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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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Valentines Day!

February 14, 2010

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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 Quiet Few Days

February 7, 2010

It’s Sunday morning, and we haven’t been to Banfield since Thursday, so that’s certainly good news. Nikki’s seroma seems to have slowed down quite a bit since the last drain, so we think that’s starting to get back to normal. I have to drop her off at Banfield to spend the day with Dr. Pyne tomorrow morning, and we’ll get a full report after that.

All in all Nikki is back to being pretty steady on her feet and doing a lot of the stuff that she’s used to doing.

Yesterday I opened a new baby gate (we decided that we’re going to block off the stairs so Nikki doesn’t try to go up them) and I saw Nikki eyeing the box, so I tossed it over to where she was laying and she just scooted over to it and started tearing it up.. Not quite as vigorous as she usually is, but at least she felt the need to do it.

Last night as I sat on the couch, I saw Nikki eyeing the corner and helped her get up. She then immediately decided she was going to get in my lap. She didn’t stay too long (I can’t imagine it was all that comfortable for her), but again, she is starting to get more and more of her normal behaviors back.

I installed a new “doggie door” last week (and finished it all up yesterday) that is an extra-large size (we had a large size before, which meant that the dogs had to maneuver themselves just right to go through it) so Nikki can get in/out to the deck on her own if she wants. She seems to want to be as normal as possible, so we’re trying to do what we can to help her out.

This morning Nikki is following me around as usual, and has decided to plop down next to me here in the office.

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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”.


A Lazy Saturday

January 30, 2010

We are now at surgery day + 11, and things seem to be settling into a regular routine. Nikki is very much getting back into her old habits. One of the things she loves to do is take the caps off an empty plastic bottle, she’ll see me finish a coke or something and then expect me to put the cap on and give it to her… I was sitting in the office here last night when she noticed me finish one and she asked for it… Took her a little while longer than normal to get it off, but get it she did…

We’ve had a bit of leakage and such from the seroma, and Nikki seems to be moving a bit slower than she has been, but all in all I’d say we’re making really good progress.

Here’s a short video that I shot of her today:

Nikki does seem to be a bit more restless over the last couple of days. She’ll move around a bit, scoot some on the carpet, and try really hard to lick her stitches. I imagine that is due to the itchy part of the healing. The anti-itch cream helps, but all in all I think everyone will be happy when the stitches all come out and the wound can heal.

Today was a pretty lazy day. I played a lot with Sasha and Buddy so they wouldn’t feel left out, and when I decided to kick back on the couch, Sasha decided that she would join me as you can see here. (Nikki is hard to see to the left as she’s passed out on her blanket)

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Tuesday we see Dr. Pyne again and decide whether we get to take the stitches out, and possibly drain the seroma some more. Otherwise, pretty “normal” stuff I guess.


A Trip to the ER

January 28, 2010

Don’t panic, it’s OK!

Today was one of those truly epic days for Nikki. It started out just fine (by the way, Nikki has been sleeping perfectly soundly the last few nights, and by extension so have I… Makes for a much better outlook for the day if you ask me) with the normal morning routine, then a conference call, then heading into the office, where the only way I get info on Nikki is through the occasional IM from Mary..

Today I received several IM messages that started with, “Guess What Nikki did…”, so you can imagine that she was definitely very active today.. The most impressive feat of all was that she decided to go up the stairs on her own to prove that she could do it. (I’ve not been wanting to let her try UP on her own yet, but I guess she wanted to prove that she could do it). As you might imagine though, that wore her out a bit..

When I got home, Nikki was there to greet me and then she decided to hang out with me for most of the evening. I can’t really explain the bond that Nikki and I have with respect to this, but there’s something very calming about looking down and seeing her laying on the floor beside my chair while I’m working.

I had a bit of work to do tonight, so was concentrating on some stuff when I heard Mary yell. Apparently Nikki had decided to get up and play around a bit with the other dogs and got a little ahead of herself. She slipped on the wood floor (she had to work to find an area not covered by a temporary rug, but of course she found it) and came down hard on her wound. Well, we’re now 9 days post-surgery, so of course there’s a bit of fluid and everything else up there (Seroma I believe is what it’s called) and a fair amount of it decided to make an exit when Nikki hit the ground.. Mary of course did what I can only describe as a “Freak Out”, so the only option was to get Nikki loaded up and head to the emergency room. Nikki was a bit puzzled by the frantic actions, but she was happy that she got to go for a ride…

Once the vet saw Nikki, she described the natural healing process and the fact that seromas will develop, and that it was really nothing to worry about. She did take the time to drain it a bit more, but overall she said to let it drain on it’s own, and don’t worry… (Kind of hard to do when you see a puddle of blood and other fluids on your floor under your babydog after a fall…)

So, now we’re back home, and Nikki is back in her position behind my chair, and all is well with the world……


The Holistic Approach

January 27, 2010

Nikki just continues to improve post surgery. She’s getting around just fine, and is starting to act like the old Nikki in just about every way.

I had to take off early this morning and head into the office for a series of meetings, then race back home in time to get Nikki to her appointment with Dr. Friedly. Before I left this morning, we (All of the dogs and I) went through what I would have to say is the first “totally normal” morning routine since Nikki’s surgery. (The routine is pretty simple, I get up and head downstairs, the dogs follow, they go outside and do their business, then come back in and wait for me to start handing out the treats. Usually this involves 3 dogs scrambling for position in front of the pantry door. This morning we had all 3 in the mix and Nikki was very pleased to get a normal treat.

We had our appointment with Dr. Friedly early this afternoon. The idea behind the appointment was to discuss Nikki’s case up to this point, and get an idea of what our options are in terms of a treatment program. We also wanted to learn a bit more about Dr. Friedly and understand what his approach to this kind of treatment is. (Here’s a picture of Nikki waiting for Dr. Friedly to come in)

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Dr. Friedly has over 30 years of experience as a Veterinarian. He has many impressive diplomas and certificates on his walls from places like Washington State University and Colorado State University (Did you know that there was a diploma that certifies a veterinarian as an acupuncturist?). He has spent many years treating animals, and has dedicated the last 10 to an entirely natural and holistic practice. He explained to us that he’s seen many, many cases like ours, both as a conventional western doc, and as a holistic/homeopathic practitioner as well. He was pretty clear with us that there’s no magic bullet in treating cancer, and that ultimately the end-result is going to be the same whether we go down a natural path or a conventional one. The difference though is in quality of life, and he’s seen enough cases where that average 4 month lifespan has increased into years, even with aggressive cancers like osteosarcoma.

It seems that the key to controlling this is preventing the cancer from “attaching” when it spreads. Basically when the cancer metastasizes it’s looking for a hospitable place to go. For Osteosarcoma, the lungs tend to be the most hospitable environment aside from the bone.

Dr. Friedly has seen the most success with a regimen that includes:

  • Artemisia Annua (Artemenisin/ Artecin) – This is actually more commonly known as “Sweet Wormwood”. There have been studies that show Artemenisin kills cancer cells in the petri dish, but there’s not a lot of evidence to show it working once it’s “inside” the dog. However there is enough anecdotal evidence to say that it does help slow the growth of the cancer cells that it’s worth using. The science behind this is that cancer cells like to attach to iron molecules. The Artemisia interferes with this process and causes the cancer to “move on” in the bloodstream where it can get cleaned out by natural processes without ever getting the chance to adhere to anything.
  • Pectin – (I had a real hard time with this one, I know pectin as a thing that you use in canning) Apparently pectin (both from Apples and Citrus) has some properties that help the body build up resistance to the cancer cells that helps discourage them from attaching anywhere.
  • Phytoprofen – This is a combination of Tumeric, Indian Frankincense, Bromelain and Ginger. Basically it’s an anti-inflammatory that also helps strengthen cell walls.

The interesting thing about this whole process for me is that I’m an engineer, so things that are natural/homeopathic are by definition foreign to me. Dr. Friedly took great pains to explain the science behind each of these things, and of course it all sounds good at this point.

So, starting today, Nikki is going to be using the regimen above, in conjunction with regular visits to see Dr. Pyne for the “normal” follow-up.

If you are considering the natural approach to the post-amputation care for osteosarcoma, there’s a couple of things that I would really recommend you do. First, don’t believe everything you read. Find someone who truly has experience with treating animals with cancer, and find someone who isn’t trying to profit from your hopes. Secondly, understand the effects of the herbs that you’re using. One very important part of our treatment plan is the fact that since Artecin changes the way the body reacts to iron, you don’t want to have it in their system at the same time any meat product is (Meat is full of Iron). You need to wait 2 hours after feeding any meat product before giving Artecin and visa-versa. You also want to speed the absorption of the Artecin by wrapping it in cheese or some other non-meat fat…

I really enjoyed our time with Dr. Friedly. I think he is going to be a great advocate for Nikki on this journey.


One Week Later…

January 26, 2010

Today is Tuesday, exactly 1 week ago at about this time Mary and I were heading to Banfield to pick Nikki up after her surgery. If you would have told me (and now that I think about, a lot of you did) then that I would be describing Nikki’s progress like I have been, I would have called you a dreamer..

Anyway… Guess who met me at the door today when I came home? Yep, Nikki was right there with the other 2, just wagging her (shaved) nub like the others.. Don’t tell her she’s missing a leg, I don’t think she realizes it!

The anti-itch cream seemed to have helped Nikki quite a bit. After we got home from the visit with Dr. Pyne last night, Nikki was more relaxed than I’d seen her since the surgery. None of the “itch scoot” or the bite/lick that we’ve been seeing as the stitches heal. She woke us about 3am, and let us know that she had to go out, but once that was over with, she pretty much went back to sleep (not entirely, there was a bit of time where she was restless) until it was time to get up for real.

Nikki is doing really great going down the stairs, but she’s still trying to figure out the up part. This is pretty much the only time she needs my help now, and I’m confident that as her remaining rear leg strengthens, she’ll get that down as well.

Mary let me know that Nikki is back to her old habit of sitting by the door waiting for the UPS truck to drive by, then growling and barking at it. (I don’t know what it is about delivery vehicles, but Nikki hates them – and even if we’re out for a ride or something and she sees a UPS or FedEx truck, she’ll bark and carry on) so every day brings a little bit of the “normal Nikki” back. (She just hopped into the office here to see me, I think letting me know that I haven’t pet her enough today)

Tomorrow we see Dr. Friedly here in Falcon. He comes highly recommended by Dr. Pyne as a vet who does pure holistic treatment. Apparently he worked for one of the larger hospitals around and decided that the holistic approach is more suited to what he wants to do. (I’ll post more about him after we meet him tomorrow) We plan to discuss what our next steps are with Nikki and see if he can offer suggestions in terms of Chemotherapy alternatives..

Nikki is now laying at my feet and letting me know that she feels so much better today.. I still can’t believe it’s only been a week….