Tuesday, November 7, 2017

The dimming light

Here we are about 14 months post diagnosis. There have been some very worrying times during this 14 months and the conversation about euthanasia has been had more than once.
Each time the dog that chooses to live, bounced back. Incredulously so in a couple of instances.

However, time is marching on and his poor body is now weak and tired. 
His spirit remains powerful and proud.
He is riddled with tumors, his one hind leg severely atrophied, and he is in pain.
But his cheeky, playful personality remains.

A few days ago, he was out being happy and he collapsed. I've noticed that when he tries to be active (Bugsy active or Bugsy happy!) the hair on his back raises. In all his years, the hair on his back has never raised. I knew that this was indicating that he was in pain and knowing him it was significant pain.
So how bad and intense is the pain to cause him to collapse and be unable to get up?

Anyway, here we are almost 3 days later and he has continued to be in intense pain. Although tonight he is able to rest, so that is a relief.
This morning, I was once again thinking that his time was nearly here.
And it might be.
All possible pain meds are on board so if he continues to indicate that the pain is intense, it's time.

My promise has always been I will NOT allow him to suffer.

I am writing this, not to garner support for Steve & I, or even to wish for another unexpected comeback.

His light is dim.  Watching the light lose energy is both torture, yet in some ways it smooths the road to his exit.

I am writing and sharing this so that those who love him - and my God there are many - are in the loop and if anything, can wish and pray that in these final weeks he doesn't suffer.
He is the most powerful spirit I have ever known and I am unable to describe the extent by which he has changed me.
It has been an honor and I hope that I do these next few weeks (if that is what we have) right.

Monday, October 9, 2017

yin and yang of life "in the moment"

"In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang (陰陽 yīnyáng, lit. "dark-bright", "negative-positive") describe how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another."

I have read and heard about dogs "living in the moment" more times than I could count.  It has always sounded a bit romantic, but I could see it.

However in the last 9 days, it has been an 'in-your-face' DOGS LIVE IN THE MOMENT. But then do they?

Last Saturday we had another collapse (that was #2).
Sunday, Bugsy was full on Bugsy - no memory whatsoever of scrambling on the ground unable to rise.

Monday morning he was mostly 2.5 legged. And overall the day wasn't great.
The realization for us, his human managers, was he cannot have free access to the stairs.
So we diligently start blocking the stairs; he can be upstairs or downstairs but no solo trips on the stairs for the dog who still thinks stairs are things you run down and try to leap up.

Tuesday off to the vet, it was another day that he had woken up without 4 functioning legs.  In fact at lunchtime he had another "I can't stabilize myself" incident.

After every one of these incidents, he literally seems to immediately have no memory of the 'I can't feel my legs' moment.

Each morning last week, until Friday, he woke up with bad legs and we thought this was the new reality.
He didn't want to eat, was morose but got better as the day wore on.

Friday he woke up with 4 working legs and you'd have thought he was 5 yrs old again.
We humans of course were very wary of his energy but he was as if he'd never had an issue.
It was gone, all was normal life.

Happily, each day since he's had 4 working legs- to varying degrees but 4 working legs.

And Steve & marvel at his playfulness, mischief, energy, drive and attempts at killing himself.

Life in the moment.

But wait a minute, how do we then explain this -
He knows that when we leave, we are going to gate the stairs, so now he has changed his, 'oh you are going to work' routine - he used to go to his bed and wait for a treat.
Now he watches VERY closely and if he as much thinks I am heading out, he runs up the stairs.........

Not so in the moment now are you buddy?
I guess you can't get over the trauma of being held captive on an entire floor of a large house.
Call animal control buddy tell them about this abuse.

Anyway I think its interesting and I have lots of smart friends that will school me on why it is different phenomenon but for now I'll call it the yin and yang of life in the moment.

In many ways - it is the coolest thing to see, one minute ago was so one minute ago.

But then, never forget that time when something you didn't like happened and do everything you can to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Oops he's down again...........and back up again

Well the bad days are closing in.
Bugsy had a bad night and this morning he was subdued and sleepy.
I left to help a pointer rescue get to her foster home and when I got in, I got the usual welcome from Bugsy but with a twist.
He as usual greeted me with a toy, but then I heard him scrambling, and he was at the front of my car. It seemed he was trying to reach a squirrel or other critter under my car.

He wasn't.
He had collapsed again.

I helped him up and stood there holding him up until he seemed to settle. No more than a minute or 2.

Then he shuffled off, had a pee, picked up the toy he had brought to me and went inside, as if, no biggie.

Quick vet contact and she said, "poor guy, his heart is weak"

He happily ate up a bully stick and we are now watching some TV.

The indomitable Bugsy Lee is not actually indomitable.

The end isn't far away.
My heart is both broken and full.
Thank you Bugsy for every damn day.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Another close call, but we are still moving forward

Well we have just had another bad week or so.

On Saturday 9/9/17 Bugsy on an early morning chase collapsed. It could have been cardio-vascular or perhaps orthopedic or both, we don't know and won't ever know.
But since then he wasn't himself.
Oh sure, being Bugsy he had a few bursts of insanity, but everything in between wasn't good.
In fact, it was downright scary.

My heart and mind wandered to all the questions loving owners ask themselves.
Bottom-line, what are the indicators that precipitate making the call?

Back in late March/early April, Bugsy started to have "intermittent" blockages and got really sick. We stopped feeding kibble and started feeding human food. Since then the food issue has mostly been "dang this dog eats my paycheck" rather than a "it's going in but it isn't going out" issue.

But this week I started to think about how much was going in and how little was going out.
After a rough few days, we have things going out again.
And we have a happy, mischievous, if still old and tired Bugsy.

The blockages are caused by lumps in or around his intestines. Could be tumors, could be abdominal lymph nodes (other lymph nodes are swollen), either way there isn't much to be done.

So my Beast soldiers on.
He is skin, bones and lumps.
He walks daily, eats like a teenage boy, steals important papers, trips you on your way out the door, and seems to always have a smile on his face.
He pants incessantly, labors as he walks, but still leaps up stairs (tripping at times) and chases critters.

And he sleeps deeply.
God bless you Bugsy, I don't know how you do what you do, but it's powerful to experience.

I pray that you enjoy life to moment you tell us you are done.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Happy 12th birthday, my monkey

Not sure I have anything left to say about my boy.
After the initial vet assessed him, adjusted his likely age from 6 months to 12-14 weeks, he said a dog this size you can expect about 10 years.
As my husband often reminds me, I used to pet Bugsy and say, "you give me 10 years, OK?"
So here we are at 12.

And even if he were a smaller dog, with the issues he's had, one would not expect him to be here or at the least to be this vibrant.

He has severe food allergies and has had many negative reactions to simple medications.

He has had knee repair, elbow repair, and shoulder repair but generally moves as though no joints hurt.

He's had 7 biopsies in addition to 2 or 3 lump removals and yes I lost count.

I have been told he is likely soon to be gone  3 times, only for secondary labs to clear things.

He was diagnosed with a rare, aggressive cancer a year ago and given 3-5 months to live.

And here we are singing happy 12th birthday.

He still trots instead of walks, chases squirrels, crows and other moving/living things, eats paper napkins and mail, steals shoes, greets you with toys, pushes out of doorways before you, searches the yard for tasty animal excrement, dances for meals and flings treat-holding toys at you to fill. He opens pantry doors to inspect the stock, checks bathroom waste bins for tissues, and is aware of your every next move.

We have bad days and weeks and we've been teetering on the edge of the "quality of life" question but he literally keeps soldiering on.

I am unable to not be in awe of this spirit and creature.

Last Sunday we hosted a gathering at a local brewery for him and 37 people and 8 dogs attended. In addition people from 19 states, Canada and England toasted and celebrated with us.
Bugsy has this aura, this spirit that draws folks to him, draws beings to him.
I am the lucky one to have lived with him all this time.

So as I reflect tonight on his 12th birthday, I cherish each day. Pray when things go south, it's fast so he doesn't suffer.
In the meantime, I'll wake at 5 to walk him, spend half my paycheck on food for him, cook his meals and lie on the floor to play with him or to pet him.

As a friend said earlier, being a dog owner is very task-laden, but the rewards far outweigh the efforts.
The love one feels for a companion animal is different than for a child or a partner, in some ways though it may be more powerful.

So happy birthday Bugsy, I'll be sure to provide you with some fries!


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

August 1, 2017..............a new chapter begins

About 4 months shy of 12 years, a new chapter has begun.
Since 12/11/05 I have taken on the responsibility of one of the greatest dogs who has also been a most challenging dog.
Bugsy has been my personal trainer over these years, pushing the tempo, running, walking, biking, hiking, kayaking, playing and learning. I have willingly and lovingly been his human through it all.
Last summer was rough, he struggled mightily and I struggled right alongside him. Cardiac issues were ruled out, age was blamed but it was cancer.

As soon as his spleen was removed he was miraculously strong and wild again. That lasted a few months and since the prognosis was poor there were no surprises as he began to have good days and bad days.

Here we are well past his predicted "due date" and the summer has been hot & humid for weeks (we are currently having a reprieve) Although he works hard to do it, we walk daily and kayak once a week.
I feel blessed to be at his side, as he perseveres in the heat, clearly with pain, and with back legs that don't always behave. To watch him struggle, alternating with his signature strut is inspiring.
Seeing his joy as he hunts birds at the lake while I kayak is priceless.

As someone who has been active all their life, I am finding myself in need of more activity. As long as I walk him first, he has at last stopped being insane if I walk alone. During the week though finding enough time to do a longish walk in addition to walking him is tough.
Plus when my heart aches, when I need to contemplate the universe, running or cycling is the ticket.

Last night I signed up to do a half-marathon. I used to run halfs and marathons but its been a long time.  It just seemed right.
Then I texted two women that I knew would be up for it, that I knew would help motivate me and that I knew would train with me while we discussed professional topics that we all are involved & interested in; and they are achievers so once we signed up, it will happen.

So tonight, after Bugsy fell fast asleep, I headed out for a run. I started Google Play and the first song was , "With or without you" U2.

My heart.

I know that due to his fight we are on borrowed time. I will not, nor cannot predict when Bugsy will say 'no mas' but I know its coming.
I know that when it happens I am going to feel extremely lost after 12 years of daily workouts with him.
So tonight the new chapter began.
I will be at the lake with him by 6:30 tomorrow morning and I'll continue to walk him all the other days but I will also run for me.
I'll build my endurance and take longer and longer runs. I'll be glad to have the company of the two women who will race with me.
This half marathon will be the transition. It will help me move from the last 12 yrs to what lies ahead.
Cried my eyes out when I got home.
Figured my buddy was still fast asleep.
You can't imagine the grin when I came home to find him at the top of the stairs greeting me with a toy in his mouth.
If you have had an elderly or sick dog you know that when they sleep it is shockingly deep. To see he hadn't been asleep that deeply made my night.
He was not too pleased by my solo jaunt, sorry bud, it's time.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Another day another amazed human

Sometimes I take Bugsy and his indomitable spirit for granted.
Here he is, now 11 months post cancer diagnosis, and still demanding walks, eating us out of house and home, playful, social and mischievous.

We are truly in the awfulness of North Carolina July, heat index has been over 100* for a couple of weeks, morning temps about 80* with high humidity so our walks are very early.
But by golly I better take him for his walk or he is going to be bothering me all day long because I didn't.
Yesterday morning at about 6am lots of folks were out walking in the neighborhood trying to beat the heat.
As we were heading down a cul de sac an older couple were coming down their driveway. He saw them and got his "are you allowed to be out here?" look. Think assessing legitimacy. The wife in the couple looked a little stunned to see him staring at her so I apologized and made a joke about him being neighborhood watch (which he basically is).
She remarked that they were familiar with labs and I said I knew as we had met her husband and Cooper quite a few times. Then she mentioned he seemed tall, so I let her know he was just a shelter mongrel but a good one. Somehow, conversation led to me saying he was nearly 12 and was  battling cancer for about a year after being told he had about 3-6 months.
She just stared at him, studying his face and body as he continued his morning hunt.
She commented that he sure looked well.
They went their way, we went ours.
Later in the walk as we were  on our last stretch the same couple exited our cul de sac. B saw them ahead and his whole body language changed; he had been looking worn out and hot, suddenly he held his body more upright, his pace quickened to a trot and his signature bounce returned.

When our paths met again, she stopped and said, 'my goodness I would never have guessed he was more than 6 or 7 nevermind 11 with cancer".  She gave him some loving, wished us well and said the had an amazing spirit.

Yes ma'am he sure does.