Living the bucket list (osteosarcoma comes back)

2013-04-06_13-34-30_891So Elgin is doing well, in the face of his recent bad news.  The fact that the osteosarcoma has come back in his remaining back leg does not give him a second thought.  Dogs are like that.  He’s not laying still in one spot all day, worrying because he’s got cancer and it hurts.  He’s laying in the sun, rolling on the grass, got to bark at some cows that got loose behind our house, and this week we indulged him in his passion for dirt and digging, as best we could.

I pulled out his wading pool and filled it with sand.

With how much Elgin slobbers, I’m afraid we’ll have a giant cement hockey puck before long.


Tonight, after he had dug in his pool this afternoon, he was weak and it was a bit difficult for him to rise and stand.  I gave him 100mg Rimadyl instead of 50 and he seems better.

One of his “Browndog” girlfriends (Mona) from the neighborhood came over last week for the last time.  They get so excited when they see each other that it’s like watching a couple of moose in rutting season.  I just don’t think it’s prudent to let him engage like this, so it was a short farewell visit.  However, Mona’s owner will still come over and visit.  She brought shrimp for him last week.  Unfortunately all it did was generate a lot of slobber as he mouthed it, and even though he tried several times, Elgin just couldn’t eat it.  I guess it must be sautéed in butter and garlic first.

So how do we know when it’s time to say goodbye?  My husband and I have talked about this quite a bit.  The vets at UC Davis were astonished that he was able to get around, with how much the cancer had spread.  They recommend he only get up to go potty and eat/drink.  If I understand things, the average time left for a dog with the metastasized cancer in one of two legs on the same end, is about 4 months; when the cancer comes back in that sole supporting leg, it’s half the time. Our older son drove 3 hours home from college to say goodbye to Elgin this weekend. We talked about the most important thing: Elgin’s quality of life. He won’t be happy being sedated.  We also don’t want him in too much pain, obviously.  And again, obviously, we don’t want to see him fracture that back leg, which is quite possible, since the cancer cells replace bone cells and are very aggressive.  So we will restrict his robust activities.  We will administer pain meds until the pain breaks through too much, he’s suffering, and adding more meds is unfeasible.  And we will pray he doesn’t fracture it.

We want all of you on this forum, and those of you who follow this blog, to know that we appreciate all of the warm wishes and support you’ve given us on this journey.  We humans are trying not to obsess over every movement, every groan, and every misstep Elgin takes. Elgin is obviously enjoying this spring, and we are trying to follow his example.




Don’t procrastinate that bucket list…

Elgin is 7 months post-amp now.  He’s done so well, that we are glad we made that gut-wrenching decision.  In reading everything we could about K-9 osteosarcoma and everything that comes with it, we kept seeing a repetitive theme: do all those special things your dog enjoys, while you can.

Elgin portrait

He recovered from his amputation of that back leg amazingly well, and that includes the chemotherapy, which he finished January 2.  He even got walked MORE  afterwards, than he did before he was diagnosed!  I scheduled a pet photography session for him a week or so ago with a friend (OK, that wasn’t on Elgin’s bucket list, but something I wanted done.)

This past month, he began to favor that remaining back leg, and after putting him on Rimadyl, he seemed better.  I stopped taking him for hops with his “browndog” girlfriends, and instead we sat outside on the front lawn, every morning for about 30-45 minutes.  He improved, but we were still cautious.  Having been reassured by our local vet that typical osteosarcoma cases do not spread to other limbs, but rather in the lungs or liver, running through our minds were thoughts like “What if it’s hip dysplasia?” or “What if it’s a torn ACL?”  and we waited for our re-check appointment at UC Davis.

This past Easter weekend I was enjoying the gorgeous weather and planting my vegetable container garden.  Elgin has a penchant for dirt.  LOVES IT.  So when he wanted to “help” me, I indulged him.  He snuffled and rooted like a pig, shoveling out most of the dirt with his nose, and actually digging in the container with his front foot, scooting it across the deck.  He was thoroughly enjoying this, so absorbed that he didn’t notice me leave to get my camera and come back.  I called his name and his head popped up out of the dirt with the biggest grin I’ve ever seen on his face. I just had to laugh out loud.  Then, when he was spent, he lay on the deck, covering as much of the displaced dirt with his body as he could.  An afternoon well-spent.














DSC_0333So we cajoled the vets at UC Davis into x-raying his leg and hip at the same time as the lung re-check. (Some of you on the live chat remember that this was not an easy task)

Today, as we sat in the waiting room at UC Davis, my husband and I each had our ideas and concerns about what the results might bring.  We had always anticipated he would get lung mets and would simply wind down, in a mostly peaceful way. As we looked at the x-rays in the exam area, we were devastated to learn that the mets had not materialized in his lungs, but rather that one, remaining back leg.  The evil cancer had come back with a vengeance, painfully sealing the deal.  Like deja vu, the vet went over all of the options of palliative care and other ideas, some of which were still in the trial phase.  “Normally, we would give about 4 months for this stage of tumor.  With this being in his only weight-bearing leg, we would be looking at more like one or two months.” said the vet.

We brought him home, and are trying to process this.

And so my parting thought for the day…. take the time to do the fun stuff your dog loves, while he/she is still able.