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.

The Week

* This was from September 2016

OK it was actually eight days.

That was set in cycle a few days  earlier.

Let me set the table.

Bugsy just wasn't himself. I am not sure for how long, I just knew it had been a while. So I asked Steve to take him to the vet for a senior panel.

I expected some results to be off but was surprised with having 10 values off and literally none of the values I expected to be off.
The recommendation was to wait a few weeks and rerun the CBC.
However, as that week passed, I noticed  he really was very flat. I took him back in to see the vet who ran another CBC. Pretty much the results were the same.

Next step was abdominal ultrasound and I knew we were looking for a mass on his spleen.............at the least.

Sure enough the ultrasound showed a mass on the spleen.
I am leaving out the unpleasant experience at that vet hospital - just let me say to the folks in the Raleigh area, VSH seems more interested in your cash than your pet.
Aspirate and cytology led to a preliminary diagnosis of a localized histiocytic sarcoma.

That's bad.

Next step, remove the spleen.

There is only one place I want Bugsy to have surgery, that's VSRP (Veterinary Specialty Referral Practice) and with Dr. Jack Gallagher.
When I called, they said they didn't have an available appointment until 9/30 (it was 9/22) after a short conversation, the receptionist said let me ask Dr G and I asked her to mention it was Bugsy.
Within a couple of  minutes she returned and said, "bring him in Monday first thing, we'll do the consult and surgery same day."

And so we did

The amazing little things

*This post was from 2014

So a day after realizing that we could be faced with the beginning of the end, it is amazing how the little things stand out.
How he starts his day with insanity and wild rolling, waking up anyone in the house. To how he has the whole making coffee, getting his thyroid tablet and fetching the paper routine down to a science. In fact he acts as supervisor as I go through each step of my morning. I cannot eat alone, brush my teeth alone, check emails alone, ok you have the idea.  He watches and interprets every move.
He knows each thing I am doing & going to do.
Completely integrated into our lives. 
Greeting us with a mouthful of toys ( I believe it was 5 tonight), making sure he got the treat of his desires, running zoomies, causing havoc and then flopping in the upstairs hallway angled, with his head in the laundry room.
So many little things and habits. Expectations from him and from us. 

I'm sad, but he keeps wagging

*This post is from August 2012

At the end of July Bugsy started limping.
I could tell it was a front leg thing but nothing else.
I rested him. I tried rimadyl, tramadol, and traumeel independently.
Nothing helped.
I took him to the orthopedic vet, who was flummoxed and gave us a very hesitant diagnosis that it was due to cartilage loss in a toe.
I didn't believe that could cause my boy to limp. He is stoic to a fault.
I reduced his walks in frequency & lemgth, increased the frequency of the rimadyl but nothing really changed; my boy was limping as badly as ever.
Then we went away for 10 days. He was here, no exercise with my mom, doing mostly nothing.
When I came home I could see he was in excruciating pain.
I felt so sad. Again I rested him, added pain relief and hoped for a change.
I conferred with the orthosurgeon who eventually recommended a MRI.
I didn't pursue it.
We went to our regular vet for something else and that vet worked poor B over extensively. He found a super painful point in his shoulder and declared it a problem with the tendon that attaches the biceps muscle to the shoulder joint.
He recommended swimming and as little weight bearing as possible.
We've been following that regime for over a month now. His swimming is amazing, he can swim about a 1/ 2 mile with ease now.
But he can't walk without a limp.
Tonight a favorite dog friend came by and another person with a young pup, he tried to play. He wanted to play, but it hurts too darn much. 
Within a few minutes the limp was very pronounced and he wasn't interested.
Bless him for never getting snappy, he is my happy, sweet boy through it all.
When everyone had left, he looked into my eyes and I could see the discomfort. And confusion.
My heart breaks for him. There isn't much else I can do. I have been busting my butt ensuring that he swims at least 3x a week. The swimming improves but he can't walk, run or play without pain.
I spoke to the vet who diagnosed him yesterday, he said to keep swimming him, which I will do. But I sure would like to see an improvement in his ability to walk :(
My poor happy boy spent the best part of a year down and out from the knee injury and repair, I realize this is likely to take nearly as long. 
Their lives are too short to waste years in pain and with restrictions.
Send a little positive thought his way, he deserves to be pain-free

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Still going and still zooming

I find it hard to write about Bugsy these days. And I am not very sure why.
He continues to slowly slide, we have bad days (today was one), he got real thin again but somehow gained a bit back.
Stamina is low.
Sleeps a lot.
But today he caught a squirrel, how in the hell does that happen?

We took a brief trip to the mountains and had a wonderful time but he was burned out for days afterward.

But this week he's been zooming, stealing kitchen towels, chasing ducks at the lake and of course proudly trotting through the neighborhood as he has always done.

He remains so damn happy and silly, you just ride along with him.
Then he has a bad day and your heart breaks.
After not thinking about it for 2 or 3 weeks the bad day hits you like the diagnosis all over again.

He is so Peter Pan like you really think he'll live forever or should I say you can't imagine him not being alive.

We still follow our routines and his joy infects all around him.

So what can I say, fuck cancer.

Now I am going to kiss Bugsy goodnight