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Good Days and Bad Days

June 15, 2011 Fido 5 Comments

Like most cancer patients, Argus has good days and bad days. For a long time now, the good days have outnumbered the bad though we may be reaching the point of diminishing returns on that. Since he can’t talk, it’s hard to tell how he’s feeling. We hope to get a dog that talks next time…

External Changes
The lumps and bumps are hard to overlook. The one on his neck — the very one that came back as dead cells when the doctors tested it in Davis — is growing seemingly as we watch. Whether these cells are cancerous or not, they are alive and well!

He also has a large mass on his back. This one is different than the one on his neck. It’s harder than the one on his neck and much larger. The one on the neck seems to be a soft mass and this one is hard. Maybe it’s a bone tumor?

Finally, we can’t deny that there is another bone tumor on his remaining front paw. He licks this paw often (more than just grooming) and it’s very clear to us he is in more pain. Dogs carry 60-70% of their body weight in their front paws, and Argus now only has the one in front to carry his ~80-pound load. He is much more selective about which events are important enough to come down the deck stairs out back (neither Greg nor me coming home makes the list) and his walks are shorter. We’ve got him on 30 mg of prednisone at this point, given to him in one dose with his breakfast. Dr. Sutter has assured us we can’t OD him on the prednisone, so we feel like we can give him more if/when it appears he needs it. We started at 5 mg back in March and have ticked it up along the way.

Internal Changes
His breathing has been pretty steady up to this point. When we met with Dr. Martin in April, she recommended we take a baseline measurement of his breaths per minute when sleeping soundly. At that point, it was 9 breaths per minute. His sound sleeping is still consistent, but he is coughing more often and more things trigger coughing. This could be a result of the lump(s) they found on his lungs or perhaps the one on his neck is affecting his windpipe.

One example: he loves to bark at the mail person each morning until she gives him his well-earned three treats. The barking now results in a coughing fit every time. The same thing happens when he barks at the raccoons at night. Also, he will get into a play stance to instigate one of us to play with him, but as soon as he makes a sudden movement to be chased, he starts coughing. It sounds and looks like he’s trying to hack something up, but nothing (thankfully) ever comes.

His spirits still seem good and his appetite has certainly not waned (though we know this is also a side effect from the steroids). He is interested in going out each afternoon and enjoys being around us when we’re going about our day around the house. I took all the above photos Tuesday evening when we went over to the lagoon for a paddle and he was game to tag along.

Around The House
His favorite spot used to be on the couch, but he never gets up there anymore. Even when I lift him up there to snuggle with me, he quickly jumps back down. This is one of my all-time favorite pictures of him from a couple of years ago:

The next best spot was the overstuffed chair and he rarely gets up there anymore. It seems that he can’t get comfortable when he’s folded up, which used to be his normal sleeping position. I haven’t see him curled into a ball in at least a month. This picture was taken immediately after surgery; I couldn’t believe he got up there unassisted:

He has found a comfortable spot on the guest bed and he gets himself fully spread out when he lays there. My desk is in the guest bedroom, which means we spend a lot of time together during the day.¬†While we miss him at the foot of our bed each night, we’re grateful he has found a place where he can get the rest he needs. Luckily, our overnight guests have been happy to share the bed with him!

The heartbreaking thing, of course, is that we don’t know how long we have with him or what will end up being the last straw. Will it be his own breathing? Or will we have to make that awful decision that the pain is too much? Of course, our hope is that he goes to sleep one night and just doesn’t wake up…but we are not fooling ourselves to believe it will be that easy — for him or for us. We continue to live in the moment with him and be thankful for each good day we have with him.

Currently there are "5 comments" on this Article:

  1. I am so sorry that Argus isn’t doing well. I know all too well what terminal cancer is like both in human family members and feline. It sounds like you’re doing the very best you can to make him comfortable and cherish your time together. I totally understand not wanting to have to make the tough decision to put him down but when that time comes you will be doing the best thing for him. To be honest, I absolutely feel that humans should be able to make that decision for themselves and I know my late dad wishes he had been able. Thank goodness we can help pups and kitties once they’ve reached that point.

    I wish you all the best during such a tough time.

  2. Molly says:

    Thanks, Jenny! I agree with you 100% that we should be able to make the decision when to let our human loved ones go. It seems cruel and inhumane that people should suffer like that. My heart goes out to your family for what you must have gone through with your dad.

    Enjoy your runs with Mosely (I know you do)! I sure miss running with Argus. :-)

  3. carmen craig says:

    I have read this entire blog with tears. I just got home from the vet with my sweet Peaches. She had a bump above her foot that looks exactly like Argus, as did the xrays taken today. We have not done the biopsy yet so praying its not cancer. But if it is you have given me a snapshop of whats in store for all of us. I hope all is okay

    • Molly says:

      I am so sorry to hear about Peaches, Carmen! Thinking good thoughts for you both. Please keep me posted, and feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.

  4. Shannon says:

    I’ve read through your entire blog, and I really hate that you all and Argus have gone through this. My dog, Rutlie, who is 9 years old, was diagnosed with Osteosarcoma almost 8 weeks ago. We noticed the lump in the carpal bone area, did x-rays, and then did some chest x-rays to see if it spread, already. Luckily, it wasn’t in the lungs then. Here is the odd thing. He’s not presented any issues yet. He runs, jumps, isn’t in pain (unless you mash on his wrist bone), and eats well. He’s happy, and he is still playing like he always does. Sometimes, he will sit down in the grass after playing, but he is 9, so we know that’s expected. Even right now, at this moment, he’s running up and down the hall. But, here’s the thing: He’s starting to do that dry cough thing. It’s not super bad yet, but he does it, if he gets really excited. Today, when I came home (after finding out that I didn’t have breast cancer myself), he coughed up a little blood. I kind of lost it. This is the first time he’s coughed up a little blood, but I realize it could be due to the cough, itself. The Vet wants to do another x-ray. My husband is out of town, so I am dealing with all this on my own. I want to wait. Because if it is in his lungs, which we know is what usually follows, that’s Rutlie’s end game. It’s over. As I said, he’s not running a fever, or acting like anything is wrong at all: just the cough on occasion.
    We thought about amputating, but since he’s older, his prognosis isn’t great, especially as fast as it can spread to the lungs. I didn’t want to put him through that, then chemo, then have him die because of the lungs. His age is a huge factor in this decision.
    So, here I am, researching the cough, researching what to do, and I found your blog. I will not let him suffer. I won’t. However, when do we know when it’s time? He’s so happy right now. It’s hard to act now, since he’s not in pain–and only has that darn cough. But how do you know when? I am watching him every day, after I teach, and it’s as if I am waiting. Always waiting. I hate that I focus so much on his end game. I am trying hard to just love him, play with him, until I realize it’s time.

    But, how will I know? I don’t want him to suffer ever. Sorry for the long post, but I am at my wits end with doing the right thing, here. Maybe you can help me.

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