to be breathing okay. I am worried about the impending hot and humid weather, which will make his breathing a bit more labored. We have several window ACs, but those can only do so much on a really hot, humid day.

Speaking of distress, a bug hug and hello to Mels and to Jayne for their non-pet related troubles. I'm thinking of you both.....

Watson using his favorite bed in the living room as a pillow.

Here's Watson and I catching up on some work last night. He was feeling good so he took his usual spot right next to my chair.

Quiet Morning

Finally, a quiet morning... but this morning was almost too quiet. Rich left for the airport at 5am so the solo week begins. I officially had a breakdown at 7am as Watson's butt fountain was back again. I never in my life thought I would get worried/excited/relieved over whether anyone's poo was solid or not. I feel like one of those moms who have to tell someone, ANYONE that little Billy's poopy was nice. But diarrhea is a side-effect of the chemo, so I have to just deal.... anyway, the meltdown happened in the kitchen once I got him all cleaned up. It just hit me that whatever great moments lie ahead are so very temporary.

It doesn't help either that the 'burbs are so damn quiet. It would have been nice to see a neighbor or someone walking by at that moment, just so I would know that I am not alone. However, my neighborhood is more like a McMansion ghost town. Fantastic.

But after his breakfast of steak and eggs (and half an Immodium tablet), Watson seems to have settled in for a nap. Miraculously, Waldo is not being a nutjob this morning so I may actually have a chance to get some work done.

Monday, July 23, 2007

And a moment of RELIEF....

It seems like the fourth dose hasn't hit him as hard -- he took a two hour nap and then was hungry and walking around. Whew... I am more than relieved. I can only describe this experience as an emotional roller coaster; one that changes by the minute. I know his lymphoma is not curable, and we struggled about whether to do chemo... but right now, as he is sleeping at the foot of my chair..... as he follows me from room to room... as he steals Waldo's rawhide chews and tries to run away with them... I know that the Old Man is back for now; and I am glad to have him even for a short time.


I just administered his last dose of Cytoxan... he's not feeling well today so the appetite just isn't there. I tried steak, chicken, cheese, eggs.... And it doesn't help that Cytoxan is toxic to humans so I have to be careful not to touch it. They gave us some gloves to handle the drugs and you're
supposed to wash your hands after taking off the gloves. After the pill made its way from steak to cheese to eggs, I finally just had to throw it down his throat before it turned to mush.

So now I am sitting here in silence so I can hear if he moves/groans/makes any sound. I realized that this blog is like the digital version of worry beads. I guess I didn't expect it to be such a cathartic experience but I am glad I started writing. Now it seems like I can't stop. The next few
hours will be filled with dread for me. When the Cytoxan hits his system, he goes into this rapid breathing - rhythmic, almost like a cricket chirping... Sometimes I am afraid to turn around and see him.

Roller coaster

Crusty Girl just passed not 3 weeks ago and I am honestly not ready to go through this again. The emotional roller coaster is going to kill me. I was worried this morning that the Old Man wasn't eating, but he just woke up and scarfed down a plate of cold steak. I was warned that, like people on chemo, there are goods days and bad... it seems more like there are good seconds and bad eternities.

It seems like the clock is sliding towards 4pm, when he needs to get his next (and last, for this week) dose of the Cytoxan. There are days when I get so much work done that I think I can stop time, and then there are days like today when time goes too fast.

Watson in the living room.....

Treatment notes

Today is Day Four out of the four days this week Watson will receive chemo treatments at home. He is on 20mg of Cytoxan (4 days on/3 days off) and 25mg of Prednisone (1 pill per day for 30 days).

Day One was Friday. Once we reviewed his treatment options and we decided on a course of action, I immediately went to the vet hospital and got his meds. He had his first dose of the drugs at 4:45pm on Friday. Being the first dose, there was no change in his appetite or demeanor. The Pred makes him drink more/pee more, so we have him on a 2-hour rotation outside (including overnights). We've also been alternating between steak and chicken for his diet; Friday was steak day and he didn't seem to mind. =)

Day Two (Saturday), he woke up with a voracious appetite and ate a can of Mighty Dog (blech). Normally, we don't feed him such crap but considering the circumstances, he can have anything he wants. Throughout the day he ate small bits of steak and salmon. His second dose came at 4pm with a heaping plate of chicken. It was on the second day that we noticed that he didn't really want food and just wanted to sleep for the few hours after his meds. The Pred makes him pant alot too, so it was scary to see him lying there and breathing so hard. By 8pm, he was recovered enough to eat his dinner but not well enough to navigate the stairs to get outside. Overnight, we got up twice with him for a pee break, and there was lots of groaning each time he shifted positions or laid down.

Day Three (yesterday), he again woke up with an appetite so another can of the Mighty Dog went down the hatch. He also ate cooked chicken and some dried chicken strips (alot of food, even for him on a good day). Around 11:45am, he was feeling well enough to wander outside with me to sniff the grass while I was pulling weeds from the garden. He could go down the stairs just fine, but slipped on the way up and needed some help. We did some errands in the afternoon and picked up an in-ear thermometer. We'll need to monitor his temp over the next few days to make sure he's not running a fever. Temps in dogs are around 102-103 degrees and Watson registered a 102.9. We administered his third dose and this one seemed to hit him pretty hard. He was literally falling over 30 minutes after his meds, and spent the next several hours not moving a muscle. He had no interest in food or people, and didn't walk outside on his own. I checked on him at 8pm and he looked pretty bad (panting, eyes closed, no response to touch) but by 8:30pm he was up and about on his own. He ate a plate of chicken and even walked outside on his own TWICE within the next hour. He had another snack before bed, and then Rich got up with him twice overnight, each time giving him some water and a snack.

Today is Day Four and I am very nervous about it. I fully expect this dose to kick his ass. He doesn't really have an appetite today, so I have put a call into the vet to see if this is something I should be worried about. In the meantime, I am trying to get some work done. Rich leaves for Seattle tomorrow and is gone for a week, so I am already nerved up about that too. But for now, Watson is asleep in my office with me, and for that I am thankful.

Diagnostics and treatment

I dropped Watson off at the vet at 1pm on Wednesday, July 18th. The portable ultrasound doctor visits once per week on Wednesdays so we were lucky that the timing worked out. I went on some errands while they waited for the MD to arrive. He was finally seen at around 4pm; in the meantime, I had returned to the vet hospital and was reading my book in the waiting room.

I knew it wasn't good when the vet came to get me and had Watson's file in his hand. He took me into one of the exam rooms and let me know that they were 90% sure it was lymphoma, although the type of lymphoma was uncertain. The ultrasound showed an enlarged spleen and an enlarged intestinal lymph node that was pressing again his intestinal wall (and causing the diarrhea). They aspirated his spleen and sent the slide out to the lab. The next step was to bring him home and wait.

The day and a half between the initial and the definitive diagnosis was uneventful, except for a suspected seizure at 11:45pm on the night of the 19th. We awoke to Watson wandering around the bedroom and some evidence of the same ropey drool near his bed. He seemed confused for about an hour and then settled down to sleep. The next morning he seemed lucid and normal.

On Friday, July 20th, we finally got the definitive diagnosis. It was lymphoblastic lymphoma, a malignant, non-curable but very treatable form of lymphoma. Our options were plenty in terms of chemo. Rich came home as soon as he got the call from the vet so that we could discuss what we wanted to do. Given Watson's age, we knew that the 5-drug or even the 4-drug options were too toxic for him. The 3-drug protocol would give him at most 12 months, but it was also more toxic.

In the end, we decided that the 2-drug course of treatment (cytoxin and prednisone) would be the best way. It wasn't the least we could do, yet it wasn't so potent that it would harm him.

From the human perspective, I've been quite shocked at the reaction. There have been words of support, but also of criticism. My own sister outright told me it was the wrong decision for him and that I was being selfish. Besides that fact that I was calling her on an unrelated matter, I found that criticism hurtful and heartless. She had lost her beloved black lab a year ago, so at the very least I would have thought she would have asked me if I was okay. Instead, I got an earful of how her decision not to treat him was the right one for me. I am not sure if I can forgive her for those words in my time of worry and need.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Babushka Watson

Leading up to the Diagnosis

Watson's diagnosis of lymphoma was a few weeks in the making. In late May/early June, I noticed that he was putting on weight around the middle and was panting/breathing more heavily than usual. We'd had a spell of super hot (90+ degree) days so it was possible that he was just being a "fat, old man".

On July 6th, he had his first seizure. I am one of the lucky people who works from home, so Watson has been by my side for two and a half years. He was down the hall in the living room when I heard a weird noise; at the same time, Waldo, our baby basset, sprang up from the dog bed in my office and went marching into the living room. I turned the corner to see Watson in the Sphinx position and obviously seizing. There was big, ropey drool everywhere. I have no idea when the seizure started but I held him for about a minute and a half. Thankfully he didn't lose consciousness but his eyes were blank and staring. It took about two minutes for him to come back, and another 5 minutes or so for him to walk again.

I immediately called Holliston Vet Hospital and Rich and I rushed him there. They took a battery of tests including blood work, urine sample, urine culture, and a check x-ray. We were sent home to watch him and wait for the results.

It was surprising to us that all of his tests came back clear/okay/negative. As the vet put it, "from ears to tail, he's fine." That left the possibility of a mass in his brain, in which case there was nothing we could do. (Well, we could have done more diagnostics but if and when a mass was discovered, his advanced age meant we wouldn't opt for surgical removal anyway.)

Over the next two weeks, Watson developed incontinence that was increasingly worse. Usually he could hold it or knew to signal to us that he needed to go #2. Now was he going in the house and in every room and at all hours of the day and night. That led us to schedule an ultrasound on July 18th to see what may be going on in his abdomen.