Monday, December 28, 2009

BELIEVE IN MIRACLES; Another milestone for Jinx


Jinx celebrated Christmas 2009 with a large knuckle bone. She is my Christmas Miracle and the best gift I could ask for. Recall that when we left the UW-veterinary hospital in Madison in September they sent us home to manage the pain and die. They told us that she had a peripheal nerve sheath tumor and that it was terminal. If they amputated her leg, the median return time for the cancer was projected at 7.5 months. Without amputation, they told me to expect the tumor would invade her spine in 2 months.

We returned home, grieved and regrouped. I took Jinx to Dr. Strickfaden in Depere, who is a holistic vet. Anyone who follows this blog has read of the path we have taken. Jinx takes biocome treatment every other week, to support pain management and energy levels. She only gets 1/2 deramaxx each day, along with Chinese herbs for energy. I watched in trepidation for any sign that she was stumbling or losing the battle. Thanksgiving came and went and she remained strong and happy. In fact, I asked a friend to give her a bite with the bite pillow and she hit so hard she knocked him off his feet, as he did not expect she had that kind of strength! She is on three legs, with the affected foot atrophied but gets along well as a tripod.
A wonderful friend, David Jackson, volunteered to take photos of Jinx for me. I wanted to get a photograph to have a nice portrait of her and to use in my Christmas cards. Jackson is a professional photographer who does some very interesting things with lighting. He took the photos of Jinx gratis. I am eternally grateful. We took the photographs in front of twisted metal at a rubble site similar to the type of environment in which we worked.
Shortly before Christmas, Dr. Strickfaden told me of a new drug that has had some success in "eating" cancers. It is preferably injected into the tumor, but with Jinx that area is so near to her spine and under the scapula so it is inaccessible. Instead, we use an oral version. The drug is called "Neoplasene". It is expensive, and if it shows success she will continue to be on a maintenance dose. I asked Tom to pick up a refill for me and when he returned home he was shaking his head and said, "we have to start bagging Jinx's poop." I figured they must need to examine in for sloughing cancer cells or something but I asked "why?" He replied, "because at the price of this stuff, she must be shitting GOLD!"
One thing that I did discuss with the vet was the bad advice I received from one of the assistants who called to tell me how to apply the medication. The gal told me to use soft food and to conceal the medicine, which has a nasty taste. She said dogs can lose their appetite with this treatment. I told her that dogs have an incredible sense of smell, and also are not stupid. If you take a food they like, and make it taste and smell terrible, do you think they will eat it the next time? Not a chance! And then you are set on a spiraling downward path of trying new things to entice the dog to eat. Instead, I use a liquid syringe and just pop the icky stuff down her throat. She knows she has to do that in order to be released to get the GOOD STUFF!! The good stuff includes two tablespoons of yogurt (any dog on medication needs probiotics) with some canned dog food and her Deramaxx tab in the morning, and a bowl with 1/2 cup Orijin dog food soaked in hot water. She eagerly waits for meal time and her appetite has not diminished in the least. When I explained the logic, Dr Strickfaden agreed with me and understood. I suggested that they might be causing dogs to actually stop eating with the advice they had given me.
But here it is Christmas 2009 and the dog that the UW told me would likely be dead in two months (actually suggesting they thought the cancer had already invaded her spine but wasn't showing on the MRI based on her neurologic reactions) and she is still here, still happy and still the same sweet yet crazy malinois she has always been. Tonight, just for giggles, I asked her to do an Object Guard on a food bowl and she gladly and SERIOUSLY complied!! I gave her bite rewards and I swear she smiled! If she is dying, no one has told her yet.
I know it is possibly too much to ask or expect that the cancer will disappear, but I do hope. And I do wonder whether she might regain use of her foot and whether I will need to massage the toes to loosen it up again? I'm very afraid of amputation because it has been my experience that the cancer cells just go crazy when you insult the body like that, so as long as she can get along on three legs but holding up the fourth, we'll continue that way. The story to this point is certainly a Miracle. She has survived and blessed us for two more months than was predicted. Yes, I realize that cancer is unpredictable and both people and animals outlast diagnosis at times.
But today, we have another Miracle.

Christmas 2009

Wow! Another Christmas has come and gone. Here in Black Creek, Wisconsin we received over 16 inches of snow in a season opening blizzard. That makes things difficult for managing the property. Driveways and paths have to be plowed, kennels shoveled out. Shortly after that, a dose of freezing rain left us with a hard, slippery shelf that I hesitate to let dogs run together on.

Tom and I decided to go for a stroll around the property on snowshoes. His are much bigger, the traditional warden snowshoe and worked better on the surface. I have the small ,light weight metal version and they broke through slightly and I ended up following in his wake. We took Quinn along for the walk and even watching him I worried, as he would travel well on the crust and then break through. It made me very happy that I didn't have two dogs racing around with abandon and injuring themselves. The Quinnster was grateful for the opportunity to take advantage of the adventure; perhaps a little too much so! He would routinely turn around, wind up and run back to pummel me, or to throw himself at my feet, ON my snowshoes for a belly rub. Hard to resist!

Ridley, my newest stripey addition (Dutch Shepherd) had her own outside time. Cooper FINALLY got tired of having her harrass him when he tried to pee, and he ground her into the snow. She is none the worse for it. I want her to experience a Quinn correction but will have to wait for better weather. She loves the snow, as well.
She has one very bad habit, which I observed when I picked her up at the breeder... she is a shit eater. This is not an attractive quality and I had been successful at avoiding the issue by picking it up in her pen or correcting her physically, but with my shoulder injury and Tom being in charge of getting her outside, she has had too much unsupervised outdoor time to play with frozen turds. Sorry for the graphic nature, but that's the way it is. This is a horrible habit that can be eliminated by keeping the puppy area picked up but now I have to deal with it.

The hoar frost made a winter faerie land that could not be ignored. To be able to walk in such beauty is something that can not be underappreciated. To live in, and be able to share it with people and dogs that you love is a blessing. This is the beauty of the world that Christ gave us, a shining celebration of His birth.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

It Takes a Village

Oh my gosh, what can I say about the terrific friends I have? As anyone reading this blog knows, I am a hunting widow this week. If only it were that simple! I am a hunting widow who is recovering from shoulder surgery, had a dog injured during the week requiring her to be kept indoors and hand-walked, another extra dog in the house in preparation to being shipped to his new home so that he can be acclimated to the crate time, in addition to taking care of a kennel full of dogs. Prior to Tom leaving, I had barely left my recliner but I assured him I could take care of things while he was gone.

I have the best friends in the world.!! Sue drives me to physical therapy, and checks in via text messages to make sure I am doing my home exercises. It is tough to watch a friend in such pain, and she masks it well by yelling at me like a coach. (or at least, I assume it is masking. Her husband said I should have known better than to ask a Hatcher for sympathy!!) I told her she makes a better hockey coach but the truth is, it is exactly what is need for this typ e of rehab. It does hurt and I do have to push through the pain. There is no getting around it. I use this as an excuse for the two of us to visit Barnes and Noble after every session, so it has worked out nicely from my perspective!

Yesterday Laurel B came over and cleaned kennels and took Chica out for a walk while Denise W took Ridley and then Epic for their turns. When they asked what they could do to help, I felt one of the nicest things was to get my poor poochies out for some exercise. Tomorrow Sam is driving up from Madison to do the same. I feel better just knowing that my dogs are taken care of. When I posted on FB of my difficulties this week, I had so many friends offering to help and I appreciate it so much.

I've been handling the feeding with no problem. The morning routine takes me an hour, to get everyone out and taken care of. Jinx goes out first. She is always in a hurry to get back in for breakfast. She gets multiple medications with her meal. While she is out, I feed Kia, the Siamese cat, who begins protesting and attempting to lead me to where her food is at first sign of movement in the morning. Toyota, my other Siamese, is in a cat cage as he does not tolerate changes to his routine well, and will mark in the house when disturbed. With all that is going on lately, keeping him sequestered is the safest thing to do. I check his food and water. Once Jinx is fed, she goes back to the bedroom. I let Cooper and Ridley out together to run around abit and then Cooper goes to the outside kennel and Ridley goes to her little exercise pen on the back patio, where she gets a morning meal. Inevitabley, she will spill her water dish in play. I really do need to put a bucket in there, attached to the fence. Next, Epic goes out to his outside kennel. Finally, Chica comes out of her crate, satellite dish in place. I take off the collar, and she sits nicely while I tape a plastic bag to the paw with the sutures to keep it clean and dry. She doesn't mind the bag at all but I have trouble keeping it in place. I have to hand walk her to potty because she does not realize she is injured and would run with wild abandon if allowed off leash. Yesterday I asked Laurel to walk her a few minutes in the yard but when I called for her, she was way down on the lane and Laurel said "it doesn't seem to bother her!" Well, no, it doesn't. But the silly little dog has a high pain threshold and I have to be the careful one so that the foot does not become infected. When we come back in, I let her run around in the house for about an hour while I check the computer. I give her the Clavamox and make sure she doesn't cough it back up, as she has done several times. She mostly sits in front of me, waiting for me to acknowledge her, or tries to get closer by putting her front feet up on the chair to get petted. Eventually, I replace the elizabethean collar and put her back in the crate. Whew! House critters taken care of.

Then I walk to the kennel to get those dogs fed and watered. I bring extra treats so that when I remove their dishes they don't run out but wait for an additional yummy. They are blowing coat, silly things! Didn't they see the snowflakes this morning? Even Ali, who was bare naked last year after his allergic reaction, has a lovely thick coat in need of brushing. That will probably be next on my "to do" list, though brushing my require more use of my arm that I have available right now. By 10:00 I have the morning routine finished. During the rest of the day I will have to alternately get Ridley, Chica, and Jinx out again. Evening medications, another feeding and that is pretty much the doggie day.

This morning I received a call from the greenhouse in Seymour, asking if I would be home because they had a delivery for me. I naturally assumed it was from Tom, a sweet apology of sorts for being gone. It is a lovely bouquet but the name on it is from Tom, alright, but not MY Tom! It is from Tom S, a very nice man who comes for private obedience lessons. How sweet and thoughtful is that! I will definately mention to my husband, though and maybe turn it into two bouquets!! ha ha! The flowers did indeed brighten my day. They are one more reminder of the wonderful people that I have around me.

I love my Village!!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

new treatment for Jinx

Jinx and I visited Dr. Strickfaden today for our regular biocom treatment. We have been on a 2 week protocol but I felt we needed to get an extra visit in after discovering she was experiencing pain in her spine last week. Both of us have been disrupted this week with Tom gone, Jinx trying to comfort me in my own therapy, and two extra dogs in the household.... it's enough to drive a healthy dog to their bed! I felt that an extra session would be helpful, if only to relieve stress and renew energy.

Dr Strickfaden mentioned a new treatment to try for Jinx. She had discussed it with the doctor who has used it successfully and felt it was worth trying. It is called "Neoplasene" and is apparently a combination of eastern and western medicine; in reading it is derived from the Native American bloodroot. Ideally, we would inject it into the tumor itself, but the location posed a problem. In reading about the drug, it can open up a wound as the cancer cells slough off, and that might be difficult in the location of the tumor, so near the spine and under the scapula. So we are trying the oral medication. I was warned that it tasted very bad and to disguise it in something yummy, but I know what terrific noses dogs have--- Jinx in particular--- and that trick would work only once! I need to make sure she ingests it, so I just drop it down her throat using a syringe. Clearly, it DID taste like crap, but this was quickly forgotten amidst the extra Natural Balance treats I placed in the dish. It is not cheap, and I don't want to become one of those crazy people who will try anything to prolonge an unsustainable life, but a deep spark in my heart asks "what if THIS is the treatment that works?" Afterall, the UW-vet hospital staff left me with no options other than pain management. And, you know what, I'm okay with not chasing rainbows and attempting unworkable solutions or keeping Jinx hanging on just for my sake. However, if this medicine can truly cure her, wouldn't that just be something? We are already over our "expiration date" and have nothing to lose.

In the course of researching the Neoplasene, I also found the dog cancer blog that I posted above. It seems to be an interesting site for questions and answers. I don't think I am going backwards in the grief process by now discovering a thread of hope, and I'm not being unrealistic about it. I am open to anything that will assist Jinx and I on this journey.