a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: December 2002

Sunday, December 29, 2002

Still Doing Well

Remington has been very happy today. Managed to do the UpsideDown Dog Thing in the morning--which has been a while--and several times yesterday & today grabbed his furry toy(s) and nursed on them for a while--another sign that he's happy and comfortable and looking for something to do. Also hasn't been interested in doing that for quite a while. So I think he's been only half healthy again for a couple or 3 weeks.

I'm busily signing up for Feb & March agility trials. I don't know what to do about Remington. Usually when we're at trials he won't lie down or relax until he has had at least one run, and he's clearly distraught when I take Jake out to run before I take him out. And taking him for a walk hasn't worked in the past to trick him--he knows perfectly well why we're there and what he's "supposed" to be doing.

So I'm signing him up for 2 or 3 runs a day as usual. I figure that he can run if he feels up to it, and if he shows the slightest signs of not feeling up to it, I'll pull him without hesitation and--well, I guess the wasted entry fees are a pittance compared to his medical bills.

Maybe I should be signing him up for only 1 run a day. Except that you never know in advance which classes will run first, so if I pick one and it's the last one of the day, that defeats the goal of getting him out and running in at least one class.

Plus the other thing I'm thinking about--besides the general vulnerability of his tumor & its likelihood of rupturing--is how out of shape he's going to be. He's done almost no running and jumping of any kind for almost 2 months. So maybe I should just plan on doing the first run of the day and pulling him from others.

And I should probably also be getting him out to the park more to give him a chance to trot or dash around and see what happens. Such a fragile between being cautious and letting him enjoy himself! Argh--

Saturday, December 28, 2002

Playful Leaping Remdog

After snoozing soundly and thoroughly since Thursday evening, he woke up today feeling pretty good. "Ahhhh, I feel pretty good!" he said, yawning dramatically and rolling onto his back on the bed. Unfortunately, the Upsidedown Dog Thing made him do a little of the cough/gag Thing, so he stopped that, but he jumped right up to go downstairs with us instead of remaining curled up and droopy like he has so often the last couple of months.

Went for a nice walk and he was alert & rarin' to go. In the back yard, whereas lately he has been climbing onto the hot tub via bench & table, today he leaped directly on & off just like his old self. Did some play bows and, when asked to do tricks, did them rowdily instead of subDudely (subDude--not making it quite to the Dude level in energy & enthusiasm).

And this morning he's lying on his bed but his eyes pop open wide & his head comes right up every time I do something interesting--like adjust my weight in the chair or scratch my nose. Much much much better.

Friday, December 27, 2002

Things are Looking Up

Remington's red blood cell count is up to 33 this morning, which is very good. Means no more bleeding & he's recovering rapidly. Hallelujah!

He spent all last evening and this morning really snoozing--which he does to a certain extent anyway, but he's really crashed out this time--so he's still in recovery mode. But he's looking good.

He's got a bit of horking/gagging going on, which vet says might be from the fluid still in his chest, might be some stomach upset, hard to tell without x-rays. I opted against xrays since it wasn't clear that they'd change anything. Now he's on pepcid AC twice a day anyway.

BTW--you might have read about Lucky, the little terrier set on fire by some truly evil boys just before xmas. Well, he was in the crate next to Remington during some of Rem's stay at the vet's. You can read more about the poor little guy at http://www.sbvs.com/luckie_fund.htm.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Remington's Home!

Remington just came home a few minutes ago. Good news is that his red blood cell count has been steady all day, so presumably he's no longer bleeding, but he's still very anemic (about 25). Because of that & because he was bleeding for probably (i'm guessing) the better part of 3 days, I'm supposed to keep him quiet "for a while" (days? weeks? I can't believe I ask so many questions of the vet and still get home with more). He's acting SO much better with the red blood cell transfusion. He just got dinner and is crashed & snoozing on his bed in front of the heater vent, his favorite spot (unless he can find some sunshine to lie in).

I need to take him in again in the morning for another blood check, but we think/hope that the immediate danger has passed. They gave him a full-strength dose of his adriamycin, which the tumor has reacted well to, hoping that it might give more of an edge in reducing the bleeding from the tumor. However, since this is his 3rd dose, they pointed out that the tumor does develop some resistance and has probably already done most of its major responding in the past. I'm a little hazy on this part, but as long as it doesn't make him worse, that's fine.

I'm so glad to have him here. It's like a 50-pound anchor has lifted and set me free again. I know that we're not completely out of the woods yet, and that there'll probably be more episodes like this, and that the end is still coming sooner than anyone could want. I'm trying to brace myself.

Thanks, everyone, for your support.

Hour-by-hour update/bad and good

Just spoke to both the night vet and the doctor at South Bay who's taken over for today.

Rem's blood count had actually dropped to 17 last night just before they gave him a transfusion. 37 is normal; he was 36.9 Monday at 10 a.m.; dangerous range is 15-20 depending on how rapidly the dog is losing blood and how well the body is adusting to the lower levels of red blood cells.

Night vet said Rem tolerated the transfusion very well (dogs can actually have bad reactions to it the first time around, too). She also said that the blood type was a perfect match (they have to see what they have on hand before they can do a transfusion). After the transfusion (which I understand takes about 4 hours), the count was 24. (how many sentences with parenthetical notes can I cram into one paragraph?)

Today's vet is going to recheck his blood count a couple of times today to see whether it's dropping again. She did stick a needle into his chest cavity to confirm that the fluid there is blood. She also saw what I mentioned when I took him in Tuesday evening, that his stool looked dark and maybe he had some bleeding in the intestine. I don't know what else one can do to narrow that down if the abdominal xray didn't show anything (but he was also full of #2 at that time, too--).

She also thinks that maybe this means that the cytoxan isn't having a reasonable effect on the tumor and thinks they might want to give him a dose of adriamycin now instead of waiting til Monday; she's going to try to get in touch with the oncologist today to see whether that makes sense. (I didn't ask but I get the impression the oncologist might be trying to be on vacation?)

If he's still losing blood, they might also give him another transfusion.

Soooo they're expecting to keep him all day today and maybe I can bring him home this evening.

Now I'm going to go over and visit with him for a while again.

Remington Has Entered the Building

Forgot to mention--the regular South Bay staff has Remington doing a raft o' tricks for his goodies every time he comes in now for blood tests, check-ups, or whatever. They all have a grand time together. There is some overlap between South Bay & the Emergency clinic, since they share office space & turn over cases to each other morning & evening.

When I dragged into the Emergency clinic late on christmas eve, exhausted and worried, the young lady at the desk (whom I didn't immediately recognize) took Remington into the back. Just after they stepped through the door, going out of my sight, before the door closed, there came a delighted chorus of "Remington!" It's nice to know I've got a dog that the staff knows and likes and enjoys.

Not good, but not terrible--yet--

Vets keep reminding me that Rem has a fatal illness and that any continued existence is luck and borrowed time. Folks whose dogs have had cancer tell me that there will be lots of scares and bad days. None of this makes it easy when something goes less than well.

By Christmas midafternoon, Rem's red blood cell count had gotten down to 20 and they were talking about doing a transfusion. Found out that, once a dog has had a transfusion, an additional transfusion has a higher chance of giving a bad reaction--I guess the dog develops antibodies or resistance to the foreign material. So they don't want to do a transfusion unless it's really necessary. (OK, I guess that's true for *any* medical treatment--)

I asked them to do an abdominal xray as well, just in case the bleeding could've been something unrelated to the tumor, but the abdomen looked clear and the part of the chest cavity that was visible had fluid in it, which is what we'd expect from a tumor rupture (that's why they cut the window in his pericardium, actually, to let the fluid drain away from his heart).

I sat with him for about an hour and a half late xmas afternoon, and he seemed tired to me, even when I took him out for a walk, which he should've been excited about. But, at the same time, his red blood count was back up to 23, and it seemed to have stabilized in that 20-23 range by 10 P.M. We hope that means that the bleeding has stopped. And in fact while I was with him from about 10-11, he seemed perkier than he had been earlier in the afternoon.

Still, the night-duty vet felt that a transfusion of red blood cells would still be a good thing, since he did seem droopy. Would give him more energy to deal with life and recovery. I now also know that there are at least 2 types of transfusions they're discussing here--(1) red blood cells (which carry oxygen) and (2) plasma (which includes clotting factors); platelets are a whole 'nother thing.

I'm waiting to hear back from the vet this morning on how the transfusion went and how he's doing today and whether he can come home. The person answering the phone this a.m. said that the doctor was with another patient, would call me back; that Rem was doing well and would be transferred to South Bay (his regular cancer-treatment vet) this morning when the emergency clinic closes down. I was hoping I'd hear back from the emergency vet again before she went home.

He's been over there for going on 36 hours and I really miss having him here and hate to think of him all alone over there (it's a nice big crate with lots of room & dog-friendly staff, but it's nowhere near being at home).

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Christmas Morning Blues

My freshly ex spouse came over late Xmas Eve evening for some finishing touches on present wrapping. When we came down from the attic around 10--me with still a lot of ribbons & bows to add--Rem was lying down instead of greeting us, ears back, and when he got up he had that awful hang-dog look about him like he did during his bad episodes in August & again when we discovered the cancer. His gums looked quite pale gray to me. He shivered a couple of times while he was lying next to me while I checked him over.

I took him to the emergency vet's, where he immediately perked up a little ("See, I'm feeling MUCH better, can we go home now?"). His heart rate was a *little* high. His gums were a *little* pale. But blood test showed a drop to 30 for his red blood, which is apparently a tremendous percentage for a day and a half. Probably indicates some bleeding going on somewhere. Except for blood in the urine (which I haven't noticed but haven't looked closely), Cytoxan doesn't cause bleeding, the emergency vet said. (Interestingly, white cells had gone way back up into the good range, but apparently they can fluctuate tremendously within a couple of hours.)

Since they share office space with our regular vet specialists, they were able to dig out Rem's folder to catch up on the medical details.

They wanted to check his blood every 3-4 hours through the night & wanted to have someone keep an eye on him in case bleeding became worse & he collapsed. I didn't think I could stay awake all night, I was so tired already, so I left him there.

Vet called this morning; count dropped to roughly 28, then 26, then 24-25, so something's still going on & they want to keep him until at least this afternoon. She said he looks good, though, better than last night--perky, with a good appetite. Apparently bodies can adjust themselves to the low blood count. But if he drops any more, they might want to do a transfusion so he has enough platelets in his system to attempt to stem the bleeding.

This has always been the biggest short-term risk--rupture of the tumor. If that's what's happened, there's nothing they can do except transfuse and pray. Smaller ruptures (which is probably what he's had before) can often close themselves up. But if it's more major...

Of course I'd been hoping that the risk was greatly reduced with the tumor shrunk so very much.

I guess I'm going to head over to the Clan Home to hang out with the family and hope for only good phone calls.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

It's Christmas Eve Again

Remington's doing well; lots of enthusiasm for life. Monday's blood test showed that his white blood cells were a little low but that the "important" subcount (neutrophyls?) were fine, so we're going ahead with the next round of cytoxan. He's also fractionally anemic--normal is something like 37 and he's at 36.9.

His weight is holding fairly steady around 52.5. And he loves his special canned food.

Just a side note--Jim and I met 23 years ago this past week. As of today, we're officially divorced. Happy Holidays.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Rem and Jake have Class

Backfill: Dec 21 Took both Remington & Jake to agility class tonight for the first time since October (and the last time for this year, since the next 2 Wed's are xmas & new years). Rem couldn't decide at first whether his foot was bothering him, but he looked like he wanted to run. So I gave him 2 or 3 chances on the first course, a jumps-only course, using 12" jumps, and he finally decided that his foot did NOT bother him and that he wanted to be an agility dog! Started off only moderately fast but picked up speed as much as he was comfortable on a fairly soggy lawn. Didn't run him a full class, but he didn't want to go back into the car when I switched him with Jake.

Jake ran beautifully for almost a full class worth of runs. SuperJake is back! No signs of pain or discomfort on his foot at all, confirming what I've been seeing in the yard the last few short weeks. Hooray!

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

VERY Excellent news

Remington just had his first ultrasound since they discovered the tumor Nov 6. Vet said it has shrunk enormously, much more than expected, maybe 70% smaller. She seemed extremely happy. I seem that way, too.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Holiday Jeer/I mean Cheer

Correct caption:

(a) How cheerfully the joyous beasts welcome the holidays,
(b) Top 3 FBI's most wanted list,
(c) Now we have to kill her,
(d) All things considered, we'd rather be in Philadelphia,
(e) There dang well better be junk food for this

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Rem's Foot Not Happy

Rem's foot is definitely bothering him. He was refusing to walk on it again last night. Maybe scar tissue is irritating? Could be nasty nerve damage, the cut was so deep. Poor guy.

Just added a note for THURSDAY... and a photo on Nov 28...

Meanwhile, Long Rem Silver was seen lurking in the back yard.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Prunedale Agility Practice Match

Just got back from the SMART club's agility fun match in Prunedale (near Salinas). It was drizzling in San Jose when we left at 7 a.m. and pouring when we got back about 2, but nary a drop sullied Manzanita Park! Lawn was sloppy--running dogs' feet sprayed as they went, and some of the frequently traversed parts of the courses were getting a little muddy--but the weather itself was lovely. Cool, mostly overcast.

Tika ran jumpers beautifully and reallllllly fast. We missed a couple of jumps the first time thru, but I just hustled more and talked to her more the 2nd time. Wow. No knocked bars, either, even with the wet ground.

We weren't quite so hot on the standard course. Even after 3 runs we didn't do everything perfectly, but the 3rd time we were pretty close. First 2 times Tika flew off the teeter big time; last time she went really slowly. So we clearly need to get in a lot more teeters before competition in 3 weeks.

She didn't stick her contacts consistently, although she didn't fly off any of the others. Took us 3 runs to get her out over the last jump, which was a little bit of a turn away or push out. Never DID get that darned jump-jump-FAR-side of the tunnel cleanly--same danged thing I've been struggling & struggling to get (and seldom succeeding at) in the back yard the last 3 or 4 weeks.

A little bit of dingling around at the start line the 3rd time, but actually otherwise she was pretty good. Got her weaves all 3 times (all the emphasis on practicing those is paying off!). Slowwww down on the table, but we're really still learning at how to put that all together (plus NADAC--in 3 weeks--doesn't have a table any more).

Remington I wasn't sure felt up to running; not clear whether he was limping beforehand, but he certainly hasn't been acting in peak form the last week or 2. Sure enough, I tried a jumpers course with the jumps at 12"; he went over the first 3 at a moderate pace, then pulled up with his paw in the air. So although the paw *looks* good, it's clear that it doesn't feel right.

Plus he's probably wiped from the low blood counts from the adriamycin, I'm guessing.

Jake ran like the seasoned pro he is in both runs, and both he & Tika got a ton of frisbee chasing. That hasn't stopped them from begging me to play some more now that we're home.

Rem trotted or galloped around the open field just a little bit, but he's completely wiped out. I didn't want to overdo it, but he's been more active in the back yard at times since his operation than he was today. So something's amiss.

Friday, December 13, 2002

Random Updates

Rem' white blood count is still too low as of Thursday morning, so it's back on antibiotics for another 7 days; we'll retest on Tuesday. This is pretty much what happened the first time he got the adriamycin. His foot is looking good; he's stopped abusing it and has stopped limping on it (was limping more *after* the bandage came off) and is looking more comfortable with it. It's probably a bit tender--the texture of all of his pads was clearly different from his other feet right after the bandage came off. Probably lost all of his callouses while wrapped up. So it's looking better.

Jake's running nicely full-tilt around the yard after his squeaky. Doing some agility obstacles and still no signs of pain or limping. If we don't get completely rained out, Saturday he'll be doing a run or 2 at the SMART fun match in Prunedale and those'll be the first full agility courses he'll have done since October. Yow.

Tika's a mixed bag on the contacts. Slows down a lot sometimes. Starts to "touch" off the side of the dogwalk instead of the end--but if I put a target down again once or twice, it straightens her out for a while. Goes pretty fast if I put her in a sit-stay at one end, walk halfway down, and call/send her and run to join up with her, but she's slower if I run with her. Have to figure this out.

We still don't get enough practices with long sequences--most we do in class is typically 8-10 obstacles max, often shorter, and we're struggling still with those. My back yard just isn't big enough. Sigh. I sure was spoiled by my old half acre--most people don't have a back yard even the size of my current one.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Yella Dog Entertains Crowds

Backfill: Dec 15 After the vet techs took Rem into the back to draw some blood, I hung around in the waiting room. Then I heard Rem bark once, like he barks when he's Saying Woof or is otherwise cheerful about something--and then again, then a couple more times, followed by gales of delighted laughter. More silence, chorus of laughs, Couple of barks. More laughter. They were all clearly having much more fun than I was.

When the tech brought him back out, I asked "What are you doing to my dog?" She said that they had been getting him to do tricks for goodies. Man, what a happy, wired dog he was! No wonder he loves visiting them. I asked how they knew what tricks he knows. She said that there's a lady who has an Aussie who used to (?) do agility, so she knew some of the things a dog is likely to know. She told me some of the tricks--they had already figured out the limp and the "Bang!" and left/right; don't remember what else.

So I asked whether they had figured out that he could count; held up 2 fingers & asked how many. He barked twice. She said, "Wait a minute! They have to see this!," ducked into the back, and reappeared with a crowd. I did 3 fingers and he barked 3 times. But after that he was so wired & excited that he just started barking randomly & enthusiastically.

Anyway, I promised them a list of tricks for next time.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Frisky man

Rem has been seeming a bit more subdued lately. Maybe it's the bandage on the foot. Maybe the adriamycin. Maybe boredom. Maybe my imagination. Anyway, he hasn't really done any of the really happy-dog things like Morning UpsideDownDog; not much interest in playing (not that he was ever big on it).

But this afternoon I got out the Tug-N-Treat toy and he was absolutely delighted. He played with it and flung it around and shook it and chased it repeatedly; pounced on it with spread-toed glee; even played just a little tiny bit of tug-o-war. Did some tricks. Then I got out A Cardboard Box--he went nuts, as though weeks of pent-up energy came loose all at once. It was a delight.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002

On hold again

Rem's white blood count is "a little low" again, so we're waiting til Thursday to do a retest before doing next round of Cytoxan.

He's been licking & licking at the paw and is making it sore. I went out shopping for a bit, after putting a bandage drenched in bitter apple on it, and he took the bandage off and really went after it. It's not open, but the skin is a bit raw. He's limping now more than he was *with* the bandage. I don't WANT to put the "e-collar?" on him, but I might have to. Sigh.

On hold

Rem was supposed to get an ultrasound today, but the vet had a family illness so we're putting it off to probably next Tuesday.

He got the bandage off his foot this morning and he's been trying to obsessively lick at it ("I haven't seen this foot in weeks! Need to get better acquainted!"). I've sprayed it with bitter apple to try to keep him from licking it open again.

Waiting for results from blood test to see how his white cells are doing.

Friday, December 06, 2002

A Little More Chemo Reaction

This didn't happen last time around--I think the chemo is making Rem need to pee a bunch more, plus the gagging occasionally-- Wed. night it was to bed at 9:30, up at 10:30, 12:30, 4:30, and 5:30--and I gave up. Last night it was only once in the middle of the night. And Rem *never* needs to go out in the middle of the night. Actually--mostly true for all my dogs, although very occasionally Jake has said that Now Is The Time, Lady.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Rem: A little Chemo Reaction/Tika: Good Dog-Bad Dog

Photos: New photos on Dec 3 and Nov 27.

Rem chemo: Nothing wrong with Rem's appetite since yesterday's adriamycin injection, and he was delighted to go for a walk as usual. No signs of diarrhea, but I'm thinkin' his stomach is a bit unsettled because this morning from about 4-5 a.m. and again this evening he's been doing a bit of gagging kinds of noises. Nothing to make him want to get up from a comfy loafing position lying on his side in bed, though.

Tika: She was pretty good in class today. Did some really nice contacts (except a bit on the slow side and one popped teeter), even though we really haven't practiced them in 2 weeks. She's now entered in her first full trial, which is a NADAC fund-raiser in Elk Grove the first weekend in January, where probably almost no one I'll know will be. I pout.

At least, I sent in her entry form and I'm hoping it's not full. The mid-January Elk Grove NADAC trial opened & closed again while I was gone to Disneyland for just 4 short days! Bleah. This is why I'm not fond of limiting entries where you actually have to turn people away.

Overall, we did pretty good, but Boy! I sure have a lot to learn about handling! (My boys have spoiled me with how sloppy I am--but maybe that's also why we don't Q or place as often as I'd like.) Still, Rachel told me that we're just about ready to move up to another level of class. I am the most experienced handler in the class, but I'm not sure how much farther along we really are than some others who are working hard at learning their stuff.

But BAD DOG TIKA turned & slipped past my knees again today while I was unlocking the front door to let them in the house after class. My mistake in many ways--I didn't make her sit first, I didn't have her on a leash, I didn't grab her the instant she moved instead of just moving my legs. Oh, yeah, my hands were full of keys and purses & leashes & dog goodies and things, which is why I let go of her. Fortunately no near misses on cars this time, but she pretty much totally blew me off while I called her. She finally came to me, but she took her own really sweet time about it. At least she didn't charge madly away in the opposite direction. And I did have food & made a big deal out of having it. I haven't been practicing that lately, either. So much to do, so little time...

Jake & Rem & agility: Boy, I miss going up to Power Paws for classes & seeing everyone. So do Rem & Jake. They're BORrrrred. Jake's running nicely, doing some jumps, tunnels, teeters with no signs of pain here in the yard. I'm so lucky to have world-class instructors like Rachel (currently for Tika) and Nancy & Jim at Power Paws (usually Rem & Jake) and I wish I was back up there in their classes again...

Tuesday, December 03, 2002

Remington looks great!

And that's an exact quote from the vet's summary from after Rem's checkup today.

They took out his foot stitches and removed the splint, the tech said (he had actually broken the old one completely in 2 halfway up, apparently), but he's still wrapped in bandages up to his elbow for a little while longer.

His blood count was good enough to get his 2nd IV application of adriamycin chemo this afternoon. So far he seems to be doing very well--gobbled dinner with enthusiasm, doesn't seem to feel sick (au contraire, he's glaring at me and moaning about how bored he is).

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Things are Going Well

Remington's foot is doing OK in the splint. They replaced it on schedule on Friday, after 3 days in which he pretty much left it alone and it held up well, even when he went leaping over shrubbery and dashed across the yard to visit my parents. Vet said his foot was healing nicely, with no sign of infection.

However, his toes broke through the new one by the end of the day Friday, and by Saturday morning there were jagged edges on the splint pressing against his feet--and while I was waiting for a callback from the surgeon (which didn't come--I suppose this didn't really qualify as an emergency), he pulled open the toe end completely.

So we went to our regular vet, who patched it all up in pretty sturdy tape and cotton. I continued to bitter-apple it, and he has left it alone since pretty much.

He took the second 3-day round of Cytoxan in stride with no diarrhea this time.

Jake's foot: I've moved him up the activity level to tossing the squeaky further across the yard instead of just a couple of feet, doing "behinds" to launch him, doing a few short tunnels and 12" jumps. No signs of pain. Swelling on toe seems much reduced, although I think it's still larger than the left toe.

Tika's agility I'm afraid has been suffering. Trying to work more, trying to spend more time with Rem, trying to get ready for xmas, so spending little time practicing in the yard. She did pretty good in class on Wednesday. It's clear, though, that we have lots of work to do on crosses. She does very well on some, but (of course, I supposed) the harder they get, the worse my timing is.