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We said goodbye to Cole today. He was still getting worse and the pain meds were working for shorter and shorter amounts of time. He was so weak he could barely get up and it was time. We are all heartbroken.
“It came to me that every time I lose a dog they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.” -Unknown
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Not that we haven’t been spoiling him for the past 7 months and not that our pets are not ridiculously spoiled to begin with but I thought I would share how we are stepping up the spoiling right now. It will help me focus on the fun parts of this time.
I bought a pack of ground beef, a big bunch of bananas, a pack of rotisserie chicken meat at Costco and bought a bunch of different canned food and treats. I got them some rubber bones that taste like meatloaf and pizza since chewing the normal bones seem to be a little tiring. We have about 15 kinds of treats in the house. We have pumpkin though he seems to be associating that smell with his amputation and turning away so Ella is enjoying that on her own. He used to love it but we fed him quite a bit of pumpkin during surgery recovery so that is my best guess. We have Greek yogurt and cheese and blueberries and he can eat every last bean in the garden if he wants it.
We give him treats with cannabis oil about an hour before meal times. He is getting a little kibble, a lot of canned food and tonight we added meatballs. I put his pills in balls of raw hamburger and oh my they both went crazy. They also got an extra meatball after dinner just because. I have been deemed The Bringer of Meatballs and it took an hour for them to stop checking if I have beef when I come in the room. I brought him water in bed when he was done eating and he wouldn’t drink until I left because he just kept checking for hamburger.
We are watching Netflix together right now. They get treats throughout the day. They will sleep with us again tonight and we will work on building my carnivorous bog garden tomorrow while sitting in the grass together. He likes helping with projects outside so I thought this would be a good way to spend the weekend.
Mike and I have all the easy to make food and a nice wine stash. I bought a Costco pack of Kleenex. I have a mobile vet lined up which is oddly comforting since I don’t want to be without a plan if things get bad fast. We can let her know when we are at that point and can just wait for his signals until then. We have a bunch of amazing friends and family offering to help with anything they can.
I’m feeling more positive since he ate. He has been getting picky about food and him eating every piece of kibble then licking the bowl clean makes me relax a bit. He seems to be a little stronger today so I think the chemo is almost out. We seem to have a good level and schedule for the pain medication figured out so hopefully he will sleep most of the night. We are keeping the meds as low as possible for now and have quite a bit of room to up the doses as we need it.
He will get meatballs with every meal every day. He will get cuddles and cookies and all of his favorite things. He will continue getting as many belly rubs as he wants. We are taking even more pictures than usual and I am making a mental note of every detail; every stripe, the feel of his scruff, his velvety ears, his doggy smell. We are looking at a ton of pictures from when he was cancer free and remembering both our strong warrior against this disease and the happy, carefree beast he was before.
Cole has really declined. The Vinorelbine has been great for his breathing but I suspect his lungs and skin are not the only places the cancer is taking over anymore. The Vinorelbine targets only the lungs and the oral chemo has not been enough for the rest of it. The mass on his side that was about the size of a marble about a month ago is a little bigger than a golf ball now. His breathing is good but he is starting to lose interest in food and even when he was eating all of his meals and snacks, he was losing weight. He seems so thin to me now. He is very weak and having trouble walking further than room to room. He is having trouble sleeping through the night and we had to start him on pain medications. I emailed Canna Companion a few questions about the cannabis supplement before ordering when his doctor first recommended them but they never responded. We found some oil drops available locally instead at All The Best Pet Care and those do seem to help a little. He is more relaxed and his appetite improved a bit. They were very helpful with questions when we went there so I recommend giving them a try if people are interested in adding that.
Mike and I decided to stop chemo and wait through the weekend to see if some of his symptoms are side effects of that. If so, we will watch for when he has trouble breathing and say goodbye. In case he doesn’t improve, we are making arrangements for a home vet visit next week. This last round of chemo was really hard for him and I can’t put him through any more.
I am trying not to cry but the grief keeps coming in waves. I am mostly able to just be with him and enjoy him for now. Mike is still wavering in and out of denial. Ella is worried and will cuddle him but has been a little distant too. She has resumed her cheerleader roll during potty breaks when we are encouraging him to walk. He has needed assistance walking due to a combination of being weak and loopy from the pain meds sometimes so the back half of his harness came out of storage. Rufus is limiting his terrorizing to Ella only so I know even he is concerned for Cole.
We have 2 beds in our master bedroom; we have a king size and the dogs have a twin to share. We are breaking our usual no dogs on the human bed rule and all 5 of us (2 humans, 2 mastiffs and Rufus the cat) are cramming on our bed for sleeping at night and sometimes movies in the day. We have been taking a blanket and pillows outside and sitting with him in the grass. He is getting all the treats and I’m headed out for steak, rotisserie chicken, bananas and more canned food when I finish writing this. He will have the most amazing week (or however long) I can possibly provide. It will be filled with his favorite foods, belly rubs, cuddling in a big snoozy pile and spending time in the back yard eating beans and peas from the garden and chewing sticks.
I’m feeling more positive than I did last week. Thank you everyone who commented on the last post. The encouragement to stay in the moment and be happy with him no matter how dark things look is really helpful.
Cole had his second dose of Vinorelbine yesterday. I wanted to give more details about it since Jerry mentioned this treatment is new to Tripawds. It is a chemo that specifically targets the lungs. Jerry, to answer your question, no the doctor didn’t give us anything for his breathing because the chemo should help if he responds to it. We are in luck because he does seem to be responding. We were very surprised last week at how quickly he improved. Within 24 hours, his breathing sounded less frantic and he seemed more comfortable. The coughing is down to almost nothing. His lungs still sound clear and his breathing is faster than normal but not nearly as bad as before the treatments.
The side effects for the Vinorelbine are similar to Carboplatin. The doctor mentioned the usual lethargy, vomiting and diarrhea possibilities but so far he only has lethargy. He does have a very increased appetite and a low grade fever lately which we are not sure if it is his body fighting the lung mets or a reaction to the new chemo. I spend Monday through Wednesday bringing him water and snacks in bed every few hours and regularly checking his temperature. He also seems like he has some muscle and bone aches which the doctor said is normal for what his marrow is going through right now. He is getting Rimadyl twice a day with acetaminophen in between as needed to keep his fever down and hopefully help with aches. We also give him Cerenia for two days after each treatment as a preventative measure for nausea.
The Vinorelbine really knocks him on his butt for a few days. He slept like a sack of rocks Monday night through Wednesday afternoon then seemed to pop back up all of a sudden. Wednesday evening, I was snapping beans from the garden for dinner. He heard the snapping from his bed in the living room and suddenly appeared in the kitchen doorway with Ella asking for a few so we knew he was feeling a little better. He loves beans and peas when we are outside in the yard so I think it is so funny he knows the sound of beans. Thursday he seemed to feel pretty good; a little more tired than normal but overall comfortable. He spent some time outside and was his old self again. Friday through Sunday he got a little more run down.
This week, he seems to be following the same pattern as today he is sound asleep and completely wiped out. He didn’t feel very good last night and was a little clingy. He didn’t seem comfortable until I sat on the dog bed and he sprawled across my lap so we sat like that for a long time.
He is still taking oral Lomustine for the mass on his side though the oncologist is planning to switch that to something else soon as that tumor has grown. He takes a break from the oral chemo for a few days following each Vinorelbine treatment. He gets Pepcid with the oral chemo just to be sure he will not be nauseous.
The oncologist mentioned she was impressed by some samples for pet safe cannabis she got at a convention from Canna Companion that might help him feel more comfortable. We are going to order some and will report back once he has a chance to try it.
That is all I can think of for now but I will keep reporting back.
Cole was doing great a few weeks ago and having fun running and playing in the back yard. We celebrated his 6 month ampuversary on the 11th and were enjoying summer. He was loving eating snap peas while helping me in the garden and playing a new game we invented where I steal his stick and he chases me to steal it back. The next week, he seemed tired and we thought he was overdoing it a bit with the playing and spent a little more time being couch potatoes together. The next week, he had a lump on his side and was breathing funny and starting to cough. We took him in for a checkup and x-rays right away and Friday the results confirmed our worst fears. The cancer has metastasized to his lungs and skin and it is fast.
We have been in contact with our oncologist over the weekend and went in today. We have been on Lomustine since he finished his Carboplatin last month. Our doctor started him on Vinorelbine today to try and target the lungs. If he responds, she hopes we can have another 4 to 6 months of good time left. If not, well……we will face that when we have to. He will not suffer but we can’t give up on him if he has a chance at more good time. Our doctor thinks he still has time.
I hate this. His doctor assures me he is not uncomfortable and is getting plenty of air but I hate seeing him breathe like this. I haven’t slept much because when it is quiet and still, I can’t help but listen to his breath and check on him over and over. I have panic attacks thinking he is struggling for air but my doctor assures me this is not the case. I really hope he responds and can be comfortable.
I’m too tired to put up a photo but for those of you who use Instagram, look for the #coleporterthemastiff tag or see it here in your browser. You can see him running and playing and cuddling Ella. Sorry for the disjointed post, it is hard to concentrate right now. I’m going back to holding him while we watch really scary movies now.