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Tomorrow’s the day and I feel… calm?

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Last week, when I hit the 7 days until surgery timeline, I became a wreck. I cried every day, at pretty much anything. I don’t know what my problem was.

“Oh boy” I thought, “If I can’t keep it together now, what is next week going to bring?”

Oddly enough, even though in exactly 24 hours Barret will be in surgery, today I feel calm, cool and collected. I feel prepared.

New chair testingI spent the last week prepping my house and keeping super busy. I finished my basement (laid down flooring, and even bought furniture to complete the space where Barret and I will hole up until he is healed), I took a trip to Ikea and bought a ton of rugs and runners for the entire house, and I strategically installed my dusty baby gates at the top and bottom of my 2 flights of stairs. I bought gauze and vetrap, a heated bed and a velcro ice pack. Tonight’s agenda: sew a removable cover for the 3 in foam pad I bought at the fabric store.

Lastly, I spent hours playing fetch with the Red Ball with Barret. On a side note, it now has a small hole 🙁 What will we do without the red ball?

Barret

I don’t know if this feeling of calm will last, but I am savoring it as long as it does.

 As marketing professional in the pet supplies trade for over 6 years and an pawrent of 3 dogs and 2 cats, I’ve gained a plethora of pet-related experience ripe for the picking, though I am new to tripawd pawrenting. My goal is to share my story and the knowledge I’ve gained with the pet pawrents everywhere. You can also find me on That Pet Blog or .


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Category:  Pre-Surgery      Tagged:

A Life Story Grieving Exercise for Barret

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Epic-Long Blog Post ahead: I wanted to do the life story exercise from Dr. Dressler’s Dog Cancer Survival Guide, even though goodbye isn’t in our immediate future, but I wanted it down on paper before I forgot too much. Life is too short.

This post was written over a few days and with a lot of tears. I don’t think I realized how much I still haven’t come to terms with the diagnosis and the upcoming  surgery. I still feel a lot of guilt (even though he still has all 4 legs). It is something I am working on.

Without further ado, Barret, this is your story:

I was working on a Saturday, and I wasn’t particularly pleased about it. It was an event called a Frag Swap… very aquarium oriented so I was a bit out of my element. I took a stroll around the store to take photos for our Facebook page when I saw you, sleeping in a cart with your brothers and sister. Most of you were black or black and brown, but your sister was white and speckled. You were all TINY, like rat sized puppies. I struck up a conversation with your mom’s mom. She said that your mom was a cocker spaniel and your dad was a miniature pinscher… an accidental litter. You were only 5 weeks old and she needed to find homes for most of you for when you were ready to go home.

On impulse, I snapped a couple of pictures to show your daddy and got a phone number. We had just moved into our first house with our cats and I love dogs… we’d been discussing adopting a dog. I thought it was a perfect opportunity. I don’t really remember if your dad required a lot of convincing or not, I just remember that when I called your mom’s pawrent (Hope) a few days later and that there were 2 black males available.

CIMG0084I was so ready, or at least I thought I was. I went into the retail store and bought a bunch of things for you. Teething toys, a bed, blanket, food dishes.. the works! The day we came to bring you home our GPS gave us instructions to the wrong side of town (North vs. South) but eventually we found you. The house you were born in was full of animals. Dogs, cats, chinchillas, rabbits, children… It was overwhelming. But then I saw the puppies running around in the living room. Hope picked up the two black boys and held them up for me to choose. Why did I choose you? I’m not really sure. At the time I said it was because you had a more symmetrical face, but I really want to say it was because you ‘spoke’ to me. Either way I have never made a better decision. I handed Hope a check for $100 and she handed me you and a slip of paper with your birth date, and vaccination information.

Barret Wallace

Barret Wallace – who ironically enough has a prosthetic arm.

On the car ride home you snuggled under my hair on my shoulder while your daddy and I cooed and tried to figure out just what we were going to name our new baby. You were so tiny and so wrinkly, one of our friends liked to call you Benjamin Button because you grew out of your wrinkles, like you were slowly getting younger as you aged. We had a stream of visitors to come see the new baby. We eventually settled on the name Barret, after Barret Wallace from a video game called Final Fantasy VII. We’d call you Bear for short. We took tons of photos.

I put a crate next to the bed with every intention of crate training you. That didn’t last one night. The first whimper you made when you woke up, I pulled you onto the bed and you snuggled in my hair. You’ve slept with me almost every night since. You’re such a good snuggler!

Only one of the cats wanted to meet you and play with you (though I suspect that Big One just wanted to steal your bones when you weren’t looking).

CIMG0151A few weeks or so later, I bought you your first sweater so we could go outside to watch daddy play hockey and I could show you off to my friends. We didn’t like to leave you home alone. We knew you didn’t like to be alone. That was your first of many many sweaters and dog clothes. I’m not sure if you like it or you are just humoring me.

One day that I couldn’t make it home from lunch, I had my friend Donna come in my stead. I guess you pooed in your crate and didn’t like it very much. You had poo all over you. That was her first puppy experience, and it still makes me laugh to think about it.

We had to install cat doors where we kept the cat food and litter boxes because you really liked to snack on both of those things. In retrospect that was not the best decision as it made the cats really anti-social. I just really didn’t like kitty poo kisses!

Either luckily or not luckily, depending on how you look at it, your dad got laid off when you were a few months old and you were able to spend the next several months never leaving his side. I was really jealous though, because if he left you with me, you would cry and whine and carry on until he came back. Daddy potty trained you, played with you every day, took lots of pictures, and even taught you to fetch with your beloved red ball. Your daddy loves you as much as I do, though he does not verbalize it as much.

IMG_0939Oh the red ball. We still have it, you know. We hide it from you because you become obsessed with fetching the red ball. You can’t sleep if you know the red ball is there, waiting to be thrown. We bring it out for special occasions, but it still “goes missing” a lot. Mostly it is out of fear that the red ball will break, or one of your brothers or sisters will tear it to shreds, but sometimes it is because mom and dad don’t want to play fetch anymore.

Barret-GatsbyThere’s a lot in this section that I don’t remember all that well, I can’t remember the order of events or which job your dad had gotten, but we decided you needed a brother or sister to keep you company since we were both working again. That’s Gatsby’s story and he will have his turn sometime to have his story told. We brought him home from New York from a rescue. I don’t remember if you were immediately thrilled with the idea of having a brother, but I think you were. You played with him and snuggled with him until he got bigger than you. He was not allowed to fetch your red ball, though.

Gatsby came with a lot of issues, destructive issues, and I suspect we may have ignored you a little because your brother was high maintenance as a pup. We even had a trainer in at one point to help. It didn’t help, but that was when you started getting 2 walks a day to tire you guys out.

A lot of the next year or two is a blur. My mom moved away to Florida, which was really hard on me. You were there for me. At some point you became more of a momma’s boy than a daddy’s boy (probably because Gatsby was supposed to be “daddy’s dog”, but he didn’t grow up to be quite as big and formidable as we expected). We would frequent the dog park until Gatbsy because a noisebucket, then just you and I would go.

CIMG1108When you were almost 3, an opportunity to save and bring home a third puppy presented itself. Sara’s story is a long one, too, but long story short when we came home from Thanksgiving in Florida, we had more than just luggage, we had one 8 week old puppy in tow. You were more interested in the toys she came with instead of her. You didn’t take to her as well as you did to Gatsby. You’d growl if she wanted to snuggle, but you gave in eventually once in awhile.

BearI go to visit my mom a lot, and when I do you have a great babysitter (grammie). You love her house. She spoils you with treats and kisses and lots of fetch. When I come home, it is a ritual that you help me unpack and find the toys and goodies that I’ve hidden in the suitcases. I look forward to it.

BearYou love presents. We celebrate every birthday and Christmas with toys all wrapped up and puppy friendly cake. You love presents so much I am never sure if I will come home to find all the presents under the tree unwrapped. Every year you surprise me when you wait until Christmas to unwrap anything. Sometimes on Christmas morning you get a little ahead of yourself and start unwrapping other presents while we aren’t looking. It always makes us laugh! You usually find one present that you really love and you become inseparable from it for a few weeks. You can’t sleep without it.  I love that about you.

I think I am glazing over a lot and I can come back and add things as I remember them, but it felt important for me to get your story down on paper before I started to forget it.

BearBearbear, you are my first dog. We had a lot of firsts together and there was a strong learning curve, but we made it.

Barret, you have such a strong personality I can’t imagine the house without you. You’re my heart dog. You’re so special to me, I could hold you and squeeze you tight for the rest of my days. You’re only four and the day we have to say goodbye should be many years down the road.  Unfortunately, that thing that was growing on your arm a few weeks ago was cancer. I know that the first surgery was painful and you didn’t understand what was going on. You were so patient with me while I changed bandages and checked on you every five minutes to make sure you were breathing. I am sorry that I am going to have to put you through that again, and this time you’re only going to be able to hop out of the hospital on 3 legs this time. It is not a decision that I’ve taken lightly, but the fire of life burns so brightly in you that I know I have to do everything in my power to keep you healthy and here on this earth. It is not your time to cross the rainbow bridge, and this surgery will give you years to live with us, and to fetch the red ball. You will hurt for a little while, but then we will get back to life as usual. Maybe we won’t take it for granted as much, I hope we take this opportunity to live more in the now than we have been. Maybe I won’t forget all the little moments in between.

Sweet Barret, you’ll never know how much I love you.

 As marketing professional in the pet supplies trade for over 6 years and an pawrent of 3 dogs and 2 cats, I’ve gained a plethora of pet-related experience ripe for the picking, though I am new to tripawd pawrenting. My goal is to share my story and the knowledge I’ve gained with the pet pawrents everywhere. You can also find me on That Pet Blog or .

Category:  Barret's History      Tagged:

Second guessing amputating my dog’s leg… Again

Here’s the thing.. I KNOW this is the right decision, I think… Oh boy. Having to explain what’s going on to a bunch of family members this weekend has kind of been agonizing. Some understand, others think I’m crazy to call Bear my child, and others think I’m being cruel.

Everyone wants to know what would happen if I don’t do the surgery. The thing is, this is cancer. There are no certainties, just as nothing is certain In life. I can only do what I feel is the right thing. For me, that is giving Bear his best chance for a cancer free life. I caught myself (internally) flip flopping all day today.  I had a couple of good days, just enjoying life but today I found myself on the verge of tears all day.

I don’t know why, but I didn’t turn to Tripawds, but internalized my fears all day. so winding down for the day I went to check my email and found a bunch of wonderful comments on my last post and on the forum posts I’ve been on. I then I remembered how great this community is and how everyone has said I will second guess myself for a long time. I’ve decided I want to take  this experience and make something of it. I don’t know what yet, but I want to do something epic.

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 As marketing professional in the pet supplies trade for over 6 years and an pawrent of 3 dogs and 2 cats, I’ve gained a plethora of pet-related experience ripe for the picking, though I am new to tripawd pawrenting. My goal is to share my story and the knowledge I’ve gained with the pet pawrents everywhere. You can also find me on That Pet Blog or .

Category:  Random rants      Tagged:

From the top… How I found my dog’s cancer

BearOk, so to take it from the top, this is how Barret (who I usually call “Bear” (unless he is in trouble), this confuses people.. so Barret and Bear are the same dog. Glad I cleared that up) and I got here. Fair Warning: This is a MOUTHFUL. There’s a lot I want to get off of my chest.

I found a lump on Bear’s armpit in the fall. I’m not going to tell that whole story because I already have here: A Lump In The Night: Should You See the Vet? Essentially, they couldn’t get any fluid during the needle aspiration, and I was told it was probably just a fatty lump and to ‘wait and see’.

Wait, I did. And now I’m kicking myself for this next part: Barret has very short hair and gets really cold over the winter. He pretty much lives all winter long in his hoodie. I didn’t do the “see” part of wait and see. The next time I did get a good look at his lump it had definitely grown, probably at least doubling in size. I’m still kicking myself for this part too: I still waited until his annual appointment a month later to have the vet check it out. After all, it’s a fatty lump and as long as it isn’t hindering him there’s no reason to remove it, right? Oh the things we can rationalize to ourselves.

BearNeedless to say the vet was kind of shocked it was as big as it was. He still thought it was probably benign but said surgery needed to happen before it got too much bigger. I scheduled surgery for three weeks later.

By that time (though I couldn’t tell because I examined it daily) the gosh-darned lump had grown AGAIN. I was a mess on surgery day, but I tried to be strong for Barret. I went to work after dropping him off. I was scared it was cancer and this wouldn’t be the end of our journey. My husband and coworkers thought I was overreacting. After all, if it was cancer what would we do.. chemotherapy? I wrote about my struggle with those ideas here (I know so much more now): How much is too much – What is the real cost of extending our pets’ lives?

BearOk, back to surgery day: I was fully expecting to hear by lunch that he was in recovery and doing great and I could get him at 5. I didn’t hear anything by 12:15 so I called in. He was still in surgery. At 2:30 my phone rings and it is my vet. His exact words to me were “Barret is just waking up now, but I’m worried.. Really worried”. My heart hit the floor. Talk about a crash landing! I had an embarrassing meltdown in the storage area at work. All I remember is really needing a tissue, but there weren’t any. I was too embarrassed to go back to my office.  I think I was in there for a good hour before I could sneak back to my desk.

Essentially, since the thing had grown so large and invaded so much tissue, surgery was really complex. A lot of the tissue itself was necrotic (apparently it was outgrowing its own blood supply and dying off). Barret had to spend the night because he had lots of leakage and swelling. The night he spent at the vet’s office was the night I bought “The Dog Cancer Survival Guide” on Amazon.

The next night I picked him up and my vet talked with me and unintentionally gave me some false hope, saying he still thought it looked like a fatty tumor gone bad. I really, really like my vet but I don’t want false hope.

BearBear had a rough week of recovery. He had a pressure bandage and a huge, seeping stapled chunk of flesh in a place that is tough to heal.. the armpit. He was pretty miserable and it wasn’t just the Tramadol. On May 15th my vet called me at the end of his shift. I missed the call. His message said he was just checking in, but my gut said he had bad news and didn’t want to leave on a message. I had to wait until noon on the 16th to call back.

“It’s cancer”. That’s pretty much all I heard. I scribbled a couple of notes on an envelope and asked him to spell the type of cancer. Here is what I wrote down: Hemangiopericytoma, persistent, will come back, amputation 1-3 weeks, strongly recommended” I didn’t even write down “good prognosis”.

I was still calm at this point. I’d been steeling myself for this. I called my husband and relayed the news. “WHAT?!” he nearly screamed in my ear. I tried to calmly explain the same things the vet had just told me, though I had a better handle of how cancer worked because I had finished the first few chapters of the survival guide. Knowledge really is your best weapon.

I lost it when, not minutes later, the vet’s office popped up in my caller ID. The techs were calling to schedule Barret’s surgery for the following Wednesday, the 22nd. His staples weren’t even out from the first surgery! Disbelievingly, I scheduled it.

First I researched everything I could on the type of cancer. Once my vet’s recommendations were confirmed, I found Tripawds and made my first post on the forums.

Let me say that this community has been my most valuable resource and my strongest support system. The couple people who’ve replied on my forum posts already know the rest, but for new readers here it goes:

BearThe staples came out on Saturday May 19th. My vet had an honest conversation with us and didn’t feel confident enough to perform the surgery the way it needed to be done: aggressively with wide margins. Surgery for Wednesday was cancelled and I was referred to a surgeon in the area.

As it stands today, the consultation AND the surgery are scheduled for June 11th. I have a list of questions for the surgeon that I’m trying to get answered before the 11th via a phone consult, and 1% of me is still holding on for hope that the surgeon will review his file and tell us to wait until it comes back or that my regular vet had wide enough margins during surgery #1.

Barret, as of this morning, is still having some discomfort as his surgery site, but if he’d just CALM DOWN and stop bouncing off the walls, the sofa, everything, he’d be fine. All he seems to know is that mom has her head stuck in a book/ebook and he is getting a lot of extra attention and treats and fetches. Oh and his brother and sister are very jealous.

And that’s where we are now.

 As marketing professional in the pet supplies trade for over 6 years and an pawrent of 3 dogs and 2 cats, I’ve gained a plethora of pet-related experience ripe for the picking, though I am new to tripawd pawrenting. My goal is to share my story and the knowledge I’ve gained with the pet pawrents everywhere. You can also find me on That Pet Blog or .

Category:  Barret's History      Tagged: ,