A blog about my life with dogs.......

Saturday, February 4, 2012

And then there was three.......

Comet enjoying the brand new sheets I put on my bed.

     It's been too long since the last post to tell you all that has happened here at our little homestead. There have been a lot of changes and I wish I could say they were happy and exciting. Earthquakes have shaken his life and Craig has left the house, with him he took Matilda. I would have put up a fight over her, as much as that little wiggle worm farted and as loud as she snored, I love her. I put a whole lot of research into finding her, and preparations into bringing her into our home, and training with her while she was here. It just isn't fair, but I think, it is right. What makes it right? The very sad news that Harry has cancer. (also unfair!) So, faced with the difficult decision whether to claim Matilda as my very own and be solo responsible for proper care, veterinary and otherwise of 4 dogs including one with a terminal illness......I just had to let her go. Craig wanted her, and maybe needed her. I wanted her too. In the end, faced with the choice of keeping her to myself or letting her go, I made the painful decision that if indeed he was as committed to her as I would be the only sensible thing was to let her go so I can focus on caring for Harry. Craig calls me regularly with updates and it sounds like she is enjoying a huge yard that no other dog has pooped on in years. (Fresh Grass! Wahoo!) Sigh. It all happened so fast, I wonder if she will come back to us,.... the world works in mysterious ways. Who knows what the cards have in store. 

    Harry is doing very well today. Only a few days ago we were at the vet where I described the many symptoms I have witnessed in the last 2 months. Coughing fits, weakness, not wanting to move off the couch even to go outside and pee, his teeth (which looked horrible when I adopted him, his mouth was full of life long damage) and mouth seemed off to me somehow like he was preparing to lose teeth, then he fell while walking on flat land,..... also I thought I felt  lumps on his throat. I kept asking people if they could feel it, "that's normal" more than 1 dog owner responded or "don't they all feel like that?". I just didn't think Harry's neck had felt like that before. Then when I tugged on his collar one day trying to get him outside he had a coughing fit. The vet said that he was surprised I had noticed the growths because they are still small, but small as they are they were more places than I had realized. He has small growths on his throat, shoulders and thighs. He had also lost weight since his last visit even though his activity level had decreased and his food amount stayed the same. The vet said frankly "looks like Lymphoma".

     I thought I was prepared for this. Lumps mean cancer, right? The thought had crossed my mind. His quality of life had taken a down turn and before I was even setting the vet appointment I was building plans in my head for how I can best handle this situation,.....How can I best advocate for my best friend?.....How can I keep him from suffering?
     I decided to keep a pain and happiness journal. Everyday keeping track of if Harry seems content or uncomfortable, is he moving around or does he have to be coaxed or even carried? Is he eating well? Does he seem happy? Grumpy? This was the plan in my head when I walked into the vet, but I was hoping they would say, "Looks like an infection , here is an antibiotic." Done and done. No such luck. They did not recommend a biopsy or chemo and I didn't argue.

     I had also decided that Harry has had a good life, and a life that was suitably long and maybe even longer that I know. Having been adopted at the guesstimated age of 7 years, what if he is really 16? I chose before I heard the diagnosis that a major treatment program for a disease he may be diagnosed with is out of the question. My priority is keeping him happy and comfortable and not to extend his life if it is lacking in quality. This has been a difficult decision, but was made easier by the fact that I have been watching the suffering of a dieing person in my life for months now, I have watched her quality of life slip down to nothing, and seen her gasp for breath, struggle and cry out in pain. These experiences however difficult have helped me to become steadfast in this difficult decision to accept Harry's fate rather that fight against it with chemical treatments. I expressed my desires to the vet who has recommended antibiotic and prednisone to reduce swelling and a cortizone and antibiotic shot which he said could help him "feel like a puppy again".

     I would not say Harry feels like a puppy again(-Oh, what was he like as a puppy? Where did he live? Did he have a family who loved him and he was lost from them later in life? Was he outdoors in the difficult Minnesota winters? Did he sleep on the foot of someones bed? Did he ever chew up shoes? Did he ever like chew toys? When he was young did he jump up on people?-) But I would say he is having more happy and spry moments. After a long pee on a tree today he ran up to me with his tail held high and confident, his mouth open, happy and relaxed. It made me tear up.

Now that we know the end is near some things have changed. 
(the vet said 4 days-4 months, with luck and healthy habits we will beat that)

*No more walking ditches or slopes for PT - Continuing walks as usual, just no extra things that may make him fall

*No more watching his weight, a few extra treats and a bowl that's a little extra full is just fine now that we have no worries about him carrying extra weight long term on arthritic legs.

*I make sure to keep a water bowl and doggy bed in every room so he has easy access to drinking water and a comfy spot to rest. This disease and the medicine are likely to make him very thirsty.

*With Craig gone, there is plenty of room in the bed for snuggling so he can feel free to hop in bed with me more often :) 

*No more collar -he really has no opportunity to wander off so I don't think we need it and I don't want it rubbing on his tumors/growths/swelling and making him uncomfortable.

     Also, I am paying ever more close attention to his diet, with portions ,as I said, I will allow some luxury, but content is ever more important. As fate would have it, I had ordered to arrive the day of the vet appointment "The Encyclopedia of Natural Pet Care" which has a very useful chapter on cancer and lots of suggestions for additions of foods and herbs to assist with healing and comfort.  Other books I am reading this week are Speaking for Spot and Your Dogs Best Health by Doctor Nancy Kay. Once I've finished reading them if I am convinced you ought to read them too (and I bet I will be!) I will add them to the reading list at the bottom of the blog page.

Some new things I have been adding/incorperating to the diet are
*plain greek yogurt
*organic dried culinary sage
*organic carrot juice
*organic kefir
*organic cider vinegar

      I would love to share photos of the new foods with you(and I will) but in the bustle of moving things around in the house the necessary cord to attach the camera to the computer has gone missing. Opps!
Fortunately my 'smart' phone can e-mail pictures to me so I do have a few to share!

Comet, Bugsy and I taking a hiking break to listen to an owl.

 About a week ago we had a lovely snow fall here in Iowa and the boys and I hit the trail to enjoy the sites and sounds of snow falling in the woods.

Investigation a hallow tree.

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