Thursday, November 27, 2008

Hoppy Thanksgiving!

Well, today is Thanksgiving, my first official holiday as a Tripawd. This time last year, I was running the Turkey Trot 5K in Ann Arbor with Mom. I sure wish I could have gone this year. Mom and Alex got up early this morning to go down to Ann Arbor to do the race. I wish Mom would have taken Emmy to the race and given her a chance to run this year, but Mom said she was feeling all bummed that I was running last Thanksgiving, so it didn't occur to her to let Emmy try. (I am a much better runner than Emmy). Mom hopes that I can come to the race next year. I might not be able to run/hop a whole 5K, but she is hoping that I can at least cross the finish line with her next year. I can't wait!

I stayed home with Dad this morning. We were couch potatoes. Dad is still sore from the Ironman, so we have a lot in common. He says his legs are "toast". I know the feeling! Dad let me try on his medal from the race and said that I should receive a medal too for being such a good girl and for learning to get around as a Tripawd so fast. He told me I was a hero, and said what I have done must be even harder than an Ironman, since he had months of training, and I had no training at all.

When Mom got home we had a few Thanksgiving Day traditions. First, we watched the Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV:

Next, we kept up yet another Michigan tradition of watching the Detroit Lions lose. My brother Alex says that was the Lions' 100th loss, I guess that means it's a special occasion or something.

Mom and Dad and Nick went out for Thanksgiving dinner in the afternoon, since all the boys were gone and they wanted to have a traditional Thanksgiving Dinner rather than sit at home. While they were gone, I got to thinking about some of the things I am thankful for this Thanksgiving:

1) Most of all I am thankful that my parents are not like that jerk at the Doctor yesterday, the one who said they should have let me go to Heaven rather than amputate my leg. I know I will go to Heaven someday, but I am not ready yet! I've got lotsa livin' left to do!

2) I am thankful that the real estate market in Michigan is the worst ever, because Mom doesn't have to work so much and has lots of extra time to baby me and take me to all my appointments.

3) I am thankful for the wonderful Sack family, who treated me just like a member of their pack while Mom, Dad, and Alex were in Arizona.

4) I am thankful for all the delicious food I get to eat now that Mom has been reading about what dogs really SHOULD be eating. Duck, rabbit, beef, chicken, turkey.... ahhhhhh..... this is the life.

5) I am thankful for those nice warm polarfleece sheets that Mom put on the boys' beds for Winter. It's a great warm spot to cuddle up and feels so good on my sore body.
6) I am thankful for Jerry G. Dawg and his pawrents website,, which has helped Mom and I get through the past few weeks. There are so many nice people on there who have helped Mom and I feel better. Thank you!!

7) I am thankful for the delicious leftovers that Mom and Dad are sure to bring home from me from Thanksgiving dinner (turkey necks, please.... hint... hint).
Okay, time to run (I mean HOP) now. Mom and Dad just came home with the leftovers. Yum! I got some delicious turkey:

And even some roast beef! What a great idea to have both turkey and roast beef on Thanksgiving. What an awesome day this was!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Chemo Day - Round #1

Nova awoke this morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. After a weekend of being a picky eater she has been wolfing down her food. I guess she must have missed us and decided to go on a hunger strike. I feel bad for all she put Tammy through with her picky eating. She still was avoiding drinking water, so along with hand feeding her ice cubes, I have been adding extra water to her soft food (makes it extra slimy).
Before we left for the Doctor, she walked into Ben's room and jumped right up on his bed:
It was interesting to see how she did it, she had to adjust her technique. Another thing she is doing is shifting her front foot sideways. That bugs me a little because I worry that it will do damage to her front leg. Her front foot has gotten all spread out, I imagine it's her way of making a bigger platform to walk on. The foot is tilted so you can only see 3 toes when she walks, it is so weird:

She got right in the car, but had a different attitude than usual. Usually she just runs out to the van and hops in and stays there until I come out. This time she didn't object, but stood outside the car until I came out. She was looking at me like "we really have to do this, huh?" She was tense on the drive, like she knew we were going to the Doctor. She stood the whole way, which drove me bananas, i was afraid she would fall. She had to keep her head up in the front seat and rotated between resting her head on my shoulder (which doesn't exactly help me drive effectively) and on Ben's shoulder. This dog's head weighs a TON.
Ben kept getting irritated with her resting her head on him, apparently it affected his game playing on his iPod. I gave him the "be nice to Nova, she's sick, she just wants us to comfort her" lecture, which caused him to launch into a tirade about how poor Emmy was getting ignored because she wasn't sick. This whole ordeal has been stressful on everyone in the family. I know Ben loves Nova, he curls up with her every chance he gets and takes pictures to school to show his friends. It's easy to get frazzled when you're stressed and worried.
The appointment ended up taking much longer than expected. The wait was really long. Nova made a few Tripawd friends in the waiting room, and some other dog friends with cancer like this dog who had lymphoma:
Of course all the parents had to share their stories. There were a few people that came in with their dogs who were much further along in the process. It was nice to hear their success stories and kind words about Dr. Obradovich and Dr. Walshaw. There were also a few first-timers there. You can tell them by their wide-eyed, scared look. I was a little irritated at one man who looked at Nova and turned to his wife and said (not even whispering) "I would never do something so cruel to a dog like that (amputate), she shoulda just let that dog go to Heaven." I wanted to haul off and punch him, but I turned away and continued to talk positive with another Tripawd parent. It was kind of curious that that type of person would even show up at a Cancer Specialist's office with his dog. Some people just don't get it.

They took Nova in first to remove her bandage and clean up her incision. Dr. Walshaw pronounced the incision "lovely", but I have to admit it caused a few gasps when she walked out in to the waiting room. I think it was mostly because of her size. The incision was HUGE. It looked like that "Y" incision they make for autopsies (not that I know, I just read too many True Crime books). And she was shaved on that side so she looked naked. She hung her head, like she was self conscious, and snuggled up to the Technician:

They had run some preliminary bloodwork to make sure all was well for the treatment. She had an itchy right ear (all red inside) and some "female" issues that the doctor checked into, and ended up prescribing Amoxicillin to knock out any infection. But she was healthy enough for the chemo, but just had to wait her turn. She was a very patient girl in the waiting room, and allowed anyone who was interested to pet her:

Some say this is a face only a mother could love, but how could you not love this big goofy face? I think she is beautiful!
Patience was wearing a little thin after a long wait and she made a few runs for the door. She was panting a lot and I thought she might be thirsty. I sent Ben out to the car to get her ice cubes, and as soon as he returned they called her in.
They administered the chemo via IV and it was called Carboplatin. Dr. Obradovich recommended 4 rounds of Carboplatin as her first choice of treatment. I am very curious to see how well it works. They told me to follow up with my vet in a week for a CBC blood test, apparently the white count tends to drop after a week. They said side effects could occur around days 3-5, but that usually that just meant lethargy rather than nausea and vomiting. I counted out the days and that put it right on the weekend. Argh. Of course I got nervous about having yet another dog emergency occur on a weekend. Oh well, we'll get through it.
Nova came out and finally was tired enough to lay down as I went over instructions with the Doctor. Look how skeletal she is:
I am trying to feed her anytime she wants. Right now, I am feeding her 3 times a day, Evo canned food with Evo kibble mixed in. I even gave her some ground beef too. The technician told me I have to be careful to avoid letting Emmy get too close to any of Nova's poop in the next 48 hours or so. Apparently the Carboplatin is excreted, and should not be touched or (ewwww) eaten by a healthy dog. Luckily Emmy is not one of the types of dogs who does that.
We made the long drive home, but stopped for a few errands along the way. When we got home I was overjoyed to see Nova go straight for the water dish and drink for about 3 minutes straight. I am sure Tammy will breathe a big sigh of relief when she reads that. Poor Tammy made a major project out of trying to get Nova to drink for the past 5 days!
Okay, so I guess the next hurdle is to see what happens in 3-5 days......

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Day Before Chemo

We are back from Arizona now, and I am so relieved to finally see Nova after 5 days away. Apparently she didn't eat very well while we were gone. I think she was depressed or something. Of course that made me feel like a bad mom. Although, as the day passed I think I realized that maybe she just figured out how to milk it for maximum sympathy! I don't know, I've seen her do things I know she is capable of doing as a Tripawd, and then she will be a big lazy butt and wait for you to cater to her. For example, Tammy mentioned that she hadn't noticed Nova drinking, so she started to feed her ice cubes by hand (which Nova ate). When Nova got home I noticed she wasn't drinking here either, so I decided to do the ice cube thing. I put a few down on the floor where she was laying, and she didn't move a muscle. I opened up a jowl and stuck one in there, and she spit it out. But when I HELD the cube with my fingers, she licked it like crazy, all while not even lifting her head. And as she is doing this, the tail is going thunk-thunk-thunk. Spoiled girl! I know I am being manipulated yet I continue to do it... I am such a sucker.

When I got her home this morning the first thing I did was cut off that bandage. She kept it on at Tammy's just to keep things from getting bumped, but it was high time to get that thing off of there and let it all breathe. It wasn't as shocking as I thought it would be (although the actual incision is still covered). Here you can see it while she was eating (By the way, she was a picky eater all weekend yet has downed 4 cans of food today... and counting):

What was more shocking is that practically her whole left side was shaved and she was..... well.... NAKED. Her pink skin with freckles/moles here and there was all exposed. And she was all shivery like she was cold. Poor baby! I decided to drive up to the pet store and look for a dog coat, although I didn't have very high hopes of finding a Great Dane size. There are always so many cute things for sale out there for small and medium size dogs, but they never seem to have sizes to accommodate giant breeds. Now I know how large-size people must feel. Anyway, I was surprised to find a giant breed fleece dog coat there at Pet Supplies Plus. Got it home and it turned out that it fit perfect, and I think she actually likes it. It is made by Fido Fleece. "Stylin' Fleece Activewear for Dogs" the tag says. I would have liked to get a more feminine color, but this was all there was. I think it looks nice.

Today Nova got a package in the mail from Grandma Barb. It was from Sit Stay (they have lots of cool stuff on their site) and was a container of "Carnivore Kisses". They are dried beef bites. I fed her a couple and she liked them, although just like when I fed her the ice cubes she just laid there as I fed her by hand like she was some Greek Goddess or something.

Tomorrow morning at 10 we have her first round of chemo. I am very nervous. I think what I am most nervous about is her being more tired than she is now. Right now she doesn't get up and move around much, and spends a lot of time just laying there. I hope she doesn't have problems with her appetite too. She is skeletal as she is, I don't want her to stop eating. I cooked her some ground beef tonight while I was making spaghetti, and also picked up a big thing of sliced turkey from Sam's Club. She turned down the ground beef tonight, but I am not too worried, since she had just eaten a can of rabbit.

Stay tuned for tomorrow's update. I am hoping they take her stitches out!

My Pack is Back

I am so happy! Mom and Dad got back from their trip last night and early this morning Mom came right to Tammy's house to take me home! When she walked in I was still laying down, taking my time waking up. Once I saw Mom I was so happy! I couldn't help it, my tail was going like crazy. I had been kinda feeling sorry for myself this morning, bumming around, not eating or wanting to go outside. But now Mom was here to take me home. Yay!

I do have to say, though, that my stay at the Sack's house was awesome, so much better than staying at the kennel. They treated me just like a member of their pack, and Tammy took such good care of me, she was just like Mom. She worried about every little thing, just like Mom. She slept by me every night, snuggled with me, gave me my eyedrops, took me outside, kept me warm with blankets, and fed me. The whole family was so friendly and loving with me, and they even had other people come to visit at the house so that they could see me. I loved all the attention.

Like I said, I spent a lot of time the past 5 days feeling blue. I missed my Mom and my family. The entire Sack family did everything they could to make me happy and comfortable during my stay there. I gave Tammy a few things to worry about, I didn't mean to, but that's what I do to Mom all the time, and it seemed like Tammy was like Mom for the weekend. I didn't always eat my food, and I didn't feel much like drinking either. But she came up with lots of creative ways to get me to drink (feeding me ice cubes) and to eat. Get this.... she even cooked me some ground beef, and I had salami slices and turkey. Wow! She even came up with a new way to feed me my canned food, which they called Turkey Balls. She would wrap up my dog food in a piece of sliced turkey and roll it up in a ball. Even being depressed, it was hard to resist the Turkey Balls.

All in all, I think I was a pretty good guest. That sectional couch in the family room looked so tempting, I really was thinking about sitting on there, but never did. It looked so comfortable.

When Mom got me home I went straight outside to go potty. It's so great to pee in my own yard again, even in the snow. Then I went inside and gobbled up a can of Duck, which made Mom very happy. Mom cut off my bandage (ahhhhhh!) and I headed for my bed to relax.
Here's how I look without my bandage. You can see that my incision is still covered. I think the Doctor will be taking it off tomorrow when I go for my chemo treatment.
Mom is going to go pick up my sister at the kennel in a few minutes. I am so excited to see Emmy, and to see the boys when they get home from school today. And Dad, too. Mom said he finished the Ironman, although he had to go very slow during the marathon. (I know how that is!) Hopefully Dad will be in the mood for a nap with me tonight when he gets home from work.

Hmmmmm..... I was just thinking that maybe I should find a way to get Mom to make me some of those Turkey Balls....

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Power Outage

Blog updates on Nova are going to slow down a bit until we return from Arizona next Tuesday. We are in Tempe for the Ironman Arizona triathlon, that my husband is doing. We joke that he is going to be less mobile than Nova when we return, so they will definitely be hanging out together over Thanksgiving weekend. It wasn't easy getting out of town this morning. Tuesday evening we had a power outage that lasted until Wednesday mid-day. That had it's challenges when it came to Nova's care. Some things you just don't think through. We do have a generator, so we were able to keep the house heated during the day, but at night we turned off the generator because it was so dang loud, no one could sleep. Bad move. Nova woke up to pee at about 3 am, and I tried to let her out by candlelight and flashlight and she was not going for it. I could not blame her, she couldn't see her footing on the step outside, so she wouldn't go out. Plus I couldn't light up the yard so she couldn't find her way around outside. What a dumb move on our part. These are the types of things you don't think about. I was really upset, and worried about her, I didn't want her to trip and fall in the dark. So I ended up sleeping out on the couch the rest of the night so I could hear her if she got up. Firing up the generator was not an easy task, actually it had run out of gas so I was planning to go get more gas in the morning. So I put some blankets over her to keep her warm. I am still kicking myself over that dumb move of not leaving the generator on.

Once everyone woke up, we got it going, and all was well with Nova again. Her front leg is still a little jittery when she is laying down and she whines a little now and then, but I think she is just being verbal, because her tail is thunk-thunk-thunking the whole time she whines.

Wednesday night I took Nova over to Tammy's to drop her off for her stay. Once again, Nova barged in like she lived there and layed right down on her bed right next to Annie's bed. Annie was being such a good sport about it all. We lugged in all sorts of stuff, food, her bed, her favorite eagle stuffie, all her glaucoma medications, her new harness that just came in the mail an hour before, sling, leashes, etc. I even brought rubber-backed rugs for Tammy to put on her hardwood floors. It was like having a baby all over again! I was a little nervous about the fact that they had a 2-story house, and that the bedrooms were all upstairs. I was worried that Nova might cry if she was left alone on the main floor, just because she is used to being with us when she sleeps. (We have a 1-story house, one thing I am VERY thankful for, it is very tripawd-accessible!) I also worried that Nova might try to go up the stairs. Tammy eased my fears when she said she had no plans to sleep upstairs during the time Nova was there. Awwww.... what a relief. I am so lucky to have someone like her to baby my baby when I can't be there.

I called Tammy during our layover to check on Nova, and she said she was doing great. What a relief. She said Nova is very fast on 3 legs when she goes outside. Fun! My kids were laughing that Nova is probably ending up with the more relaxing vacation. She is getting fawned over all weekend... lucky dog!

Updates will be brief until she comes home next Tuesday. Wednesday will be her first Chemo treatment, so I know there will be plenty to tell then.

Monday, November 17, 2008

6 Days Post-Op - First Follow Up Appointment

Nova's bandage was getting scrunched up and I wasn't sure what kind of condition it would be in on Wednesday (what was supposed to be our first follow-up appointment with Dr. Walshaw.) I called the Cancer Center this morning, and they encouraged me to reschedule the follow up appointment to today, so that they could check her out and give her a fresh bandage. I think usually the bandage is removed after the first week or so, but I think it was decided that since we will be gone for 5 days, Nova will be staying somewhere where there will be another dog, and that it would be a good idea to keep the incision area covered lest it get licked at or bumped.

On our way to the appointment, Nova and I stopped at Tammy's house so that Nova could get acquainted with her house. We also wanted to see how her mastiff Annie interacted with Nova. As soon as mentioned the magic word to Nova (RIDE) her tail started thumping and she swiftly hopped to the garage door. She hopped out to the garage, the hesitated and went back in the house. Sometimes she does this, it's like she needs to get up the nerve. It was only a minute later when she hopped back to the door and went straight out. Hopped right up into the car, no problem at all. This girl is amazing!

When we got to Tammy's house Nova stood on the grass for a second. I think she was surprised that we had arrived at somewhere other than a vet's office. This seemed to energize her.
She realized that this was a "fun" stop (unfortunately we haven't had many of those lately) and went right for the door. The 3 steps in the garage looked a little daunting, but she hopped right up without hesitation, and walked into their home like she lived there. Tammy was a little nervous how Annie would react. But they just sniffed each other and Annie went to lay down. Nova inched her way into the house more and more until to found a spot on the carpet to lay down. Tammy and I talked for awhile about Nova's care and things that I needed to bring when I dropped her off on Wednesday. She said her kids were very excited that Nova was coming to stay with them and that they would probably do a "family campout" in the family room this weekend where they could all sleep together with Nova. I can tell already that Nova is going to be soooooooo spoiled.

We made the long drive to Canton and as soon as we got there, the tech took Nova back to replace her bandage. She returned a short time later sporting a new blue bandage with a nice big Thanksgiving turkey on it. It was adorable!

Dr. Walshaw came out to talk with me and answer all my questions (I'm always full of 'em). One concern I had is that there was a lump on the outside of one of Nova's toes (on her remaining front leg) that didn't look like it was supposed to be there. It kind of resembled a bunion. Dr. Walshaw calmed my fears and said it was most likely caused by the way she had shifted her weight to the leg. It kind of made her foot spread out (which makes sense). They said that the biopsy results from the leg that was sent to University of Colorado had not come back yet, but they would call when they did. Not that I am expecting any diagnosis different than osteosarcoma, but I am still curious about what they have to say.

We were back in the car heading back home in no time. Nova decided she wanted to stand up on the back seat, which drove me bananas. I was afraid she would fall if I hit the brakes too hard:

She eventually started to lay down (well, halfway) but she miscalculated and her butt was up on the side of the car. It looked really uncomfortable. She rode like this for awhile:

Then she eventually inched her butt down and took a big long nap in the sun:

We made it back home right before it started sleeting. She followed me straight to my office to assume the nap position sleeping beside my desk:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Nova Speaks

"Things are really starting to get better around here. I think I will end up being a pretty good Tripawd. I am getting better and better at getting up and down and moving around. And I am starting to do more of the things I used to do, which really makes my family very happy. I really like being in the boys' room, but they keep closing the door on me. Last night I wanted to sleep in there, but they shut me out. So I slept on my bed in the living room. Dad was really sick and was coughing so much that I couldn't rest, so I finally weaseled my way into their room through their bathroom."

"This morning after breakfast I wanted to see what they were doing. Turns out they were playing the Game of Life. They got mad when I walked in and hopped straight across the game board. All their money and cars with people were flying everywhere. Ben was laughing that his "wife" fell out of his car and got stuck between the pads of my foot. The I stepped my tripawd foot right on the box top and smashed it. Hey, it's not my fault they spread everything all over. Those guys are messy. After Ben won the game, they put it away and started to play Rock Band. Ahhhh.... I love to hear my brothers try to sing and play the guitar. As you can see in the picture, I like to just hang out in the middle of whatever they are doing. Mom kept coming in because she thought she heard me howling, like I was hurt. But it was just Ben trying to sing."

"I am napping a lot, but this is nothing new to me since I have always been a couch potato. Dad always used to call me the "House Cat". In the past when he would see me napping he would tell me to "Get a job!" It's funny, now he is really nice to me and gets on the floor to snuggle up to me and tell me how great I am. He doesn't tell me to get a job now. Now THAT'S more like it. My stuffies are really helping me feel better too. Here I am resting with Larry the Lobster (Mom and Dad got it for me at the Boston Marathon) and Lindy the Eagle (everyone got it for me at Busch Gardens). I can't wait to see what new stuffies are in store for Christmas!"

"This afternoon Mom went out to get me some more food. She has been spending so much time on the computer researching things she can do to help me get better, and be more healthy. The great people on the Tripawds site are giving her some great advice. Since I haven't been eating much kibble this week (I have figured out a way to make her think I will eat nothing but canned food... hee hee) she decided to try some new canned food called Innova EVO. EVO is a canned food that doesn't have any grains in it (which us dogs shouldn't be eating anyway). It is all delicious meat, vitamins and minerals. Chicken, turkey, duck, beef, and rabbit.... she went all out and tried all the flavors. When she came home I told her I was hungry and she gave me a can of Rabbit. Wow, I didn't think there was anything in this world that was better than Cowboy Cookout, but this sure was great. She was so happy I liked it she gave me a second can! She is slowly going introduce some other vegetables and fruits and try me on some Innova EVO kibble (no grains in there either). She is also going to start introducing these new foods into Emmy's diet too, since Emmy is so fat."

"When Mom got home she started looking for me right away. I knew I was somewhere I wasn't supposed to be, so I just stayed there. I should have known she would keep looking, she found me sitting in Dad's chair. But she didn't get mad, she was so happy to see me there and doing all my usual Great Dane stuff. I tried to be serious and remorseful, but you see I could not stifle a tail wag. Works like a charm!"

"Today everyone was all surprised when they found me drinking out of the toilet. I know most dogs do that all the time, but I never had the urge to do it. I have always avoided my brother's bathroom, but today I decided to walk in there (gotta try out the Tripawd on all types of surfaces). Whaddaya know, I saw a toilet that looked just like the one on the card that Annie's family sent me yesterday. I remembered Annie's advice to "Drink Plenty of Fluids" so, I took a nice cool drink. And then Mom walked in on me. Everyone thought it was funny that I did what the card said to do. I don't know what was so funny. When someone gives you some good advice, you take it, and try it, you know?"

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Continual Improvement

Friday and Saturday brought a few things to worry about, but much, much more to be happy about. Nova continues to improve in so many ways. Dogs are so amazing! Nova is much more enthusiastic now about getting up, moving around, and going outside. Those first few days, I stressed so much that Nova didn't go out to pee more than once a day. There are still many times that she will just go to the door, think about going out, then turn around and pace. But I have found that all I need to do is trust her, be patient, and know that when she needs to go outside, she will do it. Whether it's an hour later, or a few hours later, she always comes back and tries again. When she REALLY has to go, she just goes to the door, and goes right out.

"Oh geeze, Mom, do I REALLY have to do this right now?"

"It's a pretty big step down there, thanks but no thanks. I think I will stay right here."

Eventually, the business gets done when she REALLY has to go.

Although it's been raining much of the time since she's been home, she likes to linger outside when it's not.

"At what point do you stop carrying that camera around, Mom, and photographing my every move?"

She is getting so mobile now, really starting to get back to her curious, nosy self. She always wants to be where the action is. Before she was just parking it somewhere and not moving. Now, when she sensing the action is shifting to another room, she will just get up and go there. Usually, she remains standing, panting very heavily. That really stresses me out because she looks so uncomfortable when she pants. But the tail is usually wagging at full speed. The panting is most likely a side effect of the Tramadol, but I guess it's probably from all the hopping. The kids get alarmed when they see her panting, too. I'm trying to dispel their fears by telling them to jump around on one leg and see how soon THEY are panting. It's a lot of work to do that! I'm just glad to see her WANTING to move. I would imagine if she was in tremendous pain, she would not want to get up and move.

All of the pacing is taking a lot of getting used to. It's hard not to worry when you see it. The kids especially don't like it when they are sleeping. I'd like to confine Nova to the living room at night, but she really loves to be with Ben and Skyler in their room, so much so that she has her own dog bed in there. Last night Ben grabbed his pillow and came out the living room couch to sleep. he said that Nova's panting was driving him bananas, along with her just standing there staring at him in his sleep. Later she decided to come back out and pant in Ben's face on the couch. So he relocated back to his bed. Apparently (unbeknownst to me until this morning) Nova went back to the room and jumped in bed with Ben. He let her stay there because he was so amazed she could do it. This morning at breakfast we were all talking about what a bummer is was that Nova would probably never be able to jump up on the kids beds again. That's when Ben said "I'm sure she will, in fact she just did it last night. A round of high fives for Nova!

Yesterday I noticed this icky looking loose soft lump starting to hang from Nova's belly, right at the edge of her bandage. Of course I was on the horn to the Doctor right away, lumps are scary things to find! They are probably so sick of hearing from me. Supposedly, it's just extra fluid from the surgery. They told me to just put warm compresses on it a couple times a day and that it would form a bruise on it. Sure enough, that's what it did. But it is getting bigger (I think the bandage is rubbing), so it's pretty gross to look at.

See? It looks kind of like a hernia that one of my Labs had once:

Today, Nova got her first Get Well card in the mail. How exciting! It came from some of Nova's biggest fans, the Sack family (Tammy's family). The lazy butt mail lady had pulled in to the driveway honking her horn, she did not want to come out in the rain to give us a small package that wouldn't fit in the mailbox. So I went out to get the mail from her and Nova had come to the garage door (back to her usual nosy self).

"So, you got any mail for me, Mom?"

As I walked inside, she was sniffing the mail, like she knew there was something there for her. We found the card, opened it, and found a few jerky treats inside. Emmy tried to butt in and swipe one, but Nova ate them quick. The card was a big fawn mastiff (just like Annie) drinking out of toilet and it said "Want to feel better soon? Drink plenty of fluids!" Funny. Even Delilah the guinea pig signed the card.

"See my great card? Don't worry, Annie, I am getting plenty of fluids!"

"The whole family signed the card, even the guinea pig! I am so lucky to have so many people who care about me. Thank you!"

A lot of people who haven't seen Nova yet have been asking what she looks like when she walks/hops. So I took a brief video of her walking down the hall. You will see at the end she just stands on her bed, not laying down. She always takes her time deciding exactly how she wants to lay down. Here it is:

Friday, November 14, 2008

What Cancer Cannot Do

I just was shopping for Christmas gifts in the hundreds of catalogs that show up in the mailbox this time of year. In one was an afghan that listed the many things that cancer CANNOT do. It was written by an Anonymous author.

Cancer is so limited....
It cannot cripple Love
It cannot shatter Hope
It cannot corrode Faith
It cannot destroy Peace
It cannot kill Friendship
It cannot suppress Memories
It cannot silence Courage
It cannot invade the Soul
It cannot steal eternal Life
It cannot conquer the Spirit

Music to My Ears

NOW we are starting to make some headway. This morning I went in to wake up Ben for school and I saw that Emmy had swiped the dog bed, and Nova was sprawled out on the floor on her "ouch" side. She had taken some of the throw pillows that had fallen from the kids bed and had them all propped under her. The second I made eye contact with her I heard the sound I have been waiting all week to hear again. The heavy thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk-thunk of her crazy happy wagging tail. THERE'S my girl! Nova has one of the greatest tails ever. On a normal day it wags constantly, even when she is having a good dream. And when ever she hears her name, even in her sleep, the tail starts going. It can be hazardous too, that thing is so big and out of control, she can clear a table with it.

There was even more familiar "music"... last night at 2:30 am. I was in bed and heard Nova's usual "I want to go outside" speak. Nova is one of those dogs that "talks" in a sort of howly, roo-roo, way. It was not a howl of pain, she was clearly saying the usual "come and let me out". I have never been so happy to jump up at 2:30 am. I went over to the boys room and saw that the door was nearly closed. In the past, Nova would have been able to open it, either with a paw or her snout. Of course, now with one front paw she couldn't do it any more. I opened her and she was standing there (this was the first time she "asked" to go out) and quickly hopped past me, down the twisting and turning hall (in the dark), through the kitchen, and out the back door. I had to run to keep up with her.

She hopped out to the middle of the yard and immediately took a big poop. I was standing out there watching, thrilled that she was starting to feel a little like herself again. It had warmed up a bit last night so that it wasn't biting cold standing out there, and there was a light breeze blowing the pines. We live in the middle of a pine forest and when there is a light breeze it is so calming and mesmerizing to watch and listen to the tall skinny pines sway back and forth. Nova stood out there for a few minutes, holding her head up sniffing in the night breeze, and she took a deep breath and sighed.

When we got back in it took her another 1/2 hour or so to decide where she wanted to lay down again. In the process, she woke up Ben and Skyler, because the hopping and panting was noisy. I tried to direct her to her bed in their room, since she was really intent on going back there. But she kept wanting to stand between their two beds, looking back and forth at them, hot steaming big dog breath in their faces. I could tell she really wanted to jump up onto one of the beds, but she didn't try. She hopped out to the living room and back a few times, and finally settled back in on the floor at the foot of Skyler's bed.

This morning was great. She got right up when I told her I had breakfast waiting. She went to the door and thought about going outside, but changed her mind. She's still panting, but she is definitely getting more and more like her social self. She hopped around between the kitchen and the living room to be in the center of the action wherever the majority of the family happened to be. It was the most I'd seen her move yet. She still just stands in one spot, looking around, but she tended to do that a lot anyway. We always said she was more like a horse, because she likes to stand, even in the car. She hopped up to Daddy a few times for some kisses. And she hopped over the the TV to stand in front of it and drive the kids nuts blocking out Sports Center, which is something she usually does every morning. In the past that would drive them bananas, and they would yell at her to move. But today they didn't do that, they walked over to give her a big hug and kiss. That's all she was looking for anyway. Everyone appreciates that she's starting to be her quirky self again.

One thing I really have to do is "Tripawd proof" the kids room. Nova loves to go in there, but she keeps stumbling over things left on the floor. I gave them the lecture to keep things picked up so Nova doesn't trip. She's already stumbled on a few toys, dirty clothes, pillows, and this morning she got her front paw tangled in the cords on a Playstation controller left on the floor. Argh. I think for awhile when I am out of the house and I am going to keep her confined to the living room. I don't want her tripping over stuff. I guess that means I am going to have to be more vigilant with the kids (as if I am not on their case constantly already to pick up their room).

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Alert the Media

I finally got Nova to pee around 6:30 pm tonight. Yay! My kids thought I was an absolute nut case, I was acting as if she had performed the greatest feat ever. Then she ate a big dinner, wagged some tail, and crashed out on her bed in the living room.

When I went to sign up my son Ben for Ski Club tonight I saw Julie, at technician at my local vet and wife of the owner, Dr. Osmun. I bombarded her with all my questions and she put my mind at ease about everything. Yippeeee! All is well.

Nova is on her bed holding court with various family members. Everyone is dishing out the love, big time.

Nova Speaks

Oh geeze, Mom. Sometimes I wish you would just take a chill-pill. You worry sooooo much. I know, I complain, but you know how much I appreciate it when you DO worry. If it weren't for your worrying when my eyeball hurt so bad, we might not have caught the glacoma in time to save the sight in my other eye. And when my stomach twisted in the middle of the night, you worried and drove me an hour to the emergency clinic for an emergency stomach tack in the middle of the night. You even held me in your lap (all 125 lbs of me) just like I wanted, because I was scared of the stomach tack surgery and a doctor I didn't know. Thanks also for worrying when you saw that big lump above my wrist back before Halloween. Because of that, I think I have a much better chance at living a pain-free, healthy life. I couldn't do it without you.

I am so happy that Tammy offered to care for me while you are gone to Arizona. I like Cliff at the kennel, but I think Tammy really is a better choice. I know she will take excellent care of me and that she loves big dogs. I can't wait to sniff everything at her house and get some lovin' from her kids. Hopefully her big dog Annie won't mind me getting all the attention. This 3-legged thing REALLY gets a lot of attention (I love every minute of it). What I like best is that Tammy is a worrywart, just like you. In fact, remember she asked why I was limping at the Swartz Creek meet back in early October? She noticed my problem before you did! (Ha ha)

I think you just need to relax a little and let me get through the next few days. Losing a leg is a big deal. It hurts. I need some time to, well, find my sea legs (or tripawd legs), if you will. And this pain medication makes me feel like, well, total crap. Remember when you had those wisdom teeth out, and that codeine had you feeling all weird, having strange dreams, and seeing little green aliens on your pillow? Well it's not any easier for me with this Morphine and Tramadol.

Hey, one more thing. What's the big idea posting pictures of my swollen feet? Come on, can't a girl get a little bloated every once in awhile without having pictures plastered all over the Internet? Did you see me posting pictures of you when you couldn't squeeze your fat butt into those jeans last week because you ate all those potato chips?

Always the Worrywart

It's late afternoon on Thursday. It's been a challenging day. Nova still has not peed since 5 pm yesterday and of course I am obsessing about it. It seems like it would be important to pee and eliminate the toxins out of the body, you know? I haven't noticed her drinking much, she doesn't seem thirsty at all. But she's eaten twice, so that is good. At lunch she ate just enough to get the new pain med, Tramadol, down. Two of her feet (on the right side) have swollen up and it seems like they are getting bigger. The Dr. says I just need to get her up and around moving more. I'm trying! I have also been massaging the swollen feet when she is laying down, and just talking to her in a happy, happy voice.

Maybe I am being a little premature, but I don't like the Tramadol. Actually, I don't really like any type of pain medication that zones you out. Nova did not seem like herself when she came home on the morphine. But she seemed much more of herself than she does today. Today she seems really depressed. Typically with a normal Nova, all you have to do is start talking like a cartoon character and she gets all excited. That usually revs her up to do anything. But not today. She is just giving me blank stares. I've seen a few minor tail wags, but nothing like Nova. Also, the Tramadol makes her pant a lot when she gets up to walk around. This stresses me out, because I feel like I am putting too much pressure on her to move around. From everything I have read, panting is normal. But of course I worry, because that's what I do.

It is the 3rd day after the surgery and if I recall, anytime I have had surgery (or my husband for that matter) the 3rd day has been the worst. It's usually when you stop taking the heavy pain meds and start to feel the pain. I hate how pain meds make you feel, and I hate what they do to Nova. I don't want her in pain, but I don't want her to be a depressed zombie, either. I will stick it out. Tomorrow will be better, tomorrow will be better, tomorrow will be better.

This morning something happened that really brightened my day. I had sent a link to my blog to Tammy, my "big dog mom" friend from cross country, and also asked her for some advice on places to take Nova to while we are in Arizona next week. I would just prefer to leave her with someone who will be a little more attentive to Nova, you know? She said to call her, and that she had an idea. I was amazed (and so very thrilled) when she offered to take care of Nova in her own home while we were gone. She has kids, a big dog, busy life, so I didn't think it would be appropriate to ask. But she said she would be happy to care for her, being she is one of Nova's biggest fans. I can't think of many other people I would trust with Nova, but Tammy is one of them. First, she worries just like me. I am so relieved that we will be able to go to Arizona and know that Nova is being cared for by another Big Dog Mom. I am going to take Nova over there on Monday to get her acquainted with the house and all.

I went out for awhile to show a few houses and came back to find that Nova had jumped up on the couch. She gave me a guilty look but I let it slide and let her stay up there. I was just glad
she had gotten up and moved around a bit. I am trying to think of creative things to motivate her. Unlike my other Dane, Nova is not very motivated by food. I think I could stick a medium-rare New York Strip in front of her and she'd say "Ah, I just bury it here in the sofa and eat it later."
Don't these feet look swollen to you?

Working Out the Kinks

Here we are on day 3 and as expected, there is not much change. I can't wait until Nova is off the epidural morphine. She really isn't herself right now, although it is probably helpful for her healing that she is all zombied out rather than her usual wiggle-butt self. I just gave her her last dose this morning and then I am supposed to pull off this huge saran0wrap like bandage off her lower back and then just pull out this tiny needle-like catheter out of her back. Ewwww....

Last night when she got home, Nova was great about going outside to pee and ate a big dinner. But then she just crashed out on her dog bed and slept all night. I gave her the morphine at 5 pm and again at 11 pm. She didn't want to get up and go outside late, so I just let her sleep. I checked on her a few times over the night and she changed positions a few times, which I thought was good. At times she was even laying on her left side where the amputation is, which totally amazed my husband. The thought she would avoid that side all together.

I woke up this morning and it is cold and raining very hard. Argh. Not ideal conditions to go out to pee. I had to really egg her on to get up to go outside, and then put a trash bag over her head (cut a hole for her head of course) so that her bandage didn't get wet. When I opened the back door she would not go out. The just stood at the door looking at Paul and I. I tried to put the sling on her to walk out with her, but the space to go out in the back is very narrow and I don't think she liked me crowding her. Paul and I stood out in the rain for awhile trying to coax her, but it didn't work.

We came back inside trying to coax her out the front door, although it is not a good option because we don't have grass in our front yard (it's all a pine forest). Nova never goes potty there, it's more her favorite sun spot. So she just stood there in the kitchen staring at us. It was heartwrenching because she was probably hurting (since it was time for her dose of morphine), so she had this "this really sucks big time" look on her face that made me want to cry. We decided to just let her go where she wanted, so she headed for the door out to the garage which is the one with the most steps (3). Argh! For some reason this is her preferred way to get in and out. The other exits are just one quick step down, the stairs in the garage are longer so I guess it makes her feel safe. When she got to the garage door she stopped dead in her tracks. She did not want to go out in the rain. After more coaxing, we gave up and brought her back in.

I was trying to get her to eat breakfast and pee before giving her the morphine because I knew she would just conk out. So I mixed up some of her regular dry kibble with a can of "Granny's Pot Pie" and she slowly made it to her dish and ate about half of it. She stepped back to get her bearings and big fat Emmy came in and gobbled up the rest before I could grab the dish. What a little devil. Nova then went to the back door again, like this time she was ready to try to go out. I opened the door and she hopped right out. But the rain was coming down even harder and I had forgotten to put the trash bag on so I was running along side of her trying to drape the trash bag over her, but she was getting wet anyway. This freaked her out big time. Of course she wouldn't pee because I was standing right next to her with my hand on her back. I'm yelling to Paul to get an umbrella or something. I knew she would not pee with me touching her, she likes a little privacy. Paul opened the door and she decided "screw this" and went hopping back in the house.

One lesson I learned this morning is that I need to Tripawd-proof my house. There are trip hazards galore. 2/3 of the house is hardwood floors. I have rugs over many of the floors, but occasionally Nova would trip on the edge of one of the throw rugs. Then her feet were wet on the hardwood floor, I was so afraid she would slip. I got so nervous trying to move the dog dish out of her way that it slopped all over the floor. And she was starting to hop right through the puddle so I am yelling at her to wait, as I am grabbing tons of paper towels to wipe up the mess so she doesn't slip. She's looking at me like "why are you yelling at me, Mom, I can't help that I have to hop". I got it cleaned up and decided to just let her go wherever she wanted. She hopped right in to the boys' bedroom and quickly got settled on her dog bed on the floor. She stood for a minute looking at Ben's bed (she loves to jump up there and nap), looked at me and then said "Nah". Emmy promptly jumped up to take Nova's usual spot.

She plopped down on her dog bed with her stuffed eagle and the Disney Channel cartoons going. All those silly voices make her happy. I came in and gave her all her glaucoma eyedrops then gave the final injection of morphine. At lunchtime we will start with the Tramadol. And hopefully by then the rain will stop and she will go out to pee.