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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Forgot to mention

In all this talk of urns and ashes, I forgot to mention one thing…. I thought I heard him again.  This morning, in waking…. I was in between waking and sleep when I thought I heard his snouty, snorty sneeze.  Just once.  Waldo sleeps downstairs and Rich is away, so I was definitely the only person in the room.  The TV was tuned to CNN with the volume on low.  I know, I know… sounds crazy… but it made me think of the mornings when I would lie in bed and listen to him in his….  He loved his big, plushy bed (“the Cadillac”) and, upon waking, would roll around in it and do his snorty, moaning dog thing.  I used to love that sound.  I’m glad I could hear it again, even if it was only in my head.  Hopefully I don’t sound like a crazy person, but if I do…. Oh well, call the men in white, I suppose.

 

 

 

Home Again

Watson is home again. I picked up his ashes at the vet's office around 5pm yesterday. I was holding myself together just fine until Carol, one of the vet techs, came around the desk to hand me the bag and gave me a hug. Carol just kept saying "no more bags for you" since she was also the person who gave us our cat's ashes barely two months ago.


I couldn't open the bag or look at its contents until I got home. I had 40 minutes of rush-hour traffic to contend with, and I hate trying to cry and drive at the same time. I swear I must be part German since I refrain from eating, drinking, talking on the phone or doing anything else but drive when I am driving.

Watson was packaged in quite a small, plain, wooden box, varnished to a medium brown with gold clasps and hinges. It is actually the same type of box that our 15 pound cat was returned in, so I found it funny that they managed to stuff a dog over twice the size into it too. It came with a nice card and a certificate of private cremation.

Although he passed on 8/16, he was not cremated until 8/23. I try not to think about his body hanging out in someone's fridge for a week... perhaps I am trending towards gallows humor, but it strikes me both as funny and a little morbid. But if I don't laugh, then I'll cry so the saying goes.

I'd like to do something special with his ashes, starting with finding him a better container in which to rest. I know nothing about urns or where/how to shop for one. Where do you even begin? Can any nice container double as an urn? Are there rules for such a thing??

Whatever he ends up in, I would like to do something special to commemorate him. There is an artist by the name of Sandi Carter Brown who displays her work at the local pet store. I met her over the weekend during the store's anniversary party. She does fantastic work based on photos of your pet..... My original idea was to have her paint his likeness on the container, but I would prefer to find one of higher quality first.

It's been 2 weeks to the day since Watson passed. That fact, plus the arrival of his ashes, has put me back into emotional shock. I have no idea how I feel about all of it. I feel like crying, but am so tired of the tears. I'm just missing my Old Man.....


Here's another one of my favorite photos of him... it's from our first Xmas together back in 2005. At this point, he'd been with us for almost a year. We were in the middle of opening our gifts when I slapped a bow on his head and Rich took a picture of it. You can see just how happy Watson was with the whole affair.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Got the call

I got the call from the vet's office tonight. Watson's ashes are back. They called me at 7:30pm with an 8pm closing time but it takes me 40 minutes to get there. I will have to go get him tomorrow after work. I am happy to have him home, but not looking forward to the emotional deluge that is coming tomorrow evening.

Star light, star bright.....

When Watson first passed away, the moderator of the Canine Cancer forum sent me a link to this web page by Doug Coulter. We've had rather cloudy, gross weather here lately so I haven't had a clear night where I could do this exercise. Last night was our first clear night and... it worked... I saw Watson's STAR.

Of course he was on my mind as I fell asleep last night and on my mind first thing in the morning today. That has been my new normal since he left this world. I do miss my boy, especially during our nighttime ritual of preparing for bed.

About a year and half ago, Watson slipped while going upstairs and fell most of the way down. He was unhurt but quite shaken. Ever since, he was reticent to walk up the stairs by himself so Rich or I would carry him up. If he and Rich were to go upstairs first, then Watson would always wait at the top of the stairs for me, looking down to see where I was. So when I head upstairs for bed, I am still jarred by not seeing him in the doorway at the top of the stairs... waiting... looking for me....

So last night I looked for him and saw his STAR. I can't tell you how much comfort that is for me.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Dog Clothing (the Embarassing Years)

Watson was our only dog for 2 of the 2 years and 8 months he was with us. I grew up with dogs but lived without them from the post-college to the first-house years, roughly ten years in total. During that time, I would visit my mom's or my sister's dogs and wish for the day when I had my own place and no landlord so that I could have a dog.


So, of course, when Watson came I went a little overboard.... on everything.... Treats? Yes, which kind would you like? We have cookies and meaties and meaty cookies and dried jerky. Dog beds? Yes, at any one time he had a choice of no less than three surfaces on which to sleep. Clothing? Ohhhhh yesssss. Frankly, if Rich were not around to stop me, Watson would have had quite the wonderful wardrobe.

It began with the blue fleece jacket. Watson arrived in winter, and a brutal winter at that. (Unfortunately, I never thought to take a photo of him in it.) He would come back from our walks shaking because of the wind, so I got him a very fetching fleece vest that Velcro-ed up the front. Then spring came and the spring rains along with it. This is when we discovered that Watson didn't like to get wet. His disdain went way beyond dry feet; he literally did not like to get wet from above or below. So the solution was to get him a rain jacket. I chose fire engine red since yellow just seemed too conspicuous.

In the summer, I got him a very funny (and very large) Spongebob Squarepants t-shirt. Again, I never thought to take a photo of him since his stints in the shirt were very brief. For some reason, he would tolerate the other clothing but just not the shirt.


Of course, there were a plethora of bandannas that were worn in all sorts of ways and colorful bow ties to his collar. But overall, I don't think it was an abuse of power (me with my wallet and opposable thumbs, that is). He never had ankle booties or a jeweled collar; never any spangles or glitter on his shirts; never any pink leashes or tutus.

But I do miss his gentle ways... and the way he would just stand there staring at me to finish laughing and taking photos after I had dressed him up. Just waiting for me to gather myself enough to remove the offending clothing.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Wicked Thievery

One of Watson's endearing but frustrating habits was his inclination to steal Waldo's rawhides and bully sticks. As noted in a prior post, Watson came to us with dreadful teeth. It looked as though he literally had never seen a toothbrush in his life. We did what we could to save as many teeth as possible, but ultimately one of his canines died and had to be removed. The surgery required that he be put under general anesthesia and kept at the hospital for the better part of a day.


While the vet was in his mouth, she removed seven other teeth, for a total of eight. (A dog has 42 teeth, so Watson had roughly 20% of his teeth removed at once.) Indicative of his personality, Watson was ready to eat the moment he came home from surgery. Mind you, the Old Man was missing a major tooth (canine) and several ancillary teeth; yet he was literally chomping at anything he could get his hands on. Mind you, we had no other dog at the time so our house was bare of treats like rawhide and whatnot, which made life a little easier as his mouth healed.

When we got Waldo in March 2007, we encountered a dilemma: how do you balance the needs of a very mouthy 8-month-old with the want of an old, toothless dog? The solution was to only allow Waldo to have something like a rawhide or bully stick with supervision. That way, as soon as the little guy grew bored with it, one of us could pick it up immediately.


Mind you, Watson would watch the little guy like a hawk the entire time. It would be an hour or more of chewing and Watson would just lay in his sphinx position waiting... waiting.... waiting.... probably thinking bad thoughts and cursing Waldo the entire time. Every once in a while, the waiting would pay off as the Old Man would grab it faster than we could. Often, he would have this look on his face (see left.) You can almost see the word bubble above his head: "What? What'd I do??"


Chasing and cursing would ensue, with me grabbing the rawhide and yelling "OPEN!!" as Watson stared at me and clamped down harder. Oh.... the good memories....


The last glimpse I had of his thievery was the night before he passed (August 15th, at left). He had stolen Waldo's bully stick for what would be the last time. He had not eaten nor had been interested in a real meal in days, so I was glad to see he was still interested in something. He took the stick and brought it into the living room onto his towel. He gave me the customary look, nibbled it a few times and then just left it. That was yet another small clue that this situation was terribly wrong and that he really was not feeling well.




I count the bottom photo/moment as one of the signs that he was trying to tell me he was done. Never in his life would he have left a bully stick alone like that; and Rich and I had always said that when he stopped eating is when we knew he was done (and that was years before he was even sick). His appetite for all things - from delectable to plain rubbish - was legendary.


In hindsight, I can find humor in this tale. I do tip my hat to his effort of being a complete dick to his little brother just one last time. That's my boy...!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Feeding RAW

So, there is one little canine who has been left out of this entire discussion/drama (well, sort of....) Baby Waldo has done his best to keep out of the way, somehow knowing that the Old Man needed to take priority for a while. Although he still displays puppy tendencies (he's only 1 year old), he's done his best to be on good behavior.

For the past week, I've witnessed him look for Watson around the house. When he's first let out of his kennel or first enters the house, he runs to the living room where he usually would find Watson asleep in his bed. He still does it and, upon not finding the Old Man, will search from room to room looking for him. He will also sit at the bottom of the stairs and cry, as if telling Watson to please come down so that they can play. Poor guy....


One thing I have learned from the short but intense month of Watson's illness is that canine nutrition is so very important. While I have never fed my dogs supermarket brands (like Mighty Dog, Alpo, or store generics, etc), I did feed them "premium" brands like Iams and Nutro. Once I discovered that these foods were manufactured in the same plant that produces brands like the Wal-Mart store brand, I began looking for other alternatives that contained true premium ingredients. After all, Rich and I try to eat as natural and organic as possible so why shouldn't our dogs??


I had written before about the Canidae and Innova EVO brands of food that I found at the local pet store. Both Watson and Waldo seemed to transiton well onto both brands and like the mix of Canidae dry and Innova EVO wet. The Innova EVO is 95% meat and what Rich noticed is that, unlike other wet foods, the cans rinse out easily since it's more like regular people food that miscellaneous dog paste.


Many folks on the Canine Cancer Yahoo board have switched to a raw diet after finding out that their pets had cancer. I had heard of raw before Watson got sick but honestly never had the inclination or motivation to find out more about it. After doing more reading, I have decided to switch Waldo's diet to a raw-based diet supplemented by the Innova EVO.
I chose the Nature's Variety because it was the highest quality brand sold at our local pet store. I also chose the medallions over the patties or rolls so that Rich the veggie didn't have to handle them. He can just invert a baggie and grab them that way, rather than peeling apart patties or scooping out bits from a roll. We're on Day 2 and Waldo seems to be liking it. I plan to transition him over the next few weeks so that he can slowly acclimate to the new food.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Slowly putting the sickness away

I took the advice from Lesley to just do one thing at a time… to start with removing the things that remind me of his sickness.  The pill bottles are de-labeled and in the trash and the piddle pads are all gone.  I still can’t bring myself to pick up the towels in the living room and unroll the area rug.  The living room is where we spent most of our evenings… still not ready….  His dog bed is still sitting next to my side of the bed too.  I visit his dog bed every morning just to get his scent… how sad is that?  I’m like an addict sniffing for that last bit of crack….

 

Yesterday, I went to the local pet store to pick up some treats for Waldo, not realizing that I had not updated the owners of Watson’s passing.  “How is everyone in the household?” they cheerily asked.  I had to recount his last week on earth and I could barely keep myself together.  For the most part, I have been able to resume the activities of a normal person – sleep, work, care about what’s for dinner – or so it seems from the outside.  But there are many times when I feel like I am out of my body.  Janice, one of the pet store owners, said that I could always come and cry with her since she knows that most people don’t “get it”; that most people think dogs are dogs and not as important as people.  I’ve lost several people in my life, including my parents, and I can easily and honestly say that the hurt and devastation of losing the Old Man isn’t any less…..  that sounds ludicrous to most considering that I was very close to my mom, in particular… but loss is loss… and there are no levels of grief in my heart reserved for humans versus canines.

 

So as I sit at my desk and try to care about my world again, I can’t help but look down and miss the Old Man.  He was always nearby – lying on the floor next to my chair, behind me asleep in one of many dog beds.  At times, he would wander down the hall to sleep in the living room.  Every now and then when he awoke from a nap, he would stick his head out of the doorway and look down the hall to see what I was up to.  If the scene met his satisfaction, then he would turn around and go back to bed.  If it didn’t, then he would come over to check on me more closely.  I miss that very much….  My doorways are very empty now.

 

There is also one song that keeps reminding me of the Old Man and greatly reflects how I’ve been feeling of late.  Let’s hope I find myself soon…..

 

"Crystal Ball" (Keane)

Who is the man I see

Where I'm supposed to be?

I lost my heart, I buried it too deep

Under the iron sea

 

Oh, crystal ball, crystal ball

Save us all, tell me life is beautiful

Mirror, mirror on the wall

 

Lines ever more unclear

Not sure I'm even here

The more I look the more I think that I'm

Starting to disappear

 

Oh, crystal ball, crystal ball

Save us all, tell me life is beautiful

Mirror, mirror on the wall

Oh, crystal ball, hear my song

I'm fading out, everything I know is wrong

So put me where I belong

 

I don't know where I am

And I don't really care

I look myself in the eye

There's no-one there

I fall upon the earth

I call upon the air

But all I get is the same old vacant stare

Monday, August 20, 2007

What dog is this? (The Beginning)

As many of you have counseled me, I must concentrate on the good memories so as not to drown in my grief. In times of stillness, my thoughts return to the first time I met Watson. I first saw him on the Beagles of New England States (BONES) rescue web site (pictured here). He seemed very much an elder statesman.... there was something about him that I instantly liked.



Since Rich had never owned a dog before, I requested from BONES that we get an older dog who was more of a couch potato. Watson seemed to fit the bill; so, after passing a home visit and then a phone interview, I spoke with the foster mom. She kindly offered to drive him here so that we could see him in what may be his new home. The meeting was January 19th, 2005.
Judging from the photo, I went to the pet store and got a bunch of dog toys for his visit. When they arrived, we went outside to greet them. What we saw emerge from the car was a skinny, old beagle with some basset mix-in. He was so very mellow and came into the house as if he had always lived here. After some pizza for lunch and alot of crying on her part, his foster mother left a few hours later without him. Watson was home.

Once the excitement subsided, I took a closer look at him. He was an odd duck. He wouldn't sit; his only modes were stand and lay down. (We would later find out that his lack of sitting was due to infected anal sacks - ouch!) He was found wandering the streets with another dog, both showing signs of abuse and neglect. There were scars on his ears from fights with other dogs, as well as permanent partial paralysis on the left side of his face because of too many hits from his right-handed owner.
From the hygiene perspective, Watson's teeth had never seen a toothbrush in 9 or 10 years! He had no interest in any of his new toys due to the condition of his badly rotted teeth. And his coat was matted despite a bath from his foster mom. "What did I get us into??," I asked myself several times that day. But there was still something I really liked about him. I'd have to work with him to teach him how to be a real dog, but at least it would be an adventure.

In the first few weeks, there were some mistakes on his part. He was learning the ropes of eating like a gentleman and learning how to tell us when he had to go out for a wee.
However, when it came to sleeping spots, he would sometimes get confused and would often sleep in the cat's very small cuddle bed (at left). Sparky, our cat at the time, was also very mellow and didn't mind finding a stinky dog in his bed every once in a while.



In fact, as time passed, Sparky and Watson would share a bed. I have many photos of them together in the dog bed. They were like 2 Tetris blocks that were constantly trying to fit together. No matter where I would move that bed, they would follow it like zombies and both try to lay on it at the same time.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Cleaning up - what do I do with this stuff?

I slept through the night last night, for the first time in a month. After Watson's diagnosis, the regular vet put him on prednisone so we were heading outside every 2 hours around the clock.... and even when he was being weaned off the pred, I got 4 hours of sleep at a time at most. But I fell asleep thinking of him and woke up thinking about him.

Throughout my house, I see remnants of his sickness everywhere - the puppy training pads upstairs so he could wake up dry, the needles for sub-q fluid and syringes of metaclopromide on my kitchen counter, the bits of food in my refrigerator that was cooked for no one but him. What on earth will I do with the Metamucil and fish oil caplets and milk thistle tablets?

There is so much to do and I don't want to do any of it. We rolled up our good area rugs and put down towels and cheapo rugs when Watson was having explosive diarrhea. Part of me wants to restore our home to normal.... but part of me thinks it's too soon. After a month, I've gotten used to the towels on the floor even though they are not the finest choice of interior decor.

What to do with all this? I'm not sure yet....

Friday, August 17, 2007

Epilogue

I am nearing the first 24 hours without my bubbe (which I recently learned means “grandmother” in Yiddish - how fitting, I guess) and it’s the hardest time I’ve had in a long while.  I awoke this morning around 3:30am with a start.  I could have swore I heard Watson at the water bowl and picked my head up to see if he needed anything.  I was confused to see an empty space where he should have been standing.  And then my sleep-haze cleared and I remembered.

 

I woke again around 6am very upset.  Not sure if I was dreaming, but I woke up with the thought that I was already starting to forget him.  I asked Rich to start telling me all that he could remember so that I could too.  I wanted to keep a mental list until I could write it down….  We went back and forth for a while; I was crying the whole time.  And then he said “the good memories will come to you in time”.  And that is so true…..

 

I packed Baby Waldo off to doggie daycare today so that I could spend some time alone.  I went wandering around the mall to be among the living.  It was odd to see so many people about… I wanted to stop them and ask how to keep going.  How can you care about shopping when I have just lost my best friend???  Bloody hell….

 

And in the car, I swear that I heard him sigh.  NPR talk radio was on and I was in traffic… it was ever so brief… *sigh*… I almost turned around to see him but couldn’t since I was on a curvy part of the road.  But I was afraid to turn around and know I wouldn’t see anything…..  my heart would break all over again and I can’t take that right now.  Is he trying to tell me that he is still near?  Maybe.  I can tell myself that to get me through the next minute.  I hope he is near so he can see how much I miss him, so he can see how much I wish he were still here, so he can see that I haven’t moved anything of his because it will be a while before I am ready to admit he is gone.

 

I would like to take a page from Graham’s book and share my memories of him with you.  Perhaps you will find it interesting; perhaps not.  But I introduced him to you when he was at his sickest… and I want everyone to see the whole picture.  I want to bring the story full circle so that people now and in the future will know him… all of him.. and not just the part that was sick and fought back but lost.

 

I will work on that in due time.  For now, I will miss my boy with every cell in my body.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

And part of me did shatter....

Tonight I lost my best friend, my truest friend... the one who could just look at me and see how I felt... the one who never asked me for anything but my attention and my presence. Tonight, August 16th at 6:42pm ET, my Watson crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

As you all know, I have struggled with every step of this journey from the moment we found out he was ill. Never once did I lose HOPE until today. I just armed myself with information and, knowing that Watson would follow me to the ends of the earth, I moved ahead.... speaking with specialists and other parents of other canine cancer survivors.. gathering HOPE and strength and knowledge to move on to the next day.

To Ilene and Anne - thank you, Marie-Alice who sent me her chemo diary that I was so afraid to read for so long, to Linda L. and Pam for their work on the Canine Cancer board, to Graham and Prince and Tilly and Lesley who reached across an entire ocean to touch my hand and tell me it's okay, to Sue & Keesha in NJ who I swear answered every post I wrote.

To Marty, Debbie, Cathy, Darlene, Gloria, Rebecca, Lesley M., Rita, Cath, Eric & Jennifer, Marsha, Yukie, and all the others who I am sure I missed but didn't mean to, who gave me nothing but encouragement and advice on the darkest of days. Thank you THANK YOU for all of you who I will never get a chance to meet but will still be eternally grateful. If I could give each of you a hug, I would.

For my dearest human friend in the world, Miss Melanie M. who lets me call her at work out of the blue to cry and cry and cry. Who carries the weight of my problems on her shoulders even though she doesn't have to.. who prays for me when I can't.... who is always first in line to tell me that I have done all I can and that I need to stop my stupidly ambitious drive to right the wrongs of the world before I drive myself crazy!

And to Rich Frembes, my husband who never flinched at a vet bill, who never once said to give up, who opened his heart to this dog even though he had never owned a dog before.... who took his marriage vows to heart when he said through thick and thin, better or worse....

When we arrived at the office, I learned that my vet had consulted with the onco and concluded that this path was best for him. I needed that reassurance even though in my heart I knew it was time. He went very peacefully. I was holding his sweet little face and looking him in the eye until the last moment. Then I stayed and hugged him until I knew he was gone...

I hope that this post was readable... and that you don't think it's weird that I am writing it just a few hours after he is gone. But I am a writer by trade, and this is my release. My release of my pain, his pain, my fear.... he is at peace now and that is all I ever wanted for him.


I will always ask myself if I did enough, if there was one more thing I could have tried, if there was something I missed that would have made a difference... I will always ask because I wanted to do right by him. And I miss him terribly right now.... my heart is so empty...

I will keep this blog up as a tribute to my sweet Watson, and as a resource for anyone out there who needs to know the rollercoaster..... and how quickly the ride can end. Thank you again for the cyber hugs and love, and the positive energy that can be sent between otherwise perfect strangers.

For those of you who are continuing the fight against this horrible beast, you have my admiration. Your strength and dedication to your furbabies is awe-inspiring.

dark day

So I just spoke with Watson’s regular vet about his inappetance (he’s had 1 ounce of baby food and a forkful of tuna today) and she says that, unless we can indentify an underlying cause to his lack of eating, then there is nothing else to treat.  Then it becomes a quality of life issue.  She says we can go the feeding tube route but I will not do that to him….

 

I also called the onco who did not have encouraging things to say….. the purpose of tomorrow’s visit would be to determine the next course of treatment.  It is not an encouraging sign that he is nauseous/not eating 3 weeks after chemo.  That means it’s not the chemo so something else is causing it; that something else could be other organ involvement, the spread of his disease, or something totally different…  The chemo drug options are either more aggressive drugs to trigger a longer-lasting response (but may make him more sick), or drugs that are less effective but may help manage his condition. 

 

But there is no cure, and we would be right back to where we are right now in a matter of weeks.  Yes, MAYBE months… but most likely weeks.  I do not want him to suffer… and as I look down at my feet and see him too tired to lift his head when I pet him… my gut tells me that the end is near.  He is tired and not feeling well, not eating despite drugs… and I never, ever want to repeat the weekend we had last weekend.  He will never be whole and strong again… and I can’t sit here day by day and watch him waste away.  He has not had a real meal in a week.  Should I wait until it’s two?  Or three?  No.  no.

 

Rich is calling the regular vet back since I’m not sure I could hold myself together to sound lucid.   I am sitting here as still as possible because if I move, I am afraid I will shatter into a million pieces.

baby food

The Old Man awoke for a bathroom break and I was able to get 1 ounce of baby food in him before he tired of it.  While outside, he walked a short jaunt around the yard and seemed really interested in smelling everything.  Rich left Waldo’s crate in the driveway beside my car so he was very interested in checking out every inch of this seemingly foreign object.  He’s back in my office now, laying flat out on the floor.  Still waiting a call from the local vet before I run to the market.

 

Sleeping like a stone

Watson has been sleeping deeply for the past hour and a half.  He looks relaxed as he is laying on his side.  I haven’t tried to feed him and will wait until he is awake on his own.  Still waiting for a call from the regular vet, and have posted a question on the Canine Cancer board about appetite stimulants.  I still need to Google these medications and read more about the side effects, etc.  I don’t like the option of turning to more pills, but I am not sure what else to do.  At least he is keeping down whatever is passing his lips.  I just wish he would eat.

 

"First we have Hope, then we have treatment. "

The real title of this post should be “poo at 3am”.  I awoke to the gentle sounds of him lapping at the water bowl only to look about and quickly realize that he had left us a present on the rug.  Twenty-five minutes of Bissell-ing later, we were back to bed.  Again awoke this morning around 7am to the sounds of him pacing the room, needing to go outside for a wee.  Back inside, he wasn’t interested in any food (egg, chicken and risotto, dog cookie, toast). 

 

As an aside, he perked up last night and was interested in a smorgasbord of food – he ate a 1/4 can of tuna, 2 spoons of Graham’s suggestion of chicken and risotto, and some crust from my tuna sandwich. In total, that was a good amount of food for him and I was relieved.  I had Rich try to feed him since I think I was presenting myself as more nervous than anything.  (Could it be that he just doesn’t need as much food as I want him to eat??)

 

Back to this morning, I gave him a shot of sub-q Reglan 5mg at 7:30am and waited.  He was interested that Rich and I were eating breakfast, but didn’t really want anything from our plates.  I do notice that he is drinking a ton of water, more than usual.  He’s keeping it all down (good) but the volume has increased (bad?).  About an hour after the shot, I was able to give him a 10mg Reglan and his metronidazole in a pill pocket.  Otherwise, still no interest in eating real food… it’s been 2 hours post-shot and 1 hour post-pilling and nothing. 

 

In short, here’s the summary of last night and this morning:

 

GOOD

- ate food last night

- still alert and interested in where I am/we are in the house

- stole the bully stick from Waldo and brought it into the other room

- seems to be resting comfortably after the Reglan (no fidgeting, moving about from bed to floor and back)

 

BAD?

- still doesn’t want to eat today

- volume of water intake has increased

- laying “flat out” rather than a more relaxed position

 

Trying to concentrate on work and not get anxious about it all.   Still though, I left a message for our regular vet to see what I should do, if anything.  We have an appointment with NEVOG (oncologist) tomorrow morning at 11am, about which I am already nerved up and worried about.

 

I do want to mention that, of all the support we’ve gotten, there is one person who never gets enough credit.  My sister, Helen, is always the first to offer her care and skills as a nurse to help me out/calm me down.  This is true during crisis situation and non-crisis situations.  She wrote me last night: “Can you mention in your blog that you also have another sister that supports you and would do that for her pets too?  I rushed a dying hamster (Scamper) to the vet hospital in Jackson at midnight when she was bleeding. Unfortunately, there is nothing to do for bleeding rodents in Mississippi in 1986.  So, she had a great funeral and is buried by the Reservoir in Brandon, MS.”  Helen, of all people, understands my need to help him as much as possible.  Not that others out there like Graham (Prince and Tilly’s dad) and the folks on the Canine Cancer board do not, but it is comforting to know that a family member also supports your efforts and beliefs.  Without that support (from family, from those around the world who have written me, and of course the calming, loving support of my husband), I couldn’t have kept myself together to care for him.  A million times over, thank you.

 

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Need a liaison

After three calls – to Tufts, NEVOG and the regular vet – and finding out that NEVOG didn’t receive the CBC results from Monday so that can’t give me a clear picture, I am frustrated.  Got the regular vet to fax the report over and got a fairly quick return call from Dr. Cronin.  She says that, at this point, it’s not the chemo that is making him sick/nauseous. Any nausea from the chemo usually occurs in the first week.  The current bout of nausea could be part of the disease but it also could be left over from the GI distress.  We have an appointment to see Dr. Philibert at NEVOG on Friday morning at which point we’ll have a clear idea as to what our next step will be.

 

After I got off the phone with her, I called Rich at work to have a brief crying jag.  I am so upset that Watson seems nauseous again… I am adamant that he not vomit and start the cycle that we had this past weekend.  I don’t ever want to see him that miserable again (nor do I ever want to see black vomit again).  Am I overreacting?  Perhaps… but perhaps not.  I will be wishy-washy like everyone else.

 

I tried to give him the 10mg Reglan pill wrapped in a pill pocket, but this time he wouldn’t take it.  Luckily, I still have 4 of the Reglan syringes that were given to me by our local vet on Saturday.  I administered 1 syringe of 5mg/ml sub-q; he seemed annoyed at being poked, so I will observe and see if he needs a second or not.  I’m unsure if 10mg in the tummy is more or less effective than 5mg under the skin.  Again, not a doctor or a nurse… but sadly, giving sub-q shots are getting easier for me.  I remember having to give our cat, Sparky, his sub-q fluids (due to renal failure) a few years ago.  Each time I did it, I would sit there and cry while he got his fluids.  Now, after doing sub-q again on Watson… it’s just like riding a bicycle (as sick as that sounds). 

 

Just got a call from the local vet.  I should be seeing improvement after the sub-q shot. If no improvement by the second or third, then it’s time to worry again.  We’ll see if he perks up.  I’ll be hanging onto my sanity by my fingertips this evening…..

damn it... eating grass again

I just took Watson outside for a wee and he started eating grass again.  NOT a good sign… means that he has stomach upset or is nauseous.  We absolutely cannot start this cycle all over again…  Just called NEVOG and am waiting for a call back to see if I can start him on Reglan again.  Not sure if there are drug interactions with the metro or the sucralfate so don’t want to medicate him without clarifying first.  Luckily I have the Reglan from before and can start him on it ASAP as soon as I know I can. 

 

Very sad.. and frustrated.  The Old Man needs a break.  We started him in this journey with the hopes that we could give him QUALITY days; not quantity.  I know that so far the good days have outweighed the bad, but the balance is tipping dangerously close to the middle.  I am no longer fearful of letting him go… I just hope that I am strong enough to see him through to the end.  I hate to see him suffer, even a little bit, and I admire those who can see the big picture without getting mired into the tiny heartbreaks that happen when their dog doesn’t eat, or when they are sick to their stomachs, or when they are too lethargic to lift their heads, or when they are so thin they can’t stand straight by themselves.  Watson isn’t at the end stages just yet, so you can see that my fear and imagination get the best of me sometimes.

Success!!

Okay, so a small success today. Those pill pockets do work. He awoke from a deep sleep to take his sucralfate pill, wrapped up in a squishy chicken pill pocket. He still doesn't really want to eat any real food, so I am trying not to get upset or frustrated. He did eat a fairly good amount of chicken, rice and egg this morning... and if you spent 4 days feeling sick and bleeding from both ends, then you'd take it slow with the food too. Gotta remember that.....

Zzzzzz.....

The Old Man slept like a stone for the past four hours. He awoke for a water and wee break, but is not interested in having any lunch. He had a relatively big breakfast and has kept it down so far, so I will take that as a good sign. I even offered him some mac and cheese (my lunch) but nothing. I got a *sniff* and a *huff* and he walked away.....

Still need to get my arse out to the pet store for those pill pockets. Finished writing an install article so now I am free for the rest of the day. Perhaps I will take Waldo along for my retail jaunt. Anyway, I should stop writing of all sorts so I get those #$%)*#$ pill pockets and get his sucralfate in him.

More later.....

Feeling better

The Old Man slept soundly through the night once more. He seemed more energetic this morning and got out of the bed for the price of 2 stinky, dried salmon treats. After some coaxing, he had a good amount of boiled chicken and rice, and almost an entire fried egg. We did encounter some troubles when it was time to pill him. He's still on metronidazole and sucralfate and, due to the coating action of the sucralfate, I like to like to give him the metro first.


Our last trick of pasting the pill into his mouth with peanut butter was a lucky accident. He wasn't interested in the PB today but after several attempts, the metro pill had crumbled into nothingness. I didn't even try with the sucralfate since the pill the 3x the size. I plan to get myself to the pet store to pick up some Pill Pockets. The lovely woman at Paw Planet told us about them a while back; supposedly they are like magic and make it easy to pill a dog. At $8.99 for 35 treats, these pill pockets better be like magic!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I see your boiled chicken and raise you one ground sirloin...

I went to the store and have armed myself for now and future canine culinary needs. Tuna? Check. Rice? Check. Ground beef? Check. Rich went to the market yesterday and got the cottage cheese. Check. However, my recent attempt at boiling beef and rice was met with mild interest. The site of ground sirloin floating around in a pot with rice sort of made me queasy so the least he could have done was have more than 3 bites!! Again, trying not to panic... he's still drinking lots of water and keeping it down, so I will consider that a major victory.

Eat, damn you....

The Old Man is resting comfortably but still not really eating. He's had a few licks and bites of things, but isn't all that interested in actually eating like a normal dog. So far, I've tried toast (a few bites), cottage cheese (no thank you), boiled chicken (*sniff*), and even a scoop of Innova EVO wet food. Oh, and for those who are wondering how I have to time to parade this buffet of blandness across his nose, I work from home and have very wonderful clients who don't micromanage. If I get my work done on time, then it's all good.

Got a call this morning from Dr. Delbecq, our local vet. She says to let him nibble today and don't fall into the trap of offering richer foods. She says that dogs can maintain their blood sugar over the course of several days, so there is no high risk of him becoming hypoglycemic if he doesn't eat soon. If he hasn't eaten anything significant by Thursday morning, then I will need to give her a call. Otherwise, I should continue to offer him the bland foods and try not to get offended that he doesn't like my cooking.

So far, so good

It's been a quiet morning so far. Watson slept like the dead last night and it literally took me 10 minutes to get him out of bed. He's kept down every drop of water that has passed his lips, but has only minimal interest in eating. We had to pill him this morning so I will count all that wrestling about the floor as my exercise for the day!

There has been some straining to produce solid waste, with some specks appearing but nothing substantial. Dr. Evason warned that this stool will be soft for the next few days, so I think he is just clearing out what was left in his colon. He's resting comfortably and as long as he stays hydrated, then I am hoping that the appetite will come along shortly.

No word from NEVOG yet on when he can go for his next chemo treatment.

Monday, August 13, 2007

!!!! He's HOME !!!!

I drove to Tufts thinking it was going to be a visit with Watson and a discussion with Dr. Evason about his ultrasound. I know she had said he "may" be able to come home today but I didn't want to get my hopes up. She came out to the waiting area and asked me "do you want to bring your boy home today?" I was ecstatic. He did so well today that he was discharged to me around 4:30pm. He's not had any bowel movements since 8pm yesterday and has kept water in his belly more than once. All in all a good sign.

As always, he did well on the ride home. We hit rush hour traffic on the way back so it took over an hour to get back. He was very relaxed though and seemed very comfortable. As you can see, he is sporting a very fetching pink bandage from the hospital.


As soon as we arrived home, he had several visits to the water bowl as I was boiling up some chicken for him. He had a few bites of chicken and homemade broth before retiring to bed. Over the next few days, he can look forward to bland meals and plenty of rest. He's also on oral metronidazole and sucralfate for the next 5 days.


His next chemo treatment was supposed to be tomorrow, but I have put that off for now. The abdominal ultrasound showed nodes on his spleen (which we knew) and enlarged nodes in his intestinal tract. Dr. Evason said that could be from the inflammation or from lymphoma. Hard to know for sure.


Either way, I am so happy to have the Old Man home, resting comfortably in his little bed.

Monday morning hospitalization update


Dr. Evason at Tufts called promptly at 9am with good news. Watson had a good night last night. There's been a decrease in diarrhea (none since 8pm last night!) He'll get his ultrasound either late morning or early afternoon and, depending on the results, he may be able to come home tonight. I know as of yesterday they were offering him water, but I am not sure if he has eaten yet. I'd like to see if he can keep down any food before he returns home. As much as I miss him, I don't want to try and feed him and then start this horrible cycle over again.

I also called NEVOG to cancel his chemo treatment for tomorrow. I haven't specifically been told, but I would guess that he needs a few days of food and rest before being subjected to a round of chemo. Unlike human doses that make you sick right off the bat, canine chemo is a lower dose so the effects are not as dramatic. However, those drugs do target fast-growing cells in the body like cancer cells, skin, hair and GI cells. Again, I don't want to get him healed up only to start this cycle over again so quickly.

I plan to visit Tufts today around 4pm to see the Old Man and to discuss his ultrasound results with Dr. Evason. Keeping my fingers, toes, paws and claws crossed......

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sunday evening's hospitalization update


Rich and I made another pilgrimage to Tufts-Walpole and arrived around 5:45pm to see the Old Man. I brought one of his towels from home so that he could have it in his kennel tonight. I was so very surprised when they opened the door to the hallway and there he was!! He was up and on his feet walking on a temporary leash. They had an open IV in his arm (but not hooked up to anything, not sure what you would call that) and they had his tail wrapped in blue bandages to keep it clean. He looked like quite the fashion king. =)

We got to spend some time with him in an exam room before the doctor came in to speak with us. He was much more alert and stable on his feet although he was emitting a foul fragrance from the rear and was still licking his lips (sign of nausea). Dr. Evason said he was doing much better and his stool was more brown with less blood and mucous (but still watery). He will stay another night and have his ultrasound tomorrow. That should tell us if the bleeding is an ulcer or is due to the lymphoma.

Overall, it was a very good visit. I was so very happy to see him up and about. He was eager to follow me out the door to the waiting room, so I had to do the fake-out and pretend like I was going with him back to the kennel area.

My spirits are lifted; temporarily, I know, but I'll take it. There are still larger questions like the timing of his next chemo treatment, how we will feed him without using rich foods, how we can control the nausea, etc, etc. Honestly I can't think of these things right now... I'm just picturing my Old Man standing in the hallway when they opened the door.... and his tail wagging despite being wrapped from end to end.

With this I will head upstairs to bed. Thanks to all for the love and support sent our way this weekend. Until tomorrow......

Hospitalization update

Got a call this morning from Dr. Michelle Evason, internal medicine specialist at Tufts, with an update on the Old Man. He's doing better this morning. The IV fluids have helped his BP and heart rate come back to normal. The biggest issue is that he is still bleeding out the back end. They have him on Anzement for nausea (stronger than the Reglan) and metronidazole (antibiotic, also known as Flagyl). Dr. Evason added Sucralfate, an ulcer medication that coats the intestinal tract to protect the wound from stomach acid and enzymes.

I must have misunderstood the doctor last night about the ultrasound. They don't do ultrasounds on the weekend, so the next big development will not be until Monday when they can have a look at the cause of the bleeding.

We'll go see him this afternoon after we take care of some things around the house. More updates to come.

Panic - Watson was admitted to Tufts ER


There was more retching and vomiting between 5-8pm last night. I administered more sub-Q fluid and then carried him out into the yard for a pee break. It had been 12 hours since his last urination and I took it as a good sign that he was hydrated enough to even have any urine. Unfortunately at 8:50pm, he had another vomiting episode and this time it was black. Yes, I said black vomit. I happened to be on my laptop at the time and quickly Googled the term. That was enough to send me into a panic.

I called my vet hospital to get the number of the ER, which is Tufts VETS (Veterinary Emergency Treatment & Specialties) in Walpole. Tufts VETS is affiliated with Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine. He was very lethargic, especially after the black vomit episode, and had to be carried to the car. He had one more vomiting episode in the car. It's a rather long drive to Walpole from where we live (about 50 minutes) so I was thankful that nothing more dramatic happened.

Rich drove, and I am glad he did. When we got in the car, I was so panicked and upset that I couldn't remember how to get where we were going. I just kept imagining the worst and I knew in my heart that Watson, my best bubbe, was not coming home with us.

When we got to Tufts, he didn't even lift his head. Rich carried him, blanket and all, into the ER. The staff there was great from the beginning. They saw us carry him in and immediately got a stretcher to come get him. They prioritize their patients in the ER, so we got to go ahead of people who were waiting there for less critical matters.

Shortly after I filled out all the forms, a vet tech came out with a black trash bag and asked if we wanted our blanket back. I was confused as to why it was in a bag, but in my frantic state I said "sure". Well, I'm glad Rich clarified.... Watson had had an episode of bloody diarrhea all over the binkie. I was later told that it was mostly blood (again, I am glad the doctor waited until I was sitting in an exam room to tell me that since I would have freaked out earlier).

We waited for nearly 2 hours as they worked on him. When we were called in, Dr. Rutter sat us down very calmly and took a history. She then outlined his condition - he has severe GI distress, causes unknown. It could have been the prednisone; it could have been the foods he was eating (like beef and salmon that, although boiled, are still rich for a dog's GI system). His heart rate was 200 when he came in but after some fluids, it dropped back to a more normal 120. She said it's not a situation to lose hope over, but not to be fooled - he is very sick. But if we can get him through this, then there is a high chance that he can continue his chemo and have more quality time on this Earth. However, the most immediate battle is to find what's causing the bleeding and get it to stop.

We got to see him before we left the ER. He was in one of their big kennels, laying all flat against the floor. He had an IV in one arm and a catheter. His eyes were squeezed shut and he looked so very small lying there by himself. They opened the cage and I got down on hands and knees to give him a kiss. When I put my hand in front of his nose, he immediately opened his eyes and tried to lift his head. I put his little head in my hands and told him I loved him over and over. He looked so very exhausted... I gave him a kiss on the nose and said good night. They promised to call if anything were to happen. I asked that should he take a turn for the worst, that we have a chance to get there before we had to let him go. Thankfully, no call in the middle of the night.

He has an ultrasound and a consult with the internal medicine specialist today. They usually call before 12 noon, so I have the phone glued to my side. We will get to see him at some point, but there are no set visiting hours. We need to call ahead and make sure it's okay to come.

Rich had been so good throughout this ordeal. Although Watson is part of "our" family, he's really "my" dog. Watson would follow me off a cliff and he trusts me to do the right thing for him. I struggled with deciding on chemo or not, and now am faced with critical decisions that literally leaves his life in the balance. How do I weigh all that on a scale? Right or wrong? Through what scope do I make these decisions for him - love? Love is inherently selfish. Of course I want him here. I woke this morning to his empty bed and I wept even though I know he is alive and in the hands of top-notch medical professionals. Money? Rich and I have good jobs and, luckily, are spendthrifts. Watson's medical care will not put us in the poorhouse.

So how do I make these decisions for a loyal being who trusts and loves me unconditionally, but cannot talk and tell me what he wants. If someone has the answer, please tell me.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Can we just catch a break?!?!?

On the 40-minute drive to the vet's office, Watson managed to retch once but not actually produce anything. He was weak and a bit disoriented so I had to carry him up the front steps and into the exam room. In all, he's vomited about 8-9 times so far today. Dr. Delbecq, our regular vet, was working today; she usually has Saturdays off but had switched with her partner since his daughter was getting married today. Anyway, it was good that it was her since she's been his vet since we adopted him.

She ran an in-house CBC and his workup came back all in the normal ranges. Her in-house capabilities do not show individual breakdowns under specific categories like white blood counts, but the overall picture is that his blood is fine. And because I didn't actually see him ingest a rawhide or pork chew, we had to assume that this GI distress is just a mystery.

She took extra blood to send out to a lab for a full CBC; results will be back on Monday. She administered 300ml of sub-cutaneous (sub-Q) fluid while we were there and gave him an injection of 5mg/ml metoclopramide (Reglan) and 10mg/ml famotidine (Pepcid AC). She sent us home with fluid that I will need to administer tonight and tomorrow, as well as several shots of each of the aforementioned meds to get us through the weekend.

He vomited once more when we got back home, and now seems restless. He's lying in his bed but keeps lifting his head every 30 seconds. I'm not sure what that means, or if it means anything really. He still has a small pouch of fluid that has drifted to his left side, so that may be making him feel weird when he lies down.

So here we are with a beautiful Saturday almost at an end. I wish we could just catch a break so that I can catch a glimpse of summer before it's over. We lost our cat, Crusty, on June 29th, so it seems like illness has hung over our family for a few months now. Between the sick pets and trying to run a business, I feel stretched thin and nearly transparent.

Off to the vet's again


I called our local vet in Holliston and we have a 1pm appointment. I described the morning's activities and the consistency of his vomit (now a thick, mucous with a yellowish brown color) and she wants to see him ASAP. He's also not interested in drinking any water and I noticed that his nose is dry and his lips are more white than pink. Thankfully he is not running a fever so hopefully this is not a true emergency situation. More later when I get back......

Ick.

It was a rough night for all. Turns out that Watson's latest bout of lethargy and gastritis is a result of his scavenging a pork chew from the little basset. I swear I had picked up all the rawhides and pork chews, but he must have found a remnant somewhere. (Damn that hound nose!)

The vomiting began around 4am and has continued through the morning. From what I can gather, it looks like he may have swallowed a small piece that's been churning in his stomach all day yesterday. That would explain why he was not eating yesterday and I do regret giving him his usual dose of Reglan, which may have delayed the vomiting. Mind you, if he were not a cancer dog, I would be scolding him and telling him "TS for you; you did this to yourself!" But since he obviously has much bigger problems, I am only shaking my head at him and perhaps wagging a finger when he is not looking.

I've put a call into NEVOG to see how I should treat him. Judging from the smell, his stomach is quite sour at the moment. He's wanting water, but can only hold it down for about 30 minutes. Usually you are supposed to fast a dog who has stomach upset, but again with the cancer, I am not sure what I should do. I'm waiting for a call back from the vet.

And thank goodness for the little green Bissell. This mechanical miracle makes cleaning up all manner of canine fluids so much easier. If you have a pet, you must absolutely have one of these!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Speaking of that pain in my gut

So it's closing in on 7pm and Watson has not eaten since breakfast this morning. I tried to leave him alone for most of the day, but as of a few hours ago, I decided to try and feed him. No luck. The good news is that he is still drinking water so dehydration is not an issue. But since he is not eating, I tried to syringe feed his Reglan to him with only 50% luck. I ended up wearing at least as much went down his throat. I'm waiting for Rich to get home from work so we can wrestle him long enough to get the pill into him. In the meantime, my fridge is piling up with Tupperware containers of ground turkey, beef, boiled chicken, and various bits of fish.... oh, and hot dogs.

I'm still trying not to panic. The good folks on the Canine Cancer Yahoo group are telling me to wait a few days to see if he perks up. A few days? I know what they mean, but like I said before: it seems like there are good seconds and bad eternities. For anyone who is reading this, please say a prayer or light a candle or send a positive thought out in the universe for Watson. Everyone in the Frembes household needs as much positive energy as we can get.

P.S. A hello to Graham's mum/Prince's grandmum who has started reading this blog. I thank you for your interest and Watson did get his extra kisses. It's good to know that Watson has friends across the pond!

Can't party like we used to

So, we had Rich's co-worker over for dinner last night. He's visiting the office from his home base in Vegas so we thought it would be good to treat him to a home-cooked meal. With all the activity of a guest, Watson is completely tuckered out today. Mind you, Watson basically spent alot of time standing and staring but that is alot of activity for him.

As a result of the tiredness, he didn't drink enough water overnight and actually slept all night and woke up dry. While I should be happy about the dryness, it may mean that he's dehydrated. He's back to being lethargic and not eating this morning. I try not to panic when this happens, but I always get a pain in my gut when he turns his nose up at any food. So far, I've offered chicken and salmon with no success and beef with limited success. Then again, I also forget that he's allowed to be picky and his disinterest could be nothing. However now that I look at his actions through a cancer lens, it changes how I (over)react to everything.

Today is the first day that he is off prednisone for good. The pred was good at propping up his appetite so I may have more these days ahead of me. Better stock up on my meats now....

I just posted a cute video of Watson from Wednesday. He had stolen Waldo's bone and was searching the house for a place to hide it. Click here to see the video of Watson "burying" his bone. (FYI - the file is an 18mb AVI file.) Enjoy!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Made it to the mailbox, part 2

So, I took Watson for a drag down the driveway to the mailbox. Again he had to stop a few times to catch his breath, but he soldiered on. Unlike last week, I don't think it's the humidity or the prednisone that was interfering; more so, I think he's just tired. I guess if you had strong poison (or as we humans call it - chemo drugs) coursing through your veins, then going for a walk may not be your first choice of activity. He's back to sleeping like a log on my office floor, so at least he was able to get out and get some sun and fresh air.......


As I may have mentioned several posts back, Rich was in Michigan visiting his parents over the weekend. My sister-in-law just sent some photos, one of which is posted here. Apparently my brother-in-law (her husband - driving the Ural in this photo) traded vehicles with a friend. The friend got their pickup truck and they got a Ural, described on their site as "a unique classic sidecar motorcycle for family recreational and off-road riding". Off-roading? But seriously though, isn't that the funniest thing you've ever seen? And here I was stuck at home cleaning up poo!!!

My two boys


I love this look on Watson's face. He will often look at Waldo this way since the baby sometimes doesn't pay attention to personal space. Classic.

Yummy chicken


So we made the decision to let the Old Man sleep through the night rather than waking him up for a bathroom break. I lined his bed and the surrounding floor with piddle pads "just in case" and it's a good thing that I did. The poor guy sleeps so soundly that there are...shall we say... leaks. But the pads did their job and he still woke up fairly dry. The bed was dry as a bone too. He was finally able to sleep through the night and get some good rest. I don't think he barely budged from the time we went to sleep to the time I woke him up!

He ate a good breakfast of boiled chicken, Canidae dry food and pumpkin (for GI health). I'm glad to have found the Canidae brand as it is so much better for dogs, better even than top brands like Iams or Nutro. The dry formula uses four human-grade meats (chicken, turkey, lamb and fish) and also has probiotics and digestive enzymes added. Of course, you pay for all that goodness too but I think it's worth every cent. I've learned so much about canine nutrition in the past month; Waldo's diet has changed for the better too.
On another note, I grew up as a carnivore but since meeting Veggie Rich I am slowly becoming an herbivore. So now it's weird to roll out of bed and put on some meat for Watson. I don't make a habit of cooking meat at home (but I will order it when eating out) so I am not used to touching/cutting/smelling/cooking it at home. I can say though that the smell of boiled beef in the morning truly makes me ill. But Watson seems to love it, so I should just stop whining.
Speaking of whining, I have also been asked by the oncologist to take his temp twice a day. "Hmmm, how do I do that?," I wondered. "Rectally," he answered. Oh.... This is my life, people, this is my life.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

When a man's best friend is his dog, that dog has a problem.
~Edward Abbey

Watson in the Caddy

Here's a photo of Watson in his favorite bed last night. Usually this bed is kept upstairs (away from Waldo the destroyer), but he was feeling so blah yesterday that I brought it down for him. We call this bed "The Cadillac" since it cost about as much as a car, and it's awfully plush. He sinks into it when he get in it and wedges himself against the bolster. I do love this face!

One second at a time...

So, the Old Man slept peacefully last night. Did the usual middle-of-the-night bathroom break which he still seems to need. After three doses of the Reglan, his stomach seems to be wanting food again (HUGE relief). He had a good breakfast of people food (tuna salad and boiled chicken) and I just made him a cubed steak. Although he is not wanting dog food at the moment, I'm still happy that he's willing to eat something.

Now that he is fed and settled down, I have to really concentrate on work today. Taking care of him can sometimes feel like a full-time job, which is unfortunate since I already have one of those.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Tuna pasta salad, who knew.....

So, I made some tuna pasta salad for dinner and it seemed to be a hit.... with Watson. He had several scoops and then was begging for more when I was eating. (After all, who doesn't like mayo and tuna?) It seems like the Reglan is doing its job and that sleeping all day has given him some pep tonight. He's resting comfortably now with a Tivoed version of the Daily Show blaring in the background. His next dose of Reglan should come around midnight since it's every 8 hours, but we may cheat a bit and give it to him early since I hope to be dead asleep by then... Anyway, today was another one of those rollercoaster days that unfortunately started out going straight down. My hope is that tomorrow morning will be much better.

Perking up


After sleeping like a rock all day, Watson perked up a bit around 4:30pm. He was up and about, so I took the opportunity to get some meds into him. Dr. Philibert prescribed 10mg of metoclopramide (also known as Reglan) for nausea/vomiting so Watson got that, his pred and his fish oil capsule. He took a few beef jerky treats as well. An hour later, he still felt well enough to eat a boiled chicken drumstick (boiling takes off the fat, which is not good for cancer dogs to ingest). Right now, it's back to bed for him and we'll continue to monitor how he's doing.

Not a good morning...


So, it seems like we went to bed with one dog and woke up with another. Up until last night, his energy has been good and he's been eating and drinking well. This morning, though, his energy is blah and he has no interest in food. I called Dr. Philibert at NEVOG and he said that some dog’s red/white counts will continue to go down even at the 10-day mark (today is Day 11). He said to let him rest, try to feed him something bland but most importantly keep him drinking. He also prescribed some anti-nausea meds that I need to go pick up from CVS later today.

I am trying not to panic. We are stepping down his prednisone (now at a quarter-tab or 5mg) so I knew it would affect his appetite. But he is so very lethargic this morning. I wrote to the Canine Cancer forum asking if this is normal or if I should be panicking….. I am trying to hold onto positive thoughts but some days it is harder than others.

Monday, August 6, 2007

So true.....

We long for an affection altogether ignorant of our faults. Heaven has accorded this to us in the uncritical canine attachment. ~George Eliot

catching up from the weekend

Okay, so haven't posted in a few days. Rich has been away to see his parents, so trying to keep up with 2 sick dogs (baby Waldo has a GI issue) and other household goings-on have been hectic. Melanie came over for the weekend to go kayaking with my friend Kathy and Kathy's friend Rose on Saturday; Sunday afternoon was a PawSox game.

Watson did well over the weekend - no major accidents besides a few piddles here and there. I was away from home more than I have been in a few weeks but I tried to get home every 3-4 hours to let him out. We are down to 1/4 tab of Prednisone, so hopefully the frequent bathroom breaks will subside once he is totally off of it. I do hope, though, that the appetite stays. He's been eating really well throughout the chemo process so far and is even gaining weight. Sunday, I took him for a walk down the street (along his favorite route) and he seemed to have a good time. He did well on the walk although I noticed he was moving much slower than usual. It was almost like a slow shuffle for me to not get too far ahead of him.

On a related note, I was asked by Melanie to post about my "clever" trick for overnight bathroom breaks. I realized that setting an alarm in the middle of the night was totally disrupting my sleep pattern, yet Watson still needs to go out in order not to soak his bed. My solution is to chug at least 12-16 ounces of water before bed so that my bladder wakes me up, usually around 2-2:30am. As Mels pointed out, I probably sleep better since I am not nerved up about the alarm going off and this is a more natural way of waking up anyway. So when I need to get up and go, I wake up the Old Man too.

I've also devised a more natural way to get him out of bed. I bought some really stinky dried salmon strips from Paw Planet and, instead of peeling him out of bed, I wave it in front of his nose and he leaps out of bed for it. No lifting on my part, and he is quite happy to get a treat.

So sorry for posting about my bodily functions too, but Mels insisted on several occasions that it is not fair for me to post about Watson's business and not my own. Fine, I hope you are happy now. =)

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Waking up with the sun...

So, I am not a morning person... less so if I am being awakened by the sad whining of a baby basset from downstairs. Once again, I have started off my morning with poo. Perhaps it's sympathy poo, but for some reason, Waldo's having issues. I think I should rename this blog to have it more to do with canine bodily functions rather than canine lymphoma.

Anyway, the Old Man had another good night. He had one bathroom break at 2am and then slept until we all got up at 6:30am. I can't wait until he is off the Prednisone so we can all get a full night's sleep.

Just got a call from the vet re: CBC results. Red blood cell and white blood cell counts are low but not in the critical zone. His WBC dropped from 22,000 to 3,600 (below 1,500 would be bad) and his RBC dropped from 43 to 32 (20 is of concern). The simple explanation is that it means the chemo drugs are working. As the vet said, the good news is we have a comfortable dog whose BMs are under control and who is eating/drinking well. Gaining weight during chemo can mean a longer prognosis too. He stressed again that he can't predict a timeline, but I think that every day Watson is comfortable, happy and eating is good enough for me. I can't help but take it one day at a time.

I was listening to "Fresh Air" on NPR a few days ago and they were talking about anticipatory grief (in relation to the families of soldiers deployed in Iraq) and how the spouses would tend to imagine life without their husbands or wives, or how they would envision the funeral and how much they would miss him/her. Although Watson's illness doesn't compare to the trauma of having a family member deployed to a war zone, I could relate to anticipatory grief..... After his diagnosis, that grief nearly drove me insane for 2 weeks.... I didn't eat and could barely sleep thinking about life without him by my side everyday. But then I had to put it aside because I was living in the future and there is no use going through it twice. So now every time I look into his brown eyes and see the Old Man in there, I know that this very small slice of time is wonderful.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Arrruuuuuuuuu!!!!!

Went to Holliston to our regular vet for the CBC this morning. As always, Watson did well in the car and in the office. His temp was a normal 101.3 degrees and he has gained about 1 pound since last Friday. All in all, good stuff. We'll have the results back on the blood work tomorrow. NEVOG says no news is good news. Unless I get a call that the numbers aren't where they need to be, then our next chemo tx is on 8/14.

Ever the drama queen, Watson did let out his signature "Arrruuuu!!" yelp when they poked him the needle. He has the type of yelp that instantly fills the room and makes you think that someone is tearing off his leg. Silly.

So very tired...

Still getting up in the middle of the night to let Watson out. I am so very tired... Somehow I still need to concentrate on work and meet all my deadlines. Not sure how since I can't think straight and can barely concentrate. Taking care of Watson and Waldo has been a challenge considering they have very different needs. Waldo the pup needs to run and play, while Watson the old man just needs his rest. Providing care for them with a husband who will be on the road for much of the month and trying to run a business is really fraying my edges.

Take today for example: Watson's bladder woke me up at 6:30am. After getting him outside, making coffee, letting Waldo out of his cage, feeding them both, taking Waldo outside, eating a bowl of cereal, and calling Rich, it's now 8am. I still need to take Waldo for a walk, take a shower, and then drive Watson to the vet for his CBC today. By the time I get back, it will be Noon and I will still need to put in my 8 hours of work. That makes for a long day....... everyday.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Boring is Good

So after having quite a nice date night last night, we came home to find a moat that was once our kitchen floor. I can't wait for Watson to be off Prednisone. Hopefully it means he will keep eating though. The pred makes him both drink and eat more.... we'll see in a week or so when he is finally weaned off.

Otherwise, nothing new to report. He's eating like a horse but seems a bit more lethargic than usual. Could be the chemo, but also could be the hot weather. Every chance he gets, he lies down to either rest or go to sleep.

We go to the local vet tomorrow to get his CBC; hopefully, his values are good and we can proceed with the next chemo treatment on 8/14.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Date night

With Mr. Watson stable, we're off to see a movie. He's been sleeping really well, so I hope to sneak out of the house while he's not looking. I need to take his temp as he is 5 days from chemo treatment and is seeming a bit low in energy. (Mind you, he's still feeling well enough to steal a rawhide stick from Waldo.) I too am feeling a bit low in energy so maybe we're just not getting enough sleep. =( Curses to his bladder.

(Don't) Tell me your tale.....

The word about Watson's illness is slowly making its way around.... I have gotten some of the nicest emails and calls about how he's doing, and I do appreciate the outpouring of love and support from friends and even strangers across cyberspace. Hopefully what I am about to point out next doesn't make me sound like an ungrateful arse as that is not my intention.

Perhaps it is the natural human reaction to use a common experience to connect. For example, when my mom was very sick with metastatic cancer almost 5 years ago, people would regale me with their cancer stories... "oh, my dad died of liver cancer; it was painful and awful" or "my mom died of brain cancer; she didn't even know who we were at the end".

Similarly, I am finding that people are telling about their dead pets ("my Jojo died of diabetes" or "my Brian died of bone cancer"), with an emphasis on the word DIED. It seems like everyone's stories are in the past tense, as if Watson WERE ALREADY DEAD AND I AM GRIEVING. Not so. He may move slow but he is very much alive.

Here's my bit of unsolicited advice: if you hear of someone whose beloved human/beagle/cockatoo/cat/whathaveyou is ill, I ask that you suppress your human urge to share your story about your dead Uncle Bill who didn't die of the same ailment. Instead, share a positive story of someone who LIVED and SURVIVED the ordeal. Like tell me about your 13 year old dog who not only survived lymphoma but lived long enough to win top prize in his agility race and then die of old age.

If after racking your brain, you cannot come up with a positive story, then I suggest that you take the dog's approach to bad news: give me a cookie and tell me to lie down for a while.