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It’s Been a Year

March 31, 2012

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1 April. It used to be the day that we played tricks on each other and laughed about all the other April Fools jokes going around. Since 1 April 2011 though, it will always be remembered as the day that Nikki decided she was done with her struggle with cancer. I still have very vivid memories of waking up early that morning before sunrise and taking Nikki to the front yard, and watching her just sit and enjoy the cool night air. I also remember the strength she showed later that day as she let us know that it was time. I swear if she could talk she would have told us that we shouldn’t be sad and shouldn’t worry, but all we could really do was just watch her struggle to get comfortable.

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There’s not been a single day in the last 365 where I haven’t thought of Nikki, and while time has replaced most of the painful memories with good ones, I still can’t help but miss that Tripawd greeting me at the door and making sure that I bent down so that she could lick my face. That was one thing I could always count on when I walked through the door, whether I’d been gone for an hour or a week. Both Sasha and Max have been a lot of fun over the last year, and Max has done a very good job of picking up the torch of “My Dog”, but Nikki’s memory is still very fresh.

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And of course Sasha has taken over the position of “Protector of the Realm”. That used to be Nikki’s job, but I have to admit that Sasha does a very good job of it.

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We all miss you Nikki!


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What a (thankfully!) Long, Strange Trip it’s Been

January 19, 2011

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19 January 2011. A very important date in the Malone household… It’s been ONE YEAR since Nikki had the surgery to remove her right hind leg because of a serious Osteosarcoma.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget that day in December, 2009 when the doctor said she had cancer and it was progressed enough to where she had days left to live unless we did something drastic.

I still remember standing in the waiting room at the vets office and hearing Nikki cry as they put her on the cart to wheel her out to us. I remember quite vividly that first look at her and the thoughts that I had just done the worst possible thing that I could do to her.

Now I look at her and, while I’m not a religious person, I can’t help but thank God that she’s still here with us, and for all intents and purposes is 100% healthy. I have taken to calling her “Nikki, the three-legged wonder dog”. (She certainly looks the part, doesn’t she?)

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She’s starting to get a bit gray on the tips of her ears and on her nose, but she’s really regained that “I am the alpha dog, you will tend to me” attitude (which I think you can see from the picture) and she’s gotten back to her pre-cancer self in every way, shape and form. She lets me know when it’s time to be her chauffer, and lets me know when it’s time to play. (As you can see by this photo, she’s not going to give in to the “little one” Sasha either)

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She has also gotten back to the “I am the protector of this house” mentality as well. We don’t have to worry about the UPS or FedEx man going by on the street unnoticed. Nikki lets us know anytime they are near the house.

She is also enjoying the rides in HER truck, although this is a pretty bad picture, I think you can tell how happy she is.

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And most importantly, she is prone to letting the world know that the Avalanche is all hers

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At any rate, if you happen to be reading this and are just starting the journey with your Tripawd, believe me when I say the road is up and down, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel and don’t give up hope. If you read back through the entries that I’ve posted here, you’ll see that I never would have guessed that we’d be here a year ago.. I can’t wait to see what this next year brings!


9 Months and Still Going Strong!

October 22, 2010

Well, today is my birthday, and as I sit here pondering the fact that I’ve made it through another exciting year, I realize that one of the best things that’s happened so far is the fact that I still have my companion Nikki by my side (She’s actually laying at my feet at the moment, but that’s close enough I think) even though the “experts” had told us that there was little chance that would be the case.

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Nikki has been doing pretty well, although she is slowing down somewhat on the stairs. She’s pretty much regained all of her old habits, and has even picked up a few new ones.

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Now that she’s on 3 legs, she has decided that it is MY job to bend down to her when I get home and present my face so she can lick it. If I don’t do this immediately when I walk in the door, she will follow me and paw at me until I give her my face. This has only started in the last 3 weeks, but it has become a ritual every single time I walk through the door. She’s also taken to sleeping on the floor on my side of the bed as close to the bed as she can get (As opposed to in her very comfortable dog bed) and then making sure that I pet her first thing when I wake up. Basically she’s letting me know that she’s the boss and that I am well trained.

All in all on the medical front we’re still very pleased with her progress. She had her check-up and blood test last week and still no signs of mets or cancer, so we’re extremely thankful for that.

So, another “no news” update, but in this case no news most certainly is the best news!

 


Another Ampuversary! (8 months and going strong)

September 20, 2010

8 months ago at about this time Mary and I were preparing to bring the new Tripawd Nikki home from her surgery. I’ll never forget that day, sitting in the waiting room and hearing her yelp as they prepared to bring her in to see us. Then of course seeing her for the first time as a Tripawd, all I could think about was “My god, what have I done?”

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8 months later I think we have the answer; (Actually we’ve known it for awhile, but it’s never been more clear than these days) We saved her, and gave her a whole new lease on life!

Nikki had her checkup last week, and everything is still A-OK and normal, with no signs of cancer or other indications of issues. This is really great news for Nikki because she’s already far-outlived the expectations of all the specialists. (We were given anywhere from 4-6 months as a best case scenario). For every day that goes by, Nikki acts more and more like the puppy that she is (She is almost 9 years old, but she still thinks she’s a puppy) and has even started figuring out how to get into my lap when I sit down in the office (This used to be a ritual for us, I’d come home from work, sit down at the desk, and she’d crawl up in my lap to lick my face and basically let me know that she missed me). It’s very good to have the old Nikki back!

Here’s some pictures taken since the last update:

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Upside-down Tripawd.

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Out for a ride

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After-effects of said ride (Yes, that is Tripawd Slobber)

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More upside-down Nikki

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Dogs are plotting!

The point is, as you can see Nikki is very happy, and is really enjoying her life, and we’re just simply enjoying that fact.

If you’re just now starting the cancer journey, all I can say is take heart in that there are definitely success stories out there, and I’m just happy that my BabyDog is one of them!


A Clean Bill of Health

August 11, 2010

We’re about 8 days short of the 7 MONTH Apuversary for Nikki!! Considering what her chances were when she was first diagnosed, I really do know how lucky we are that she’s still with us, and in great health to boot! I swear every day with her is like we’re going backwards in time and Nikki is becoming more and more puppy-like. These days if I toss a ball in the house, chances are that Nikki (remember, 9 years old and only 3 legs) will likely get to it before the other two (who are mere puppies at just over 1 year).

Today was a dual-doctor day for Nikki. First she saw Dr. Friedly, who is her holistic vet. He’s the one that devised the treatment plan that we’re on (No Chemo, all natural “eastern” medicine) that seems to be working quite well. He basically looked at Nikki, told us to keep doing what we’re doing, and scheduled the next visit for December (Which will be 1 year post-diagnosis). Bottom line as far as he’s concerned, Nikki is healthy and happy, even though she’s missing a leg.

Next she saw Dr. Pyne, who is Nikki’s primary vet. Dr. Pyne has seen so much of Nikki (and us) over the last year that I’m sure she’s pretty tired of us. This was basically a follow-up exam to the dental cleaning that we did last week, and a general all-purpose examination. The verdict there is Nikki is healthy and doing great. Nikki owes her life to Dr. Pyne, and we’re all very appreciative of that fact! While the visits to Banfield aren’t exactly the most fun thing for Nikki, she really does enjoy the ride both to and from, as you can see here:

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Anyway, I guess I keep providing these very positive updates just to show that there is light at the end of the tunnel for those that are just starting down this path. I know every dog is different, as is every situation, but I can’t say enough about the treatment plan (and diet) that Nikki has been on since her diagnosis. I really do believe that had we gone the traditional path, we’d have lost Nikki by now.


5 Months, 3 weeks Post Surgery

July 12, 2010

Normally I’d save a post like this for an ampuversary date like 6 months, but the news is so good that I just didn’t feel like waiting that extra week to share.

Today was Nikki’s quarterly checkup with Dr. Pyne for chest X-rays and other “cancer detecting” work. The way this works is we have to drop Nikki off early in the morning, and then pick her up in the evening. They do this so Dr. Pyne doesn’t have to rush any of the work and so it’s more convenient for us. Nikki loves the ride to Banfield, and loves to show-off once she gets inside the store (We have to get there before PetSmart opens, so she gets a nice catered-to feeling when they let us in and the store is empty..

Today Nikki practically jumped out of the truck when we arrived at the store and ran to the door. Then she spent a fair amount of time checking out all of the displays. If you didn’t know she had only 3 legs and saw her from the “good” side, you’d not know that you were looking at a Tripawd. She’s moving around that well….

Well, to make the long story short, here’s a full-chest X-Ray of Nikki taken today:

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The almost unfortunate thing is that even though I have to veterinary training, I can read these pretty good at this point. What you’re looking at here is a FANTASTICALLY CLEAR picture! No mets, no signs of anything abnormal, and basically an absolutely CLEAR set of lungs and other organs. This means that at this point we still see no signs of cancer showing up in other parts of Nikki’s body.

Her next checkup is in late September! She’s almost getting to a “healthy dog” routine!

Meet Tilley

We all miss Buddy of course, but sometimes things have the strangest way of working out. Today I was sitting in a meeting at work when Mary sent me an email with the subject, “Awwwwwwwwwwww”. (I’ll bet you can guess what’s coming next). Anyway, as it turns out there’s a couple that live up the road from us who are Active Duty Army and are being relocated to Ft. Hood. Well, for those that don’t know, most Federal installations (Army bases are certainly Federal installations) do not allow Rottweiler’s. Unfortunately for this family, they were having to move from off-site housing into on-post housing, which meant that they could not take their dog. They have a beautiful year-plus old Rottie named Tilley that was going to have to stay behind. Long story short, after meeting with them and Tilley this evening, we have a new member of the Malone household. Meet Tilley:

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Tilley is getting adjusted to life in the house, and Nikki and Sasha both seem to have accepted her already. I guess we’re back to a 3 Rottweiler family!


5 Months!

June 21, 2010

Well, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted here. The only excuse I have is that basically we’ve all been having a pretty good time and Nikki has really been enjoying life. We’re now 5 months post-surgery, and the prognosis at this point could not be any better!

It’s interesting when I think back 6 months ago when we got the horrible news that Nikki had Cancer and that there wasn’t much hope other than to take her leg and see what happens. We went through some serious ups and downs after the surgery, both physically and emotionally. On one hand we had the news that Nikki could measure her lifespan in days if we didn’t do the surgery, and if we did the surgery, we might extend her life 5 months or more, depending on the roll of the dice… Well, here we are 5 months after surgery and Nikki is pretty much 100% healed and is her old self in every way, shape and form. She’s actually doing things these days that I haven’t seen her do since she was a puppy!

Ever since Nikki was a puppy, one of her favorite things to do is to go for a ride. She really gets into it, she climbs up in the window and sticks her head up as high as she can get it, and occasionally barks from pure joy. (Of course this tends to leave the side of my vehicle completely slimed!) Since the surgery, the rides we would take would generally be to the vet (Nikki hasn’t actually seen a doctor in a month at this point) and while she tried to get up in the window, that back leg just wouldn’t cooperate for her. I tried putting the seat in various configurations to help and rigging up a box or something for her to get on, but nothing really worked. On the occasion that she would be able to get up for a bit, she’d spend too much time trying to balance so it really took the fun out for her..

Well, now that we’re farther along in the healing process, one of the things that Nikki has been doing is really gaining strength in her rear leg. Yesterday I was sitting in the office and Nikki wandered in and gave me the, “Listen, you haven’t taken me for a ride in a week, and I’m ready to go!” look, so off we headed…

Once I got her up in the Tahoe and backed out of the driveway, I noticed that Nikki was sizing up the window again and figuring out if it was going to be worth it.. Next thing I knew she hopped up, and was balancing on that hind leg just fine.. Long story short, we drove for about 15 miles and Nikki didn’t come out of the window at all. The side of the Tahoe (which is normally black) was completely white from her bark-slobber.. Not sure I’ve ever seen anything so nasty look so damn good! Nikki is most definitely back!

It’s been a bit warm here in Colorado these last few days, so the dogs are all taking to laying in the cool grass when they can. As you can see by Nikki’s face (Far left in the photo), she’s pretty happy!

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The 2 Month Apuversary

March 20, 2010

Yesterday marks 2 months since Nikki had the surgery, and almost 4 months since the initial diagnosis! Nikki is still doing quite well, and we expect her to be with us for many, many more months and years.

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The last couple of days has been hard on the dogs. Mary left Thursday night to travel to White Sands, NM. Where she is participating in the annual Bataan Death March memorial. That leaves me home to take care of the dogs (I would have actually gone with her, but I fly out to Seattle tomorrow) and they’re not quite adjusted to having me do that. (I am the “treat and play” guy, not the “take care of us” guy)

I have to take Nikki to the vet for a checkup today. Dr. Pyne is on vacation but we still want to monitor Nikki’s progress and the lymph nodes near the surgery site. I think she’s doing OK, and I haven’t noticed anything unusual there, but it’s best to have the professionals check as well.

Other than that, things with Nikki have been pretty good and I think the treatment plan we’re on is really working for us. Nikki has actually been running and playing in the back yard, and last night she was chasing after a stick in the snow, so I know she’s feeling a lot better. She still needs help getting up the stairs, and she still hasn’t quite figured out that she balances better inside if she puts all of her weight up front (she does this just fine outside, but for some reason inside she thinks is different), but all in all I think she’s happier now than she’s been in a LONG time.

Oh, take note of the badge to the right that says “Vote for my Dog”. Please take a moment and vote for Nikki. The winner has $5000 donated to the pet charity of their choice.

The Buddy Story

If you’ve read previous posts that I’ve made about Nikki, you know that we have 2 other Rottweilers in the house; Sasha and Buddy. Buddy was a rescue from one of the shelters here (9 Lives). We think he was abused, and was on his own for a long time before coming to the shelter. The docs estimate his age as anywhere from 3 to 6 years old. When he first arrived in our home, he was “skin and bones” and was very shy. Over the last few months he’s filled out and has become a truly integrated member of our family. He is a great dog who only wants to be loved. I have no idea how someone could ever abuse such a dog, but then again I don’t understand animal abuse in general.

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Anyway, you might be asking yourself what this has to do with anything…

Unfortunately, during a follow-up exam for Buddy last week, we found out that he too has bone cancer in his right-rear leg. We don’t know exactly what kind yet, and we’re going to get him up to CSU for an evaluation.. So, I’m going to need to create a new page here for Buddy… As I told Mary, everything happens for a reason, and I am pretty sure the reason that Buddy picked us (he really picked Mary, I was just there to provide the transportation) was so that he’d get the treatment he needs..


A Fun Day

February 20, 2010

It’s a typical Saturday here at the household. We’ve had a couple of days of snow, so the roads are horrible and the yard is covered. Mary and I had some errands to run this morning so we left early and got it all done. When we got back home, the dogs were typically irritated with us for having left them here (How dare we!), including Nikki, although she just seemed happy that we came back.

I took the dogs outside (We have a dog door that used to be left open, but since Nikki still isn’t quite ready for the up portion of the stairs, the door has to be closed when we are gone) and Nikki shot across the yard and started barking at something on the other side of the fence. I pulled out the video camera and got some video of her barking and protecting her space. As usual, she’s a great guard dog!

After being home for an hour or so, a friend called and needed me to meet him. Nikki must’ve read my mind that I was heading out again, because she let me know in no uncertain terms that she was going with me. So I loaded her into the Tahoe and away we went. She wanted the wind in her face, so even though it’s 18 degrees outside, I rolled the window down a bit for her. She just sat there and enjoyed the wind. When I met up with my friend Jim, he made a comment, “Hey, did you know that you had a 3-legged dog in the back”? While my answer was yes, I actually thought about it for a minute because I’m not sure that Nikki knows that she’s three-legged. She only knows that some things take a bit more effort than they used to, but she’s bound and determined to get them done.

All in all a good day! Unfortunately my travel schedule has really picked up, so I’ll be leaving tomorrow afternoon and back Wednesday. I’m missing out on a lot of the day to day recovery things with Nikki, but I’m also trying to make the best of the time I am spending with her, and I think it’s working out pretty well for the time being..