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Jan 29 2014


A penny found …

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I’m starting to think there really is something to the Pennies from Heaven story.

While living in Lancaster, Pennsylvania we lost our baby Merlin (Zeus’ brother) to cancer.  About a year later Greg’s job relocated us to a different part of PA and I was sad to leave the home that held my last memories of him.  Immediately after moving into our house, I found a penny balanced on a support rod in the closet.  The Pennies story immediately crossed my mind and I hoped that it was in fact a sign that our boy was with us in the new home.

A couple of years later, and six months after Zeus passed, we relocated back to our home state of South Carolina.  After several years in cold, snowy Pennsylvania, it was a welcome move albeit a sad one since our boys weren’t with us to share the homecoming joy.  We set upon building our dream home on a small lake but beneath the excitement was a sense of sadness that our precious babies would not get to live in the dream home with us.

Partway through construction I came out to walk through and check on things.  Laying in the laundry room floor was a penny.  I cried and smiled all at once.  I can only hope that the spirit of those precious babies are here with us every day.

We are finally in our new home and soon it will be filled with the click of nails on the floor and the inevitable dog-fur tumbleweeds that even every-day vacuuming can’t eliminate.  I look forward to being rescued by a couple (or three) pound pups in the very near future, but I am also thankful that our boys are watching out for us.


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Sep 15 2013


Angelversary – Reflections on the year

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My last posting was when the cancer returned.  Although I stayed active in the forums and chat, after losing our boy I just couldn’t find it in myself to update this blog.  It seemed so final.  But today, on this one year anniversary of his passing, it seems only right to close out the story.

Zeus had his amputation on December 1, 2011 when he was 11 years old.  He strained his back a couple of weeks after the amp, so his recovery was about two weeks longer than most.  One month later he began chemo – six rounds of Carboplatin.  An upset stomach after the first treatment was treated with Cerenia and from that point on he was given a Cerenia injection at the time of every subsequent chemo.  That seemed to do the trick and he suffered very little side effect, with the exception of increasing lethargy since the chemo effects are cumulative.  Apparently sensitive to the chemo, his WBC count was too low after the first two chemos to stay with the three-week intervals, so we switched to four weeks between each treatment and that worked well.  Eight months after the amputation, and one month after stopping chemo, we tried to begin the metronomic protocol.  After only one dose he was extremely sick to his stomach.  Knowing that most dogs tolerate the MP with little side effects (and with bloodwork showing abnormal levels), our vet suspected some underlying cause.  An ultrasound confirmed that Zeus had a couple of large tumors in his abdomen, specifically affecting his liver and spleen.  We began Prednasone which seemed to help his energy level and overall quality of life, but we knew that it was just palliative treatment.  On September 15, 2012, ten months after his diagnosis the prior November, our baby crossed the bridge to be with his big brothers.

I have grieved the lost of every dog that we have adopted.  But this was even harder than most as we develop a different kind of bond with our tripawds.  I know that I don’t have to explain it to anyone on this site.  It took a long, long time to return to any semblance of normal.  Not only did I miss Zeus’ presence in our lives, but we had to adjust to being normal people again – not carrying a dog up the 16 hardwood steps to go to bed – not going to the vet monthly for treatments and tests – not spending two hours every Sunday home-cooking the cancer diet for the week.  I found that I had too much free time, my house was too clean and, sadly, my house was WAY to quiet.

So, at this one-year date I still grieve and my heart still hurts, but in the end I have peace.  See, Zeus won.  He beat cancer.  Most of you know that he had a lung met and a “suspicious spot” on his liver at the time of diagnosis.  We all know that those facts gave him a grim prognosis – our vet’s best guess was six weeks.  But he lived ten months and they were ten fabulous months!  It was scary to take the chance, but we gambled and amputated anyway.  One look in his eyes and you could tell that he was still so very happy and so full of life.  We refused to take that away from him.  Any dog lover knows that dogs have a very strong survival instinct and we didn’t feel that it would be fair not to fight as long as he told us he wanted to.  So that is what we did.  We took off the leg, we started chemo, we switched diets, and we spoiled the hell out of him.  Until he told us it was time.  And, when he did, we helped him to go to a place of happiness where he could be healthy and run free until our time to join him.  I still hurt every day.  I still tear up once a week.  I miss him terribly.  But he won.  He loved every minute of that ten months and left on his own terms.

After his passing, many dear friends from this site blessed me with cards, flowers and memorial gifts made in Zeus’ honor.  Every one was extraordinarily touching and meant more to me than words can express.  One flower arrangement was accompanied by a card that read:

“Bear up, my child, bear up; Zeus who oversees and directs all things is still mighty in Heaven”

This is a quote from a Greek poet, Sophocles.  It seemed so right and comforting.  The love, compassion and support of  this community is indescribable, and to this day I am thankful for you all.

My Little Gentleman, you must be the most beautiful Angel Dog in the heavens.  I miss you so much that my heart physically hurts.  Your love, never-ending patience, and complete devotion made me a better person.  I learned from you and because of that I live every day of my life with a determination to make a difference.  Your love for life and lack of worry have instilled in me a desire to live happily and to make every minute count.  Your life on this earth touched me and touched your daddy and we are forever grateful for the time we were blessed to be your guardians.  Now, I know that you are our guardian.  I look for you in the stars and I listen for you on the wind.  I know you sent us a sign – we knew it was you as soon as we saw it.  I still to this day pray that you and your brothers are the first things I see when my time comes to join the Heavens.  Until then, my precious baby boy, rest well and play hard.  You will be forever in our hearts.  Love, Mama and Daddy.

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Jul 29 2012


Concerned

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I write this post with a heavy heart, but also hoping that I am just being paranoid.  Nonetheless, I am writing it so that no one will be surprised if this in fact does take a turn for the worse.

Zeus just doesn’t seem to be doing well.  We tried the MP drugs a few weeks ago and he did not tolerate them.  They made him very sick to his stomach and he ended up with pancreatitis.  Since most dogs tolerate them well, Dr. R was very concerned and wanted to do extra bloodwork to see if there was some ‘underlying problem’.  His CBCs showed problems with his WBC and RBC counts which could have been caused by the meds or the pancreatitis, but his liver and kidney values were all normal.  He prescribed Cerenia and Metronidazole for the pancreatitis and wanted follow-up bloodwork in a month (two weeks from now).  I posted in the forums about some symptoms that Zeus developed (overall weakness, rear end weakness and un-cooridination) and suspected that he was experiencing the ‘rare’ neurological side effects of the Metronidazole.  We discontinued that med and he seemed to be improving.  He had a really good week between stopping that med and now.  However, the last couple of days I have noticed that he seems a bit weak in the back legs and not walking as well.

Over the last month or so he has become reluctant to take the one step down from the house to the porch, although he then does the one step from the porch to the yard without hesitation.  We thought maybe he had slipped on the metal threshold at the front door and become wary of that first step.  However, now he doesn’t really show any desire to go any farther out into the yard than to pee and poop and then he just wants to come back in.  No sniffing trips to the mailbox or down the road.  Two days ago I noticed him flinch when he lifted his front leg onto the bumper so that I could lift him into my SUV.  He still seems to be eating/drinking fine, but I do notice that his breathing seems just a bit faster and heavier.

I know that there is a possibility that he strained something and maybe he is just in a bit of pain.  I also read that, if they have the rare  reaction to the Metronidazole, the symptoms can persist for a couple of weeks so maybe that explains the uncoordinated walk.  But, I also know that this cancer shit sucks and that it can surprise you when you least expect it.  I am so fearful that the cancer has spread to another leg or his spine.  And, even though his lung x-rays 1.5 months ago still showed just one small met, I know that can change quickly.  The heavier breathing really worries me.

I really don’t want to subject him to another vet visit.  He hates that place with a passion.  He won’t even look at Dr. R.  Literally, he turns his head away.  He has always hated the vet office and I just don’t want to torture him.

I am trying not to worry and I am hoping that this is just another bump in the road.  But I am also trying to be realistic and not allow myself to be blindsided.  Please keep my boy in your thoughts.

2 responses so far

Jul 29 2012


The Journey So Far

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I decided to write two posts today.  This one will focus on the recovery and chemo experience to date.  I have posted many times in the forum, but felt like this information should be here in one place so that the full story is told here in the blog.  This really is a roller coaster, but I have to say that the highs have far outweighed the lows.  This is our experience so far:

It has been almost eight months since amputation.  We went through six rounds of IV Carboplatin and overall Zeus tolerated it well.  He threw up once after his first treatment and had a day of diarrhea, which prompted the vet to give him an injection of Cerena at each subsequent treatment.  That seemed to do the trick and we did not have further problems with those issues.

Each treatment brought increasing lethargy.  Chemo is definitely cumulative in its effects.  After treatments one and two, Zeus was lethargic the day of the treatment and for two additional days.  The literature states that the effects are usually seen three to five days after administration, but that was not the case with Zeus as his always started the same day as treatment.  After treatments three and four, the lethargy lasted for at least a week.  After treatment five he was very tired the entire time leading up to treatment six.  He seemed to feel especially bad a few days before the sixth treatment was due, but when we went for the sixth treatment the vet felt like he probably just had a bug that he was recovering from.  All of his bloodwork was fine so we proceeded with the last Carbo.  Unfortunately, Zeus caught pneumonia and had to spend a night in the hospital.  He was quite sick for a couple of weeks, but he bounced back fine.  I think it was likely caused by the fact that his immune system was already weakened from fighting whatever bug he had, then we heaped on the chemo treatment which dropped his WBC count (which is expected) and allowed that bug or possibly a new one to take root.  In hindsight, I would have either held off on the sixth treatment or not done it at all, but you know what they say about hindsight…

We found early on that Zeus’ system was very sensitive to the Carbo.  It is supposed to be administered every three weeks, but we had to go to a schedule of every four weeks because every time his WBC count was too low at the three week mark.  The vet also lowered the dose just a bit.

Even though he was lethargic, his quality of life was still good, so I do not regret doing chemo.  Also, Zeus had a met that was visible on the CT scan at the time of diagnosis that the vet said was small enough that it would not have shown on x-rays (see our very first blog post).  We did more x-rays at the time of his first chemo treatment and the met was a bit bigger (not huge, but big enough that it showed on the x-ray).  We did several sets of follow-up x-rays to see if the chemo was working or whether it needed to be adjusted.  Fortunately, as of the end of chemo 1.5 months ago, the spot was still just a single spot and did not appear to have grown since that first post-amp x-ray.  That is unusual, but wonderful.  I do worry now that he is done with chemo that the mets will grow and start to spread (in fact, my next post will be about my concern that spread has begun).

Two weeks after amp, we switched Zeus to a 1/2 kibble (Halo), 1/2 homecooked diet (the homecooked is a combination of Dr. Dressler’s cancer diet and Dr. Ogilvie’s diet – Dr. Olgivie is a vet at CSU that also has a recommended cancer diet.)  Dr. D and Dr. O have similar diet recipes but Dr. D uses fresh veggies/cottage cheese/turkey necks, etc for certain nutrients, whereas Dr. O’s diet appears to use supplements to replace these fresh foods.  We decided to do a combo using the meat portions of the diets and certain veggies recommended by Dr. D that we could keep on hand because you could use frozen veggies  (broccoli, cauliflower & brussel sprouts) but we replaced supplements for some of the fresh items that I knew I would have a hard time keeping on hand (cottage cheese/turkey necks).  Zeus LOVES his food.  I truly believe that the theories behind these diets (low carb so that you are not feeding the cancer) has played a huge part in how well Zeus has done.  The vet is always pleased that he has not seen evidence of the cancer cachexia that is expected.

Unfortunately, after completing IV chemo, we tried the MP chemo and Zeus did not tolerate it well.  The MP chemo is such low-dose that I’ve never heard of a dog that could not take it.  Apparently, Zeus is the exception to the rule.  It caused him great GI distress and he ended up with pancreatitis (which he has had twice before – he just has a VERY sensitive stomach).  After treatment for the pancreatitis, he seemed to bounce back for a really really good week but the last couple of days he seems to not feel so great (see my next post).   So, we have discontinued trying the MP treatment.  The vet mentioned that we could try maintenance doses of IV chemo, but we just don’t want to put him through more vet visits, pokes, etc.  So, now he just gets to be a dog.  I once read a post where someone said about their dog “it’s between him and God now” and that is where we are.

I hope we have many more months, or even years together.  The thought of ever being without him is unfathomable to me.  We will see where this journey takes us now.

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Jun 01 2012


Not a Statistic; There is hope

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Today we celebrate Zeus’ six-month Ampuversary.  Let me tell you why that is so important:

Upon OSA diagnosis we did a CT scan which showed a suspicious spot on Zeus’ lung.  When the vet called to tell us, he was somber.  I had researched enough in the three days prior to know that the prognosis was dire if mets were already showing at the time of diagnosis.

Although I knew the statistics gave us about three months, I still asked our vet what this meant in his experience.  He offered simply that he recently had a dog with similar circumstances that survived only six weeks after amp.   We were devastated.  In a nutshell, we decided we could not leave the leg on and risk an excruciating break, but we felt it was not fair to put him through such a major surgery to have him die shortly after recovery.  So we decided to let him go.  Right before making the appointment we realized that the met was showing on a CT scan rather than the typical x-rays (see our very first blog post for why we thought this was important) and we decided to give treatment a shot.  Even at 11 years old he still had so much life in him and he was so happy.

Zeus’ leg was amputated on 12/1/11.  Today is 6/1/12.  Six months later not six weeks later.

Maybe we are lucky.  Maybe he is the exception.  But there is no maybe about it that he is our boy and he is not just a statistic.  The stats are there for general guidance but they are not the rule.  There is no guarantee that a dog will beat the odds, but I hope this provides hope for new members that it is possible.

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Mar 19 2012


Happy dog, happy mama

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It has been a while.  At the time of Zeus’ diagnosis, I absolutely scoured this site – seriously, I read every single word of every entry  of the first one hundred or so blogs shown on the list.  I spent hours stalking the forums.  I cried, I laughed, and I absorbed every morsel of information that I could fit into my overwhelmed brain.  After things died down some I became complacent about writing blog entries.  It now occurs to me that my laziness is not fair to new members who desperately want to read every story possible to help them make a decision.  So, three months and 19 days after amputation, here’s were we are now:

Zeus is the happiest stinkin’ dog ever.   Greg took him to the mailbox earlier and when they came back in the door Zeus was bounding down the hall with the biggest smile ever.  Greg said he ran back to the house faster than he has seen him move since the amp surgery.

Not to be misleading – we have had our ups and downs here and there.  His fifth chemo is scheduled for Friday and they will do follow-up x-rays to see if the lone met is still lonely.  If it is, then we continue with round five and six of Carboplatin to see if it will continue to beat down the evil spots.  If there are more mets, then we stop Carboplatin and begin MP protocol.  I am a bit worried because for the last few days he has been panting a little after any activity.  I am hopeful that it is just the chemo making him tired, although in the past he just seemed lethargic and didn’t pant.  But I know (thanks to this site) that chemo is cumulative and I am hoping that it is just a side effect due to the chemo building up in his system.  His big run from the mailbox today did not result in any panting, so that is encouraging.

Zeus still comes to work with me every day, which is a huge relief to me.  Since we moved here last year, I work too far from home to come home and walk him at lunch.  He seemed to do fine, but I had a LOT of guilt about making him go all day without a potty break.  Our clients LOVE it that the attorneys let him come.  I think it allows clients to see that attorneys have hearts, too!  : )  One of the attorneys comes in every single day and greets him before even going to her office.  Then she comes up during lunch to visit again.  I think it is a bit of calming therapy for her.  I know it is for me!

Most of all, we have NO regrets about embarking on this journey.  At first I obsessed over every single stumble, every loose poop, every “slow” day.  After the first few weeks, it finally sank in that worrying every day was counterproductive to what we were doing.  We were fighting for more quality time with him and then I wasn’t taking the time to enjoy it.  I have found that I now can fully cherish every moment without that sense of sadness lurking in the back of my heart.  Zeus is happy.  Really happy.  And happy Zeusey makes a happy mama.  I wouldn’t change A THING.

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Feb 04 2012


OSA: The cure for OCD

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I am fairly certain that if I submitted to testing I would be officially diagnosed with mild OCD.  I have always kept an immaculately clean house – everything has its place and dust mortifies me.  No, we do  not have kids.  Yes, we have always had dogs.  Which means that I vacuum three to four times per week.  Honestly, I do not notice or judge others’ homes when we visit, but any dirty spot in my own home eats at me until it is clean.

That said, this whole OSA ordeal has been almost like rehab.  First comes the diagnosis and the depression which overwhelms you for awhile.  You don’t care about anything but researching this disease and caring for your baby.  Then the amputation and the utter exhaustion from the recovery.  Once again, you are focused on the furchild, you are sleep deprived, and everything else falls through the cracks.  Then, finally, you see your baby feeling so much better and you realize just how lucky you are and how every moment is precious.  I just want to spend my time enjoying our boy.  Walks, belly rubs and cuddles seem much more important than those rogue dog hairs lying around.  I now find it adorable when Zeus repeatedly licks the kitchen cabinets immediately after eating a spoonful of peanut butter.  Don’t get me wrong, I do still clean my house, just not like before.  I have better things to do.

We have truly learned to ‘live in the now’ and it is good.  Life is good.

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Jan 10 2012


Still smilin’

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I just had to change Zeus’ avatar picture to the one of him smiling because that is what life is like now.  He is so very happy and that makes me so very happy.  We still have challenges but overall life is good.

Zeus had his second chemo this past Friday and had the same reaction as the first (one day of lethargy and diarrhea).  Unfortunately, I think he may have fallen while at the vet.  Prior to the appt on Friday his front leg had migrated more toward center and he would literally just bounce along on it.  On Friday he came home walking “harder” on the remaining front leg.  I don’t really know how to describe it.  No crying or anything, it just seems like he is holding that leg differently (farther to the side instead of centered on his chest) as he hops and the hop seems like it is more of an effort for him (harder landing with each hop and more of a head-bob than he had before).  At first, we thought that maybe he was just really tired or weak from the chemo and was having to make more of an effort b/c of energy.  But now his energy seems back to normal but the walk still seems very hard.  I’ve left a msg for the vet, but I’m not sure that they will be able to tell me much.  Hoping he maybe just pulled that muscle a bit.

But, he is still smiling and that is what matters!

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Jan 01 2012


Reflections

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I started this day thinking about what a crappy year this has been.  I am ending it thinking how incredibly lucky I am.

No doubt, this year has brought its share of trials and heartache.  In March we moved, leaving behind my great job and some wonderful friends.  It was an incredible career opportunity for my husband but a trying move nonetheless.  It is hard to leave everything you know and move to a place that you know absolutely nothing about and where you know no one.  Then, in February my brother-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and, after a valiant fight, passed away in September.  Zeus was diagnosed with cancer in November and well, you know the rest.  Cancer sucks.

This recovery has not been as easy as some I have read about.  Although, it has not been as hard as some of the others I read about.  When I see the stories of tripawds playing on the beach or mastering the stairs, I have to remind myself that Zeus is 11 years old and wasn’t doing those things before the surgery, either.  We lost Zeus’ brother, Merlin, two years ago to cancer.  It was swift and we never even got the chance to fight it.  Zeus’ face shows his age – lots of white.  We have been on pins and needles since Merlin’s death, acutely aware of Zeus’ mortality, as we know he is “mature”.  Now our fears are coming true and he is fighting for his life.  Yesterday I thought I heard him cough, which devastated me.  In fairness, he was laying with his head upside down demanding chin rubs which always makes him sneeze.  That’s probably what I heard, but you know the worry.

At diagnosis in November, we were almost convinced that we should let him go because of that suspicious spot that showed on the CT scan of his lungs.  But instead we decided to fight.  I am still terrified of every unusual sound he makes.  I am still terrified when I see an odd gait and think he might have hurt one of the precious three legs he has left.  I’m still terrified when he doesn’t eat every morsel of food.

Then I thought about the two years we’ve had since Zeus’ brother earned his wings.  Two years.  We have had two whole years with Zeus for which we should be thankful.  And quite honestly, each extra day is just icing on the cake!  And, I have met all of you.  During the Christmas chat I found one member who comes here for work and promises to look me up for lunch.  During that same chat, I discovered another member who grew up in my hometown.  Funny what a small world it is!

Well, in our older age we have shunned New Years Eve parties for quiet nights celebrating at home.  Tonight Greg and I will spend the evening on the futon mattress on the family room floor in front of the TV.  Of course, Zeus will be right there in between!  That is what I have right now and that is what I will enjoy.

Happy New Year!

Zeus and Spirit Merlin

 

 

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Dec 20 2011


20 days and still sleep deprived

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Boy, when the folks on this website talked about sleep deprivation and roller coaster rides, they weren’t kidding.  And, quite honestly, I feel like our recovery was a cake-walk compared to some of the blogs I have read.

To recap, Zeus’ first day after surgery was painful with a lot of whining.  The next few days were as good as we could have hoped for, I guess.  About 12 days after the amputation, he started whining whenever we pick him up or down and occasionally when he stands up to walk.  He also stopped rolling over onto his back for belly rubs.  The vet gave us an ‘all clear’ on his blood work and said that physical exam showed tenderness in his back.  Dr. Rider believes he just “tweaked it”.  In hindsight, we remembered Zeus stepping off of his pillow onto one of the runners we put down and his front foot slid forward.  He caught himself before he fell but I can only assume that must be what caused the problem.  I can’t really say that it has gotten much better in the last few days and I’m still a bit worried.

He had his stitches out on day 14 and that did seem to make him feel a bit better.  We are weaning him from the Gabapentin and that has definitely made a difference in how groggy he is.  Yesterday was actually quite good – he was moving around pretty good and only whined once when we carried him up for bed.  Then, this morning, he was in a sitting position and bent around to bite at the area above his tail.  Suddenly he sat up and cried loudly.  I can only assume that the hurt muscle in his back cramped up.  Once he calmed down, he seemed a bit slower in his movements the rest of the morning.

The first chemo treatment was last Friday and he seems to be tolerating it well.  On Sunday night he had a bit of diarrhea but he was back to normal by Monday morning.  Keeping our fingers crossed that he continues to have few side effects.

Although we are sleeping more since the stitches came out, we are still so tired.  I think our emotions are just draining us!  But, I’d still do it all over again.  I’ll take any amount of lost sleep if it leads to a happy, healthy pup!!

2 responses so far

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