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Remembering Nikki

May 5, 2011

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Well, it’s been more than a month now since we said our final goodbyes to Nikki, and I suppose the hurt is diminishing some.

Our new puppy Max is proving to be a real handful, and he really does exhibit many of the traits that Nikki did at that age.

For those that don’t know, Mary and I ride, and are very involved with the Patriot Guard Riders here in Colorado. We spend a lot of time throughout the year on our bikes and really do love the sense of freedom that you get from riding the open road. You might ask what any of this has to do with Nikki, and while I’ll admit that it’s a very tenuous link, when I was trying to think of an appropriate way to honor the memory of Nikki (among the ideas that I had was a patch or other type of “biker” memorabilia) I came up with the idea of having a helmet airbrushed in her likeness. The idea there being since Nikki loved to go for rides (though never on the bike!) I’d always have her with me when I wear the helmet.

The UPS man brought the helmet today. I made him wait while I opened the box so I could show it to him. (Nikki and him had what I’d call a very “special” relationship. She did not like his truck at all and would always bark and carry on when he was near)

Anyway,  here’s a picture of my new helmet:

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Tomorrow we’ll be riding to honor one of the USAF Airmen (MAJ David Brodeur) who was killed in Afghanistan, and Nikki will be right there with me…


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Goodbye Babydog . . .

April 1, 2011

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Nikki Malone – 26 DEC 2001 – 1 APR 2011

This is the very first picture I ever took of Nikki:

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Ugh. I have no words that could possibly describe the heartache and anguish I feel at the moment, but it feels so wrong to cry over the loss of Nikki. She was so strong, and such a fighter, even when it was clear that the end was here.. Just before the final injection she licked both of our faces (and Dr. Pyne’s) as if to say, “Hey, why are you so sad?”

Last night was a very bad night for Nikki. She couldn’t get comfortable, and she was having a lot of trouble breathing.. She asked to go outside, and when I took her out, she just wanted to sit in the night air and breathe it in.. When I told her it was time to go back in, she kept leading me towards the garage and the truck, I think telling me that she was ready..

This morning, Nikki was her old self, playful and wanting to make sure that the neighborhood was safe from garbage trucks and delivery men. When I took her outside midmorning, she just sat and enjoyed the fresh air.

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She also kept looking at me with that, “what is wrong with you, there’s no reason to be sad” look that she has been perfecting over the last few weeks.

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You can see in her eyes a bit of the pain here..

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We made the appointment with Dr. Pyne for 3:30 this afternoon, and when it came time to go, Nikki very happily made her way to the Avalanche and waited for me to help her in. She was bound and determined to enjoy that last ride.

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So rest in peace Nikki. We love you very much.  I don’t know what else to say.


Another Week

March 30, 2011

Well, we’re another week along and Nikki hasn’t really changed much, although she’s starting to have difficulty breathing at night. Last night was a particularly rough night for her, and at one point she must’ve decided that it was easier for her to breathe when she was sitting up as she sat up for awhile before moving and laying back down and finally getting some sleep.

She hasn’t had much of an appetite, and I’ve been trying just about everything I can think of to try and get her to eat. We finally figured out that Vienna Sausages work, so she’s been eating a couple of cans of those (I know, yuck!) for her meals.. Sasha of course has been enjoying this process because this means she gets whatever Nikki rejects.

It’s tough.. One one hand I look at Nikki and I wonder if she’s suffering and if it’s time for “that trip”, but then I’ll be out for awhile (I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been allowed to work from the home office lately, meaning Nikki has been hanging out with me a lot) and walk in the door and Nikki will be there to greet me pawing at me and asking for my face so she can lick it.. How can you possibly think it’s “time” when she’s doing this? (I think the answer is that she’s just an incredible fighter, and has taken the tact that she’s not going to let this stop her from being Nikki)

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I took this picture a couple of days ago, and you can see that Nikki still has the spark in her eyes….

I’ve just been spending a lot of time with her, and letting her pretty much dictate what she wants to do. Strangely, she’s been asking to be helped up onto the couch quite a bit, but will only stay there for about 30 minutes or so before she climbs back down and heads to her spot on the floor..

Oh well, we just wait and see I guess..


She’s Definitely a Fighter!

March 16, 2011

It’s been a little over a week since we’ve gotten the news that Nikki has a shadow in her lungs and the prognosis isn’t good. Interestingly though, she’s gotten herself back to normal and has been quite happy over the last few days, so both Mary and I were hoping that the shadow was just some fluid from an infection or something.. Well, it just wasn’t to be. Dr. Pyne confirmed today with both radiographs and bloodwork that the cancer has definitely returned, this time in her lungs. Funny that it didn’t materialize as mets, but rather as a mass..

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(The picture I took isn’t the best, but if you look on the left side of the photo you can see the outline of the mass that is in her lungs)

We have no idea how long Nikki has, but from the way she’s fighting right now, we’re hoping that it will be awhile.

Mary and I have agreed that we will simply let Nikki be the happy dog that she is, and will trust her when she tells us it’s time to go. As much as we don’t want that time to ever come, I think it will go much better for all of us if we just don’t think about it and, as a friend of mine counseled me today, take it one day at a time and let Nikki lead.

She truly is Nikki the Three-legged Wonder Dog!

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Argh! Not Really Ready for This

March 9, 2011

Well, I have known since the beginning of this journey that I was going to have to write a post like this at some point, and honestly I was prepared to do so more than a year ago.. The fact that it has come now, 14 months into our journey seems to be somewhat harder to take.. After all, I was prepared back then for this, and have since grown away from that mental preparedness.

Late last week, Nikki started to slow down a bit and had decided that she really wasn’t all that hungry. She still looked happy and healthy, but overall just didn’t seem “right”. I had a business day trip on Monday, but Mary made an appointment and took Nikki in to see Dr. Pyne while I was out. After all, it’s just got to be a cold or something similar, right? Nikki’s checkups have been fine up to this point and she’s been the wonder dog all along. (Mary took the picture below at the vet, and as you can see Nikki is very happy)

NikkiAtTheVet

Well, long story short, Nikki has something in her left lung that is causing her breathing to be very labored, and her lymph nodes above the heart are swollen. Her blood work is normal, and the mass in the lungs doesn’t appear to be mets (too much coverage for mets) but we don’t know what it is. Could be fluid, could be something else.. Dr. Pyne estimates that we likely don’t have much time left, unless whatever is in the lungs clears up.

We’re not going to put Nikki through any more invasive treatments. We just can’t see doing that to her again, and given that the last 6 months have been especially good and happy for Nikki, I’d hate to think that we cause her any unneeded suffering. We did start her on some strong antibiotics to see if maybe it’s an infection putting fluid in the lungs, but frankly it’s a long-shot at best.

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Nikki has always been an amazing fighter, and who knows, maybe she’ll fight this off as well. I sure hope she does, because I’m just not ready for this yet….


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

January 19, 2011

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!

 


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!


Getting Used to Life on 3 Legs

April 26, 2010

Now that we have tackled the infection, Nikki has really been getting back to form! She’s been acting more and more like the “pre-diagnosis” Nikki, and is starting to let us know that we need to stop thinking about her as a dog with 3 legs, and more like a dog who’s pain has vanished.

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One of the more interesting things that Nikki has been doing lately is letting us know that she really just wants to be one of the dogs. Our normal routine in the morning is that I bring the dogs down the stairs and let them out (this means that Nikki has to navigate 2 sets of stairs going down) and then start my coffee. Then I go outside and down to wait for Nikki to be ready to come back up. Then I help Nikki up the stairs by using a makeshift sling (Really just an old sweatshirt that has been rolled up).

She has started letting me know that she really doesn’t want my help up the stairs, so I’ve been gradually letting her navigate them on her own. (I still don’t trust that she’s got it 100%, but you can sure see her fighting spirit as she does this)

 

We’ve also been going for rides (her absolute favorite thing in life) that are just for her to enjoy as opposed to us having to go see a Dr. We’ve figured out a system in the Tahoe that lets Nikki comfortably hang her head out the window without me worrying that she’s going to hurt herself. (As I mentioned in the last post, she figured out how to balance herself, but I really wasn’t comfortable with letting her do that for long..) She’s now asking for rides just about every day (Just like pre-diagnosis Nikki).

She’s also finding more time to play with her siblings, and Sasha really appreciates this!

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