Sunday, July 26, 2009
(Note: Nova puppy pics are from 2004)
Friday, June 26, 2009
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Nova has adapted incredibly to being a blind dog. She finds her way around the house and outside to her "spot" without any assistance whatsoever. It's so funny, she appears to use her tail as a blind dog "cane", wagging it in a wide arc so she can feel the walls. She has really sharpened all of her senses. She can tell if anyone is approaching her when she has her favorite stuffy in front of her, and she will rush to grab it and let out a "watch it" bark. It's so funny because Nova was always really lax when Emmy would steal her stuff, she'd just give in and back off. Not anymore! Last night, she even stole Emmy's dinner.
Nova was scheduled to have new chest x-rays at the oncologist early this month. After a lot of waffling, I rescheduled the appointment to later in the month (tomorrow in fact). I had kind of a selfish reason for doing so, but I did it anyway. I was nervous that we might get bad news, and I didn't want it to ruin our vacation. Plus, if I heard bad news I don't think I could have left her in the kennel, but I couldn't find any other options. So I thought it would be best to wait until we got back.
I have no idea what to expect tomorrow. A few days before we left, I noticed a strange swelling in Nova's neck. It was not something I could feel at all, just something I could see under her skin when she turned her neck a certain way. But every time I think I see it (looks golf ball like), I grab her and feel her neck area all over. But I can't seem to find any type of mass, and it is all soft, there is nothing hard in there other than bone, that I could find. I thought that they might be swollen lymph nodes, but I thought if that would be the case they would feel hard. I decided that it could wait until the oncologist appointment.
Another strange thing is that since she has come home from the kennel she has been panting a lot. Now, it has been in the 90s this week, so it might be from the heat. And it might be pain from her glaucoma, although I took her to the opthomologist earlier this week and her eye pressures were fine. I am concerned that panting is a sign that the cancer has spread to the lungs. I am trying to remain positive, although I know metastises (sp?) are inevitable. We are going to have to deal with them sooner or later.
She doesn't pant when she is laying down, only when she gets up to move around. It is quite warm in my house (we don't like to turn the air on much), but I have tried fans, and turning the air on to see if it makes a difference and it doesn't seem to. But it is so hot and humid, it's been uncomfortable for me too. I think if I was a dog I would be panting too.
I want to know, but I don't want to know. You know? The whole diagnosis, amputation experience, treatments, x-rays, and then all the glaucoma problems with ensuing blindness. It has me just totally drained. Getting the x-rays tomorrow will be a big expense, and if it shows that there are tumors elsewhere, I will probably just lose it. I have done so much to care for this dog, and I don't want the cancer to win. If I find out it spread it is going to be so hard to know when to say when. I think that's the part I dread the most. I don't want her to hurt or suffer.
Oh well, I am trying to remain positive and hoping that the panting is just from the heat. Stay tuned for an update tomorrow.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Keeping Mom entertained with my famous "talking" (she thinks I am a drama queen):
Sniffin' the flowers:
As always, Emmy stays near by to watch out for me (I am so lucky to have a seeing eye person AND dog!)
Saturday, April 25, 2009
She follows me wherever I want to nap, and stays close by to keep me safe:
I mean it, I really felt like total crap:
Here my favorite stuffie puppy making me feel safe and loved when I had my bad headache:
After napping there for awhile, I woke up and sensed that Emmy was not in the room. So I got up to look for her. Mom heard me get up and decided to video tape me, so she could show everyone how I am learning to find my way. Here in this video, I found my way from my brother's room to my bed in the living room, without bumping into anything!
We just got back from local vet to get my eyeballs poked to get the pressure checked. Fun, fun, fun. The most exciting thing is that the pressures were normal, ranging from 10-14 in both eyeballs. No wonder I feel so good today! Mom also figured out show to fit me with my Ruffwear harness, and it worked great at the vet, and everything thought I looked very pretty in it. When we got home I went for a long hop around the yard with Mom. Now, I am going to try to explore a little more around the house. But not without a nap first!
Friday, April 24, 2009
So, it appears that I now have a new role. I am Mom to Tripawds.com's first Blind Tripawd. A "seeing eye person", if you will. Never thought I would be that, but I am dang proud. Everything right now is what the vets call "guarded". We are treating the pressure with the eyedrops and an oral medication (glycerin, she hates it, and puked it up) for a few days. If she is still blind then, then it is pretty definite that she will be blind permanently. At that point I will likely opt to have the same surgery I had for her in the left eye last week, which "kills" the fluid production in the eye. This will mean total blindness, but will also mean no more glaucoma pain, and no more expensive meds. If she doesn't adapt well and is clearly suffering, well then there will be a much different path to consider. This feels like the "right" route for us. As to how Nova will do as a blind Tripawd, only time will tell.
I have decided that I need to at least give her a few days to see how she does, and take it from there. I had to go with my gut. A Tripawds friend suggested I talk with Nova and try to connect and see if I can sense what Nova wants. I know it sounds wacky, but she is so right. Everything that Nova has done thus far since I've picked her up had communicated to me that she was not ready to give up, so I am going to support that.
Nova was ecstatic to see me when I picked her up, and her senses of smell and hearing seem to have taken over in a whole new way. It was one affectionate snuggle after another. She rode home in the van peacefully resting, then got up from time to time to sniff her way to my shoulder and rest her head on there like she usually does. We had a big long talk in the car about our plan. She thinks she can do it, and wants to try.
When we got home, I ran in to get the leash so I could walk her right out to the yard to pee, and Emmy burst out the door and jumped into the van. They had the most precious reunion ever, I could not stop crying it was so beautiful. Then Emmy led us out to the yard, and Nova's head was held high as she sniffed all her favorite places, slowly, but confidently. Emmy would sidle up to her as if to say, it's ok, I'm here and I will protect you and show you the way. We went in the house and she was different right away. It was like she had decided that it was time to get to know the house by her sniffer and ears. I walked through the living room and kitchen, where she spends most of her time, and watched her slowly sniff and discover the perimeter of the room. She ultimately found her water dish, where she proceeded to gulp up so much water (I shouldn't have let her) that she ended up puking. Before she did that, I offered her food, which she refused, but turned and sniffed her way to her favorite vantage point between the kitchen and the living room. My husband was shocked when she quickly found it, plunked herself down, then a few minutes later abruptly got up, stepped ON to the hardwood (rather than the carpet) and puked up all the water she'd gobbled down. I cleaned it up, and she rested back in her spot for a minute, then sniffed her way BACK to the food bowl, and ate her dinner.
The whole family walked through the house in the meantime, just watching her discover the house in her new way and expressing amazement and encouragement. She spent some time following our voices, all quizzical, like she was intent on learning the "new" map of the house. I went off to my son's baseball practice (since I have missed out on so many of my kids' activities these past few days), and came back and she got up to greet me. And last night (I get weepy just saying this) she sniffed her way and followed my voice into my office to sit in front of my desk while I typed emails. This was clearly not a dog who was ready to give up just yet.
When Nova and I had our heart to heart in the car, I honestly felt her telling me "You need to let me try this, Mom, and see if I can do it." I really feel this, and it is so unexplainable how you can just get these communications from your pets if you really try to connect and believe that you can. We didn't talk timeframe, but the hopelessness and despair of the last few nights was gone. I have to grant her this opportunity, I must. So that's what I will do. This is definitely going to be one of those "one day at a time" situations.
I left messages with her oncologist earlier in the day and her regular vet, just to get their takes on the situation. The oncologist didn't call me back yet, which disappointed me, but my vet did. He, like the optho and his entire staff, said that they did not feel it was time to give up. I've only had a person or two try to encourage me to not put Nova through such "suffering". But I honestly can say at this point that she is not anywhere near suffering right now. So I am not ready to give up. I will stand behind my girl to the end. Rene from Tripawds pointed out to me that many people think that an amputation is suffering, and cruel to your pet. But we all know better. I think back to that a$$hole back at the oncologist who said that I should have sent Nova to Heaven rather than put her through an amputation. My girl went on to climb mountains and hop confidently with no assistance. So THERE!
Last night went really well. The priority today is to clean the house to make sure there is nothing underfoot for her. Last night she slept on her bed and moved to the couch during the night. I heard her move in the night, and peeked out the door to check on her. Her ear perked up, so she knew I was checking, but she went back to sleep. This morning she found her way to her water bowl with no assistance, then sniffed her way to the door to pee, back in for 10 minute rest in her favorite nap spot, sniffed her was back to her bowl for her breakfast, then back to the door to poop (this is her routine).
I’ve been taking her out on a leash, there are just too many things to bump into outside but she’s doing well. I hope to teach her a pattern to follow to get out to the yard and back. We have an invisible fence, which is useless for her now (they haven't worn their collars since last fall since they learned the boundaries. So she will always need to be supervised. She came back in and sniffed her way to the boys room and jumped up on one of their beds. I am very thankful I have a 1-story home, the perfect style for a blind Tripawd.
Emmy (my other Dane) has been awesome, like Nova's personal guide. She nudged Nova’s head toward her food bowl, and guided her down the hall to the boys’ room. Nova jumped up on the bed like it was no problem and Emmy joined her, with her paw on her, for protection. She has assumed the role of protector. We are Nova's assistance team. She's the seeing eye dog, and I am the seeing eye person.
The only thing I don’t like right now is that I know there is pain from the glaucoma. I’m doing all I can to control it until middle of next week when/if the determine she is permanently blind then she will be able to have the injection in the remaining eye. Then the pain will be gone. I am not expecting any miracles with the eyesight coming back. The pressure is just too up and down in the eye. With the pain gone, we’ll see how it goes. Considering how well she’s adapted in the last 24 hours, I am not ready to quit. And neither is she.
As sad as I feel that my precious girl is blind, I feel this sense of peace that I know we are doing what is right for us, at this time, this moment, in our journey. Today we are going to create a pawprint garden stone together that I have had sitting on my shelf for the last few weeks. I plan to take some videos soon so that I can show everyone how she sniffs her way around to things. I will also add some pictures, I just don't have the time to download them right now, but will soon.
I got to thinking. Now, if she IS blind, I could always have the same procedure I had done in the left eye last week, the only trouble with that was that he would only do it in a blind eye, and at that point in time he could not say for sure that the eye was permanently blind. What was so very maddening was knowing that I would have to wait for 10-14 days trying to treat it with medication, not really knowing if she was in pain or not, just to see if her vision comes back. It might return from this bout, but she could have another bout at any minute that could cause permanent blindness too. I wish I could do the laser surgery, just to see if it worked, but given that it doesn't solve the problem, it seemed to not make sense to me. Plus, I was still worried that she would not be able to function as a blind Tripawd.
But I didn't want her to be in pain. The surgery in the left eye last week went great, and although she is permanently blind in the left eye, the pressure is gone, and doesn't come back supposedly. So it solved the problem and provides pain relief. What I thought I might opt for is to ride out the next 10 days or so to see if the sight comes back, and also in the meantime see how Nova fares blind on 3 legs. The factor that I don't like is that I won't know for sure if she is in pain or not. That kills me. If her sight does not return in the right eye, and she is faring well as a blind dog, then I can have the less expensive procedure done on the 2nd blind eye.
A handful of friends begged me not to let Nova suffer, and I agreed with them. Stumbling around in pain all the time is suffering. But if she CAN adapt (and I know many who can) then she might not be suffering. What a hard decision. I just didn't know what the road ahead was going to be like in the cancer department. Nova had done so well with her amp, chemo, etc. I feel like I would be throwing it all away if I gave up. But I didn't want her to suffer. There would still the very real possibility that she had lung mets down the line and ends up suffering all the more. My head was spinning from all the decisions and what ifs.
He said I could come pick her up any time I wanted. I arranged for around 1 pm. Just then, my son texted me from school asking me to accompany him to the hospital to visit his Grandma. (His dad died back when he was 7, and Alex has remained very close to his Grandma). The previous night when I was fighting my battle with Nova, he found out that his Grandma was having surgery, and had almost died from complications. He wanted to go see her during school. Anyway, when he first sent me the text, I told him he could drive himself, because I had to pick up Nova. It took me about 10 seconds to regret saying that, I immediately called the vet and said I would be there a few hours later. In this case, Nova could wait, and would likely benefit from the additional monitoring anyway. My son needed me, and I needed to make the time. I was horrendously guilty from missing his track meet the day before.
Going to visit his Grandma turned out to be just the distraction I needed. I was able to focus on someone else, just for a short while, and think things through a little more clearly. By the time we got there she had stabilized, and we had a wonderful visit. It was amazing to see her talking and happy, after being near death just the night before. It got me motivated to approach Nova's situation from a more positive direction. I didn't know what the road ahead of us would be like, all I knew was that we were all going to be loving her big time that night. I thought of some of the things I could do to help her adapt to the blindness. I had purchased her a Ruffwear harness way back in November and thought that might help now. Hey, if Alex's grandma could bounce back from a situation that seemed hopeless the night before, why couldn't Nova?
I get out the medication (Xalatan and Trusopt) and give her a dose in the right eye immediately. I had asked the Optho what I should do if the blindness recurred, and he said give a dose asap and call. This was the best chance to prevent permanent blindness. Plus he said to check and see if her pupil constricts (means there is some vision), and I do that and it is totally dilated to black, I can't even see it, plus the eye is clouding a bit, which is big time bad news, I learn as I frantically Google while I am on hold at MVS. They said get her in NOW. It was almost 1 in the morning by this time. I sat with her for a few minutes, trying to decide if this could wait until the morning. I knew that time was of the essence, and that the only chance she had to save her eyesight would be to get treated immediately.
Once again battled with getting her in the car, in her darkness she was panicky and distressed.
We get there and they can't seem to find my chart, turns out that the most likely place it is is locked in the opthomologist's office, or perhaps he took it home. So they have to get her whole history from me all over again, names of medications, dosages, etc., piecing it together with whatever they can find in the computer. I am furious because I know that with this eye pressure, time is of the essence if you want to save the vision. The exam seemed to take forever, this time the pressure was in the 60s and one reading came in in the 90s. From what I've read, if the pressure is over 50 for more than a few hours or so, it most definitely causes irreversible vision loss.
They started her on an intensive dose of the 3 eyedrops she was on, and admit her for the night. Since nothing was to be known for sure until the Optho came in at 9 am, I decided to drive back home to try to get some sleep (yeah right). They put her in a kennel and she was howling and crying. I wanted to go in there and curl up with her, but she wouldn't calm down, she would just stand and cry. The pain from the pressure must have been excruitating.
When I arrived back home at 4:45 am, I call to check on her, and they say the pressure is still the same, but they were starting her on some oral glycerin thing. I manage to get an hour or so of sleep, wake up at 6:30 and check in with them again. The Dr said that the glycerin brought the pressure down to the upper 20s, not perfect, but much better, a LITTLE of the cloudiness has disappeared. So that was good news. But the bad news was that the pupil would not constrict, meaning there was little if no vision left in the right eye. She said we'd have to wait and see, sometimes you need to wait some time after the pressure comes down to see if there is vision left. She added that Nova had not made any effort to lay down, just standing in her kennel bumping into walls. At least she has stopped crying so the pain must have eased a little.
The plan was to talk to the Optho when he got in around 10 am and see when the pressure was under control. But the big question is, what then? It was looking less and less likely that we would be able to save her vision. But then there was still the pain from the pressure to deal with. The only way to make the pain go away for sure (if it couldnt be treated with meds) is do the injection we did last week in the other eye. That means total loss of vision forever.
I was struggling with “quality of life” issues big time. Generally, a blind dog is no big deal, but everything thus far had shown that Nova was miserable as a blind dog. But then again her misery could have been from the pain. How would I know? I was worried that even if they get the pressure under control (which they did yesterday) that it would shoot way up that night, this weekend, next week, who knows when? And then there would be another round of midnight emergency visits, and worst of all, Nova would be suffering big time.
I really got down and depressed. I was so concerned about her being able to get around on 3 legs, and be blind too. I've always felt that my girl can do anything, but being a front leg amputee she has to almost “launch” into a big hop and go pretty fast to get enough momentum to move forward. When the blindness occured, she would hop more timidly, and tripped over her foot in the process. And when she bumped into things she would get all freaked out, and it was so hard to calm her being such a big dog.
The negative thoughts overwhelmed me. She would need to be monitored and assisted constantly, every time she would have to go outside, eat, etc. Being a couch potato in this case would probably be a good thing, so she had that going for her. But what quality of life would she have living in total darkness, sleeping all the time, and only getting up assisted to eat and go outside? The other issue is that she was a very panicky dog, easily stressed. So that would mean every bump and stumble would get her all worried and upset, or worse yet, HURT because when a Great Dane like her panics it's like Marmaduke, frantic limbs all over the place.
And HOW does one proceed with aggressive cancer treatment (metronomics, although she is off Cytoxan for a week or two), expensive chest x-rays, etc. with a dog in this condition? I was such an awful mess. I just didn't know what to do. I wanted so much to do the right thing for her, but I just didn't know what was right. I had tried so hard to be positive throughout her illness and had spent every cent I could find on her care and treatment. But was this the point where I am doing all of it for me, and not for her? Would it be fair to ask her to endure this?
She had a cataract in her remaining eye, and also uveitis, but had been controlled with medication for almost 2 years. Everything was fine last week in that eye. After the left eye surgery I had noticed her rubbing and scratching at her left eye, and also the right eye. I found that strange since her right eye had always been great. I called the Opthomologist and was told that uveitis can go from controlled to out of control in a short period of time. I had to bring her back in. I was a mess. I couldn't even get her to walk without slamming into things, so I had no clue how I would get her into the car. I didn't know how things could go from good to bad in one night.
I never thought in a million years that the glaucoma might get worse before the cancer. It is so frustrating to have spent months treating her, having her do so well after surgery, chemo, etc., no lung mets, and now it appeared she might be blind! I was overwhelmed. How could I possible cope with a 125-lb blind Tripawd? How would SHE cope? Was the blindness permanent? (With Glaucoma she will be blind eventually, so the question was whether or not her sight could be saved a little while longer.
On the drive there, Nova stands the whole time in the car because she can't see, and she is scared so rides the whole way with her chin on my arm whining like “Mom, I'm scared.” I'm a wreck, talking on the cell phone with my husband discussing different scenarios and such. I hadn't ever thought through what would happen if she went blind as a Tripawd. It really threw me for a loop because she'd had glaucoma for 2 years, and complications here and there, and the left eye (which was the worst eye) didn't get uncontrollable with medication for 2 years. But here she was, scared and shaking and absolutely miserable. She was so miserable, and I kept trying to see how, if this was the reality and she would have to be this way, how could that possibly be a good quality of life for her? Oh geeze, I was SO not ready to think about these things.
I got her to the vet and she stumbles out of the car, walks into a few walls, all while tentatively hopping and whimpering, looking dazed and confused. Lots of sympathetic looks came our way from the waiting room, then a dog starts to notice her from 2 feet away, Nova doesn't even flinch until the dog makes a sound, then she gets her quizzical, tilted head look, like “what was that?” I am a basket case, crying, etc. because it's so dang cute, and she's been scared and cowering all day. We get in to the exam room and start to check her out. First they say that the surgery worked beautifully in the left eye (YAY!), in fact the pressure was so low they couldn't even get a reading.
HOWEVER, the right eye's pressure had shot up so high, higher pressure than she had ever had in her other eye. This is something that was totally under control for 2 years, now the right eye decides to go crazy out of nowhere. It was like the fluid production was surgically stopped in the left eye, so it decided to take over the right eye immediately, in just a matter of a few days. I was appalled. The optho came in and said they wanted her inpatient for a few hours, they were going to try some different drops and monitor her, but it was highly unlikely that she would have vision in the eye when all was said and done. He was very grave about it all. Usually by the time you get them in, the vision is gone, he said. So I go off poking around stores feeling miserable for a few hours. Then they called to tell me that they got the pressures down and that she could come home. I was relieved.
I'm sitting in the waiting room and I hear this fast HOP-HOP-HOP-HOP-HOP coming down the hall and she comes barreling around the corner, right AROUND a chair and straight into my arms. The Doctor comes out, shaking his head like they always seem to do for my girl, and says she defied the odds, they got the pressures down and it appeared she had most, if not ALL vision left in that eye. He was shocked, said that I must have got her there in just in time. He put her on the same expensive eyedrops (Xalatan) that I just got her OFF of in her left eye, and said she will likely remain on them for the rest of her life. ARGH.
He also cautioned me that this could be something that could cause her to go blind in a few days, to a few years. I'm was just glad there was more time. I really was starting to panic about her quality of life. I have had blind dogs before who adapted well, but they went blind over time, they weren't struck blind suddenly. If you would have seen how scared and miserable she was you would have understood what was going through my head. Just that morning, I kept looking at her intently, trying to determine if she was telling me that she was tired and was done, and I swear that's what she was saying, but by the end of the day she was sticking her big ol head on my keyboard, licking my face, wagging her tail, asking for her dinner, like it all was nothing.
I went to bed happy, although a little fearful what I knew would be a roller coaster ahead. I was thankful for this reprieve, but worried about how long it would be before we had problems with the eye again.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Saturday, April 11, 2009
You can see Table Rock way out there in the distance, jutting up from the mountains:
This was my first look at the Orchard, from the overlook up on the parkway. It looked pretty cool:
Mom kept snapping away with her camera. Behold the beauty of the mountains!
And behold the beauty of the Great Dane!
We drove down the Orchard road off the Parkway and walked together among the budding apple trees.
I hear some of these trees are over 100 years old!
Sniffin' the wonderful Spring air!
We walked around for quite awhile:
Mom just wouldn't stop with that camera!
She was so glad to see me so healthy and hoppy!
Mom is so crazy about pictures of me, I think she must be putting together a daily "Year of Nova" calendar:
Some cars were slowing down up on the Parkway to look at me:
These are the signs directing drivers to the Orchard. They even have Monarch butterflies there:
It had been a long photo session, so I was ready to go back to the cabin for a nap!