a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: November 2002

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

The dog abuse situation gets worse

Poor Remington! Surgeon who looked at his foot yesterday says that, without stitches, it looks like it's pulling itself open every time he takes a step--and (see Sunday) they can't replace the stitches easily--so they've got him in a splint, so his leg is wrapped from his toes to just below his elbow. Also, the stitched-up bit on his ankle she said looks a little "weepy," so they're adding another 10 days of antibiotics.

He's really energetic, though--eager to do things & frustrated because the splint makes it so much more difficult. But he hauls himself around on 3 legs with great energy.

Started 2nd round of Cytoxan last night. Waiting to see whether diarrhea reappears; yesterday afternoon actually already was kinda soft, and that's before the Cytoxan. Poor pup.

But he takes all the visits to the vet in stride. He's cheerful to be there, willing to go with the nice people who want to poke and prod at him, curious about what's going on behind the desk. Unlike Jake, who now trembles miserably whenever we arrive at the vet's office and tries his best to hide between the molecules of my legs, lap, or the furniture.

Monday, November 25, 2002

On to More Chemo/Jake good/Tika bored/Amber resurfaces

Remington is *so* full of energy but I think his foot is really bothering him--every time he gets excited about something and forgets and puts his foot down, it just dampens him so rapidly. He really really wanted to play in the yard today; really really wanted to do tricks; really really wanted to go for a longer walk. Poor guy.

His bloodwork shows that his white cells are doing fine 6 days after first Cytoxan dose, so we're going to go get the next 3 days of Cytoxan doses tomorrow.

Jake's foot seems to be doing OK. Still enlarged. I'm still keeping him pretty subdued on exercise (well--for him, anyway).

With 4 days gone at Disneyland and now trying to catch up on work, Tika has had no agility practice since class last week, and I really didn't spend much time with them today, and she's achin' for action.

I found a bunch of slides of my old dog Amber when she was a puppy. Will have to scan them in & make prints for my album. Maybe put a couple on the site to compare & contrast to Remington, who greatly resembles her.

Foot doing good

Rem is hanging in there just fine, although I think he's getting a little tired of having people play with his cut-up foot. Yesterday my nephew had to put a temporary bandage on it after Rem pulled off the one put on by the doctor. Last night I had to put on another one because nephew's didn't last until I got home. I took him to the emergency vet because some of his stitches had come out, and they put another one on (as well as mucking with his foot). Then this morning when I took him in for a blood test, they replaced the bandage again. He's not wanting to walk on it today, but boy, I've never seen a dog look more excited about going for a walk on 3 legs! Vet said it's healing very nicely & no signs of infection.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Gone for the weekend/Rem fights the bandage demon

Backfill: 11/25/02 Yup, made it to Disneyland with sister Linda & her pal Paul. Photos maybe on Wed or Fri. Weather was gorgeous, trip was fun. Also went to the Getty and looked at some of their illuminated manuscripts. Wowwwwww!

House/dog sitters let me know regularly that Rem was doing great, eating well, no diarrhea, no problem with foot--until Sunday afternoon, when he pulled the bandage off. So my nephew put a temporary bandage on and I decided that a repalcement at the vet's could wait until Monday morning. But when I got home at 10:30 that evening, the temporary bandage was off and the stitches had been pulled out of the pad on his foot. (Ones up his ankle were fine, though.)

So I took him in to the emergency room, where they said that probably the stitches had pulled out way before Rem got the bandage off, because of how it was healing, and said that putting stitches back in would require reaming out some of the built-up tissue, and that it would probably be better now to just let it heal as is. Vet assured me that there shouldn't be a problem with scar tissue being a problem if/when Rem gets back to agility.

Saturday, November 23, 2002

In Anaheim

This has nothing to do with dogs. Me, my sister Linda, her main squeeze Paul, & friends Keith and Lori at the Disneyland ResortTM in AnaheimTM.

Friday, November 22, 2002

With any luck, I'm out of town at Disneyland Nov 22-24.
Us 3 at DLand

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Mom's a Dork/Rem's 3-Footed Now

I can't believe it this happened--and just as I was trying to get everything together to leave town for 3 days.

Rem loves nothing better than roaming around parkland and fields in search of random adventures. There's a wonderful nose-friendly 9-acre empty lot across the street. I've been taking the dogs there maybe once a week for the last year. Since Rem came back from his operation, I've been taking him all by himself over there almost daily. It's pretty much plowed-under weeds and gopher holes and some old walnut trees. Worst part is that, along a couple of edges by the streets, people toss empty liquor bottles and some of them shatter. Usually I avoid those parts, and usually I can see where there's broken glass anyway.

But with all that rain the other week, the freshly-grown weeds are now 4-6" tall so it's harder to see what's underneath, and for some odd reason I decided to leave the area over a different route than I usually take. And all of a sudden as we stepped into the street, Rem came up lame. I picked up his foot and it was covered with blood. Sliced almost all the way through one entire pad and also into the ankle going up to the pad higher on the foot (I don't know what that's called). Soooo--it was off for an emergency visit again. Now he had a bunch of stitches in his foot and a bandage that's supposed to stay on for 10 days (fat chance!) and right at the moment he doesn't want to walk on it at all. AND antibiotics.

He was limping on it after the vet's, but after almost 4 hours now, maybe it's become more painful, too. I am such a dork for going into an unfamiliar area there. I didn't even think about the glass; I was just enjoying Remington enjoying himself.

Other than that--he's still got diarrhea, presumably from the cytoxan (although they're doing a fecal test just to be sure because of lessened immunity)--but he was feeling & acting & looking just wonderful despite that. So things are looking good for him to handle the chemo well, and perhaps that means there's a bit of a longer-term hope...

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Rem OK so far on Cytoxan

Remington's got some diarrhea again, but otherwise seems to be fine so far on Cytoxan. Still has appetite and energy; he was a bit more huggy today, but I think that's because he's BORED and we haven't been anywhere interested (read: agility) in weeks.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

On to More Chemicals

Today Remington's white blood cell count is finally high enough to move on to the first application of Cytoxan, which is the 2nd drug in his chemo protocol. Gave it to him at dinnertime. Now we wait and see whether there are any side effects.

Monday, November 18, 2002

The Good, The Bad, and--

Good: Happy and Active: If possible, he's been even more playful than 2 days ago. Friday night, Saturday, yesterday, and today, he's rarin' to go. I'm beginning to realize how sick he still was between the Episode in August and the Near Catastrophe two weeks ago (already!). Yesterday, actually, I couldn't keep him off the agility equipment in the yard! He was jumping jumps and taking Aframes and doing the weaves *really* fast (which has been an ongoing challenge for us) without me asking--he's begging me to stop doing it with all those other annoying creatures that share our house and do agility with HIM because he's a Studly Agility Dog. (Bad acronym, but what can you do?)

We all attended a couple of workshops on Saturday, mostly making me work my body and brain for a change, but Remington got to be a clicker-training Demo Dog. The instructor needed a dog who was already trained to touch his nose to a target. I volunteered immediately because Rem used to be really good at it, but then realized that I hadn't practiced that in so long with Mr. Remington that he might be rusty. I need not have feared--anything involving a clicker and food becomes indelibly engraved on his brain. The target came out, and he went right for it.

So we got to demonstrate how bad timing on the trainer's part (clicking late instead of when the dog's nose touches the target) and screw up your dog in fewer than a dozen clicks. It's pretty interesting to see.

Not as good: Blood counts: Rem's white blood cell counts are still low, 12 days after the first dose of chemo. This means we still can't do the second chemical still (was supposed to be a week after the first). On the up side, the vet says that this means the chemo is being very effective in his body.

He's also down to 51 pounds. That's probably because he's been on rice and cottage cheese for almost 2 weeks, transitioning over the last week to canned canine cancer diet, and he hasn't gotten quite enough calories based on my guesses for rice/cc portions. On the up side of *that*, vet said he looks hale & hearty and asked whether he had gained weight! So I was right, this *is* a good weight for him.

I've started a separate page of links and static info on the cancer.

Friday, November 15, 2002

And Da Man Keeps on Playing

Remington is SO playful yesterday and today! I actually don't know how long it's been since I've seen him so eager to play. He played with a box in the yard. He played with a Big Blue Thing in the yard (looks a lot like a Tika Toy--except blue--). He picked up an old tennis ball handle in the kitchen and played a little tug of war & chase with that. He accepted a squeaky toy and led me and my sister on merry chases around and around the coffee table and the kitchen and the hallway, and actually chewed on it a bit. Don't know whether he's feeling so much better that he can hardly get over it or what.

I dread the bad thing--like Amber became suddenly very playful the day before she died in the night. I'll probably be dreading that for months. Or years. The way Rem was milking us for attention tonight, you *could* see him doing this for ages and ages. I can only hope.

Rem He Da Man

I'm adding photos to the proper places now--In addition to the gratuitous photos of Jake and Tika shown here (Tika playing with her Tika Toy; Jake pretending his toe isn't injured), check these dates: Nov 14, 13, 11, 10, 9, 7.

Remington is doing great the last 24 hours. Last night he proved that the first round of chemo did nothin' to his nose, as he did the Find game (junk food hidden in the other room and he has to sniff it out) with great delight & accuracy. Then he played tug-o-war a bit with a Furry Thing and then lay down and nursed on it for about half an hour--first time since he's been home (and that's his way of saying all's right with the world).

Today I believe he's back to his completely normal active self. Checking the trees for those S-words, telling the funny noise out front that he's here and on the job, following me around the house instead of waiting in one room for me to come back. When I dashed briefly out to the store and back, he gave me a big Singing welcome--also his way of saying he is One Happy Man.

Thursday, November 14, 2002

Tika Doing Good

Tika did pretty good in class yesterday and also last night when some friends' 3-yr-old came to visit.

Contacts: In class, she's doing contacts almost credibly. We're running the dogs over obstacles before & after the Aframe and dogwalk now. Tika's pretty fast but the dogwalk is a bit sloppy--I suspect because she's been running unsupervised across the dogwalk in my back yard and bailing off early on her own. Rachel suggests that I block off the ramps, which I've now forgotten to do 2 days running.

Jumping: She and I are still very green at running and jumping and handling. I feel so incompetent! She'll get it--it's just that I'm so used to dogs who steer pretty easily and who are old experienced hands (feet?) at the agility stuff.

Weaves: She did great weave pole entries and really fast weaves in class. She skipped one pole once--the second pole--because she hit them so fast she couldn't make it back into the 2nd pole after the 1st. She hesitated for a nanosecond, realizing she'd missed it, but we just went on, which is the right thing to do. Wahoo!

Tika on tableTable: She's really good at running onto the table & stopping while I run on. We're just starting to add the "down" to it. She loves being on the table, with Rachel's guidelines about playing with the dog on the table. In fact, she often takes her toy and just leaps onto the table herself to play with me--probably likes being closer to my level, plus I always play with her there!

Walking on leash: Well--A couple of weeks ago I was starting to think that never ever ever would she be able to walk nicely on a leash. I had even gone back to having a bag full of junk food and giving her a treat every time she was in the right position or turned back towards me without tugging on the leash first. Did that for about 3 days again and as soon as I'd run out of goodies, it was back to Wham Wham Wham on the leash. Then all of a sudden about 4? days ago--maybe a week? (sorry, the last 10 days have been a little fuzzy)--she started walking nicely on my *right* side again. It's as though there's a doggie Jekyll/Hyde thing going--left side she's the Leash Maniac, right side she's Miss Manners herself. I've taken to walking with Rem on my left and Jake on my right, too, and that seems to reinforce things for some reason. (Vs Tika on the left & Rem/Jake on the right.) I don't know whether this will last--seems that we went through this once before, too, and it only lasted a couple of weeks. But there does seem to be a glimmer of hope.

Small child: The 3-yr-old daughter of friends came to visit last night for a couple of hours with her parents. She was a little shy of the wild front-hall dogs at first, but Tika (although a dervish with her parents) was very gentle with her and even sat down briefly while she was next to the little girl! She never does that for *me*! After the little girl saw me telling Tika to Sit a couple of times, she tried it--and Tika actually sat for her most of the time! The gal follwed her around most of the evening, petting her gently, and Tika occasionally licked her face or hands, and didn't try to run away, and was a very good, sweet, patient, gentle dog. A side of her I almost never see! She would've been great in a family with kids.

Of course, Rem was the same way the few times he got to interact with kids--I remember him leading a couple of toddlers on a chase around the lawn, never moving very fast, just fast enough for them to almost catch him and then speeding up a little, all the time with a big grin on his face--and that was when he had a half acre yard and an entire house to hide in if he'd wanted to.

White Blood Count Still Low

Rem's second blood test this morning still showed that his white blood cell count is low. So instead of chemo, they're putting him on 4 days of antibiotics and checking again on Monday.

I didn't actually talk to the vet, so I didn't ask whether the antibiotics are supposed to fix the white blood cell count or just protect him against secondary infections while his blood gets its act together.

He still looks & acts pretty healthy, though, although I think he's still slightly more subdued than Complete Normal Dog.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

White Blood Cell Count Low

Just heard from the vet: Rem's white blood cell count is "a little low," so he can't get his next dose of chemo today after all. Have to take him back in tomorrow for a recount.

Surgery + 1 Week

[Rem shaved]Rem went in for his first checkup and blood test. Everyone said how great he looks and acts. Vet says his incisions healed beautifully. They removed the few stitches and took his t-shirt off. He's ecstatic about that! Almost couldn't hold still with joy and enthusiasm for half an hour after that.

X-rays show absolutely no fluid in the chest, which is also wonderful. He's eating well (in both senses--enthusiastically and from a gourmet selection) and is just like the Most Wonderful Obi-Rem Kenobi beast again.

Still supposed to be on "Normal/lower key than usual" activity. This means no agility, no running off-leash in the park. But I'm thinking that if he wants to run across the yard to chase an S-word, that'll be fine. Not like at the old house, where doing so entailed a 100-yard sprint to the back fence.

I'm happy. Vet's happy. Rem's happy.

He's also down to 51 pounds from his more-usual 55. Since half his torso is shaved, I can see where his rib cage is more easily--and I think he actually looks really good at this weight!

Just waiting for his blood test results this afternoon (looking for white blood cell count) to give him his next round of chemo tablets.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

It's Morning. The Usual.

A friend says: "it seems Rem's trick to get baby food, human food, having the house remodeled to his particular tastes (moving the doggie door), and having a maid (or would you be a butler?) to do his bidding (holding his rear as he goes down the stairs) is working! It was all a giant ruse!"

Rem certainly has been living high off the hog (or on the hog? or what do hogs have to do with this anyway?), but now that he's feeling better he's being a pest again--pulling on the leash, fighting me after he comes back in at 3:30 in the morning after asking to go out and coming back in with muddy feet and I want to rinse them off (you know I've NEVER cleaned his feet off before in ALL the 8 1/2 years he's been living with me) and as a result spilling the water all over me & the floor, ya know, stuff like that.

But he is pretty cute none-the-less. And although he has often been known as the Dark Overlord of Finchester House, with his Evil Minion dogs doing the barking & muddy paw things for him, he's really a pretty good boy most of the time.

Monday, November 11, 2002

Some Good News Amidst the Fog

Biopsy results on the nodule they took from Rem's pericardium show that it's merely "inflammation." This is good. This means all the little nodules on the paricardium aren't tumors. Unforunately the big, main tumor on his heart is still a tumor. But this also could mean that the tumor appears so large because its tissue or the tissue around it is inflamed.

Rem was pretty close to being himself today. Also that's good. And he was delighted with his rice/cottage cheese/baby food chicken meal this evening! (for the diarrhea)

Doctor gave me tons of med's to deal with various stuff. I'll probably identify all the assorted chemical agents sometime soon. Not tonight, I don't think.

T-Shirt Redux/Doggie Door/Bathroom Habits

This morning, during the getting-up ritual, Remington finally rolled onto his back and did the Upsidedown Dog (could be a new dance craze--or a good name for a rock band), which shows he's feelin' good.

Rem tshirt 2T-shirt--maybe I didn't say, because people are asking--it's just a temporary cover for the incisions in his chest after removing the bandages. I'll call the vet this morning to find out when it can come off. I'm hoping it's today. So is Rem.

When Rem came home, I moved the doggie door from its usual place on the raised deck (I'm in a trilevel house) down to the office, which is at ground level and also is where his favorite bed resides. Figured it would be easier for a stiff/sore/tired dog (and, last couple of days, t-shirt-victimized dog) to go in & out. Dogs mostly figured it out, but Jake & Tika always go up to check the deck door before coming back down to where it's currently located. Tika's not thrilled because she likes to lie out on the deck and survey the terrain for invaders, but she doesn't want to do that if she's cut off from her backup support.

Rem scarfed his dinner last night with no hesitation. Another good sign.

(Now for the bathroom habits. Mostly for my own reminder.) Rem has been doing #2 only once a day so far, which is way out of whack. And it's diarrhea big time. Today he finally went outside first thing in the morning to empty his bowels instead of waiting until the middle of the day, then, having done a fine job, retired to his bed for a well-earned rest. I'm not sure what's causing the soft stool--vet didn't sound on friday like they expected it, but I'm thinkin' it can't be that uncommon with chemo drugs and such. Something else to ask about--

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Remington Third Morning at Home

Rem does not like wearing the t-shirt. His bod just isn't shaped right for it. I started to make up a song about it:
He's a real t-shirt man,
Working on his t-shirt tan,
Griping all his t-shirt gripes to nobody.

Rem fat neckI know, I know--keep my day job. Anyway, the neck pulls down on him so all the loose skin around his neck bulges out the top of the t-shirt and gives him a real fat-neck look. Plus it kind of pulls on his upper legs, and he can't stand going down stairs in it. I left him on the bed upstairs as usual--no sign of him wanting to come downstairs--but some time later heard very faint whines. When I investigated, he was sitting on the bed, looking at the chair-stair I rigged for him, not wanting to make even that 6" step down with the t-shirt on.

I got him off the bed, then it required several engraved invitations to get him down the 3/4 stairway to the main floor, and then he stood at the top of the 1/4 stairway leading to the office where his bed is, looking really annoyed. I had to put my hands on him and half lift/half push him to the first step, and he finally went down. Going up is no problem for some reason.

But this morning he's operating with his ears at their usual half-up, half-down, sometimes fully alert, stages instead of the flat-against-the-head the-universe-hates-me-I'm-really-worried look he's been wearing all week.

Photo alert: I have been taking photos of the poor abused dog but I don't have a digital camera so we have to wait til I get the film developed for them to appear on these pages. They'll be coming, though--

Backfilling Diary with Old Emails

I'm using old emails to fill in some blank spaces. I'll mark those with "Backfill: date_inserted".

Saturday, November 09, 2002

All's Quiet on the Finchester Front

Remington and I went for a second walk in the afternoon. He's really been drooping around but perked up enormously for the walk and looked just like his old self. Again, he didn't want to eat the second half of his breakfast until we had done some tricks for junk food, then he scarfed it down.

He's too much of a thinking and worrying dog--the more I can make things seem like a normal routine, the happier he'll be.

A couple more positive things: This morning when we first woke up, he *almost* started to roll onto his back and do the happy-upside-down-dog-wriggle thing, but I think he suddenly realized he still had all those bandages and things and stopped. But he was thinking it. And this evening before dinnertime, I got him to play with one of his favorite special toys--a cardboard box--in the backyard. Not for a long time, and not running around like crazy, but very happily. And then, after that, it was OK for him to go inside and sit down in the proper place to await his supper bowl (which he hasn't done since he came home Thursday). Then he scarfed down his dinner with no second thoughts.

I'm going to have to pursue the special cancer diet that Steph has had such great success with Sparky with. That probably means no more Rollover-like substances for the Mr. Rem in the near future. I'll talk about it with my vet.

I'm feeling tired but a little more relaxed--we've made it through this crisis. And my sister & her main squeeze came by to escort me out for a steak dinner & fed me some more (of her) birthday cake, so that was nice. Guess I can head for bed.

Second Full Day at Home

Rem stayed in bed (that's *my* bed) until 9:30 this morning, when I decided it was time for a w-a-l-k. Again, he was eager for the walk. We went a little farther than yesterday. Again, he wanted more and, again, I'm trying for him not to overdo it.

He didn't want to eat breakfast. That's usually his third favorite part of the day (behind walks and doing fun stuff (tricks, agility) for junk food). I even got it moist, because I haven't seen him drinking much and he hardly did any #1 this morning after 12 hours abed. But the vet said he has to have food with his antibiotics or it *will* make him ill. He was enthused about the chicken & noodles baby food I whipped out, and I sneaked a few pieces of regular food in with it, some of which he ate. But after half a jar of the C&N, maybe a dozen pieces of food & some of the water from the bowl, he quit again.

rem shirt 1I tried again about 10 minutes later--nuthin'. Then it dawned on me that he usually has his meal after doing *something*, such as agility practice or tricks or play-time. So I asked him to do some tricks for junk food. He perked way up, did them pretty enthusiastically (although the right/left turns were a bit slow), and then chomped down half a bowl of regular food when I offered it.


I got to take off the huge bandages around his chest and abdomen today. Replaced them with a t-shirt per vet's instructions. I got 2 t-shirts from the High Sierra Summer Classic agility trial in August, and I had no idea what I was going to do with the 2nd one. Now I know. (big grin)

Friday, November 08, 2002

Foot Swollen/Darned Bandage

After I got back from a client meeting, maybe 3:30 this afternoon, I knelt to scritch Rem's chest, all covered with bandages as it was. Thinking about bandages, I scritched his foot with the bandage around the wrist from the IV--and realized with a shock that the foot was swollen to almost twice its size. I can't believe how unobservant I am, even when I'm looking for problems. Dang bandage was too tight! It came off right then. I wonder how much of his stiff-looking walk & unsteadiness is due to the swollen and probably numb foot?

First Full Day at Home

This morning, Rem hardly even moved his head when I got up. He just lay there on the bed. Didn't look like he was in pain (although now I don't know that I'd know what that looked like), just watching, not moving. I and the other 2 beasts went up and downstairs a couple of times, and then while I was talking to the housemate, he sat up on the bed. When I looked into the bedroom, he was sitting awkwardly as though trying to get up the energy and mental capacity to leap off the bed. Which is high. For which I rigged a stairway for him. '

I guided him down the stairway (from bed to chair to suitcase to floor) and he walked very gingerly and stiff-legged to the top of the stairs, then halted and just looked at me as I went down. With some encouragement, he finally started down, a bit faltering, and about 2/3 down stumbled against the wall. I guided him down the rest of the way.

He didn't really want to go outside--it was raining--and I tried off and on for a couple of hours, even with an umbrella, and he had no interest. Would walk stiffly & reluctantly to the door, look out, turn on a dime and go back in. Rest of the time he just lay in one place, not moving, not even scratching or lifting his head or anything--just lying there.

Then about 9:00, he suddenly sat up, stretched a bit, started fidgeting around. Still didn't want to go out in the back yard to go potty. Finally I realized--it was time for a W-A-L-K and, by yiminy, come high water or post-op fatigue, he's a man of habit and we were going to go on that walk! I went upstairs to get dressed, and he followed--a bit stiffly, but more enthusiastically, with wagging tail. Just collapsed on the bed, not moving, while I dressed, but then enthusiastically (in a pathetic, sore sort of way) followed me downstairs again amid the gyrating mass of less-operated-on dogs.

I took him for a quick walk around the court--his pace picked up and he even trotted a bit although I tried to walk more sedately--and he didn't want to go inside when we got back to the house. He apparently hung out in the hallway while I took the other 2 for a bit longer walk. Then he ate most of his breakfast.

Then the rest of the day he mostly lay around like a slug and moved like he was stiff & a bit painful the rest of the day.

You can tell what activity he lives for!

Thursday, November 07, 2002

Remington Comes Home Early

I went over to sit with Rem (just got back), and they told me that the chest tube he'd had after the surgery had come out early and that that was good news. Rem was more alert & actually had the wherewithal to stand up & wag his tail when I arrived. Then he sat for about half an hour with a fixed stare, like he didn't want to look at me or anything else & for fear that i'd disappear--I scritched him for a while & finally he was willing to lie down again. Then he snoozed with his paw & chin on my lap for about 45 minutes.

When I was about to leave, I asked about plans for taking him home tonight, and when they checked with the doctor, he said I could just take him home now. Rem & I said "Yes! Way yes!" (Well, I did--Rem just kind of got a little shine in his eyes when they put a leash on & took him out of the crate.)

They said he's doing *very* well and that my hardest problem for the next week will probably be to keep him from running & jumping to avoid putting strain on his heart until the chems have had a chance to maybe reduce the nasty tumor demon a bit.

rem bandagesAt home, after a really big drink, he went straight to his bed and lay down, but he kept his eyes wide open for about 10 minutes like he was trying to absorb actually being home again. Now he's snoozing.

He's got a huge ol' bandage wrapped around his chest and abdomen and slung like a harness around the front of his body. There's actually almost nothing underneath--small incisions from the scope etc. for the thoracoscopy--but all the rest is to keep it in place, because it was sliding around before. Bright yellow! Same color on his wrist where the IV went in. Same color around his neck, keeping the pain-killer patches in place. Poor pathetic thing.

That's all-- we go back in a week to get his blood tested & for some other chemo treatment.

ELF Rambles on Feelings

Backfill: 11/10/02 I gather that this kind of thing is so aggressive that, if it was having an effect on Remington back at West Valley (late Aug), it probably wouldn't have made any difference in treatment or rate of success if we *had* pursued it back then. Ya know, it just seemed to me (and the vet) to be a brief illness, although inexplicable.

Whole thing sure explains why he's been getting in maybe one really fast run per day & then wimping out the last couple months. Nothing to do with jump heights or NADAC! But it is interesting that the fastest he'd been running was all this summer at those NADAC & CPE trials--maybe it hadn't hit him yet, or maybe it was him having brief times of feeling really good & going all out while he wasn't feeling cruddy.

I do wonder how long this has plagued him--hard to believe it's been a few years, even though he's had the slow/fast issue off & on it seems like forever. Vet seemed to think that because they think it's the fast-growing type it's probably been only a couple/few months. But we'll never know.

I am morphing among being numb, being wobbly with stress and lack of sleep, being abjectly miserable, and being hopeful with stories of some dogs who've done very well with chemo despite dire prognoses.

I can hardly wait til Rem is home again. I hope this evening. I've washed his bedding and fluffed up his bed (although half the time he prefers sleeping on the floor next to my desk). Interesting thing--he's got this pain-killer skin patches (man, he's shaved all over odd places on his body! Good thing he's not a long-haired or dark-haired dog or he'd look REALLY weird!) and apparently they're a controlled substance and dangerous if ingested--say, if they fall off or are pulled off & one of the other dogs chews on them. So I think they're going to instruct me that he can't be around other animals while he's wearing the patches. This will be challenging. I'm figuring I'll bring the xpen inside & set up a spot for Rem, but I don't know whethr to set it up by my desk (a long way away from the heater vent, which he often likes lying in front of) or over where his bed is, near the heater vent...

I'm having trouble really concentrating on & enjoying my other 2 beasties at the moment, which isn't fair to them, either.

You know, I always was a wimp when it came to my own misery. I'm trying to concentrate on work to make some progress on my client's stuff--since we've worked so hard to *get* a client & they've been few & far between!--but it's really really hard. Some of it is my fatigue--when I start digging into that work, my head starts nodding & I droop--but when I go off to do something else, I wake up OK, and usually start fretting about Rem again.

I'm going over & over all the things I had imagined that Rem & I would do someday & I never got around to. Finding him a place to do a lot more swimming, now that I discovered last year--or 2 years ago?--how much he loves swimming. Now not sure whether his heart could take it, and anyway winter's coming up so everything's going to be *cold*. Thought we'd go back to obedience when he was ready to retire from agility. Now I'm not sure, even if he's feeling good, whether that's something I want to spend time or money on. Thought we'd go backpacking together someday. Thought someday he'd translate those lovely in-class/at-home contacts to the agility course & finish his MAD.

Most frustrating--when I finally got around to buying myself a video camera last year, I wanted to film Remington doing all of his hundreds of tricks--and I never really worked on it, 'cause I figured I had years ahead of us. In fact, I was thinking about it again after we got back from Madera, thinking that maybe if he was slowing down for agility, now would be the time to do the filming before he got too old & slow. But I STILL didn't do it. Of course my hope & expectation is that he will get back to being the same ol' Rem most of the time in between treatments, or I wouldn't be doing this. But there's the risk that he won't, and I think I'd hate myself for missing doing that film more than anything. Weird, the things you think about.

I guess 9 years old isn't as bad as some folks whose dogs've been much younger--Maia comes to mind, and Jeri's dog, some others--but I've been spoiled by my other dogs' longevity & by lack of disease or problems before and I just don't think of his time as being up.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Remington Post-Op

Remington came through his operation this morning very well. On the down side, with the scope up inside to cut the window in his pericardium, they could also take a good gander at the mass in/around his heart, which is even bigger and more invasive than it looked via ultrasound; in addition, there are growths on the pericardium itself. They were able to grab some tissue from one of those and will biopsy it to see whether it gives us any new information.

They also gave him his first dose of chemotherapy early this afternoon.

I went down to sit with him for a while around 2:30, and he was pretty zoned out--in addition to recovering from anesthesia from the operation, plus the chems, he had painkiller skin patches and injected painkiller to handle the gap before the patches become fully effective.

I went back for a long time around dinner and sat with him again. Vet tech came by to see whether I wanted to take him for a walk, which surprised me because he had opened his eyes but hadn't even lifted his head when I arrived & just lay there quietly while I scritched him. So I said, "Remington, do you want to go for a walk?" and he *shot* to his feet, which was pretty pathetic because he didn't have his land legs yet, and the tech and I had to hold onto him to steady him and keep him from leaping cross-legged out of the crate while she detached his IV.

But he walked fine, if a little unsteadily, around the parking lot--even insisted on climbing on & walking along the curb, the tech & I hunched over him, hands ready to support him as he lurched from side to side not quite falling off the curb--kinda like in a cartoon where the character is somehow naively on a tightrope or precipice edge and almost tipping over with every step but somehow ending up in the right foothold every time. Well--his love of walking on curbs & other narrow elevated places is one of the reasons I suspected he'd love agility when i first heard about it.

I believe the plan is still for him to come home tomorrow night.

At this point I won't have much else to report for a while, probably--we're waiting to see how he reacts to the chems, to being home, to recovering from the operation; waiting for biopsy results; waiting a few days & doing a white blood cell count, etc.

Got a call from one of the vet techs late this evening saying that he was resting even more comfortably & doing well. They really like him down there--so mellow & friendly & well-behaved on a leash & in the crate & during his treatments (and boy I got to see some interesting behavior among the other dogs there while I've been sitting there the last couple of days!).

That's all for tonight. I'll go back to snuggling Jake & Tika.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Thank Goodness for Friends

I crawled into bed early because I was so tired, but shortly thereafter the dogs went into a frenzy, telling me there was someone at the door. No one ever visits unexpectedly in the evening, so I thought it was maybe my housemate forgetting her key. Turns out it was my sister and her main squeeze bearing the birthday cake I'd been craving since the other evening. *She* usually turns in early, but they came half an hour out of their way to bring me comfort food and companionship in my hours of despair and misery. It helped immensely.

Now if only I can find a way to eat more comfort food while having a large part of my daily/weekly/monthly exercise yanked out from under me and yet not gain all that weight back--
Backfill: 11/10/02 Remington's going in for an operation tomorrow a.m. and won't be home until Thursday evening at the earliest. I can't really take him to the trial--checked with the vet & she thought it was a bad idea--and I don't want to leave him home alone (and not sure who I'd get to babysit for a couple of days for a sick dog), so I'm scratching him and Tika from their runs and I'm staying home.

Remington the Bad News

Just got back from the vet. Remington is sleeping next to me at the moment but will be going back in the a.m. for an operation.

Hope I get all the terminology right--I'm a bit zonked from lack of sleep.

The short story is that there is a large mass of tissue around and in the right atrium of his heart--hemangiosarcoma--which is a blood-fed, rapidly growing aggressive tumor. Can't be 100% positive because apparently if you cut into one of these, e.g. for a bioposy, patient will bleed to death. However, there apparently isn't much else that it could be.

As it grows and/or is disturbed, it tends to bleed into the sack around the heart. Eventually it ruptures or pressure on the heart causes cardiac failure. Untreated, best estimate for survival is maybe a month.

Operation tomorrow--thoracoscopy, where they use slight incisions and a scope on a rope (my terminology)--will cut a window in the sack, which will be left open to allow the fluids to drain continuously into his chest, where they should be reabsorbed by the body.

We'll start chemotherapy at the same time.

Best guess at prognosis with this double-pronged treatment is 5-6 months of survival, but a good portion of that should be at a decent quality of life and activity.

Read the excruciating medical details if you're interested.

Jake foot update/Remington Suddenly Sick

This hasn't been a good month for my dogs.

Jake foot updateJake has been resting--sort of--and he doesnt seem to be bothered by his foot at the moment. Plan is supposed to be 2 weeks of no intense activity (monitored/on leash/in crate) although after 2 days of that I went nuts, so now I just try to keep an eye on him & keep him subdued but he still has free run of the yard; followed by 4 weeks of gradually increasing activity to get back to full level if the foot continues to be pain-free.

He's on glucosamine & that's all at the moment.

Remington became very ill last night. Something like what we saw down at West Valley 2 months ago--no energy or enthusiasm, refusing food, severely dehydrated. He seemed fine in the morning on our walk, although we didn't do anything really active, and he wolfed down his breakfast.

Around 5:00, though, before dinnertime he was quite listless. No interest in practicing agility or even doing tricks, his favorite. Refused regular dinner, took a couple of treats reluctantly, but slurped down the half a jar of babyfood I offered. As the evening progressed, though, he refused all food and drink, and he would stand hunched over, sometimes just standing in the middle of the patio for 15 or 20 minutes at a time looking miserable, sometimes right against my feet (as you might know, he's not a real snuggly dog usually) and standing up, lying down, standing up, lying down, turning around--and when he did lie down for a few minutes at a time, he just whined under his breath with every breath--and he's such a stoic about pain & discomfort, I knew he had to be hurting real bad. His gums looked like he was working on being dehydrated again, as he was in August.

I finally took him in to the emergency room. They gave him fluids and ran some tests. Ruled out gopher poison (which I was afraid he'd encountered while digging yesterday--I don't know what previous owners might have left in the ground). Signs of internal bleeding, though; temperature very low, heart enlarged & probably fluid filled with maybe some unusual mass, heartbeat very rapid, severely dehydrated.

Cardiologist/oncologist have him now. Lots of fluid around his heart, which they're going to drain a little to try to reduce his rapid heartbeat & relieve some of his discomfort from lack of blood/oxygen. Ultrasound this a.m. seems to show a foreign mass on his heart. They're waiting now for the radiologist to come in and do another ultrasound to confirm, and they're going to do various tests on fluids & certain tissues to determine what's going on.

If the doctors' suspicions are confirmed by these additional views & tests, Remington probably has a tumor on or next to his heart, which can probably be relieved for some number of months by chemotherapy but which almost undoubtedly can't be operated on with any better results or removed in any way. Worst case, vet thinks, is maybe he's got only a few months left.

I might be jumping the gun by sending this message now--maybe all the tests will show something benign and easily treated--but emergency room vet & today's vets so far have been anything but encouraging.

Sooooo Remington will not be in class this week and I'm pretty sure I'll be pulling him from the trial this weekend.

So far Tika remains healthy. Jake & she seem worried & subdued this morning, though, with Remington having vanished from the scene.