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12.09.16

Baloo’s 11-30-16 Goodbye

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:47 pm by

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It’s time for me to write about our goodbye to Baloo, which is both cathartic, and sad, but as with my other posts, I do with the goal of helping anyone out there facing an amputation for a pet with any fear.  Amputation and chemo therapy saved Baloo’s life.

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Osteo in the Shoulder Area

 

I had a blog post saved celebrating Baloo’s one year ampuversary at the end of October, but never finished it, because following that milestone, it became increasingly apparent that time was growing very short with our boy those first few weeks in November.

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Happy Ampuversary Baloo! 10/29/30

His legs grew wobbly, and though he still had more than enough energy to make it into the kitchen to beg, it became routine for me to carry him outside and to wherever we were in the house. His tails wags were still enthusiastic, but his energy waned. Even in that state, he still managed to squeak his toy every now and then, showing us he was still all lab.

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Still squeaking! November 2016

The signs were subtle, but added up. With my Dad and brother coming into town for Thanksgiving, I know we were waiting for those few last days so that they could say goodbye too.

Almost twelve years ago around 11/18/04 or so, my mom, dad and I picked up a 9 week old chubby puppy from the cold mountain foothills of Mount Shasta, and drove him home before Thanksgiving. He slept on my lap the entire way.

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Still a Lap Dog in 2005

And like that first Thanksgiving in 2004, and past years, this last Thanksgiving, Baloo had us all surrounding him as well.

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Thanksgiving 2015

We all agreed that it was time to say goodbye, and though it would have been nice to do that as a family while everyone was in town, we had other guests visiting for the holiday, and didn’t feel that entertaining and mourning were a good combination. So mom and I planned to say goodbye after our guests had left, even though my Dad wouldn’t be able to be there.  Dad never did well on those tough vet trips, so it may have been a blessing.

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Maverick Knew Goodbyes were due

A lovely vet who had known Baloo through his year of chemo was available to be with him, but we were worried he’d perk on the way to the vet as he always did, making us question the timing.  Baloo was not yet suffering, but we felt like his decline was beginning to become rapid.  Our other dogs had greeted the vets happily despite it being very much their time, and it broke our hearts.

But just two days later, there was a drop of blood in the water I was giving him, erasing any doubt. My brother drove back down from LA to be there with him, and thankfully was able to carry him to the car.

Instead of enjoying the car ride as we’d thought, he laid his head in my lap staring into my eyes, never once registering interest in the ride. Just like his first ride home, he made his last ride; in my lap. He’d done that quite a bit the last few weeks, and I was glad to comfort him.

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Together Always – November 2016

He was calm at the vet. She said that it was not the same dog she’d known all year, and not the same dog she’d seen even just a few weeks ago, but agreed he wasn’t suffering. She believed that the small lesions I noted in his mouth were possibly a presentation of cancer as well, and agreed it was time for the gift of euthanasia, 13 months after beginning his fight with cancer.

I’d said my goodbyes dozens of times since he was diagnosed.  I told him every day that I loved him, would miss him, and that he was my world. And then I told him for the last time.

It’s been just over a week, and we’re not doing much better. My mom is devastated, and I am working hard to keep from cracking, because I am not sure I’d be able to rebuild if I came apart. But I know time will help, and have been lucky to have supportive friends.  The coworkers who supported me during Baloo’s surgery sent this frame, which arrived yesterday. It is a lucky thing in life to have people who understand the importance of animals.

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Framed with Love

Osteoscarcoma has stolen two of my best friends.  In 2003 my 8 year old black lab Gus was taken quickly following his osteoscarcoma diagnosis because our vet was not a proponent of amputation.  He was in great pain in his final days, and we were helpless to help him.

 

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Gus – 1998

Then in 2004 we brought home a happy bear of a puppy, and named him Baloo. 11 years later, he too was diagnosed with osteoscarcoma.  This time we were able to give him a JOYOUS year following amputation, and though he eventually succumbed to cancer, he did not suffer in the end. Life on three legs IS good. It’s nothing to fear. People are the ones who feel sad for a dog without a leg, but Baloo proved that life lived on three legs rocks.  And as his guardian, I am thankful that for 13 glorious extra months, I had this light in my life.

I’ve loved, and lost, many special animals in my life.  It is always too soon.

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My Pack – Baloo, Maverick and Spirit Truman in 2011

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Happiest Times – Spirit Gato, Maverick, Spirit Baloo and Spirit Truman sunbathing

My wish with this blog was to encourage others facing the difficult path ahead with amputation. If your dog NEEDS surgery, don’t be afraid. Be happy! There is a way you can help your dog feel better, and for that, feel good! You are not helpless!  Your dog reads your energy, so find a way to see amputation for what it is – a gift.

What a wonderful bonus year life as a tripawd was. A year of things like these below.  Are any of these things not what quad dog does?

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Mountain Hikes

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Walks

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Strolls

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Chews

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Car Rides

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Kisses

 

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Friends

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Squeaking

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Sunsets

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Birthday

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CIty Views

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Bedtime Snuggles

Baloo Yawn

Naps

Not sure who was happiest sharing this car ride!

Trips

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Park Walks

It was a great year.

In fact, that bonus Tripawd year looks EXACTLY like a normal year to me.

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Tripawd Fetching the Paper

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Quad Fetching the Paper

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Tripawd Swimming with a Stick

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Quad Swimming with a Stick

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Tripawd Running

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Quad Running

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Tripawd at Del Mar Dog Beach

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Quad at Del Mar Dog Beach

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Tripawd Water Dog

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Quad Water Dog

So which is he in the photos below?  Quad or Tripawd?

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Not knowing is the entire point!

 

(Both Tripawd, by the way)

 

So if you’re wondering whether your dog will live a normal, happy life after amputation, the answer is, that is up to you as much as it is up to them. If you are happy, they will be too.  Enjoy them. Find the joy in the time you’re given, and they will too. However much they can do is exactly enough. Live in the moment, because the moment will be over far too soon. Be thankful for it.

 

 

In the aftermath of our goodbye, the one comfort to us all is how thankful we all are for this year, and the ability to help him in a way that we couldn’t for Gus through amputation and chemotherapy.  We would do everything we did exactly the same way, every single step of the way.

Thank you Tripawd community, for your support this year!  It’s been a comfort.

All our best to you, your tripawds, and your spirit animals,

Erin and Spirit Baloo


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10.26.16

Baloo’s Brother Gets Married

Posted in Uncategorized at 4:53 pm by

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It was an exciting week in our house! Baloo’s biped brother tied the knot a week ago. For the first time in 6 years, we had to leave the dogs for more than one or two nights to travel to Hawaii for the big day.

This was the first time since the amputation 363 days ago that Baloo’s been without one of us, and, to be honest, given his grim prognosis in June, we weren’t  expecting that by the big day we’d be faced with the wonderful dilemma of leaving him.

Fortunately, one of Baloo’s early UC Davis oncologists has taken up practice in San Diego, and before our trip, mom took him for a visit.  The vet remembered him from his treatments, and was reassuring about his current status. Her assessment was better than the doctor who saw him in June, and we felt like we could safely leave him for the week.  I don’t think we could have gone to the wedding if there was a chance one of us couldn’t be with him to say goodbye.

Our trip was scheduled for 8 days, but we’d grown worried about the impact of that trip on him, and even on my separation anxiety riddled black lab Maverick. The best part of their day is when I walk through the door. My Dad offered to stay back a few extra days, but if someone was going to stay with the boys, it made sense that it be me.

I carved the trip down to just a few days – I had time to snorkel, swim with a wild pod of spinner dolphins, catch a tan and enjoy the beautiful ceremony, before taking a absolutely terrible redeye flight home.

My family was able to enjoy the full trip reassured I was home was the boys, and I enjoyed my extra time home snuggling with them.  My new sister-in-law is a huge lab lover too (their family has three labs, and raises guide dog puppies) and she was just as glad the boys were taken care of.

I was worried I would feel a bit like I was missing out – but my time with the boys was wonderful.

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10/15/16 Begging for my park picnic!

A friend took a “staycation” and stayed with them nonstop the few days I was gone.  She sent us so many photos it drove us a little crazy, but it was good to see them loved while we were away. It sounded like Maverick actually took my absence harder than Baloo, which didn’t surprise me.

Baloo’s energy seemed down when we got home, but after spending the last few evenings on his dog bed with him, he’s perked up. His eyes are brighter, his tail is wagging, and the snuggles and kisses have returned. He’s not racing around the way he did a year ago, but he’s happy.  Last night when I was petting him he started jawing at my hands to wrestle – and good luck stopping him if there’s potentially food in the kitchen.

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10/25/16 – Evening Snuggles

A year ago today, Baloo was headed to UC Davis for his amputation.  His ampuversary is Friday.  A few weeks ago it seemed optimistic to look out to 10/28, and though time is very precious (as it always is!), we can’t try to guesstimate how he’s doing.  Every few days so my mom tearfully says she doesn’t think he’s doing well when he’s lacking energy or panting. I remind her that his quality of life is good, which cheers her up. And to prove my point, not much later, he’s in the kitchen begging, or viciously tearing apart a toy, and she shakes her head and tells him he’s a faker.

At eleven years old, I don’t blame him for not being our second shadow these days, but he clearly has a LOT to live for!

 

 

09.22.16

Baloo’s 12th Birthday!

Posted in Uncategorized at 8:00 pm by

Baloo turned 12 on the 19th!

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A year ago we were just about to learn he had cancer, and could only dream that we would be wishing our happy boy a happy day on his 12th birthday. 9/19 was a special day.

Two months ago we found out that Baloo’s cancer was spreading after 9 months of successful treatment and a successful amputation, and were given a few weeks prognosis.  There was evidence of sarcoma in his lungs, trachea, and even a suspicious area on his kidneys, all that had developed in the window of a few weeks between scans.

But Baloo lives on his own timeline!

We are beginning now to see his breathing quickening a bit, and are we’re painstakingly monitoring him for any disinterest or decline in enthusiasm over his life’s activities, but he is still waiting at the top of the stairs for me every afternoon when I come home, every morning when I get up, and even surprises me by occasionally deciding he’s capable of things like jumping up on my bed for a cuddle. He flies out to get the paper in the morning when he hears the door open, and intently destroys the ears on the fuzzy toys I bring home for him.

Not sure who was happiest sharing this car ride!

Not sure who was happiest sharing this car ride!

The life he fought to live is still a good one, and he’s earned the right to live it as long as his life makes him so happy.

Apparently he’s not about to play by the vet’s guesstimates, and we’re definitely letting him set his own rules.

Nights are a little harder on him, and us, when his breathing gets more labored, but each morning he has a sparkle in his eyes, a wag in his tail, and is raring to go.

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His great joy is running out to do his job!

Whether or not Baloo celebrates his one year ampuversary in a few weeks, these extra 11 months have felt like a lottery of good luck.

Baloo has had an incredible 12 years, and the last 11 months with him as a tripawd have been nothing short of a gift.

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Afternoon sun basking

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A soak in the bay with his mom

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All the best, from B&E

 

 

 

07.19.16

Baloo’s Fight Resumes at Month 9

Posted in Uncategorized at 7:33 am by

Hi everyone!

My last post was about being cancer free for Baloo.  Then life got a bit crazy.

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Baloo and Maverick enjoying Bidwell Park ’16

Big things have have happened for Baloo  since I last posted in April with news of cancer scans and cancer free news.

As a treat we went for our first Post Op Swim, despite frigid waters, to celebrate news that he was cancer free at month 7.  It was our last goal for him following surgery, and he had a great time.

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When my adorable #Tripawd Wants to swim in snow-melt, you go too!

Following those big things, I got a new job in Southern California, my mom retired, and my dad went on summer break, so we packed up our lives and moved 600 miles south to sunny Southern California where a new retirement home was waiting for my folks, and my new job was waiting for me.

Baloo had traveled there with us often as a puppy, but this is a huge adventure for him as an adult.

Like all things, a move has pros and cons. The cons list is short; we began building our new house before Baloo got sick, and it is on a hill, with the living space is on the top floor.  Though he can go in and outside easily, to get to the front of the house where the vehicles are, a bit of a trek down a sloped path is necessary. We  have a wagon ready for emergencies, but since we’re driving the dogs to parks every day, it makes us miss easy access out the front door. The stairwell is too steep for him to navigate.

But I think mostly the move mostly “pros” that have been great.  My mom is now retired, and is home with him all day, and Dad is too before teaching in the fall. The climate is more comfortable, and he gets to enjoy having all of our doors and windows open all day now that the summer heat isn’t over a hundred degrees.

We make a point of going on an outings every evening.  Baloo loves the beach and park every day.  He is overjoyed by the variety of people and dog watching he has here. And he milks the lovin’ he gets as a tripawd.

Since returning to Southern California, aka home of my storage unit, I was able to dig my huge Houndabout dog stroller out of storage, so he can join us on longer walks,  or safely on busy streets –  after one stroll he was in LOVE!

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Baloo’s First Ride in the Houndabo

Unfortunately, just a few weeks after moving, Baloo started gagging, and we had a bad feeling. A quick trip for x-rays, and despite our “all clear” x-ray just four weeks prior, nodes had appeared that were pressing on Baloo’s trachea, which, when he shifted his body, caused him to gag and choke. They are also in his lungs. The rapid progression in four weeks was discouraging.

Of course, being a lab, all he wants to do it roll around in the grass gleefully soaking up the sun on a beautiful day on a lovely afternoon, but the moment he inverts, his airways closes off for a few seconds, and it’s devastating for everyone.

We realize that the cancer may move quickly now, but I know my dog to be one heck of a tough old man.

Cautiously optimistic for a few more of these wonderful afternoon outings together, and I will happily take all that I can get, treating each one preciously. He is loved, he knows it, and we can only be thankful for each and every extra day together. One day at a time.

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Baloo and Maverick at Fiesta – June

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Tonight at Mission Bay

 

 

 

04.05.16

Baloo’s Big News!

Posted in Uncategorized at 6:30 pm by

Time really flies when you’re on three legs, and with the nice California spring weather, all seven of the dogs’ legs have been outside more, and I’m sorry to say, I haven’t been online much in the last two months.

Let’s get to the important stuff first…yesterday Baloo was given a beautiful “cancer-free” declaration at UC Davis, and we are one seriously happy family!

We had continued to have some ups and downs with Baloo’s treatment since February; some days mom and Baloo drove two hours to UC Davis only to determine that his white cell count was too low for chemo that given day, and go through it all again the next morning. The trips are hard on him, and visits to Davis typically also include imaging now to monitor the pesky shadow in his lungs for changes.  Imaging requires sedation, the sedation turns him into an uncooperative 88# for the rest of the day. By 9pm he usually reminds me of friends from college about 15 years ago who had “one too many” – laying around moaning, and we try to bring him water and carry him off to bed.

But yesterday, the 4 month-1 week ampuversary, Baloo headed to UC Davis, and after the imaging and sedation (the tech swears Baloo enjoys being zonked out and rolling around on a giant gurney) our wonderful oncologist said she “jumped up and down” after hearing from the radiologist that there were no changes to his lungs. Osteosarcoma would be growing so rapidly that each of these progressive images in the last eight weeks.  Because there are none, the little shadows they’d been watching will be referred to as archeology of oncology.

Long story short – the combination of the amputation and chemotherapy appears to have worked! I know better than to speak in absolutes, but for where we are right now, Baloo is done with cancer treatment. So, for anyone starting out with their diagnosis and journey who is reading this, not only did we feel like the amputation itself was a success regardless of the chemo…and for now, the chemo was a success too.

He’ll go back t0 UCD in two months for a checkup, but in the meantime, he’ll go back to being a standard 3 legged-senior citizen with a busy schedule of walks to keep, things to smell, stuff to chew up, and people to greet – and by about the 6 month ampuversary, it should be warm enough to swim again!

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Soaking up California Sun – April ’16

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Full speed ahead!

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