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Argus Update – Six Weeks

December 27, 2010 Fido No Comments

We are six weeks post-surgery and I haven’t given an update on Argus in awhile.

I thought he seemed “depressed” for the few weeks Greg was gone, but he seems to have bounced back from this (exhibiting none of the same symptoms when I was absent for a week!). He is content now that we are all home again and weasels his way onto the couch with us most nights. He takes up one half of the couch while Greg and I squeeze into the other half. We are suckers for this silly dog!

We went over to Windsurfer Beach yesterday for happy hour and I took some video. It’s a little long/boring (2 minutes), but it gives a good example of him getting around on the sand and over the rocks. Also, he pauses right in front of me for several seconds so you can see how his incision is healing.

After I took this, he went for his first swim post-surgery. I had the camera put away by then and I was too lazy to get it out. He never wanted to use his back legs to swim when he had four legs, but he’s finding that they are crucial now. We are headed over the hill to Half Moon Bay this afternoon and I hope to get him in the water again.

We are due for his second chemotherapy treatment this week and I am waiting to hear back from UC Davis to schedule it. We had a glitch when Greg took him to get it last week. Apparently something wasn’t right with his blood so they could not administer the treatment. We had sent in a CBC 10 days post-treatment and everything looked good then so I want to understand what was amiss to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Considering it’s a 2-hour drive one-way + a 2-3 hour treatment and the CBC we did locally cost $50, it was an expensive and time-consuming glitch.


Argus Update: 9 Days Post-Surgery

November 25, 2010 Fido No Comments

Every day has its ups and downs.

Some mornings, Argus is alert and ready to go outside for a walk and a big ol’ potty break that makes this mama happy (especially to see him figuring out his balance lifting a leg to pee). We come back home and I continue with my day, thinking he’s “getting back to normal.” But as the day progresses, he never gets up again. He then starts to shiver and pant. And then I start to cry.

Other days, Argus sleeps in and can’t be bothered by anyone or anything. This is depressing and just when I wonder if something is Really Wrong, he goes out and stands beside the car waiting to go for a ride. We go sniff around a favorite spot and come back home, where he starts to shiver and pant. And then I start to cry.

I just can’t figure it out. I know he’s only one week post-surgery and this surgery was obviously a big deal, but when EVERYONE talked about how “dogs just get it” and “he’ll bounce right back,” it’s hard to watch every minute pass by. Relatively speaking, sure, he’s doing a great job. But I’m with him roughly 22 out of every 24 hours and this is heartbreaking to watch in slow motion.

I think we’ve got the pain medication situation figured out. We’re giving him Tramadol in varying doses — two pills for the late afternoons and overnights and just one pill for during the day. He still takes just one Rimadyl (anti-inflammatory) twice a day in the morning and evening. I get up once during the night to give a dose of the medication and try to force more fluids. He’s more receptive to me giving water using a bike bottle and holding a small bowl underneath for the drippage.

He was really on a roll this morning and he took me for quite a walk in our neighborhood. He wouldn’t stop at the corner, and walked halfway down the next block before I made him stop and turn back. There, he got tired and had to take a rest before continuing home. On the way back, he stopped in our neighbors’ back lot and had a snack. Here are a couple of videos of the morning’s antics:

Walking quickly!



Uncharted Territory

November 21, 2010 Fido 1 Comment

We are settling into a routine and I don’t feel so utterly helpless (or hopeless). While things certainly feel more like our new “normal” now, I wouldn’t say I’m comfortable just yet. Things will feel even less comfortable when Greg leaves to spend Thanksgiving with his family in North Carolina. Starting Tuesday, I’ll be a single parent to a handicapped child and I’m not looking forward to it. Greg comes home on Black Friday and then leaves again on Monday to spend 2-3 weeks in Malaysia for work. The timing for these two trips could not have been worse. We’re both taking one for the team to keep our family up and running and doing what we can to support each other.

I’m just going to throw this out there… Is anyone interested in buying the rights to our story and making an Animal Planet Movie of the Week? Anyone?

Every day brings a new learning curve for us to navigate. Wednesday night was the crying. Thanks to everyone who either commented here or otherwise contacted me letting me know that crying can be a side effect of the strong pain medication! The last two nights, it has been excessive panting. It seems like he is under a lot of stress and we again have no idea what to do. Yesterday, we took his Fentanyl pain patch off as instructed and we wondered if the panting was an effect of withdrawal. He seemed to settle in the night and we were thankful that the panting didn’t turn into crying. Today, Argus was shivering a lot. I am mothering him and keeping a blanket wrapped around him whenever he is not moving. The shaved area and his remaining front paw have felt cold to my touch a few times, so I am doing my best to keep him covered. Now, he’s panting excessively again. Does anyone have insight on these changing symptoms/side effects?

As much of an adjustment as it has been and will be for us bipeds, Argus has certainly had his own learning curve in figuring out how to get along more independently. I can’t believe his progress! This video was taken this morning, 5 days post-surgery:

Argus was the one leading us farther away from home. He gets about three houses down before we turn him around, knowing he’ll get too tired to make the return trip. Our neighbors came by with Thanksgiving goodies this afternoon and Argus greeted them on the porch, soaking up some sunshine.

Around dusk, we took the Sprinter Van out for its inaugural run as a family. We did our usual Sunday afternoon thing and headed over to the Bay Trail to sniff around a bit. It was Argus’ idea, actually! He stood outside the van until I finally opened it up and helped him in. Who could turn down this face?

Also, you’ll notice Argus is sporting a new T-shirt. Ryan and Mandy sent this totally thoughtful and totally useful “keepsake” and it works like a charm to keep him warm(er) and stop him from licking his wounds. A big thanks to the Resslers for being the first to recognize that Argus is, in fact, a Tri-dog Extraordinaire!


43 Staples

November 20, 2010 Fido No Comments

At least I think I counted them all.

Argus has 43 staples holding that big gash together. Yesterday’s post didn’t really show the magnitude of the wound, so I thought I’d post a picture of what we’re dealing with. Sorry in advance if you don’t like this kind of stuff. The close-up shot below is somewhat graphic; consider yourself warned. I plan to post updates of the wound pretty regularly so we can watch it heal. The staples come out on November 30.

We have had much less eventful nights, which is a relief for all of us. Argus is getting around reasonably well on his own, though he doesn’t do much moving during the day. His usual MO before surgery was to spend the first part of the morning in his chair, then move out to the deck to lay in the sun for a little while before retiring to the bedroom to watch the goings-on at the front of the house. He’d start bugging me by 3 PM for an outing. Today, he only moved from the chair to the couch and back to the chair (and made his moves when I was gone).

When I got home from Book Club Thursday night, Argus was at the door to greet me. I think he forgot what he was doing for a minute because he made a running LEAP off the deck to chase the squirrels off. Thank goodness his instincts kicked in fast enough that he didn’t crash! Although I got quite a giggle from the stunt, it must have hurt and he’s been moving much more gingerly since. His walk this morning has been shaky and it’s clear he doesn’t feel good. It’s a rainy Saturday and I am content to sit with him on the couch all day.

Here’s the wound:

Day 4


Argus is a Tri-Pawed!

November 18, 2010 Fido 8 Comments

Our sweet boy has had a traumatic week. The good news is that the worst is over. I think even Argus can see the light at the end of the tunnel at this point.

Melody and I drove Argus to Davis on Monday morning to meet with our student doctor and the teaching professional for a consultation. Argus has the waiting room thing down and was not frantic to leave, as he often is at our normal vet’s office. In fact, he made himself right at home!

Our appointment started on time and I was immediately put at ease. Our student surgeon, Kristy Bowles, and her teacher, Dr. Lauren Larue, were very professional. While I had done my research and already knew most of the information they shared, they did answer my few questions honestly and compassionately.

One question I am thrilled I thought to ask: How big will the incision be? My expectation was literally 3-5 inches — you know, about the width of his arm. Dr. Larue held up her fingers to show the distance and it was LONG. Like, a foot long. I did not realize they were taking his entire scapula as well as the arm! Thank goodness for expectations being set!

They also managed my expectations regarding his homecoming. Both doctors seemed quite concerned about the size of “this big guy” and his ability to find balance and coordination immediately. In some cases, they keep the amputee for a couple of days so their team of aides can work with him and send him home set up for success. They would not know until Wednesday morning if we’d be able to take him home that night or if we would need to wait.

I waited impatiently all day Tuesday for the call from Ms. Bowles to let me know how the surgery went. The call finally came at 5 PM and was positive. The surgery was a success! She assured me that she would call me as soon as she got him up on Wednesday morning to see how well he was ambulating.

Wednesday’s call came at 8:20 AM. She was surprised and delighted to inform me that when she walked in to get Argus, he popped up on three legs as if to say, “Good morning!” What a good sign! She was able to walk him out to go to the bathroom, assisting him with a sling under his chest and he was adapting very well. We could take him home! Greg and I left at 3 PM to go get him (it’s a ~2 hour drive to Davis from San Mateo).

I was nervous. I brought a roadie in the car, just to dull my nerves a bit. Specifically, I kept picturing the estimated length of the incision. I don’t do well with stitches or staples and I knew they’d be right out there for the world to see. I also knew I needed to suck it up. So I sucked up some wine first and that helped!

It was dusk when Ms. Bowles walked him out to us. It was clear he was pretty drugged-up, but his tail did wag when he saw and heard us. It was pretty amazing to see him “walking” with a slight assist. From my vantage point for the below picture, I can’t see the damage and I think he looks great!

He was walking reasonably well, I’d say. Inertia kind of sets in on both ends. It takes him quite a bit of cajoling to get going, but then he gets on a roll once he starts. It was ungraceful getting him in the car, but we were finally on the road. I opted to sit in back with him. It was all I could do to comfort him (and be comforted myself).

The car ride home was uneventful. He settled well and rested his head on my lap. Once we got home, we fumbled around to get him out of the car. We ended up just having Greg carry him into the house, knowing he had to be in pain from all the movement and still very tired and woozy from the drugs. He seemed happy to be home, especially when he heard us preparing his dinner. Some things never change…  He waited patiently on his bed, rather than at my feet.

Obviously, you can see the large area they shaved for the surgery, and you can see part of the incision. There is no “stump” left. The whole area looks very swollen and bruised. After dinner, I sat on the floor with him and he fell asleep with his head in my lap. I was confident he would sleep well through the night based on all the drugs and the exhausting day overall.

I could not have been more wrong. Misery loves company, as they say, and we were all miserable.

Argus cried all night long. He wasn’t comfortable on his bed on the floor in our room, even with me laying next to him. We lifted him into our bed so he’d be cocooned between us. He still cried. Even with pain meds administered at 7 PM and 10 PM, we gave him more at 2 AM. And still there was more crying. He tried to get off the bed on his own, and luckily Greg woke up and caught him before he fell off. I walked him out to the living room and laid next to him where we had been earlier in the evening. He still cried. Around 4:30 AM, he got up, wanting to walk. He walked to his favorite spot on the couch, so I helped him up. I laid next to him and he still cried. He wanted up again, and he led me into our bedroom and crawled up into bed with Greg. More crying. None of us got any sleep. Greg and I were at our wit’s end, wondering what was wrong and how to make it better. Is this what parents of newborns go through??

Finally, when the sun came up and everyone was up and moving, he quit crying. We have no idea why he was crying to begin with or why it stopped at that particular time. Maybe he’s afraid of the dark all of a sudden?? I was concerned about spending the day with him by myself based on how laborious the night was. Greg went in to work late and busied himself building a ramp for easier access to the yard.

We got him to go down the ramp to try and potty, but he was having none of it. He did seem to be more stable standing on his own and we lingered a few minutes.

Looks pretty precarious, doesn’t he? I fashioned that bandana around his neck as a quick way to grab him if he starts to go down. It isn’t as abrasive as his collar and gives him a bit of flair! From there, the day got much better. Argus settled down and started to snooze. I cleaned up the “slumber party” that happened in the living room overnight and made breakfast. At least he wasn’t crying!

Needing a little fresh air myself, I barricaded him in his corner and went for a run. While I was nervous the entire time (especially since I forgot to put his anti-chew collar on), I knew I had left him in a safe spot and we both needed the solitude.

Here’s what I found when I got back:

Argus made his way through my barricade (a chair turned on its side, covered with pillows), walked the ~10 doggy steps across the living room, and made it up onto his overstuffed chair BY HIMSELF! And, he didn’t tear all his staples out.

I am in awe.

He has been in the chair for at least five hours now, and has even gotten himself up and turned around 180 degrees to find a different comfortable spot. He greeted the UPS man with a growl and then graciously accepted the treat he was offered. Things seem as normal as ever.

We’ll see how tonight goes when the lights are out, but I am hopeful that we have his pain under control and he feels more in control, in general. With two competitive triathletes in the house, I guess Argus is making his statement as a successful tri-pawed!