The Riley Report

Five weeks ago, Riley had his first x-ray after finishing chemo.  His last x-ray was on Halloween, and it showed clear lungs.  This one was not clean.  They took three pictures, and on one of them, they could see a shadow that they were pretty sure but maybe not but probably is a lesion.  So Riley’s cancer metastasized.  When we got his diagnosis at the end of last summer, they told us that with the amputation and chemo, his odds were 50/50 that he’d be cancer free in year.  Looks like Riley fell into the wrong 50.  They couldn’t tell us anything else (like how bad, how fast, how much longer) without a second x-ray, so that brings us to today.  His second x-ray was this afternoon, and while there’s still only the one spot, it has grown by 38%.  That only brought it to 2cm, so it shouldn’t be affecting him yet.  The vet says it probably won’t bother him until it gets to 5-7cm or unless more appear.  We started the metronomic chemo (low doses by pill) yesterday, in the hopes that it will slow the growth.  Our next x-ray is in 7 weeks.

John is upstairs trying to make an L-shaped cut into a porcelain tile with a hacksaw, I just finished cooking Riley some chicken, and he’s hanging out on his dog bed looking at me.  (I feel judged – I’m not being entertaining enough.  Or I’m in trouble for not giving him the chicken yet. It’s too hot, buddy!)

He’s still okay for now.  We are, too.

Relax, dude

Riley is getting jumpy and nervous in his old age.  Since the weather was so nice today, I tried to take him on a pleasant outing to a nearby park.  I was sitting on a bench, he was on the leash – usually, he’ll settle down and people-watch.  Not today.  I gave up after about 20 minutes of whining, pacing, and nervous drooling.  We came home and settled on the deck, still in the sun, still enjoying the weather, but no strange people or animals.  Or so I thought.  He settled down immediately, but was startled out of a nap and onto his feet by a trio of geese who decided to announce their presence directly overhead with some very loud honking.  He looked completely freaked out.  Poor little guy.


The news

Item 1: Riley slept through the night (possibly because we did), so there are no incidents to report. Yay for sleep and yay for not having to clean anything up!

Item 2: We finished Breaking Bad last night. Good ending, but I have to admit to feeling a little disappointed. Too much build-up, I think. I’ll probably feel better about it with time.

That’s all the news there is to report.


We had another sleep-deprived night, thanks to Riley.  He got up in the middle of the night, John let him out, he brought him back upstairs, and then Riley wouldn’t relax.  He’d lay down for a few seconds and then pop back up and stick his nose in my face.  I’d get him to lay down again and he’d pop right back up.  After a few minutes of this, I took him back downstairs and outside, let him get some water, and then brought him back up.  Same fun dance.  The only way I could keep him down was by petting him, but I can’t pet him and sleep, and the second I stopped petting him, up he went.  So I put him in the crate.

He had to go in the crate because we went through this on the night before last (Tuesday night).  Riley got up in the middle of the night, I let him out, I brought him back upstairs, and then he wouldn’t relax.  He did the whole lay down, pop up and bug me, lay down, and bug me again thing, so I took him back downstairs and outside, and then I left him downstairs for the rest of the night.  I heard him get a drink of water right after I let him back in.  Then, when we came downstairs yesterday morning, we found a river of pee, like the Amazon of accidents.

To prevent that from happening again, we tried to limit his water intake and keep him near us so we’d know if he needed to go out again, and that’s how we ran into last night’s sleep-deprived disaster.  No accidents, but no sleep.  So instead of leaving him loose downstairs, I crated him.  We crated him during the day yesterday, and we’re doing it again today, but we really don’t want to have to crate him day and night.  He’d be in the crate, alone in the basement, for 18 hours every day (or more).

Bottom line: we don’t know what to do.  A pet sitter/dog walker would only give him a half-hour break or so in the middle of the day, leaving him with basically the same number of hours in a crate.  We’re seeing the vet again Monday afternoon for the next x-ray and an exam, so we’re holding out until then.  Sleepless (either from worry/unhappiness about the dog in the crate or from the dog bugging us) until then.

A discerning palate

Riley still isn’t eating enough, and because we’ve been giving him so much good stuff, he turns up his nose at plain old boring dog food now.  Seriously, I didn’t put anything interesting in his food and he didn’t eat anything for nearly two days.  Tonight, though, he got a very good meal.  I call it Salmon a la Riley.

He was quite happy with his dinner tonight.  And he’s been cruising the kitchen for more.

No more, I’m begging you

It’s not supposed to snow in March!  We got another 5 or 6 inches today.  It’s over now, and we shoveled most of it just before noon.  I think Riley is tired of it, too.  We were playing out front, and when he was done, he headed to the house at a fast trot (a hop-trot really, since his trot doesn’t look so horse-like anymore).  Sadly (for him, hilariously for us), he found a slick spot on the edge of the driveway, lost his footing, and faceplanted into the snow in the front yard.  He’s not hurt, just embarrassed.  Now we’re all hanging out in front of the fire, working and napping and dreaming of summer.

Bring on the caffeine

I’ll be drinking all the coffee my stomach can handle today.  I’m SO tired, and it’s all Riley’s fault.  He woke up at 3:30 this morning and wouldn’t settle back down, so John kicked him out (it was his turn).  The damage was already done, though –  both of us had checked the time.  It’s hard to go back to sleep when your brain is chanting, “The alarm will go off in an hour and fifteen minutes.  The alarm will go off in an hour and ten minutes.  The alarm will go off in an hour.”  (It’s Tuesday – John has a boxing class at 5:30, so we wake up at 4:45.)  I did manage to go back to sleep (and to start snoring, judging by the oh-so-gentle nudging I got from John), but I dreamed of waking up the whole time.  I kept dreaming that the alarm was going off and I was getting up.  In one dream, I got up at 4:15 and started getting ready, then realized it was 4:15 and went back to bed.  That didn’t actually happen (I think).  Then when the alarm finally did go off, my eyes were cemented shut.  It was horrible, and all I wanted to do was go back to sleep.  I’m going to a Moulin Rouge sing-along at a local movie theater with some friends tonight – I’ve been looking forward to it, but I was seriously considering backing out this morning so I wouldn’t have as many hours between right then and my next chance to sleep.  We already rearrange our lives with our sleep schedule in mind (early mornings mean early bedtimes mean early dinners and son on) – I shouldn’t be canceling social plans, too.  I’m the idiot for agreeing to go out on a school night, but come on – it’s a Moulin Rouge sing-along!  So I’m going.  But I’m about to have a third cup of coffee (or, as my coworkers like to call it, cream and sugar with coffee).

Over it

So, yeah, it snowed.  A lot (we got between 13 and 16 inches).  I’m having a hard time getting too excited about it.  Can spring just get here already?

And here’s a video of Riley in the snow (proof that I’ve gone over the edge):

Not quite ready

You know when there are things you want to talk about but you’re just not ready to?  They’re not necessarily bad things, but maybe there’s been too much discussion already, and even though you want to tell someone, you’re also tired of talking and thinking about it?  I feel kind of like that about the house, the (non-existent) job search, and Riley.  There aren’t really any updates about the house and the (non-existent) job search, but I still feel like they’re both talked out.  Still uppermost in my mind, but talked into the ground.  And Riley – maybe tomorrow.  Today, I’m really tired.  Early bedtime tonight.

Guys, you have to see this

How they survive is beyond me. It doesn’t seem like they could get enough to eat.

Riley just ate a giant bowl of dog food and chicken fried rice (with gravy on top, HEATED UP – I’ll get his weight back up if it’s the last thing I do) and then tried to climb into my lap while I sat here at the desk.  First, it’s all “oh, how sweet, my darling dog loves me and appreciates the delicious dinner I put together for him,” and then it was more, “whoa dog, you can’t actually get into my lap, but sure I’ll scratch your head and pet you and hug you and love you,” and then, “OH.  Right.  You just wanted to burp in my face.”  And then he walked away.  This is not the first time he’s done that, but I fall for the “I love you so much, pet me, pet me” routine EVERY DAMN TIME.

He knows I’m talking about him.  He’s curled up on his new dog bed giving me the Stare of Death.  Hey, man, this is what you get.  Being down one leg and having cancer does not excuse the in-your-face-burp.

Oh, who am I kidding?  Of course it does.


Check it out!  I updated my book list (for the first time in over 8 months).  I knew I could do something productive today.  And then I spent the rest of the afternoon sitting on the floor with Riley (while watching more Supernatural) because I miss Roxy and I can’t stand thinking that I’m not spending enough time with Riley while I can.

For your viewing enjoyment

Riley keeping watch for squirrels:

Riley saying hi:

Right this very minute, he’s curled up in a ray of sunshine on the floor, feet twitching while he dreams.

He’s doing really well.  Still not eating enough, but he does eat and he’s keeping it all down.  He gets tired easily, but he starts out with lots of energy, so that doesn’t seem too worrisome, either.  (Hopping everywhere you go takes a lot out of you.  I know.  I tried.)  He’s having blood drawn this evening to check on his cell counts, and the next round of chemo is next week.  I’ll keep you posted.

Free time? Is that really you?

I’d been hoping this would happen, and it finally has!  Kind of.  Keeping the house clean is easier than emptying it, rearranging it, and cleaning it, so after what feels like forever (and what was probably only a little over a month), I’m enjoying some time to myself.  Well, restful time with John, but when we’re both happily ensconced in our own activities, that’s basically the same thing.  We spent all of Saturday hanging out together – the morning (pre-open house) cleaning, the afternoon (during the open house) having a family photo taken, and then having a cupcake and coffee at a little cupcake place with outdoor seating, so Riley could drape himself over our feet and enjoy all the attention he got from passers-by.  What’s this about a family photo, you say?  We donated to our local volunteer fire department, and as a thank you, they brought in a photographer and gave all donors the opportunity to get a free family portrait taken.  They do it every year, and even though we’ve donated every year, we’ve never remembered/bothered to go.  They allow pets, so we took Riley.  It’ll be interesting to see how it turns out.

Sunday we had NO plans.  It was wonderful.  There was an afternoon showing, so we disappeared to the park for half an hour, but other than that, our time was our own.  Actually, since it was John’s birthday, our time was his to do with as he wished.  And he mostly wished for free time, so I call this birthday a success.

State of the Dog

It’s time for an update.  Riley is doing really well.  His surgery was three weeks ago today, and he had his first round of chemotherapy last Thursday.  He’s got his old energy back, even if it doesn’t last as long as it used to.  He goes on daily walks (twice a day, most days), and he romps around.  I’ll get video of him in action soon, I promise.

When we took him in for chemo last week (which doesn’t affect dogs the same way it does humans – much lower doses, so most dogs don’t even get sick), the oncologist looked at him, hesitated, and asked if he’s a border collie.  Shrugs from us.  Maybe?  Partly?  Could be a problem.  The plan is to give him two different drugs, one each visit.  The first one is not an issue, but the second one is often toxic to border collies, Australian shepherds, collies, and other dogs of similar breeds.  Toxic like could actually kill him, not just make him sick.  So we’re doing a genetic test.  If it turns out he’s part border collie, our chemo plan will change.  The test results are due back in another week and a half to two weeks, and the next chemo visit (when we start that second drug) is two weeks from tomorrow.  The timing should be just about right.

The other thing we’re working on with him is his appetite.  While recovering from surgery, he didn’t really want to eat at all.  Four of his six pills (antibiotics and painkillers) had to be given with food, though, so we were quite literally shoving pills and food down his throat.  Pills that had to be stuffed into round meatballs of wet dog food so he would take food at the same time.  It was awful.  For everyone.  But he’s gotten much better about taking pills since then.  J  He still isn’t eating normally – actually, he is eating normally now, which was never all that much.  He was kind of a picky eater, and he only ate when he felt like it.  That sounds perfectly healthy (he’s not the kind of dog who will eat until he gets sick), but it’s not enough when he’s underweight.  He isn’t eating enough.  So now, we’re buying samples of all kinds of delicious wet dog food to see what he likes, and we’re adding some of that and some plain chicken to his dry food twice a day.  He eats the good stuff and leaves the dry food.  Sometimes he comes back to finish the dry food.  Mostly, though, he knows it’s going to get covered with the good stuff again at the next meal time.  I don’t care as long as the end result is that I can’t count his ribs just by looking.

He’s wearing his compression shirt, and there’s a towel stuffed under there to protect from scratching. He didn’t do much scratching.

The big day

Riley’s surgery was today.  This afternoon.  I’ve since heard from the vet, the surgeon, and a vet tech, and they all say he’s doing fine.  He just can’t come home yet.  When he does come home, he’ll be a tripod.  (One of the vet people said that to me the other day.  “One of my dogs is a tripod.”  Caught me off guard.  It’s obvious, but it never occurred to me to call a three-legged dog a tripod.)  I feel a ton better now that the surgery is over, but now I’m going to worry about how he does overnight.  What if he manages to pull out the IV and doesn’t get his fluids or his medicine?  He’ll be fine, I know, but what if he isn’t?


We met with the oncologist today.  We’re waiting on results of bloodwork now (should get it Monday, which probably means Tuesday, since Monday is a holiday – didn’t realize that until just now.  Yay for a three-day weekend, but not so much yay for waiting an extra day for results.), but we don’t expect it to change the plan.  And the plan is essentially the same as what we googled last week.  Amputation, then chemo, both of which we expect him to handle okay.  There’s no guarantee he’ll be cancer free, but he has a 50% chance.  We’ll spend the weekend figuring out how to pay for it, and then hopefully get started next week.  Probably.  It’s not as scary as it was.


Riley’s been limping lately.  He’s limped before, usually when he lands badly after guiltily jumping off the bed or the couch, and with a couple of days of rest, everything’s fine.  We took him to the vet the first time – nothing to be done for him except keep him quiet.  This time, he limped for three weeks straight.  Our gentle prodding never resulted in any pain (that we could see), so it didn’t seem urgent.  John took him to the vet Friday evening (we decided that three weeks was excessive and were feeling guilty for not getting him there sooner).  We expected to hear that his ankle was sprained.  Worst case, maybe a small fracture.  That would have been great news.

Our vet, who we really like, took four x-rays, all showing the same thing.  She doesn’t want to say for sure until she gets a second opinion from the specialist, but it looks like bone cancer (osteosarcoma).  She did a chest x-ray, and his chest looks clear, so she doesn’t think it has spread.  John asked what this means for treatment, and the vet wasn’t willing to get into it until we have a definite diagnosis.  He turned to Google, of course, and found that we might (probably will?) have to amputate his leg (it’s his front left leg) and then follow that with chemotherapy.  We have absolutely no idea what this means for him long-term, or even what long-term means now.  He’s only 10 and a half.

It’s been a rough weekend.  We’d hoped that the vet could get in touch with the specialist yesterday, but apparently she couldn’t.  We’ll hear something tomorrow, but I’m sure there will be more appointments, more discussions.

It hasn’t even been four months – we got rid of Roxy’s old toys and medicines today.  We’re keeping her bowl and her pillow and her leash and collar.  It’s too soon to go through this again.

Life sucks sometimes.