Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Leroy...a year later!

Tomorrow April 11th, will be a year since I experienced the first, hardest, lesson in loss in my life up to this point. I find myself, the last few days really reveling in the spirit of Leroy in ways now that at this time last year I never thought were possible. The emptiness that everyone promised would get better has turned to a warmth and fullness now that the acute pain of losing something so fast has lessened. I still think of him every single day, there truly is NOT a day that goes by where he doesn't cross my mind in some way, shape, or form. Today, April 10th, I remember it being the first day where I thought for the first time throughout his cancer that it might be "time" to let him go. When he didn't perk up in his usual way as we headed into the vet office, when he didn't perk up over the tiny kitten that Meah the tech at the clinic held to his face, when he would not take his eyes off of me, and when he pressed his shaking, cold, body into mine, trying to move through me into my skin and soul, I knew for the first time it was the end.

BUT, in his typical Leroy fashion, we got his meds that were in hopes of getting him through the weekend to my trip to Astoria for a class, and headed home. When we got home that tuesday afternoon he found some energy to run and find the barn cat. He and the cat "Moses" had a nice, long, stare down, where for the first time in Leroy's life he was co-habitating peacefully and politely with a cat. I took many photos and video while Moses reveled in rolling in the dirt 2 feet in front of Leroy's face. Leroy just watched peacefully and happily. Leroy had a wonderful night that night, we had no idea that the next day was to be his last. That morning of April 11th, I tried to give him his pills and for the first time he refused to let me open his mouth. I gave in and let him have the morning off from his pills. He laid on the couch in his towels I warmed every few hours for him in the dryer, and looked happily sleepy. I gave him his shot of Iscador as usual, and went about my morning business eating breakfast, reading things etc. while I knew Leroy was asleep calmly in the other room. There are many days where I wish I had known it would be his last hour, I would have spent more time on the couch with him. But Leroy wanted my life to be as normal as possible. We had an appt. that morning, 9am, at the vet to give him one more shot of Dex to get him through the weekend so he could enjoy his favorite place, the beach, the next day. I asked him if he wanted to go for a ride to which he leaped (yes leaped) off the couch, with his stuffed blue bear in his mouth. I remember looking in the mirror, picking breakfast out of my teeth, while he patiently wiggled beside me at the door waiting his "ride". He bolted out the door toward the car, and I will never, ever, forget the sight of his tail wagging, and butt trotting happily to the car..he knew where he was going and what he was doing, he waited until my back was turned to open the car door, to go down with his heart failure..I felt him bump my leg, and he was quickly, violent only in the force in which a fast death comes, was raining, and wet, and my screams were heard all the way to the barn where my long-time client and friend, Cathi, heard and came running over saying "oh shit"...all I could say was he was perfect..he did everything so perfectly, even died perfectly...I feel sadness well up as I remember and re-live that day..the sounds of his claws on the concrete, the smell of him leaving this world, the colors he changed as he slowly, yet so quickly left his body and flew somewhere far away from me...I remember the pain so vividly, the empty ache of for the first time in my life really and truly NEVER being able to get what I want, which was him. I didn't know the heart could hurt so hard...I know it will not be the last time I feel this type of intense pain..but I do know now, that the people that reached out to me during that time were right. This infused in me a new trust in humanity. People truly know how you feel, I now truly know how people feel when they lose something or someone so close to them. I look at death, however obviously painful and trapping it may feel to your soul and mind, as a new realm. Death is not the "end". It was not for me anyway, of course I felt for many, many, months that is was the end, he was on the other side of a locked door I would never get through..but as the year wore on I found myself tuning in more and more spiritually to things around me. I still have my moments of course, I would not be human if I did not have my moments where I want to beat things up to get him back with me, but I can smile, and feel warmth in that empty space in my heart.

It is no coincidence that my first baby is due the same time I lost my "first baby", Leroy. April could easily be a very sad month for me if I choose to dwell on the aspects of death. But as I feel Baby Z wiggle, and live inside my body, right under my heart where she feels every emotion I do, I know that this love is being re-born. I will draw strength from all of the love I have ever felt in my lifetime, which fortunately I have been blessed to feel A LOT of love, and use this to allow me to move my baby out of my womb and into this world where she will be surrounded by people and spirits that will love her as I love or have loved them. She will know Leroy, I think she already does...children are so beautiful in that their veil to the spirit world is so thin and pure. He will watch her take her first breath, sleep, say her first words, take her first steps, and Percy and Lucey will be right there with him guarding this little human with all they have. There is nothing like a dog's loyalty, and a humans love for a dog. The only love I can compare it to is the love I have for Jeff and my soon to be born baby.

The ravens are back at the farm again this year...when we moved in last year, there was a nest of ravens in the hay barn, 6 babies and their mom and dad, watched us daily the entire summer. The farm was empty when they built their nest and they accepted our invasive presence, warily at first, but grew accustomed to us and drew us in as part of their flock. The place felt oddly empty when they tore their nest down and left. This spring the same mom and dad came back to us and built a new nest, and the babies hatched 2 days ago...I see these birds every single day, they are a part of my world, and I have learned that the Raven is a very, very, strong totem animal. This is what the Raven symbolizes "
"Magic, Healing, Creation
If a raven totem has come into our life,
magic is at play.
Raven activates the energy of magic
and links it to our will and intention.
With this totem, we can make great changes
in our life;
the ability to  take the unformed thought
and make it reality."
The raven shows us how to go into the dark
of our inner self and bring out the light of our true self;
resolving inner conflicts which have long been buried.
This is the deepest power of healing we can possess.

Regardless of what you believe in spiritually I believe every creature is here for a purpose. Leroy was very birdlike in his appearance and behavior, and I feel he has sent us these Ravens, usually shy birds that don't inhabit busy areas such as a hay barn at a riding school :) but when these ravens sit atop the peak of the barn where I can see them every single morning, and when they follow me from paddock to paddock, watching me with those dark eyes, I feel the spirit world surround me, and I am more open and at peace with things. Leroy, like the raven has showed me how to go into the dark, yet bring out the light in my true self. I, through him, and this new baby on her way to meet us, has showed me the deepest power of healing I can possess, and I will use this strength to trust that my body can do what the mind can do. And I will continue to remain strong, and open to all possibilities in life and in death. Thank you Leroy...what an amazingly crazy year!!

                             Amazing painting, channeled by the wonderful Kimry Jelen.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Life and my Sweet Dream

It's been a little while since I have written, but that is not for lack of good things happening! We are, I wish we could say "settled" into the new place, not quite settled as in unpacked and living out of the dressers instead of suitcases, but content would be a better word. The horses however are settled in and snug as can be in their new palace. The barn and property is just beautiful, we could not be luckier. What sparked me to write this morning was that for the first time last night, and all day yesterday, I felt Leroy. Yesterday while I was doing chores, I was looking around at this amazing property, and was feeling so thankful that two days before Leroy passed away, he was able to run around this place, sniff out all it's corners and treasures, and marking his approval on every piece of sage brush, fence post, rock and tree. He even felt well enough to run up the stairs and investigate the hayloft which he found his favorite poop! I was so happy that even though this is the first move in my adult life without my, I can't say shadow, but my light, I at least can visualize his having been here. Last night was my first dream about him where I could really feel and smell him. We were snuggled on the couch like we used to, I could feel his soft fur, and smell his smell. He was keeping me warm spooned up against my body, and he licked my nose. I feel like I new he was not in this physical world during my dream, and I was able to appreciate his being with me for however short it was. I woke up smiling, but I can't say I am healed yet, since my eyes are filled with bittersweet tears as I remember and write this.

Saturday my friend Gina and I went to the Redmond Humane Society. I was feeling really lonely last weekend with Jeff and Percy being away at the home and garden show. I was intensely missing my dog and started my search. There was nothing. I looked at so many really nice dogs, but none of them really caught my heart. They knew I wasn't their person either as they would rather sniff the smells, and pee on the chairs in the visiting room. They are smart and probably sensed my detachment and indifference to them, which is good, it's like picking a husband in a sense, you will know the right one, and the feeling has to be mutual, I know the right dog will know when I am it's right human. For now, I am enjoying my horses, kissing Percy, and my heart grows bigger from it's break 3 weeks ago, and I am so thankful that Leroy took a second out of his hours chasing bugs, shadows, and birds, to come and lick my nose last night. Beautiful!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Moving forward...

So, even though Leroy is no longer with us in the spiritual form, I have decided to not give up on my blog.  I am actually considering finally pursuing my long time desire to write a book, I am thinking it will be called "Letters to Leroy" I have always had a few ideas out there, but always felt there were so many "dog books" out there, how can I join the ranks, or compete with what is already written? But..stay tuned, I have an idea in the works that will be different than the other been there, done that, dog books. I want to keep writing about the process of coping with life and loss of your pets. Though sadly Leroy did lose his battle with Lymphoma, I would say that we kicked that cancer in the ass with his and I's determination to beat the horrific side effects of weakness, illness, and more that comes with cancer. I have to say that Leroy never suffered more than maybe one day, and for that fact it wasn't even a full day, it was the Tuesday before he died that he had the weakest point I had seen yet. It was strange though, as it was almost as if he knew his time was up, he gave me a wonderful afternoon of helping me feed the horses, staring at the cat (which I got on video) and even ate my crazy concoctions of food that I often made for him. That wednesday morning that he died he seemed perkier than I had seen him in a while. I went about my morning as if nothing was wrong. This is something that I struggle with, had I known he was going to die I would have spent more time on the couch with him, you know, all those thoughts you have if you could change what you would have done. I know that's not the case, and it is a small fraction of how I feel. Leroy has always had his own agenda his entire life. Though we were both so reliant on one another, he had the most independent spirit of any animal I have ever met. The morning he passed away we had a vet appt. at 9am with Dr. Emily. I asked him if he wanted to "go for a ride" and he leaped off the couch, waited patiently, wagging his tail, at the door. He trotted, head up, ears flapping in the wind, to the car. I turned my back to open the car door and I felt him hit my leg. He was on the ground, I thought I had tripped him as he was struggling to get up. I knew in a moment what was happening and I started to scream his name. His eyes locked on mine, I held him, watched his toungue turn purple, and he died in my arms with my head on his. All I could say was he was perfect, even while dying, he died the "perfect" death. I know I am SO lucky to have had this experience with him. I never had to make the decision, he did it for me and for all of us. It was beautiful in it's own right. We took him to the vet to be cremated. It was amazing, even in death he was so beautiful and the cancer had not robbed his beauty of it's shine and luster. He actually grew more beautiful, his coat more shiney, and his eyes a deeper, more soulful brown than I had ever seen them. When we laid him down on the blanket in the vet clinic, he was curled up, eyes closed, and looked like a puppy again. It was amazing, even the technicians commented on how he looked.

I as a vet tech, have seen a lot of death, more death than I care to remember, but I can honestly say this was the most amazing experience I have ever had regarding another animal making their transition. I have had a week to process it all, I am not going to say it has been easy, I can't even say it has been hard. There are no human words that convey the pain that comes with losing a pet or a family member. My body literally feels like it has lost a limb, the nerve endings are still there but the appendage is not. I still hear his nails on the hardwood floor, I thought I heard him whining in the house while I was teaching a lesson the other day, he is all around me, yet not here in form. I have cried the hardest and longest I have ever cried, and I have done so 2-6x a day, I feel as if he is on the other side of a door, so close, yet impossible to get to. I have never felt this feeling in my life and it is a very frustrating, hurts to the soul and beyond sort of feeling. There have been so many firsts without him. This past weekend was the first road trip without him. His ashes came with us, his dog collar was on the rear-view mirror, I thought I would spread some ashes on the coast, but I could not let him go yet. I always thought I would be creeped out by having somethings ashes nearby, but they are in a beautiful wooden box right next to my bed, along with his collar and tag that says "Leroy". Every morning I touch his collar and I know he is there somewhere. I went to the beach without him, that was awful. My heart physically hurt, and I never knew just how big that lump in your throat could hurt, but it was crazy, there were thousands of sand-dollars washed up on the beach, they were all broken except for one, a beautiful purple sand-dollar. I found a big shell that I will use to scoop his ashes when the time is right. We came home to an empty house, his beds all around, the smell of him still on his blankets. It's crazy, I sleep with his stuffed animal. All of these things I would have normally thought were kind of crazy, but my point of writing this is to let everyone know that this is normal. However you need to grieve is however you need to grieve. Ride the process out, cry so hard that your body hurts, then cry some more. I have kept visine in stock for over a month now!! Today was the first day that I was in my car without Jeff and Percy and it hurt so much to not have my pal with me. I came home to the empty house, usually Leroy, even when he was sick, would race me to the door, run in the house, grab whatever toy he found first, then happily settle on his bed and just stare at me while I do homework. At this moment I am sitting on the couch for the first time since he died, on my computer, he has always been right next to me, one of my hands on his warm body, and one hand on my book or laptop. Today his side of the couch is empty, and I am forcing myself to deal with it. Writing helps, knowing that even if my words reach one person who is faced with the losing or loss of a pet or loved one, is therapeutic in and of itself. I am not trying to wallow in sorrow, nor have anyone feel sorry for me, I am moving forward, not on, but forward. I felt today for the first time that I need a dog in my life. I have Percy, but he is lonely too, and he is "Jeffs dog", his jobsite dog. I need my soul dog, and I trust that Leroy will lead me to him or her and the right pup will come to me for the right reasons. I am going to keep up with this blog, it may be about random things, it may still just be about my Leroy, who knows, but in honor of him, in therapeutic ways for myself and maybe others, I feel the best thing to do is the only other thing I know how to do besides ride horses, and that is to write.
My beautiful pup lounging while I taught lessons, the day before he died.

Ha ha ha...we called him the "lounge lizard"

His last day, staring and pointing at the cat...Leroy never suffered or lost his spirit to cancer.

Leroy making peace with the kitty on his last full day with us.

I think Leroy finally figured that kitties were o.k, to just look at for once.

The second to last picture I ever took of Leroy, the night before he died.

The last picture of Leroy, the amazing thing was the morning he left this earth, he had this toy with him on the couch, when we got up to go for a ride, he dropped this next to the door. I didn't even notice, when we came home from bringing his body to the vet, this toy was the first thing that greeted us when we walked in. He knew what he was doing leaving me his toy. I will cherish this toy forever. <3

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Letter to Leroy, The Best Dog in the Universe 7/3/2002-4/11/2012

  Leroy, I always said you were the “worst” puppy, that turned into the BEST dog in the world. You came to me at 16 weeks old, scared to death from living your life born in a puppy mill, landing in gross, inhumane, pet store. You sat in my lap and looked down at me with your long nose, dignified face, and human-like, knowing eyes. I knew you were mine. You walked in the door for the first time when we brought you home and in your cocky, puppy way, got yourself into all sorts of trouble with the older dogs. I can’t count how many seromas we drained off of you, the “best” one was off your butt, from you tangling with Sierra, the matriarch pointer. You would always trot up to “Howard” and bat him on the nose with your long paw, and they all loved and loathed you at the same time. I remember how you had to actually get in the shower with me everyday, otherwise you would chew my clothing, shoes, watches, hats, couches, CD cases, riding helmets, seatbealts, armrests, the most infuriating was a 300.00 pair of brand new hiking boots…but..despite all of that you were still the “best” dog in the training. Speaking of training, remember we posted your diploma from graduating “Obediance” school on the fridge for a few years?

The year we got you was the worst Maine winter I can remember. 4-foot snowstorms weekly and a german shorthaired pointer puppy were not a good mix. You could not run outside, so I would build jump courses with chairs and brooms in the house, I would throw food to the top of the stairs so that you would run up and down, we would do this for hours and I still never could tire you out. You were a great riding companion, I would close the indoor arena doors and you would run, run, run, while my horses were begrudgingly getting used to you. The miles on the trail, with me screaming for you as you would chase whatever scent you could find, despite all that, you always came back to me. Remember the time the neighbor called me because you ran away and they found you eating food off their counter in their house? Remember the time you made us an hour late to the boyfriend I was dating at the time’s, parents surprise anniversary party? We missed the surprise, but you were there. It was amazing the miles you would roam too, but always aware of the cars, and you never got hit. Remember the road trips you so eagerly jumped into the car for, yet you wouldn’t eat the whole trip so I would have to go to McDonalds and buy you bacon so you would not be taken from me for “neglect”? You would even make me get on the floor and pretend I was going to eat your food, and only than after you had gotten a kick out of making me do stupid human tricks, would you finally eat. 5:00 was your favorite time, you would stand at the door, wagging that tail that just never stopped, even today, your last day, waiting excitedly to go to the beach? We did that every day, we met many good friends and dogs during our days on the beach. Rain, snow, or shine we were there. I remember when I ran with you daily, and felt like a piece of me was missing when my hands were empty, and leashless running down the road. When you could no longer run with me, I stopped running, not having your little brown and white butt in front of me was not enough motivation to get the run done.

I was 24 when I got you, young, trying to figure out men, life, and commitment. You were slightly aloof, never needy, just what I needed, yet I wondered why you “didn’t need me” did in your own way, and that only came out as we were together longer…remember the men that were needy, we ditched? You were needy in your own way in that you let ME learn to love YOU, you never forced it upon me. I never knew if I was capable of loving like you read about in books. When we went through that first break-up together, you let me lay on the kitchen floor and we cried, he was a good man, and a good doggy dad to you, but we all knew it was time to move on, the couches that you ate during your anxiety of our arguments were testament to that fact. For the first time I connected with you instead of a man. You were excellent at picking my men, many men were jealous of you, did not understand why you needed to come into the house with me all the time, it was what it was, if someone wanted to be with me, they had to be with you. You would just look at me patiently with your knowing look, letting me know you would be there for me when I finally, sadly, figured yet another relationship was not going to work. You went everywhere with me, there was never a day that we were part for years. You spend the night in the back of my car with me when we would party a little too hard in Kennebunkport, you would chase crabs on the docks in the boatyard, and though you weren’t a huge fan of canoe rides, you still sat at the head of the canoe and sat like a statue, watching the shore get further away. You were always with me.

You were there for me when I almost died, July 11, 2006. You were sitting in the back of my Hyundai santa fe, with the hatchback wide open, when that horse had a seizure on top of me,  you watched the whole thing, and I heard you whining, though I could not see, and was bleeding out my mouth, I stayed conscious because I NEEDED to make sure you were taken care of and not left in my hot car while I went to the hospital. While I was in the hospital, drugged on pain medication, I kept hallucinating that you were at the end of the bed laying on my legs. Even when you were not with me, you still were. You stayed with Micheal for 2 weeks while I healed, and he would bring you over daily and that helped me heal. After that accident we put 18,000miles on our car in 8 weeks on the road trip of our lives. We went everywhere, you have been more places than most dogs will ever see. I have photos of you in the nations highest elevations and in the lowest elevation in death valley, you have ran on all the beaches Norteast, south, West, and Northwest, there are more photos of you than most peoples first born child. You were my first born child in a sense. You let me dress you in silly clothes, and ALWAYS posed for the camera. There are pictures of you in sunglasses, margaritas next to your paws, clothing, you name it, you let me do it. All with a graceful tolerance that many creatures and humans will never learn to possess. I actually really think you enjoyed the attention, If I didn’t think so I would have never done it.

You let Jeff into my life, you two are similar in spirit. You traveled with us, laughed with us, argued with us as we figured one another out in Santa Cruz, you survived your first round of cancer with us. You moved with us 8 times in 5 years, you shared 9 cars with me. You were the “best pet” and  ring-bearer in our wedding. You wore that role and goofy ribbon around your neck with pride. You knew this was the most important day of our lives. I thought you would be around to be a big brother to a baby someday, as you were only 9, but that’s not the way life works. You were however the best big brother to Percy, who is only 4 and has no idea how big the shoes are he will now fill. You fought this bravely, patiently, and did not really suffer a single day. You took your pills daily without much fuss, you always came when you were called when it was time for your shots. Yesterday I could see you were fading, I was trying to help you make it through the weekend so you could come to the beach with us this weekend for my class in Astoria. I was so anxiety ridden that you would get sick while we were gone, you had to have known this. You looked perkier this morning and I had a glimmer of hope. When I asked you if you wanted to go for a ride you leaped off the couch, trotted confidently to the car, and your big, giant, beautiful heart just burst. It was violent only for a second, I got to catch you, pick you up, lay you down gently and feel your beautiful heart beat for it’s last time. The only words I could say were “perfection” You were perfection, Leroy. Even in death, you were perfect. Cancer did not take your beauty, you were shiny, in excellent weight, your muzzle never even really grayed. Your hips and body never gave out on you. I held you as you left me on the physical form, and could only thank you for your confident way of taking charge of your destiny, as usual. You never made me make the decision. You let me do everything that I could do so that I was never left feeling as if I could have done more. You had an amazing week, you got to see the new facility, mark it with your presence, and give me the o.k. to move onto a new place. You left me as we had hoped it would go, your decision, quick, painless, as you were heading off to do your favorite thing, “go for a ride”. Death is not easy, but it can be perfect, and twice I have felt perfection with you this year, first was my wedding as you watched with those knowing eyes of yours, and second as I held you and you soared to your new place. I know you are around, and I find it no coincidence that the first thing I saw when I came home to the empty house, empty of our belongings and empty of you, was your little, blue, stuffed bear, waiting for me right at the door where you had left it when we “went for our ride”. You knew what you were doing Leroy, and you possessed a brilliance that I am not sure I will ever find in another dog.

You taught me so much, you stuck with me through so much, and you taught me that my heart is so much bigger than I ever thought it could be. I am wrapped up in your blanket, the fire going, I wish you were here to enjoy a rainy day snuggled on the couch watching a movie with me, but you are not. You are up there somewhere chasing seagulls and cats. Your last 24 hours were painless, you made peace with the cat ‘moses” yesterday, which we got on video, and we enjoyed a few minutes of scratches and snuggles before we got up to meet our day. You were one of a kind Leroy, an old soul that knew so much in your short 9years. I am not a religious person in the Christian sense, but I sure as hell am spiritual, and I know that my version of “heaven” or whatever you want to call me, entails you meeting me as I journey to you, your tail wagging furiously, as you run off to show me where the best birds are, and I hop on one of my long lost horses and we greet the new trails together forever. I love you Leroy, to say you were my best friend is an understatement. You were something that there are no words for, just a primal feeling that all humans possess instinctually if they let themselves. I vow to take care of myself the way I took care of you, and thank you, thank you, thank you, for being there. You are perfection. I love you buddy~ Samantha

                                                      Sunday Morning Snuggle session
My beautiful dog radiating his light!

Leroy and his dragon, the last toy he picked out.

Come on Papa..I beat you up the stairs-this was Sunday, Leroy ok'd the new place for us, even though he sadly will not be joining us.

Yesterday, Leroy making peace with the kitty. It was amazing to watch.

Taken last night, as Leroy perked up a bit. This is the last photo I will ever take of my beautiful pup.

Friday, April 6, 2012

I now know where they coined the term "Live Strong"

I thought I would write a quick update on my boy Leroy! It's been a really hard few days. We started the Lomustine last Tuesday with no real results. Friday he was very sluggish and in a lot of pain so we brought him in for fluids in which after he practically pranced out of the vet clinic. His pain was making it hard for him to eat or drink. For some reason the pain had localized around his neck and spine area so he could not put his head down, probably some weird side effect from the chemo. He did pretty well throughout the weekend, Monday was a beautiful sunny day and he spent it outside all day chasing shadows, bugs, and just sunbathing. Tuesday we woke up to a different dog, his lung sounds were harsh and crackly, his energy was back to lethargic and his eyes were depressed. All he wanted to do was press against me and followed Jeff and I everywhere around the house. Wed. I took him to the vet, we gave him Tramadol for the pain, some accupuncture on some energy points and it seemed to help just a little bit. Still very little appetite throughout the entire week. We decided on Wed. that if he deteriorated throughout the night, that we would re x-ray on Thursday.

Thursday AM rolled around and he wouldn't move. His lungs sounded terrible, Jeff and I layed on the bed with him and cried thinking this was maybe his last day. I was still trying to be optimistic. We took him in to the clinic, he wanted nothing to do with going back with Dr. Emily, which has NEVER happened, usually he trots back there without even a glance back at me, ready to torture the clinic cat with his staring, shaking, and whining. This time he shrunk to the floor and looked at me as if it was the last time he would see me. It was heartbreaking to see this unusual behavior. The other thing that occured since the day before was his veins were popping up all along his sides. Being a shorthair with thin skin you could see his vein network enlarged and raised along his rib cage and sides of abdomen, this was cause for alarm for all of us. I got the call from Dr. Emily, while in the middle of the appointment with our accountant for the dreaded tax season (which we were so late on, due to all that has been going one) I could hear it in her voice it wasn't good. Leroy's tumor burden had increased to about 7-8 quarter sized masses throughout both lung lobes, NOT good. The fluid in his chest had increased as well. We went to get him, and had the hard conversation about when "the time" would be. She thought without treatment of some sort he would not make it through the weekend. We discussed tearfully, her coming out to the farm to let him go, making plans now rather than when we have to in an emergency. We gave him a dose of Dex. as one last ditch effort to make him comfortable and give him a few good days. We were all unsure rather the Dex would even work at that point. We took him home, I layed on the couch with him all day, I cancelled going to the local dressage club social, which was so hard to do as on one level I knew I should continue life as normal, but who wants to be social with puffy eyes, a migraine, and a "dying dog" at home, so I stayed with him. At about 4pm I had to teach a lesson, when I got done and came into the house, Leroy jumped off the couch, grabbed his new dragon that he picked out at Petsmart, and did the "wiggle-butt" for the first time in days. He even went over to his bowl that had been full for a day or two, and devoured his food, he looked at me proud as ever at how strong he can be. It made me so happy to see the Dex working. We discussed the option of trying a new chemo called Elspar, that is an enzyme that will break down the lymphoma cells and masses. It has been used with great results, giving the animals a little more time in remission. I made the appointment for Friday at 11:30, but the techs were so understanding and said I could cancel if I needed more time to think about it. The cost is 450-500.00 and remission time, if any, is a gamble.

The next day, yesterday, he looked great. He slept pressed against me all night, his breathing was noise-free, regular and even. He had a great day yesterday, lots of energy, and ate well. We went to Sage Vet for his first dose of Iscador, Dr. Steve showed me how to give the injection, what to watch for, which is a red circle at the injection site. When you see this it means the body is reacting as it should to the Iscador, he said it may happen on the first injection or the 29th injection, every dog, and every immune system is different. Last night, I saw a small red circle appear, so that is good news. The Iscador may not "cure" the lymphoma, but at least we are doing everything we can to boost the immune system. I cancelled the appt. at the specialist, as I wanted to get the Iscador on board and get the immune system the kick in the pants it needed before adding more toxin to his body. I can go to the emergency clinic and get the Elspar done if I decide over the weekend that is the route we should take. The thing is, I am happy with any decision I make. It's amazing how rational one can really be when faced with these situations. I have never gone through anything like this in my life, and when my dog was healthy I never thought I would be able to cope with what is going on. What has helped me immensely is the complete, 100% immersion I have in committing to educate myself, experiment with options some conventional, some unconventional, I know in my heart and I know Leroy knows as well, that we are doing everything we can possibly do, within our means, to make him happy. I never thought my bond could be stronger with my pup, but this has brought the meaning of love to a whole new level. I guess that's the beautiful, yet bittersweet reality about death and being faced with it, it allows you and gives you the time to connect deeper in ways that you won't when in good health. I always thought maybe it would be easier for my dog to die a sudden death, but I cherish this time that I have to be with him, soak him in, and him soak me in, during his last days. I am ready for life to move on, whether it is in sickness or health, it's been hard to schedule meetings, lessons, etc. as I have to tell everyone "I am planning on being there, but..." I am not trying to write as if he is no longer around, he is, MORE than ever, his presence is the big it has ever been in his life, he is the brightest spot in my life, and when he is no longer with us, which will eventually be, given the way the cycle of life works, be it 3 days or 3 years, he will always be with me. Live strong is not just for the cancer fighter, it is for the survivors that hold and support those fighting with cancer or any disease. I have found my weakest moments in life through this time, but I have also found my strongest moments in life. And for this I thank my pup, my greatest teacher. Hug your pups, ponies, kitties, rabbits, hamsters, children, husband, parent, sibling..whatever/whoever it may be that gives you that feeling of undying love and commitment, then love yourself for having the ability to love so freely and deeply another living creature.

                                                      Leroy with his new Dragon!!!

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Plan B...Chemo.

After our "wonderful" news on thursday that the tumor itself had disappeared, Leroy's symptoms returned. Keep in mind, that though the tumor had gone away, he still has lymphoma and the lymphnodes around his heart are enlarged and pressing on his airways. This left Jeff and I with a new amount of hard decisions to make regarding treatment plans. When faced with the large mass he had in the lung, it was "easy" to say, "well, we are doing EVERYTHING we can within our budget and personal feelings regarding surgery then chemo". But knowing that lymphoma can often respond pretty well to Chemo we were torn as to what we wanted to do, and could afford to do. Leroy was progressively getting worse, especially at night. Saturday night his resting heart rate was 116-120 and respiration over 40-50, no fever but his body is running very hot and rather than seeking heat as he has done his entire life he was finding cool places to hide, often using the hardwood or tile floors but this would cause positional respiratory distress so he would get anxious and pace. The coughing is still very minimal, but the labored breathing is what was concerning us.

We met with Dr. Steve Blauvelt at Sage clinic yesterday morning. Leroy's pulses were low, chi was stagnant, and toungue slightly lavendar, all indicators that he was wearing down physically, the look in his eye told the same story. So we put him on another herb called "General Tonic" which will help his blood flow, energy level etc.

This morning was not a good morning. I woke up and Leroy was not on his bed which told me something was not right. I found him on the couch in the living room, he was walking very slow, and could not really catch his breath, I for the first time wondered if today was "the day". He showed little interest in his food, he did eat a few cookies, and hopped up on the couch for some love from Jeff and I, but it still was not our Leroy. I had talked with Dr. Emily yesterday about trying a low-key form of chemo for Leroy that would hopefully buy us some time for the Iscador from Europe to come in. We made the decision this AM to give it a shot. 2 pills cost 158.00, and he will need this treatment every 3 weeks, along with blood work to make sure his WBC and Liver values are staying within a reasonable range. When we did his blood work this AM, his liver values were slightly elevated but we decided if we do nothing than we will lose him, so this is the last ditch effort to see if we can get him back into a remission.

I gave him his first 2 pills of Chemo, we are using Lomustine, at 2pm this afternoon. He is in great spirits this afternoon after such a rough morning, playing tug-of-war with Percy over a stuffed duck, he is laying beside me on the couch with regular, slow, breathing. This form of lymphoma is presenting itself so oddly, with the off and on symptoms, but we will keep our fingers crossed! The chemo is not likely to "cure" the lymphoma, but hopefully we can get him a few more weeks or months of being comfortable and happy!

This photo was taken in October 2006 at a podunk little motel in Moab, UT. on one of Leroy and I's many travels. He is my trusty road companion, and has protected me for thousands upon thousands of miles. He's a good dog!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Kicking cancer in the A*&(&!!!!!

So, wonderful update to report today!!!! After about a 2 week period of being relatively cough free, eating like a champ, and even getting into the trash which he NEVER ever does, Leroy went in today for a re-xray to see where the tumor is at. The tumor is GONE!!!!!!!!!!!!! As in completely, absolutely, NOT a trace of it anywhere in any of the radiographs!!!! : ) He does still have lymphoma, but even the enlarged lymphnodes and fluid around his heart have decreased in size by about 40%. This is excellent news! I am still however being very realistic about the seriousness of what we are fighting, and the point of this blog is still to remain hopeful, and most of give people a feeling that they are doing the BEST that they can WITHIN their budget and ethics. Had we opened him up for surgery 2 weeks ago, spending 5-6k for a very invasive surgery, I feel in my heart that would have killed him. I am NOT saying don't do surgery, we did surgery for his mast cell tumor in 2007, but I am saying do NOT beat yourself up if you cannot afford surgery or chemo and radiation in these situations. Every person and every dogs situation is unique, and you need to do what you believe in, and what you think will work, all within your financial means.

Dr. Blauvelt (Steve) at Sage Veterinary services has had me start Leroy on another Chinese herb called "Bloods Palace" it is meant specifically for thoracic tumors and heart support. We started this 2 days ago, and we have ordered the Izcador from Europe. The Izcador takes 4-6 weeks to get through FDA, shipping etc. and I asked Steve if he thought we had that long, he said he is thinking positive as that is the biggest part of fighting these battles. Leroy has no idea what he is going through, the amazing thing about treating animals as opposed to humans is there is no placebo effect. So, I need to stay strong and optimistic so he does not pick up on my energy creating more fear and anxiety for him. So, whether this bit of remission he is in currently, lasts a week or 3 mos. I know what I am doing is the best I can do for myself and for him, and I am giving him the best quality of life that I know how to give, and just thanking every single day and night I have with my best friend! I will keep you all posted as we go along!! : )

Leroy laying on the couch saying "if this is what cancer gets me, than I am going to live FOREVER with this treatment!!"