Dispatches from the Swamp: The Long Week-end Update

Nothing coherent just a few updates on various things.

  • I finished Plants vs Zombies today on the iPad today!!! Woo hoo for me. I really enjoyed it and now I have unlocked all of the other levels!
  • Clio’s lung cancer has progressed. She is (hopefully) going into the vet’s tomorrow to get some meds to ease her cough. She has coughing fits that can last up to 10 minutes at time (thankfully these are few and far between). We are trying to feed her more because she has always been a skinny dog but now it is worse because she uses so much extra energy coughing. Her appetite remains excellent.
  • I posted about what I thought the plural of “iPod Touch.” I argued in this entry that the plural should be “iPods Touch.” So Dr. Beth, over at “Not to Be Trusted with Knives” emailed the Grammar Girl to find out what the correct plural would be. Well GG thinks it is iPod Touches. I still think it looks weird and well, just, wrong but I will defer to Grammar Girl.
  • I cooked the prime rib yesterday that my mother did not want when she came. We had a friend over for dinner. It turned out fabulous. I did it on the bbq rotisserie to medium rare which is how the majority liked it. There were some pieces done more. It was a great meal with cauliflower and cheese sauce (my favourite) and green beans with garlic and ginger and baked potatoes. Very yummy!
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Published in: on August 2, 2010 at 8:38 pm  Comments (1)  
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Miz Molly

Yesterday, Molly, our now 21-year old Pomeranian, has developed what sounds like a wet cough. Molly has had a cough, on and off, mostly, it would seem, the result of dry air or some kind of irritant. She would cough for a couple of days and then it would stop. This cough was different and a bit worrisome. So it was off to the vet today.

The vet decided it could be one of three things: asthma, an infection or cancer. She wanted to do an x-ray. We did not want to do an x-ray as we felt it would be too stressful for her. So we broke it down. It is not likely asthma as we likely would have seen it by now. If she has lung cancer it doesn’t matter if we know because there is nothing that can be done. It is most likely an infection so we got antibiotics. I am confident, given that the vet said her heart was fine, that does not have lung cancer because they usually develop a heart murmur.

Veterinary care with senior dogs is a delicate balance. You need to decide what you are going to treat and what you are not. Are you going to aggressively treat cancer in a senior dog? If so, who are you doing it for? The answer is likely not for the dog. This extends to intrusive diagnostics. If your dog has elevated liver enzymes are you going to do the ultrasound or the biopsy when you know that you can’t really treat it? It just doesn’t make any sense. You intervene as much as you need to so that the dog is comfortable. You treat pain and you can treat infection. If it is something like lung cancer then, when the time comes, you intervene with mediation to make the animal feel better. When you can no longer keep them comfortable it is time to let them go.

We know that Clio has lung cancer. She is doing ok at this time and when the time comes that her coughing is interfering too much with her life we will get medication for her. We won’t allow Clio to go to far along into the cancer because of her issues. Clio is brain-damaged and really does not understand things or cope well. She has always been a dog who is very anxious and needy. Deb said that she got her head stuck in a gate the other day and she was very upset and confused. This may be a sign of the cancer going to her brain.

Today, everything is fine. Molly, our little energizer Pilates Queen, has an infection we are treating. I am confident she will be back to her normal little self in a couple of days. I think she will be with us for a good while yet. She is alert, she sees and hears well still and she is a pretty happy little dog.

Published in: on May 21, 2010 at 6:56 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gemma

Gemma Joy with one of her 'babies'

Gemma Joy with one of her 'babies'

We said goodbye to Gemma Joy yesterday. As many of you know we have been agonizing about how and when to make the decision to let her go. Her aggression had been escalating and we were finding it increasingly difficult to keep her away from Zoe. For some reason she had taken a severe dislike to Zoe and had attacked her on at least 2 or 3 other occasions. The only way we could move them from one part of the house to the other was to let one outside, move the other one, then let the first one back in the other part of the house. We had to keep 2 sets of gates between them. If Gemma was in the living room she had to be in the X-pen because she could climb the gate and did so even if someone was with her.

No one can be 100% vigilant 100% of the time. It is humanly impossible. They accidentally got together yesterday and Gemma attacked Zoe the second she saw her. I was able to break up the fight fairly quickly but not before there were injuries to Zoe and me. Thankfully Gemma did not get Zoe’s ear again. Zoe has 2 small wounds on her head in addition to being traumatized. If I had not been here Zoe would have likely been seriously injured at the least.

This was a very hard decision to make. We know Gemma has mammary cancer, lung cancer and brain cancer. She had been having complex-partial seizures for most of her waking hours the last couple of weeks. However, she looked great! She loved to cuddle and to launch herself at you from the floor. Because she looked good, the decision was complicated. What we realized yesterday is that Gemma was going to kill one of the smaller dogs due to her cancer. We could not let that happen.

Gemma

We took her to the vet this afternoon and she was humanely euthanized. She was given a sedative first and she almost went with that medication. Once the drug was administered she was gone very quickly. It was quiet. It was peaceful. It was right. We know it was right, she was calm, surrounded by love and she went to sleep. She didn’t fight or struggle. Gemma Joy was ready.

Making these decisions is very complex. Dogs can’t talk to us and tell us they hurt or they are scared or anxious or that they just don’t want to do it anymore. I think Gemma loved her life with us as much as we loved her. Sadly our love and her desire could not fix her health problems brought on by over-breeding and not being spayed as a young dog.

I have to thank Yvette from Turtle Gardens, not only for rescuing Gemma but for her kind words yesterday. She had seen Gemmy recently and she knew that we were struggling with decision about when the right time would be for her to pass. Yvette’s words, filled with love and compassion, soothed our broken hearts. If I could change one thing about how this happened it would be that Zoe did not get attacked again. Zoe will heal and for that I am grateful. Watching her tonight as she is scared and anxious I can’t wait for it to be a couple of days from now when she will be back to her usual self.

She had the best fuzzy face!

We have lost 3 dogs in less than 6 months. We will be having a serious conversation about whether we can do this again. What is for sure is that it will not be any time soon. Our hearts are broken and we need to hear. The other canine members of our family need a break too. Bringing in new dogs all the time is really hard on all of them too. We have several seniors who need peace and quiet. We do too.

We love you Gemma. You are a very good dog. I hope you are at peace now.

Gemmie loved her belly rubs

Published in: on March 31, 2010 at 9:11 pm  Comments (8)  
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Clio

Clio

Life has never been easy for Clio. We think she was born to a backyard breeder and shoved in a crate for most of the first year of her life. Her legs, it seems, were put on backwards. She is blind and quite likely a little brain damaged. One vet described her as a train wreck who should have been euthanized shortly after her birth. Instead of doing right by this dog, someone (we have no idea who) threw her out of a moving vehicle at Boundary and Marine in Vancouver. A very kind man stopped and picked her up and took her to the shelter.

She initially came home as a foster dog. However it became apparent that once Clio bonded with me she was never going anywhere. She is a difficult dog at times. She is very demanding and she rarely sits still. If Clio had her way, she would be sitting on me all day and all night. She has never managed to be toilet trained but she knows to go if we put her outside. Cuddling with Clio can be like a wrestling match. Once she settles down though she is lovely.

Clio has been coughing for about 2 weeks. It seemed to get a little and then it got worse again. I took her to the vet. Her chest was x-rayed. She has a slightly enlarged heart and she has small tumours on her lungs. She has also developed a grade 2 heart murmur. We will not investigate any further because there is nothing they can do to help her. Further tests will only stress her out and she is already stressed.

I am not sure what will happen. We don’t know if she has an aggressive form of cancer. Hopefully it is a slow-growing type. She is not showing any other symptoms so it is hard to know. One thing for sure, as soon as we think she no longer has a good quality of life we will help her to pass. Clio is a dog that has great difficulty dealing with anything outside of her normal routine. She is as predictable as the sun rising every day.

I sincerely hope we do not have to make that decision soon. It is going to be very difficult.

Published in: on February 26, 2010 at 9:42 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Living with a Dying Dog

Gemma Joy with one of her 'babies'

Living with a dog who is actively dying of cancer is excruciating. Our dog, Gemma Joy, came to us with metastasized mammary cancer. Gemma had several litters of puppies and was not spayed until she arrived at Turtle Gardens. Once in rescue, she was spayed and had her tumours removed. The vets said they got good margins but with aggressive forms of mammary cancer it really does not matter. We had her for 2 months before we took her for an x-ray to determine if the cancer had spread. Sadly, at that appointment in June we were told that there were tumours in her lungs and that we had about six months.

Gemma has been really good for almost all of this time. In early December we noticed her attempting to catch flies with her mouth. She was biting at the air a lot. I didn’t think much of it because we still have flies in the house. After a couple of weeks, and the flies mostly gone thanks to Deb swatting them Gemma was still trying biting at the air with increased frequency. Finally, I googled that symptom and found out it could be a type of seizure. So off to the vet we went. We did blood work because, according to the vet, cancer in the liver could cause this symptom as well. However, the vet was fairly sure that the cancer had now spread to her brain.

Gemma playing

I was quite upset by this news as we went home. Almost as soon as we got home, she attacked Zoe for no apparent reason. It was one vicious fight and we had a really hard time separating them. Zoe’s ear was bleeding quite badly but she did not need stitches. We stopped the bleeding with corn starch. Gemma and Zoe had fought before but it had been a couple of weeks since their last fight and they had only fought in our bedroom, on the bed. The fights had been mostly noise and there had never been an injury.  A couple of hours later I was sitting with Zoe in the living room and Gemma had been laying on the couch. All of a sudden she jumped down, and then jumped up on to me and latched on to Zoe’s injured ear. I am not even sure how we got them apart. She also caused a small tear in Zoe’s ear but we did not see it due to the blood from the other cut opening up again. We patched Zoe up again and decided they would be separated from now on.

So how do you live with a dog who is dying and who is showing behavioural changes as a result of cancer in her brain? For all intents and purposes Gemma looks just fine. We can see that sparkle has gone out of her eyes but strangers would not notice. She is able to run and play with if she chooses. Her appetite is not great. She does not eat every day which is disturbing. She does not seem to be losing any weight. Also she is a little overweight so she has lots to fight with.

I know that I value every bit of time she graces me with. I like her to come and cuddle with me in my chair. She is a little bit more aloof than some of our other little dogs. Sometimes she needs a little coaxing to come up. Other times, she will just arrive which can be a little disconcerting because all of a sudden you have 22 pounds of Gemma Joy on your lap and in your face. She is a lovely dog to pet because she looks into your eyes and you know there is a connection there. She contorts her body so that your hand goes where she wants it. She sighs deeply and for that moment you forget that she has cancer and you love her even more. And when she goes you remember that she does not have long and you want her to stay, maybe you even make her stay past the time she wanted to go. You know this is not fair and you really should just let her go but you can’t help yourself.

The practicalities of living with a palliative dog are many. You have to ensure that the dog is receiving adequate pain relief. Carol from SAINTS points out that many vets are not in the practice of treating pain. She also believes that any dog who has cancer has pain and therefore needs pain meds. We talked to the vet and he agreed to put her on metacam. Once you have the pain under control hopefully things are ok until they are not. That is the thing with cancer, the dog goes along and then there is a crisis of some sort at which point there are considerations and decisions that have to be made. You may need to look at upping pain medication or maybe the dog has gotten to the point that all the meds in the world are not going to control the symptoms of their cancer. Once the dog has no more quality of life it is time to let them go. Keeping them alive after that point is an extremely selfish act. Part of being a pet guardian is the unspoken covenant that you will look after all of their needs for their entire lives. This includes making the decision to humanely euthanize. Personally, I would rather euthanize days early than risk the dog suffering past the point where they just can’t do it anymore.

I am sure some of you would wonder why would adopt a dog who was going to die. I would ask why not? We did it for many reasons some selfish some not. Gemma had been transferred to SAINTS and we knew that SAINTS was pretty full at that time. Carol takes in so many sick and dying dogs we felt that we could step up and help Gemma. After all we are involved in rescue and this is a part of rescue. When I saw her picture I fell in love. We also hoped, deep down, that just maybe she was going to catch a break. We have learned a lot from Gemma. Deb has discovered that little dogs can like her – in fact Gemma chose Deb as her primary person. This is out of the ordinary as usually little dogs gravitate to me. Gemma is a great comfort for Deb who is grieving the loss of Mackenzie. You get something from every dog you welcome into your life. They all have different things to teach. For me, Gemma is amazing. She has cancer and she does not seem ill. As Deb says “it is like no one has told her she is sick.” She is not as resilient a dog as Zoe. They both came out of the same puppy mill and they were both subjected to the same treatment. Zoe now embraces life. It is like she is making up for lost time. Gemma on the other hand is more reticent. Even thought I know all to well what the end will be like, I would not have given up the privilege of having Gemma Joy in my life.

We are not at the point with Gemma Joy where we need to consider humane euthanization. When that time comes it will be evident to us and we will do the right thing. We have to. We have a covenant.

Gemmie getting a belly rub

*The three photographs used in this blog were taken by Big Air Photography.

Published in: on January 5, 2010 at 11:35 pm  Comments (4)  
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The Inmates have Taken Over the Asylum – Part 2

It has been a long time since I have updated everyone about the dogs. Lots has happened at Chez Thomas so here we go.

We welcome Gemma Joy who came to us from SAINTS via Turtle Gardens. Gemma was rescued by Turtle Gardens up north where she was a puppy mill dog.

Gemma Joy after her shave

Gemma Joy after her shave

Gemmy is a shihtzu and is now starting to show all the characteristics associated with shihtzus. She is playful and tenacious and she is learning to play. She loves to cuddle and she just soaks up all the attention she wants. There are some concerns about her health as she had some mammary tumours removed (please get your female dogs spayed early, it reduces their chances of getting this awful disease by over 90%). Three tumours were removed and one was an aggressive cancer. The surgeons said they got good margins and we are hoping it did not metastacize before they removed it. She seems like a dog in good health:
Gemma Joy running on the dikes.

Gemma Joy running on the dikes.

Gemma had many litters of puppies and now she is treating all of the toys in the house like her ‘babies.’ She carefully gathers them up and sleeps with them. It is both cute and sad at the same time. We are pretty sure that she does not think they are her ‘babies’ because she chews on their heads.
Gemma and her 'babies'

Gemma and her 'babies'

Everybody please think good thoughts for Gemma. She will have an x-ray in about a month to see if the cancer spread. We are so hoping it has not and that she will be with us for a very, very long time!
One other thing – Gemma is continent! She is the first dog from SAINTS we have had who is continent!!! It is the little things that are important!
Now on to Molly. She is the oldest of our dogs at 20. She is a former SAINT and she is still going strong. She does her ‘pilates’ everyday. Since Gemma Joy came she has been doing a lot more stretching so that she makes sure she is noticed. We had to shave her a while back because her mats got really bad. She hates to be combed and we do not want to unduly stress her out. We had her in a little sweater for some time because it was still cold.
Molly yawning - notice the lack of teeth!

Molly yawning - notice the lack of teeth!

Speaking of haircuts, the day Molly was shaved Deb and Angelina also shaved Clio and gave her a mohawk. I thought it was very mean and they thought it was cute:
Clio with a mohawk

Clio with a mohawk

Madison is now 16 and is deaf as a post. It seem to come on all of a sudden. We have been working with our vet to manage her pain. Unfortunately, the one medication that would really help her also causes gastric upset so we have to further reduce how often she gets that med.
Madison laying down

Madison laying down

She is still mommy to all the little girls. We often see her curled up with them in the big beds.
Kirby is doing great! He has become quite self-actualized and is not afraid as much anymore. He loves going in the truck with Deb and she has a really hard time getting out of here without him. Kirbs is 10 this year! He loves getting jiggy in the morning and lives for his tummy rubs!
Kirby

Kirby

Sienna, who is Angelina’s dog, lives  with us as well. Lately, our living room has been turned into a toy paradise and all she wants to do is destroy them. Poor Sienna! Sienna loves to play fetch and go to the park. She is a such a sucky pitbull (the way they are supposed to be) and she makes some incredible noises when her ears are being rubbed. She is also doing quite well in Rally-O.
Sienna

Sienna

Tucker is our other foster dog from SAINTS. He has overcome his vestibular disease. Then he got giardia. He seems to be doing much better now that he has taken his course of flagyl. Unfortunately for Tucker he got stuck eating canned gastro food for the time he was on meds. It will be back to raw for him today.
Tucker at the dikes

Tucker at the dikes

Piper the punk is doing really well. We were worried that she would be upset and jealous of Gemma Joy. Nope all she wants is for Gemma to play with her. It is really quite amazing to see the efforst she puts into trying to make friends. I am sure, that over time, she and Piper will become a duo. They are already barking together as they guard the house.
Piper at the park

Piper at the park

We are a little concerned about Mackenzie as her aggression seems to be escalating. She took Piper’s spot in Rally-O (because Piper has no obedience skills, sigh) and she is doing very well. Mackenzie loves to go to the park and chase and kill balls. We go through a lot of tennis balls!
Mackenzie at the dikes

Mackenzie at the dikes

And last, but certainly not least, is Kiefer. He is not the shy wallflower type. He talks a lot and soemtimes it is very, very loud. He is especially joyful in the morning. Kief lives to eat and does so with gusto. He is also very handy when I take too much food – usually the leftovers will all fit into his waiting mouth.
Kiefer at the water even though he does not swim.

Kiefer at the water even though he does not swim.

Bella

Bella

I have saved the best for last. Bella, our Maine Coon cat, is in love. She adores Lynn. Her new favourite game is to crawl up on to Lynn and put her but in Lynn’s face while she kneads her. She will then turn around and knead other sensitive bits. This cat is no light weight either. She weighs 25 pounds and has talons for nails. Since Bella peed in Deb’s shoes everyone is afraid to do something to piss off the cat. Getting the cat off of Lynn can be a 2 person job now as we try to convince her that it was her idea to get down.
Life is never boring here!
Here is one last pic:
The notorious Bacon Sisters

The notorious Bacon Sisters

I have bacon on the weekend the little girls all gather around and they share. Needless to say I do not get to eat much bacon!

Our Mabel-Mae

mabel in fleece

mabel in fleece

Mabel came to us from SAINTS in February of 2007. You can read some of her history here from the SAINTS blog. Mabel came to our house to die. She was urinating blood and she had a big cancer tumour on her neck. As soon as she arrived she commandeered the laundry room as her domain. It was quiet and she could sleep and be out of the way of the thundering herds in our house. She quickly made her presence known which is not easy in a house with 7 other dogs. We asked nothing of Mabel and gave her everything she wanted. She quickly made her food preferences known. She liked the raw food we fed the other dogs but she had a real penchant for chicken and Cesar dog food. One day we gave her ham – she was fairly sure that it was heaven on earth. The next time we cooked a ham she barked at the stove for 90 minutes straight while it boiled. She could smell it and she wanted it!

Mabel lived life on her own terms. She preferred to be dirty and smelly and would turn into a Tazmanian Devil whenever Deb bathed her. She often connected but I don’t think she ever drew blood but it was not for lack of trying.

After several months at our house Mabel developed a small tumour on her leg. We took her to the vet and had it treated. In the beginning they thought it was a lick granuloma but it never healed. At the same time the vet checked her teeth and she needed a dental. She seemed healthy enough so we opted to have blood work done and if all was ok we would proceed with the dental. Her blood work was not only ok, her liver and kidney function had improved. So, we went ahead with the dental and had the tumour removed. She came through it like a trooper!

She enjoyed two summers at our house. She would do her daily constitutional around the yard and then come back in. We had a couple of scares like when she became quite disorientated while on antibiotics for her leg but she improved again.

Mabel lived for food. She ate 4 or more times a day usually within a time period of four hours. Deb would feed her and Mabel would bark an hour later and Deb would swear and feed her again not believing that a little dog could eat so much. I found it quite amusing that Deb would attempt to ‘reason’ with Mabel. She would say things like: “You just ate! You can’t be hungry again” and Mabel would continue to bark. Then my favourite line was: “If you stop barking I can feed you more quickly” and Mabel would bark louder. She simply did not care. We were her slaves – she knew it and never let us forget it.

Rest easy Miz Mabel-Mae. You were a force to be reckoned with and you were loved.

My favourite pic of Mabel. It captures her confidence!

My favourite pic of Mabel. It captures her confidence!

Published in: on November 27, 2008 at 7:53 pm  Comments (7)  

We are ecstatic!

We just checked Mabel’s leg and it is looking so much better! It is not a goopy mess anymore. The fur seems to be growing in around it and it is not bleeding any more. The lump is still there and she is still 17 years old but we will take any progress we can get. Oh and she ate 3 times between 11 am and 7 pm! Way to go Miss Mabel.

The interesting thing about having senior dogs around is that every day is a gift. You don’t take them for granted because you don’t know how long they are going to be with you. Dogs like Mabel, who have not known much kindness in their lives, seem to know and appreciate a soft touch. Deb was combing her today and her eyes were closing she was enjoying it so much. Mabel is not a dog who asks for much besides going outside and eating. When she asks for these things there is no doubt about what she wants and she makes it clear she isn’t going to wait. I am so happy that she feeling better after the scare we had at the beginning of the month that it is joyful when she barks and I seeing what she needs is a pleasure. In these moments she is so full of life and herself.

If you have room in your home and your heart think about adopting a senior dog. Yes, there can be issues (like incontinence) or giving meds or going to the vets and yes they may not live all that long but it is so worth it! I can tell you that they will live much longer in your home than they will in an animal shelter. The rewards are too many to list. Just know that you will be helping an animal finish out its days in comfort and peace and you will reap the rewards. check out SAINTS or your local shelter for a senior animal who needs you today.

Published in: on June 19, 2008 at 4:02 am  Comments (3)  

Mabel update

As some of you know Mabel has a cancerous tumor on her leg. It is open and icky. This follows the cancerous mass we had removed when she had a dental last fall. We had been trying to come up with things to do to help Mabel feel a bit better. (some ideas were a bit better than others and we got a lesson in ‘palliative care’ from Carol at SAINTS – where we adopted Mabel from). We took Mabel to vet on Thursday to get more tramadol and metacam to help with the pain and inflammation. We also got antibiotics as her leg is infected again. We will no longer be covering her leg or keeping a cone on her head to stop her from licking it. Hopefully, she will be able to keep it clean.

By yesterday she had finally recovered from being at the vet (it was just a short visit and a ride in the car) and was her usual barking self. I took a roast out of the oven and she was barking at me for some. I told her she had to wait so she went over and barked at the roast. Too funny. Her spirit and her will to live (and eat – the dog eats 3-4 times per day) is inspiring. She has gained a pound since the last time she was at the vets. We don’t know how long she has – we hope for a long time.

Mabel on patrol

Adopting senior dogs was one of the best things we ever did. It has been incredibly rewarding. We have learned so much from Mabel and Mollie.

Published in: on May 26, 2008 at 6:17 pm  Comments (1)