Day 19: A new vet

We were late getting to the vet today. It wasn’t my fault. Roo was feeling good and detected a mouse and started digging a hole and wouldn’t stop. The only blame that falls on me is from my not having had the heart to make her stop. From here on out, she can do pretty much whatever she wants. We’re on her schedule now.

The new veterinarian, Dr. Gail Mason, made a terrific impression on me, and more importantly, on Roo.

“Oh,” she said when she came into the exam room, “nobody told me what a pretty girl you are!” She spent some time buttering her up and Roo loved it. To reinforce Roo’s opinion of her the doctor began to feed her cookie bits. With Roo’s case of prednisone munchies, she actually begged for more, and Roo is not, and has never been, a beggar. Roo was relaxed throughout her visit. I’m not even sure she knew this was a doctor’s office. She was completely unstressed afterwards.

Dr. Mason confirmed that the wound on Roo’s arm was the result of the way the chemo had been administered at the other place. She said there wasn’t any doubt about it. The chemo drugs are toxic, and if they leak, they start to kill healthy tissue and the dog gets exactly what Roo has. A miserable wound that is slow to heal. She said it happens, though in 28 years not to anyone she’s treated. She wasn’t saying this to criticize the other vet, and I had given her no reason to think I wanted to hear any criticism of them, but because it was an obvious medical fact. The way the skin necrotized, the difficulty Roo is having healing. Another reason never to go back to that first hospital, especially since they told me that they didn’t administer chemo in that IV. Hard to believe.

Dr. Mason said that if Roo were her dog, what she would do is break from the CHOP protocol Roo is on, for this one visit, and administer L-asparaginase today instead of the vincristine she was scheduled for. This way, she could be given the doxorubicin next week, on her Tuesday visit. That doxorubicin is the hardest of the chemo drugs, and afterward I wondered if this change was due to her opinion that Roo’s disease is farther along than the other oncologist had said. The previous diagnosis was Stage IV, but Dr. Mason said that Roo was in Stage V. Stage V is when the cancer has reached the bloodstream and bone marrow. So, while that’s bad news, it still doesn’t mean that Roo won’t be able to achieve remission. It does mean it might be harder. Dr. Mason also took all the time necessary to discuss upcoming treatment, the vaccine that Roo would be able to take if she got into remission (towards the end of the course of chemo), and she questioned me about Roo’s diet and instructed me to make a few small changes, like no more raw meat for now, because of the chance of catching something from it, no carbs, and other stuff like that. 

Afterward, I took Roo for a walk. Virginia happened to be leaving her house at the same time to walk to town so we started off with her, but by the time we got around the corner Roo planted her feet and put her head down.

Now, I never thought of Roo as stubborn until Virginia pointed out to me how stubborn Roo is. How it never occurred to me I don’t know. To me, Roo’s determination not to do something she doesn’t want to do just seemed like the expression of an opinion, not an argument. But, one day, Virginia tried to take Roo for a walk and Roo wouldn’t consider it. She wouldn’t budge an inch unless I went along.

“Wow,” Virginia said, “she’s so stubborn.” She didn’t mean it in a negative way. Virginia loves Roo. She was right. I had just never seen it. And it’s true, Roo is an incredibly stubborn dog. But, I admire it.

So, Roo planted herself. She didn’t want to walk towards town.

“Maybe she’s too tired after the vet and the chemo,” I said. “I better bring her back.”

Virginia went her way and we headed back. Or so I thought. What Roo had been insisting on had nothing to do with going home. She wanted to go to the park, which was in the other direction. We went there. Once again, she had to be stopped from going in the water because of that wound on her arm. I’m a little unsure of how far to let her walk, but she wanted to keep going when I turned us back after 20 minutes or so. It was a good thing, too. Towards the end of the walk she was moving slow.

I put her in the car and drove her to town where she had to wait while I went into a health food store to buy her some goat milk. Beside the milk they also had a very pricey jar of goat yogurt. This I opened and put down on the arm rest for Roo.

So, that’s the update. Roo is feeling good, but the fight with this damnable cancer is far from a sure thing. In the meantime, what the hell. You’ll find me spoiling a stubborn dog — and glad for every chance I might still get to do that.

Day 17: On the upswing

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Roo is feeling much better. She’s not feeling great, but only insofar as she’s still tired and her arm hurts. The chemo meds are not having any visible effect beyond that. Her mood is good. She has starting digging for mouses.

Previously I mentioned my dissatisfaction with the veterinary clinic she went to. Three days ago, when Roo was energetic enough to take a slightly longer walk, I began to survey local dog parents about vets. It’s a sad testament to how toxic the environment, even in a place as clean as Brunswick, Maine, is to dogs. Everyone had a dog with cancer. And everyone agreed on which oncologist to see.

I called her office and left a message. She called right back and spent about ten minutes on the phone — more time that the previous vet had been willing to spend in total — asking questions about Roo. Her background and qualifications are sound. We made an appointment for Roo’s next chemo to be done at her clinic on Friday. She also mentioned something the other vet never did, probably because she didn’t want to waste the time. There is a vaccine for B-cell Lymphoma, the kind Roo has. A dog has to be in remission before it can be administered, but studies show that it can more than double life expectancy. 

The main relief now is that Roo is so much improved. So far, so good. 

A few people on facebook have said in comments that Roo should be put down. I choose those words — put down — because ending the life of a dog just because she’s sick, even if she’s very sick, for a while, when there is every hope that she might return to feeling good enough to enjoy her life again. I find it ridiculous. Of course there’s a time for euthanasia, when there is nothing but misery in a dog’s future. But I don’t know of anyone who would decide that being sick for a while is too much to endure. Roo was sick for a couple of weeks now, terribly sick for some of that time. There were plenty of times when I thought she seemed to be too sick to survive. And I expect more of those. But I also know what a brave dog she is. And I know that she would not want to end her life because of a period of illness. Dogs can handle those. What they shouldn’t be expected to handle is nothing but suffering. So, to those very few of you suggesting I put a speedy end to Roo, forget it. She’s going to get every chance to have as much good time as she can get.

I’ll post on Friday after her next round of chemo at the new vet. The drug that will probably be administered is vincristine, and that didn’t seem to bother Roo the last time around, though it’s hard to tell, because she was feeling bad to begin with.

Until then, if you’re having any trouble sleeping on a real quiet night in the next week or so, take a step outside, turn your face to the northeast, close your eyes, hold your breath and listen as hard as you can. Far off in the long distance you just might hear some clonking and bonking. That’ll be Roo trying to crash her way into her usual sleep corners with her e-collar on. Take it like I am trying to — as one of the good signs.

She can take wearing that collar for a while. She can take being sick for a while. She wouldn’t have it any other way now.

By the way, the accompanying picture was taken exactly two months ago today. Roo was looking a bit grizzled. She looks much better now.

Day 14

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After her visit to the ER on Wednesday, when they bandaged the wound on her arm that was started by the IV she had in during her overnight stay in the ICU 13 days ago, Roo had to return to the hospital on Thursday for her third round of chemotherapy. She was upset at being brought back, but, eventually walked in voluntarily. She pleaded with me to go in back with her when the tech led her away, but I’m not allowed to. Some hospitals let you, but not these guys.

Roo had her bloodwork done and then given orally this week’s chemo drug, cyclophosphamide. When she was brought back out, the bandage was off her arm, because it is preferable for the wound to be in open air to heal properly, and she went right back into the cone.

The vet said that the bloodwork was much improved, that everything the course of treatment could be hoped to accomplish this early on was on track. It was good news. Roo, though exhausted and obviously feeling bad, is responding to the chemo.

This creates some difficulty with the decision I realized by the next day might be necessary to make. The vet seems to be entirely competent, assuming that what she reports about the efficacy of the treatment is correct. But that hospital is clearly geared to being a multi-million dollar business above everything. Patients are run through in a hurry and the vet is always in too much of a hurry to spend more than three or four minutes discussing the patient afterward and tried to clock out in less than that. This is not enough. There are all sorts of questions that come up, and though I write down the ones that occur to me before the visit, there is always more news and information to deal with. I’ve always believed that what prevents some excellent veterinarians from joining the ranks of the best ones is the effectiveness of their communication with the pet parents. There are questions of diet, of what to expect during the recovery, of the trajectory of the disease, of a million things. Roo’s IV infection is an example, and that happened on her first visit. The best vets are interested in more than the sheer science of the lab reports and medical technologies. They listen to the caretakers of sick animals. Vets who don’t do that don’t think it’s important. They are too firmly convinced that their administration of medicine is sufficient. I disagree. I’ve taken dogs with varying degrees of disease or illness to veterinarians in at least a dozen countries on three continents. The best of them, whether country vets like Dr. Stokes or university specialists in Switzerland (Orville, a white Lab, turned rust red and wasn’t diagnosed by French, German or Italian vets; it took an insightful Swiss one to figure out what the trouble was.

The stress of the hospital always knocks Roo out, now even more so, and as soon as she got back in the car she slept. She’s been panting since she got sick more than two weeks ago, and by late that night, Thursday, she seemed to be panting harder yet. Not with her mouth open and tongue out. Just sharp, short breaths as she lay on her side looking miserable.

On Friday, Roo was lethargic. Her panting was hard. The wound on her arm had finally stopped oozing and showed the first signs of granulating, but maybe it was hurting her so much that she didn’t want to get up. Maybe it was the chemo, even though the vet had told me that this drug was well-tolerated and if any bad side effects appeared they wouldn’t for three to five days.

I called the hospital and was told by the tech who is the oncologist’s liaison — their description — that because the doctor only works three days a week, Friday not being one of them, she would call me back on Monday.

“Roo is sick now,” I said. “You can’t possibly expect me to wait for a call on Monday.”

The tech said she would ask one of the ER vets what they thought. No, i said. Roo is in the earliest stages of cancer treatment. The oncologist is her doctor. She’s the one who knows the protocol and the drugs and their effects.

“Then you should bring her to the ER,” she said.

“She was in the ER the day before yesterday. She had chemo and bloodwork and was examined by Dr. Gill yesterday. I need to speak to the actual doctor before stressing Roo out with another 80 miles of driving and being checked back in there if it’s just to spend another $300 on being listened to with a stethoscope for something that a phone consultation might clear up.”

The tech reminded me that the doctor wouldn’t be in until Monday.

“All right. Then I need to find another oncologist. Nothing personal. you’ve all been great over there and I appreciate it, but you must realize how absurd it is to be told that a critically ill dog’s vet won’t return a phone call for three days,” I said.

“I’ll tell the doctor about your concerns,” she said, and I thanked her and got off the phone. The truth is I was choking up.

Five minutes later the vet called. It was all I could do to control my voice. Not from any anger. I was worn out and sad, the way one gets when watching a dog suffer. Roo had been so sick, I had spent most of the night with her on the floor, I was starting to feel like a poison was flowing in my veins and now, being faced with the question of whether to put Roo through transferring to another hospital just when she was just getting used to this one.

I told the doctor what was going on and she said there had been nothing the day before to suggest anything to worry about. That prednisone often causes panting. She told me to reduce the dosage. She said that the first few weeks were always the worst, that Roo’s body is dealing with a lot of stuff. No need to bring her in unless she got worse. She also gave me ways to contact her without going through the hospital and the sort of deflection with the tech that had just happened. So, we’ll see.

The large plastic e-collar is impossible for Roo to wear inside the camper, unless she lies in the middle of the one open area of the floor, and that’s only about four feet by four. She can barely move or switch positions with the cone on. She didn’t feel up to moving, but I couldn’t leave her alone and she managed to get in the car and we went to the store and bought her an inflatable soft collar. It makes it easier on her, though she still can’t squeeze into the corner where she likes to sleep at night. We both got a little sleep Friday night, and on Saturday, Roo’s wound was finally dry and had what looked like the solid start of a scab on it. Later in the day, she even chased a squirrel and took some interest in a few minutes of wandering in the woods behind the house.

Maybe it was the reduced prednisone dose, maybe it was that the wound on her arm was not hurting as much, but by early Saturday evening, Roo’s breathing was back to normal for the first time in two weeks. Finally she began to get some real rest, and I kept the camper silent.

Until the fireworks started when some asshole began blowing off big bombs nearby, sending Roo into a panic. It was her first exposure to loud noise since the last of the thunderstorms we were in down south. The whole reason for bringing her north was a quieter, cooler climate. She began to tremble and tried to hide, an impossibility in the camper to begin with, but entirely out of the question with her e-collar on, even the soft one that doesn’t catch on corners. There was nowhere for her to hide. I took her e-collar off and held her and tried to soothe her a little while I hoped the jerk setting off the explosions would blow his hands off, better yet his whole arms, or blind himself permanently or lobotomize himself with shrapnel and set his house on fire and have generations of his spawn haunted by malicious spirits. If you’re a fireworks aficionado, sorry. I hope the same things happen to anyone who blows off fireworks in populated areas and places their mindless pleasure above the pain they inflict on half the animals in earshot. Maybe we got lucky and he did blow himself to molecules. Maybe he’s in the morgue or burn unit where he deserves to be today. Or maybe he only stopped in 20 minutes or so because he ran out of ordnance.

The damage was done. Roo was a mess. Her panting ramped up again and never slowed back down. I stayed with her on the floor until about four in the morning when I couldn’t take it any more. I’ve had too many bones surgically removed from my spine and fused vertebra that cracked once and a couple of bum shoulders I had to lean on the whole time and I had to get off the floor and try to get some sleep. Roo was in a sort of daze and desperate to sleep.

A couple of hours later — this morning — I leaned over the side of the bed to check on Roo and put my hand on her arm to see how the wound felt. It was wet. I opened the blinds and the door to let in the dawn sunlight so I could see the wound. Roo had managed to get her tongue all the way around the edge of the soft e-collar and lick her wound open again. It didn’t make sense. The collar extends beyond her nose and it would take at least another six-inches of tongue stretch after that for her to get at the wound. It would take a tongue like one of those Amazonian salamanders that can snatch a fly out of the air a foot away. I had watched her try and it had seemed impossible, way out of reach. Yet, in those few overnight hours, she managed it. She destroyed the scab and excavated the wound. It’s as bad as it was days ago when she went to the ER. It hit me hard and I broke down and felt tears coming on the way they did when I was a little kid, all at once.

“Oh, Roo, bear,” I said to her, “what have you done? What have you done? You licked the arm.” She just wanted to try to get some sleep. I cleaned it up and put a bandage on it. A couple fo hours later I had to pick her head up off the floor when it was time to give her her three antibiotic pills and two prednisone pills. Her head was dead weight. She was too tired to hold it up the way she always has. I gave her a piece of the Dogswell jerky she loves to wash the sticky capsules down, fitted her bigger plastic e-collar and tried to get some sleep — the exhaustion by then was overwhelming, even though I’m always exhausted — but it was pointless. I lay there and checked my email, but it was just the usual notices from credit card companies and Craigslist scammers. I’d responded to half a dozen rental listings from Maine to New Hampshire. Without exception, every one turned out to be a scammer suggesting I immediately wire a deposit. I shut the iPad off lay there listening to Roo’s panting.

This afternoon Roo is breathing a little better, but the deep wound must be painful. The slit in the skin where the skin seemed to rot after the IV is wide and it opens onto a deep, empty area below. She managed to scour out the whole inside of the wound, the same way she injured herself with lick granuloma when she was a puppy. She stayed on the floor and didn’t want to go out for more than the absolute minimum. When she saw Virginia in the driveway that made her happy enough to go out to say hi, but she came right back in. Or it could be that she’s feeling bad from the chemo, now that we’re in the three-to-five-day window. Most likely, it’s all of the above. She’s got lymphoma, she’s on chemo, prednisone and antibiotics. Who wouldn’t be run down.

That’s where we are on this sunny Sunday in Maine.

Day 10: Back to the ER

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The day before yesterday Roo was feeling pretty good, even if she did find herself in a cone. Last night she became progressively more uncomfortable. She kept trying to find better positions to lie down in and when she did, she groaned from time to time. This morning, she wasn’t interested in walking much at all, but by the afternoon she was feeling better and went to look around the yard. She wasn’t energetic, but not mopey, and when a squirrel appeared, Roo forgot about not feeling well and bolted into the woods behind the house where we’re camped. At her age, she knows catching a squirrel is a long shot, and when they go up a tree she gives up. She just likes chasing them. It was fun and she turned around with a smile.

But after she turned back and took a few steps, she was limping. The place where the IV was when she was in the ICU overnight nine days ago had been slow to heal, which was the reason for having to wear the e-collar. Yesterday it finally dried up, but now it was wet and clearly hurting her. I was stunned by what I saw: the scab seemed to have erupted and underneath the wound seemed unnaturally deep and it was oozing.

I called the vet and described the problem and they said to bring her right in.

Roo has a funny attitude about getting in cars. She absolutely hates to be helped. In fact, the only way I can get her to get in the car sometimes is to ask her if I should help her. She hates it more than anything. Who knows why. She wants to do it by herself. Now, though, she needed help and looked up to ask for it.

“I know, Little Bear, your arm hurts. You don’t have to worry about that,” I said. “But we have to go to the doctor.” As I helped her up she had her ears way back and wagged slowly with a little embarrassment. It killed me that she felt that way.

When we pulled into the parking lot where I camped out the night Roo was in the ICU, she looked around and seemed to think, “Well, here we go, I guess.” She came right to the door and let me lower her to the ground by her harness, and then walked right in, which is quite a testament to that hospital that after everything she’s been through there in the past 10 days. A gentle tech had a look at Roo, left us alone for a few minutes and then came back to take Roo in back. She became very worried and wanted to stay with me, but then decided to get on with it and went through the door.

The wound simply isn’t healing properly. The fragile scab layer that had popped or peeled away wasn’t forming on healthy skin. The vet told me she scuffed the skin up to rid it of a layer of grey, dead skin and to get some blood flowing. And she put the bulletproof, full-leg bandage on. There was no pus in the wound, so it’s not a matter of infection, but the failure of it to heal and the way it seems to be getting deeper is troubling.

Tomorrow Roo has to return for her third chemo treatment. When they do that, they’ll take the bandage off to see how it’s doing.

Roo did great — it may be hard to think of a dog with the fear issues she has as brave, but she is fully in possession of a dog’s full measure of bravery — but it was stressful. It would have been even without the chemo, two antibiotics and prednisone in her. She was exhausted by the time we got back to the car.

On to tomorrow.

Day 8: Roo's best day in weeks

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Last night Roo was feeling awful. She lay on the floor with a grimace, not able to sleep and occasionally groaning. There’s a spot on her side that she began trying to bite, and that freaked me out because I thought something inside might be hurting and if it was, it couldn’t be good news. I checked the spot against an online dog anatomy, and it was unclear, but in the neighborhood of both the liver and the spleen — both of which are enlarged. They’re getting smaller than they were when she was in the hospital, but they’re still rounding out the pink skin on her soft, shaved belly. I sat with her on the floor until around 2 AM. Any time I tried to get up she batted her paw at me to get me to stay. She’s always done that when she isn’t feeling well, but this time she was especially insistent. I sat there thinking the worst kind of thoughts.

I also couldn’t work out a decent workaround for a covering for the sore on her foreleg. The shirt I was wearing happens to be the biggest one I have, so I took that off and put it on her, but the sleeves were too long and the only button that would close made it too tight. I left it on her, but she took it off twice in five minutes. Then I tried the sock again, but she kept picking at that, too.  I tried to jury rig an apparatus out of a sleeve and some surgical tubing left over from my shoulder surgery, but that was just a hopeless mess. Around 2 AM, when she was finally getting some sleep, I sneaked it back on her, and somehow it lasted until morning.

I called the vet and emailed them a photo of the sore and more antibiotics were prescribed. This is the third course of antibiotics for Roo in seven weeks, but the oncologist doesn’t want that sore to fester any more than I do.

It’s not as hard as usual to get Roo out of bed now that she’s so tanked up on water all the time because of the prednisone. Some people limit a dog’s availability to water overnight when they’re on prednisone, but I can’t imagine doing that — keeping water from a puppy for house training is one thing, but the thirst from prednisone is something else entirely. I leave her bowl full and by the morning it’s mostly gone. Until this prednisone, Roo has only rarely drunk any water at night. Now, around 7 or 8 (5:30 the first two nights out of the hospital), she’s ready to get outside. Not today. She waited until nearly 10. She was too sleepy to bother, even though she must have been bursting since her last outing at 1:30. At first I took it for lethargy from not feeling good, but it might have been the opposite. It might have been that she was feeling a bit more like her old self and just wanting to keep sleeping in.

She was feeling much better when she got up. Outside, she stretched and dropped in the grass to roll around for the first time and then bolted into the woods behind the house. She seemed better than she had since before her paw surgery almost two months ago. Her digestion is still not recovered from her sickest days last week, the three days of not eating and then the stress of the hospital and then two doses of chemo, but apart from that and getting tired quickly, she acted as if she wasn’t in the least sick. 

The call to the vet happened after that and I asked if it was a mistake to let her run around like that and she said there was no reason to limit her activity any more, so I gave Roo the option to decide how far to walk later. She wanted to go to her old park and wasn’t dragging at all. I didn’t want to get too far from the house in case it caught up with her, and she complained about being turned around, especially since she was being stopped from going swimming. 

“Sorry, Chig.”

She looked at me with her head down. The position of a dog insisting on something, pointed in the direction of the lake.

“I know, Little Bear. But you can’t swim. You have that arm.”

She stood there. She reallyreallyreally wanted to go swimming. I could tell she was beginning to wonder if I had lost my mind, but ultimately she came along. She started walking slowly, but not because she was tired. Only to make sure I knew how she felt about it. Luckily, it’s not hot here, so even without the water she wasn’t broiled. It was the fist time since her paw started bothering her, which I now suspect must have been when she was first starting to get sick with lymphoma (even though her bloodwork at the time of the surgery didn’t show anything unusual).

At the end of all that, back in the camper, fed and resting, she kept feeling good, woken only once from her nap when the phone rang. It was the pharmacy’s automated voice messaging system saying, “A prescription for Roo is ready at your neighborhood CVS pharmacy.” 

We went to pick it up and go to the pet store to see about a soft e-collar. She absolutely must stay off that hotspot.

“Hey, Chig,” I asked her when we got close to the store.

She looked up at me with her ears up and her eyes bright and wide.

“Who wants to go to the mouse store?”

She sat up in her seat they way she always has and at the store jumped out of the car like a puppy and strode right in. The fist thing she saw was a brown rat in a terrarium and she got a kick out of that. She was feeling pretty relaxed, because when one of the salespeople was showing me the e-collars she dropped to take a long, luxurious pee right in the aisle. She let it rip until a vast puddle formed. Of course this was out of character for Roo, but between all the smells from so many dogs peeing in there all day and how gut-bustlingly sloshy she was from all the water she’s drinking, she forgot herself.

This peeing went on just around the corner from where the sales guy and I were, and I’ll admit that for a microsecond the thought occurred to me not to say anything, but I did and apologized and asked him if he had any paper towels so I could clean it up and he said not to worry, they’ll take care of it, happens all the time, not a big deal. 

“She hasn’t been feeling well and she’s on prednisone,” I said. “It turns them into camels.”

“Really, don’t worry about it,” he said. He saw the look on my face. “Really,” he said. “I understand. It’s not a big deal. I hope she feels better.”

It turned out they didn’t even have Roo’s size in the collar. She had to make do with a bag of Dogswell duck grillers to make up for having to wear her big old e-collar until I figure something else out for her to sleep in overnight. That one is too big for the inside of the camper.

So, I guess that’s how it’ll be going. One day up, another day down. Last night I was getting the awful feeling that whatever she was trying to bite in her side could be bad news, then today, Roo was almost as good as new.

Her next round of chemo is on Thursday.


Day 7: Not feeling great today

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The vet warned that the last dose of chemo might make Roo feel sick three to five days out, which would make today, Sunday, the third day, and though I don’t know for sure if that’s what’s bothering her, she’s tired and listless tonight — except when it comes to food, which she’s constantly asking for, but that’s because of the prednisone, which increases thirst and appetite. Her digestion being in bad shape, all I can give her are small meals and snacks. She’s worrying about food constantly. Other than that, she’s not able to walk for more time than it takes to pee. Thank God we’re someplace where there are no thunderstorms, because if there were, she would never go outside. Of course I’d be fine with her peeing in the camper. I could put something down, but Roo is too fastidious. She would wait until she was ready to explode before she ever did. Most importantly, though, is that she’s not tormented by thunder, and so she’s getting the rest she needs.

Another issue that’s come up — and which has me worried, even if it sounds like nothing in comparison to her main trouble — is that the site of the IV from her first chemo last Tuesday has been getting inflamed. With Roo’s history of hotspots and scab picking, that thing could easily get out of control, and over last night she went to work on it. Of course an e-collar would be the proper answer, but there is no room in the camper for her to wear one. Any time I’ve tried bandaging a raw spot like that in the past, it’s only gotten worse. And it’s midway up her right foreleg, perfectly positioned under her nose for her to be reminded of it. I put a light sprinkle of NeoPreDef on it and she’s wearing one of my socks on it now (It reaches all the way up to her armpit), but I don’t think that’s going to be a solution for overnight, because if she pulled it partway off and the elastic gets stuck on the wound, it’ll only rub it and get worse.

Since this started, she’s been avoiding lying down on anything soft. A hard floor must support her belly more comfortably, which is still, though less than it was, swollen. I’ve removed the foam beds from her two spots, one on the floor in the middle the the camper and the other beside my bed, and she likes it better that way.

Another worry is that her Apoquel, an allergy medication, has been stopped. I stopped it as soon as the lymphoma appeared nine days ago in Tennessee, and then the oncologist told me to keep her off. She said that because it works on the immune system, the jury was still out on whether it was safe to use with chemo. Probably it is, but they just don’t know. What worries me is that before Dr. Stokes put her on Apoquel, one of the symptoms of the severe illness she had was a swollen spleen, and it’s swollen now. It swelled up because of the cancer, but you can see how this would create another question.

I have to figure out an overnight solution for her arm. If she turns that into a hotspot requiring weeks of healing on top of everything being thrown at her, it’s going to mean trouble.

I’ve been combing the classifieds for a place to move her to, but there’s nothing around here.

Meanwhile, Roo has moved onto the thick cotton mat she likes to sleep on, her head tucked into a corner. She is weak and feeling woozy from the chemo, but her main complaint right now is that I’m not giving her more food. She’s getting plenty, but she wants to eat everything in sight. Her stomach just can’t handle it.

Day 5: You've got to be kidding me — a tadmouse?

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If you’re Roo and you come down with lymphoma, there is one immediate and priceless benefit: Daddy stops playing the mandolin. The reason for that is in the same family of reasons I brought her north as soon as she was diagnosed, to try to give her as much peace and quiet as possible. Here, in Maine, there will be thunderstorms, but they don’t hit every day or with the ferocity of those in the south. And though the mandolin doesn’t frighten Roo it annoys her.

With everything in the camper quiet, Roo has been able to get some of the sleep she needs, and late last night she looked like she was as relaxed as she was when she was healthy.

Prednisone makes her thirsty, so she has to get up earlier to go out, and this morning, around 7, while she was taking a long pee, her ears went up. A squirrel. She dropped everything and took off after him at high speed. I couldn’t believe it.

She followed the squirrel into the trees where it of course disappeared, but now she decided to check a pile of sticks to see if anyone was hiding there. There was, and she started digging.

“No digging, Chig,” I said. I hated to put a lid on her, but she’s weak and getting exercised now might not be a good idea, even if the swelling in her belly and the lymph glands is all way down.

She listened. She knew it wasn’t a good idea. She came back to the camper, had her breakfast, popped her prednisone and went back to sleep.

A few hours later I clipped her harness on to take her for a short walk down the block. For the first time in a week she wasn’t dragging.

“Hang on a second, Bearface,” I said. I put in a call to the vet to ask how important it was to limit her exercise. I assumed that she should be taking it easy — she’s anemic and on chemo — but did that mean I shouldn’t let her have any fun if she was feeling better? The vet wasn’t there and someone would have to call me back.

“Chuggi Bear Beker,” I said, “let’s go in the car.”

There’s a place where you can park right next to the tadmouse pond, and I drove her there in the hope that a brief taste of the park might improve her outlook after the hellish week she’s been through. She sat in the passenger seat with her ears up when we got there and bolted out of the car when I opened the door. Since her paw surgery in early April she’s been told so many times that she can’t go in the water that instead of just running in the way she normally would she stopped to check with me.

“Okay, Chigi Bear. In the water,” I said, and she ran in and began dunking her head and shaking it around underwater. She felt great.

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The official tadmouse pond is about 200 feet away and she wanted to go there. When we got there, there was a problem. The tadmouses had arrived early this year. I didn’t want Roo to get excited about them and start jumping around. She was happy to see them, and took one dive at one of them, but then just enjoyed prowling in the water and checking the old hunting ground. I let her do this for another ten minutes.

When I told her it was enough she came right out of the water and we left. She wasn’t going to be unreasonable, as she had been in the past (in case you missed the public service announcement about this, click here). She’s the one, after all, who isn’t feeling too hot.

As soon as we were back in the car the phone rang. It was the vet clinic. They said to make sure Roo took it easy. Nothing but short walks on the leash. So, I blew it.

Then again, the whole escapade lasted about 15 minutes, and I think it did Roo a world of good. And the medicine seems to be doing its job. There are many rough days ahead. I didn’t expect an improved one this soon.