The stitches come out tomorrow!

(To the tune of “The sun will come out tomorrow,” of course!)

The stitches come out tomorrow!
So, they gotta hang on
til tomorrow, come what may!
Tomorrow, tomorrow no sutures tomorrow!
It’s only a day awayyyyyy!

No?

Ahem.

OK, I hate to even type this sentence because there are still about 20 hours until these stitches get removed, but… this is the first time EVER we made it through a full course of stitches. No staples required!

Funny enough, Emmett’s due for his next blood test tomorrow, and Newt’s due for a nail trim. So, we’re ALL going! Well, not Cooper. But John and I are taking the other three to get everything done at once. We’ll see who makes it back in once piece.

I’m relieved he’s getting these stitches out. Making sure that they stayed stitched has been stressful because, as I mentioned, it’s never happened before. So, I’ll be able to let my guard down a bit. Plus, he’s getting extremely mobile. He’s going up the steps from our back door like a champ (I posted a video of him nailing it on Facebook), and yesterday, out of nowhere, he waltzed over to the steps and, rather than wait for us to grab the handle on his harness, he sailed down the steps for the first time. All by himself! Totally unassisted! Both John and I were holding our breath, scrambling to get over there, and when we saw that he made it on his own, we couldn’t stop cheering.

He’s ready to move around independently, but I still need to force him to go slowly.

Out in the sun

 

He’s climbing on the couch on his own, tackling the stairs, getting in bed – all by himself. He still has a hard time maintaining his balance while going to the bathroom, but yesterday he did, in fact, do a #1 without any support. So, we’re getting there! Incrementally, of course, but progress is progress! Once his stitches are out, I think we can allow him a little bit more freedom, though he’s still wobbly with pain meds. I’m going to ask her how we go about weaning him off of those, too.

The thing I keep forgetting, the thing I keep having to force myself to remember is this: We’re only at Step One. Once he’s considered “recovered” from all this, we start the chemo trial. I keep avoiding that fact, staying focused on his recovery from surgery. But he’s basically there. So, I guess tomorrow we figure out those next steps and when he starts the trial.

In the meantime, dear friends, the world lost an amazing dog yesterday. Sweet Melvin passed after a short battle with cancer. He was so loved and made the world a brighter place. He will be missed and grieved. If you can spare some space, please hold his person Tracey and dog brother Jake in your heart.  

So, there’s this bird…

I haven’t been able to get a picture of him on my slow cell phone – he’s a fast-fluttering little guy – but he’s a robin like this.

Robin

 

Actually, there’s a whole family (horde? flock?) of them, and they have apparently moved into/on our house. It started at roughly the same time that Lucas came home from surgery. This one robin kept slamming head-first into our front door. I was worried that the little bugger would crack his skull open on our doorstep, but then he started to spend more time sitting on the door handle. He just perched right there and looked in.

Then, he started tapping on the glass. He sat on the handle and pecked at the door. Tap, tap, tap.

It would’ve been funny, I guess, if it didn’t get the dogs so riled up. So, before Lucas came home and while Cooper was at doggy daycare, I took action:

Emmett and Newt keep the robin away

Action.

Emmett and Newt parked themselves in front of the storm door, and the bird disappeared.

Then, we brought Lucas home. Fluid pooled around his incision, so he was on strict exercise restriction. I couldn’t leave the door open because Cooper would flip out, and we needed to keep Lucas still. Yet, our robin friend came back, and the bird kept at it. Tap, tap, tap.

Launching out of bed to bark his face off at a robin pecking at our front door was not an approved activity for Lucas.

Over the course of the next few days, I printed out peregrine falcon cutouts from the EPA site. At this point, another robin had started flying into our back window for hours at a time every morning. So, we stuck cutouts in the door and in the back window.

Surely – surely! – the impression of predators would stop this attack.

Nope. In both the side and the front, the robins started attacking the cutouts.

Plan B.

I moved Newt’s cat tree in front of the door.

Newt improvises

It worked-ish. She sure liked being up there, but she wouldn’t stay all day. She’d wander off to do Cat Things, and our robin buddy would be back tap, tap, tapping at the glass as soon as she disappeared.

To say I was “annoyed” is like saying the ocean is kind of big.

The scene: Tap, tap, tap. Cooper launches up to bark. Lucas launches up to back up Cooper. I launch up to grab Lucas’ harness and try to settle him down. I sit back at my computer to start working again, and…

Tap, tap, tap.

Meanwhile, another robin showed up in our yard. There were several close calls when Coop would run out, and the little guy would be slow to flutter away. Just what we need. Attacks from all sides. Is my eye twitching?

John was looking out the window. “I think something’s wrong with that bird.”

“You mean other than bashing his face into our house all day long?”

“His leg is broken.”

We watched the little guy hop along the fence line, and sure enough, his little right leg is broken. He holds it tucked under him but doesn’t use it. He’s slower than the others, but he can still viciously attack our back window with the same force as the rest of them. In a weird way, I’m happy about that.

This morning, he was hanging by the screen by his one good leg, flapping his wings a bit to stay balanced, but he was doing it.

Sure, it’s annoying me to no end. But, at the same time, I can’t help but feel like this little guy showed up to… what? teach me something? tolerance? patience? Who knows. Either way, in an act of solidarity, I’m putting out a basket of Lucas’ fur because I’m sure this little guy (or gal – I can’t tell) could use a little boost toward collecting nest material. And, sure, it’s going to annoy me even more when all their little nests are built around the porch, and we can’t go in and out our front door without being attacked by all the mamas, but… I suppose that’s what garages are for.

 

What a difference a day can make

Yesterday morning, we emerged from the fog.

Lucas came home from the hospital on Thursday. We knew it would be hard. We had no idea how hard.

On Thursday, he did well. We arranged our living room so that he was corralled into one area with a mattress. We put throw rugs, door mats, and bath mats in a circle from that spot to the kitchen to the back door. We put non-skid rubber on the steps; unfortunately, to get outside at our house, you have to go down a half-flight of steps. We helped him up and down. We helped him to his water dish. We helped him out into the yard. He wouldn’t let me out of his sight, so I had to be careful to stay nearby to encourage him to stay still. Overall, though, he was doing okay.Settling in at home

He slept fine Thursday night, and he was getting steadier on his feet by the minute. On Friday, I had to take him back to the vet for a bandage change and to have his fentanyl patch removed.

{{I know some of you guys love stuff like this and some of you hate it, so I didn’t want to embed it, but… while he was getting the bandage changed, I snapped a pic of the site. You can click here if you want to see it.}}

Being so good at the vet

We underestimated just how much pain relief the patch was bringing him. Once we got home, he settled for a bit, and then he started whining. And crying. And popping up and falling down. Then crying and groaning because he was so frustrated. He refused to go to the bathroom. Refused. When it was time for bed, we gave him his medication, settled him onto the mattress, and he scrambled to get up. We tucked him back in. He tried to get up again. Around midnight John took him out, and he finally went to the bathroom. We thought that must explain the discomfort.

Back to bed we all went. Except Lucas. He was whining and crying and pacing and falling. So, I kept getting up with him. I tried taking him out, thinking he might have been a little bit… behind schedule… after a whole day of not going. Finally, just after 3 am, I climbed onto the mattress with him and patted him as we both fell in and out of sleep until 7. By the time the sun peeked into the living room, I was nearly in tears.

Then, Lucas couldn’t get up.

He panicked. He yelped and flailed. John helped him up, and it seemed like all the progress he had made the day before vanished. His legs slipped out from under him, and he could barely make the walk outside, even with assistance.

Our vet told us that if he seemed to be in pain, to give an increased dose of his pain medication. So we did that with his breakfast, and all day Saturday he waffled between intense whining to showing a bit of improvement. He had visits with his friend Ann and our incredible neighbors, which really lifted his (and our) spirits.

When we went to bed Saturday night, I was so afraid we’d have a repeat of the night before – and I was exhausted at that point! Helping a 70ish-pound dog up and down stairs and all around the house for a few days was taking its toll. Thankfully, he only got up twice Saturday night and was easily settled back onto his mattress.

He awoke on Sunday a renewed man!

I’m not sure what happened or if he’s just getting steadier and more confident. Maybe we have the right balance with his pain meds, but Sunday he was raring to go! He kept getting up on his own and hopping around the living room or  the kitchen. He even went to the bathroom first thing in the morning (he was holding it until about midnight the last two days…) and then came inside and sneaked onto the couch! He is definitely NOT allowed to be climbing on the furniture at this point, but he sure did!

Lucas sneaked onto the couch
What?

His spirits just seemed to be back! There was a lot of wagging and a lot of defiance (sneaking off or putzing around when he was supposed to be still), and even though we have to be super careful, I was thrilled. The change was vast over just one night!

This morning he gets his bandages removed, and he’s supposed to get the stitches out in two weeks. Somehow we need to keep him from opening them for two weeks. Hmmm. The tricky part is that we probably won’t be able to use the harness because it sits right about where the stitches are. I may head over to the fabric store and see if I can whip up some sort of sling. Our friend Ann made a one-armed sweater for him – it’s DARLING – that might be able to provide a good buffer. I’ll experiment and see what works.

I’m relieved. He’s doing so well. I’m going to get some video of him hopping around to share, and I have a ton more to talk about with this and all sorts of other things that have been going on around here. Oh, and there’s this “job” thing that I’ve been putting off! But, I’m so happy my guy is doing great! (Thanks for the pic, Ann!)

Lucas in the yard

Hope you had a lovely weekend!! Thanks for all the kind words for the big boy. It’s working!!! Thank you!

How to read a pet food label: Insights from Petcurean’s senior nutritionist

Good nutrition for our dogs is critically important – even more so now that we have two with cancer. We’ve been feeding Petcurean this year and had the opportunity to speak with their senior nutritionist, Dr. Jennifer Adolphe, about how to read a pet food label when you’re trying to select a new food. I had planned to share this last week, but with the whirlwind of Lukey’s appointments and diagnosis, it fell through the cracks. Since he’s in surgery today, and there won’t be any updates until much later, I thought it was the perfect time to discuss how to suss out high-quality ingredients on a pet food label.

Petcurean Blogger Advocate

When I first started looking for new dog food for the boys, the labels overwhelmed me. There are so many unfamiliar terms! I asked Dr. Adolphe where to start when looking at a pet food label. She mentioned that you need to first take into account your pet’s life stage, activity level, overall health, and dietary requirements. Then, proceed to the ingredients.

She said, “It sounds obvious, but many pet owners don’t take the time to read what’s on their pet food label. Pet food labels must list their ingredients by weight. Look for a fresh meat source or species-specific meal as the first ingredient, i.e. chicken or chicken meal, salmon or salmon meal. Meat meals have a high percentage of protein in the form of digestible, usable amino acids. Species-specific meals do not contain feet, feathers, or entrails.”

Next, she said, check out the guaranteed analysis and feeding guidelines. “The guaranteed analysis includes key information such as protein, fat, and fiber levels, as well as the calorie content.  Feeding guidelines provide a starting point to help you determine the appropriate amount of food for your pet and you should increase or decrease the amount you feed based on your pet’s activity level and weight.”

I’ve always avoided by-products, of course, but I wasn’t aware of the details on meat meals. Dr. Adolphe explained the “meat meal” further. “Fresh meat, such as chicken, is converted into a meat meal using a cooking process. This process removes the water from the meat and allows pet food manufacturers to add meat meal as a dry ingredient. Meat meals are used in pet food to ensure a finished kibble, that is high in quality protein and more nutrient dense (since it takes 3 to 5 pounds of fresh meat to produce 1 pound of meal). In addition, named meat meals have an increased shelf life as compared to fresh meat. It is important to ensure that the meals used are BHA, BHT, and ethoxyquin free.”

If you’re looking for fresh meat, which is one of my goals, she suggests finding a recipe that uses only fresh, de-boned meat, like Petcurean’s NOW FRESH line versus the GO! line, which is a more concentrated level of meat protein.

Dr. Adolphe’s final words of wisdom: “Pet food is not always a one-size-fits all solution.  While reading the label is a great place to start, it may not tell you everything you need to know to choose the best food for your pet. It is important to work with your veterinarian or pet nutrition specialist to make sure the food meets any specific health requirements unique to your pet.  Product packaging should include a website and a 1-800 number to contact the company with any questions.”

We’ve been happy with the selections from Petcurean. The boys don’t care as much about what’s on the pet food label as we do, of course, but they’ve been happy with the flavors. I’m glad to learn more specifics from Dr. Adolphe!

Do you have any questions about how to read a pet food label? Anything you wish I would’ve asked Dr. Adolphe (could be a follow-up down the line) or questions you have about your pet’s food label?

About Petcurean’s senior nutritionist: Dr. Jennifer Adolphe graduated with her PhD in companion animal nutrition from the University of Saskatchewan and is a registered dietitian with the College of Dietitians of British Columbia. Jennifer has three Australian Shepherds, Roxi, Timber and Chip. Roxi and Timber are in their glory when they’re chasing toys and carrying them together, while Chip’s passion is to run long, hard and fast. Typical sibling rivalry! Jennifer is responsible for formulation and product development at Petcurean Pet Nutrition, a Canadian, family-owned company committed to offering superior quality pet foods.

Disclaimer: Petcurean is providing us with dog food for the boys. Plus, they generously donated $500 worth of the same food to Friends of Homeless Animals, the shelter where we found Emmett! However, as y’all know, we would never share anything we didn’t believe in simply for the sake of compensation, nor would we write a positive review that wasn’t the truth. If something doesn’t work, we’ll be totally honest!

Around here lately

I am the type of person who likes to have things under control. I plan, organize, and list as much as possible. There is nothing in control with this Lucas situation. So, I’ve been pouring my energy into getting everything prepared for his recovery. Here’s what’s been going on around here lately…
Around here lately

  1. His amputation is tomorrow. Some of you might remember, many years ago Emmett had his first bout with cancer. He had a nerve sheath tumor in his foreleg, and the oncologist recommended amputation. I was heartbroken. Devastated. With Lucas, I’m not at all. The difference? Emmett was fine. He wasn’t sore or lame. He seemed the picture of health, so it was a shock to face amputation. And, turns out, a second opinion was just the ticket, and his leg was spared. With Lucas, he’s not putting any pressure on that leg. The tumor is starting to jut outward, which is causing him intense pain (you can kind of see it on his front left leg in the pic of him lounging in the garden, above). The medication zonks him out for a little while, then he wakes up crying. I’m ready to get this part over with so we can move on to his recovery. In the meantime, we’ve been getting everything together to make his recovery easier, and we’re so grateful for all the love and support we’ve gotten. John’s mom so kindly got a ramp and harness for the dear boy, and we’ve been arranging our schedules for the weeks ahead. But, first, tomorrow.
  2. Speaking of his appointment tomorrow… before all this started, I had been working on a nutrition post as part of our Petcurean partnership. I’m going to dust that off and schedule it for tomorrow so that I don’t have to think or do anything other than focus on keeping myself busy. Which leads me to…
  3. Spring Cleaning!! It’s the most wonderful time of the year! I actually LOVE to spring clean my house. And, I’ve realized that it’s the best way to keep my mind and hands busy in the face of intense worry. So, tomorrow, I’m going to Clean All The Things to keep myself occupied while Lukey’s in surgery! Yippee for cleaning! Who’s excited to scrub the humidifier with a toothbrush and peroxide? This girl!
  4. So many other great things have been going on that I’ve glossed over. Last weekend I got to represent Pinups for Pitbulls in Chicago (pic in the collage above), and last Thursday I had the pleasure of participating in a Google Hangout to talk about authenticity in writing – one of my favorite topics – that will be my presentation topic at BlogPaws. Missed it? You can catch it here.
  5. Finally, I can’t emphasize this enough: Thank you. Truly, thank you. I’m so touched for all the kind, thoughtful words of support. You guys mean the world to me, and I’m so grateful that Lucas has so many people thinking positive thoughts for him. Big hugs all around!

So, that’s what’s going on around here! Did you have a nice weekend? Any fun dog-friendly activities? Are you a Spring Clean lover like me or do you avoid it at all costs??