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An Awesome Pup and His Human

An American Bulldog's Story

An Awesome Pup and His Human

It’s Just a Bruise

April 21st, 2018 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

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Yesterday, during a spoiled pup’s morning massage, I noticed a dark purple bruise at the base of Roscoe’s scar line.  I quickly checked for any other such spots, and saw none.  It wasn’t there the night before, so it’s acute appearance concerned me a bit.  Knowing that I can easily be the type of dog dad to over-react (especially in the last couple of months), I switched-on my clinical side.

Being a paramedic for the last 18 years, I discover that I understand what some of my colleagues mean when they say, “I can handle anybody else’s kids when they are sick.  The sicker they are, the calmer I am.  But when it’s my kids, most of my reasoning goes right out the window.  It’s not the same when it’s yours.”

I mentally checked myself back to reason.  I found a Sharpie and marked the borders.  I estimated its size as about a centimeter, and checked the time.  0630.  Hmmm….  Doc’s not in yet.  I’ll call the clinic this morning, and let them know what’s going on.  Whatever it is, he’s not ‘crashing’.  He seems happy.  Good appetite.  No panting.  Nice pink gums.  We are okay, at least for a couple more hours.

When my morning at work kind of settled down, I gave the doc a call and told her what was going on.  She told me her afternoon was booked solid, but when I got home to check it.  If it is any bigger at all, even a millimeter, then I should come drop in on them for a CBC.  I left work early and checked the spot as soon as I came through the door.  To my relief, it was almost totally faded.  My Differential Diagnosis:  Worried Dad.  Well Dog.  I called and let her know I wouldn’t be coming in.  Everything looked fine.

We got up this morning and everything seemed fine still.  I let the pups out to do their business, then fed them and started getting ready for work.  As I finished getting dressed, I heard Roscoe scratching.  It’s that time of year in Texas, and anything with a pulse seems to have some kind of allergy to some living thing without a pulse.  Like clockwork, this is typical for Roscoe, right about the third week in April.

When I laid him down to check him out, I saw that his skin at the scar line was not just red from allergy or scratching, but actually looked bruised.  It was fine, literally 15 minutes prior.  The area was larger than a centimeter, about ten inches in diameter, bruised, but not as dark purple as the spot the day before.

“Crap,” I said to Roscoe, looking in his eyes, “I should have taken you in yesterday.”  He answered my doubting words the way I would expect him to.  He gave me a couple of really slobbery kisses, sliming my freshly-showered face.  Always forgiving.

I assured myself that clinically there was no good reason to have taken him in yesterday after the spot cleared, but also convinced myself quickly that this redness wasn’t a normal allergic reaction type thing.  I loaded him in the car and headed to the vet.  A call at noon confirmed my gut feel from the morning before.  Platelets, which should have been above 150,000 were measured at 6,000.  Day 15 after chemo.  Day 14 is the standard ‘nadir’ for effects of chemo.

“Did you say ‘six’, or ‘sixty’?” I asked.

“Six,” said the vet, “I called (the oncologist), and he said while it is extreme, it was to be expected.  Start Vitamin K, and he would plan on reducing the next round of Carboplatin by 20%.”

“Six?” I said, still kind of freaked out, “Does he need FFP?”

“Roscoe is fine.  We’ve got him in isolation, and he’s already started on Vitamin K.  He’ll turn pretty quickly,” she assured me.  She continued, “The good news is his red cells and neutrophils are awesome, considering the hit he took to platelets.  They are both within reference range for normal.  This is how we all figure out how the second treatment should go.  It’s all part of the plan.  Let it play.”

So I take another breath, and let it play.

End of day:  Roscoe is home.  His energy today was the highest I’ve seen in over two months.  He was pulling on the leash so strongly this morning that he even made me jog across the parking lot at the vet when we first got there.  He seemed even more energetic when I picked him up.  Seems like he’s ready to call it an early night, though, after getting to see some of his friends at the clinic for the day.

Sweet dreams, my prince.


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Good Days, Not Such Good Days

April 20th, 2018 · 8 Comments · Uncategorized

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We are two weeks post first chemo treatment.  The doc said to expect some GI symptoms in the first 48-72 hours post treatment.  My Roscoe did seem to have a little loss of appetite, and maybe a BM that seemed a little loose, but he didn’t vomit and didn’t lose his appetite for food or water.

If anything, he just didn’t have the energy or unction that he normally has … which lasted maybe 3-4 days.  A couple of days this week, he kind of concerned me because he would only walk a short distance before laying down and taking a break.  Then again, it concerns me every time he licks at a limb or joint.

It’s difficult to trust the process, never having been through it before.  Like the post title, though, he seems to be having really good days, with some not-so great-days thrown in.  I don’t mean to be preachy, but my roots and beliefs encourage me to recall a few verses in the Bible.  Specifically for this journey, Mark 5:1, “They came to the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gerasenes.”

It might seem odd that this line carries so much weight; without the context the last lines of the previous chapter.  Jesus said, “Let’s go to the other side of the lake.”  It is the recollection of the disciples freaking out when a storm came out of nowhere while they were crossing (a presumably large) lake.  The disciples woke Him up and remarked, “Teacher, do You not care that we are about to perish?!”

Jesus (I imagine He was annoyed) replied to the effect of, “What is wrong with you guys?  I said we’re going to the other side.  What gives?”  Then he told the storm to chill out and it chilled out.

I know not everyone reading this subscribes to a faith, let alone to the Christian faith, but even for those who don’t, there is something, some hope to take away from these few lines.

The seas are stormy in our lives right now.  I really admire this dog, and some days the waves seem to kind of beat down on us.  Chaos, doubt, confusion.  They are each very readily met with the loving lapping of a canine tongue.  It’s as if, when my concern seems to take control of my day because Roscoe didn’t walk as far today as he did yesterday, those doubts and frustrations are met with the slobber from a dog’s tongue on my face (and entire head, to be clear), saying, “Enjoy now.  Have faith.  I will never leave your side.  Ever.”  Things like this make life, and even its challenges, a little more bearable. Roscoe makes life and its challenges more bearable.  Maybe that’s why I’m scared.

On a more humorous note, I snapped this shot of Roscoe after he did what he had to do to make his toy more like him.  What a character.  I really love this guy.

I can’t say there are good days and bad days, because there really aren’t any bad days.  Some days are clearly belter than others, but how can a life be bad, when it has a dog in it?  Humans are taught to plan ahead, to anticipate tomorrow.  Dogs don’t do that…. at least not that I can discern.  Dogs can wake the same way they spend their days, the same way they sleep, living in the moment.  I like taking a break from being human every now and then, and try to live that day in the moment, like Roscoe…..

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Chemo. Day One.

April 7th, 2018 · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

Today at the (doggie) oncologist’s office, another (human) client came in after I, and checked in, sat down while I filled out paperwork. Then one of the clinic staff came over with a bath mat, offering Roscoe an alternative to the tile.

He lay down on the mat, wagging his tail while he looked at the other human client. After a few minutes, she said, “My stars. I can’t help it. You are just too darn adorable.” She got up, walked across the lobby, knealt down, gave Roscoe a big hug and then a couple minutes of belly rub, telling him what a happy and loved dog he is.

There are some really bad headlines in the world these days.  Then there are the headlines we walk through.  I’m guessing right now that for every painful thing that happens in a life, there are hundreds or thousands of blessings and miracles that happen as well.  I wonder how many of these things I have missed?  I’ve seen more than a few, but now that my mind is more like a dog’s, I see it everywhere. Cups runneth over all over the place. Blessings pour out of every unexpected place. Mr. Rogers was right:

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”

These people that show a little kindness out of the blue are my heroes, and I never noticed there are so many of you out there.  I knew you were out there, but never realized just how many.

Living gospels.

Roscoe is doing really well, considering how I thought he might be eight hours after his first round of chemo.  His appetite isn’t as voracious as it normally is, but he’s got appetite.  He’s even playing with Hazel tonight after a long day.  He walked a few hundred yards altogether, I’m sure.  When we got home, he had a little face-plant near the front door, but I’m thinking he caught the scent of a cat or possum, and stopped to take it in.

I’m happy with my vet’s choice of specialist.

I’m stoked to be comforting my friend.

I have no words for how I feel about his comfort to me.

He’s a gem.

Humans favor their dogs.

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Deep Breath. Keep Breathing.

April 5th, 2018 · 10 Comments · Uncategorized

“What the Heck.  Let’s See How He Does.”

I went to see Roscoe again on the Saturday before Easter Sunday.  I figured he would be discharged, after almost three weeks at the clinic.  Buddy the vet was talking to me about Roscoe’s progress when he said, “…so how is next week looking for you?  You good with him being discharged Tuesday or Wednesday?”

I tried to hide my heart sinking.  I’d really been hoping Roscoe would come home today.  Yeah, there were still staples in.  Yeah, there were still stitches where the drains had been.  Yeah, he was still a little lacking in the endurance and strength departments.  But I was missing him.  I was becoming jealous that if he is only getting 3-6 months, the clinic staff is getting three weeks of that time.

I fought back my disappointment and frustration, though.  I wanted Buddy to be confident that I trust him.

“Well, I was kind of hoping he could come home today, but I’m okay with whatever you think is best.”  I continued scratching Roscoe behind the ear, as he grinned his ongoing smile of happiness, I’m sure mixed with a measure of anxiety.

I guess I couldn’t hide the look on my face too well, because Buddy quickly took another tack.  “Aw.  You know what?  What the hell.  Take him home and let’s see how he’ll do.  (qualification) We’ll need him back Monday to run some labs if we’re going to go forward with chemo, though.  If you can bring him back for labs, go ahead and see how he does for a night or two.”

And Then the Next Slap in the Face

I dropped Roscoe off at the clinic on Easter Sunday afternoon, after a really awesome 24 hours home.  The doc asked how it went.  I gave my report.  “Everything was good with mobility and with Hazel (my other dog).  However,” I continued, “…he’s panting a lot and licking at his right arm.  I think he’s over-exerting.  He’s got a lot of spunk and has been following me everywhere around the house.  I think he’s just moving around more at the house than he has been at the clinic.”

Doc said they would keep an eye on him and run labs first thing Monday, and have him ready for discharge Monday afternoon.

I got a phone call Monday morning.  “We are sending the labs and x-rays to the oncologist and an orthopedist.  (pause)  There is a shadow on the distal tip of the right ulna.  It’s not clear what it is.  It may just be a shadow.  It doesn’t have the same moth-eaten pattern that is characteristic of osteosarcoma, but we don’t know what to make of it.”

As my sister put it in an SMS reply:  “Shit.”

My heart sped up a bit.  I felt like vomiting.  I wanted to be angry at something, but had no target.  I wanted to be furious, but I didn’t know where to direct it.  I took a deep breath, and accepted that life is terminal for everything that lives.  I think a couple more tears escaped me.  That’s been kind of the norm for the last month or so.  Then, a moment of pause.

For now, I was deeply thankful to just have the chance at one more night with my buddy.  No doubt I felt betrayed that so many have gone through so much to be so hopeful; only for a shadow to show on an x-ray mere days after amputation.

“Whatever it is on the x-ray, I’m picking him up tonight,” I told the doc, “I need him home.”

He tried to reassure me, “Absolutely.  But don’t read more into this than I am saying.  Let’s hear what they think before we jump to conclusions.  It’s a shadow.  We are consulting them for their opinion.”

I was 25 miles away from the clinic when I got out of class.  There was still no follow-up from the clinic.  Anyone who knows Austin traffic knows that there is no easy way out of the city at rush hour, and while I live in the city, the clinic is in the suburbs .  I took a toll lane that I swore I would never use to get to a clinic I knew was going to be busy enough that I would have to wait for a few minutes.

Two vets came into the exam room before they brought Roscoe to me.  Both of them were smiling.

I like smiling vets.

“The shadow was only visible on one angle.  We re-shot it at a different angle and the bone appears normal.  Both the oncologist and ortho agree it’s just a positional shadow on a normal ulna.  We all recommend starting chemo this week, if possible, and if you still want to go that route.  CBC is optimal.  Chest and other views are clear,” one of them said.

I reminded myself that life itself is a fatal condition.

I was thankful, again, for one more night with Roscoe.  In a bigger way, I was thankful for a lot of things that I seem to normally take for granted.  It’s a small token, the things that a pup can teach us, a small but priceless token.

The first 48 hours in five weeks without a visit to a kennel or hospital.

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A Few Days Before Discharge

April 4th, 2018 · 2 Comments · Uncategorized

March 27: Roscoe with his five year old rescued sister Hazel, a few days before discharge. A little better every day.

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