Friday, February 29, 2008

Graduation Day!!!

The Vet - beautiful banana trees and lots of glass. Good ole' VCG!
The radiation graduation board - Honey is front & center, in the cowboy hat and aviators.....

AWWWWWWWW my honey...

Honey and Jordan with their people.... Jordan's radiation graduation picture is between us.

The sculpture in front of the vet.

Today was Honey’s last day of radiation!! I’m so stoked I can’t even begin to explain it. Her face is looking really really rough, and will continue to get worse for a week or two, but will ‘turn a corner’ and heal. I know this is gross – but what’s happening to her is basically that a scab is forming just under her skin and flaking off, taking her skin and fur with it when it falls off. The end result is that her face is going to be skinless, raw and just really awful feeling for a week or so. The inside of her mouth is just as bad, with tissue sloughing off the inside of her lips and gums, and I can’t imagine that her sinuses are much better inside, although we can’t see them. Poor baby. She keeps trying to itch her face on anything that’s still long enough – the bed, us, the floor, and we can’t let her because we were told horror stories of dogs scraping their faces off. Her dose of the painkiller is going up again – it was one pill twice a day, and we’re up to two and a half pills three times a day, but she can sleep and (sometimes) even eat, and she can tolerate a lip prop so whatever she needs, we’ll give her.

They took her off the anti-inflammatory today, as her liver enzymes were getting really high, and in two days or so (once the anti-inflammatory gets out of her system) we’re going to start her on prednisone, so she’ll eat. Last night we gave her some fresh spinach and a fried egg, but she won’t eat her dog food outside the vet any more. We’re also allowed to use lubricants on her lip props now, except not petroleum based.

Right now she’s standing near me with her head hanging down, I’m relatively sure she’s breathing out of her nose, but she’s half asleep. Nothing is as pitiful as watching a dog fall asleep on its feet. I’m going to sit with Honey on the bed and watch some bad tv on this glorious Friday night. I'm including pictures of her last visit to the vet.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Holding my breath until tomorrow

In re: moldy orchids, apparently some types of mold are beneficial and this is one of those types. I’m not buyin’ it, and I’m repotting them stat, as all I can find is one stupid photo of mold on orchids online. You’d think a community as obsessed with plants as the orchid community would have made full use of the ability to post photos to the internet, but evidently not. I can find a description of beneficial mold which reads like this – “white fuzzy mold I see on my soil” I mean, really. What is that? Not clear at all. And crazily unhelpful. But the plants look superhealthy so I’ll wait until they stop blooming and then repot in new medium. I’m currently drying them, to help inhibit the growth of whatever it is that’s using my babies as host.

Honey did ok last night, she wouldn’t eat well and we had trouble putting lip props in and keeping them in. she also refused to take her pills and we had to shove them down her throat, which made me cry because I know it hurt her and I hate that. I coated the pills in butter, came at her mouth from the side and shoved them between her teeth on top of her tongue, then held her nose up and stroked her throat so she swallowed them. She didn’t manage to spit any back up but I did bump her gums with my nails a few times and I know I scraped some layers of skin off. It breaks my heart that she lets me do things like that to her that have to hurt but she just stands there and lets me do it. I feel like a monster. Tomorrow is her last radiation treatment, and our final consult with the vet, and then the side effects get nasty. I’m not going to post any more current pictures of her until she starts healing, because I know I sure as heck wouldn’t want anyone to see me if I was that hurt.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

OMG I slept! (2 more radiatoin sessions!!!!)

Last night Honey went to sleep on her own bed for the first time in over a month. She was lying on her side with her head hanging off her bed, sort of with her nosicle pointed down towards the floor, and we stuck a lip prop in her mouth and she went to sleep, breathing well. Unfortunately we were both so freaked out because she was sleeping on the floor (is that bad? Should we worry? Should we call her?) that we didn’t get to sleep until around 1:45, to be woken up by Honey getting on the bed and laying on me at about 2:12 (by ‘on me’ I mean curled up tightly against me, with her chin and a paw on my leg or stomach. That’s her favorite) so I covered her in a throw, stuck in a lip prop and wadded a shirt up under the side of her head, as she cant breathe unless her head is tilted to the side. I woke up at 6:35 with my alarm and neither she nor I had moved. I feel like a total glutton for getting 4 hours of sleep at once. It’s awesome.

The bad news of the day is that my orchids have MOLD in their potting matrix. I have no idea what to do about this – I looked some stuff up online and it says to repot them as soon as they’re done blooming. Shoot, I have no idea how long that will be, as they both just bloomed, and won’t they die in the mean time? it also said to “wash their roots to insure no mold spores remain” apparently these people think mold spores are about the size of small pebbles, because there is no way you can “insure no mold spores remain” without soaking the roots in boiling acid. Anyone know how to fix this??

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

17 down, 3 to go.

And the side effects are getting worse. I think a lot of it is her reaction to the painkillers, and it seems like if she gets wound up it’s really difficult for her to chill out again. Last night she was beside herself because Cameron wasn't home, pacing and whining and howling (she’s really funny when she howls - she doesn't make noise, but throws her head back and purses her lips). I got her a really really soft chew toy, one of the kind that would normally last about 2 minutes and then have to be thrown away in pieces, and she just carried it around while whimpering and wagging her tail. I couldn’t chill her out so I lay down on the bed with her and she didn’t seem able to get comfortable, she kept climbing behind me and laying on my pillows and following me when I got up to get some water, so I finally took a nap, and she would fall asleep for about 20 minutes, then wake up and realize Cameron wasn’t home yet and start the freak out dance all over again. I think the best it’s been was the might I was cooking and she was watching me. Maybe I need to do something in the house that’s a little more active and she will be too distracted to do the daddy dance (I’m not actually buying this – just hoping in print).

I had a really bad dream last night, I'm not sure what was so freaky about it but it scared me, my mom and Honey and I had gotten off the train at the wrong stop and were waiting for it at the MacArthur Park station (not the best neighborhood) and I leaned down to pet her and she was panting. It was weird, I woke up and was completely wired and freaked out for like half an hour. There wasn’t even anything remotely scary about that. I don’t get it.

We got to a point this morning around 4 am where it seemed to hurt her to have the lip prop in her mouth, so I can’t wait for Friday when we can give her some topical pain reliever, and experiment with lip props covered in cold Vaseline or something else to make them less abrasive. Or maybe she will start to get used to the pain killers and settle down.

In other news, there’s a hawk riding an updraft outside my window (8th floor downtown L.A.) and the lovely dendrobium Cameron gave for my 27th is juuust about in full bloom. I think I need a saguaro, but then my window garden will be complete.

Monday, February 25, 2008

weight, scale of 10, 4 sessions left, etc

So she's down again - to 48.6, and looking at her muzzle / mouth where it's getting bad, the inside of her mouth is at a 7 out of 10, and her nose is at 4 / 10. So we're going to see a lot more muzzle skin flush off in the near future. They gave us some cream but we can't put it on her before the radiation, so just at night. There's also a victorian collar involved, and it's stressing her out. My poor baby.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Side effects and Pearl Harbor Specials

I cannot believe how strong Honey is. Her face is starting to show the radiation effects, and it's not pretty. There are about three places on her face where the skin appears to be peeling off, and you can see red raw flesh. If I had one of those anywhere on my body, I doubt I would be able to do anything but cry and complain. Honey has three, one on her eyelid and she still wants to play. The skin is starting to slough off the inside if her mouth and it seems to be really painful to her to breathe with her mouth open, I guess when the tissues start to dry out they hurt. It's really difficult to put a lip prop in now, although we've switched to neoprene so it's pretty much the lightest, softest stuff we could find. I wait until she's almost asleep and then I slide it in as fast as I can and sometimes it works and she falls all the way asleep. We’ve also started running them under cold water before we use them, and I think that helps. I can't believe this is the same dog that wanted to play fetch this afternoon. It's really amazing. I can never hope to be as strong as she is. She and I spent all weekend lying around alternately eating and watching World War 2 specials on the history channel. If anyone has any questions about Pear Harbor, now would be the time to ask me.

We're anticipating pain while eating, there is already some but making her food a little waterier than baby food and spoon feeding her while telling her how good she is seems to work. She even sometimes bypasses the spoon and eats on her own, but I hold the bowl at face height and praise her anyways. I'm pretty sure she'd endure more pain if we were telling her she was good. Last night we got her frozen yogurt and she seemed to like it, she also likes her food better if it's cold.

This morning her left eye was really dry (it’s in the radiation beam) – full of gunk and the lids were folding in and rubbing against her eye. I don’t know if we’re allowed to put anything in it, we’re not allowed to put anything on the sores because lots of topical creams and drops etc. can disperse the radiation beam, and make it less effective. Cameron’s going to call when the vet gets there at 9 am, so hopefully our eyedrops will be radiation approved. In the meantime, I put a few drops of water in her eye and that seemed to help a little. I can’t believe the dog lets me put eyedrops in, she must know I’m trying to help.

I didn’t get much sleep last night (spent the night making Honey comfy, and unfortunatley she was most comfy on top of me), so I’m off to raid the coffee pot.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Pictures from yesterday

My little window garden. The other orchid in bloom is older, its an oncidium. the purple one is new and its a dendrobium.
pansy-lookin' dendrobium flowers.

The best coffee ever. EVER
At Versailles

Really - it's that good.

Honey eating!! and me (quickly) getting over my dogfood aversion. When we were done (she almost ate an entire can!!) the entire kitchen was covered in flecks of gruel-consistency dog food and I had to take a shower and do laundry. But she ate, so we're elated.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Iz mah birfday@

I turned 27 today. We were originally planning a trip to Santa Barbara to see friends and hang out at the dog-friendly beach, but that was before Honey got sick, so instead we slept in (which was AWESOME) and then took Honey to the vet. It was actually neat to be there and meet all the doggies Cameron tells me about, especially Jordan the boston terrier (whose blog can be found at who's unbelievably cute (like, CUUUUUUUUUTE although Jordan seems to have a diabolical plot towards world domination). We went to Versailles for lunch and ate like pigs, but that's understandable because the food is really fantastic, and the cuban coffee is really strong. We also went to a military surplus store (cuz I'm classy like that) and I got a pin of my grandad's division (1st Marines) which I'm going to stick on the front of my 'grandad in world war II' research binder. After we picked Honey up from the vet we took the best nap ever and had 'scrabble beer fest '08' which probably would have been more fun if either one of us could spell, or knew any words longer than 4 letters. When the game was over (when I got bored and started dressing Honey up like my grandma - pics will follow tomorrow) Cameron had like 600 points and I had about 15, but I won because I made the word 'Honey'. Those are house rules. Then we took Honey for a walk and on a car ride to Trader Joe's and I got 2 birthday orchids. Im TOTALLY orchid-spoiled, and will post pics tomorrow, when I'm on a normal computer and not this mac thing I can't really work.

On another note - I've been doing genealogy research for about 4 years now, and recently I found the Northbrook Historical Society in Northbrook Illinois. Since three of the four immigrant families I'm descended from were 'founding members' of the town, they have a lot of genealogical info that pertains to them, and Ms. Judy H. was sweet enough to share it with me. I sent her a copy of the research I've done so far (for the surnames Dehne, Krause, Albert and Nicklas) and today she emailed me a file of info about the Nicklas family, which is so cool I can't even begin to explain it - I knew that Henry Nicklas had married a woman who alternately called herself Lena and Carline, but I couldn't figure out her maiden name or even what her first name really was. Northbrook had the info, so now I know her name was Caroline Helena Brautigan. It's really amazing to be able to give an actual name to someone who was born in 1836 and died in 1918 - she was my 3rd great grandmother, and until today all I knew was that she existed. I also now know the names of her daughters - I knew they were 'Emma' and 'Louisa' but after hours (and I do mean hours) glued to the ancestry computer at the LAPL There was still no records I could definitely assign to them. Today I know they were Emma Henriette Wilhelmine Caroline and Louise Frederike Maria. I'm not saying I love the names, but It's really neat to have into information, and kinda cool that it arrived on by birthday. I know have my family traced back to the people who originally hopped the pond - I'm starting the job of finding their villages and records they left in Germany and Denmark before they decided Illinois was the promised land and packed up their wheelbarrows. 

Honey has been stepped up to a whole pain pill, we didn't even realize she was hurting until we gave her the tramadol and all of a sudden we had a much happier dog on our hands. The vet said her mouth feels like it's "full of canker sores" so that explains why she's not eating as well as we would like. The weird thing is she will still play fetch, just not with as much gusto. When I'm done with this post, I'm going to render half a can of dog food to the consistency of baby food and spoon feed her while telling her how good she is.  This is going to be difficult because wet dog food is about the nastiest stuff I can think of, and I'm going to have to hand feed it. Oh well! No time like the present to get over my dog food aversion. First, however, I need to go make friends with my new orchids.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Pain pills, hand feeding and even more fetch.

so we're giving her 25 mg of Tramadol every 12 hours. Its like we have the old Honey back - she was all smiles and tug of war today, which is a little upsetting because we didn't realize she was in pain until we gave her the painkillers and she seemed happier. Last night was better, I think I only woke up 4 times to adjust her lip prop or move her to a better breathing position. Cameron just told me that Im starting to repeat myself, something I do a lot normally, but apparently I've told him my friend Lynn gave me a Hello Kitty cell phone charm six times in the last day. I remember telling him once. Oh well. Please forgive me if I do it here - I try and proof read, and I hate grammatical mistakes, but lack of sleep coupled with the fact that I'm writing this while watching 'Night at the Museum' and doing laundry mean it's not getting my total attention. 

Tonight we also gave her wet food for the first time, which is a major for me. I'm not easily grossed out, I've cleaned wounds on wild animals and I can filet a fish, but canned dog food is the most revolting substance on the planet, and 20 minutes ago I was not only hand feeding Honey Science Diet ZD Ultra (for severe food allergies) but we even warmed it a little first, and mixed in some sweet potatoes and squash. So the whole house smells like dog food, and I managed to do it without gagging. This is a big breakthrough. 

the good thing that happened this week is that the portion of the tumor that's protruding into her mouth is actually visually shrinking. Too bad it's not the part in her nose, but I'll take whatever I can get at this point. The inside of her mouth is getting really raw (hence the switch to wet food) and the skin between her gums and the inside of her lips is grayish and starting to slough off. The pain meds are helping because she's being more tolerant of the lip props. 

ok, Honey just woke up and I'm fairly sure my laundry is dry, so have a lovely night all. Honey sends licks :)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Side effects and fiber yummies

I spent all afternoon freaking out about side effects, and since I've been home all Honey's done is shove her ball in my hands and lick me so she can't be suffering too much right now. I did make some her some high-fiber deliciousness by boiling a sweet potato, white potato and butternut squash for a while then mashing it all up with butter and heavy cream. I left the skins on the potatoes and apparently it's DELICIOUS but I'm just happy cause she's getting the extra fiber she needed, plus some vitamin c and (fingers crossed) it's good for her stomach.

Ok, I have to go play fetch...

"Right on schedule" 11/9 (11 sessions down, 9 to go)

Good news always comes with bad, I suppose. It looks like the part of the tumor in her mouth is shrinking, but she’s starting to have side effects from the radiation. We found a small sore on her chin last night, about a quarter of an inch around that had no skin and was raw, but didn’t seem to bother her too much. She also started spitting out the mouth prop all the time, really not tolerating it. We varied our arsenal a little, introducing a neoprene pad for lip separation and a rubbery valve that work for a few minutes before she vetoes it. This weekend was good – she always seems to feel better by Sunday, so it’s especially sad to see her going off to radiation. I’m having real trouble seeing past this – I think part of me thinks she’s not going to get any better, ever. Today the vet told us he’s starting to see signs of the side-effects, such as the little sore and they also said that her gums and the insides of her lips are looking pretty raw – more so than they anticipated. We think this is from the lip props. So we’re facing the prospect of having her unable to handle a lip prop and unable to breathe from her nose. Hello, sleeping in 3 hours shifts. The vet also said she took a while to wake up today, I’m not sure what that means, but I’m impressed that a dog who had only been under general anesthesia once, when she was spayed, is doing so well now she’s getting it every day.

We do have some pain killers – they start with a‘t’ I cant remember the name exactly, I want to say ‘turbinado’ but that’s sugar - I know it flipped her out a little the first time I gave it to her, she actually howled, so we’re thinking maybe if we start giving her when we’re both home that she’ll feel better. Tonight I’m going to start completely pulverizing her food, and we’re going to have to switch to canned soon. Neither of which I’m looking forward to – I think wet dog food of any type is the grossest thing on the planet. Really, when I was working as a wildlife rehabilitator I used to have to actively keep from gagging while I fed baby birds (the baby birds ate soggy puppy food, and the smell wouldn’t come off my hands, even with bleach).

So it looks like fetch will soon stop. I really, really hope the tumor in her nose is reacting the same way the section in her mouth is, and pulling back. It would be AWESOME to sleep through the night again. I think I could manage it even if she was sleeping on our bed – which she started doing immediately after the CT scan – sort of, fine, do what you will but I’m sleeping between you and I’m taking the good throw blanket, so there.

In other news, my parents got a dog, and it’s really cute to see my mom so excited. It’s also weird to be giving ‘here’s how you teach a puppy to sit’ directions in the middle of ‘here’s how we a shrink a dog’s tumor’ training. Sigh.

Something really good and unrelated happened Friday, though, I sent off my family tree to the Northbrook Historical Society. I’ve been working on it for about three years now, and it finally reached a point where it was organized enough for others to understand and maybe benefit from if they’re researching the same families. I’m quite thrilled.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Lip-propinazation (I just made that word up. Just now. Really)

I mention ‘the lip prop’ on this blog a lot, but I haven’t posted a picture of its exact usage. Let me remedy that. The ones pictured here are made from a piece of a gardener’s knee pad (thick foam) that I got at Home Depot. I cut a piece about an inch wide and five inches long, then folded the foam in half and stitched it so it makes a V shape. It works well because it’s not hard, so it doesn’t irritate her gums or lips, like hard plastic could, and the V shape creates enough pressure that we can wedge it and it provides some traction, unlike the plastic cork, which fell out of its own accord.

We ran out of anti-nausea meds yesterday morning, and the vet is going to see how she does without them. I really hope she will be ok – I hate to think that she’s uncomfortable. And she won’t eat when her stomach is upset. I’m also worried that if she gets nauseous and stops eating, she will have to be put on steroids, and I’m holding out on those as long as possible.

Today was my first day as member of the chondrosarcoma support group, and I got a few emails form people who have it. One was from the mother of a boy who died, and it broke my heart. I’ve been trying to gloss over the bad parts of this, not read stats I don’t like, etc, focus on her ‘cancer buddies’ at the vet. I’ve been told that there’s no change of truly beating this. The vet said that they “can never actually cure cancer” and I’m trying to ignore that. I know if I get down and sad that Honey can sense it, and right now she’s not doing too badly – she sounds like she’s rooting for truffles every time she inhales, but that’s easy enough to laugh at, especially when she’s sticking a ball in my face or licking my ears every five minutes. She also hasn’t had any of the symptoms listed as being hallmarks of this cancer, like nosebleeds and dizziness. It’s really tough to keep the bad news separate from the good, and to focus on the happiness.

On a lighter note, I actually SLEPT last night. Granted, I spelt in our closet (it’s a walk in, chill out, its not that bad) with ear plugs in and I took some benadryl. So maybe I just went into a sensory-depravation coma. Tonight we’re going to cook dinner, drink wine, and play fetch. It’s going to be wonderful. Happy Valentines Day!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Honey the valentines dog

I can't believe she let me do this. It probably helped that I was holding her ball.

day 8 (of 20) and some high-fiber yummies

Apparently it’s all business as usual for the Hunn. She’s at the point where she has the vet figured out (today was day 8). Cameron takes her every day, but I usually call him about 15 times for updates - I’ve heard she walks directly to the scale and climbs up then sits so she can be weighed. She LOVES the staff and will follow the willingly to the back, where I’ve been told she greets everyone and then lays down on a bed that’s under the tech’s desk. Yesterday and today she hopped up on the table where they give her the twilight gas without being asked. I think it probably has something to do with the fact that when she’s coming up from the anesthetic her favorite tech sits with her and pets her “so she doesn’t have a traumatic wake up experience” and then she gets hand fed. I wish I could wake up like that – Cameron usually just throws my phone at my head and gripes about how much he hates the alarm and immediately goes back to sleep. She’s also being awesome about taking her pills; I hide them in cheese that I’m sure she can’t smell , but she eats them anyways, so far it’s just an anti inflammatory, some low grade antibiotics and an anti-nausea. They made noise about prednisone, but that stuff terrifies me. She took it when she was younger for allergies and she was manic. Also, someone I know took it and it damaged her heart.

Last night on our walk she was greeting strangers really exuberantly, and it dawned on me that if she can’t smell them she has no way of knowing they’re not Cameron. So all she wants to do is walk around outside and look hopefully at people coming up the street towards us. Aside from getting really bored with our block, as she doesn’t want to leave it, just pace up and down in front of the building, its freakin cold out there. So I drag her back in and she does the “daddy’s not home” dance which entails pacing around our apartment and whining, periodically licking the door. The only hope for distraction is the ball, and even that’s not engaging enough. Tonight I’m going to try juggling, maybe 3 balls will work.

So after work yesterday we went to the grocery store for fiber to give honey. They also told us not to give her any antioxidants as they could interfere with the radiation, so we’re pillaging the store trying to find the highest fiber foods with the lowest antioxidant content, except they really don’t print that on the box, do they? Whatever, $150 of fruits and vegetables later we’re half way home when we look at each other and say “DUH – Metamucil” in concert. But I’m pretty sure she will be allergic to Metamucil. I mean, she’s allergic to everything else (all meat besides fish and duck, all grains except quinoa and rice, dairy is ok and so are veggies and fruits), why stop there? But she appears to really like dried apricots, so I think we’re home free. And the vet clarified for us that he meant antioxidant supplements, roughage is a-ok.

I really hope this tumor shrinks soon – I’m running on empty sleep wise (can you tell from wander-blog here?), I think 5 or 6 hours on the last 2 days, and its incredibly pitiful to watch the sleep deprived dog – around 4 am I held her lips up and she took a couple of great big lung bucketfulls of air and fell asleep standing up, and promptly fell over on me. She’s such a good sport about it though, all she wants to do is play, go for walks, play, walk, fetch, licks, snuggle, treats, fetch and begin again. Frankly, I’m handling the lack o sleep worse. Externally, the only weird thing is that she’s breathing loudly and snorting quite a lot. Last night I’m pretty sure this woman on the sidewalk thought she was growling, and gave me a dirty look after she hopped out of the path of honey’s ‘IS THAT MY DADDY FINALLY?!?!?!’ frisk happening near her feet. I’m not even going to bother explaining that, or the “tumor war map” drawn on her face in sharpie. They can all bite me.

(the pic is her asleep on my lap in the truck on the way to LA, winter 2006)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Honey, would you like some fresh arugula?

Honey a few weeks ago, passed out ->

I can’t believe how much writing here is helping me figure stuff out. It’s like two pieces of complimentary information wait until I sit down with a blank word document to attach to each other and all of a sudden, the world is a little more logical. Today’s case in point: apparently Honey needs more fiber in her diet. The vet said we could either give her extra vegetables and fruits or we could put her on a supplement. As soon as I wrote that down and started mentally preparing a list of the foliage I was going to offer her this evening I remembered that she’s been trying to eat grass lately. She used to do this when she was younger, and I was told by our vet in Tallahassee that it was fine as long as she wasn’t throwing it up. She wasn’t, and the grass wasn’t poisonous, so I let her go to town. Here it’s a little different – we live in the middle of Los Angeles and it rains like four times a year. There is NO WAY that grass is clean enough to eat, so I haven’t let her. Those two little tidbits may never have met up if I wasn’t recording everything here.

Now the problem becomes how to get her to actually eat the greenery – maybe she will because she knows her body needs it, but if we have to convince her to do so I think its going to come down to like sauteeing spinach in hot fish oil or some other substance so smelly that it’ll seep into the paint, because the dog can’t smell. Fetch has even changed – she can’t tell which ball (of the 8 matching balls always on the floor) I just threw, or which she had in her mouth last. So she will be determinedly trying to get behind a bookcase, convinced the ball is just out of reach, when the one she’s searching for is at her feet. She’s being an amazingly good sport about it though, I’ve heard stories about cats getting declawed and losing their minds, and I can’t imagine losing SMELL can be less traumatic for a dog, and although it has been happening gradually I expected some personality change. There hasn’t been one, except maybe she sleeps on me a little more, but that’s totally fine by me. On another note, I’m still a terrible juggler but as soon as I pick up three balls there’s suddenly a dog at attention in front of me madly wagging her tail.

<- Honey (at 55lbs) with Thor (weighing significantly more), her big German Shepherd, at the Miccosukee Greenways park in like 2003

Monday, February 11, 2008

One more thing....

Since it looks like my free time from no until at least the end of February, probably through March as well will involve a whole heck of a lot of sitting at home with Honey, I'm trying to figure out stuff to do to allay the boredom. So far I have compiled this list of stuff to do to stay occupied:

1) alter all the vintage dresses I bought intending to alter
2) try to follow one of those historic patterns I have for turn of the century wear
3) read
4) learn to juggle (honey likes this one – lots of throwing of balls)
5) ???

Problems identified with this list:

1) alterations are incredibly, mind numbingly dull
2) I have no fabric for turn of the century sewing, and doubt very much if the garment would look right if I made it out of old green polka dotted bed sheets.
3) I’ve already read everything in my apartment except the plays / scripts.
4) I can only maintain enthusiasm for this for about 3 minutes at a time.


1st weekend of radiation treatment

The doggie antinausea pill works wonders - she's eating again :)!!! We had a really good weekend. Saturday we figured out why she’s being so weird about food – apparently at the vet when she’s coming up from the anesthesia, they hand feed her and she now seems to expect the same service at home, thank you. She looks from her bowl to whoever fed her, and back again, but if we walk away she’ll eat. Freakin’ prissy animal wanting to be hand fed. Jeez. So Saturday Cameron had an appointment to get new headshots taken and his photographer has a mastiff (who is beyond sweet) named Beau and a yard and said it would be ok to bring Honey, so the three of us spent a few hours on his yard (which is so incredibly cool I just have no words) and then he took a portrait of Cam and Honey and I. it was weird, I’m not used to being on that side of the camera. And I can honestly say it was the first photo shoot I’ve ever been on that I didn’t have to hold a reflector card or trip the light meter ( I used to LOVE that little popflash, though, and that transistor box looked directly out of ‘back to the future’ – I remember feeling very important when I was asked to press that square red button…). So Honey spent the afternoon laying in the shade next to Beau chewing his ball, then she went with us to a restaurant called Home that has a deck and allows dogs. Its funny, I can tell she’s losing her sense of smell, or it’s at least intermittent. I had salmon and I took the leftovers home and promptly dropped them on the living room floor, and she wouldn’t eat it. It was sad – I know how much she likes fish and she wouldn’t even smell it. That’s got to be a factor in the wanting to be handfed, as well. Poor thing. Saturday night we hung out with our neighbors Max and Maria, with whom Honey is in loooooove. After about 35 minutes, when she had investigated their apartment to her satisfaction, she climbed up on the couch between them, put her head on Maria’s lap and zonked out. She also gave max more kisses than I’ve ever seen her give anyone that wasn’t directly related to me or Cameron.

Saturday night wasn’t so great for sleeping – I think I got around 4 hours, and Sunday we just sat at home, except for a few walks with the neighbor’s dog, a brief foray to the patio out back for a play date and about 4 hours of fetch. It was great. Until I decided to go to bed. Honey is incredibly attached to Cameron – I think she sees him as the great white hunter, and therefore is not entirely at ease until he’s around. This is impressive because she managed to sleep (quite soundly) every night for seven years without Cameron, and has never cared about the location of anyone but him and me at bedtime, as far as I’m aware, but now, if he’s not home when I turn out the lights, we have a problem. Cam closed last night, so he got off around 1 and then went to hang out with some friends. I was totally exhausted and had been battling the urge to go to bed since like 6:30, and around 10 I figured it could turn in. honey had other plans, namely pacing and whining, standing over me and wagging her tail, pacing some more, and standing at the door with her head cocked to one side. This went on until Cameron finally did come home at like 2:30. Needless to say this did not create an environment conducive to sleep. When he did come home she had trouble breathing and I had trouble getting her head in the right position. At one point I decided to sleep on the floor and it almost worked, but my shoulder started flipping out (I’ve broken it twice and if I get cold it will hurt. A lot.) and the last time I looked at the clock it was 6:10. My alarm went off at 7:25. URGH. I was so tired this morning I actually got lost in the train station and wound up coming out at the wrong exit, then I went to Coffee Bean for some espresso and they were training someone, so although I had worked out my order on the way to the shop – “regular latte, two extra shots please” (I even rehearsed it in my head so I wouldn’t get it wrong) they asked me all the follow up questions – do you want flavor? Sugar? Whipped cream? Sprinkles? And I was so out of it I actually got confused.

This morning Honey had another antinausea pill, so hopefully she’ll eat dinner. And Cam said she was happy and bouncy at the vet’s. I’m so grateful she likes the staff, I can’t imagine how awful this would be if her daily trip to get zapped was something that scared her.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Better than yesterday...

Yesterday was rough. It was the first day Honey didn’t eat, and she was so sleepy that if we held her lips up so she could breathe she would fall asleep standing up. Cam had to catch her a few times, it really looked like she was

going to fall over. There was also quite a bit of gunk coming from her nosicle, and it freaked us both out. She would only sleep between us, with her head on Cameron’s pillow and her legs stretched out towards me. That may be putting it lightly, her feet were in my eye and I woke up once with a claw inching its way up my nose. Anyways, yesterday morning she threw up and the vet gave her an antinausea injection, so maybe that’s why she was so out – I remember when I had surgery they gave me phenergan and I have never been so zonked. Ever. She didn’t even eat dinner. Actually, she would if I hand fed her, but that is not something I want to encourage, as I can see her deciding it’s much nicer then eating on her own. Around 3:40 am she started breathing very poorly – louder than we’ve heard so far, fast and shallow. It freaked us both out. Cameron went to sleep and I took over ‘watch Honey duty’ and put on the Cosby Show marathon. This might be a really good time to mention that Cameron is, in fact, violently allergic to dogs. Every time Honey gives him kisses he gets all itchy and red. Same thing when Honey sleeps on his pillow, or under the covers, which he lets her do anyways because she has him wrapped around her tail. But around 5 she woke up enough to move to out from under the covers and was panting, so I’m thinking she was panting in her sleep and that’s what the weird noise was all about.

This morning I gave her an antinausea pill at 8 and her radiation appointment was at 11:30. I got home at 6:20 and she wanted to play!! It’s 8:49 now, and she’s been bringing me the ball and moving her bedding around the room all evening. She even looked like she was breathing out of her nose at one point, although she’s now laying next to me with her nose in the air doing the mouth breathe thing, so maybe that was just wishful thinking. My big plan for the evening is to make rice crispy treats (with strawberries!!!!) and then eat them.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

No sleep... again

Last night I went to Home Depot and walked around for like half an hour looking for something that would inspire me towards a more efficient lip-holder than half a cork. I finally got a pack of shims, thinking I’d make something that looks like a capital ‘I’ and the platforms at the top and bottom would hold her lips open, but I would up with some foamy knee pads which I cut a strip off of and sewed it into a ‘V’ shape, the wider end fits between her lips and isn’t so hard that it bothers her. She can also move her mouth easier with it in, her twitching doesn’t move it around or knock it out, and she can still breathe. I’m thinking I might also try to make a small square that fits in her loose-lip area and exposes her teeth, maybe like an inch and a half square, and hopefully that will stay in all night and we can finally all sleep, but I have a feeling this isn’t possible. I’m getting really worried about whets going to happen when she’s in pain and can’t tolerate the lip prop. I just hope the tumor has shrunk enough by then that she can breathe out of her nose and I can give her knock out medicine without worrying.

Honey’s getting really good at telling us when she needs help and much more tolerant of us messing with her mouth than she has ever been. If anyone got touchy with her mouth she used to put her eyes down and lower her ears politely saying ‘I’m not supposed to have human parts in my mouth, and you’re putting them there and I don’t know what to do except move away’ and then leave, but now its like ‘ok guys someone come fix this, I cant breathe’ last night was apparently my night for rearranging the mouth prop when it needed it, every hour or two, and she started out near my feet at like 12 when we went to bed and wound up on my pillow at 6:40 when I adjusted it for the last time. We spent the last hour before my alarm went off literally three inches apart, which actually worked out because I could feel her breath instead of listening for it. Thing is it’s not a set formula, like this position and this pillow. I’m not sure why but it changes every time and I have to figure out the magic combination, usually a mixture of two or three pillows, the comforter and both throws. She’ll be ok for about four minutes then stop breathing when she actually falls asleep, so you have to stay really still and watch to see if the position is going to work when she’s totally relaxed. Then two hours later the position gets uncomfortable or she kicks her lip prop out and we start all over. It’s quite special.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

First day o Radiation

I printed a ‘radioactive’ sign out and stuck it on our front door, I thought it was hilarious but nobody seems to know what it is… oh well.

Honey had her first radiation treatment yesterday – they put her out for about an hour and got her positioning all set up – the marks on her face (you can see them better if you click on the image) are a map of where to direct the proton stream (energize!) and will be there for the entire month. Unfortunately, her left eye will be in the stream at all times – something we really were hoping to avoid, as it causes dry eye (possibly chronic) and increases her chances of cataracts in 5 years or so – but as Cameron told the vet, ‘if we get to experience cataracts in five years we’ll enjoy every minute of it.’ and we will.

Last night she was totally fine – playing ball, catching it in midair, demanding food, she was total Hun. They did say that her mouth will get sore, so we’ve ordered canned food so the hard food won’t hurt her. I’m anticipating problems if her lips get painful, as she still needs us to hold one of them up so she can breathe, if they’re burned or raw it will be really tough for her to tolerate us holding them. I guess that's when the pain / sleeping pills will get used. I’m also concerned that any soreness in her mouth will be exacerbated by dryness which happens when she breathes using the ‘lifted lip’ method. I think I have a schematic for a lip-holder, right now we’re using a plastic cork (from a wine bottle) we’ve sawed in half (long ways) but it keeps falling out. If I can orchestrate the thing I’m thinking of I’ll post a picture. It’s really cute, though, she knows what the cork is and that it helps her breathe so she just lets us do it. Love that dog. I think she's also figured out that if she falls asleep with a ball in her mouth and her head over someon'e leg she can breathe around the ball, as illustrated. This also has the added bonus of insuring Cameron can't leave, as she's sleeping on him.

Today is day 2 of radiation – each session after the first lasts about 20 minutes, with the dog ‘laughingas-ized’ for about 15 minutes and a 1-2 minutes pulse of that tumor-shrinkin’ goodness. She’ll have 20 treatments in total, so every weekday in February. Poor baby. But I actually did manage to sleep last night, which is so freakin cool I can’t stand it. There was a minor cork-readjust from around 3-4 am but other than that all went well for me. Cameron has miserable allergies, and we can’t seem to fix them. No amount of vacuuming or febreze allergen reducer or swiffering seems to help. It really sucks to have two sickies at once, especially as they’re both having trouble breathing , and both from the left sides of their nose…. Maybe we ought to get Cam zapped while we’re at it.

Monday, February 4, 2008

8 years of Honeydog

Eight years ago today I was standing in the Leon County Humane Society parking lot trying to convince a 4 month old Honeydog to get in the backseat of my 1981 Monte Carlo. This after I had spent 35 minutes convincing the cranky woman behind the counter that I would not, in fact, dump the puppy off in the woods anywhere or neglect to feed it, bathe it, or give it water, and that I would get it vaccinated yearly. It couldn’t have been clearer that she fully expected the dog to be dropped off at the pound again with a few weeks, at most. I’ve thought about sending the humane society a letter a few times, maybe with a photo of Honey in one of the weirder places she’s been, like the Native American Museum in the Painted Desert or the Versace store on South Beach, or one of the many, many National Forests around the country, and thanking them for letting me adopt her. I don’t know if this is motivated by the total worthless feeling I get whenever I think of that evil woman who clearly thought I was going to mistreat the dog, and a need to say to them “see?!?!?! I’ still a good mommy, you meanies” or what. I’m sure they can’t still remember her, she was a little pitmix puppy in a shelter about 2 hours from death eight years ago. I remember also that evening my mother, apoplectic, telling me that I had made a stupid decision that I would “regret for years” by adopting her. You would have thought I was pregnant at 12 or something. I seriously have no idea why nobody thought I could handle a dog. Turns out, though, being adopted by Honey was the best thing that ever happened to me. I’ve been incredibly privileged to share the past eight years with her, and it must be that I’m so profoundly grateful for her that I feel the need to thank anyone, the vets, the people at the pound, even though they could not have been plainer that they thought I was a horribly undeserving person, strangers who pet her on the street, and everyone who’s nice to her, from the bottom of my heart. I really should be thanking her, but how do you thank a dog? With veal? With cuddles? With neck rubs and medicine when she needs it? balls or carrides? I’ve been trying to figure that out for eight years. If you have any ideas, please let me know.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

I just figured out you can add pictures....

This is like a hundred years old, no gray hair even. Im my parents house in Tallahassee, Fl.

Honeydog in her favorite baby blanket in our apartment in Jacksonville, around 2004.

Honey and the late, great Champion in my truck in the Aapalachicola National Forest. 2003-ish

On the beach in Jacksonville, 2005 just after we moved there. She used to like to bark at the surfers, and knew a few of them. Dogs aren't allowed off leash on jax beach :(

Here is a teensy selection of photos of my Honeydog. She started radiation today and I haven't seen her since Cameron picked her up from the vet but I've been told she's snoozing on our bed and getting coddled, which I don't doubt. My plan for this evening is to cook and be near my doggiegirl.

First experience with snow, inCouldcroft, NM in 2006. She tried to eat it.

Honey and I in the Painted Desert, winter 2006 moving to LA roadtrip. it was the 100 year anniversary of the park, and we werethe only people there. they let Honey come in and share apple cider and sugar cookies they had as part of the celebration. There is a view from one of the mountains in the park that's 130 miles.

Honey on the beach in Santa Barbara in 2006 or early '07, the first time she was in the Pacific ocean. We finished our cross-country trip, Jacksonville to Los Angeles, in 6 days, then the next weekend we went to the dog beach in Santa Barbara.

This is Lyle Lovett Honeydog "on her way through Houston, headed for L.A." in my truck.

Piggy Hun

I’m going to start calling Honey 'piggy' because she snorts when she breathes now. I was up all night again holding her lip up (see lovely image) so she can breathe through her mouth, which is something she won’t do on her own. So unless she’s playing, and therefore panting, or lying on her side next to me while I prop her lip up and try not to move and wake her up, she still tries to breathe through her nose, which is completely occluded and therefore impossible. Poor baby. She also really (really) likes it when I rub her nose / face / neck, so I’ve been doing that a lot. Fortunately, we have a cable subscription that includes like 10 movie channels, so I was watching movies (Father of the Bride parts 1 and 2, Anastasia, Harry Potter 4, and Robin Hood Men in Tights) all night instead of infomercials on Lifetime. Cameron had the morning off so I went to the grocery store and I’m planning on making chili and then banana bread. I wanted Cameron to take a loaf of it to the oncologist with Honey tomorrow, but I’m thinking maybe I should send something prepackaged instead? When I worked in the public library insane people used to bake things and bring them to us, and we always threw them away (I know that sounds awful, but they also brought us dead seagulls and used hypodermic needles, so it really wasn't overly dramatic). I remember this one guy brought me fried chicken. Absurd. Anyways, on our first visit to the cancer ver I told them that she had a low tolerance to pain meds that “she must have inherited from me” and produced a chronologically-organized folder of all her medical records, including receipts, from the papers I signed at the pound when I was adopting her to the most recent, and had a corresponding notebook I had my questions for the vet outlined in, and took notes in while we talked (in different colored ink, so I could track who said what) so I’m fairly sure they already think I’m a wacko, but hopefully if I send baked goods they won’t think I’m a loon / crazed killer, because tomorrow is the 8th anniversary of the day I adopted Honey, and I’m encouraged that she’ll be starting treatment on that date. Also, I have a really kickass recipe for banana bread, and I'm grateful that those people do what they do, because without them she would have no chance.

On another note, I’m compiling some of the sources I used while I was researching canine chondrosarcoma. Most of the stuff I could find online was really old, from around 2000 or 2001, and the oncologist didn’t have any journal articles or current research on hand. It doesn’t help that my passwords from college to their knowledge base have expired and I can’t log in and search there. Here are a few of the REPUTABLE sources I have found:

The Merck Veterinary Manual:
standard book for vets, searchable online and current.

Entrez Pubmed:
Pubmed was developed by the National Library of Medicine as a free resource for doctors worldwide, and the standard language is English. It’s pretty clunky to search, especially if you haven’t had exposure to it before, but it frequently includes research into canine and other animal conditions as well as those of humans. I once found a study of the long term effects of woman aged 18 – 24 who took Maxalt, a migraine medicine I had just been prescribed. It was great.

Chondrosarcoma Support Group:

Remember, if you’re searching for medical information to not look just that the date at the bottom on the webpage, that reflects the update date, not necessarily the age of the information. The first article found on Google about Chondrosarcoma in dogs was from 2000, and terribly outdated. Also, Chondrosarcoma is good for comparative medicine, as it has many of the same characteristics in different species.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Saturday 02/02/08

Last night we figured the sleeping thing out. Since she won’t or can’t breathe out of her mouth, and hasn’t been sleeping, we were dealing with a lethargic honeydog who made some truly horrible and pathetic noises trying to breathe through blocked nasal passages. So Thursday night Cameron discovered that if you pulled her lip up she could breathe out the side of her mouth and actually get some (much needed) air, and therefore sleep. It was really sad; she was so exhausted that if you gave her a totally open airway while she was standing, she would almost fall asleep on her feet. So yesterday I worked from home and when I knocked off for the day around six I rubbed her ears with some lavender oil (aromatherapy for sleepy) and then held her lip up, and she immediately fell into this deep twitchy sleep. Sometimes her tongue would get in the way of her breathing, and she was so out I could put my finger in her mouth and move her jaw/tongue around so she had an airway and it didn’t wake her up. So we spent about three hours yesterday evening sleeping like that, and then played for a while and then went to bed the same way. She figured out exactly what I was trying to do and is now not only letting me stick fingers near her mouth (normally she HATES that) but also requesting it. So that’s what we did yesterday, how we all (finally) got some sleep last night, and that’s all we’ve done so far today. She clenches her jaw when she sleeps, so that’s why she wouldn’t (couldn’t? I can’t believe that anyone is that stubborn – even her) open her mouth before, and would have probably have to either be drugged to the gills or passed out to actually do it. She’ll sleep for about 2 hours then wake up and demand some food, we’ve started putting warm water on her food so she can smell it and its not so hard in her mouth on the biopsy site, want a massage, bring me the ball, then back to sleep. It also seems like the anti-inflammatories are starting to help her breathe as well, as she seems to be able to breathe a little better out her nose.

Anyways, the water was out in the building when I woke up this morning but it looks like its back on, and I’ve watched like four episodes of Antiques Roadshow, where people seem to get values on how ugly things are – “oh, it’s hideous. Insure it for around $5,000” also, who buys that stuff? I remember one episode where this lady had what she thought was a decorated salad bowl and it turned out to be a ceremonial hat form some completely eradicated Inuit tribe, and was worth more then I’ll make in a lifetime. I’m waiting for someone to respond to the appraiser’s value with “wanna buy it?” that’s totally what I’d do.

An orange ball just appeared in my lap. It seems it's playtime. Since we actually got her to sleep, we have our Honey back.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Cool news

The aspirate of Honey's lymph node came back "awesomely clean" so it has not moved to her lymph system. That is very, very cool. Like, WOOO HOOOO! And since it's not in her lungs either, double WOOO HOOOO! She also managed to sleep a little tonight - granted I was sitting next to her holding her mouth open, but hey, I’ll take it where I can get it.

Also, we're starting radiation on the 8th anniversary of my adopting Honey (2/4). I'm taking that as a good sign.

And I'm getting a ball shoved in my face, so I’m off for some fetch....

Diagnosis and the vet

We saw the radiation oncologist yesterday – ( his offices are nicer than any doctor’s office I’ve ever been in, by far, and the staff / doctors were all incredibly nice. Honey wasn’t afraid of it one bit, which was odd seeing as the last time she went to the vet (Monday the 28th) she was sedated, biopsies were taken, and she had to spend the night. The practice ONLY treats cancer patients, there were a bunch of prednisone-chunky half-haired doggies in the waiting room and they all seemed pretty happy to be there, so we took that as a good sign.

We met with the vet for about 2 hours, and he feels she’s a good candidate for ‘definitive radiation’ which means radiation treatment with the goal of remission or tumor elimination. We’re not sure if her cancer is an oral chondrosarcoma or a nasal chondrosarcoma, which means there’s no way of telling if it started in her mouth or in her nose, but it’s in both now. The survival rates for these types of cancers are comparable – 1-2 years for nasal with treatment, 16-24 months for oral with treatment. We decided to go for it, and she will get 20 doses of radiation – once daily, Monday – Friday for 4 weeks. We hope to start Monday, the 4th, which is the 8th anniversary of the day I adopted her from the humane society in Leon County, but it depends on her ‘plan’ being completed by then. They have a 3 view CT scan of her tumor and will enter it into a program (developed for human treatment) that will determine the best angles for the radiation to be directed, and the position she will need to be in for the treatment. Her first appointment should last an hour or so, where they arrange her position and take a bunch of xrays to make sure the tumor is in the target area, but after that the treatments will take about 15 minutes. They twilight her (thing laughing gas, like the dentist) and put her in the position the plan formulated, and then zap her. It’s just gas, so it’s not total anesthesia and not as dangerous.

The doctor is one of like 16 board certified radiation oncologists in the US, and he is directly responsible for the radiation of every animal. Everyone who deals in any way with the radiation and plan design is board certified, ahs had experience in both human and animal radiation treatment and has over 4 years experience of working with him directly, so we’re confident they know what they’re doing. He aspirated the lymph node nearest the tumor to make sure it hasn’t spread there, and gave her some anti-inflammatories and a sleeping pill (she’s having trouble breathing out of her nose, and for some reason WILL NOT breathe out of her mouth) so the plan was the antinflamatories would make it easier for her to breathe, maybe open up more of an airway, and the sleeping pills would zonk her to the point where she wouldn’t worry about breathing and wouldn’t wake up every minute or so to gasp for air, because her body will naturally open her mouth and take care of it. Too bad that’s not what happened at all – she spent the entire night trying to breathe out of a completely clogged nasal passage, and every 15-20 seconds would gasp for air (really loudly) through her mouth, but still wouldn’t open her mouth to breathe. Cameron and I spent the entire night holding her lips up so she could breathe out of the sides of her mouth and maybe get a little sleep. Result was that we got none and she got a teensy bit of gasping snooze.

I just spoke to the vet and apparently we didn’t give her enough of a does, as we only gave her half a pill, so tonight I’m supposed to give her more and completely wreck her so she’ll sleep. He also said that there is a chance the tumor is growing so fast that it’s occluding her nasal passages, which would be “really really rare” but if that were the case it would affect her chances of a remission. There’s just no good news, is there? Anyway, I’m feeling awful for giving her a dose which made her suffer all night, and freaked her out so much, so tonight ill give her a full pill and “watch her closely for the first hour or so to make sure she’s still breathing” well, you can just rock me to sleep tonight. Thank god tomorrow’s Saturday and it doesn’t matter if I’m a totally and complete zombie. Maybe I can get someone to come over and sit with me and the (hopefully sleeping) Hun tonight while Cameron’s at work, so I don’t lose my shit and freak her out in the process.