Monday, January 26, 2009

Hoppy 5th Birthday to ME!

It's my turn to write the post today, since Mom has been so busy with her marathon training (she thinks she's busy NOW, just wait until APRIL!) First, the most important thing about today is it is MY 5TH BIRTHDAY! I can't believe I was just a newborn pup 5 years ago.

Birthday's are great. Mom usually doesn't make a real big deal about my birthday, but this morning she gave me a great new red fleece jacket. It is the same style as my other one, but much more my color. Emmy and I are going to share our two jackets, but this way we each have one to wear if Mom wants to take us out together.

Another exciting thing about today is that we got to go for a R-I-D-E. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it still was to a vet's office, but not either of the vets I have been used to going to all the time. Today we went to see Dr. Morreale, the dog opthamologist at Michigan Veterinary Specialist (MVS), or what Mom calls the "Taj-MaVet" since their building is so fancy. It was time for my 3 month follow-up appointment. I had not seen Dr. Morreale since a few weeks before Mom found my lump around Halloween. So the last they saw of me, I had 4 legs.
Yep, this place is so fancy I felt like I was checking into a spa or something (I wish! I'll take the TriPawdicure, please!)

The fancy-schmancy stone floors were not exactly Tripawd-friendly, I wish there were more rugs, because I had to be real careful about slipping with all the muddy boots coming in:

The lobby had a TV playing Seinfeld reruns. Huh? Who wants to watch SEINFELD reruns? They would have done better with Animal Planet, but I guess they are trying to make people laugh since once they leave they will be crying when they see the bill.

Lots of people were staring and smiling at me in the waiting room. Yes, I AM a showstopper, aren't I?

Dontcha just love my new coat? Of course when I got on the scale there was a little head-scratching going on. Hmmmmm.... "how did Nova lose all this weight?" the Tech said. Duh, lady, it wasn't SlimFast, okay? Since we hadn't seen them since October, they had no idea I had an amputation.

Dr. Morreale and a vet in training came in to examine me, and test the pressure in my eyes. I forgot how much I hate having them stick all those things in my eyes! First they put these little strips under my eyelids that have to stay there for a minute, to measure my tear production. Yuck. Then they numb my eyeballs and poke some tool all over each eyeball, to test the pressure in there. I have very strong eyelids, so they practically had to take a crowbar to open them. Even Mom had to help.

The pressure was great in both eyes, for the first time in a long time. 8 in the right eye, and 9 in the left eye (my blind eye, the one with glaucoma). That was an amazing drop from almost 40 in the left eye back in October. So the Dr. said he was really happy with the way the medication was working.

We finally were able to go and start driving back home. Mom didn't cry when she saw the bill, but she wasn't laughing either. She just made a comment to the lady that I should have got a bunch of spa treatments at that price, then laughed that I was the "Million Dollar Dog". It was so nice of her to say that, don't you think? I AM the Million Dollar Dog... because I feel like (and look like) a Million Bucks!

We headed home for my "Birthday Nap". I believe that EVERYONE deserves a good nap on their birthday! I alos hear that there is something special for me for my Birthday dinner tonight too! Can't wait!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Still Lookin' Good, But Brrrr.........

Everything is still great on the home front here with Nova. Yesterday she had her latest CBC and everything was great! She didn't particularly enjoy the trip to the vet yesterday though, because it was sooooooooo cold. Even with her nice fleece coat, she was zipping to and from the car and through the parking lot because her feet were so cold. She even kept her coat on to warm up when we got back and planted herself right in front of the fire once I turned on the gas fireplace.

Trips outside to pee are very short and rushed. You'd think she was trying to break a world record for fastest pee. Again, she zips out there so fast it is scary to watch her. The ice is frozen solid on the patio and it is covered with crunchy snow, so luckily she can get her footing okay. I've been trying to chip through the ice, but even the "guaranteed to melt anything" salt is just not working. I am going to try to video tape her the next time she goes out, you would not believe how fast she can run.

Once again, we are stuck with another "snow day" with the kids home, which in this case is actually a "too cold" day rather than any sort of snow accumulation. The girls love it because the family is here, the fire is going, and there are plenty of opportunities to cuddle up and snooze with someone. Today Nova's spent most of her time warming up on the couch with her horse stuffy, or snuggling up in the blankets on one of the boys' beds.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Two Month Ampuversary!

Today is Nova's TWO month Ampuversary! I look back at how things were going a month ago, and it really can't get any better. She is definitely back to her old self, and her incision has healed beautifully. Her hair is starting to grow back here and there, but for now it is pretty patchy (I am told that is because of the chemo, and once the chemo is done her hair will grow back much faster). Actually, the worst spot for hair growth has been on her back (right above her hips) where they shaved a square for the spinal catheter during her surgery. The hair appears to not be growing back at all there. What is really funny is that the place where the hair is growing the quickest is directly ON the amputation scar. You can't even really see the scar anymore.

The dog dramas are minimal these days, chest x-rays are clear (indicating the cancer has not spread), and we have settled into a peaceful, steady routine. Life could not be better. The only thing I wish for is warmer weather, so she would spend more time outside. Nova is not much for winter, and I am really looking forward to taking her out to the park or other social activities like local running races and cross country meets, but she is really not interested in the winter and getting wet. She is still very much the house cat in that regard.

Her appetite is great! She devours pretty much every meal I give her, which is EVO kibble mixed with various all-meat or mostly all-meat canned foods like EVO, Wellness, and Merrick meals. Although, tonight she turned up her nose at a meal (Wellness Salmon canned, scratch that off the shopping list) and my heart skipped a beat. It is so hard not to freak out over every little thing. I fed the meal to her sister, Emmy, and gave her something else, and she ate it with gusto. That is the first time I have ever seen a dog turn down ANY brand or flavor of canned food.

Lately she has been back to wrestling with her toys too. That may sound like no big deal, but it makes me so happy. She loves stuffed animals, and last night around 4 am I heard her jumping about in the great room. I came out and saw that she had emptied her toy box of most of her stuffies (her sister Emmy was dead asleep) and was throwing around a big fish that made loud grunting sounds. My 12-year-old Ben had fallen asleep on the couch and was plenty grumpy about all the noise, but I was just so happy to see Nova enjoying herself, I went back to bed with a big smile on my face.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Winter Fun

It's so hard to get Nova outside in the Winter to play, she is really much more like a house cat than a dog! During the other seasons she is plenty active (active for a couch potato Great Dane), but she doesn't do regular dog things like chase balls, retrieve sticks, and dig holes. When it comes to snow, I can just get her out for a quick pee, sniff, and a look around. This afternoon I got her to go out for awhile with Emmy in the falling snow. I want to try to keep her active so that when Spring rolls around she will be used to being active as a Tripawd.

The girls entertained themselves for awhile by barking and listening to the echo through the woods. Get a load of this mid-shake picture, the flapping jowls crack me up:

Emmy says "Come on, sissy, let's play!"

Once Emmy started getting the zoomies and running around the yard, Nova got a little intimidated and went back to stand on the patio. But she did get excited in the way dogs do, when they do that playful "downward dog". This is a beautifully executed Tripawd Downward Dog:

She is really good at the 3-legged downward dog, but it's creating quite the callous on her elbow. These are typical with giant breed dogs, but until she became a Tripawd, this pansy has lived the life of luxury napping on her cushy bed, her kid brother's bed, or on a leather sofa!
Emmy's 4-legged version is not quite as graceful, I think it is those spare tires around the middle:

Nova really wanted to play, but I think she was afraid of getting bowled over by Emmy. Isn't that incision healing beautifully?

Here is Emmy, right in the middle of a vicious case of the "zoomies", notice Nova taking cover behind the grill. When Emmy has the zoomies, we ALL take cover!

Oh no! Zoomie attack!

What a statuesque Tripawd! My girl should be a model!

"Okay, Mom, it's time to go back in and be a couch potato now":

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Something Cute

I was just reorganizing my photo archives and I came across this picture of Nova as a puppy, just a week or two after we brought her home. What is special about this picture is that Nova still occasionally naps in this position as a 108-lb dog.

As a 15-lb puppy, its sooooo cute.

As a big goofy 108-lb Dane (135-lbs pre-amputation), it just looks hilarious.

She still sleeps on her back as a Tripawd, in these unique nap positions. For some reason I just haven't managed to get a picture. It is usually with the legs spread out and the tripod leg straight up in the air, like a mast on a ship or something.

Just a cheerful reminder that these furry kids are ALWAYS still puppies!

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Very Hoppy News - "Apparent Complete Remission"

The first thing I want to say today is... YAYYYYYYY!!!! Today Nova went to the Animal Cancer Center for her 3rd round of Carboplatin. The 3rd round is particularly scary because that is when they do another round of chest x-rays to see if the chemo is working. Last night I was a mess. I had a lot of trouble sleeping and kept trying to think pawsitive, but also try to prepare myself mentally for bad news, because it can happen to anyone. Lately as I have been reading stories on there have been some pawrents who have received bad news about their dogs, like the chemo was not working, cancer had spread to the lungs, etc. It all just ripped my heart out and I ache for those people who are going through that. I pray for these people and their pups each and every day. I know the time will come when I am in their place, and will have to face that with Nova. I just keep thinking, ooooohhhhhh Lord, please not now!

Ok, on to the good news. This morning the roads were extra slippery so we were about 15 minutes late for our appointment. The office was packed with several canine cancer patients, Nova being the only amputee. They took her in first for the x-rays. I tore through about 10 Entertainment and Dog Fancy magazines agonizing over the results. If lung metastases were seen, that meant that they would not do the chemo, and we would enter a different phase of the battle, a phase I am SOOOOOOO not ready for. (I know, I don't think ANYONE is ever ready for it.) The Tech came out and told me her bloodwork and x-rays were AWESOME, but they wanted to do two more to get the lower part of her lungs and abdomen, just to be thorough. Being such a big girl, it was impossible to get the whole area in 1 x-ray. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, but still was a little nervous as they took Nova back for 2 more x-rays.

Awhile later I overheard the Tech tell another pawrent that there were two chemo patients ahead of him, and that one was "that big girl". So that was a promising sign. I spent so much time agonizing, it feels so silly now. One guy was there with his cat and they came out and said they needed to "put him in a room" to talk. That means bad news. So I sat there praying that they wouldn't come out and invite me into a room. Shortly, the Tech came out without Nova and gave me the thumbs up. All was clear! I was beaming from ear to ear. I've never been so happy to sit another 45 minutes in a Doctor's office.

There were some other things I asked about when I was there that were on my laundry list of questions. First, about the reverse sneezing that Nova had done a few times. Nothing to worry about, according to Dr. O. I had been tracking the time and circumstances in which she had been doing it, and it each time it had been after she gobbled up a meal that was particularly tastier than usual (like that nasty Working Dog Stew with stinky tripe in it). Another thing I asked about was that her femur on her back right leg had been jutting out. Of course anytime I see any type of visible lump these days I panic. Turns out it appears to be due to shifting her weight than any concern about metastisis.

I found another small lump that resembled the other benign cysts (aka ZITS) she had on her body. A couple more had popped up. They aspirated them and they ended up just being more zits. Nova sure has sensitive skin! She is the zit queen. Has anyone ever heard of chemo causing zits?

Her cut on her front paw pad appears to healing well, and is not a pressure sore of any sort. Who knows where she nicked it. The bruising and splotches that had me all panicky a few days ago had disappeared so they weren't as big of a deal as I thought. Her body weight was up to 108 lbs (same as it was at the CBC last week), so it was great to see that Nova was adding a little meat to her Kate Moss frame. Her appetite has been amazing, it is so shocking to see someone go through chemo and still be hungry all the time.

After I got home I read through the status letter that they were sending to Nova's regular vet (they gave me a copy). Under "Diagnosis and Current Status" they wrote "Osteosarcoma, left distal radius, apparent complete remission." Aw geeze, it was just so wonderful to read that. I know remission doesn't mean a cure, but it means that we have beaten that awful beast for now, and that is the best thing I could ask for. There will be one more round of Carbo in 3 weeks and then another chest x-ray in the Spring. I am so hopeful that Nova will still be hoppy and healthy in the fall when my son's Cross Country season starts.

One thing I wanted to comment on is how far canine cancer treatment has come just in the last 5-10 years. It is so amazing. Several years ago (must have been 2002 or so) we had a Tripawd dalmatian with osteosarcoma in his rear leg. He lived 4 months after his amputation. Looking back, I don't recall ever being offered chemo, or having the vet suggest that chest x-rays be done. No one had ever offered us the option, nor were we told that it had already spread. We just did the amputation and let him live out his life. A football-sized tumor grew in his abdomen, and we just expected that it would ultimately spread. I just don't recall being offered the type of options that are available now.

Right now I have been reading a great book that I got for Christmas, called "Merle's Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog" by Ted Kerasote. In the past few days I have been getting to the point where Merle is aging and getting sick, and of course he ultimately dies (I skipped ahead to read the end, and it was so heartwrenching that the pages are all wet). I set it aside last night and read a marathon training book instead. I just couldn't take all the dog drama with all the worrying I had been doing about today's appointment.

So for now, all is well in the world of Nova the Tripawd. And I am giving thanks big time tonight.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Weird Splotches

Just within the past 24 hours, Nova has developed these weird splotches on the back of her neck and right below it on her upper chest. She is not scratching it or anything, but it appears to have spread between last night and this morning. Of course that has got me worried.