Throwback Thursday

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#throwbackthursday seems like a good excuse to remember some of the fun times over the past 9+ years … we’ve been lucky to share these moments together and nothing will ever take this away from us.

On our way home on adoption day. Grover is my first  (and so far only)  dog “on my own” … neither of us had any idea what we were getting into! haha.

Playing in the Michigan snow

 

He doesn’t like every dog, but my friends dog Bella was his bff through school … watching Grey’s Anatomy I’m sure haha.

Enjoying Lake Michigan

Lake MI sunsets are pretty amazing

 

 


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Living life with chemo

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I am constantly humbled by Grover’s resiliency (and the resiliency of dogs in general). Grover’s white blood cell count came up just a few days late to hit the 3 week mark for chemo and is now successfully into round 2. To be honest — we hardly notice a difference, except that he wont eat kraft singles or peanut butter (which we usually hide his pills in) for about 5 days after. From our first chemo administration we learned that we have about 7-9 days before his neutrophils will drop and we need to be careful about where he goes and what germs he may encounter … so we lived up those 7 days.

I took Grover back out to our favorite hiking spot — Kamiak butte. I knew that we wouldn’t be able to climb to the top, but there is a grassy park just off the parking lot and I thought that the fresh air would do us both good. I never really knew if Grover actually liked hiking or if I liked hiking and he, as my constant companion, just went along. Well … I learned, that in fact he likes the hiking. I had to use his harness handle to physically drag all 45 kg of him off the trail that heads UP the butte. Twice. He finally took to the flat trails and at his insistence (i.e. refusing to go back) he hopped a total of 0.7 miles. Like a small child he will LITERALLY throw himself onto the ground, rolling in the grass, and refuse to get up if you try and turn him back before he thinks he is ready. Which, in this chapter of life we find hilarious and relish in his enthusiasm.

We have a met check coming in two weeks and initially I found myself “wishing it would hurry up and get here” so that I would know. So that I would know if we will qualify for the clinical trial we are hoping to get in. So that I would know if chemo was working. So that I would “know” if I could predict more time. And then, Grover reminded me to “be more dog”. Why waste these blissful 3 weeks — 21 days — 504 hours — 30,240 minutes — “hurrying up” to find out some information. Enjoy these moments. The sunsets and sunrises. The wind in his ears. His grass rolling temper tantrums. Car rides to get ice cream. Simply being together. That moment — the met check — will come regardless and  we have no control over the results. But, we can control taking advantage of the our time together now.

The wheat fields are harvested … but it’s still a beautiful view.

I have no words for this goofy boy sometimes 🙂

Week 3 Post-Op: Finding our groove

Relief at last. Trazadone brought us all a night of sleep. I’m amazed how much clearer one can think, how less dramatic things seem and calmer the world feels with sleep.

The next two nights we left the lights and TV on and had two more successful nights of sleep and good days and then … back to our normal routine.

We were hoping for an official consult with the behaviorist this week but chemo finally kicked Grover’s white blood cell’s in the butt. If we didn’t check his blood work we would never know — which is a good thing! Day 7 post chemo his white blood cell (WBC) count was completely normal. Day 9 his WBC, neutrophil and platelet counts were very low. I didn’t know things could change so quickly.

We learned that the chemo (carboplatin) targets rapidly dividing or growing cells, such as neoplastic or cancer cells. But, there are other rapidly dividing cells that are important that also get targeted — such as the bone marrow which makes the white blood cells and platelets. We hope that if the chemo is kicking his white blood cells it’s also kicking the cancer cell butts too!

With low WBCs and neutrophils (which we learned are particularly important for defending our dogs from infection) we need to be careful about limiting Grover’s exposure to potential pathogens or infections. Basically it means we need to avoid strange dogs, avoid going to the hospital unless it’s a real emergency (sadly, including rehab … Grover’s going to be sad he’s missing out on jacuzzi time!) and avoid outside places where he might be tempted to eat or drink things (i.e. the park) until his neutrophils rebound. We are also taking his temperature twice a day to keep a close watch for fevers, which would indicate we need to start antibiotics.

The good news is that there’s plenty of fun that we can have at home now that he is comfortable, happy and (we are all) sleeping well.

A super picture that was sent to me by two amazing  vet students as “proof of wellness” from inside the ICU one night when Grover was particularly whining/panting/restless and I panicked he could have had a GDV. We feel very lucky to have them as part of our team — it’s so comforting to know he has such good friends even when I can’t be with him. (Posted with student permission)

Luckily, even though we are “home bound” we can still enjoy the beautiful evenings and last bit of summer. You can tell by the golden hill in the back that wheat harvest is coming soon!

It’s a roller coaster ride

We are, admittedly, behind in updates of #Groversgrandfinale. Week 2 after surgery was … challenging and emotionally draining.

Week 1 after Chemotherapy? That was nothing. Grover never blinked an eye — no nausea, no diarrhea, no worries.

But, (there’s always a but), we began to really struggle with pain management. 11 days after surgery (on a Friday night of course) Grover started crying out when he lowered his head to eat, went to get up and sometimes just laying there in bed. The kind of screams that rip your heart apart. All of the warnings about exacerbating cervical disease and concerns about his remaining forelimb holding up came flooding back. Maybe we made the wrong decision. How long could we “ride out” this kind of pain to see if it improved?

To get us through the weekend our veterinary team prescribed us a fentanyl patch. We got his patch on and settled outside to try and enjoy some vitamin S (sun). Grover was finally able to rest, so we let him soak up the rays. As the day progressed he became increasingly unsteady on his feet. Panic started to set in … was it worsening of cervical disease? But … mentally he was slow … almost like he acts when he comes out of anesthesia. <light bulb moment>. The fentanyl patch. We remembered the veterinarians telling us, before his amputation, that they were taking the patch off because they could melt under the warming blankets and release uncontrolled amounts of fentanyl. All day he laid out in the sun … and melted his fentanyl patch. Essentially he was high as a kite from melting and releasing 3-5 days of fentanyl over a period of 12 hours. Son of a biscuit. We worked to get the patch off, wash the area and tried to comfort the now higher than a kite three legged Great Dane. Imagine trying to sooth a drunk Octopus. On the positive side of things … he wasn’t painful?

By morning he was back to normal and we were lucky that the neurology and rehab team got us in for assessment. The good news was that they didn’t find a significant abnormality on any of his exams … the bad news was that we didn’t know what the problem was. After another sleepless night of whining, panting and crying we ended up getting an MRI of his cervical spine/neck.

Normal. The MRI was normal. Relief washed over me and I have to admit I had no idea how stressed I had been until I felt the release of hearing the words normal. No mets to his neck. No compression of his cervical spine. Our best guess? The pain was from a pulled muscle. We added amantadine to his pain management schedule.

The relief was short lived as we all struggled through two sleepless nights of panting and whining. He wouldn’t lay down but would pace … it just didn’t make sense. If he was painful, why wasn’t he laying down?

We talked to our veterinary team the next morning and were referred to a veterinary behaviorist who explained to us that dogs can get dementia, similar to elderly people, which can be acutely made worse by anesthesia. He’d now had (2) anesthesia events in the past 2 weeks… it made sense. We were prescribed a sedative help us all get some sleep, left the lights on at night to hopefully remove some “night time anxiety” and had a formal appointment for more evaluation with the behaviorist the next week.

Fingers crossed this would help us overcome this new obstacle.

 

Grover getting some “jacuzzi” time in the under water treadmill during his rehab appointment

 

Day after chemo and … rehab!

We are pleasantly surprised that the day after chemo G is digging into breakfast and seems far less worried than we are. Lesson 1: I need to learn to “be more dog”.

The oncologist said she chose a slightly lower dose for him until we see how he responds because she has had a few patients end up septic in the ICU. We go back in 1 week to check is white blood cell counts but in the mean time … physical therapy!

The Tripawds group is a huge supporter of physical therapy in post amputation dogs which we think is amazing!! So much so that they will even pay for your first Physical therapy consultation! tripawds rehab program   What a generous program to help dogs get back on their feet!

We were lucky enough to already be enrolled in a physical therapy program pre-amputation to help keep Grover active and hiking in his golden years … the focus of his PT is shifting but we are lucky to have them as part of #teamgrover. Owner brag moment: Grover has even been featured on the American Association of Rehab Veterinarians Facebook page before! If you haven’t been there, check them out and scroll down to a June 21 post that has a most handsome Great Dane loving his spa day (not that I’m biased or anything).

Here is a photo of Grover getting some bonus massage therapy by some visiting veterinary students have his acupuncture treatment. We have to wait for suture removal before he can get back in the underwater treadmill … we are counting down the days!