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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Tate’s Physical Therapy

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http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9L6GGPxWD3g

We just got back from the cabin and I had so much fun!  When I realized where we were going, I was so excited I started crying and pacing, and we were still like 20 miles away!  When we finally got there I ran straight down the hill to the lake but it was frozen!  I didn’t care; I broke right through the ice and had so much fun playing in the water.  Then I was with Dad by the pier and I walked out on the ice until Mom said, “too far” so I came back but then I fell through the ice near the rocks but no one would help me up and they just started walking away so I scrambled right up on the rocks and Mom and Dad told me I was such a good smart boy.

The next day was even better because it snowed!  I raced right down the hill again into the lake.

I ran all around playing.

I found a great big stick.

Then when I got tired, I just sat and looked at my lake.

Later on we went for a walk to the cemetery and I got to run around some more.

The next day was sunny and the snow started to melt.  Mom took me for a walk and we saw O’Leary and Alaska Mike and they said they couldn’t even tell..tell what, I don’t know but they both pet me.  Cody was barking on the porch so we left.  On the way home,  I was so hot in the sun, I was panting  and slowing down and Mom said she’d get me some water when we got back.  But I just ran down to the lake and drank all the water I wanted!  Silly Mom.

Because our little cove was frozen, Mom and Dad took me over to the boat landing and Dad said, “C’mon Tate, we want to see you swim.”  So I swam around a little bit but it was kind of boring, no sticks, no fish or anything.  So then we went back home.  They just wanted to see how I swim.  Duh!

I love our lake.  I wish we could live here all the time.

This was 6 weeks post-amp.  Up til this, he’d been “pretty good” but this was the first time he really was exuberant and running around.  I think he just needed a reason to get really excited about something.

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

Okay, strictly speaking not we’re not at one month until Friday.  But can’t wait any longer because we have reached the light at the end of the tunnel.

Tate has improved just about every single day the past week by leaps and bounds.   His appetite is more normal, he’s off the obsessive paw licking (although he still goes after the incision), and he’s stopped giving me those spooky stares.

The only really kinda “off” day was two days after chemo, he slept more than usual.  In his bed, in the bedroom, away from everyone which he never does.  But no other side effects.  (yaaayyy)

Here’s a partial list of his astonishing accomplishments (if you can indulge me for just one minute):

Day 21 – He scratches the door to be let back in!  Balancing on two legs!

Day 22 – Balances on his butt to scratch behind his ear with his remaining hind leg!

Also on Day 22 – Play bow with Loretta (but wisely decides this is not a good idea yet…smarty-pants.)

Day 23 – Tries to scratch behind the other ear but there’s no leg there to scratch with!  Figures out a new way to scratch that itch!  (Although he prefers Dad’s roughhousing scratches, so sometime he wiggles his semi-stump just to get Dad to scratch him…smarty-pants-plus.)

Also on Day 23 – Steals Dad’s T-shirt, “Look at me!  I’m such a bad boy!  Now you have to chase me!”

Day 24 – zzzzz…..

Day 25 – Walked all the way around the big block!

Day 26 – Visited Rowdy and didn’t avoid him!

Okay, I could go on but you get the picture.  Not to say he’s 100% but he’s himself again.  For a few weeks there, he was miserable because he felt crummy, wanted to play but couldn’t muster any energy and on top of that, he couldn’t figure out why he was always in trouble (so much of his treatment felt like punishment).  At least that’s Dad’s view of things and I think he’s right.

So when I look back, 2 months ago, we got the cancer speech, ending with “Oh, and if you don’t do anything, you will decide to euthanize him in a matter of weeks because we won’t be able to manage his pain.”  And I’m looking at my bouncy, waggy, shiny 4 year old dog, going “Wha-a-a-a?”

Frankly, I think that would be a shock to just about anyone.

But we have come out on the other side, not making too many missteps, not too many things we would have done differently.  I was reminded again that “This too shall pass” applies to the good seasons in life just like the bad.  Tate was always a refuge for us, a carefree respite from all the bad stuff life throws at you.  Hugs and pets throughout the financial distress, the fractured relationships, the grave diagnoses, the loss.  But then Tate had the grave diagnosis, so now the season is a little less carefree.  But we’re here, older and wiser.  Enjoying sweet hugs and pets all the more.

I can’t say where we would be without Tripawds.  Thanks for listening, and for sharing, and for letting me vent here so my two boys (husband + dog) wouldn’t have to bear the brunt.  : )

P.S.  Blood work is in, but I don’t know what it all means…doesn’t matter, it is what it is.  I’m just so happy that Tate’s happy.

P.P.S.  Colleen, where are you?

Tate has Turned the Corner

On Day 16, I would say Tate was at about 40%.  On Day 17, I’d say 85%.  He popped up with the alarm, tail wagging, and resumed a lot of his routine behaviors.  Plunked himself outside the bathroom door while I brushed my teeth, went completely around the block with no rests (okay, it’s a short block but still a milestone), wanted to play with his ball, pushed open the door to the garage to run out when he heard my car coming home.  All while wagging his tail.  A blue-ribbon day.  A big change just that fast.

He tried walking over to Grandma’s but I made him come home, too far (0.6 mi).  But we drove over and they were so happy to see each other!  And Grandma did really, really good at holding back her tears.  She may not have much memory left but she still has her great big heart.  She knew better than to cry in front of Tate!  I was so proud of her.

Now that we are past the amp, I’m back to researching histiocytic sarcoma.  Now I know the stories of Harley, Barney in Texas, Ruthie, Tehya, Marley and Barney the collie.  Thank you so much for sharing!

Another Tripawd blog (Toby) led me to Peter Moore at UC-Davis.  It’s the best summary I could find, at:  http://www.histiocytosis.ucdavis.edu/  (I think this jump is in the Resources but it would not link for me.)  (BTW, it seems blogs show up in Google searches but not the forum?)

So the pathologist mentioned “curative” in reference to the amp, the surgeon said “Tate might enjoy a normal lifespan”, and the vet said “We may well have saved Tate’s life.”  All very promising, as it appears he has “localized histiocytic sarcoma” and not “disseminated histiocytic sarcoma.”  I am trying not to get my hopes up until we speak with the oncologist on Tuesday because I know how insidious those evil cancer cells can be.  But I’ve realized, I’m kind of counting on this.

Just a couple other oddball observations.  Tate’s started licking his bed or the carpet next to his paws.  I guess they do this.  The other thing is that Tate used to sneeze a lot when he got up in the morning, and he used to have a discharge from the corner of his eye a lot (eye boogers, to be descriptive about it.)  Neither of these things is happening anymore.  Very odd (to me).  Not that I miss them.

One Week Ampuversary

Everyone has a different experience with this but here’s a synopsis of Tate’s first week.  I thought it might be helpful to someone facing a hemipelvectomy for their dog; everyone else will be snoring by Day 3.

Day 1 (Surgery Day).  Normal hemipelvectomy, very stable, followed by nothing but drug-induced sleep.

Day 2.  “Fabulous” is a relative term.  “Miserable” to the uneducated eye.  Regardless, he was standing and sort of walking, drinking and sort of eating, wearing a shoulder-to-tail stretchy mesh bandage.

Day 3.  We didn’t see him but Dr. reported steady progress.  IV out, the only remaining issue was the drainage, still too high to come home.

Day 4.  Continued progress but still a lot of drainage.  They cut back on his Tramadol.  We brought him home in the evening; he was his normal happy self but slower, and in need of lots of attention.  His appetite was great but he was drinking a lot more water than usual.

I was glad Dad slept next to Tater-Tot, even though this is against expert advice.  We wanted him steps from the back door, and didn’t want him alone.  He had a fitful night, out to pee three times, had his first poop (!), but couldn’t get comfortable on his new bed so Dad brought out the old one and he settled and slept.
First Day Home

Day 5.  He was panting and stressed; called and the nurse said it was okay to add more Tramadol.  A bruise developed close to the incision.  Couldn’t maintain suction on the drain, plus it looked like there was a leak where the tubing meets the plastic and Tate kept licking it.  Put on his e-collar but he wouldn’t lay down, staggered and stumbled around and I was worried he’d fall.  I decided to just sit with him outside.  His nose was very busy!

Brought him to the vet; Dr. Scott said the “leakage” is just weeping, of no concern.  He took off the full-body bandage and put a little patch on the drain site, secured with a wrap and Tate was much happier.  Slept the whole rest of the day.  Much quieter night.  But his appetite is declining a bit.

Without the mesh bandage, his butt looks so tiny, but she did plump it up with surrounding muscle.

Bored

Day 6.  Very normal morning, ate, drank, peed, pooped (it’s a little hard for him to keep his balance to poop.)  But all his parts down south seemed swollen.  It didn’t bother him until about 2 hours later, all of a sudden he started panting and licking like crazy.  Dad iced it (why didn’t I think of that?) and it was like flipping a switch, he immediately settled and fell asleep.  Same thing happened again in the afternoon, and hours later in the evening.  His appetite is even less.

Day 7.  Similar to yesterday, ice packs and the usual med routine.  But he hopped out to greet me when I got home from work.  By evening, he is showing more interest in activities, asking for a toy.  But then he doesn’t know which one to choose and gives up.  I think he’s bored.

Dr. called with path results (see previous post); she said the “swelling” is actually fluid accumulation and it will go away as the fluid is absorbed into his body.

Day8.  The day got off to a great start, clearly less pain, more appetite, more wagging.  We reduced the Tramadol, 2 instead of 3 and he’s been depressed and unsociable all day.  Didn’t budge when I got home from work.  Gets up and walks away from us when we try to spend time with him even for favorite activities like a good brushing.  Right now he is lying outside, hiding under the low branches of the spruce tree.  His new favorite place.

I am hoping it is just an adjustment to the meds, and not really being sad.  At least we are past the panting and need for ice packs, and he’s able to lie on his left side again.

Tate is “Fabulous”

Tate’s surgeon called and said he did “fabulous!”  She sounded really excited that things went so well.  All his vitals were stable throughout the whole procedure, no complications, and there was enough healthy muscle to construct sort of a “pad” at the top of the amputated hip so it looks a little more normal.  And she was able to use mainly top skin (as opposed to using skin from underneath) to cover things up, so the fur will look more normal when it grows back.

For the record, Tate had a hemipelvectomy (now I know that word) for suspected cancer in his hip joint.  When we met with her this morning, she said it is similar in a way to a triple pelvic ostectomy that they do for hip dysplasia, except they don’t replace the hip.  She took her time with us to make sure we were both okay with moving forward, especially since we’d asked for a second opinion on the pathology from CSU which hasn’t come in yet.  She explained that if whatever nasty is chewing up his bones is not cancer, like an infection of some type, they could do things to possibly rebuild the bone but it is complicated business and could take quite awhile.  That gave us pause but we decided to trust the doctors and go ahead with it.

They are sending the whole amputated part out for examination.  I don’t even want to think about how we’ll feel if it is not cancer; I think I should review the “No Regrets” forum again.

Our boy was a trooper.  The doctor left to give the nurses a heads-up and it was kind of a long wait.  When she came back, he hid behind my legs.  I went over next to the doctor and Tate headed for the door!  But he came to me when I called him, and I knelt down and he looked me right in the eyes while me and Dad pet him and told him what a good boy he is.  He didn’t flinch when she put the leash on him and walked right out like the brave little guy he is.

Sorry this is so long but I thought the details might be helpful to someone else some day.  Not that I’d wish a day like this on anyone.