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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!


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A Very Normal 3-legged Dog (aka Tripawd)

May 10, 2010

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With all of the mess of the surgery and post-surgery complications and infections out of the way, Nikki continues to get back her old post-diagnosis behaviors and mannerisms.

Mary and I left for a week in Europe on 1 May. We left the dogs in the care of our son Steven, and checked in from time to time via email and some peeks now and then at the security cameras. We could tell that Nikki was doing just fine while we were gone. (It was especially funny to watch Nikki outfox Steven one morning as he went out to help her up the stairs and she was already up on the deck)

When we got home last night all of the dogs were extremely happy to see us. Nikki in particular was overly-excited and kept pawing at me until I got down on the floor and let her lick my face for about 5 minutes.

I’ve been working from home today and Nikki has been no more than 6 feet away from me all day. When I look at her she has the most amazing spark in her eyes that I haven’t seen in a year or so. It’s very obvious that she is feeling great.

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It’s funny to be writing these blogs posts now talking about how normal Nikki is, but it’s good thing!

We’re definitely looking forward to meeting up with some of the Colorado Tripawds family here in Colorado Springs on Saturday!


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.


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..


The One Month Anni er Ampuversary

February 19, 2010

Today marks one month since Nikki had her surgery! If you had asked me back then how I thought things were going to be one month later, I certainly don’t think that I would have imagined how well she’s done.

I spent the week away from home in Seattle (Actually between Bellevue and Redmond, but who’s counting) and came home last night. When I left on Monday morning, Nikki was mad because I’d only been home a couple of days from my last trip. All was forgotten though when I walked in. She greeted me like she hadn’t seen me in ages, and was just soooo happy.

Today when I got home from the office, I was of course mobbed by dogs. Nikki was held back (Mary felt it best if Nikki waited while the others did the mobbing) but when Mary let her go, I swear she literally FLEW down the hall to see me, with her nub going about 100 miles per second. It’s such a good sight to see. I also notice that she moves VERY FAST when she hop/walks now. She’s learned to balance more on her front, and thus she’s picked up speed when she moves.. She still has a bit of a problem getting up, but once she’s up, man she flies!

Kind of a strange feeling.. I was in WA with over 1200 of my peers in the technical world for the “Microsoft MVP Summit”. It’s one of those things where the best of the best (geeky of the geek?) get together for a week of learning and social networking. I can’t tell you the number of times someone stopped me to ask how Nikki was doing. Seems as if there’s a lot more people reading what I write here than I thought!

I had a package arrive while I was gone, and opened it tonight. Nikki was watching me open, and asked me for the box when I was done.. Here’s all that’s left:

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So now I think the nail-biting on my part begins. We’ve gotten to this point post surgery and there’s no indication whatsoever of any type of metastasis or issues with recurring cancer. This is about the time that should start showing up…. Dr. Pyne is very pleased with the progress Nikki has made, and we’re soon going to be having our next appointment with Dr. Friedly for the 1 month checkup there. Fingers, toes, paws and everything else crossed!

I’ll try to get some good video of Nikki tomorrow (I took some video when she was tearing the box up, but it honestly isn’t very good) to post so you can see the vast improvement.


Valentines Day!

February 14, 2010

We are coming upon the 1 month anniversary of the amputation, and Nikki continues to get better.

I was in Boston for most of this week, so I missed out on a lot of the day to day stuff, but when I got home Friday night, Nikki was right there to greet me and you could most certainly tell that she was doing better.

Mary and I took Nikki to see Dr. Pyne yesterday and we were all relieved that the seroma is pretty much dried up. Nikki was pretty happy with the ride to and from, and all in all she’s just getting on with being as normal as she can be on 3 legs. Her remaining rear leg is still weak, but at least she’s figured out to scoot around when she doesn’t want to go too far. (I think that’s less work than actually getting up and moving)

Today is a lazy day for Nikki. She’s spent most of the day under my desk as I’ve been sitting here in the office working. I was going to take her for a ride today on our normal “dog route”, but I’m thinking that I may not do that after all. I think the more rest Nikki gets today the better off she’ll be. (That remaining hind-leg is still weak, and I don’t like to see her struggling on it)

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In other news, I had to get under the desk myself this morning and tie some things down. Good thing that I have lots of helpers:

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A Couple of Snow Days!

February 9, 2010

We’ve had a couple of days of snow here, so the back yard is about 4” deep in the stuff right now. It is sunny today, so it’s going to melt off soon.. Nikki absolutely loves the snow! She always has, and we’ve got many pictures of her playing in the snow at various points in her life..

Now that she’s a Tripawd, she’s got a bit of healing to do before she can maneuver enough in it to play…

Yesterday Nikki spent the day with Dr. Pyne and the folks at Banfield. I had to drop her off in the early morning, so she got to go for a ride. It was pretty funny actually, because it was snowing and the roads were icy, but Nikki still wanted a bit of wind on her so I had to crack the window a bit. She was so happy that she was practically howling as we drove.. Kind of hard to concentrate on driving on ice with a howling dog, but I suppose it was worth it.

When we arrived at Banfield, Nikki didn’t let me get the ramp set up, she just flew out of the back of the Tahoe. Good think she was wearing her harness, as I was able to catch her by the handle and let her down easy.. I think she so desperately wants to be normal again.

She didn’t like being cooped up at Banfield, and let everyone know by somehow working her harness around and chewing off a buckle. She just didn’t want to be in the small kennel and wearing that harness…

The seroma is definitely slowing down. Dr. Pyne is pretty pleased with the progress there, so I think only a few more visits for this and we’ll be done with it.

I’m on my way to Boston now, so I’m going to be away for a few days. Nikki has already seen “the bad thing” (my suitcase) and knows I’m leaving, so she’s not very happy right now. I’m sure she’ll be fine, but it is hard to leave her at this point. (Work beckons, unfortunately)

As you can see, Sasha and Nikki are doing fine together. That was one of the big concerns we had, considering that Sasha is a bull in a china shop most days, and only wants to play. (I swear that dog is wound up from the moment she wakes until the moment she sleeps)

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Yes, She is Shooting for the Record

February 4, 2010

Yesterday we thought we’d seen it all when Dr. Pyne removed 685cc of fluid from Nikki’s seroma. We figured that there was no way that her body was going to produce much more… Well, we were wrong. Originally we had an appointment for follow-up on Friday evening, but Nikki was uncomfortable today, so Mary called Banfield and they had us bring her in. Dr. Pyne is off today, so another doctor saw Nikki (Nikki didn’t really like her, not sure why, hopefully it was just the fact that she was sick and tired of being poked by that big needle to drain) and extracted another 460cc’s of drainage from the seroma.

Other than these pesky visits to the Dr. for drainage, Nikki is doing great. Today she ran (yes, RAN.. No evidence whatsoever that she was on 3 legs. Wish I’d have gotten it on video to prove it) on more than one occasion from one part of the house to another to chase some threat (You know, like the UPS truck driving down the street, or the neighbor kid ringing the doorbell because he wants to borrow some vanilla extract)

The biggest problem that we seem to be facing right now, surgery + 17 days, is in trying to keep Nikki relaxed and not so active so that the seroma can heal. This, plus the restlessness, which I am sure is brought on by the discomfort around the fluid in the seroma, is proving to be our biggest challenge. Nikki has really adapted to 3 legs just fine, and aside from the fact that I am still uncomfortable letting her try the stairs on her own, she’s pretty much independently mobile.


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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