a Taj MuttHall Dog Diary: Oh my little Booster

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Oh my little Booster


Boost is dying. You wouldn't know it from this video today.

This was all so fast. And I haven't been posting here.


Last July, when Boost started scratching uncontrollably again, I put her on prednisone again for a short while.  Which meant that she wanted to go out once or twice a night. At that point, my back was seriously awful, and the pain associated with getting out of bed, downstairs, opening the door, and all that, was too much to bear. So I left my bedroom door open and left her with access to the yard. Tika was delighted with this arrangement; she almost always had wanted to sleep out on the deck or downstairs on the cooler floor.

Fast forward to Tika's death on March 9th.  I returned to the old standard of having the dogs closed in my room and everything closed up.  But Boost--who hasn't been on pred since that time last year--still wanted to go out anywhere from once to three times a night.

I wasn't sure whether it was just because she was used to doing that, after all these months, or whether maybe she had a bladder infection again (she's had a few in the past).  I was too tired to get up with her and see what she was doing, so I went back to the open door policy.

I did watch her a few times. She'd sniff slowly all across the yard, pee, and sniff slowly all the way back across the yard. I felt sad for her--I'd always wondered how she'd figure out where to pee after Tika was gone, because Boost ALWAYS peed where Tika had peed.

Too tired all the time to want to see whether it was a get-used-to-having-the-door-shut issue or a real issue, so I let it slide--and, of course, once I had given her free access, I had no idea at all whether she was going out at night, except once or twice where she whine/moaned insistently until I woke up and went downstairs with her.   So I really let it slide.

A few odd things happened from time to time over the last month:

  Once she went upstairs one...step...at...a...time. We had played a lot, but I didn't think more than usual, but assumed maybe she's got a little arthritis.  But shortly after that, she might be racing down the stairs full speed. Then some other time she'd go up or down slowly again.

   She'd act often as if she had little energy---she'd play intensely, but then want to lie down after each ball retrieval.  Well, she's out of shape, and so am I, because of my pain levels and not getting out and about.  So, whatever.

   Her main job has always been to bring in the paper in the morning.  A few times,  she'd walk out instead of dashing out, but the next day she'd dash. One day last week she walked out...like...a...funeral...procession...  brought it back slowly to the front door and dropped it there instead of taking it into the kitchen. The next couple of days she was OK at it, but wandered around on her way to the paper as if she didn't really want to do it, or even had forgotten.

  She's been really avoiding playing with Chip. She has usually played enthusiastically with him at least once a day, but now didn't want to.  I thought, maybe all of this is arthritis, don't know.

 A couple of weeks ago, I noticed that she was eating her food at about Chip's speed. When Chip first came home, here's how the eating speed went:  Tika sucked down her food before Boost was half done. Then Boost finished. Then I'd watch...Chip...eat... and wonder how a healthy dog could possibly be so slow at it. I mean, really, it took him a full minute to eat 2/3 cup of food.

   And then Boost ate slower than he did. And slower. And slower.

Wednesday and Thursday last week.

She had uncomfortably soft poops.  Eating even slower.


In the  morning after we got up she threw up (nothing much in her tummy) out on the lawn.  And then it took her FOUR minutes to eat her food.

So it was just too much. I called to see whether we could see the vet. My regular guy was out until Monday, and the receptionist asked whether it could wait until then.  Wellllllll  all those little things, but particularly the eating slowly..... no, I didn't want to wait. Suddenly it felt very important to get her in for a checkup.  They were able to squeeze us in around 4:00 that afternoon with the other vet in the office.

I hustled the dogs into the car without giving them the usual opportunity to pee in the yard, hoping that Boost had enough in her for a urine test. The vet checked everything about Boost. No signs of pain or swelling or bad temperature or bad heart or bad eyes or arthritis or anything in her mouth that might be slowing her eating. Was able to get urine and blood samples, but said that the poop currently cued up inside Boost (she stuck a finger in to see) looked perfectly normal, so she didn't think that a stool sample would be warranted.   So everything looked completely healthy.

I hope that meant maybe a urine infection, even though I wasn't sure how that would explain everything else.

Told me that my regular vet, Dr. K, would call me with the results Monday afternoon.

Took the dogs for a short walk at one nearby park, and sure enough, Boost had a completely normal poop.  Everything else, completely normal walk.


One day, when she went out to get the paper, she was so randomly distracted by things that it looked like she had forgotten all about her favorite morning thing.  I finally called her back, then sent her out again, and she rambled around.  Finally with coaxing she brought in the paper.  Like she had completely forgotten how to do it.

One of the mornings, I put down their food bowls with their 2/3 cups of kibble, left them eating, and went upstairs.  I took off and put away my nightclothes. Washed my face.  Took out all my pill bottles and counted/sorted an entire week of morning & afternoon pills into my pillbox. Finished my morning ablutions. Poked around in my t-shirt drawers trying to decide which to wear that day.  Chip had appeared somewhere in there. Picked out socks and underwear to match, got dressed head to toe, found my watch and put it on, and went downstairs. Boost was STILL eating.  Yikes.


Dr. K left a message while I was at work. I had raced home in hopes of catching his call ("race"--hah--took me an hour in nasty traffic because some guy was standing on a key overpass and two freeways were blocked so everything in the valley was at a near standstill).  They close at 5:00, and I was able to call just after 4:30.

He squeezed in a quick talk with me, where he said that her liver and pancreas numbers were very ugly, also white blood cell count high (infection or inflammation of some sort) and her red blood cells low (anemia) and some other bad numbers that I tried to scribble down while he talked.

He said, if you rate the level of complications that this could add to my and your life, this is about 10 out of 10. He said, I need about an hour to talk with you, as soon as possible.  Can you come in tomorrow morning at 8:00? Bring her and we'll do some screening x-rays.

Not much sleep that night, you betcha.


Sent her out for the newspaper. She was somewhat excited about it and did it fairly well.

8:00 -- She definitely has liver disease and pancreatitis, but these things can easily be symptoms of something else. (Yes yes ys, I did spend time last night reading and reading and reading and the list of things that these could be symptoms of was very long and mostly bad.)  He said, oh, don't read all that, it'll make you crazy. Let's get the x-rays done.  (This is a summary of a Reader's Digest version of the hour-long conversation.)  To save me a hundred bucks or so, I said, just do the chest x-ray and let's do ultrasound on her abdomen instead of x-ray.  He said that he thought that he could get the ultrasound guy in on Wednesday.  He kept Boost and said, come back at 2:30.

2:30 -- She was a good girl about lying mostly still and they were able to get chest x-rays without any sedative.  But they were a bit ambiguous.  Vet thought that there was either a swollen lymph node or maybe it was just a muscle overlapping a bone.  And a gray spot that shouldn't be there, but to me it looked just like the gray spots that he said were blood vessels or other things.  he said it could all be nothing; he'd want the radiologist's opinion (the guy who comes in to do ultrasounds.)

He took a blood sample to test its clotting ability in case there was something that they'd need to do a biopsy for.

So bring her back first thing in the morning.

Not much sleep that night, you betcha.

Wednesday (today).

Sent her out for the newspaper. Or--rather--tried to. She just stood in the doorway. I walked out to the driveway and she walked next to me. This is not normal. I picked up the newspaper and offered it to her.  She took it as if it belonged to her and trotted--not ran, just trotted--back into the house just ahead of me. Sigh. Poor goorlie.

8:00 a.m. Dropped Boost off for her ultrasound.  Doc wasn't sure when they'd be finish, but he'd keep me updated.

Cried a bit as I drove Chip to another nearby park. There, we practiced some things -- with a pocket full of Zuke's mini treats-- such as walking on a loose leash, looking at me regularly, coming to me when I said Come (that was mostly a failure, dangit).

Got home, and just after I walked in the door, the vet's receptionist called and said that Dr. K would like me to come in at noon so he could talk to me.


Doc came into the room and said, it's bad. It's the worst it could be.

She has lesions in her kidney, liver, lungs, and lymph nodes. In other words, whatever cancer she has, has already metastasized--spread throughout her body.  It could be in other places, too--like, maybe, the brain.

Her blood clotting test went poorly--apparently the liver makes the blood-clotting factor, and it's malfunctioning, as we already knew, so they decided not to take a biopsy at that time.

We talked a bit but there wasn't much to talk about.  Keep her happy and comfortable. Make sure she's eating and drinking and eliminating properly.  He'd be glad to refer me to an oncologist but thought that any treatment could make Boost sick and probably wouldn't gain much time anyway.

I had already made that decision, not going that way for Stage 4 (incurable) cancer that's all through her body.

The warning is--she could go at any time, depending on what tumor did what and when. Could be a stroke, even.  Or I said some major seizures like Jake had that fried his brain (or vice-versa).  Could be tomorrow.  Could be a month or more. Maybe.

l am sick and numb and stunned and angry and miserable and heartbroken.

At home, we went into the yard and I took that video. She still looks alert and attentive. She still goes after the ball like a rocket, still plays tug.

That is most likely her last visit to the vet. I've got tramadol now in case she looks like she's in discomfort. famotadine to ease her stomach and help her eat, and an antinausea drug as well.

I'll be doing one day of score table for SMART this week, and I'll take Boost, and people can say goodbye.

And I'll try not to neglect Chip, who has looked very worried and followed me closely everywhere the two times I left Boost at the vet yesterday and today. Damn.


  1. I'm so sorry Ellen. There's never a good time to face this, but it's absolutely rotten it's so soon after losing Tika. Cancer is absolutely horrific, and it just strikes out of the blue sometimes. We had a similar situation with Simon, found out it had already metastasized when we found it. Hugs to both of you.

    1. And the dogs are so quiet about it, that's what makes it harder to figure out. Such good dogs.

  2. Does seem fast. And unfair. No real words, no way to make this feel OK because it's just not OK.

    1. No good response. Because you're right on--that's exactly how I feel right now.

  3. OMG, my heart breaks for you. So unfair. This sucks!!