Just a Little Off

Hello everyone, Bear here.  It’s been a while since I last posted to my blog.  You see, I’ve had a rough week.

Well, I had my second IV chemo treatment and the dose was reduced by 20% due to the really bad reaction I had after the first treatment.  Everything went well, at least at first.  Mom and I headed to Scottsdale on Tuesday, February 28th.  I really enjoy riding in the truck with mom.  She talks to me on the trip and opens the back window for me if we’re not travelling too fast.  On this trip, she popped in a CD of Bruce Springsteen’s audio book, “Born to Run” and we listened to it on the way to the oncologist.  I like when he sings and for his book he did the audio recording, so it was an extra treat to have him ‘talk’ to us during the trip.

The tech in the office was really happy that mom kept a journal of my experiences and asked to copy the applicable pages for my medical file.  This made it a lot easier than mom trying to relay all the information.  They took me in the back and took some blood to test to see if things were OK for me to receive my IV treatment.  Apparently, everything came back just fine and I was hooked up to an IV.

Since I had such a drastic reaction to the first treatment, the oncologist told mom that I would need a blood test seven days after this treatment.  At least I just have to go to Kachina Animal Hospital for that test and not take that long drive to Scottsdale.  We drove home to Bruce Springsteen’s voice again.  I had a great ride home.

I started to get a little picky about what I would and would not eat.  I was still eating my canned u/d with pumpkin, but preferred a delicacy called Trufood mixed with my dry food.  Well, this worked for a few days.  By the second day I started to get an upset stomach.  Mom gave me my anti-nausea meds and things seemed to quiet down a bit.  I was still eating my regular food but was getting a bit tired.

I take some pill medication as well and mom typically wraps those pills in a tasty Pill Pocket and I swallow it whole!  Love those Pill Pockets, or at least I did.  For some reason, things just didn’t taste or smell that good to me and I didn’t want to take my meds.  Mom tried peanut butter, which was OK, but I just licked the PB and spit out the pill.  Unfortunately, mom had to force me to take my meds.  I know she doesn’t like to do it, and I couldn’t really explain why I was feeling bad and didn’t want to take them.  I was getting really tired by the third day after my treatment.

I sort of bounced back a little by day five, but still was not feeling well.  I was still eating some of my dry food with canned chicken, but really only wanted the Trufood.

On day seven I went in for my blood draw.  My temperature was normal, which is good considering it spiked quite high after the last treatment, but I still was not feeling good.  I went downhill from there.  I didn’t want to eat, even the Trufood wasn’t tasting too good to me.  I wasn’t drinking much water either, which concerned mom quite a bit.  I just didn’t know how to tell her I wasn’t feeling well.  She stayed by my side trying to get me to eat and drink.  She even tried spoon feeding me.  I appreciated her trying so I would take a couple bites, but I just wasn’t interested.

Mom went to the store on Friday and bought some huge chicken breasts.  She put them in her crockpot with some chicken broth and let them cook for a few hours.  In the meantime, she made some rice and some plain pasta.  (My mom’s Italian, so there is ALWAYS pasta in the house.)  Well, the rice tasted good, and so did the pasta.  Then the chicken was finished and mom shredded it into a container and gave me some.  That tasted pretty good too.  I think I ate too much.  I sort of got a little upset, but didn’t throw up.  This was a rough day for me, and mom.  She was really, really worried about me.  I don’t think she slept well at all that night.  I was exhausted and spent the entire night in the bedroom instead of roaming the house for different places to sleep.  I know mom was up at least four times that night because she came over to check on me.  She would pet me and talk to me for a few minutes, but I was so tired I barely lifted my head.

I felt a little better this morning, but mom was still worried.  She drove into town to drop off the track & field equipment for Special Olympics practice and let them know she had to hurry home to take care of me.  My mom coaches Special Olympics, not sure you knew that.  She told me she was coming right back so I waited for her.  She was only gone for a little while but to me it seemed like, forever!

I have now eaten quite a bit of fresh cooked chicken today, it’s really all I want.  I’m starting to feel a little better but I’m still tired.  Mom has started wrapping my meds in sliced turkey or sliced roast beef.  She thinks she’s fooling me, but I know there are pills in there.  I’m just glad the turkey or roast beef tastes good so I can just swallow it whole.

I’m hoping I feel even better tomorrow.  Mom said she was going to stay with me as much as possible and that makes me feel better.  I always feel better when mom is nearby.  I hope she knows I’m trying to get better.  She has a special power called love that makes everything feel better.  I feel it in her hands and see it in her eyes, even through her tears. 

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“A Dog’s Purpose”

My mom went to the movies with a friend today.  I stayed at home with dad.  She came home after a few hours, sat down and told me all about the movie she had just seen.  It was titled, “A Dog’s Purpose”.

Now I know what a dog’s purpose is, but I guess some people don’t.  Maybe they don’t have dogs in their lives to help them learn about our purpose.  That’s kind of sad, because we have a lot to teach.  Sometimes it’s tough to get it out and be understood by people.  I think that may be because they are not truly open to communicating with us.  After all there are some people who will say, “Oh, it’s just a dog.”  I don’t go around saying, “Oh, it’s just a person.”  I try to talk to everyone.  I like talking to people and I like when they talk to me.

Anyway, mom said the movie was about Bailey, a dog who had a young boy (Ethan) as a best friend.  Ethan and Bailey did just about everything together.  One thing they really liked to do was play together and Ethan taught Bailey a special trick with an old deflated football.  Well, Ethan grew up and Bailey got a little older.  After Ethan went away to college Bailey was feeling really sad, and old.  One day, Ethan’s mom, and his grandparents, realized that Bailey wasn’t doing very well and took him to the Vet.  Grandpa called Ethan who came home to be with Bailey as he crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

Mom started crying when she was telling me that part.  But then she talked about Bailey, and how he seemed to come back again, as a puppy.  He was different, but still knew who he was.  He also remembered Ethan and wondered how he was ever going to find him again.  Well, Bailey went through a few more lives.  Each time he found someone who really needed him and he helped them through some pretty tough times.

I told mom, that’s what we do.  Dogs love helping people through tough times because we know how much fun they can be when they are happy again.  It’s like when mom is sad.  This happens now when I’m not feeling well, mostly after my treatments.  Mom sits with me, pets me, brushes me, and tells me that she loves me.  It’s these times when I feel her sadness, and all I want to do is to make her feel happy again.  I look at her and ‘tell’ her that I love her very much and that she needn’t worry so much about me, that I’ll be just fine.  I ‘tell’ her that we’ll get through these tough times, together.

Well, back to the movie – SPOLIER ALERT – if you haven’t seen it, and you plan on seeing it in the future, you may want to stop reading about now.  I’m going to talk about the ending.

Bailey ends up, once again coming back and, unfortunately left to roam the streets by a not-too-nice person.  He ends up in the same area where he and Ethan spent their summers, Ethan’s grandparents farm.  Bailey recognizes some familiar smells and, of course, follows his nose.

He finds Ethan, who is much older, but does not recognize Bailey.  It’s OK because Ethan keeps this new dog (which is really Bailey) in his home.  Finally, there is an opportunity for Bailey to show this much older Ethan that special trick he learned as a pup, when Ethan was a young boy.  It finally clicks with Ethan, that standing in front of him is his Bailey, or as we find out very early in the film, his Bailey, Bailey, Bailey, Bailey, Bailey – or his Boss Dog.  It was a really happy ending, after Bailey traveled those many years, and many miles, to find Ethan again.

I hope it was a true story because I’d like to be able do the same and travel wherever I have to, and as long as I have to, so I can find my mom again.  I know that would make her happy.  It would certainly make me happy.

A little information about my home

I’ve been thinking lately, about my life and the things I’ve done and seen over the years.  I wish I could have met my mom and dad sooner so we could have had more time together.  They adopted me when I was about 7 ½ years old, I’m 11 ½ now.  I was in foster care in an Aussie Rescue group in Payson, AZ, for almost six months.  At the time, Taz and Joey were still living with mom and dad, but Taz was getting old and not feeling too well.  Mom and Dad were concerned about Joey and how he would feel when Taz crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  They wanted someone to help him during that time, so they went looking and found me.

It was actually a friend, Heidi, who told mom about Aussie and Friends Rescue, and even found me on their website.  Heidi told mom about me and that she should check out the site and look for my bio.  Mom did and I guess my photo hooked her big time.  Lucky for me as I didn’t know how much longer I was going to have to stay in foster care.  As an older dog that could have been a long time.

Well, my foster parents brought me down to mom and dad’s house for a visit to see how I would get along with Taz, Joey, Dante, Othello, and Maya.  We hit it off right away.  I liked Taz and Joey and they liked me.  While I was visiting, Joey and I settled down in the kitchen, next to each other as if we had been friends forever.  The cats, well they looked at me from a distance, but I really wasn’t too interested in them.

My foster parents spent a few hours with mom; dad was away for the weekend so I didn’t meet him until later.  After a while everyone decided that I was a good fit and mom made a donation to the Rescue and my foster parents left.  I was a little scared when they left, you see they had taken care of me for six months and were all I knew.  This was a new place, with new friends.  I sat near the front door for a few hours after they left, wondering if they were coming back.

Mom tried to tell me that it would be OK, and that this was my new home; but it was Joey who really helped me to not be afraid.  He sat next to me near the front door and told me all the neat things I was going to experience.  He talked about the great food, playing outside on the property, rides in the truck, and about the cats and how they were fun too.  He told me about all the love I would have while I was living here.  He said that was the best part. 

After a few days, I started to settle in to my new home.  Joey was right about everything, but especially about the love.  That’s a photo of me and Joey shortly after I settled in my new home.  He always took the time to talk to me and make me feel welcome.  I miss him.

Eventually Taz crossed the Rainbow Bridge and Joey was a little sad, but we had each other.  It was actually Dante, my new cat brother, who appeared to be devastated by Taz’s passing.  You see, Taz would clean Dante’s ears and all around his head.  Dante apparently enjoyed this tremendously and would seek out Taz for a daily cleaning, sometimes several times each day.  After a few months, I stepped in and started to clean Dante’s ears, and most of his head. 

Joey crossed the Rainbow Bridge about eight months after Taz and I was very sad.  For a few days, I hung my head low and there was sadness in my eyes.  Mom tried to cheer me up with lots of love, as always, and started taking me with her on short trips and errands around town.  We started spending more time together and I started to enjoy life again.  We’ve visited the dog park and I get to go camping now.  I still miss Taz and Joey but I understand why they had to leave.  I know one day I’ll have to leave as well.

As I’ve mentioned in an earlier post, my cat brother Othello crossed the Rainbow Bridge in April of 2016.  So now it’s just me, Dante, and Maya.  We’re all doing just fine and still enjoying all the love in our household.  Dante comes to me for ear cleaning several times a day.  I like doing that for him.  I hope he will have someone after I’m gone who will step in and clean his ears.  When the time is right, I’m sure mom and dad will open their hearts to another fur-baby in need.  There is so much love in this house I don’t see how they could avoid doing so.

An Interesting Few Days

Well, I’ve had a few interesting days.  While I expected I may experience a few side effects, I was not expecting what happened to me post-IV chemo on Day 8.

Actually, it started during the night.  I had to go out and poop, really bad, so I woke up dad.  He took me out about 4 AM.  I pooped a few times but still did not feel too well.

Mom got up about 6:30 AM but I was too tired to get up and follow her into the bathroom as I typically do each morning.  Once she went into the kitchen I got up and went in there with her.  I had to poop again so she took me outside.  I was feeling really tired and weak and didn’t want to walk back in too quickly.  I could barely take a couple steps and then had to stop and rest.

When I came back inside I didn’t want to eat, nor did I want to drink any water, so mom was rightfully concerned.  She cancelled her clients for the day and took me outside again when I asked to go.  I had really bad diarrhea and mom had to clean my backside when we got back inside the house.  I was really sorry and tried to tell her, but she said to not worry about it and that she would take care of everything.

She called my oncologist in Scottsdale.  Who would have thought that I’d have an oncologist?  I also have a cardiologist and a board-certified surgeon.  I have more doctors than my mom has.  Anyway, after talking with the oncologist she said I had to go to Kachina Animal Hospital.

I arrived at Kachina at about 11 AM.  They took me in the back immediately and gave me an anti-nausea shot.  They also inserted an IV port in my front left leg and started me on IV fluids.  Apparently, I had a really high temperature, 105.  Also, the results from my blood tests showed that my white blood cell count was precipitously low.  They also put some antibiotics in the IV.  My mom was not able to come in the back with me and I didn’t want to go without her.  It was tough, but once I was all set up I realized they were going to take really good care of me and I tried to settle down.

I ended up staying in the hospital all day.  Mom came to get me about 5:30 PM and I was discharged shortly after she arrived.  I was so happy to see her.  I was already feeling better now that she was there and especially when she told me we were going home.  Dr. Lynn came in to talk about all that had been done to me while I was there as well as what to watch for overnight.  I was confident my mom could handle it, she’s really attentive.  We made an appointment for the next day at 8:30 AM so they could check my temperature and see how I did overnight.  Mom took home some antibiotics for me to start taking in the morning.

When I got home I went straight for my water dish; I was really thirsty.  I ate a little bit too.  Mom got some Trufood envelopes from her best friend and that’s what I ate.  Mom said I could only have one envelope at first, to see how my stomach did since I hadn’t had anything to eat all day.  I held it down and felt pretty good so mom gave me another envelope of Trufood about an hour later.  I drank more water a few more times.  Mom stayed up with me until about 10:30 PM when we went out for our last walk. 

I knew I was low on energy because when mom went out to photograph the sunset, I decided to stay inside.  Typically, I go out on the front porch with her and then walk around out front while she photographs the sunset.  She does that as often as possible, as long as there are clouds in the west and the colors show up.  We have some beautiful sunsets out here in N. AZ.  I decided to use one of her panoramic shots for this post.  I hope you like it.

I slept through the night, only getting up twice to reposition myself.  I got up about 7 AM with mom and we went outside.  I felt a lot better and was moving OK, not too fast but at least I was now able to walk continuously.  I ate a little dry food mixed with Trufood and took my meds.  When we went back to Kachina Animal Hospital I was happy to discover that my temperature was normal.  Since I was eating and drinking Dr. Lynn said I didn’t have to stay.  YIPPEE, I got to go home with mom!

I ate a little at lunchtime and then again at dinnertime.  I’m still sleeping a lot and moving slow, but that’s because my white blood cell count is still really low.  Mom asked about that but there is nothing we can do to raise that count.  I just have to ride it out.  Mom is making sure I have plenty of good food and she’s spacing it out throughout the day.

I’ve improved over the past few days and am almost back to my regular energy level.  I’m still a little picky about what, and how much, I eat, but mom is being exceptionally patient with me as we work through this stage.  At least now we have an idea what to expect the next time, just hoping it won’t hit me as hard.  Mom will talk with my oncologist so I can have my next IV chemo dose adjusted since it appears the first one may have been too strong.  Oh well, that’s life, always an adjustment.

Mom’s absolute favorite poem is “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.  The last stanza of the poem is as follows:

“I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

So together, mom and I will be traveling this road, the road less traveled.

Pooh Bear

I mentioned in a previous post that mom calls me her Pooh Bear.

My mom likes Winnie the Pooh.  I know she’s all grown up, and my mom, and that Winnie the Pooh is sort of a children’s character, but she said Winnie the Pooh has a lot of redeeming qualities and quite a bit of wisdom for a bear.

So, I’m going to use a few of mom’s favorite quotes from Winnie the Pooh as I talk about us.

“Sometimes the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.”

Mom has a big heart, she has to because of all the fur-babies that have passed through her heart over the years.  I’m one of many who have shared a space in mom’s (and dad’s) heart.  I remember my dog brothers, Taz and Joey, they both crossed the rainbow bridge already.  I also remember my cat brother, Othello, who crossed the bridge last year in April.  Mom tells me about all the fur babies I never got to meet and talks about how much fun they were and how much she loved them.  She always reminds me that she loves me too, and that I will always be in her heart.  I like that.

“How do you spell love” asked piglet.  “You don’t spell it, you feel it.” replied Pooh.

At night when I climb on the couch and lie on mom’s lap, I feel her love for me.  I feel it in the way she slowly and gently strokes my fur, around my eyes and my ears, and down my neck.  I hear it as she whispers in my ear that she loves her Pooh Bear.  I feel it when she sits next to me on the floor and I roll up against her leg, or when we wrestle and rough-house with one of my blankets.

I hope she feels my love as well, in my quiet, rhythmic breathing, the heaviness of my head on her lap as I fall asleep, safe and comfortable.  I try to look at her with love in my eyes, and I hope she recognizes it.  I think she does because she squats down, takes my head in her hands, looks into my eyes and tells me she loves me.  I like that.

“If there is ever a tomorrow that we are not together, there is one thing you should always remember.  You are braver that you believe, stronger that you seem, and smarter than you think.  But the most important thing is: even if we’re apart, I will always be with you in the heart.”

During these moments with my mom I try my best to hold them deep in my heart.  I am doing my best to store them in my memory; I hope she is doing the same, I think she is.

Because, I know, one day we will have to part.  She will stay and I will continue on to a bridge, crossing over.  And, all I will have are these memories and like Pooh, I will keep her in my heart as I’m sure she will keep me in hers.

But for now, we are still together, and I do my best, every day, to tell her that I love her, just as she tells me every day.  I like that.

“How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.”

My First IV Chemo Treatment

Hi everyone – well, I had my first IV chemo treatment on Tuesday, Feb 7, at the Scottsdale Oncology Office.  My appointment was for 3:30 PM as that was the only time they had when mom made the appointment two weeks ago.  At least we got in.

Mom got a call from the Oncology Office on Monday, Feb 6, advising that I do NOT have the MDR blood marker.  You remember, that was the blood marker that was going to determine whether I could have IV chemo or have to stay on the daily chemo pills.  Since it is not present in my blood, we got the green light for the IV chemo treatment.

Since we’re in N. AZ and the office is in Scottsdale, mom likes to leave about 2 hours before the actual appointment.  You never know what type of traffic you’re going to experience.  Mom would rather be early than late.  I like that as well as it gives me time to go for a walk with mom and stretch my legs after a long drive.  We actually arrived in Scottsdale about 2:30 PM so mom headed to Whole Foods to get something to eat for herself.  I think she had a chicken Caesar wrap, I got some of the end of the tortilla wrap.  That was my treat for the day.  She already let me know that we would not be stopping for ice cream as she was not sure how my system would react to this first IV treatment and she didn’t want me getting sick on the way home. 

We arrived in the office about 3:00 PM and mom got us checked in.  I posted a photo of the board that greets all the patients.  It has everyone’s name on it and I found my name “Bear” – it’s near the center/bottom.  If you look a little to the left and slightly above, you’ll see the name “Pooh Bear” – that’s mom’s nickname for me, she calls me her Pooh Bear.  I’m not sure if that’s me, or if there’s another client by that name.  I’ll have to ask the next time we’re in the office.   

We first met with one of the vet techs who explained everything to us.  I ended up having to go in the back without mom.  She asked if she could go back with me but they explained that it was a small area and that she could not be there while I was getting my chemo.  She had to wait out front.  I know she was worried, but they took really good care of me.  I was examined next and then had blood drawn just to check to be sure the chemo pills I was taking worked well with my system. 

Next I was hooked up to an IV line.  It wasn’t too bad.  I was a little anxious and moved a few times, but not too much.  There was someone with me all the time.  I actually had a couple of small treats while I was back there.  They were good and I was happy to have them.  It only took about 30 minutes for the blood draw and the IV drip, then I was heading back into an exam room where mom was waiting for me.

Dr. Venable came in and told mom all about the possible side effects, some of which include nausea that may include vomiting (YUK) as well as diarrhea.  She said that she was going to send home some meds for those side effects, just in case.  Dr. Venable said the side effects, if they were going to occur, would happen 2-5 days after this treatment.  She also mentioned that most patients don’t really have those side effects. 

When I got back in the truck I was really thirsty so I drank a bit of water.  I laid down for the ride home and tried to take a nap, but I was really excited about getting home.  I had my dinner when I got home and ate like I typically do.  I really like my food.

The next day was OK, I didn’t have any bad reaction to the treatment.  I was a little tired and didn’t feel quite like myself, but overall I was OK.  On Thursday things were still going OK, no reaction yet.

Friday, 6:30 am, I threw up.  I tried to hold it back, and I left the bedroom where mom and dad were still sleeping.  I got into the kitchen and looked for someplace that wouldn’t be too bad.  I ended up throwing up a little on a plastic mat that is under the water dispenser.  I didn’t want to get it on the floor.

Mom was up like a shot.  I don’t think she sleeps all that well now.  When she gets up in the night to use the bathroom she comes and checks on me.  On Friday morning, she was by my side in a flash letting me know it was OK and that she would take care of me.

I took an anti-nausea pill that morning.  I really didn’t want to eat so I went back to sleep.  About an hour later I ate a little, but my stomach was still a little upset and food just did not appeal to me.  I actually slept most of the day, I think the meds may have made me drowsy.  I ate some of my dinner, then went to sleep again.

I felt a little better on Saturday and ate a little more breakfast, but not everything.  I slept a bit as well but ate most of my dinner.  Hope I feel better as the days go on.  I don’t have another IV chemo treatment until February 28th, and I think I’ll be OK in a few days.  The oncologist said if I had any side effects from the IV treatment they would occur 2-5 days afterward.  Friday was day three, so I guess I’m right on schedule. 

Mom said she would take care of me, so I’m doing well.

Lots to talk about

Hey everyone,

I didn’t think I’d be posting this much so soon, but I’ve got so much on my mind I’ve just got to get it down in print.  I must admit, this whole blog-thing is very cathartic.  I didn’t realize it at first, but a dog like me has quite a bit to say and having a rather captive audience makes it even easier to express myself.  I’m going to try not to make these posts too long, and boring.  I know we all lead very busy lives and not everyone has time to sit and read the mussing of a dog.  However, I do hope you have a little fun and perhaps laugh a little at what I have to say.  After all, I am a dog, and we tend to do (and say) some silly things every now and then.

Well, the past week has been full of activity.  I went to see the cardiologist for an ultrasound of my heart to see what, if anything, may be going on in that area.  We needed to be sure my cancer had not traveled to my heart, yet.  The cardiologist is in the same office and my oncologist, which is nice so we don’t have to travel to different places for my treatments and exams. 

I had my grooming appointment at my Animal Hospital.  They gave me a nice bath and trimmed my nails.  I got a really good brushing as well.  I like to look, and smell, my best.  I actually enjoy visiting my Vet’s office, most of the time.  That’s where I have my laser treatments for my knees and hips.  Mom keeps up on those, every other week, so I’m still able to run around and play, both outside and inside the house.

I’ve taken to playing inside with one of my blankets.  That’s the photo you see at the top.  Mom throws it over me, covering my head and then I start to twist and turn and toss my head.  I grab that blanket and shake it, over and over again.  We play tug of war with it sometimes but mom is careful that I don’t rip it.  Sometimes, when she puts it over my head I just stand there, perfectly still.  I’m waiting for her to reach out and touch me.  When she does I go into full-on play mode.  We toss, turn, and wrestle on the living room floor.  It’s a lot of fun.  I really love when mom plays with me.  She seems happy during these times too, and I know that it’s just as important for her as it is for me.

My next trip is Tuesday.  I have an appointment with my oncologist.  Mom was instructed to stop my chemo pills this past Thursday as I need what they call a ‘wash-out’ period in preparation for the start of IV chemo treatment.  That is, if my blood work comes back without that MDR marker.  I don’t know what the IV chemo treatment will be like or what the possible side effects may be.  I’m a little scared, but my mom will be with me the whole time so that’s comforting.  I hope she does OK with it too.

It’s a complicated process, navigating this cancer thing.  There’s so much to monitor, so much to treat, and so much to take in and understand.  My mom is really good at that.  She’s started a journal about my health, the cancer, my treatments, and how I’m doing each day.  She keeps copious notes which helps her make the best decisions for me and our future together.