Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chemical Warfare Update: Day 8

Today marked the end of the first week of Bailey's chemo. We thought we were lucky and had made it through unscathed, but a late developing infection in her ear proved otherwise and has officially been blamed on the chemo. 

She spent the day at the vet to get treatment #2, but her CBC (Complete Blood Count) test showed she wasn't quite ready for it. Her white blood cell count was 4.6 (6.0 is low normal). He said that's not terrible, but specifically her neutrophil count (which is a type of white blood cell) was below 3000, which is the level they want it to be at or above before each dose of vinblastin. Hers was 2900, but he said if he gave her the treatment anyway, then next week could be even worse and (more) side effects could show up. 

So, we held off. She is still on antibiotics, got her ear all cleaned up and is on hold until Dec. 1 where we'll try again. If her ear doesn't look better by Monday, I'll have to take her back in, but otherwise, we get a reprieve from the vet's office for an entire week...something we haven't done in more than a month! Lucky us...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Chase

We already know Millie is a digger and a chewer. I found her doing both outside this afternoon...the question was, what was she chewing on? Usually, it's just a stick or branch or root or clump of dirt. But after seeing some evidence...

...I was pretty sure she was not chewing on any form of tree or plant. 

So, the chase began of me trying to find out what she was can see how it ended (you can also see  how well-trained my dog is and how well she listens to me. I'm definitely the alpha!) 

The trouble is we have about 10 of these sprinkler heads in our back yard. If she's found this one, she's bound to find the others. I can only hope for colder weather where the ground freezes solid to the point where her claws cannot dig through it. 

Sweet Bailey

Had to share this cute pic of Bailey. Despite the cold weather, she and Millie love being outside. The knot on the side of her face is one of those mean mast cell tumors. But, she's still cute!

Ear We Go Again...

Today marks the end of week one with Bailey's first dose of chemo. So far, she has done great. We've  noticed nothing different about her at all. That's the good thing. 

The bad thing is that I found a new issue yesterday. I noticed when I was rubbing her ears that she yelped a little. I decided to take a look, since it was the infamous 3-surgeries ear, and I immediately saw the problem. It appears that her skin and/or scar tissue in her ear has grown so fast that it is taking over. When I looked at her ear, there was no ear canal, no entry at all. The skin is completely covering the entrance to her ear. It looks like it was just sewn shut. 

I was able to get a few gentle pokes of a Qtip through there, so I know it's not completely closed, but still, it can't be a good thing. As luck would have it, her doc and vet tech are both off on Wednesdays...I really don't want anyone else dealing with it since she has such a complicated history. So, I've decided to wait until tomorrow when she goes for her second dose of chemo. I hope that is not a mistake, but it's what we decided. She seems to be fine although you can tell it is irritating her a little. She is still on antibiotics, so hopefully they are helping to fight whatever could be lurking on the other side. 

Ugh, if it's not one thing, it's another. We'll see how tomorrow goes. 

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Chemical Warfare Against Mast Cell Tumors: Day One

I just got back from dropping Bailey off for her first chemo treatment, so today is "Day One" of her fight against the mast cell tumors (well, she's been fighting them with multiple surgeries already, so technically this is day one of her chemical warfare). 

She's already been taking prednisone for almost a month, which is just a steroid pill. The "cocktail" of prednisone with her chemo drug, vinblastine--which is administered intravenously--is supposed to do the trick on these tumors. Our goal is to simply slow down the growth of the tumors and prevent additional ones from growing. There is no cure. They pop up so fast and grow at an amazing rate...doubling in size about every 3 weeks. And we do not want to put her through another surgery. 

Her doctor does not expect her to have side effects, but if she does, there are some drugs he can give her to offset those. But, Brent and I decided that if she experiences major side effects, we'll end the treatment. Right now, she doesn't even know she is sick, and quality is more important than quantity. She turns 13 in March and we want to keep her feeling good to the end!

Thanks to everyone for keeping her in your thoughts! I'll try to post updates often. 

Friday, November 7, 2008

Our own little Frankenstein, just in time for Halloween!

Poor Bailey had about 17 areas of staples on her body. She really did look like Frankenstein. All the staples were removed about a week before Halloween, so we didn't get the chance for it to double as her Halloween costume. 


Yoo-hoo!! Millie was in heaven. No worries, Brent had drained it before she got anything. We know, we know, dogs and chocolate never mix. 

The Blog Backlog Burden

OK, so I haven't been updating my blog. I have lots of excuses, but mostly now it's just the fact that I have so much to blog about with both dogs that the thought of sitting down to write it all out is feeling overwhelming. So, instead of going into lots of detail (as I'm well known to do), I'm eliminating my burden by simply making a list of all the things I woulda, coulda, shoulda blogged about over the last 3 months. And to make it go faster, the list isn't even in chronological order b.c that is stressing me out too.

 If anyone wants to know more than what I've included here, just comment and let me know! Hopefully I can get back on track having ridded myself of this backlog burden. 

1. Millie turned one on Oct. 12. I cannot believe she is getting so grown up. 

2. Millie achieved official "free roam" status, as Brent and I call it. She is no longer kennel-bound, even when we aren't home. We credit Bailey's maturity for setting the example of what you can and cannot do when "your people" are gone. We do close the bedroom and guest bath doors before leaving and have to keep things away from the counter...she is a definite counter surfer

3. Bailey has a form of cancer...mast cell tumors. Fortunately, it is contained in her skin for now. She had 2 surgeries during October, as well as 6 additional office visits. It was a lot of work and mess and pain for her, but she is doing great now. She starts chemo treatment (a mild one designed to reduce the speed of tumor growth) next week. I'm a little nervous about it, as it's an injection and not a pill like I first thought. Bailey doesn't know she is sick, that's the most we can ask of our almost teenager!

4. Last week, Brent and I thought it was time to say goodbye to Bailey. She got very sick and was acting very strange. She was digging holes and laying in them (at 4am), digging holes and vomiting in them, then covering them  up (bizarre!), shaking, fast heartbeat, etc. She wanted nothing to do with us and even scarier, nothing to do with food...treats, bread, peanut butter, nothing. We thought she was asking us to leave her alone and let her die in peace. Turns out, we overreacted. She must have just eaten something that made her really sick. We still have no idea what it was, but she got better about 12 hours later, so we are not complaining. 

5. Millie has fleas. And ticks. Well, I should say had. This all happened, mysteriously, while I was out of town and Brent was left in charge. We got some meds from our BFF Dr. Brantley (we should be his BFF considering how much we've paid him in the last few months...not to mention what lies ahead with chemo). Apparently a very small percentage of dogs can experience some side effects from this flea medicine (Comfortis), but it is very rare. Bailey experiences side effects from all medication, no matter how rare they are. And, as our luck would have it, Millie is already showing signs of following suit. About 8 hours after giving her the medicine (of course that equated to the middle of the night), she woke us up puking and salivating like nobody's business. At first we thought she had eaten something, then we remembered the medicine. I looked online and of course, a very small percentage of dogs in the study experienced vomited and extreme salivation. But, it said it was minor enough to not take them off the study. So, we let it run its course, which fortunately was only about two hours. 

OK, that's all I can think of, which is funny because I thought there would be so much more. But, nonetheless, now it doesn't seem so daunting to try to update this more often. 

Next post will be a photo montage. Enjoy!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Another Day in the Life as Millie's Mom

Imagine my surprise as I am vacuuming my kitchen today when I looked up to see this....dripping, wet mud prints all over my floor. I'm just glad I hadn't gotten around to mopping yet (well, wasn't even planning to mop until...)

Not sure why it even surprises me anymore. Notice the mud-stained towels drying in the background. We've gone through about 10 this week. Millie has more towels than Brent and I combined!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Not Quite Grown Up Yet

OK, so I spoke too soon yesterday when I said that Millie was all grown up. She is in fact 10-months old on this date, but has managed more than once today to prove to me that she has not yet outgrown her puppy ways.

Case-in-point #1: Still Muddy

I took these pictures after the THIRD time I cleaned her up today from getting in the mud. The pictures do not do justice to the amount of mud caked onto her legs. We barely even have any mud in our back yard right now (Brent filled the one big hole we do have in the yard and installed temporary fencing around it to keep you-know-who out of it), but Millie managed to not only find other mud, but also to get it all over her. Three times. All I can say is thank God for the water hose and her loving to be sprayed down by it. Otherwise, I'd have red clay all over my house (more so than I already do). No towel alone could ever remove that Georgia red clay from her thick white fur.

Case-in-Point #2: Damn Puppy Teeth

The past few weeks, she has definitely re-entered a heavy chewing phase. Not that it ever went away to begin with, but it had gotten a little better. I've tried to keep her gnawing at bay by giving her lots of rawhides and toys. Still, she prefers things that cost much, much more money than that. Like, for example, my glasses. Mind you, this is pair #2 that she has demolished. The good news it that I think I salvaged the lenses, so hopefully I will only have to pay for new frames. And, since she ate my last pair, I was smart enough when I purchased these (one month ago, by the way) to buy the cheapest frames they had. Insurance won't pay for them this time though, so it's "real" money now. Which leads me to case-in-point #3....

Case-in-Point #3: Time-Out for Bad Behavior

When she outgrew her crate, we knew we still needed a safe place for her to stay when we were not home. Safe for her and safe for us (see Case-in-Point #2). So, Brent built a custom gate (we haven't stained it yet) and we made our laundry room her new "kennel." Fortunately for her, she is rarely in it because I'm almost always home and she has proven (so far) that she can behave during the night and sleep in her dog bed next to our bed without causing too much damage throughout the house. But, on occasions like today when she cannot seem to behave herself, it serves as her Time-Out zone. I put her in there after discovering the eye glasses incident, and the fact that, afterward, she could not tell by my tone that she was in trouble and tried a variety of other tactics like biting me, jumping on the couch and harassing Bailey. That behavior landed her in time-out, where she still sits as I type. Mind you, her kennel is complete with big fluffy bed, a handful of toys and a giant bowl of water, so she is not suffering too badly. But, every few minutes I am hearing the miserable groan of her wanting to be out. Hopefully that is the sound of her internalizing her bad behavior and vowing to never do it again.

I know, fat chance.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Can You Hear Me Now?

When we took Bailey in for her annual shots last month, our vet told us many things we already knew. The main thing was that the tumor he removed just last year from the inside flap of her ear (which tested positive for cancer at the time-but no spreading) had returned...three times the size.

For us, there was no question on whether or not it had to come off again. Mainly because, well, let's just leave it at the tumor was super yuck and causing even more super yuck issues in her inner ear as far as cleanliness and odor goes. Left alone, it would continue to grow and potentially spread to the rest of her body. And continue to create more super yuck.

Our vet has performed countless surgeries on Bailey and her tumors, so he knew that, despite her age, she was a good responder to anesthesia, had never had adverse reactions or any trouble waking up. So, we all agreed to proceed with the surgery. The unfortunate part was in order to get the needed full-centimeter of clean tissue around the tumor, he would have to cut out part of her ear.

Like most dogs, especially Basset Hounds, Bailey is not vain. Cut out a part of her ear? No problem. For us, we were a little more concerned about that aspect-- her infamous shorter-than-average but still perfect to us Basset Hound ears might now be lopsided. But, with her health taking priority over her looks, we quickly put our vanity aside and never thought twice about having it done. We had no idea what to expect when she emerged from the surgery. My thoughts immediately went to an Easter card someone once gave me:

Would that be our Bailey?

Fortunately, her story ends happier than that of the chocolate bunnies. She has a small sliver of her ear cut out, but it is in the back part and it folds over naturally, so if you did not know, you couldn't tell.

And yes, she can still hear us just fine. And the rattling of any paper, and the sound of the pantry opening and the sound of Millie trying to sneak her food. So, we are all good!

From Little Pup to Grown Up

Last week, while Millie was taking a break from chasing birds, terrorizing Bailey and digging holes in my backyard, I thought she looked really cute guarding her coveted cupcake toy (like she ever doesn't look cute to me), so I took her picture. When I was loading the photos into my computer, I couldn't help but notice I had taken a similar picture in the same spot back in January, about seven months ago. My how she has grown! In my mind, she is still that little 12-pounder, even though now she is topping out near 60 lbs.

She turns 10-months old tomorrow--it's crazy to think she is almost one already. Time flies!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Diet Coke Break

I've learned to pick and choose my battles with Millie. Shoes, clothes, work papers and human food are all off limits (well, except for an occasional scoop of low-fat peanut butter to get her to eat her heartworm pill). But, everything can't be no. So, if she gets her hands on an empty box every now and then, I've decided to be OK with that.

One of her favorite things to shred is empty cases of Diet Coke and Diet Dr. Pepper. Fortunately for her, her parents are highly addicted to them (dad to DC, mom to DDP), so there are plenty of opportunities. The good thing is that she does not actually eat the box. She just shreds it. Into a million pieces. It's a great distraction that lasts about 30 minutes. It does create a big mess, but if it buys me a little time when I need a break myself, it's all worth it!

Bailey tends to think it's a tad immature. But don't let the pictures fool you. She is the one I have to watch because, once the destruction is complete, she will eat the tiny pieces of cardboard. Also, I know she enjoys the break, too. Because if Millie is spending her time chewing apart a box, it just means Bailey is on reprieve from being chewed herself.

Water Dog

Being the co-parent of a Basset Hound for the past 11+ years, water has strictly been something Bailey uses to quench her thirst. When she hears the tub water running or sees a hose coming near her, she promptly runs, er waddles, to the nearest, hardest-to-reach corner and huddles down in hopes you won't be able to pick up her dead weight. Fortunately, her mind can easily be changed with a short path of treats leading to the general vicinity of the bath-zone. Once you get her there, she is OK with the scrubbing part, but whines and whimpers throughout the rinsing like she is being abused (and especially hates the sight and sound of the water coming out of the spout into the tub). But, once she is all clean (and gets her reward treats), I know she agrees with us that it does feel good to be clean.

Golden Retrievers, on the other hand, are water dogs. Millie has learned a lot from Bailey in their short five months of being siblings, but the fear of water is not one of them. From day one, Millie has loved all things to do with water, and especially the water coming out of the spout in the jacuzzi tub. It fascinates her, and she tries to consume as much as she can as fast as she can because she knows it's just a matter of time before the "waterfall" will be turned off. She patiently sits in the tub, drinking as much of the soapy water as she can and looking forward to the final rinse off.

I've been anxiously awaiting the warmer days of late spring so that I could get Millie a pool to play in outside. After much arm-twisting and promising that I will not let it kill the grass, Brent finally caved and bought one for her. As I expected, she absolutely loves it. She was a little leery of it at first, but it took no time for her to get in and start "swimming." Just like bath time, she has the most fun playing with the water hose when the pool is being filled...chasing the streams of water in the air and swatting at the splashes they make. But, she's also enjoying just wading and cooling off.

Someday soon, I hope to take her to a "real" pool or lake or river or ocean. I can't imagine what she would think about crashing waves at the beach. And who knows, maybe after a summer of watching Millie enjoy her pool, Millie can teach the "old" dog that water is not such a bad thing.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What I Mean By Thoroughly Muddy

This was several months ago during a particularly rainy week. All the objects in my yard could not cover the many mud puddle opportunities. I don't think additional words are needed. 

You Have to Start Somewhere

I should have started this blog about six months ago when we first brought Millie home as an 11-week-old puppy. She has changed so much since then, as all puppies do, but I had to start somewhere, so I'm starting with today. I'll backfill along the way with more photos and stories from her puppydom. 

Actually, I'll start with yesterday. One of Millie's favorite things to do is find any source of water in yard and dig until it creates a puddle. Fortunately for her, the lay of our land (all .25 acres of it) helps her out (two close neighbors' sprinkler system coupled with our own, not to mention a pretty rainy April and May). So, hence the name of my blog: Thoroughly Muddy Millie. 

The first time I looked off my deck and saw her this muddy, I panicked about how I was going to have to take her straight to the bathtub and all the dirt and mud that was going to get into my house. I don't think it occurred to me that this was going to be a common occurrence. Now a much more seasoned puppy parent, I've learned to not fret about it and keep a stack of "Millie" towels by the back door to do the daily rub down after she has frolicked in the mud.