One Year Without Tate

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I’ve had such mixed feelings about posting on the one-year anniversary of losing Tate.  But it wouldn’t feel right to let the day pass without posting here.  And so first I just want to say that I don’t cry as much anymore but I still think about him every day, mostly with smiles but the pain is still so sharp at times.  Tate was our first dog and my “heart” dog.

Looking back, I see that his blog was very therapeutic for me to write.  Tripawds is a place where we can indulge our emotions and someone is always there for you.  So if you happened to get here on a search (I found Tripawds with a hit on someone’s blog), I’m here to tell you this is a great place for support.

I’ve tried (sometimes) to offer helpful information for someone dealing with histiocytic sarcoma or a hemipelvectomy.  If you have questions, just PM tatespeeps at Tripawds and I’ll respond.

I’ve had some other things on my mind as well so please indulge me now for a few minutes.  This first thing is important but if you’re reading this I might be too late.  If you have a larger size dog, 60+ lbs., and they start limping inexplicably, please get x-rays.  I can’t tell you how many Tripawds members, myself included, lost valuable time doing the “painkillers and see how he does” thing.  Do this even if they are young, Tate was only 4 years old.

Most people say their dog was fine with amputation, same as before but pain-free, all that.  That’s not always true.  Tate loved to play with other dogs before his amp but not after.  He tried to play with his best friend Loretta but it wasn’t working like it was supposed to so he avoided playing.  The only dog he would play with was his little sister Sam.

His behavior toward me changed after his amp.  He used to do this thing where he’d lick my wrist, just lay his tongue on my wrist while I pet him but he never did that again until the day he died.  Other little ways to show his affection.  I think maybe he didn’t trust me anymore.  When they were taking him in for the surgery, he wouldn’t go and I knelt down and told him it would be okay.  But then it wasn’t.  They chopped his leg off and that was not okay with him.  Just know that your dog might not be the same, depends on the dog.  Tate was a sensitive boy.

I think it is important to never forget that your dog has cancer, no matter how well they are doing.  The end won’t be as much of a sucker-punch that way.  Don’t dwell on it but use it constructively.

Please, please, please treat your dog responsibly at the end.  Most people do but a few do not and so I feel compelled to say it.  Same thing when you are considering treatment options.  Every responsible dog owner asks “I am I doing this for me or for him?”  If you haven’t seriously asked yourself that question, ask it now.  Remember what we love about dogs, that they live in the moment.  I wanted Tate to have one more summer at the cabin.  Would he have chosen amputation to have one more summer at the cabin?  Beats me, it’s a silly question.  But I do know now that the summer at the cabin was for me at least as much as it was for Tate.   Anyway, please – respect their moments.

When it’s over, be careful who you share your grief with and do whatever helps you heal.  Healing is intentional, it takes work, and it is very personal.

Finally, don’t second-guess yourself.  Whatever decisions you made are, by definition, right.  We all just do the best we can when we’re dealt a crummy hand.

Well, I feel better having gotten that off my chest.  Thanks for reading.  Now I could write pages and pages about Tate and how perfect he was but you would probably find that boring so I’ll just share a few (well, kind of a lot) of my favorite pictures of my good, smart boy.

Tate loved going to our cabin
That black dot in the water is Tate swimming – a favorite activity
Tate fishing
Relaxing on the deck

 

Keeping watch on his lake
Exploring
He’d run around and explore on that lake no matter how cold it was
He loved the snow, too
Wrestling with Loretta
He had an instant crush on Faith
Play bow at the dog park
But not everyone was friendly!
Lake Michigan was a favorite
Little Sister Sam
My good smart boy

 

 

 

 

 


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Early Again…Almost 3 Months

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Well, the last month has been kind of up and down.  Tate was sick for a good part of it and there were so many things happening at once, we weren’t sure what it was.  First, the new puppy completely disrupted Tate’s kingdom.  Then, he had his third chemo treatment (CCNU capsules, which he’s never had a problem with) but the doctor added an antibiotic and gabapentin because Tate still had an open sore at his incision.  The very next day, he starting vomiting and had poop problems.  This went on at various levels of severity for over two weeks, with a fever of 105o thrown in for good measure, plus an assortment of new meds trying to get this controlled.  Poor little guy, and through it all he had this monkeybutt little sister biting his ears and his tail at every turn.

Finally, the vet said, “Take him off everything.”  So the poop problems subsided but in the meantime the weather turned blistering hot and he started barfing whenever he drank water.  Now he gets his water in a little bowl instead of a bucket, but he really is much less able to take the heat.  Used to be he’d rather be with us no matter what but now he stays inside with air conditioning more often.  So he’s back in reasonable health and the sore has finally healed.  (Whew!  What a relief that is!)  He had his fourth and final chemo treatment with only minor effects.  This is a normal we can live with.  We’ll see about putting him on a low-dose chemo next time we see the oncologist but certainly not if it makes him miserable or even uncomfortable.

Thanks to our own personal Tripawds Puppy Advisory Board (Ge’Lena, Shari and Charon), Little Sister Sam is now under control.  She cries at the back door to go out, she stays out of the kitchen, she sometimes drops the rock or whatever on the “out” command (even a robin one time), and most importantly, she lets up on the “be nice” command.  Then she licks his head and ears.  We don’t leave them alone together very often, and Tate’s getting plenty of time with us away from her.  So enormous gratitude to the T.P.A.B., your wisdom and willingness to share it saved the day!  Tripawds is the best!

Along the way, a number of friends have celebrated ampuversaries in the double digits and I realized, I’d been starting to count on Tate joining their ranks.  Lucky for me, I had a reminder from an Angel that every day is precious, things can change quickly.  And so my priorities are back in order…even if the garden is full of weeds.

A special note to all the Angels out there – you don’t even know the blessings your blogs spread around the Tripawds community and I’m sure to even more guests that we don’t even know about.  So an extra-special thank you to each and everyone one of you.

About our Decision

This is for my friends that might visit from elsewhere.  Not that we need to explain ourselves, but hoping to inform the general public about canine cancer.

1.  This website is for people like me, faced with a shocking diagnosis (Tate’s only 4!) and while amputation may be as horrifying for you as it was for us, these fine folks are living with it.  It is their “normal”.  And their dogs are happy and living wonderful doggy lives.

2.  My siblings and I watched my sister die of cancer.  She was able to make all her own decisions and died with dignity and grace.  We believe dogs deserve the same except we have to make the decisions for them so we’d best take it seriously.  So “take him out back and shoot him” doesn’t really work for us.

3.  Chemotherapy for dogs is about remission, not cure so the drug level and side effects are much lower.  If Tate gets too sick, we may decide to stop and just keep him comfortable and pain-free.

4.  If you own a dog (or a cat, ferret, gerbil, hamster, etc.), give him an extra hug today.  : )

5.  Special thanks to all of you with happy tripod stories and for those of you that are praying for us.  God gave us this burden for a reason and we’re doing the best we can with it.