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An Awesome Pup and His Human

An American Bulldog's Story

An Awesome Pup and His Human

Deep Breath. Keep Breathing.

April 5th, 2018 · 10 Comments · Uncategorized

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“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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10 Comments so far ↓

  • dougo1

    That’s is good news. If it hast spread yet why they giving only 3 to 6 months. We just had amputation and I am hoping for more ?

    • roscoeandjeffro

      I think it is a textbook and overly generalized answer. We have no PET or CT scan, just a few X-Rays.

      Even with a PET scan, there is a chance of “micro-mets,” aka microscopic metastasis. Those little cellular buggers could be circulated by the blood stream for months before they snag in a bone, liver, spleen, kidney, or (80-ish% of the time) in a lung.

      Like when I asked one doc, “Where is it most likely to show up next?” The answer was (appropriately), “Wherever it wants…” Healthy or corrupted, cells reproduce.

      Statistics is a cool thing, for those who experience the good side of the normal distribution curve. The good side is relative. For every median, there are values that are not exactly in the middle. In our cases, we want to be longer than the median survivability of 3 months for no action, 3-6 months for amputation only, and 3-12 months for amputation with chemotherapy.

      Truth is that we (you and I, and everyone reading this) can be facing a really aggressive strain that is actually Stage 4 in spite of what the lymph nodes look like (3 months, best case, in spite of interventions); or a more lazy from of osteosarcoma (well-over 12 months, with modest and conservative interventions). Statistically speaking, though, most cases most of the time seem to give us 377 or so more days with our canine companion; given the relatively aggressive and (IMHO) humanitarian approach I’ve committed for our case.

      The sentient part of me just feels my pup’s pulse. It doesn’t consider odds or statistics. It just smiles at the “Sit”. It rejoices seeing the left side shoulder muscles twitch when I ask for a “Shake my hand” prior to being released to eat. It doesn’t care about what bacteria might be in a really slobbery kiss. It just likes the slobbery kiss. The human part of me hopes we pass the median survivability, even if it falls 3 standard deviations greater than a mean or median. Nonetheless, I will be devastated wherever the end of Roscoe’s life falls (unless he out-lives me); but I guess that’s what makes it a human experience.

      (I admit that in all of this, I am really trying to be more like a dog; thanks to the one I’m grieving, even while he still lives.)

  • paws120

    Omg, I was dying there for a moment. Had tears, had to put my phone down briefly. Happy ending, thank goodness… for you. I held tight for the worst but it was all good!
    I’m breathing now and smiling. So happy for you, what a freaking scare!!!
    Life itself IS a fatal condition, so morbid but also so true.
    I’m genuinely tickled that you will have more time with your boy, ecstatic !!
    Life is also a freaking rollercoaster, this time you won ❤️❤️❤️

  • boscodog

    Those artifacts on the x-rays are the worst! I am so relieved for you!!!!! So glad you got to bring Roscoe home too!!

  • tgranny

    What a heart-wrenching experience! I am so happy that he was able to come home. And I am so happy that the shadow was ONLY a shadow. Lots of hugs to you all!

  • benny55

    Holy molu!! What a roller coaster ride you and Roscoe have been on!! I was on the edge of my seat and, loke Jackie,starting to tear up.

    Yeah, seeing Vets smile is always a good thing!! Such a relief tomknow all is well with Roscoe and he can get on with fully recovering and enjoy being Roscoe!! 🙂

    I missed an esrlier post or two and went back and caught up. Those puppy pictures…OMD….sooo cute!! He and Hazel are such a good looking pair!

    I’ve been on this site for over five years now and statistics don’t mean too much arou d here. Sometimes dogs get “less time than statistics say” and sometimes “more than statistics say”!

    Pug Maggie wasgiven 6 – 9 months. Passed four years later and not from that cancer. Nitro beat the statistics for 3 1/2 years and passed from old age. Cemile is currently a five year Warrior!

    Regardless, THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IS TO MAKE EVERY MOMENT THE BEST MOMENT EVVVVER!! 🙂 Roscoe doesn’t have a timeframe stamped on hspis vutt and he sure doesn’t care about days on a calendar!! He’s living in the now and not wastr one second worrying about the tomorrows! 🙂

    HOME SWEET HOME!!! Sooooo glad Roscoe is home and giving sloppy kisses! Time to getnyiur sparkle back Roscoe…and stay out of the Vet’s office!

    Hugs!
    Sally and Alumni Happy Hannah and Merry Myrtle and Frankie too!

    • roscoeandjeffro

      Thanks, benny55. (Do me a favor, and give Cemile a scratch behind the ears for us… and a wink, if you don’t mind.)

  • jerry

    Holy MOLY I stopped breathing as I read though your post. THANK DOG everything is OK!!!!

    You have such a great attitude, Roscoe is very, very proud of you. It’s not easy to stay strong for him but you are doing a great job. Keep it up, it will go so very far.

    Meanwhile remember, those prognoses are just a guess. Roscoe doesn’t have an expiration date stamped on his butt.

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