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Second Chemo tx and Elgin’s ongoing progress

Friday, October 5th, 2012

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As you can see, Elgin is taking it easy after his second round of chemo. He continues to astound us and the neighborhood.  He is now pulling me around the block on our browndog walks.  He is so robust, that I have to look for physical signs that he’s wearing himself out… he blushes pink around his eyes and his tongue curls up when he pants (he always pants really hard, so I can’t use that as an indicator). He also starts to “sink” when he’s fatigued… he hops, but his back end gets lower with each hop, like he’s in quicksand.  After my workout at the gym yesterday, I can easily imagine how his leg must be burning!

This week the weather here was incredibly hot, over 100 on a couple of days, and so after our walks, I broke out his pool and let him lounge in it for a while. I think it must have felt funny on his incision because he hung his bum out over the side while he was laying in it.  It was pretty funny looking.

So after the second round (which took 5 hours!) he had no loss of appetite, no lethargy, and just no signs of side effects at all.  Elgin is daily returning to all of his previous mannerisms… plus a few new ones.  While he can hop up the stairs on his own, If Gary is around he will put his front paws on the step, and pause, while looking back over his shoulder with his eyes only-not turning his head, to wait for Gary to pick up his back end and put it on the step, and they make it up the stairs in this way. You can’t tell me dogs are dumb.  This one’s got it all figured out!

He sleeps with us on our bed (good reason to upgrade from a queen to a king) and instead of laying nicely parallel between us, he has begun to lay perpendicular at the end of the bed… I imagine if someone took an aerial photo, we’d look like the pie symbol. What takes the irritation (almost) out of this, is that he lays on his leg-less side.  He’s begun doing this little by little, now, after 5 weeks post-amputation.  We imagine his body was pretty tired of laying on just one side all the time. The bed must be soft enough that the pressure doesn’t hurt so much on that hip socket.

Now he’s trying it more on other, harder surfaces.  He never lays long on that side, but it’s good to see that he is apparently not in ANY pain anymore.

He is a little aprehensive when we leave him alone, and this manifests in him licking.  He has always licked his front legs when he’s nervous, and now he licks his hip/incision too.  But it’s not obsessive. Thankfully.   Poor guy, after being babysat attentively for 5 weeks, he’s uneasy when he’s left alone.  But he’s getting over it.

One last picture; here he is, in his favorite sleeping position on the stairs.  I always joked that it looked like he had a bad wreck on the stairs, but now that his leg is missing, it’s even funnier! (Yes, I’ve been accused of having a warped sense of humor… I guess it’s true. 🙂


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Elgin’s going 100mph

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

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One week post-chemo, stitches out…

Elgin handled his first chemo treatment very well.  He was a little lethargic and had little to no appetite for a day, but otherwise he was fine.  He continues to heal and make his way back to how he was before the amputation (or before the cancer caused him so much pain).  He is the happiest when he gets to go out on Browndogs.  For the past two weeks I would take him 3 houses down to visit his girlfriend, and then home we would hop, because I didn’t want him to overdo it.  Overdo it? HA!

Towards the end of last week I drove him down our big hill, to the park at the bottom of the street.  One of his favorite things is to pee on and walk through the big, brushy ornamental grasses planted around the perimeter of the park.  From the expression on his face, it seems he likes how it feels when they rub his face, chest and belly.( I can picture him in a pith helmet and canteen slung over his shoulder.)  I knew he really wanted to go down there, but we didn’t want to hop him there because we didn’t think he could hop back up our steep hill.  Boy, did he enjoy the park that day!  He hopped all around it, peed until he couldn’t squeeze out another drop, and laid down, partly in protes,t when we tried to go back to the vehicle to come home.  So I let him lay there for probably 15-20 minutes and then loaded him up and drove back home.

Early Saturday morningI hopped him 3 doors down, and then we hopped two more houses.  I figured this would be a long process, to work him up to getting to the park and home under his own power.  Well…… Elgin doesn’t know he’s a tripawd, evidently.  He has discovered that it is much easier on him to RUN than to walk.  Now he hurries everywhere. Even in the house.  Yesterday, I decided that since he seems so robust and eager to go, go, go, I’d hop him down the hill to the park and we’d just take our time getting home, stopping to rest whenever he needed to.  He PULLED me all the way down the hill, thoroughly enjoyed sniffing and peeing and wandering the park, and then he PULLED me back up the hill!  Unbelievable.  We did it again today, with one of his Browndog girlfriends, and same story; he PULLED me down the hill, PULLED me around the park like a kite at the end of a string,  PULLED me up the hill, AND PULLED ME ALMOST UNDERNEATH A PARKED CAR, CHASING A CAT!  Does this dog know he’s missing a leg?!  NO!  I had to stifle a giggle tho, at one point he walked on the wrong side of a tree and tried to lift his one leg to pee…. he only has the one, and he almost fell over.

When we got home I checked him over for injuries (he really dug in after that cat, and with only one remaining back leg, I was worried about him hurting that one.) and found a scrape/tear between his pads that was bleeding a little.  Since we had to go to the local vet for a CBC, I asked for something for his foot too. I was concerned that the chemo and his compromised immune system might turn it into an infection.  So we came home with an antibiotic spray.  This was the first time our local vet had seen him since his initial diagnosis.  The vet and his staff all turned out to see how Elgin was doing.  They were all smiles and laughter at how gung-ho he is now!

We are still watching him almost all the time, because he likes to lick his incision.  But hopefully in another week it will be sufficiently healed that the danger will be over.  His fur is growing back, and he seems generally much perkier than a week ago. Last night he was chasing me around the house playing hide-n-seek, and was mock-wrestling with my husband.  We are very pleased with his outlook.  I hope the other tripawds we’ve met who are on Elgin’s timeline, are doing as well.  Fenway?  Jack? How you guys doing?

 

First chemo treatment and stitches out!

Tuesday, September 11th, 2012

Hello all,

Well, after two weeks of babysitting 24/7, sleeping on the couch to make sure he didn’t lick open his sutures, get stuck behind a chair or couch, occasionally hand-feeding him, and generally overanalyzing every sneeze, blink, twitch, or cough, we finally hit a milestone:  the stitches are out and he had his first chemo treatment today.

We had been trying to let him get around more, and let people come visit him.  I was really concerned early last week because he seemed so apathetic.  Then he went 24 hours without drinking anything, and just generally seemed as if he’d given up.  His appetite was fair, at best, hence the hand-feeding. The only thing that seemed to perk him up was letting him outside on his leash, to hop down the sidewalk.  We did this late at night in the darkness, to lessen the possibility of distractions he might suddenly take off after, as well as it was cooler than the high 90’s temps we’ve had most days.

We worried also about his overal body soreness, because he seemed very hesitant laying down and getting up.  Rather stiff and shaky.  At the same time, we tapered him completely off his pain meds.  Not knowing if some of the side effects were from the meds and not the pain, we didn’t give in and administer any more doses. It was so sad to see him so listless.

Then, yesterday, a breakthrough! One of the neighbors came over for tea and to see how he was coming along.  When she came in the front door, he pupped up and ran to her, just like he used to!  Then he actually POUNCED on one of his toys!  This episode lasted less than 10 seconds, but it was REALLY good to see that spark.

So today we loaded him up and drove him to UC Davis for his 3-hour chemo treatment. He is doing really well and even managed for the first time, to beg like he used to!  “Belly Up!” has never been so wonderful!  His appetite seems better than before, as evidenced by the fact that he’s actually begging for food.

We are prepared for the nausea and possible diarrhea (they gave us meds for it when they gave him back to us today), if it happens, but for now we are pretty happy with how good he appears to be feeling.

His next chemo treatment will be in three weeks. He’ll have a total of 6 chemo treatments, with another lung X-ray after the third treatment, to check for metastases.  Lord willing, there will be none. We forgot to ask how much the leg weighed, but I plan on emailing the oncologist about some other questions, and will ask then.  I’ll share what the result is. 🙂

I hope our new Tripawds friends, Fenway, and the others who had their aputations around the same time as Elgin, are doing well too.

Here is a cell-phone pic of Elgin going belly-up for our burritos.

 

Daily drivel

Thursday, September 6th, 2012

HI all,

Elgin is doing well.  I continue to ice his incision a couple of times a day, and while I’m down there, I pick at his grody scabs from the razor burn, which covered almost all of his left bun.  They come off easily and I find that he’s easier to look at when that scabby patch is gone. Makes me wanna puke, tho.

Yesterday was a little tough on us both, as he is becoming more restless and mobile (or “clingy” as my husband, Gary, says, because it amounts to Elgin trying to find me, wherever I am in the house).  I thought I could get away with not putting up his pen in the living room, and simply putting on his inflatable donut, letting him have free access to the ground floor of the house.  He had been sneaking licks in and irritating his incision.  Up I went to the second floor, to start my work day. I heard him hopping around down there, and then all was quiet.  I thought, “COOL.  I can actually make some good progress on this book!” After about 10 minutes I heard noises down there and when I checked on him, discovered he can lick his incision AROUND that donut!  Dogue de Bordeauxs are very long-bodied, and it turns out in his favor, that he can reach his hindquarters.

So I put on the GINORMOUS satellite dish E-collar he was sent home in.  I went back upstairs, and continued up and down the stairs the rest of the afternoon, as he proceeded to get stuck in every doorway, catch every corner, and crash into every chair we own, with that vast expanse of plastic…. it reminded me of an object ‘d arte by Cristo! So I gave up and stayed downstairs with him, and when he would get up, I would get up and walk with him, to hold the edges of the collar so he could squeeze past the couch, or make it around the kitchen.

I did try boxer shorts, but I picked the wrong pair.  (I’m not accustomed to pilfering my husband’s underwear drawer to find something for the dog to wear!) When I put them on him, Elgin hopped right out of them, in addition to them not being very comfortable. My frustration was getting the better of me. I am not willing to spend my day walking around the house holding the edges of an E-collar! Nor do I think Elgin wants this.  So when Gary came home last night, I went to the gym.  When I got home (in a much better mood!) he had let Elgin outside to enjoy the night air without ANY collar, and Gary could still see him through the doorway to supervise the licking thing.

This morning, Gary picked a really good pair of boxers and put them on Elgin. Voila! They fit him much better, they didn’t fall down, and Elgin can’t lick the incision!  I actually got a lot of work done today, until the landscapers came and started up their leaf blowers and lawnmowers (which means a mandatory break for my recording, and a chance to blog).

I’ve begun to taper his Tramadol, and by Friday, he is to have stopped all pain meds.  I think this will be good, because he was a little weird sometimes, and we’re chalking it up to the meds.

Elgin’s progress

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

 Sept 5, 2012

Elgin is progressing nicely.  His razor burn is looking much better, and he’s getting around quite well!  I still sleep on the couch to make sure he doesn’t climb up there in the night, and also because I’m worried he’ll fall over or get stuck behind a chair or something.  I will soon go back to my own bed, after I’m sure he knows completely how to manage himself.  We bought a pen for him and I set that up in the living room yesterday and put his donut collar on so he wouldn’t lick his incision (I’ve caught him at it a few times now), and actually got in a few hours of work!

This morning, Elgin went to the front door and nudged his collar and leash… a clear sign he wanted to “Browndog”. (that’s what we call it when the 3 brown dogs on our street get together for their twice-weekly walk) Obviously he isn’t up to that yet, in fact, he’s not even up to having visitors yet, because he might get too excited and bouncy. So I compromised and let him lay on the front lawn.  He seemed perfectly content, and even managed to lay right in a small patch of sunlight.

Next Tuesday he gets his stitches out on 9/11, and also will start chemo that day.

Now, time to get back to work.

Elgin’s progress – day two – he poo-ed!

Saturday, September 1st, 2012

First, let me be clear, I won’t be blogging every time he blinks or farts or twitches a muscle.  BUT, this is important. ELGIN POO-ED.

When we brought him home yesterday we let him check out the house and yard and worried later that we’d let him overexert himself. We’d walked him around, holding him by his harness and the sheet under his abdomen supporting him too, but we worried anyway.  The night was a little restless for him and I slept on the couch nearby.  Good thing, too, because he clearly wanted to climb up and sleep there, in his usual spot.

This morning we took him out to potty, and he really seemed sore and very hesitant to move foreward.  We were dismayed that we let him do so much yesterday. So very, very slowly we made our way to the potty area.  He peed, then just stood there on trembling legs, looking around.  Finally we decided to drop the harness and take the sheet away and see what he wanted to do.  Kicked him outta the nest, so to speak.  He looked around and hopped off at a decent speed, and POO-ED!  He strained a bit, and it was pretty hard in consistency, but he did a respectable amount, twice!  Taught us that we were feeling way more sorry for him than we should have. We are still going to try and limit his activities, but it seems he needs to do things more on his own, with out us hovering like a helicopter.

We have left the harness on since he came home, in case we need to grab it in a hurry. I think we’ll leave it on for a little while yet, as he’s still a bit shakey and staggers into things. His aim is a little off when he goes to lay down, and usually gets just his front half on the bed.

He is eating ok, and so we did add pumpkin to his food this morning, hoping to soften up the stools. We are letting him eat and drink in the house.  This is a pretty big deal. Dogues tend to amass about a gallon of liquid and debris in their lips so that when they shake their heads they get maximum coverage on the walls. I’m not too tickled about the upcoming “slobber patrol” I’ll be doing.

There have been such nice comments from everyone, and the helpful hints are much appreciated.

Elgin is clearly more comfortable at home, and lord knows we are happier having him back home with us. I know you all know THAT feeling!

Elgin’s amputation is scheduled…

Monday, August 27th, 2012

Wow, that happened fast. UC Davis called this morning to say that I could bring him tomorrow morning for the initial consult, then they could do the amputation in the afternoon. Depending on how he recovers, we can pick him up Wednesday or Thursday. I am so glad to have this finally scheduled.  He’s been limping around, dangling it and generally looking miserable.  Last night we ordered ababy gate for the stairs, new pad for his crate, and hallway runners so he won’t slip on the hardwood floors. Today we orderd a ramp for him to go up into the back of the vehicle, and got a nice, big, washable bed to put in the room wherever we are so he can be with us. we discovered over the past two days that we need to put a sign on our front door so people won’t ring the doorbell or knock.. we have a very social neighborhood and everyone comes and goes frequently. Elgin is the perpetual guard dog and is ALWAYS there when someone comes over. These mastiff breeds are so stoic with their pain…  when someone is at the door, he gets all bouncy and agitated, not showing the immense pain he’s going through until the person is either gone or sits down to visit with us.

While I am very nervous about putting Elgin through all of this, I am confident he will be more comfortable after the limb is gone.

I gave him a bath and trimmed his toenails tonight.  He’s very handsome.  We showed the boys pictures of dogs just after they’d had a limb amputated, hoping to lessen the shock of how awful it’s going to look.  We stressed how imporant it is to have positive thoughts. At 19 and 13 they get it. I guess they’re not exactly boys anymore, but this is a big deal and we feel everyone should be as prepared as possible.

I tried to take a few pictures of the leg with the tumor. It’s just above the hock on his left back leg.

We appreciate everyone who is pulling for Elgin. 

Hello Tripawds!

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Welcome to Elgin’s Journey.

Elgin was born November 15, 2007. We have enjoyed his larger-than-life presence in our home since he was 4 months old.  Elgin’s personality matched his health; vigorous and strong.  He made friends wherever he went, and quickly became well-known in our neighborhood. Twice a week Elgin and a couple of other dogs (all brown colored) who live on our street, would go for a walk around the neighborhood. It was the “Browndog Walk”.

We had always had boxers, and while we love that breed, we quickly found that the Dogue de Bordeaux is the most perfect breed for our family.  A stout guardian, yet really mello and devoted to family. No worries about this one chewing, digging, barking, or being a nuisance…he would rather sleep.

This summer, when we returned from a week-long vacation, Elgin greeted us with a noticeable limp in his back left leg. As I was leaving for Sweden for two weeks with our younger son the next day, I unhappily left this situation up to my husband to handle. When we reached Sweden and the timezones were conducive to a conversation, I was able to reach my husband to check in.

What he told me made my heart drop into my shoes. The limp hadn’t abated, and after a visit to the vet for x-rays, it was discovered that Elgin had a tumor in his tibia, most likely it was osteosarcoma. A consult with a surgeon provided us with a second, concurring opinion. Prognosis could be as short as a couple of months, or as long as a year.  We decided that we didn’t want to traumatize Elgin with amputation and chemotherapy… we imagined it would be a terrible way to spend the last months of your life recovering from this. We planned on providing pain management meds and letting Elgin tell us when he was ready to go.

We decided to take him to UC Davis, a two-hour drive, to see if anything else that we didn’t know about could be done.  Their diagnosis was the same, and we were given several treatment options: Amputation and Chemo (median survival time: 1 year), Palliative treatment of radiation and chemo (median survival time: 4-6 months) and pain meds. We decided to go the palliative route.

So home we came with the “big guns” of pain medicine.  So far the Rimadyl was working well, but we were told that this cancer is incredibly painful… like getting hit in the leg with a baseball bat every morning, as the bone slowly explodes from the inside out. We began him on a regimen of Bisphosphonate and Tramadol.  Osteosarcoma is a very aggressive form of bone cancer, and also metastacizes at a very rapid rate to the lungs. Elgin’s lungs appeared clear on all ex-rays and the lymph nodes they aspirated were clear as well.  In that aspect, his health was superb. It’s not fair.  He’s not even five years old.

The day after the visit to UC Davis, Elgin began limping more pronouncedly, even through all those pain meds! We called UC Davis and asked about upping his meds, and scheduling him for radiation. The additional dose of Tramadol we gave him seemed to help somewhat, but not as much as we’d hoped.  Both my husband and I spent countless hours on the computer, researching about amputation, as we were beginning to re-think our decision. Better to relieve Elgin’s pain from the cancer, and maybe his last days will be happier.  That way, the risk of a pathalogic fracture at the site of the cancer would be eliminated also (the chance of such a traumatic event had terrified me since I’d heard it was a possibility). The other factors that made me reconsider, were thinking of Elgin, all hopped up on meds and in pain for the next few months, and also the challenge of monitoring his every movement, so that if a squirrel or a neighbor’s dog ran by our yard, he wouldn’t try to chase it and fracture the leg.

We had a family meeting and both of our sons were in favor of amputation, but my husband is still on the fence.

At this point in time we are trying to move forward to schedule his amputation, but we are having difficulties getting the vet at UC Davis to call us back (we assumed she was the one who would work with us to schedule this, but we must have misunderstood).  We will try on Monday, to reach the surgery dept ourselves and get this scheduled ASAP.