Sunday, May 10, 2015

Bubba Day

For as long as I can remember we used to call our long run days, Bubba day. Baxter would get to go for a long run and then snuggle with us on the couch as we recovered from training. It's all he's known. Running, training, the stupid bike rides where he got left behind for hours, to ending the weekends snuggling on the couch. Bubba Day.

Although most people would say that pretty much every day is Bubba Day, I have officially declared every day until the end of his days BUBBA DAY!

Last Saturday afternoon I was sitting on the couch recovering from a 7hour workout.  I had a big weekend planned, a sort of mini self training camp.  Baxter was sitting next to me and started to tremble.  It was odd, and concerned me.  I worried he was maybe sick, so I decided to try to feed him.  If he would eat then I figured he would be ok.  He ate his dinner and seemed fine so I prepped all my nutrition and bottles for the next day's ride. 

A few hours later he started to walk around wobbly with some very labored/weird breathing. I jumped over to him and got him to a dog bed where his eyes went all droopy.  I freaked out and called my vet. Bless this woman's heart. She answered the phone (while clearly out) on a Saturday evening and talked me through things to look for and next steps. Within a few minutes I was headed back to an animal Hospital that I knew all too well....

Shortly after the doctors took Baxter and examined him they came in telling me that they had found fluid in his abdomen. Worried that it could be a splenetic tumor, which is often times the C word, they wanted to do a chest xray to see if they saw anything on his lungs, most likely meaning it was cancer and that it had spread. I began to lose my shit, and a very special friend whom I'd been texting with insisted that she come to be with me and I finally agreed. My heart was racing with fear and I was worried that under pressure I would not be able to make good decisions or even remember what was going on.

The xrays came back clear and Baxter seemed to be stable so we agreed that I would take him home for the night. I snuggled up to him, not sleeping a wink, worried that more of his symptoms would come back. I spoke with my vet, whom I incredibly lucky to have met a few years ago in our Mexico neighborhood (we are neighbors!) and agreed that if I took him back to the hospital and they could tell that his blood levels had not dropped we could wait until Monday to do an ultrasound at her office. All of this could have been done on Sunday at the vet hospital, but I feel safe in Dr Ferguson's care.  I trust her and her care for my dogs.

I took Baxter back to the hospital for more blood work. The doctor on shift examined him and came back to tell me that he had lost very minimal blood and that she thinks he would be fine with me at home and to wait for the ultrasound on Monday. Relieved, but scared, we were on our way back home with a plan. I had this horrible feeling in my gut that this was not something that was going to go away, so I called Shane and said I thought he needed to come home (working in California). He was already working on it but could not find a flight that didn't cost 4x the normal and wouldn't get him in until late that night so he hopped in the car and headed on the 10hour trek home.

Monday morning we took Baxter into our vet and we were all immediately brought into a room with an ultrasound crew. It was the most calm and comfortable emergency experience and I knew I made the right decision to bring him here vs the hospital. Val (Dr. F) was in the room with me and I could see the concern on her face, much like mine. I got to hold Baxter's head while they looked all around his belly and explained everything they saw to us. They showed us the small mass on his spleen, but could tell that while there was free fluid/blood in his chest, it was no longer there.  His heart looked strong,  and there were no signs of any other masses.

The decision was made to have Baxter's spleen and the mass removed right away. For many dogs that develop these tumors, they suddenly burst and the dogs die of a hemorrhage.  I'm so thankful for my over cautious obsession with my boy, as this very well could of happened to him.

After surgery we were able to come get Baxter later that afternoon.  We were told he had a 2" tumor, but that everything else looked great. The tumor was sent off to pathology to determine if it was benign or hemangiosarcoma, a very bad quickly spreading cancer. We got a very drugged up Baxter into the car and took him to the hospital where they would monitor him all night.  One of the side affects of this surgery is often heart arrhythmia, so they need to be monitored.  I was able to call Baxter and check on him as much as I wanted. On one of my calls I was told that he did have some arrhythmias so they were keeping him on a drip to control it.

After a long night it was finally Tuesday morning and I called as soon as I woke up hoping to go get him. Unfortunately the arrhythmia continued so they needed to be able to wean him off the drugs first. Finally, were were able to take him home late that afternoon.  There is more to that story, including a very unpleasant experience with one of the doctors, but I'd rather not focus on that...

The first few days of recovery were HARD. I stayed up with Baxter the first few nights laying next to him while he tried to sleep. He was up and down and getting sick.  He refused to eat, and was restless. On Wednesday, Val came over and gave him some injections to help with the nausea. While he seemed to perk up a bit, he still wouldn't eat. Thursday we got him on an appetite stimulant, and after a very long nap I got him to eat some peanut butter.  Over the past 3 days we've got him eating more.  His spirit is up, he's barking at random noises, he looks GREAT. He is honestly probably doing TOO much, but eventually passes out at night.  He's sleeping in my arms every night and back to following me around the house.

Today, I got a call from my vet and the pathology results confirmed hemangiosarcoma.  Unfortunately the prognosis for this type of cancer is not good. For now, I'm doing my best to just stay calm and deal with what comes.  The cancer was limited to the spleen, which was removed, but it is a cancer that metastasizes and it can happen quickly. As soon as Baxter is recovered from the surgery, which he is well on his way, he will be back to his normal snuggly, active old self. Eventually we will see signs that the cancer has spread and will have to do what we can to keep him comfortable and out of pain. I will be making an appointment with an oncologist to see what sort of natural treatments we can provide to keep him as healthy and comfortable as possible in the time that he as left.

I know I have been the crazy obsessive dogmom posting daily pictures of my boy, but to be honest, I don't give a shit if I'm that crazy person. This dog has been with me since I was just a kid.  He's been through every single monumental event in my life and has never left my side. I can't imagine what the last 14 years would have been like without him, and I know that my life is forever changed, and forever better because of him.  

"Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole."
Roger Caras (photographer and writer)

As I think back to this week and the amazing support for so many people.  Texts, phone calls, hundreds of comments on my instagram and facebook pictures, I realize that I am not the only person who has been touched by this amazing creature. He has been through so many stages of my life, that have involved so many different people.  My post college roommates, first running partners, current running partners, two other BFF dogs that he has outlived. Work friends from the days I brought him to the office at PetSmart, sleepovers with my niece when she was just a baby and obsessed with him.... If you ever had the chance to meet Baxter, you couldn't help but fall in love with him, and he you.

As the title of this blog post, every single day from here on out with him will be Bubba Day.  It will be filled with joy, doing things he loves, surrounded by people that love him.  He will make the trek to CDA in 3 weeks and he will get another walk on Tubbs Bub's Hill.  He will join me on Sherman for beers, and be there like he was in spirit for my first Ironman.

 I will carry him with me over 140.6 and bring him home my hardest earned medal for him to wear and proudly pose for a picture.  But for the rest of the day, I will spend my mother's day spoiling him rotten, snuggles and all.