I took his pain from his leg and placed it in my heart.

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Today I write to tell the world that it lost something amazing.  Ti is gone.

 

He is gone.

 

I thought I could write this today.  But I can’t stop looking at the words.  He is gone.

 

I want to tell the story.  Why is it so hard?  Three days before, Ti started feeling very picky.  Ti loves to eat.  How can he be picky?  But he was.  I tried not to panic, and bought him some special foods.  I remembered my friend telling me that her dog with cancer stopped eating, but it ended up being an ulcer from her medications, and with treatment, she started eating again, and lived on longer.  On Tuesday, while I was out buying him meat, he vomited dark brown blood.  During this time, I had also been questioning his breathing.  It seemed sharper, quicker, louder, and more from the belly than the chest.  I had hoped that the ulcer was the reason for that too.  Perhaps he was nauseous, or just in additional pain from the ulcer.

I went to the vet and got him a script for Sucralfate.  This was to coat his stomach where the ulcers were.  I would know if it worked because he would eat dinner that night if so.  He ate a few bites.  That was good.  Maybe it was working.  If not, we would go to the vet the next day for an injection of anti nausea meds.

Instead, I woke up to blood all over my kitchen and dining room.  Immense amounts of blood.  He stood there, looking at me.  He didn’t want to walk through it to get to me.  I woke my husband and told him that he needed to get to the ER immediately.  Ti laid down and watched me clean up.  I was trying to make a path for him.  He seemed stuck.

Once I had a path cleaned for him, I put him outside, so that he could go up to my husband and get in the car to go to the vet.  I thought (as usual) that my husband was taking too long, and I thought if Ti went up to him, he would be forced to hurry.  But Ti, my boy, he wanted his mama.  He pushed the door back open with his massive head.  I will never forget hearing the door open and thinking it was my husband and seeing Ti’s face instead.  That was the last time I would see his face in the house.  I wish I had been more affectionate then, instead of panicky.

I had to stay behind to get the worst of it cleaned up.  At least the pools, and then get the girls to the vet with me.  I was afraid I would come home to the mess, without him, and that was too much to bear.

I tried to keep hope in my heart that this was just a really bad ulcer, and that there was some easy fix for it.  I drove there to the ER, trying to keep brave.  When my husband called because the tech asked him if we would want to resuscitate him if he went into cardiac arrest, I felt my legs go cold and numb.  I was afraid I would pass out, while driving with my kids.  I was gulping air and trying to slow my breathing down.  I know that this is a semi-routine question when your pet is really sick, but it shook me to my core.

When I got there, they took us back into a room, and they asked about X-rays.  I told them that I had just had some taken within the week, because I had concerns, but the (regular) vet said they were clear.  I didn’t think they looked great, but I am not a vet… so I tried not to worry.

The ER vet said that there was a lot of fluid in his lungs.  I showed her the X-ray we had taken, and she could see some fluid in them.  She said it was worse now.  And it must have gotten worse quickly.  My only option was to tap his lungs to buy time.  How much time?  I asked.  Two, maybe three days, before they are this bad again.  He would have to come off his pain meds.   I didn’t see how that was possible.  I did not want his last days to be in extreme pain while his lungs filled with fluid.  How tempting it was though.  Knowing that there was a way I could bring him home again.  Even just for a while.

I needed to see him.  I needed to talk to him.  I asked them to take me back to him, and when I saw him I knew.  He was so uncomfortable.  Struggling so much to breathe.  He lifted his head when he heard my voice, and I took the place of the tech that was holding his oxygen tube.  I talked to him, but I didn’t even need to ask if he was ready.  His eyes told me.

We asked to go to a private room and I laid down on the floor with him, we all did.  We cried into his fur and we told him how much we loved him, that he was a good boy.  The best boy.  We laid all around him like that while the vet did her part.  I told him that he could go “night night” now.. and he did.  The labored breaths had stopped.

I did not want him to die at a hospital.  I wanted him to be at home, in the grass.  That was not to be.  The one thing that was how I wanted it, though, is that he did not waste away.  He was not emaciated, he was not a shell of himself.  When his pain left his body and found it’s new home in my heart, his body looked as strong as an ox.  It was as if you were to clap your hands and say, “up, up, up” as we often did, he would hop right up and be ready to go.  The only outward sign of his illness, his labored breath, was no more.  He looked like the most beautiful dog in the world.  And he was.

Run Free, my boy.
Run Free, my boy.


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Final radiation, and a roller coaster ride.

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So I sat down to write a blog after Ti’s second radiation last week, and I realized that I couldn’t because there were no words to describe how I felt that wouldn’t get me kicked off of the blog and possibly the entire Internet.

I was really angry.  I was angry because dying from pain is a terrible way to die.  Not only is it a terrible way to die, but it is a stupid reason to die.  And yet pain is what’s going to kill him.  Horses die because of messed up legs, not dogs.  Now granted, I’ve got enough clever comments asking if I have a saddle for him, that one might think he is a horse… but that’s besides the point.

After his first radiation and infusion he seemed worse instead of better.  I had heard mostly good things about improvement after radiation, so I was worried.  When I took him two days later for a second round of radiation, they looked at him gravely when they saw how much more pronounced his limp was.  My heart sunk into the floor.  We did his radiation, and I brought him home.

He laid on his bed, groggy and limp.  I sat with him and took this picture.

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His head started sliding off the bed when I moved, and I went to help lift it back onto the bed, worried about his neck.  His head and neck were so heavy in my arms.  It was the first time, I realized, that he ever put the full weight of his head on me… he must have always been being careful before.   This was also the first time that I really came to grips with his situation.  The first time I realized that my amazingly strong and powerful boy was not as invincible as he looked.   To be honest, at that moment, I felt like he was dying, not right that moment, but that this was the beginning of the end.  And my heart broke.  I cried into his neck, and my tears dripped into his fur, and we sat like that for a long time.

And then when I couldn’t cry any more, being the pragmatic sort that I am, I used this opportunity of his limpness to give him the best pedicure of his life with the dremel he usually dislikes.

Days went by, and he started shaking off the anesthesia.  And his limp became less pronounced… and he started acting like himself more.  In fact, he been acting more like himself than I have seen in months.  He is doing really well and I was able to reduce his pain meds a bit.

We have since had his last round of radiation, and I am very pleased with the results.  I can only hope that they last a good long time.  One good thing that came out of his initial troubles upon radiation, is that while I was waiting for him after his last one, an elderly lady overheard that he was getting radiation and asked me, while crying, what to expect.   I am glad that I was able to warn her about how things did seem worse at first, but that it’s helped him so much.   She seemed to be more at ease afterwards.  That made me happy

So he is done with radiation, but he is still going back for more zoledronate, and and I am hopeful that it does it’s job and strengthens his bones.   He has a lot of dog to carry around.

 

 

 

But now I won’t get to use my witty nickname!

Tiberius will be remaining Tiberius.  I will never get to call him Triberius.  Or Tri, for short.

Ti will be keeping his leg.  I feel like a Tripawd Fraud!

He had his consult with the surgeon yesterday.  She noticed the pain in his lower back, the pain in his hips… but more than that, she noticed that he is STILL using that leg.  There is no question that he is in a lot of pain.  So for him to be still using it, means that he does not feel like he can do without.   He would rather walk through the pain then try to walk without his leg.  I didn’t think of it like that.  She said she feels that he will not be able to get up on his own, which was a big concern for me.  She said that she is afraid he will lose the will to live, if he can not rise on his own.  The thought of that could smash my heart into bits.   At first, I thought, well I can get him up!  I can use the awesome harness to help him!   But what about when I am not home?  What about in the middle of the night when he wants to get up and reposition?  How would he feel if he could not even stand up on his own?

She said that she had never seen a dog this large come through an amputation, (and they do a lot of mastiffs, obviously) but that his size alone wasn’t the deterrent.  It was the other things.  And if he were her dog, she would not do it.  My heart says she is right.  Yes, I could get a second opinion, but I am choosing to listen to my heart on this.

However, I am kinda mad.

I had myself convinced that he was going to be an awesome Tripawd.  An inspiration even!  I thought about how many people could be educated by seeing him get around, and asking the questions anyone would ask seeing such a big guy on  three legs.  But that isn’t meant to be.

Instead, Ti is getting radiation and zoledronate.  We are hoping that it can decrease his pain, and therefore prolong his life.  We may even get 10 months of relatively pain free bucket list time!

The good thing is that his appetite is as raging as ever.  Yesterday, he wasn’t allowed to eat before his appointment.  While the surgeon was talking to me, she was holding a crumpled paper towel that she had just used to dry her hands.  Ti thought it looked delicious.  He managed to hoist himself up and went to sniff it.  She tried to show him that it was “just a paper towel” but what he heard was “scrumptious paper towel” and tried to eat it.

That’s my boy!

I will keep updating this blog, if you don’t mind hearing about a 4 legger.  Gives me an outlet.

And here are some photos of him for no good reason.

 

Ti likes his new tempurpedic bed I cut down to twin size for him… but he is questioning my taste in sheets.

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Ti appreciates that you gathered this wood for a fire, but thinks it can serve a better purpose.
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Here Ti comes to save the day!!!  
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I’m not saying I’m psychic or anything…

But wow.  Sometimes a persons intuition is scary.  I’m going to go off track real quick, and tell a story about one of my other dogs, Kingston.

A little over a year ago, I was told that my older mastiff had lymphoma.  I had chest X-rays, an ultrasound, and had the lymph nodes aspirated.  I was told by both vets at the practice plus the internal medicine specialist who did the ultrasounds, that it was lymphoma.  I did not have the aspirate sent out to Colorado, because the only purpose in doing that was to do chemo, and we decided not to do chemo for him (due to how poorly he was doing, and not wanting to wait to treat his horrible symptoms), so I never had that 100% diagnosis, but they all agreed, lymphoma was it.  He had about 3 weeks to live.

I didn’t believe them.  I can’t explain why, but I didn’t.  People thought I was in denial.  Serious denial.

He was put on Prednisone to help take down swelling in his rear legs that was so bad that he could not bend them at all.  Most dogs gain weight on Prednisone.  Not Kingston, he lost a lot of weight, somewhere around 40lbs.  He LOOKED like a cancer patient.  But still I didn’t feel right.  Even though I looked up the proper Prednisone dose for a dog of his size, and knew it was in the range of normal, I felt like I was poisoning him every time I gave it to him.  I weaned him down, and then down again, and even at half the dose of Prednisone that he was initially prescribed, he was still getting weaker and weaker.   My vet said that half of the dose of Prednisone could not possibly be effective, let alone be causing him so much trouble.

 

Skinny Kingston

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One Friday, when he couldn’t stand up to poop any more, I made the appointment for a vet to come out and let him go to sleep that coming Monday.  After I did that, I dropped him way down on the Prednisone, until he was only getting 1/8th of what was prescribed.  And he started getting stronger.  In one day, I saw an improvement.  By Monday morning, I knew it wasn’t his time.  I canceled the appointment.

Kingston went on to gain his weight and strength back.  He still has flare ups of swelling in his legs, and has been through tons of testing with no answers… but he is alive.  Happy and alive and as healthy as I could hope.

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I am telling this story, because I had no such feelings of disbelief when it came to Ti.  In fact, I did not believe for a second that he had arthritis like my vet said.  I felt so strongly that something else, something worse, was wrong, that I made an appointment at a new vet the very next day.   I walked in knowing that  my dog had cancer.  When the vet called it an MCL tear, I was not relieved.  I knew it wasn’t.  When I saw the X-ray, I didn’t even look at his ligaments… All I could see was the dark shadowy place on his bone.  Sometimes I hate being right.

 

The biggest takeaway I get from this whole thing is to listen to your gut!  If something doesn’t feel right, please, trust your intuition.  Vets are very important to our beloved pets health, but they do not know everything, and they don’t know your animals like you do.

I’m all good on the bad news, but thanks for the offer!

Turns out it doesn’t work that way.

Three months back, my friend DeeAnn told me that her dog, Jenna, had been diagnosed with Osteosarcoma.  This was heartbreaking news, as you can imagine.  Jenna and my older mastiff, Kingston, had been totally in love since they first set eyes on one another.  They met on the sidewalk, which is kinda like the equivalent of meeting on a bus for dogs?  Maybe?  If the dog park is the bar, I definitely think the sidewalk is public transportation of some sort.  Anyway, DeeAnn and I started talking, mostly to drown out the sounds of Kingston and Jenna totally making out.  Gross.  We had no choice but to become good friends, so we did.

 

When Ti came along, Kingston and Jenna let him hang out with them, but you could tell that he always felt like the third wheel.

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Anyway, after reeling from the horrible news of Jenna’s OSA, DeeAnn took all the steps to save her.  She had her front leg amputated, and started chemo.  Jenna did wonderfully as a tripawd, she came out of the hospital with her butt wiggling and ready to go home.  She even shot DeeAnn the “I got this, thanks” look when she tried to help her up the stairs for the first time upon arriving home.  Jenna was doing hydrotherapy and ready to take the world by storm again.  But life didn’t comply, and unfortunately, just a couple of months later, DeeAnn got the news that Jenna’s lungs were full of cancer.  Chemo was stopped and Jenna had some wonderful last weeks chasing moles and sitting on the porch, watching the world.

I came to say goodbye to the beautiful Jenna on Monday, as Tuesday was the day she was going to go to sleep.  Jenna was ready to go where her lungs weren’t heavy any more.

Jenna was very picky on her second to last day.  She didn’t want real bacon, only fake bacon.  She didn’t want cheeseburgers, or chicken sandwiches.  She wanted cat food.  Stella and Chewy’s dehydrated raw cat food, in Tummy Ticklin’ Turkey to be exact.  I bought her every pouch at the store when I saw she wanted it.

 

Note the ignored bacon etc. on the ground.   Mmmm Kitty food.

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We took a paw print, had many snuggles, cried a little, and just reveled in what a good girl Jenna had been.

When I was leaving, DeeAnn offered me some of Jenna’s pain meds “just in case” one of my big boys needed them for something.   I mentioned that Ti had been limping for a couple of weeks, and that we were going to the vet on Thursday, so I took them.   What I didn’t mention was the horrible intuition I had that Ti had the same thing that Jenna did.

That thursday, my (ex) vet told me that Ti had arthritis.

So I took him to a new vet on Friday, because I’ve learned not to ignore my gut feelings.  X-rays revealed what I already knew in my heart.  I saw it the same time the vet did.

Saturday morning, I got the confirmation from the radiologist.  That was the same Saturday that Jenna was cremated.

 

Rest in Peace sweet Jenna.

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Meet Ti – his heart is as big as his head.

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This is Ti.

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Ti’s real name is Tiberius, but he doesn’t know that.  I don’t often tell people his real name, because they usually ask if he was named after Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise, and I am a terrible liar.  They never seem to buy the Roman Emperor thing.  Anyway.

This is what Ti looks like now, more or less.  Maybe a bit more grey in the muzzle.  Sugar Lips.

He is 4.5 years old,  he’s an American Mastiff, no, I don’t have a saddle for him, yup, he eats a lot, no, he won’t eat your dog, nope, not your small children either, sorry I can’t help you out there.

Ti has cancer.

But that isn’t what this post is about.  This post is about Ti the dog.  Not Ti the Dog with Cancer,  or Ti the Dog who is in an Incredible Amount of Pain.  This post isn’t even about Ti the Dog Whose Person is Terrified About Having His Leg Removed but Is Even More Terrified to Lose Him.  This is just about Ti the dog.

Ti came home to me as a big fat meatball with a smushy crinkled face.

This is what he looked like the day I met him, when he was 4 weeks old.  This also marks the last time I was able to lift him.  Ok, not really.  That was a couple of months later.

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When Ti got home, he met his “big” Brother, Kingston.  Now we just say Kingston is his “older” brother.

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He also met his sisters, Ava and Zofia.

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And eventually gained another brother, Milo, the foster failure

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Ti grew, and he grew.  When he was all done, he was the biggest being in our house at 220lbs.  Roughly half of that is his head.  I’m only sorta exaggerating.

Like most dogs, Ti enjoys the finer things in life.  Digging in the trash can, peeing on things, waking us up at 3 am to poop, and his all time favorite, laying in the middle of the floor in the dark so you trip over him, and flail around like a drunken ballerina trying not to kill yourself or land on him.  You know, fancy stuff.  He’s thoughtful too, saving me from having to open the bag of dog food by opening it all by himself.   Moving the couch while we are sitting on it, so we don’t have to bother ourselves moving it for him.  Helping people stay in shape by drooling  in their bowl of m&ms.  That’s just the kind of guy he is.

Ti is also the kind of guy that doesn’t ask for a whole lot.  He likes his crappy bed, and eschews the nicer ones.  He doesn’t care much for toys, won’t beg for your food.  He loves his cuddles, but won’t pester you for more when you need to do something else.  He is friendly but not overbearing, protective but stable, slow to anger and easy to please.   The only thing that gets him howling is when someone has the audacity to leave him outside for periods exceeding 3 minutes.

Ti is the kind of dog that makes you want to do anything you can to save him.  And that is what we are going to do.