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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.

He runs!

As promised, here’s a video of Riley running.  He can go faster, but he just didn’t feel like it tonight, apparently.

Riley running on three legs from Susannah Brewer on Vimeo.

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?

Update

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.

Confirmed

We have an appointment with the doggie oncologist on Thursday.

Waiting

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.

He’s taking advantage of us

I am now the proud owner of a pair of jazz shoes and a pair of tap shoes because I have signed up for a contemporary jazz class and a tap class (both for beginners because, well, I’m a beginner).  I’m very excited.  The first class is a week from tomorrow.

While I was out shopping for these shoes, John spent the afternoon upstairs with Riley, who still isn’t allowed on the furniture.  The last time we allowed him to sleep on a piece of furniture on a regular basis (a wicker loveseat we kept on the sun porch in our last house almost TEN years ago), he ate it.  Chewed it all to bits ATE it.  So now, Riley isn’t allowed on the furniture, and he knows it.  We know he knows because he never tries to get on the couch or the bed when we’re at home (only when we’re away and he thinks he can get away with it).  Usually.  He’s getting bolder.  Today, with John just across the hall in the office, Riley got on the bed twice.  I guess his dog bed with an old cushy comforter on it isn’t soft enough anymore.  I’ll know he’s made the next logical leap when he tries to get on the bed while we’re still in it.

There’s a trick to everything

Riley hasn’t been eating well.  He was eating intermittently before we went on vacation, and we didn’t really ask a lot of questions at the kennel.  They said he did well while we were gone,  but I didn’t think to ask how often he ate.  He didn’t eat when we came home.  We took him for a run this morning, and we noticed we could feel his ribs.  Prominently.  So I asked John to get something delicious for him when he stopped at the store on his way home from today.  He came home with a jar of beef gravy.  I filled Riley’s bowl with the usual dry food, doused it with gravy, and wouldn’t you know?  He scarfed it down.  I’m not sure it even took him a full minute.  I will do whatever it takes to get Riley back to fighting weight.

(No dogs were starved in the making of this post.  He didn’t seem to be suffering or starving (or he would have eaten the dry food in his bowl these last couple of days), and he’s never been one to beg for food (unless it’s steak or something).  Not eating regularly isn’t all that unusual, but able to count his ribs is.)

It rains in France – just thought you should know

We’re back home from a wonderful week in France.  We had two days of beautiful weather, then lots of rainy days in a row (COLD rainy days), and then the day we flew out (which I think is still yesterday) was lovely.  Tease.  Pictures soon.  We slept about 10 hours last night.  Went to bed around 7:30, lights out at 8.  It wasn’t even dark outside yet, but to us, 8pm felt like 2am.  Now I’m good.  Riley is happy to be home, and so are we.  (He was a little confused about why we were all going to bed before the sun, but he went with it.)

Two weeks later

Thank you, everyone, for your comments, notes, flowers, thoughts, texts, and phone calls.  It was really sweet of you, and we appreciate it.  We’re doing better.  Fewer tearful breakdowns (although we had one yesterday – the vet sent us some of her fur wrapped in a bow and her paw prints on cards, along with personal notes from most of the staff who knew her), more funny memories.  In the aftermath, we’ve found that we’re transferring all of our attentions and worries to Riley, with lots of running and walks, and constant concern over how he’s doing (“Does he look sad?”  “He always looks sad.”) and whether he’s eating enough.  He sleeps upstairs now, on his dog bed, and we (maybe a little more me than we) keep finding excuses to take him places with us.

We’ve put away her stuff, for the most part, but we still have it all.  Her dog bed stays downstairs for Riley during the day.  Her toys are still scattered all over the first floor.  Her leash and collar are still hanging in the hall closet.  Her food bowl is with her medicine in the cabinet.  We will eventually throw out the medicine and the plastic food bowl and the chewed up toys, and we’ll box up her leash and collar.  I don’t know when.  I’m not in any hurry.

Loss

Roxy died today.  It’s blunt, but it’s true, and it sucks.  It was this morning.  It’s only been a few hours, but they’ve been the longest hours I can remember.  How is it possible that it’s still today?

 

I jinxed it

I should stop telling people when Roxy is doing well.  That only lasted about two weeks.  Around the middle of last week, she started to slide back into her lethargic wobbly Roxy personality, and by the weekend, she was having accidents in the house every few hours.  She was really thirsty, so she’d drink a ton, and then she wouldn’t tell us she needed to go out.  Annoying and worrying.  We called the vet – turns out the thirst (and subsequent constant peeing) is a side effect of the wonder drug she started three weeks ago.  But that led us to another question: if this is just a side effect, why didn’t it start three weeks ago, when she started that drug?  So tonight I called the vet again and asked if there’s any way we can tell if she has an infection or if this is just a side effect.  They wanted a sample (of course), so I chased after Roxy with an old flat tupperware container and raced the sample out to the vet this afternoon.

They just called with the results.  Good news: no infection.  Bad news: there’s glucose in her urine, which is a sign of diabetes.  We have an appointment Saturday morning now to have bloodwork done to see if she really has diabetes on top of her liver issues (hepatocutaneous syndrome is what’s going on with her paws – all related to the liver) on top of her epilepsy.  If she has diabetes, we’ll have to give her insulin injections twice a day on top of all her other medicine.  That’s going to be tough.  Of course, the vet said that when there are other diseases involved, dogs often become insulin-resistant.  I don’t know what happens then.  I’ll know more on Saturday.

I’d like the early bird special, please

I went shopping a couple of weeks ago and bought the CUTEST dresses.  I wore the sheath dress to the ballet with Emily in March (so I guess the shopping trip was more like a month ago), and I think I’m going to wear the other one (which looks better on me than it does in the picture, if I may say so myself) to a coworker’s wedding in a couple of weeks.  I love dresses.

I am so completely exhausted.  I skipped yoga.  I shouldn’t have, but I got home and told John I was going to go, and his “oh, really?” sounded small and slightly disappointed, and that’s all it took to change my mind.  And the best part is that it’s only just after 8, and there’s no reason I can’t go to bed RIGHT NOW.  I can climb into my nice comfy bed and read my book until I fall asleep and I’ll still get a good night’s sleep…why am I still here?

P.S. Riley’s fine.  His paw isn’t bothering him at all anymore.  No more limping.

What a beautiful day

Lots of yardwork this morning, followed by errands.  Hooray for Saturdays!  I don’t think anything we did this weekend furthered our plans, except where making our house beautiful helps, but not everything can.  I’m not being intentionally vague about our plans.  They’re just still very plan-y plans.  Long-term.  Here’s the gist: we want to move.  Away.  Far away.  Like to Europe.  It wouldn’t be permanent (probably), but we’ve realized we don’t need that much stuff, and we don’t like doing what we’re doing (9-5 jobs we don’t really care about, not enough free time, looking forward too much to weekends that are too short).  We’ve realized this over and over through the years, but recently we decided to do something about it.  Why wait?  What have we got to lose?

There are a TON of things that we need to do first, the biggest of which are selling the house and finding the right kind of jobs (like the telecommuting kind).  The dogs are the other complication.  They could go with us, but Roxy’s health problems make that difficult.  Not impossible, just difficult.  We have a long, long, LONG list of stuff to find out, stuff to do, stuff to figure out, and we’re working through all those things.  We just haven’t put a real timeline together yet.  Are we trying to go in a year?  This year?  We still have to figure a few things out before we can tell.  We’re working on it, it’s just sometimes a little frustrating that we can’t drop everything and go now.

And now he’s limping

Silly dog #1 has hurt himself.  John thinks he may have just landed wrong when he jumped off the couch (guiltily, I’m sure).  We’ll give him a day of rest and see how he feels tomorrow night.  He doesn’t react when I mess around with the paw he’s favoring, so maybe it’s minor and will wear off.  I hope.

The great bumblebee killer

Silly dog #1 had an eventful evening.  He chased a giant bumblebee around the yard, caught it in the grass, pawed it to death, and then rolled around on it.  His version of a victory lap, I guess.  Then he came in, wolfed down his dinner, and threw it right back up.  Now he’s resting.  Ridiculous animal.

My Roxy is back

Hi.  Remember me?  How’ve you been?  Roxy’s doing a TON better.  We took her to the dermatologist for a follow-up almost two weeks ago, and they did a biopsy on her paw.  We’re still waiting on the results, but because she had a couple of stitches, they gave us some pain medication for her.  Within one or two doses, all of a sudden we had our Roxy back.  She’s bright-eyed, her ears perk up, she pulls on her leash when we go for walks, she begs for food when we eat at the coffee table, she tries to steal my peanut butter toast in the mornings, she runs off the deck first thing every day, she meets us at the door when we come home – this is our dog.  Does this mean she’s been in pain all this time?  What kind of pain and where?  The vets have checked her out and haven’t found anything that seems to bother her.  If we keep her on pain medication, are we actually helping her or masking the problem?  We’re taking her back to have the stitches remove next week, so I’ll be asking those questions, and we should have the results of the biopsy Monday or Tuesday.

Things are looking up

It’s time for a Roxy update.

  1. She’s doing SO much better.  She wags her tail sometimes, she gets up without assistance, she meets us at the door and asks to go outside, and she even trots off the deck with some of her old excitement.  Sometimes.  We think the liver medication she’s on might actually be helping.  She’s also not favoring her paws like she was.
  2. Speaking of her paws, we took her to the doggie dermatologist yesterday morning, and he confirmed that her paw problems are most likely caused by her liver issues.  His solution is another antibiotic, another topical cream, and a change in her diet.  He says she needs a special kind of protein, so starting tomorrow (when I can get to the store), Roxy will get cottage cheese and calf liver with her regular dog food for dinner.  She’s going to love it.  The best part is that he thinks this should actually improve her paws, not just keep them from getting worse.

Right now, she’s wearing socks and resting quietly on her bed.  (We’re supposed to keep socks on her paws for ten minutes after putting the new topical cream on them.)  It’s cute.

Speaking of cute (or terrifying – you decide):

John thinks it’s fake. I think it’s hilarious either way. Here’s another one:

And here’s a really neat optical illusion.

All videos courtesy of The Daily What (here and here).

I’ll stay up and moan

Home now.  Still sick.  Thoroughly exhausted.  I think I could have been good at writing telegrams.  We were right on the edges of that big snowstorm that is heading northeast, so there were multiple accidents on the highway this afternoon, and John and I took an alternate route home.  It took us five hours, but the GPS said staying on the highway would have taken almost seven.  Eight, really, since we’d been on the road for an hour when we checked. So we’re home, and the car is unloaded, and the Chinese food has been ordered, and John is out getting milk and yogurt.  Roxy is resting on her own bed.  She was really good this past week.  Very quiet, no accidents, no incidents with Mabel – she was the perfect houseguest-dog.  My head feels both clearer and runnier than it has for days.  I think that’s an improvement, but I’m so over this horrible cold/congestion/sinus infection/HORRIBLE THING I could just scream.  But that would make me cough. And THAT would make me dive head first into a fire pit.  (Because it might feel better.  Also because it was 57 degrees in the house when we walked in, and a fire pit would probably be warmer.)