Category Archives: enjoying the time you have left

Kindness in the Waiting Room

From the Dog Cancer Blog

Kindness in the Waiting Room

kindness-dog-cancerA beautiful thing happened in my waiting room this week.

It’s pretty common for my oncology clients to chat in the waiting area during their pet’s chemotherapy treatment. This is helpful: new clients hear about the experiences of pets already undergoing treatment. They see happy wagging dogs coming back from treatment, and hear firsthand from the pet Guardian that there really are minimal side effects from chemo. The dog is enjoying his daily activities. The dog is doing so well, the Guardian forgets the pet has cancer.

This week Jack and Mickie were being treated on the same day. Jack is a bull dog with a high grade mast cell tumor (MCT) of this back leg that has metastasized to his sublumbar lymph node under his lower back spine. He was in only for his second vinblastine chemo treatment, and so far has had no side effects. Mickie is a kitty with a recently removed high grade injection site sarcoma. Mickie was also in for her second treatment.

(This blog is really dedicated to dogs, because cats are so physiologically different – but this story happens to be about a dog and a cat, and I have to share it with you, so bear with me.)

Mickie the cat came to me a few months back with a large infected and ulcerated tumor on her left flank. It was oozing pus. The tumor was so large, my surgeon and I knew we would not achieve margins with the surgery. There was no way to get a normal rim of tissue around the tumor, which is critical to prevent recurrence. Typically, four weeks of radiation is recommended for these connective tissue cancers after surgery, similar to the soft tissue sarcomas in dogs. But these tumors also have a higher spread rate, and so chemo is also recommended. As you can imagine, it’s very costly to treat these tumors in cats as they often need all three: surgery, radiation and chemo. Not only that, but I also diagnosed a urinary tract infection in Mickie.

Mickie’s mom could not afford all treatment options. She’s an elderly woman on a fixed income. But she explained to me that Mickie means the world: she belonged to her brother who had passed away.  She had to treat Mickie.

So she got the money together and our surgeon removed the tumor, which was good, because I was concerned the infected tumor could start to affect Mickie’s overall health.  No chemo, and no radiation, even though we all knew it was less than ideal to only do surgery. We didn’t get clean margins, as we feared … and these tumors typically recur in six months without clean margins.

Still, Mickie healed well after the surgery. And then, at the suture recheck appointment, Mickie’s mom surprised us by telling us she wanted to give chemotherapy after all. Paying for treatment would be challenging, but she had to do it for her brother. We reviewed the cost and side effects so she could be prepared. She scheduled the next treatment, but had to delay a week when she needed just a little more time to get the money together.

I love when pet moms want to treat cancer, of course, but I worry when to finances are such a burden.

But Mickie’s mother was determined, and this week found her at Mickie’s chemo appointment just as Jack’s mom came in to pick him up after his treatment. And of course, they chatted. I don’t think they were waiting for too long together, but it was enough time for them to get to know each other’s pet’s story.

This is the part that still brings tears to my eyes.

As Jack’s mom went over her bill with my nurse, she quietly asked to see Mickie’s bill, too. In addition to the chemo that day, and the routine complete blood count (CBC) we ran, there were also some charges for extra blood work and urine tests we ran for her early kidney disease. The bill was almost $700.

Jack’s mom paid for it on the spot. She left with Jack and said a warm goodbye to Mickie’s mom, but didn’t mention her kind deed. My nurse had a hard time keeping her emotions to herself, but she respected Jack’s mother’s wish to keep it quiet and tell Mickie’s mother only in private.

So, I had the privilege of telling Mickie’s mom. We both cried. That was a lot of money for her, and an amazing act of generosity.

Jack’s mother didn’t just help Mickie’s mother. She also helped me, by reminding me that in a world filled with random and inexplicable events like planes that disappear, horrific ferry disasters, devastating tornados, high school stabbings, and loved ones with cancer, there are still moments of generosity and hope.

Live Long, Live Well

Dr. Sue

About the Author: Susan Ettinger, DVM, Dip. ACVIM (Oncology)

Susan Ettinger, DVM. Dip. ACVIM (Oncology) is a veterinarian oncologist at VCA Animal Specialty & Emergency Center in New York, and the co-author of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Full Spectrum Treatments to Optimize Your Dog’s Life Quality and Longevity.

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Buried Next to Your Pet? B.F.F. in Albuquerque, NM

I saw this post today on the Albuquerque Journal News website. What a fantastic idea!

Rick Brittain, a Family Services consultant, sits in a room used by families to have a private moment with their pets before they are prepared for burial. He holds an urn shaped like a collie. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Rick Brittain, a Family Services consultant, sits in a room used by families to have a private moment with their pets before they are prepared for burial. He holds an urn shaped like a collie. (Roberto E. Rosales/Albuquerque Journal)

Copyright © 2014 Albuquerque Journal

When Laree Perez passes away, she will spend eternity near her whole family – not only her late husband Jerry, but also their three black Labrador retrievers, Fudge, Hershey and Kiss; and Perez’s three horses, Wilbur, Smooth and Splash.

With them will be Qwendy, another German shepherd Perez lost two years ago, and DIXI, her 2-year-old German shepherd, the newest member of her family.

Laree Perez rides her horse Wilbur In 2013. She said she will be cremated, placed in an urn, and buried near Wilbur when she dies. (Courtesy of Laree Perez)

Laree Perez rides her horse Wilbur In 2013. She said she will be cremated, placed in an urn, and buried near Wilbur when she dies. (Courtesy of Laree Perez)

Perez has purchased enough burial plots for the whole brood at a unique interment area at Sunset Memorial Park. Created so the remains of pets and their human companions can be buried together, it is called Best Friends Forever, or BFF.

The quarter-acre area, landscaped into a Zen-like garden and separated from the rest of the cemetery, is believed by the staff at Sunset, who regularly attend national conferences, to be the only cemetery in the Southwest that buries the remains (in most cases cremated) of both animals and humans together.

“We can all be together again,” said Perez, 60, an investment manager and Sunset Memorial Park Association board member who lives in Scottsdale, Ariz. A resident of Corrales for 20 years, she also has a ranch in Yeso.

Her husband died almost 18 years ago in a plane crash at age 52, a tragedy that the dogs they shared at the time, which she referred to as her “four-legged children,” helped her get through.

“It’s the answer for people who think like I think, that animals should have a place to go, just like we should, at their time of death,” she said in a recent interview.

To continue reading please click here

MoseyLove!

Diane and Mose

3.9.14

mosey and me

How much activity is appropriate for my cancer stricken dog?

I saw this post a few weeks ago and it was perfect timing. Mosey was just recovering from a few really bad days…so bad that we actually had made an appointment to send him over the rainbow bridge. Earlier that week, when he was happy and active, we were at the park playing his favorite game of catch/retrieve with a tennis ball. After the bad days were over, our vet said that perhaps we had overdone the exercise. Imagine my guilt…I thought playing and exercise were good things. The advice and tips below came directly from the Dog Cancer blog:

Enhancing Life Quality for You and Your Dog with Cancer: The Joy of Play

by SUSAN HARPER

play-for-dog-cancerWe love it when our dogs want to play. The repeated nudges and insistent offers of their toys are charming, aren’t they?

Just like us, a dog who doesn’t feel well may go through periods of not wanting to play, or being too tired or not physically capable of regular play. Responding to surgery, chemo or radiation treatments, and just the exhaustion of the emotions and perhaps the tension of vet visits affects them, just as it does us. Even our wonderful senior animals, with or without a cancer diagnosis, may appear to be “past” the playful stage of their lives.

We can get so wrapped up in the drama of their situation that we may over-encourage rest and quiet.

“Don’t use your energy, Ziggy.”

“You’ve got to rest and heal, Oreo.”

It’s so easy to forget how important — and actually healing — play can be for us all.

Using Joy to Heal

In The Dog Cancer Survival Guide Dr. Dressler has included valuable information about dealing with our own emotional state.  Our dogs are so sensitive to our moods, the last thing we want is for them to take on our depression or worry.  We need stress relief and joy; our dogs need stress relief and joy.

Your Dog’s Job Is Joy!

In addition, our dogs want something to do. A job. A purpose. Play fulfills this need beautifully. Here are some suggestions to modify the usual games for our recovering pets, and bring back the joy for us both.

Ball Fetch: My boys and girls spent their youth flying down hills and across fields to get the prized tennis ball.  When my senior could no longer walk I discovered he still loved that ball:  I just had to change the game.

I’d sit in front of his bed and tempt him with the ball.  As the temptation grew he’d follow my magician’s hands. Where’s the ball?  I’d bounce it in front of him, closer, further away, closer again. When he started reaching for it with open jaws and bright eyes I aimed the bounces to land just in front of his nose.  He’d catch it and chew with complete joy, then spit it back at me for another go.

Involving my family in ‘keep away’ teasing added to the fun and within minutes we were laughing and my dog was thoroughly enjoying his ball again. It didn’t matter that he hadn’t chased it.  He’d caught it, and the prize was his!

Puzzle Toys:  The pet industry is full of great choices in puzzle toys these days.  Everything from balls in which you can hide treats like the Ethical Contempo Halo Food and Treat Dispense for Dogs, to Nina Ottoson’s Interactive Dog Toy and the Ethical Pet Seek-a-Treat- Shuffle Bone Dog Puzzle.  You can find these and many variations, and we’ve listed a great selection in the Dog Cancer Shop.

The secret to all of these toys, though, is that you play with your dog.  Our busy lives are such that we’re used to handing over a toy and walking away. How much better is it to play the puzzle with your dog? Add your excitement to hers as she wonders where the treat is?

Find-It Games: ”Find-it” doesn’t have to be a high-speed chase game outside.  Simply playing “which hand” adds a dose of joy to the regular “here’s your treat” action.  Showing the treat, then hiding a few in another room and taking your dog in to look together is easy and fun.  Don’t hesitate to ask for the old bargain, a ‘speak’ for a treat or a ‘paw’ for a treat. They love to be involved.

Tug and Tussle: It doesn’t need to be rough play, but this variation of keep-away gets their juices flowing and tails wagging.

Food Games: My dog loves his food, and we hand-feed because of his throat surgery. A few months ago I found myself in a routine.

1. Make good food.

2. Feed good food to dog.

3. Done.

I was just feeding spoon after spoon like a robot.  It was time for a wake-up call!  No longer did the food simply appear before his mouth. Occasionally I would present it just near enough that he’d reach for it.  Or I’d offer it higher, or lower than before, or circle it round his nose. Where would the food be next?

He became more involved and more interested because I was more involved and interested.  He got back at me, too, when he wouldn’t let go of the spoon. Who says dogs don’t have a sense of humor?

Licking and Chewing: Dogs release tension through their jaw, and we know how much our pets love leisurely licking their paws or a nice treat. Using a Kong, or a kong-like toy is a great way to give them long periods of content.  Fill one with a little bit of healthy peanut butter, honey, or some of your own healthy, pureed food that will stick to the inside.  If your dog cannot hold it for any reason, join in and hold it for him.

You can also make tasty ice-licks. I take the chicken broth from my cooking, fill very small saucers and freeze them.  My dog loves licking the tasty, cold treat.  However, don’t leave them alone with it …  once the ice is gone he may forget that the saucer isn’t edible!  Chicken broth ice cubes are also a great treat, and frozen treats are easy to make and keep.

Laugh:  Finally, I found a wonderful and surprising resource; Laughing Dog.  The website explains how dogs vocalize when they are happy, and gives a brief demo on how to mimic their laugh.  Other resources are available along with the research that went into the development.  I regularly laugh with all my dogs, and you know what? They laugh along with me.

These are just a few suggestions to try. And here’s another: remember to bring variation into the environment too. Move your dog’s bed around with the sunshine, because the vitamin D is so important for them. If your dog is often confined inside, wrap her up and take her out.  Go for short drives. Sit on the floor together while you watch TV. Share a bowl of popcorn. Offer different bedding options. Take a nap on the floor with him.

Don’t just tell him how much you love him, tell him how happy you are that he is your dog.

Now’s the Time:

I’ve spoken to so many people who feel as I do; that this journey has actually brought me closer to my dog in ways I hadn’t considered before.  Enjoy the moments. None of us know what’s ahead, but it’s really not as important as this moment, right now.  So thank you for reading, and I hope this helps.

Now get off your computer and go play with your dog!

Happy tails!

About the Author: Susan Harper

“I’m a member of the Dog Cancer Support Team & a Dog Cancer Survivor! Two of my beloved dogs have had cancer, and with the Dog Cancer Survival Guide, Apocaps, and full spectrum help given with boundless love, Shadow lived 10 times longer than his prognosis, and Keymos triumphed, cancer-free for nearly 4 years, passing over peacefully in our arms at the age of 16. As a Member and Assistant Teacher with the Healing Animals Organization (MHAO) I’m passionate to help dogs and their people get through this journey. Early on I asked the Team how I could help, and here I am.”

Thank you Susan…This really helped.

MoseyLove!

Diane and Mose

2.16.14

mosey and me

“Dogs Never Die”

mosey & me at park 1.26.14

I saw this post on Facebook this morning. It is from a website called Dog Heirs, a wonderful site full of photos, information, tips and suggestions about all things dog. They say the author of the piece is unknown so, if you wrote it and happen to be reading it on my site, please contact me directly and I will attribute to you.

I found this post to be beautiful, sad and comforting at the same time. Mosey has had (fingers crossed so as to not jinx) seven good days in a row since last Friday’s scare. The horrible thing about this journey is just when you breathe a sigh of relief that your dog is “well”, you are smacked in the face with the realization that it is a temporary happiness. The “winning the battle but losing the war” saying comes to mind. Comforting stories such as this one really help. But be forewarned…you will probably cry while reading…I did.

“Some of you, particularly those who think they have recently lost a dog to ‘death’, don’t really understand this. I’ve had no desire to explain, but won’t be around forever and must.
Dogs never die. They don’t know how to. They get tired, and very old, and their bones hurt. Of course they don’t die. If they did they would not want to always go for a walk, even long after their old bones say: ‘No, no, not a good idea. Let’s not go for a walk.’ Nope, dogs always want to go for a walk. They might get one step before their aging tendons collapse them into a heap on the floor, but that’s what dogs are. They walk.

It’s not that they dislike your company. On the contrary, a walk with you is all there is. Their boss, and the cacaphonic symphony of odor that the world is. Cat poop, another dog’s mark, a rotting chicken bone (exultation), and you. That’s what makes their world perfect, and in a perfect world death has no place.

However, dogs get very very sleepy. That’s the thing, you see. They don’t teach you that at the fancy university where they explain about quarks, gluons, and Keynesian economics. They know so much they forget that dogs never die. It’s a shame, really. Dogs have so much to offer and people just talk a lot.

When you think your dog has died, it has just fallen asleep in your heart. And by the way, it is wagging its tail madly, you see, and that’s why your chest hurts so much and you cry all the time. Who would not cry with a happy dog wagging its tail in their chest. Ouch! Wap wap wap wap wap, that hurts. But they only wag when they wake up. That’s when they say: ‘Thanks Boss! Thanks for a warm place to sleep and always next to your heart, the best place.’

When they first fall asleep, they wake up all the time, and that’s why, of course, you cry all the time. Wap, wap, wap. After a while they sleep more. (remember, a dog while is not a human while. You take your dog for walk, it’s a day full of adventure in an hour. Then you come home and it’s a week, well one of your days, but a week, really, before the dog gets another walk. No WONDER they love walks.)

Anyway, like I was saying, they fall asleep in your heart, and when they wake up, they wag their tail. After a few dog years, they sleep for longer naps, and you would too. They were a GOOD DOG all their life, and you both know it. It gets tiring being a good dog all the time, particularly when you get old and your bones hurt and you fall on your face and don’t want to go outside to pee when it is raining but do anyway, because you are a good dog. So understand, after they have been sleeping in your heart, they will sleep longer and longer.

But don’t get fooled. They are not ‘dead.’ There’s no such thing, really. They are sleeping in your heart, and they will wake up, usually when you’re not expecting it. It’s just who they are.

feel sorry for people who don’t have dogs sleeping in their heart. You’ve missed so much. Excuse me, I have to go cry now.”

 

May 6th, 2015 update,

I received the following email from the “unknown” author. I am so happy to be able to credit Ernest for his beautiful words:

Name: Ernest Montague

Comment: Hi:

I saw your posting of my piece, “Dogs never die.” Thank you for offering to credit it. I wrote this a while back about my old Pit Bull, Bolo, and sent it to several friends when their dogs died. Then an acquaintance posted it on Reddit and it has seemed to go slightly viral. In any case, credit or no, I am so pleased to see so many people touched by something I wrote. 

I still can’t read it without crying, BTW.

“Good Times, Bad Times”

“you know I had my share” Led Zeppelin

maddie, mo and me 11.2.11

 A miracle happened! My husband and I woke up yesterday morning prepared to send Mosey to the angels. He had been listless for the past three days and  yesterday refused food. (If you have ever had a Golden Retreiver you know this is a major warning sign.) We thought it was time…cried all night..and first thing in the morning I phoned our vet to tell her what was going on…get her opinion..and schedule the appointment for last night. The vet was in emergency surgery and I was told she would phone as soon as she could.

Crying, I hugged Mosey, told him I loved him and that I did not want him to suffer. I told him to give me a sign if he was not ready and the sign was to eat something. He had not eaten anything for 36 hours. He spent all morning sighing and/or sleeping and refused food. The vet finally phoned around 1:00 pm. I told her what was going on and she said that she wanted to see him, but that it was probably his time and we agreed to meet at 5:15 pm to send him over the Rainbow Bridge.

I swear to you the second I hung up the phone Mosey stood up…went to his water bowl and drank almost the entire thing. Then he walked over and gave me the Golden Retriever look that says “feed me now!” He ate an entire can of food. (I have been giving him Taste of the Wild along with all the fresh stuff) Prior to this he would turn his head away when I tried to feed him. Later that afternoon he ate some chicken and, while he was not back to normal, was much perkier than before. We went to the vet anyway so she could check him out and he went prancing into her office begging for treats. I swear it was like he heard me making the appointment to end his life and said “Hey Mom..Simmer down, I am not yet ready to go!”

Do you believe in miracles? I do. The vet prescribed prednisone and agreed it was not his time.  She cautioned us that this horrible roller coaster would continue with semi-good days and really bad ones…but said Mosey is a fighter and is not yet ready to say goodbye. Today he is eating, drinking and seems happy. I don’t know how long we will have him but, since I thought I would be without him last night, every future day is a gift.

This roller coaster ride is sad, scary, exhausting, joyful at times, and incredibly stressful. I will take it if it means I will have my sweetpea a bit longer. I have joined a number of support groups for pet cancer on Facebook and many, many people have shared experiences similar to this. With 1 in 3 dogs getting cancer in their lifetime my story, sadly, is not unique. But, hopefully, it will help others going through this for the first time.

MoseyLove!

Diane and Mose

1.25.14

mosey and me

The Hugs and Belly Rubs Project

Mosey at 2 1/2 months

Mosey at 2 1/2 months

I started a Facebook group page called The Hugs and Belly Rubs Project. When Mose was diagnosed with cancer I was told to “love him and give him lots of hugs and belly rubs”. I decided to flood him with love by asking everyone I know, and everyone I meet, to hug him and/or give him a belly rub. I am going to photograph and post the images on the page to keep a permanent record of just how much he is loved So don’t be surprised if you are asked to hug him!! Or, if you already have photos of Mosey getting some love from you, please post them.

Please join the group and share your photos of your own beloved fur babies getting hugs and belly rubs for all the world to see.

Note…the group is not for any other purpose than sharing the photos. Thanks and please join. You can also post your photos here in the comments section of this post

Welcome to MoseyLove

Mose

Mose is my beloved golden retriever.  In December of 2013, at age 10 1/2,  he was diagnosed with cancer. I decided to do everything I could to fight this disease as I am not ready to say goodbye to my best friend. I was overwhelmed with all of the medical opinions, options and advice I received. Traditional medicine? Holistic? Surgery? Radiation? Chemotherapy? Diet?

I started this site as a way to record my experience, keep track of what I learn and organize all the data I discover. Perhaps my journey can be of help to other pet parents faced with a cancer diagnosis of their own loved furry child. Please visit the Blog page to stay updated on Mose’s treatments and prognosis and share your own stories. I will continually update the Resources page with available options in Northern New Mexico and Colorado. The “How you can help” page will list local non-profits supporting pet cancer research as well as those who provide help to low-income pet owners battling pet cancer.  Please feel free to use the Contact page with your comments, suggestions and questions.

My goal is to keep Mosey alive as long as possible while ensuring quality of life is always the number one goal. So far he does not exhibit any symptoms and is the gorgeous, treat motivated, goofball he has always been. Great appetite, lots of energy for a 10-year-old and not in any pain. He is going to stay that way if I have anything to do with it because I love my dog.

MoseyLove!

December 2013

mosey and me

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