Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hoppy Christmas!

The Christmas Holiday at our house was terrific, and Nova was the life of the party. I continue to be amazed at her pawsitive attitude and enthusiasm for life. You would never know that this dog has cancer. Her appetite is up, in fact she "tells" me when it's time to eat, and gobbles it all up, and sometimes even steals Emmy's food, which is unheard of. We went to the local vet Friday for her 7-10 day post carboplatin CBC and just like last time, all was perfect. She entertained the technicians there with a particularly stinky bout of gas, they were all laughing because it was so obvious she had been loading up on holiday treats. Another nice surprise is that skeletal Nova has actually gained 5 lbs since the last visit (she was 103, now is 108). My intention is not to bulk her up too much, but everyone agrees she could use a little more meat on her bones.

Here she is with her pretty Christmas collar, surrounded by some of her new toys from Santa:

Everyone agrees that nothing about her looks "sick". She is really back to her old goofy, snugglebunny self. Sometimes I forget, and then am reminded when I walk in with her at the vet. Suddenly everyone in the waiting rooms starts looking at us with sad eyes, whispering, afraid to ask what happened to her leg, but obviously they are dying to know! You can just see it go through people's heads, thinking, "wow, that poor dog, I wonder if she is dying, no she can't be dying because her owner is smiling and joking, and the dog is wagging her tail so much that her butt is wiggling like a hula dance, nah, it must have just been an accident." People who get up the nerve to ask are always astounded when I tell them about the osteosarcoma. What surprises me the most is that a large percentage of people I've talked to (this is in a vet's office, mind you, so these are people who have pets themselves) seem almost puzzled that I would go to the trouble of making my dog "suffer" through an amputation, treatment, chest x-rays, blood tests, etc. after getting a diagnosis of osteosarcoma. Like I should have just put her to sleep or something, or let her hobble around in pain until it was too much and then put her to sleep. I just don't get it. Nova is not suffering, and I am so thankful each day that I made the decision to do this. That's why I like to visit the Tripawds site regularly, where I can read about all sorts of other "like-minded" dog lovers who "get it".

Ok, here are some Christmas highlight pictures. Nova really enjoyed opening her presents. For years I have always wrapped dog presents in tissue paper, so that they are easy to open. They know from the sound of the paper that the present is for them! One year a relative sent some gifts wrapped in tissue paper, and I found it shredded open under the tree. If it's not a stuffed animal, bone, or something edible, they will just leave it!

Ben is giving Nova a hand here in getting one of her first presents open:

Nova's favorite gift appeared to be this mini stuffed Lion "rug" that I got at Costco. She kept snuggling up with it all day:
Someone for Nova to snuggle with when her sister is not handy!
Nova likes Dane-sized toys, which are often hard to find. She also took a liking to Emmy's Bear "rug". The girls had a blast opening presents:
Lots of meat treats like dried lamb filets and Texas Toothpicks (pig tails), just look at the smorgasbord of delightful, tasty treats!
Christmas dinner for the girls was canned Merrick "Working Dog Stew", which drives them bananas when I open the can. I have to hold my breath when I do it. It wins the award for being the absolute stinkiest dog food in the world, compliments of it's primary ingredient, green TRIPE. UGGGGHHH! To Nova tripe is like chateaubriand!
So much fun stuff!

By the end of the day the girls were exhausted and snuggled up in one of their other signature snuggle poses, the "Yin Yang".

Emmy makes an excellent chin rest for Nova:

Just yesterday (Saturday) after I fed Nova dinner (which she wolfed down), she started making these strange sounds, like there was something in her throat. We had just returned from going to see Marley and Me at the movies, and in the movie Marley's stomach twisted just like Nova's had back in 2007. Of course Marley died at the end, so I was bawling my eyes out and wanting to come home and give my girls big hugs and kisses. And now Nova started making these sounds that had me all stressed that the cancer had spread to her lungs. It's hard not to have these freak-outs about every little thing. I posted a question on Tripawds and quickly received reassurance. I called the emergency number at the oncologist anyway, and after a nice discussion it seemed that Nova was just having a bout of reverse sneezing. Of course by the time I called the Doctor she had stopped making the sounds and was resting with her happy tail going. Isn't that the way it always works, with dogs AND kids!

I noticed another post on Tripawds this morning from the owner of a mastiff named Titan that I had been following awhile back. Titan's owner was recommending a chest x-ray, apparently she recently found out that the cancer had spread to his lungs and he had bouts of reverse sneezing too. This threw me for a loop big time because Titan's and Nova's amputations and treatments were only a few weeks apart. I was so sad that the chemo was not working for Titan, and of course I was concerned about Nova. I think for now I am going to wait until the scheduled chest x-ray on January 7th. The ups and downs of all this dog drama are so excrutiating. I find it so hard to read the "bad news" stories, but feel I have to in order to prepare for the inevitable. I just hope the inevitable doesn't happen for a very long time!

Monday, December 22, 2008

A Little Tripawd Holiday Cheer

Don't you just love the holidays? Being that I am still recovering, it's been great for me because there has been a lot of activity at the house, like presents and food and visitors. Last Friday the kids had a snow day and now they are off school so I am getting love and attention from all directions. It's great. I really haven't felt bad at all, even though I just had that treatment at the Doctor last Wednesday. Mom is very happy about that.
Mom's been doing a lot to get ready for Christmas, so I have been following her around to see what she's doing (I am very nosy!)

There is one thing about all the Christmas preparations that I would like to change, though. You see, Mom listens to Christmas music when she is working and there is only so much Johnny Mathis and Dean Martin I can take. So I came up with an idea. I asked Mom to come up with a good Tripawd Christmas song. She said ok, but that she wasn't that good at writing songs, so it might be a little silly. But after another nice glass of vino, she sang me this ditty, which (in my opinion) totally beats those "Crooner Christmas" songs hands down:

(Sing to the tune of "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer")

You know Tazzie and Titan and Buster and Cherry…
Zeus and Calamity, Kali and Jerry…

But do you recall….

The goofiest big dog Tripawd of all?

Nova, the Tripawd Dane-Deer
Gets around on just 3 paws
To her, the gift of living
Is the best gift from Santa Claus

Three legs took some getting used to
Nova’d often hang her big head
Even some jerk at the Doctor
Thought she should go to Heaven instead

Losing a leg is not so sad
Nova would say it ain’t half bad
More treats and snacks are coming her way
Lots of loving and snuggling every day

All of the other Tripawds
Cheer her on with big “Hoorays!”
Nova, the Tripawd Dane-Deer,
You’ll have many, many more days!

This song really put me in the holiday spirit, most of all because it's about ME! I wanted to share with you some of the other things that Mom and I have been doing. First, we put on my reindeer antlers and took a bunch of silly pictures.

"You Better Watch Out..."

"Yeah, I'm a 3-legged Dane-Deer, you got a problem with that??"

"Don't forget to shop for MEEEEE this Christmas!"

I love to sing my new Christmas song to my sister Emmy:

I'm a Tripawd Dane-Deer, and dang proud of it!

"What do you mean you forgot to put Fish Skins and Texas Toothpicks on my Christmas List, Mom?"


Hey, check out what I found under the tree today. So exciting! I can't wait!

See, there are ornaments on the tree with everyone's pictures. This was me when I was a big goofy puppy:

And here is a special ornament we just got this year, this is my Tripawd inspiration, Jerry G. Dawg.

Ok, well it's time to run (I mean HOP) right now to see what else Mom is up to. I'm sure we will be back with more updates after Christmas and when we go for my next CBC at the vet on Friday.


Friday, December 19, 2008

Everything is Great!

I took Nova back to the Cancer Center yesterday for her second round of Carboplatin. I recall the last time I was there 3 weeks ago I was handfeeding her ice cubes because she wouldn't drink. It was thrilling to see how much she had improved in 3 weeks. That morning she ate a big breakfast, and had several drinks of water. She still has that Kate Moss thing going though. I am trying to feed her as much as she will eat, but she just wants breakfast and dinner and a snack or two in between.

Anyway, they ran some tests first to see if she was ready for the treatment. Her white count was a touch low, but not so low that they couldn't do the treatment. Dr. O said that sometimes it is common for the white count to drop later after a treatment rather than the 7-10 days they usually expect it to drop. For some reason she put Nova back on an antibiotic (amoxicillin) just to catch any infection that might crop up (she still has itchy ears). I really don't know how that ties in with a low white count, but for some reason I failed to ask or understand what she told me.

I asked Dr. O my laundry list of questions, which this time was not as long as usual. First, I asked about the yelping that Nova has been doing here and there. She gave Nova a once over and agreed with me that there did not seem to be any sore spots anywhere. She said that it is very common for amputees to have phantom pains, and this is very likely what she is experiencing. Unfortunately we have to guess at that since dogs can't tell us exactly what hurts, but that will have to do for now. On a positive note, Nova has not yelped at all for the past few days.

Going to the Doctor always means waiting:

There were also 2 small cyst looking things, each about the size of a marble, one on the top of her right thigh and the other on her back up by her neck. My regular vet had checked these awhile back and said they were nothing to worry about. Dr. O took a sample of each and they turned out to be harmless sebaceous cysts full of pimply material. Ewww. She said that they may burst at some point or abcess, which is exactly what happened to Nova last year with one on her back. It just kept getting bigger and bigger (the kids called it the "Volcano") and the vet said it would eventually burst. Which of course it did one morning as she jumped into bed with my 12-year-old son Ben who started screaming that "Nova's volcano is erupting!" all over his precious American Eagle outfit. Hee hee.

Dr. O also told me that Nova was a perfect "poster child" for amputees and that they had taken a bunch of pictures of her for training purposes. Of course I was like, "Gee, I'd love to see those pictures" but they are actually pretty graphic surgical pictures and things like demonstrations on how to insert a spinal catheter. Uhhhh... no thanks, I will pass on that. She commented on how terrific Nova's attitude was and that she has had a wonderful recovery. The road is apparently not as easy for most dogs. I realize that and am so thankful that Nova has been doing so well.

Her incision is looking great! Check it out:

The only thing about it that bothers me is that her hair is growing back VERY slowly! So she still looks naked on her incision side. Dr. O said that the hair would grow back faster after we finish up the Carboplatin in February. So Nova will not have her fur when she needs it most (she still wears her fleece coat, we just took it off at the Doctor).

During the time the administered the Carbo (they do it in the back so I am not allowed to watch) I ran out to shop at the nearby REI and running store, and made it back a little after she was done. She was standing out in the parking lot with the techinician, who was laughing. She said that Nova really, really had to go potty, but she wouldn't go to the designated area because there was snow there. So she was pacing and supposedly waiting for Mommy. Well, I took her right over there and she jumped right in to the snow and took one of those 10-minute Niagra Falls pees immediately. She is such a Mommy's girl!

It's amazing how I now take time to notice little things. One thing that was really sweet was that I found Emmy and Nova yesterday curled up in their signature butt-to-butt sleeping pose. This is really the first time since the surgery that I have seen them snuggle together. Emmy has been so stand-offish, like she noticed that something was wrong or different with Nova, and figuredshe needed to stay away. It was so nice to see them snuggle up like sisters again.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

One Month Ampuversary!

Today is Nova's one month Ampuversary! It is so amazing how far she has come in one month. She is really back to her old self, aside from hopping rather than walking. The only thing that bothers me is it is taking FOREVER for her hair to grow back. So she still looks naked. I wonder if it will even grow back entirely.

Occasionally I will hear a yelp of two from her, really makes my heart stop when I hear it. It's hard to figure out what the help is about. Each time it has happened there really isn't anything I can trace it to. Maybe she just gets weird phantom pains or something. She doesn't appear to have any sore spots anywhere. Every time she yelps, she runs to cuddle with me, tail wagging, like "Mom, I don't know what that was, but I know if I can get to you, I am safe." I will mention it to the vet when we go back for more Carboplatin next Wednesday.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Going to See Santa

Today Mom and I were feeling in the Christmas spirit, so she helped me into my cozy new fleece jacket and we headed into Fenton in the snow for the "Jinglefest". The big attraction for us Mom and me was that a Fenton-area vet was offering an opportunity for pets to get their pictures taken with Santa. How exciting!

This was my first big trip out since I became a Tripawd (other than my many, many trips to the vet), so it was lots of fun to get back in the business of being fawned over and petted by all sorts of people. It was a really snowy day, and as we slid down the streets of downtown Fenton, I heard Mom grumbling something about how she wished we qualified for handicapped parking (with me being a Tripawd and all). I think she was worried I would have trouble getting up the snow piled up along the curb.

Wouldn't you know, a spot opened up just 3 cars down from Santa's tent, so Mom swiped it in no time (I am pretty sure she was NOT supposed to do a u-turn like that.) We got out and I could tell Mom was tense and worried that I would slip on the slick roads. Nope! I just jumped out and hopped right to the sidewalk. I even scaled the piled up snow on the curb, piece of cake! I was going really fast, I really wanted to get to Santa. Across the street there was a big chili-cookoff going on in front of the Firehouse, and all these people were pointing at me and looking at me. On the short walk to the tent we got stopped 5 times by people who wanted to pet me and to find out where my leg went. I gave everyone all the snuggles they wanted, but I just wanted to get it done so I could go see Santa.

A local vet was offering pictures with Santa for a $10 donation to Leader Dog for the Blind. Plus, they will send Mom a disk of all the pictures they take, print out one nice one for Mom, and then let Mom take as many pictures as she wanted to with her own camera. What a good deal, Mom always loves to help Leader Dogs for the Blind. Everyone paid a ton of attention to me, and again, everyone was asking for details about my leg. I was definitely stopping traffic, cars were slowing down as they passed. Hey, I am used to getting gawked at, but it was as if these people had never seen a Tripawd before.

Mom spent a lot of time talking to people about amputations, cancer, etc. Then I saw a familiar face, it was Mrs. Skinner, one of the other moms from Cross Country who would always pet me at the meets. At first she didn't realize I was now a Tripawd, she reached over to pet me and I think was shocked to see I only had 3 legs. Last time she saw me in October, I had 4. Of course Mom had to tell her the whole dang story (it's getting old) which made Mrs. Skinner start to tell a story about HER dog that died last year. HEY, let's not talk about dying, okay, right now I am LIVING!

Santa was soon ready for me and it took a little time to get comfortable. There were lots of cords everywhere and I got my foot stuck in a few while I was trying to get close to Santa. Plus, I was nervous. It's always exciting to go see Santa, but when you get there, sometimes you get nervous, you know? Santa asked me to sit, and I looked at him like he was crazy. Mom explained to him that I really don't sit much, that I am kind of like a horse. I either stand up, or lay down. The nice lady taking pictures couldn't stop snuggling with me and saying nice things to me.

Santa was friendly too and I finally got comfortable enough to get up next to him. Mom kept jumping around like a crazy lady with her camera, along with the camera lady, ooohhhhhing and ahhhhing about how cute I was. Mom forgot to have me put on my reindeer antlers, but that was okay with me. I do like wearing them, so Mom said she would take more pictures of me with them on later closer to Christmas. She says I am the only dog she has ever had who will willingly keep on a pair of reindeer antlers.

"And what would YOU like for Christmas, young lady?" Santa said.

"Uhhhhhhhh...... I dunno.... I'm still thinking, Santa....."

Of course I was too nervous to remember what to ask Santa for, just like Ralphie in the Christmas Story movie. There wasn't really that much I could think of to ask for, since Mom always tells him all the good stuff to get me anyway. Plus, I already have the greatest gift I could have, and that is the gift to KEEP ON LIVIN'!

Everyone took a lot of closeups, but I asked Mom to zoom out and get one showing that I was a Tripawd. I wanted her to have picture to show other pawrents of Tripawds that we can still live it up and do all the same stuff we are used to doing:


Thursday, December 4, 2008

CBC Went Well

I took Nova to her regular vet yesterday for the follow-up CBC for last week's Carboplatin. Her white count was within normal ranges, so that was very, very good. Actually everything was within normal ranges, except that she was a little dehydrated. So I am trying to get more vigilant about getting her to drink. I have actually noticed her drinking a few times in the past day or so, so I was really relieved about that.

They also had a preliminary report there from Colorado State, which I hadn't seen yet. The Cancer Center had said they were waiting for the detailed report to go over with me next week or when we go for our next round of Carboplatin. Anyway, it was nice to actually read something. The diagnosis was fibroblastic osteosarcoma. Apparently this type of osteosarcoma is known to have a slightly better prognosis. Yay! Hey, I will take whatever positive news I can get. Also, there was a reactive lymph node, but there was no evidence of metastasis to the lymph node.

Histopathology report was as follows: "Section of lymph node is reactice with prominenct lymphoid follicles. There is a clear distincition between cortex and medulla. Section of the leg after further fixation and decalcification reveals tumor. The tumor consists of spindle cells forming swirls and whirls and a small amount of tumor bone matrix. Nuclei are moderately pleomorphic, oval, and have large nucleoli. Mitoses are moderate in number. There is extensive bone destructions and some reactive bone formation."

I am so glad we got this nasty thing off of her! It breaks my heart that she was walking around on a broken leg for who knows how long.

The best part is that she is so dang happy all the time. The tail is going constantly, even while napping, she greets me at the door when I come up, and is back to all her typical "leaning" she does when she wants a snuggle.

One day at a time!

Monday, December 1, 2008

Minimal Side Effects!

Just a quick update on a great weekend. I am so happy that Nova did not appear to experience any severe side effects from the carboplatin treatment the other day, aside from a tiny bit of diarrhea. They said side effects might occur within 3-5 days after the treatment (that was last Wednesday). That time has passed, and Nova appears to be doing great. She's usually pretty lethargic anyway, so it was hard to tell if she was more tired than usual. If anything, she seems to have a little MORE energy than usual. We had a few visitors to the house over the last few days, and she has been her typical nosy self, getting up and walking around, and also leaning on people. Her appetite seemed a little off during the day, but she is still eating her meals.

Here Alex is feeding her sliced turkey and ice cubes during one of the afternoons where she didn't seem to feel like eating. She will eat sliced turkey no matter what.

I don't know why, but I don't ever notice her at the water dish and she won't take water when I get it. Perhaps I should remind her again of that card Annie sent about drinking plenty of fluids! So I have still been hand feeding her ice cubes and watching to make sure her pee isn't too dark. She's even gone out to hop around in the snow for a few minutes.

The next event is Wednesday, where I will take her to her regular vet for a CBC blood test. I really don't know exactly what it is for, but I think it will give some indication how the chemo is affecting her.