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Getting Better Every Day!

April 18, 2010

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We’re coming up on the 3 month apuversary for Nikki! It seems that all the hard times we went through after the surgery are finally heading out the door!!! Nikki is doing very well, her infection has pretty much all disappeared, and she’s starting to get a lot of her pre-diagnosis behaviors back..

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Today was definitely one of those, “Giant Leap for Dog-Kind” kind of days…

One of Nikki’s favorite things is to go for a ride. Even when she was sick she still loved getting into the Tahoe and riding. The big difference was what she did when she was riding. Before she got sick, she would just hang her head out the window and really just have a great time. Sometimes she’d bark at the cars coming the opposite direction, sometimes she’d just stare at the lines in the road, and sometimes she’d even bark at the dust thrown up if we were on a dirt road.. Today I decided to take her for a ride, and we headed off to a dirt road that I know of around here. Once we got onto the road, I decided to roll the back windows down so she could get a bit of air on her. Low and behold, after staring at the situation for awhile, Nikki figured out how she could get herself up and balanced on her one rear leg so she could hang out the window! (She had not been able to do this for at least 2 months prior to the surgery)

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So I just took it slow and let her enjoy herself. Almost made me cry to be honest, as she really was enjoying herself in a way that we thought she’d never be able to do again.

She was able to stay like that for about 5 miles, before I had to make her get down so I could speed up once we hit pavement again.

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So little by little Nikki is getting back to her old self!


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What a Difference a Week Makes!

April 5, 2010

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Last week at this time Mary and I were sitting with Nikki in Dr. Pyne’s office and had just finished a discussion asking the question, “Are we doing the right thing”. The question was of course related to the fact that Nikki seemed to be having more bad days than good since the surgery, and basically we were wondering if we were doing all of this for us as opposed to her.

We had already determined that Nikki had some sort of infection, and Antibiotics weren’t working very well (High fever, obvious pain and discomfort) so we weren’t sure what to do.

Dr. Pyne convinced us to let her treat the infection more aggressively, and by Wednesday of last week Nikki was showing signs of improvement, so Mary and I took a trip to Tucson, leaving the dogs in the care of our Son, with very specific instructions on what to do and how to care for them….

Well, all of the reports that we got while we were out of town was that Nikki was doing fine. When we arrived home last night, the proof was in the fact that this 3 legged 90 pound dog decided that she needed to tackle us when we came in the door. She was definitely the old Nikki, and that fact was proven to me once again today when I walked in after work and Nikki basically demanded that I get down on the floor and play with her. I have not seen her this happy and playful since well before the surgery!

Dr. Pyne had sent out a sample of the infected area (basically the lymph nodes near the surgery site were swollen badly) to the lab to try and culture some bacteria so she could determine exactly what she was fighting, but had prescribed a very high dose of Cipro antibiotics. (Tip for the unaware: If you ever need to obtain Cipro or other high-dose antibiotics, have your vet write a prescription and take that to YOUR pharmacist. What would have cost us almost $200 through the vet cost us less than $25 through our Safeway pharmacist, and no funny-business either. The script was clearly labeled for canine use) The results came back as Streptococcus, which is a very nasty bug, that just happens to respond well to high doses of Cipro…

One of Nikki’s pre-surgery habits was what we call the “Chicken Scratch”. After doing her business on the lawn she’d take a few steps forward and then cover the area by scratching up some grass. Obviously this is a bit harder when you only have 1 rear leg, but I do believe she’s gotten it figured out now, as you can see right at the start of this video (The video itself is rather boring, but I cannot even begin to describe how happy this makes me to be able to watch at this point)

In other news, Mary and I had the opportunity to meet some of our fellow Tripawd parents (Including the famous Wyatt and his parents!) at the get together in Phoenix on Saturday. Thank you all for making us feel welcome, and we really do hope to get together with anyone here in Colorado!

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It Certainly is Up and Down

March 28, 2010

I was out of town this week (left on Sunday and returned Friday night). When I left, Nikki was doing great (and even chasing a stick in the back yard), but by Friday she had taken a turn for the worse. Seems that the lymph node “issue” (We still don’t know what the problem is, but they are really swelling. One of them is larger than an Easter Egg at this point) had caused Nikki to catch a fever and she wouldn’t eat at all. Mary dropped her off with Dr. Pyne, and just before I was to get on the plane to come home Mary called me to say that it appeared Nikki was in worse shape than she thought. High fever, very high heart rate, and overall just doing badly. Dr. Pyne did a blood workup and chest X-Rays to see if she could learn any more…

Well, it turned out that it is an infection of some sort (no cancer detected in the blood work) so Dr. Pyne gave some antibiotics and fever reducers and sent her home. By the time I got home, Nikki was happy to see me and did her normal welcome, so it was hard to say.. Then yesterday Nikki wouldn’t eat again and you could just tell that she was in pain. Not a good sight or feeling. But, trooper that she is, she still drank water and would go outside when I asked her if she wanted to.

This morning, Nikki was feeling a little better, and as the day has progressed she’s gotten back to her normal self, looking good and “talking” as well.. So who knows, I  guess we just keep trying to figure out what the lump is and go from there.

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I’m hoping that whatever this is has run it’s course and we can figure it all out. We see Dr. Pyne again on Monday, and then on Thursday Mary and I are supposed to leave for a few days in Tucson.


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 Mixed Result

March 14, 2010

Mary and I took Nikki to see Dr. Pyne on Saturday. This was a follow-up visit from the earlier visit this week, plus we needed to hear the results of the lab tests on the “congealed seroma” fluid.

First the great news, NO CANCER DETECTED!!!

Both the lab work from the fluid and the chest X-rays are cancer free!

(Not sure I need to write anything else after that! It’s great to hear that the cells are not cancerous)

However, there is some worrisome activity going on. It’s pretty clear that Nikki’s lymph nodes are working overtime in that area, and we don’t really have an idea as to why. The lab results showed some high values for <insert technical name here for the Lymph cells, I can’t remember it> and some elevated white cell counts. This leads Dr. Pyne to wonder what exactly is going on, and we’re going to be keeping a close eye on the area for the next few weeks. We’ll be taking Nikki back for weekly visits, and hopefully whatever is going on will work it’s way through and be done.

Nikki seems none the worse for wear right now. She’s been pretty happy this week, and pretty much up to her old tricks.

She let me know that she doesn’t like the blanket that I threw in the back of the Tahoe for her to lay on while we ride to/from the Dr. Office… She did this while we were driving to the office…

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She was much happier with just the regular carpet on the ride home! (Thank goodness)


A Bit of a Scare

March 12, 2010

Things have been going quite well with Nikki’s recovery. I’ve been on the road quite a bit over the last 3 weeks (was home all this week for a change) so I’ve been missing out on the day to day stuff with Nikki, but when I’d come home she would be very happy to see me, and last weekend she was really clinging to me and giving me the worried look until she realized that I wasn’t leaving again.. Funny how dogs really know these things..

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Anyway.. Tuesday night Nikki was very restless. She just couldn’t get comfortable at all. We weren’t really sure what to make of it, and when she didn’t seem to get better by Wednesday, we called Dr. Pyne and got her in for a look-see. We had to drop Nikki off, and when we arrived back to pick her up, Dr. Pyne had “that look” about her. She was really worried about a couple of lumps that she found near the amputation area. She told us that it looked like lymph nodes being aggravated, and we needed to do a biopsy to determine what it is… You can probably imagine the thoughts that were going through our heads at this point, because we’d just gotten finished talking about how Nikki’s recovery has been progressing quite well.

Dr. Pyne went ahead and did the needle biopsy, and then came back in the room with a smile on her face…As it turned out, the lumps that she had noticed were simply some left over seroma fluid that had congealed a bit. We had figured that the seroma was completely healed, but apparently not.. We’re sending the fluid out to the lab anyway as a precaution, but for now we’ve breathed a HUGE sigh of relief..

Nikki slept much better Wednesday and Thursday nights, and we have to drop her off with Dr. Pyne again tomorrow for a follow-up exam…

Meanwhile, Nikki is back to her old self playing with her toys and just being a dog…

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Let’s continue to hope for more “normal” days….


A Pretty Normal Week

February 26, 2010

First the good news, Nikki had appointments with both Dr. Pyne and Dr. Friedly this week, and in both cases the results were fantastic!! Dr. Pyne declared the seroma as completely healed, and said that Nikki is doing very well for this stage of the game. Dr. Friedly said that Nikki is doing great, and that there is absolutely no evidence of any type of metastasis. This is all FANTASTIC news from my perspective. (To put it into perspective, had we not taken the amputation and treatment route, Nikki would likely no longer be with us at this point)

Nikki continues to improve and get back to her “normal” self. I have noticed though that she is really enjoying being the center of attention and gives you “the look” when she’s not being properly attended to. (Which of course is defined by her rules and subject to change without notice)

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I was on the road for the first part of the week, but came home Wednesday night. Nikki was the first to greet me when I walked in, and she’s been by my side for the most part non-stop since I’ve been home. Of course this causes issues with the other dogs, since they seem to want to be part of the action as well:

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There’s actually not much more to report this week. Nikki continues to amaze us with her spirit and the fact that she’s just enjoying her life, even if it does mean some adjustments to her normal routines. Sasha and Buddy seem to be figuring out that she needs space when she walks, but otherwise she’s just “Normal Nikki”.

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Tonight when I got home from work Mary was holding Nikki back, because the other dogs were going nuts at the door. Nikki didn’t really like being held back so she was barking.. All in all you can tell that each day she seems to take one step towards being her old self.


We Think She’s Shooting For a New Record

February 3, 2010

I may have to check with the good folks over at the Guinness Book of Records to see if they have a category for “Most fluid drained from a canine seroma”..

Today we had yet another appointment to see Dr. Pyne so that she could check on the seroma that had formed on Nikki’s hip. (Remember yesterday we had a bandage that didn’t last long, so there was no compression overnight). Well, as it turned out, more fluid did develop. Dr. Pyne extracted over 685ccs of fluid from Nikki’s hip. All I can say is HOLY COW! No wonder Nikki was having so much trouble balancing. I’d have trouble too if my hip had that much fluid in it..

You can actually see the difference in the way Nikki moves with the fluid drained. Since we can’t really get a pressure bandage to stick and still be comfortable for Nikki, we’re just going to have to go down the path of making sure that we keep the area drained. Dr. Pyne said that it should clear up soon, but we’ll have to watch it on an almost daily basis. (We go back in on Friday for the next checkup)

One thing I have to say, Nikki has been a trooper throughout this whole experience. She still gets so excited when you pick up the harness because she knows that there’s a good chance that once that harness is attached, she’ll get to go for a ride! Today we also had to bring Buddy in for his checkup and some vaccination boosters. Mary was trying to quietly put Buddy’s harness on out in the front room, and Nikki heard the rattling of the buckle and practically ran out where they were..

The people at Banfield just love Nikki. She knows them all now, and treats them just like she does her family. (Word of warning, if you ever get a chance to meet Nikki and she decides that she likes you, I hope you’re not allergic to dog slobber) Nikki has the entire routine down pat at this point, and doesn’t even miss a beat with any of it.

Sort of a short update today. We’re just trying to keep Nikki as calm and relaxed as possible while at the same time letting her heal.


That Didn’t Last Long

February 2, 2010

Well, everyone here has pretty much told us that we should expect a lot of ups and downs during the first few weeks..

Nikki had been doing very well, even after we had to take her to the ER last week for the seroma, but I had noticed on Monday morning that she was “wobbly” (It just looked to me like she didn’t have the balance that she had). We saw Dr. Pyne on Monday who drained the seroma again and put a pressure bandage on. (You can read about that in my last post)

Well, after Nikki had the bandage on for awhile she pretty much decided that she wasn’t going to try and walk at all. She did NOT like that bandage one bit! We saw Dr. Pyne today (We will be seeing her on a daily basis for the next few days) and she took the bandage off. She let us know that the seroma hadn’t really drained any over night, and we might be doing better there than expected. She then put another bandage on Nikki and sent us home. This bandage wasn’t quite as restrictive as the other, so Nikki seemed happier. Honestly though, she still doesn’t seem “right” in terms of the way she’s moving around..

After dropping Nikki and Mary back home, I headed into the office for the afternoon and left them to their own devices. Apparently while I was gone, the bandage just didn’t hold at all, and by the time I got home Mary had called Dr. Pyne, who basically told her to remove the bandage and we’d check how the seroma was doing in our visit tomorrow.

Nikki seems a lot happier without the bandage, but she’s still not quite right when she’s up and moving.. As I watched her this evening, I came up with the theory that her remaining hind leg is just sore, because the more she moved around the better she got. (I can relate to that, I broke my ankle in 3 places a few years back, and have had 3 surgeries on it, and I still can’t walk right for the first few minutes after I get up)

So, we will watch and see how things progress, but for now we’re going to try and let Nikki just relax a bit and not try and push things.

When I’m home and working, she loves to lay behind my chair in the office, and tonight is no exception:

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A New Look for Nikki

February 1, 2010

We weren’t supposed to see Dr. Pyne until tomorrow, but she had read the report from the emergency room and decided that she wanted to see Nikki today instead.

Dr. Pyne was concerned with the seroma that had developed, and also concerned that when the emergency clinic drained it they were only able to get 5cc of fluid out. She took Nikki into the back room, and proceeded to drain the seroma as much as she could. Turns out she was able to extract over 300cc of fluid! That’s a LOT of fluid, and more than a pound of extra weight on the wound area. No wonder Nikki had been uncomfortable!

Now that the seroma is drained, Dr. Pyne wants to keep a pressure bandage in place to help the healing. (Apparently the body will continue to produce the fluids as long as there’s a place for them all to go) Unfortunately with Nikki’s anatomy, there was no real way to keep the bandage on, so we worked out a plan that means we need to keep Nikki’s harness on for the next couple of days so that we have some hope of the bandage staying attached.

Here’s Nikki’s new look:

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We’ll need to make daily trips to see Dr. Pyne over the next few days for bandage changes until the seroma dries up. Hopefully this won’t take too long..

In other news, I forgot to post a couple of pictures from yesterday showing that Nikki has found out how to get up on the couch and rest in one of her favorite spots:

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So, as you can see, we’re progressing on a somewhat “normal” track for these things.. Hopefully the seroma will heal quickly and Nikki can get back to learning to walk without all the extra “baggage”.