The Next Chapter

It’s been three months since Elgin crossed over the Rainbow Bridge.  There still is not a day goes by that I don’t think of him.  The silence of the house was deafening, and overpowering without him.  I cleaned all the slobbers I could find, laundered all the bedding, threw away all the worn-out toys, and packed everything into storage.  And then an opportunity crossed our paths and we couldn’t let it pass…. Binda.


Binda's first week Aug 2013 (33)

(Let me explain the naming convention:  all of our dogs are “watch” dogs, and so we’ve had a succession of different brands…the boxers were “Seiko” and “Swatch”, and then there was “Elgin”, so now we’ve got “Binda”, a relatively new watch company. )

Her temperament couldn’t be further from Elgin’s.  Whereas Elgin was very aloof, very businesslike, loved to check out every loud noise, and only  his family knew the signs of his affection (he let us love on him), Binda is quite shy, easily startled, scared of loud noises and people, but super affectionate.  We’ve dubbed her “Binda the Brave”, in hopes she’ll grow into her name.



Binda's first week Aug 2013 (19)


She ran and hid from her first squirrel encounter here, and I’m sure the squirrel was quite thrilled that his scolding elicited such a great response.  He has since boldly buried acorns in every potted plant I have outside, with no fear of danger.

Taking her for a walk around the neighborhood was a punishment worse than death, in hear eyes. Luckily she’s food-motivated, and we made it to the park and back without completely falling to pieces.

Any loud noise would send her scurrying.



She’s enjoying her walks much more!  Has met many new people, although very tentatively, and she chased a squirrel on our walk this morning!  It’s going to take time and work, but she’s a very smart pup, and is also very eager to please.  She’s already potty trained and rings a bell to be let outside.  She knows “Sit” and has a tenuous grasp on “Down”.  We’re also working on “Stay.

Binda's first week Aug 2013 (38)

The best part?  She’s healthy.  While I have great gratitude and respect for this wonderful Tripawd community, I hope never to have to post any bad news here.  I may post from time to time about the “Elbow Saver” I’ve made for the protection of those bony joints that get hygromas (looked into a patent, putting it off indefinitely until I figure out when/how to move forward).  But I hope I never have to post pictures of a 3-legged Binda.

Sending you all warm wishes,

Binda’s family

Binda's first week Aug 2013 (14)

Binda's first week Aug 2013 (17)

…the end of Elgin’s journey.

Elgin's Salmon Dinner (5) Elgin's Salmon Dinner (15)

We knew the time was drawing nigh.  So a week ago, Saturday, my husband grilled salmon for Elgin and fed him with a fork.  We have a very sophisticated Dogue, after all!

Elgin's Filet Mignon dinner 16 June 2013 (7)The next evening, he grilled filet mignon, and again fed Elgin with a fork.  I’d like to reiterate that Elgin oozed sophistication, but I think it was the other stuff he oozed that prompted the use of the fork, now that I think about it.  My husband’s a smart guy.


So we watched his every move during this past week, because we could clearly see that the leg was hurting him.  He was such a stoic dog, it was difficult to judge really how much it hurt.  I upped his Rimadyl, and it had no effect on him.  He was shaky on that leg and could barely make it up onto the couch on his own.  But boy, did he rally when it was time to go to the park!  I was hesitant to take him, knowing how sore and weak he was, but once I got him there, he hopped around like there was nothing wrong.  He peed on everything, sniffed around like a bloodhound, and really relished his time in the sunshine.  There were a few times he tried to play with his browndog girlfriend, but couldn’t support his weight on that leg when he really wanted to lunge and run at her. He just sort of lurched at her and scooted his rear closer.

After agonizing together, neither my husband nor myself wanted to make that final decision of calling the vet to schedule that last appointment.  But Friday morning I couldn’t take the thought of Elgin’s pain getting any worse and I made the appointment for Monday (today) at 9:45am.  That would give us one last weekend.  Almost as soon as I made the appointment, it was really strange, Elgin’s pain seemed to increase greatly. He was panting hard, scooting from place to place around the house, and apparently not able to find a comfortable spot.  It got so bad on Saturday morning that I broke out the pain meds UC Davis sent us home with when Elgin came home from his amputation.  He now had Rimadyl AND gabapentin onboard, and once the gabapentin kicked in, he relaxed and was able to sleep and looked much more comfortable when he woke up.  We began to wonder if Monday was too far away…

…cancer sucks.

We stayed close to home this weekend, except for when we went out to buy him a big, juicy bone, and special food. We brushed him, fed him treats like crazy, and laid on the floor with him a lot, cuddling.  Neighbors came to visit him and say goodbye, and tears were shed.

I won’t go into a description of how this morning went, because I just don’t think I can.  But we did what we could to make it peaceful and not scary for him.

Run free on four strong legs, Elgin.

Elgin on the hill feb 2013 (14)





Slowing down…

On April 1, the specialists at UC Davis discovered advanced osteosarcoma in Elgin’s remaining back leg. We saw the X-ray, could clearly see the spongy cancer breaking down the margins of his bone, and were devastated. They projected that a normal dog, with all its limbs, might have a good quality life for four months at this stage.  Elgin, being a heavy mastiff and being that it was his only back leg, was looking at two months.  And based upon their concern and cautions against Elgin moving around more than to go potty and to eat, Gary and I were planning for much less; maybe one month.

DSC_0170Thus we began indulging in his bucket list in earnest:  His pool is now full of sand/dirt so he can dig and scrape as much as he wants. Large femur bones come home from the butcher, frequently.   Our younger son spends a lot of time each day, laying on the floor next to wherever Elgin is resting, just petting his giant head and cuddling.  I drive him to the park every morning, so he can sniff and pee on stuff without hopping very far, and sometimes his Browndog Girlfriends come visit him.  And he gets a treat for almost everything; especially just for being Elgin. But we still won’t get him a IMG_20130525_215456_943cat.

It is now June.  Elgin breezed through the last two months almost like nothing was wrong.  He still played, caught a rat behind the grill, chased the squirrels on the fence, still begged, still got ornery and frisky. IMG_20130525_135613_962

But we knew this streak of incredible goodness would wind down, and it seems it is doing just that.  In the past two weeks we’ve noticed that he doesn’t dig anymore in his pool, but just lays in it.  He picks and chooses which squirrels are worth chasing. He hops around the house and sits down almost as soon as he comes to a stop, not standing as much. He pants a little more and seems slightly restless.  Just today he spent significant time licking his back leg where the cancer has come back. But meanwhile, he is still bright eyed, affectionate, and defends his home when he feels the need… his guardian nature overruling his pain as he storms the front door to growl and stare down solicitors.

DSC_0202This weekend he had a good DSC_0211hosing-down in the backyard, as temps were over 110.  He used to play in the water, but this time I had to hold him still while I soaped him up, trying to wash away all the dirt he’s collected, wallowing in his dirt pool.  He wasn’t enjoying his bath at all.

We were discussing how we will know when the right time to say goodbye will be.  We are not ready for him to be gone from our lives.  But we are not willing for him to suffer much.  It seems that the Rainbow Bridge is looming closer every day.


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.


Nice day for a run on the hill…

Elgin on the hill feb 2013 (10)    Elgin on the hill feb 2013 (14)






It was a beautiful day earlier this month, with temperatures in the 70’s. Elgin got lucky and my son took him out on the hill behind our house for a little romp. He of course had his daily “Browndog Hop” early this morning (he loves his girlfriends!) but to get two outings in one day is pretty rare.

He is really full of pep and is a role model for us humans, when we might feel a little tired, sore, or down… just watching him living life as if nothing is amiss, is quite profound.

We had a superbowl party, with 20+ friends and neighbors.  We allowed Elgin in the house, but watched him like a hawk, as he is prone to pushing his big slobbery face into people’s crotches, hands and any plates in reach, leaving a trail of shoestrings in his wake. Everyone behaved themselves, and no slobbers went flinging or dripping, until we put him outside and gave him some treats. Then he made a sideshow of standing outside the glass doors, watching the people inside, while his drool dripped down, almost reaching the ground.  “Gross but fascinating” they said. (I thought I heard bets being placed on how long the drool would get before it dropped off.)

He continues to wear his “elbow saver” on his back leg so that the hygroma doesn’t come back. However we took it off last Friday night and forgot to put it on in the morning. All of Saturday he was outside in the good weather while we did gardening and worked in the garage.  That was all it took for him to open up a hole on that hygroma and swell it up, all puffy and red.  It was oozing, and so I hotpacked it and put Neosporin on it, then a gauze pad and the elbow saver.  It seems to have worked, because the hygroma is looking much better now.

This past week was worrisome, though. On tuesday he started to slobber copiously around noon, and this continued until early evening.  I put him outside in case he was going to be sick, but he just lay outside the door, drooling all over his front legs and the patio.  His appetite was good, he was drinking normally, and wasn’t lethargic, so I continued to observe him.  It abated at night, and  hasn’t happened again.  Then Wednesday, he began panting more than usual.  He has always panted loudly at odd times, but this was more pronounced, heavier panting.  He also was not completing our normal walk without stopping to lay down and rest towards the end.

Thinking that maybe he’d put on a few pounds and that was what was causing the panting, and resting during his walks,  I took him to the vet and weighed him.  He was 128; not much of an increase, a pound maybe two.  The vet also felt his lymph nodes, which were not enlarged.  He suggested that I administer Rimadyl, to address the panting, which could have been a side effect of pain of some sort.  We are not due to go back to UC Davis for a recheck for another month yet, but I decided to watch Elgin over this weekend, and if he still exhibited these behaviors, I had planned on taking him there next week.

2013-02-04_09-03-22_311Update:  It’s Saturday night, and Elgin is back to his normal self.  His panting has subsided, his drooling episode never recurred, and he has been perkier and going for walks/hops (although it seems he’s chosen to make his rest toward the end of the walk a habitual thing.) The picture at left is of Elgin and his girlfriends, who, together go “Browndoggin” most weekday mornings.

So my worries are relieved.  I’m not going to administer the Rimadyl, as my husband and I agree that we don’t want to embark on that bandwagon.  It’s so hard to know if it’s just a “bad day” or if it’s something more.  We are going to pay closer attention to his diet–try to take off those couple of pounds he put on, and take into account that he will have good days and bad.  Just like the rest of us!

Elgin’s 5th birthday, persistent hygroma…padding necessary!

Elgin tolerated his 4th chemo treatment very well, with no resulting leg-swelling.  In my previous post, I bemoaned the infected callous (hygroma) Elgin had developed on his only rear leg.  We had him on antibiotics and were doing laser treatments to the infected site.  All seemed well.

We celebrated his 5th birthday, and while I am not a pet-party-thrower, I made him a special cake and made him wear a silly hat.  I felt compelled to mark this birthday, as it had special significance; this summer we were in doubt if he would see this day.

I’ve been watching his hygroma.  It was apparently healed, but has begun looking pink and shiny and feels hot again.  The reason I doubted it was completely healed was that Elgin is pretty hard on this particular limb now, when he gets up from a laying position.  He drags his weight forward until it is more centered over his front legs and then he pops that back leg up under him.  As he does this, he drags his back hock along the ground with force, grinding that callous into the ground.  There’s no way I can see that he could ever build up enough callous to withstand this.  Because it’s in such an awkward area, it’s difficult to bandage.  I looked online and saw options for hygromas on front legs, but the only thing I found for rear legs was instructions on how to put children’s sweatpants on him.  I’m sure that’s effective, but I don’t want to have to put pants on him again… he wore shorts when he had a fresh incision, and it was a rather high-maintenance solution, they frequently fell off, came off, and looking silly.

So when I saw that his infection was back, and oozing, two nights ago, I used vetwrap and wrapped the area to try and protect it until we could get to the vet’s on  Monday.  As he dragged that leg to get up throughout the day, the vetwrap scraped off.  I feared that if I wrapped it any tighter, it would become uncomfortable and hinder his movement or inhibit healing.  So, in desperation and frustration, last night I set to work to invent something sturdy that would pad his hygroma and not inhibit movement or air circulation, AND stay put.

I took some soft leather and some velcro and some fake sheepskin material, and made a …thing.  I’m not sure what to call it, but it seems to work, and it will be something I can forsee him having to wear for a long time. I take it off him when we go for walks, but it goes back on the rest of the time.  It’s loose enough so it doesn’t squeeze his leg or hinder his movement, but the sturdy leather protects that hygroma from the grinding, scraping dragging that he does when he stands up. We will see what the vet thinks when I take him in tomorrow to have that hygroma looked at again.

Watch those callouses!

This is a picture of a normal callous that formed on elgin’s elbow after he had his amputation.  What a spoilt doggie he was; who ever heard of a mastiff without callouses on his pressure points!?  But when he got his leg amputuated, he preferred to lie on cool, hard surfaces, and used those pressure points more heavily than ever, as his balance was compromised.

A very large callous developed on his back hock, and more quickly than the front elbow, because he drags it along the ground with force, to push up his back end to stand up.

Almost two weeks ago we noticed how big his callous was on his back leg.  Wow, we thought, that’s really one heavy-duty callous!  Well, this weekend it began to weep pus.  He’d gotten an infection in that callous and it had been festering.  He never licked it, never showed that he was in any pain at all.  Being that he only has this one back leg, we rushed him to our local vet.

Here’s a picture of that bad callous:

Infected callous.

Our vet proposed a laser treatment to kill the bacteria, as he didn’t want to wrap the limb, possibly causing more irritation.We are cleaning the site with peroxide and he’s getting antibiotics twice a day. The laser treatments happen every other day for two weeks.  I get to squeeze this in between carpool, work, and the general hecic schedule around here.  Thankfully the vet is only 2 miles away! This morning they allowed me to take a picture of the process.  Elgin is becoming more comfortable here at our local vet; he no longer stays in the vehicle until I drag him out, and he doesn’t tremble and pull against the leash to get away.   Someone must be spooning with him there!  (see previous blog post)Here are a couple of pictures of the laser treatment:  It’s painless and relatively inexpensive (for once!)So, in conclusion, watch those callouses!



Third chemo tx and chest X-rays…check!

Today was Elgin’s third chemo treatment, and he also got his lungs X-rayed again to see if any mets have grown there.  The results were good – all clear!

As his treatments continue, he’s really endeared himself to some of the staff at UC Davis.  I suppose they feel fondly about alot of their patients, but it doesn’t hurt that he’s incredibly cute and unusual looking.  The breed (Dogue de Bordeaux) is still relatively rare in these parts.  At his previous treatment, the tech who came out to get him and describe his treatment plan for the day said that she was seriously considering getting a DDB for her next dog, because she’d fallen in love with Elgin, as had many of the techs in “the back”.  Today the same tech came out to greet us. She also brought him back out to us (after only 3 hours this time! Yay!) and admitted that she was still in love with him, and that she “spooned” with him, lying on the floor with him while he received his chemo.  No wonder he seems happy to go there!

We discussed with the doctor his swollen leg issue from the previous treatment, and she assured us that they did extra flushing of his veins this time, in the hopes of avoiding this happening again. We will be watching him closely to see if this works.  He was one tired tripawd when he got home, and hopped directly into his crate.  Originally it was to extort a treat from us, but once in there, he remembered how comfy and safe it feels and he ended up staying in there for a snooze.

Daily, Elgin amazes us.  He’s laying more equally on his leg-less side, and now hops out of the vehicle without using the ramp. Especially when we get to UCD, he bounds out and hops immediatly to the grass.  Of course this could be because it’s a 90+ minute ride to get there and he has to pee like a racehorse once we park. Our original vet is amazed that a bulky mastiff like Elgin has done so well.  Elgin doesn’t much like going there, to our original vet, by the way.  He sits in the vehicle and just looks out and I have to ORDER him to get out.  Then he is very hesitant about going in.  I don’t think they spoon with him there.  The vet told me two weeks ago that Elgin, at 128lbs, could stand to lose 4 lbs, and that it would make getting around easier for him. So I agreed to try to reduce his intake.  Evidently we all like to give him treats more than we realized, because he GAINED 4lbs in a week’s time and I got a stern look from the vet.  Today we consulted the vet at UCD and she said his weight was fine.  He could loose a pound or two, but he was pretty much at the optimal body condition.  Whew.  I don’t feel so badly now.  But we are still cutting back on his food a little, and are more conscious of when/how we give him treats.

We are hopping every single day now, nearly a mile round trip.  He rests in the park at the bottom of the hill for about 10 minutes before he tackles the steep incline to our house.

I think he knows it’s another holiday.  I’ve taken his picture, which he loves, despite the dour look on his face.

he gets lots of treats if he sits perfectly still.






The weather is coooling off, and we had our first tarantula come out and supervise my yardwork last weekend.  Elgin doesn’t give them much more than a sniff.  Now, the DEER that come around the backyard REALLY set him off, and he hops just as fast as he used to run, when he charges the fence to whuf at them.  He doesn’t bark, but does his odd coughing whuf that he’s done since he was little.

Well, I must end my novel here, and with that, we wish you all continued healing and happy times!


Swollen leg – side effect?

Hello all,

Now a question for all you recovering tripawds…

Elgin was doing extremely well, and still is very perky, very hungry, and moving around fantastically.  However, yesterday afternoon we noticed is right leg (the one through which the chemo was administered) was noticeably swollen.  Starting at the wrist, all the way to his elbow, it is swollen to about an inch and a half thicker in circumference than the other leg.  We tried to see if he was limping; it’s really hard to tell, when his normal gait is so humpy now without that back leg.  We asked him to walk, but he kept cavorting around, playfully!

We phoned the on-call vet at UC Davis and described what was going on, and she recommended that if his demeanor continued to be good, to monitor him overnight.  We did this. This morning he is still very perky, hungry, and again, doesn’t appear to favor it at all. Leg is still noticeably swollen, and possibly a tad bigger.

We will be phoning the vet again in a few minutes, but I wanted to put this out there to see if anyone else has had this happen…