Thursday, September 8, 2011

Trouble - very overdue post, but I'm finally ready to post it.

The following letter was written on January 18th, 2011.  I've needed this much time to reflect on my time with Trouble and my relationship with dogs before I was ready to share here.  I will post photos and videos of our final weekend soon.

Hi Friends,

On Christmas Eve, Trouble came out of remission.  The first signs of his not being in remission were thought to be a soft tissue or spinal injury by myself and 3 different vets.  By January 9th, Trouble couldn't walk without a sling to support his back end.  That evening, I found a lump in Troub's throat.  The next day, Trouble had an MRI in Redwood City and saw his oncologist in Campbell.  He resumed chemotherapy immediately.

Trouble had the use of his legs back just over 24 hours and was following us around the house pestering us.  Over the next few days his strength and balance continued to improve and he was taking half mile walks with me and Marley.  He kept his scheduled grooming appointment for Thursday and attended his Rally class with me in Fremont that evening.  The only thing he couldn't do gracefully in class was his lovely drop-into-down, but he could lay down OK with encouragement.  That weekend, Trouble and I attended the Rally competition that I had entered him in some weeks earlier.  Trouble scored 99 out of 100 in both of his classes on Saturday, winning them both and eliciting compliments from classmates, spectators, and fellow competitors.  On Sunday, Trouble scored 96 out of 100 for fourth place, earning his AKC novice title.

Unfortunately, Trouble's cancer wasn't responding to the chemotherapy this time.  Not only were we not getting a remission, the cancer was coming back with a vengeance.  On Tuesday morning, Trouble just wasn't his sparky self and he was coughing a bit.  I made an appointment for him with his oncologist.  Usually, I have pets put down at the house, but Trouble absolutely loved going to the oncologist and he would own the room the moment he entered the building. 

Trouble had a big breakfast of warm turkey burger followed by a game of favorite toy fetching and wrestling with Marley.  Within a hour, the tumor in this throat had roughly tripled in size.  I was given such a gift of a time window - Trouble was alert and pretty much pain free, but it was only going to be hours before this wasn't the case.

At the oncologist office, they have a special room that is set up like a living room with carpet, nice chairs, a couch, and low (non fluorescent) lighting.  Nurses and other vets came in to say goodbye.  He did lots of waves, nose touches, lefts and rights, and leg crosses.  He ate all 3 packs of madeleines that I bought for him that morning.  He went with only one piece of madeleine remaining.  Marley was by his side and he was petted and talked to by myself, my mom, Dr. Kiselow (his oncologist) and Aysha (his nurse) through the entire process.  We were all crying (well, not Marley).  Marley watched as Trouble passed.  When I released her to investigate as she wished, she rushed to take care of Dr. Kiselow and give him kisses.  Leave it to Marley to take care of us - she seemed to know Trouble was gone.

The house is quiet, but Marley is doing well and taking care of us a little more than usual and maybe needing to carry a big stuffed toy more that usual, too.  I feel so fortunate to have had such a fantastic final weekend with Trouble, just the two of us.  I'll send photos of his win after I purchase them from the photographer.

I'm so glad I got share my life with that fantastic, sweet dog.  I'm so glad I got to share him with so many other people.  Thank you for being part of Trouble's life.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Never Shock a Puppy

No, not my title.  It's from  Check out their blog on POSITIVE REINFORCEMENT dog training as opposed to using shock collar.  Below is the Never Shock a Puppy Manifesto.  Check out their website for more of the great information they provide.  

Never Shock a Puppy Manifesto
October 20, 2010
We believe dog training should be fun for both dogs and people, not a power struggle.

We believe dog training is far more about building relationships and trust than it is about instituting “control.”

We believe dogs learn our rules through efforts to bridges the communication gap between species.

We believe that we cannot (and should not) punish our dogs into behaving better — no matter their size, age, breed, or sex.

We believe in positive reinforcement dog training, where dogs primarily get rewarded for the behaviors we seek, not punished for the ones we don’t.

And, finally, we believe that any time someone hurts a dog, scares a dog, or intimidates a dog in the name of dog training, it damages the relationship and makes the dog afraid to do something “wrong,” rather than excited to do something “right.” Dogs who learn to love learning are far more likely to do as we ask.

I can't wait for their next campaign:  Never Choke a Puppy!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Trouble graduates chemotherapy

Trouble in his chemotherapy graduation bandana
"Congratulations!"  is  what our favorite nurse said to us when I picked up Trouble from his 16th and final chemotherapy treatment.  I'm not sure how I feel about this.  Yes, Trouble completed the full 16-treatment, nearly 6 month cancer treatment course.  Yes, he went into remission right away.  But now, we monitor.  We wait for something to go wrong and hope to wait a really, really long time for that to happen. 

Trouble sailed through the treatment.  Did we have "quality of life" versus just owner selfishness?  You bet we did.  Trouble still went to work to bark at my coworkers and collect sticks from the bushes near the parking lot, he had hikes and trips to the beach,  he wanted to play with his favorite toy all the time, he trained in agility, and he started taking Rally-O classes one evening a week.

Cancer survivor!
Did this cost a lot?  You bet it did.  Worth every cent every time Trouble wags his little (now fairly bald) nubby of a tail or touches the cookie jar for service or brings the favorite toy.

It's all been so surreal.  Here we are - six months after diagnosis and a dog who was fading fast.  Tonight, Trouble will eat his dinner and bring his favorite toy and wag his Trubbie Nubbie tail and we'll go out to play like it's any other day and nothing is out of the ordinary.  Dogs are like that - and we love them for it.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Overdue Trouble cancer update

Well, well.  So much for staying on top of blogging. 

It's been 5 months since Trouble was diagnosed with Lymphosarcoma and started chemotherapy. 

Trouble is on a rotating series of chemotherapy medications.  For the first 2 cycles, the treatments are weekly; for the second 2 cycles, the treatments are bi-weekly.  The first and third treatment of each 4-treatment cycle is Vincristine. 

Trouble's first Vincristine treatment was nothing short of horrible.  He was fine the evening of his treatment (he goes to the oncologist on Fridays) and the next morning.  On Saturday afternoon, after a morning on the beach and an afternoon hike, Trouble threw up.  From that point, his appetite stated to rapidly diminish to nothing and the vomiting increased.  By Sunday, Trouble was at our vet's for anti-nausea injections and subcutaneous fluids (the effects of subcutaneous fluids are nothing short of amazing).  I gave him more subcutaneous fluids at home on Sunday evening.  He looked awful.  He had lost about 7 pounds (he normally weighs 54 pounds), his eyes were sunken into his head, and he didn't want to get up.  Thank heavens, by Monday, he was eating and getting better.

After that horrible first treatment, Trouble was given an injection of Cerenia after every chemotherapy treatment and given Cerenia orally for up to 4 days after treatment.  In addition, the dosage of Vincristine was reduced.

So, here we are.  Fourteen treatments down and two treatments to go.  Trouble is doing great.  He has had no further vomiting, his weight is back, his energy is normal, his muscle tone back to normal.  Sometimes he seems mildly mentally foggy or seems to have a bit less stamina than I would expect him to have.  He has lost a tremendous amount of hair, but he's back to agility training and we started attending weekly Rally practices.

Trouble and Marley at the Run for the Seals at Rodeo Beach, the day before we found the lump in his throat.
Trouble and Marley in my front yard 8-14-10.  Notice the difference in Trouble's coat!

It feels like it's taken this long to exhale after Trouble's diagnosis.  Now, with two treatments to go, it seems really scary again.  We'll finish treatments and then monitor and hope for the best. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Time to adopt the NIKE attitude

By this I mean "just do it." I have a running, hyperactive list of blog topics spiraling in and out of my mind, but never landing here!

The best way to learn about so many dog-related topics is networking. My blog is intended to be one more networking outlet.

So, I'm going to try to get something out of my head and into this blog a few times a week. The whole point is sharing information, ideas, and person trials and triumphs. Hopefully, this can introduce a few dog owners to some really great stuff that makes their life with their dog that much more fulfilling.

How about the blog title "Shut up and train your dog?" I feel this way often. Cool topics might include: "What's it worth" (regarding dog reward values), raw food, tricks, fun walks, fun dog-friendly events, reviews of dog-friendly restaurants, finding the right vet, get rid of that awful prong collar...

OK - now I need to make good on my intentions!

Unfortunately, I have first hand knowledge of another topic: Canine Lymphosarcoma. My 7 year old Aussie, Trouble, was diagnosed with Lymphosarcoma on March 15th.

We discovered a lymph node the size of a tangerine on the side of Trouble's throat on Sunday morning (it definitely was not enlarged on Saturday - I am certain of this). He wasn't as active as usual and, though he ate his meals, his appetite was diminished. He received a preliminary diagnosis at my vet's on Monday morning. At that time they took blood samples, biopsies from 3 enlarged lymph nodes, and did chest and abdominal x-rays.

Here is the rundown from the first Monday vet visit:
  • Swollen lymph nodes all over Trouble's body - BAD
  • Enlarged spleen - BAD
  • No abnormalities in the x-rays - GOOD
  • Healthy, fit dog - GOOD
  • Likelihood of remission with treatment = 85% with an average remission length of 1 year - GOOD
By Tuesday, the biopsy results showed that Trouble had Lymphosarcoma and the results of his blood work had my vet concerned that Trouble's bone marrow was involved (BAD). I made an appointment with a veterinary oncologist at VMS in Campbell, CA for Wednesday. In the meantime, Trouble's energy was fading fast. I was worried he might not last more than a few days. Thank heavens for wonderful vets at Evergreen Pet Clinic in San Jose and my friend Michelle (a vet in Santa Cruz) - everyone was so helpful and supportive. It made decision-making pretty easy.

Wednesday, Trouble was really slowing down and acting like he didn't feel well. That afternoon, he saw the oncologist, Dr. Kiselow, and started treatment.  Additional biopsies were also taken.
  • Most dogs handle the treatment very well with only mild vomiting and loss of appetite. They maintain an active, happy life during treatment - GOOD
The plan is 6 months of treatment and then monitoring from then on.

By Thursday night, about 28 hours after initial treatment and about 12 hours after his first dose of Prednisone, Trouble was about 99% himself.  He was barking, carrying favorite toy, and bumping the treat jar for service!

I'll catch up on the following weeks - but, so far, the news is mostly good! Trouble is in remission, eating normally, active and happy. Fingers crossed and hopes high!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Life's a beach

There's nothing like the beach for entertaining and wearing out dogs. Here are Marley and Trouble team tugging a stick or a piece of seaweed. Of course, aussies have self-cleaning coats, so all of that sand will fall off the dogs into my car and home - but it's so worth it! I'll have happily worn out doggies!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Repeat after me, "GOOD DOG!"


Does your dog know what this means? Do you say this to your dog often?

"Good dog" is the most important part of training your dog. "Good dog" lets your dog know it is doing something right.

When is your dog a good dog???

Whenever the dog sits when told. Whenever the dog doesn't jump up on someone. When the dog quietly watches you and wags its tail. When the dog is just laying there not getting into anything.
I'll bet your dog is often a good dog - so take advantage and give positive reinforcement with a "good dog!"

I hear lots of people telling their dog "no." But why? Does it make any sense to say "no" when your dog encounters another dog? In that scenario, what does "no" mean? What was the dog doing that you didn't want it to do? Or do you just want to label other dogs as "no." What do you want your dog to do? Dogs are not creative in thinking up something nice to do after you tell them "no." If you tell a child to leave you alone because you're busy, he'll go play video games or get his own snack. If you tell a dog to leave you alone, chances are it won't go in corner and practice it's sit-stays! Tell your dog what you want it to do. For instance, maybe you could tell the dog to settle or go to its bed or get its toy.

Dogs don't respond well to always hearing what's wrong and never getting any feedback on what's right. when you say "sit," "sit," "SIT" and then just give the dog the silent treatment when it finally sits, how does it know that it's done what you wanted? Is your dog supposed to think that since you finally finished yakking at it that you must be happy? How about a "good dog?" How about learning how to help your dog be a good dog?

"Good dog" isn't just a verbal reward, it's a mindset. It gets you to pay attention to your dog and let your dog get attention for being good. Get started training your dog positively right away. Ready? Repeat after me, "GOOD DOG!"