Only a year

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When we had to say goodbye to Maggie last December, I couldn’t get myself to come back on the Tripawds site even once, until now.  I think in part because I wanted to remember less about the last few months of surgeries, vets, tests, worry, pain, trying so hard for her, and crashed hopes, etc…  As I know you all know, THAT can just take over your life and every waking moment, and once it was all over that part of me that struggled so much for her, just needed silence.  Even though it still haunts me sometimes, I have no regrets about her amputation because- what else could we have done but to give her a fighting chance??  And in a weird way, I can see a positive in that it brought us much, much closer during her last few months.  I got the chance to put her first, spoil her, take off time from work to go to the park just because the sun was shining, spend an hour walking halfway down the block just because she wanted to sniff 4,372 blades of grass – and enjoy watching her do it, and sleep next to her every night.

I think I had to step away from here completely in order to put the cancer/amputation/medical crap aside and let other, more carefree, memories come back.  That’s still hard for me, because those last few months were so intense and so focused on Maggie, that those thoughts still sometimes crowd out the others.  Pictures help, and I have them all around.  I made a calendar with collages of pictures spanning all stages of her life on each month, and I can’t wait to turn the calendar each month so I can see which ones I picked for that month.  At first I was viscerally drawn to the pictures of her as a puppy (because they tugged the most at my heart) or the most recent ones post-amputation (well, I guess for the same reason).  But the last few times I’ve flipped through the calendar I find myself pausing and smiling at the “random” pictures from all those wonderful in-between years.  Those are my celebration and appreciation of her life with us, just the ordinary days.

So why am I back here now?  I had no idea.  It didn’t even sort of occur to me that Maggie’s first surgery was in early September 2015 (they hoped to remove the whole growth from her leg, but could only take a biopsy because it had invaded tendons).  The amputation was on September 21.  If it had been a year to the day that I found myself back here, I wouldn’t have been too surprised.  And I’m not keeping track of those dates, I had to look back on my calendar to check them.  But this week, one year ago, was when I was agonizing over what to do, what was best for her, what we could hope for, and what I feared the most.  Well, all of those things played out, and in such a short period of time.  I can’t believe that was all just a year ago.  But I feel that I must have turned a corner on that “big f-ing cancer mess” stuff that honestly was still tied up in the pit of my stomach until very recently.  Maybe until just today.  As I was writing this I looked up a couple of pictures and saw one of her post-amp, and all I saw was her sweet eyes and love, without the usual twinge of frustration and panic that I usually feel when I look at her post-amp pictures.  Up until now they mostly just brought back all of the stress and intensity of that time.  I think that now I can finally see those last few months as just Maggie, just days of waking up and being a dog and wanting to sniff grass and chase squirrels and get belly rubs and sleep next to her people.

So I think that’s why I’m back here this week.  Something about processing the whole mess of emotions that I went through with her cancer diagnosis and treatment, and maybe letting go of the stress of that time, finally.  The pain of losing her is still so strong, but I think my memories will be more peaceful now.  Only a year since all this started, it’s unbelievable.  Seems like a good time to dedicate some time to thinking and writing about her again.  I love you Maggie.  I miss you.


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Maggie pictures

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Here is our baby puppy. I had to take a picture of the printed photograph (remember those?)

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Our pretty young lady.  We called that fluff her legwarmers.

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And our regal old gal.

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What a smile!

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Looking into the sun without a care in the world.

 

Something happened as I was posting my last post.  Literally as I hit “Publish” the back door swung open.  It squeaks a little bit when it opens.  We always used to let Maggie out the back and closed but didn’t latch the door so she could push her way in.  Apparently I HAD left it unlocked earlier tonight when I brought out the trash.  As I was posting her story I heard the door swing open.  It was a gust of wind.  I’ve never believed in any sort of metaphysical mumbo jumbo, but come on…that gave me goosebumps.  I love you Maggie.

Goodbye Sweet Maggie

We lost our dear, sweet Maggie on Saturday.  It still seems like a nightmare that I might wake up from, except that I know I won’t.

For some reason I feel like sharing the sort of medical details of what happened, maybe because so many folks here are familiar with the ins and outs of their pet’s healthcare.  After the first couple of weeks of recovery post-amp, Maggie looked happier and more energetic each day for several weeks – through mid November at least.  Then I started to feel like she “plateaued” and wasn’t really building more stamina as I had expected, we still couldn’t get back on a regular diet that she seemed to enjoy with the same enthusiasm as before, and she seemed to have “up” and “down” days in terms of energy.  Along with the changes in diet she had mild stomach/poop issues that had me puzzled for a week or two.  Some of you may have read about a weird episode 3 weeks ago where she was out for  a short walk and seemed to lose all of her energy and gave me a real scare for the night.  The next day she was checked out and we had clear chest x-rays, which I took to be a good sign, and she seemed to bounce back to her happy self the following day.  We thought she may have pulled or strained something and was exhibiting pain that night.  A week or so ago she had some unusual looking poop – very light colored which a quick Google search seemed to indicate a liver/bile duct blockage, so I made another appointment with her vet for Saturday.  On Saturday morning we went out to potty and she seemed OK, not overly jazzy, but fine.  I had errands to run before her appointment at noon, and got back just before then.  When I got home my husband told me she had been acting unusual, seemed uncomfortable and unsteady walking, and had gotten up and laid right back down several times.  She could barely walk over to the door, and I ended up carrying her to the car to head to the vet.  The techs were concerned with how she looked, and when they tried to get a blood sample they said her blood pressure was very low and called the dr. in right away.  The blood test confirmed a very low red blood cell count and he explained the possible reasons – blood loss, the body destroying the red blood cells, or not generating new red blood cells.  He re-checked the x-rays from 3 weeks ago to see if anything else appeared unusual, and decided to do an x-ray of her abdomen this time.  It clearly showed a large mass which appeared to be the spleen, and fluid in the abdomen, which he confirmed was blood by drawing some of the fluid with a fine needle.  This indicated a ruptured tumor, which would not stop bleeding on its own.  The options of a blood transfusion and abdominal surgery, when cancer had clearly spread and become so invasive so quickly, would have been a very temporary extension of her life with the tradeoff of another major surgery to recover from…with more damn cancer at the end of the line anyway.  We knew this wasn’t what we wanted to put her through.  It was a horrible, horrible realization of this unfolding in front of me, that this was the end.

 

I called my husband and orchestrated a plan for someone else to bring our son to a birthday party (he’s 8. he’s not the type of personality that would have wanted to come and see her. in retrospect it was a blessing that he had somewhere else to be.) and for him to get to the vet’s office as soon as possible. During this time, I had almost 1/2 hour to lay on the floor with Maggie – and damn right, I didn’t care where I was, I laid down on the floor and curled up with her.  I tried to be strong and stop crying so she wouldn’t worry.  I sang to her.  I didn’t care that there were people in the other room.  I’m sure I’m not the first idiot to sing to their dying dog.  She was in shock and pretty dopey at this point, but I know she felt safe and loved.  I held her head with one arm and had my other arm wrapped around her.  I remember consciously trying to rub and scratch in all of her favorite places, and all of my favorite places, like her soft little ears and kissing the top of her head like I’ve done a billion times.  It felt like a long time, and obviously not nearly enough time.  When my husband got there, she wagged her tail.  I gave him a few minutes alone with her, too, and then the vet came in to talk us through all of the details.  He was fantastic, the staff were all fantastic with us.  Their office closes at 1:00 and we were there until after 2:30 and they couldn’t have been more patient and compassionate.  Oh, I should add that I asked, grasping at straws, if we could take her home even for the day or the weekend (this was before I saw how affected and going into shock she was), if should could rest and bounce back even temporarily, and obviously that would have risked pain and trauma and terribleness at home.  But you know, I had to ask.  Anyway, the procedure itself was extremely quick, she was quiet, and still and peaceful.  Her people were there giving her all the love we had, and she just eased away.  It almost seemed too effortless, in a way.

 

I’m so grateful that she wasn’t in great pain at the end.  I’m grateful that she had 12 wonderful years with us, and 2 fantastic months without an ouchy leg, and with the utmost of spoiling.  I really feel like she knew that the amputation was a new lease on life, and was really living it up.  Even with the challenges of building her strength on 3 legs, and (as we now know) more cancer attacking inside, I saw a happier puppy in the last 2 months than I had in a long while.  Maybe it came from me remembering to “be more dog” and just enjoy the crap out of everything we got to do together.  Maybe she was happy that she got to teach me that.  Last Tuesday I took her to her favorite park for a walk, and she seemed a little tired but she got fired up every time someone walked by, and she sniffed by some of her favorite trees.  On Friday I skipped an extra hour of work on a long lunch break and took her for a walk down the block and around the alley.  It was farther than we had been walking post-amp (as I said, she never got her stamina completely back so we just rocked the short walks) but when we got to the corner I just wanted to let her keep pulling and sniffing.  It was the direction, down that block and around that corner, that we started off on almost all of our hundreds of walks over the years.  For some reason I didn’t want to make her turn around on Friday, so I let her sniff around that corner and we looped back towards home through the alley.  Late that night, my husband took her out to potty before bed and he said she pulled on her leash and took him for a little walk a few houses down and back.  I’m so glad we both got a chance to take her out on Friday.

 

I know this was a really long post.  Thank you for indulging me.  It helps to just tell the story.  I miss her like crazy.  My house is TOO quiet.  It’s not that I expect to see her laying in her ‘spots’ – which is weird, because any time she had been out of the house before, I would expect to see her – maybe it’s a defense mechanism in my brain to make it not hurt every time I look into the room.  I miss catching her beautiful eyes a hundred times a day as I was going about my business… I never even realized I did this until now.  I miss her sounds.  And I’m also terrified of hearing sounds that remind me of her.  I packed up her things on Sunday night, and I left her collar for last, and had to pick it up carefully so the tags wouldn’t jingle.  I’m not ready to hear that sound and not see her.  I get a little twitchy when the neighbor dogs bark.  I noticed that the back door is always locked now, not open and closed 50 times a day to let her in and out, I don’t even have to check to see if it’s locked when we leave the house or go to bed.  It’s the quiet door now.  I miss her so much.

I tried to upload a photo but it’s not working right now.  I may post some later, just to do it.  I guess I should sleep though.

2 months/Happy (early) Thanksgiving!

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Lazy, Happy Doggie

Saturday was Maggie’s 2 month ampuversary, and she is one happy and content lady!  I can’t think of any residual recovery issues from the surgery…we are just waiting for her to get more confident on the stairs so we can all sleep upstairs again, but other than that she is back to doing everything she loves.  Much of the time that means sitting on the back deck gossiping with the neighbor dogs or laying in the middle of the living room keeping an eye on her people, but man does she look happy doing those everyday things now.  Maybe it’s just that I appreciate it more.

Speaking of appreciation and gratitude, we have so much to be thankful for.  First, of course – Maggie is here and feeling good.  When I think back to 3 months ago when I first heard the word ‘cancer,’ I though all I was going to do for the next year was cry.  Holy cow have Maggie and I learned a lot since then!  I’m grateful for the perspective I have now on her quality of life and the commitment to help her enjoy every last day of it, without worrying (so much) about how many days or years…just good moments.

I’m incredibly grateful for the compassion of Maggie’s veterinarian and her staff – from calling me at 8:30 at night at the end of her long day, to talk with me about treatment options…to pulling strings to get us an appointment with an oncologist THE NEXT DAY, after I called asking for advice about waiting 2 weeks to get in with any specialists…to waiving 3 consecutive office visit charges out of sympathy for all of our vet bills…I’ve been blown away by their care.  They are not only patient with Maggie but also with her nervous-nelly Mom.  I think everyone who answers the phone there got to know me the first couple of weeks after her amputation, and they couldn’t have been nicer.  Seriously, who else would cheerfully suggest that you email pictures of your dog’s swollen, nasty-looking (no offense, Mags) incision site 3 days in a row so they could keep an eye on it without me having to bring her in—other than a vet who really shares your concerns?

Gratitude for the oncologist who, even though we were 20 minutes late for our appointment (driving in from 2+ hours away…I underestimated the +),  took almost 2 hours with us to check Maggie from head to tail and offered such deeply understanding and helpful advice about amputation vs. other options.  When we got the less-than-reassuring final biopsy results after her amputation, I emailed him to see if I could schedule a consultation to get his thoughts about chemo.  Although his email reply said he was out of the office for 2 days, he emailed me back 1/2 hour later with a quick response and a colleague called me 1/2 hour after that to read through the histopathology with me and explain much of what I didn’t understand.  He emailed again the next day to address all of my questions and concerns, and didn’t even mention charging anything for a consultation.  [Incidentally, this was not the specialty center where she had her surgery – although technically fantastic, I think they were too ‘specialized’ and not quite in step with my need for help interpreting and deciding what was best for Maggie.]

Appreciation for my boss and coworkers, who – even if they were thinking “what the is hell’s up with this crazy woman and her damn needy dog, taking a billion hours off work!?!” – never let on, and were pretty darn supportive.  My boss who pretends to be cool and impersonal, actually called from out of town on the day of Maggie’s surgery, to see how it was going.  That was pretty sweet.

Last but definitely not least, I have such deep gratitude for every one of you who administer, support, and populate this site.  I was so desperate for information and just plain freaked out about the idea of amputation, that I didn’t know what to do.  Finding this site is the main reason we made the decision to amputate, and the support and advice I found here is what got me through the first 2 weeks and beyond.  The stories and sense of community has enriched my life so much more than simply a “how to cope with a 3-legged dog” stuff.  So THANK YOU to everyone here for sharing their humanity, humor, caring, understanding, and wisdom.  I’m a better dog mommy, and a better person, because of it.  I hope you all have a very HAPPY THANKSGIVING with all of your favorite people/critters close by or close in your hearts.

Cindy and Maggie

Life is good

To everyone who responded when I said that Maggie had not been laying on her amputation side, tonight was the night for that. Yayyyy! I was winding down for the evening with some stretching yoga while Maggie watched from the other room with shifty eyes – like what is that weirdo doing on my floor?  Then she hopped up and laid down right in front of me and sort of ungracefully twisted onto her side, looking at me with pride and uncertainty at the same time. I almost hooted with joy, and amusement that she came to show me what she was doing. Maybe my ungraceful yoga inspired her!  Well needless to say she got 20 minutes of brushing and belly rubs on that side.  Her fur had been getting a bit raggedy looking from always laying on her left side, and I’m sure it felt fantastic to shift things around.

She thought about rolling into her back a couple of times, but must have decided to save that for another day when she thinks I need a little progress celebration. This was a great one for tonight!

imageAhhhhhh, that feels good!

Continue reading “Life is good”