Friday, February 3, 2017

Being insprired

I find it hard to put into words why I so often feel inspired by Bugsy.
As each year has gone by, it has grown and grown.
Observing how he navigates life, how he traverses the pitfalls, disruptions, deals with unpleasant dogs, engages in new experiences, and just takes whatever is thrown at him.

He has been unfazed by any hurdle. No matter the day, he's Bugsy.
He's happy, ridiculous, powerful, intense, driven, and kind.

In whatever faze of cancer we are at, his GI is giving him troubles regularly. I've tried what I can to settle it to no avail. We have some rough nights. But no matter how tired his poor body must be, he is excited to rise about 5 am and be out walking soon after.

This morning was 38* and raining. He'd had a bad night. I was a bit hesitant to take him but he LIVES for his walks. So I found his jacket to try to keep him a bit warmer/drier but he has to have his harness as his neck has many lumps and any stress on his collar impacts his throat. So I had the jacket over the harness with the leash clipped on the top of the harness and running under the jacket.
It was the kind of set-up that if someone set me up with, I'd be "I can't deal with this!"
He of course didn't notice the contraption,
or the rain,
or the wind,
or the cold.
Or seem tired or unwell.
He trotted down the road at a pace I still struggle to keep.
Nose to the air, "is that fox I smell?"

No fears, no concerns, focused on the job.
Garbage trucks, school buses and distracted early morning drivers speeding by in the dark. Nothing even causes a brief tilt of the head.
Things to do.
Dogs barking, nothing from him.

Confident & rhythmical he trots down the roads as if he was still young with strong, supple and undamaged joints.

I am just trotting behind him, taking it all in. Seeing him explode with love and joy when he meets his love Kiai.
Watching him cover ground with purpose.

The drive to move forward and achieve the self-determined goal undiminished.
Every day I am inspired, more so these days as the hurdles multiply and grow taller.
Yet he is the constant.

His eyes focused forward.
Drive untempered.
There are no failures in his world

Month 5 of our 3 to 6 month projection

I try not to think about it often
The time scales that is.

But sometimes I take stock. So here we are in month 5 post diagnosis, and 4 months post-splenectomy.

The first two months post-op were spectacular. Bugsy was more alive in those two months than he had been for years. It was, as I have stated in earlier posts, both thrilling and confusing.
December the slow down began.
He was sleeping more again.
There were more lumps.
But still the kind of joy that emanates from him like energy from a power station.
And as always, zoomies.

We celebrated his 11th gotcha day or as some say "adoptaversary"

He and I took a day trip to the beach, he had a fun Christmas and we all  kept on trucking.

Month 5, I had a neighbor feel for lymph nodes. Determination as "hard to say" if  they are enlarged.

More lumps.
Deeper sleeping.
And we are starting to have labored breathing.

But we still  have zoomies.
Every day.

Today he ran in the fields with his bros - a 1 yr old and a 3 yr old GSP.
He was so incredibly happy,
and goofy.
He ran wild zoomies twice, that had the humans running for cover and the GSPs wondering what in the world was going on.

Thinking that he'd collapse once home, you can imagine how surprised I was to have him stealing shoes and trying to instigate a chase.
After stealing the shoe off my foot, he got his chase.

The rest of the day was alternating naps and surveillance.

I know we are so lucky. He isn't like an old dog in so many ways.
His hearing and sight remain excellent.
He moves with grace and energy despite all the orthopedic issues he has had and the amount of arthritis he must have.
We walk/trot 2-3 miles daily.
He runs up and down stairs at speeds that still have me yelling "careful".
He is joyous and happy and of course he literally runs zoomies daily.

Knowing that his life expectancy was 10,  at 11.5 he's doing awesome.
Knowing the state of his knee, elbow, shoulder and lower spine, and watching him do what he does physically is flat out unbelievable - just ask the vets who have been tasked with keeping him running.
Knowing that the oncologists felt the cancer would take him swiftly, and watching the months tick by isn't easy, nor it isn't easy to forget.

I am not able to describe what it is like to KNOW all the stuff about him that should make him sick, unhappy, reluctant to be active and WATCH my insanely happy, wildly energetic dog basically running around saying, "I feel good"

I can't describe it at all - other than to say it's a blessing.




Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Ownership is now a very different responsibility

Today I took Bugsy to the vet for the last time.
It wasn't like it sounds, he is very alive, and surprisingly spry for his age, never mind the orthopedic issues he MUST have and the cancer.

We went today because he hasn't seen his 'regular' vet in a LONG time. She guided us and provided essential information during September and October when we were discovering what was causing him to be so flat.

It was odd though. We did a heartworm/parasite fecal test and that is it. No labs. I mean if it said his liver values were off, we wouldn't be doing anything so why test?

We discussed in-home euthanasia, which feels weird when your dog is bouncing around and stealing treats.

She asked how his eyesight was so I tossed a treat to him from the other side of the room and he caught it easily.
Eyesight - check

It is an odd point in your role of owner. I have prided myself on being proactive in taking good care of him and suddenly my role now is to just watch and wait.
We don't know where, when or how it will surface. But we know there isn't anything we can do to prevent it or extend his life.
In fact due to all his issues with meds, we don't even have palliative care options other than carprofen.

His weight is good, his energy is fine, lungs sound fine, his coat is shiny, he eats, drinks, poops and pees. I reprimand him at least once a walk and some another point during the day.
He still does a zoomie EVERY day. They are slower and shorter but they are still a zoomie. Tonight was inside :)

So for the first time in his life with us, no more vet care.
Ownership now is focused on doing what he and we love.
I have never been good at reckless abandon and no doubt I won't start now but I will be sure to do as many things with him as I can because we can.
I joked that he and I would be going out and sharing a beer and the vet said, "might as well, beer won't hurt him" LOL

So here's to a hedonistic future with my Bugsy. Well my version which is very limited hedonism.
I'll be checking my calendar for time for a beach trip
and a mountain trip
and of course we need to go to the lake a few times

And share a few pints

If there is one thing this crazy mutt has taught me is that life is to be lived.
I'll be damned if I am going to screw this up




Sunday, December 11, 2016

Sometimes you get a whole lot more than you expect.

11 years ago Steve finally agreed to add a dog to our family. We both had in mind our neighbor's dog; the biggest, sweetest, laziest golden retriever you could ever meet. He laid around hoping for loving, he enjoyed his walks but never demanded one. On a walk he walked whatever pace you did, he laid down if you stopped to chat, and he just generally sashayed through life at an easy pace.

However the pup that stole my heart in an instant, wasn't a whole lot like sweet Cody, in fact he was yin to his yang.
And thus began the journey. My journey.
Many of you are in my life because of the journey. Don't get me wrong, Bugsy has always been a really good dog, he has just presented many challenges along the way.
I had a choice to make by week 2: become the owner this dog needs and deserves or consider re-homing him.  Fortunately I see challenges as opportunities for growth and was determined to find a way to communicate successfully with baby B.

11 years later, I am proud of the owner I have become in order to be the one he deserved. I have worked hard, I have the scars and aches to show for that. I am a stronger, happier, more determined, more resilient, more skilled and more grateful person than I would be, had I not had to make such a deep investment in him.

As I sit here tonight thinking about these 11 years, I know we don't have a lot of time left. I don't often feel the clock ticking but occasionally I look at the calendar; It's 11 weeks post splenectomy and we were told 3-6 months.
Usually when I have that thought, he does something to completely change my mindset, tonight it was stealing the toilet paper tube and parading around with it hoping for a chase..........the eternal puppy.

And that is one of his greatest gifts: Life is joyful, always.

Happy Gotcha day Bugsy. Thank you for asking me to dig deeper and invest in you. You have made me a better human and I promise to keep improving for as long as I exist, in your honor.




Friday, December 2, 2016

off to the beach

It's been a fun and full 9 weeks since the splenectomy.
The energy has been extraordinary, I mean EXTRAORDINARY.

All just adding to the legend of Bugsy Lee.
It's hard for humans to comprehend, he's flying through the air - literally - while you are thinking how sad it is he has terminal and aggressive cancer.

Lake trips with wild goose chases.
Long, FAST walks.
Puppy play.
Zoomies, zoomies and more ZOOMIES.

But this week, sleep.
Lots of sleep.
Deep sleep.

Visible discomfort.
Choosing to be next to me as much is possible.

Lumps.
My God the lumps.
We have this morning routine where he rolls around while I massage his joints, rub his belly, and feel for lumps.
Seems like new ones daily.
Small ones under the skin.
Large ones in the "belly".
And all sorts in between.

Because life is short.
Because you only have today once.
Because the light is fading and it will not be re-lit,
Tomorrow we will drive to the beach.

I want to see him feel the sand in his toes again,
I want to see his nose tilt up, ears flapping in the wind, taking in his universe.
I want to see his heart burst with joy
And I want to see and hear him sleep deeply, having given the day all he had.

Tomorrow we'll drive to the beach.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Seven weeks agp

7 weeks ago today we found out that Bugsy had a mass on his spleen and that  it was an aggressive cancer.
Life changed in this house on that day. For the humans at least.

Bugsy not so much.
Like most dogs he just wakes up in the morning, eats, drinks, pees, poops, explores and looks for trouble.
He takes things in stride so I took him for the surgery, he did well, he was a nightmare coming out of anesthesia, came home the next day and wanted to just get back to his life.
25 staples in his gut went unnoticed by him.
He immediately seemed better.
He gained some weight in the first week after losing for months

As has been our experience, the toughest part of post op was trying to keep him from being too active and crazy.

Two weeks post op, staples removed, we headed to the beach and he was Bugsy. Running, zooming, digging.
People would ask about his shave and I'd tell him he just had his spleen removed and had aggressive cancer and was 11+.  I will see their faces forever.
My amazing dog, a force of nature.
He defies his age, his injuries, his illness.

Tonight 7 weeks post-diagnosis of a cancer they gave him 3-6 months to survive, he remains well.
Happy, cheeky, active. Silly, loving, and pushy.

The world is in turmoil but my dog and I inhabit a warm, fuzzy, silly place.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

The cancer roller coaster

I'll get straight to the point of this post: We were told via cytology and biopsy that Bugsy's tumor was a histiocytic sarcoma - a localized version that unfortunately had attacked the spleen.
For the record splenic carcinomas are BAD.

But the surgeon - who I respect highly - mentioned there were additional tests that are more specific. So I agreed to do them.

Would you believe it came back NOT histiocytic sarcoma?
If you know Bugsy and his history, you would.

The surgeon was happy. Our regular vet was happy. I was fairly happy.
I sent the lab report to my good friend that works at the vet school and she shared it with one of the oncologists.
Well the fact it's a rare cancer was confirmed. So rare that there aren't many studies on it - he provided snapshots of three, one was 20 yrs old - and no real idea as to what if any chemo helps.
Still feeling buoyed by all the vets saying this was still better than histiocytic sarcoma I was hit hard by the oncologist statement that it wasn't a "better' diagnosis due to the "high mitotic index".
For inquiring minds it is termed a "nonangiomatous and nonlymphomatous splenic sarcoma".

So that is the background.

Bugsy has continued to feel quite well ( according to observation) and that means that he is constantly living on the edge of being in trouble.  Which has kept me from really thinking about the situation.

In the evenings it hits me pretty hard, it's odd, all of a sudden I think, "OMG no Bugsy?"
I truly cannot imagine and I wind up sobbing. But it passes quickly. All very strange as it is literally a wave that passes as quickly as it arrived.

The last few days have been a bit tougher. Due to his obsessive digging at the beach, the return to daily zoomies and not being on adequan for a couple of months, his shoulder is killing him.
It isn't too bad but then he decides to zoom.  Once it's over he can barely walk but he doesn't seem to regret the decision to zoom.

It reminds me of how weak he is. I rub the shoulder or massage his upper back and am so aware of the muscle loss.
I want to remove the pain so he can enjoy life to the full these last months.

I want to hold him (which occassionally he'll allow). I want him to know how much he's loved and that it is OK if he doesn't want to zoom.

The beauty of Bugs is that he WILL zoom, likely beyond when it is even physically possible. Because his heart explodes with joy.

And here are the tears.
I have been exceptionally blessed to have such a beast in my life for so long.  I still can't picture life without him.
Tonight I'll listen to his sleeping sounds and drink in all that I can.
I'll allow that slow deep breathing to calm me and to bring me to peace and sleep.

Good night sweet boy, thank you for all you do, even the bad things.