One Week Ampuversary! Yay!

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Dakota officially has an ampuversary! Today I cut down his Tramadol dose to try to get him to perk up a bit. I think it worked. He was more involved and went outside more, once at his request. On the other hand, he also had some times of pain when he yelped at being touched near his incision. That’s new. Before today, being touched or even bumped slightly didn’t elicit a response. I guess it’s all about balance. If he has a tolerable amount of discomfort only when the area is touched, then I think that’s ok.

Dakota also developed what looks like additional bruising in his abdominal area, from his ribs down to his groin. He is very, very furry so it’s kind of hard to see without shaving him, but his skin is a livid fuchsia, just like an awful new bruise. I called one of his doctors and she said that it is normal for bruises to sometimes spread and migrate great distances, as long as the area doesn’t seem painful or swollen. Suture removal had been scheduled for Wednesday, but I moved it up to Monday so he can be looked at sooner. Since today is Friday, I think that’s prudent.

Overall, I think things are improving. I wish Dakota could already be pain-free, but this is just something he will have to get through. He wags a lot and his appetite is improving, and he peed 3 times today, which is a biggie.

I will update again after suture removal on Monday, unless there is something extraordinary to report before then. I am going to relax and enjoy my weekend with my family and my buddy Dakota.

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Day 7–Lab results are back

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Tomorrow marks a week since Dakota had his surgery, and his lab results finally came in this morning. Just as we expected, grade 2 soft tissue sarcoma. Lymph nodes are clear, which is very good news because it means we don’t have to make the chemo decision. The recommendation now is chest radiographs every 3 months for the first year and twice yearly after that. Everyone is incredibly pleased about the results, including Dakota.

We are also slowly finding our normal around here. We have another dog, a bulldog named Evelyn. She really belongs to Dakota and I say she is his bulldog baby. This morning I was playing with her and Dakota shut it down. He hadn’t given permission for horseplay, so we had to stop. I hate it when he interferes like that, but on the other hand he actually cared this morning. So even if his normal is obnoxious, it’s his normal. Normal is pretty good right now.

Our other mini-struggles that remain are getting D to eat and getting him to pee. Eating is coming along as long as I’m willing to shell out for the expensive fresh food that comes in a tube. That won’t go on forever and the weaning will begin shortly. Peeing is a bit harder because I have no control over it. This morning Dakota showed me that his discomfort over finding a place to pee is all around that leg lift. He really wants to lift his leg and he can’t. So instead, he waits forever and goes about once a day, or once every 30 hours. I don’t like this but I can’t control it. This morning he got as close as he could to a small spruce tree and peed a few inches away from it. I imagine he will shortly learn to lean on a tree and wet it down.

Stitches are scheduled to come out next week on day 12 or 13, and then he can take off his clothes and run around naked again. Woohoo! I’m sure he can hardly wait!

Day 6–Party all night, sleep all day

Last night, Dakota was a naughty boy. He did too much. First, he took a prolonged stroll around outside, looking for a satisfactory place to do his toilet business. I don’t understand what the ritual is with this, but I know there is one and it is often convoluted and lengthy. You’d think that a dog with a million stitches in them wouldn’t feel like rejecting so many toilet spots, but I guess they do. It was apparently extremely important to Dakota to get this right. But it took forever, with him hopping around the yard the entire time and post-holing through 4 inches of frozen, crusted snow and inspecting every possible spot. He fell frequently, but I didn’t interfere.

Shortly after coming inside, I had to go outside and shovel out the gate to my dog yard. The same frozen, crusted snow Dakota was falling in was preventing me from closing that gate so I had to shovel it clear. While I was doing that, the dog door opened up and who should bounce out of it but Dakota! I was  not sure this was a good idea at all because our dog door is in a funny spot. To exit from the house requires the dogs to step up. Because of all the mud that they bring in from outside, my husband put in a slatted deck outside the door to catch the dirt. This makes it a bit awkward for a 3-legged dog, though.

So now Dakota had made it outside, but where he exited is a long way from the front door. I had no harness, no sling, no nothing. Just a dog on ice–literally. He managed to hop all around the icy outside of the house, though, and make it to the front door. He had to skirt a low retaining wall and switchback around it, but he did. Then he pogoed up the driveway, up the walkway, up one step onto the stoop and up the other step into the house.

Today, Dakota is paying for his gymnastics with a 10-hour nap. He’s happy, wagging and occasionally looking around. But he’s mostly sleeping. Naughty, naughty doggie.

Dakota on day 6 with his bulldog roommate, Evelyn, who is probably the worst roommate ever.

Day 5–Some advice for our veterinarian friends

First, let me say that Dakota seemed to turn around remarkably yesterday afternoon. He decided when he’d had enough of being outside and got himself back into the house unassisted. This was amazing because it involves hopping up about a foot from the ground into the house. He has been up and around much more and seems happier and more settled. His appetite is still off, but I’m ok with that because I’d like him to lose a few pounds.

That being said, I think the veterinarian community should take a look at the information they are giving the families of new amputees and perhaps make some slight adjustments. I believe that a vet’s viewing lens into the new life of a tripawd dog is significantly different than the viewing lens of the dog’s family. I also believe that a vet does not want to discourage a family from giving an otherwise healthy dog a new chance through amputation and so perhaps colors the info they give out. In other words (what I’m trying to sidestep around here), I think veterinarians make it seem easier than it is.

I realize many people may either take offense to that statement or disagree or tell me they never experienced that at all. But I did. We were going to do this for Dakota, so we were not on the fence and needing to be nudged toward amputation. I said from the beginning that this was the only chance Dakota had at living a full life. He just turned 9; he’s not a youngster, but neither is he a doddering senior. I have every reason to want to provide him with the chance to live long enough to become doddering. But I feel like I was sandbagged a little on this.

After the surgery, when Dakota was struggling so much and seemed to have no will to do anything, I was really frightened. I was worried, terribly worried. It would have made things so much easier if the folks handling his surgery had just been up-front with me and said “the first few days will suck and he may act like he doesn’t want to go on living, but that will pass.” Instead, I was told over and over again how well he would do, how little time it would take him to be up and attempting to move around, etc. But it wasn’t like that for Dakota. It was hard, it was a struggle and it sucked.

When I contacted the surgeon afterward and told her how much trouble Dakota was having, she then told me how hard it could be. Only afterward did she become candid. She had couched some of her warnings in language that sounded more hopeful, more helpful. I know it’s because they see miracles every day and a dog able to hop around a bit a few days after this major surgery probably seems like no big deal. But it is a big deal. I guess I’m just putting out a request for a little more truth in advertising.

It’s hard. It can be incredibly variable. Just because my dog had a hard time doesn’t mean your dog will, and vice versa. It may bring tears to your eyes, and that’s normal. If he doesn’t sit up and eat a full meal the day after surgery and act like he can’t wait to get back to business as usual, that’s normal. If he has pain, that’s normal. If he follows you around the house with his eyes and seems to be pleading with you for help, that’s normal. If he whines softly when you give him love and cuddles, that’s normal. If it’s the hardest thing you’ve ever gone through with your dog, well…it is.

Day 4–Dakota Grows a Bruise

Dakota seemed to be bouncier and perkier this morning. As the morning has worn on, he has acted like his wound area is painful. I’ve been able to gently palpate around the incision without getting any response at all from him, but late this morning he has let me know he doesn’t like it. He was not terribly interested in either supper last night or breakfast today.

The bruising grew overnight, in a big way. I have no idea if this is ok or if he needs to be seen. Has anyone else had bruising like this?

Before bed last night, D urinated again and also dropped a landmine in the yard. I was expecting days of constipation, so this was a nice bonus. So that end seems to be working fine. Hopefully more on the bruising later…