Sunday, January 25, 2009

Forsake Me Not When My Strength Faileth

Otis is still ticking. Since Inauguration Day - the day I had scheduled an appointment to let him go - he has been thriving, eating like a horse, drinking water, walking about in measured steps, even managing the stairs I was carrying him up and down when he needed to relieve himself. 

The tumor obviously has a life of its own. Without warning, it decides when it is time to act up. When it does, it debilitates him as though he has been shot with a tranquilizer gun. He can't move. The two times when his tumor has reared its nastiest head have come over two day periods when Dr. Judkins has been out of the office. Had they been days when he was in, Otis wouldn't be here right now.

It seems the recovery time of an angry tumor is about three days.  His body swells up with fluids due to the histamines shooting off. He loses his appetite for a spell, then, slowly he accepts certain foods I hide benadryl in. The benadryl combats the histamines and swelling, but makes him extremely sleepy. I don't think he's been in too much pain to this point, it's more his dignity that I'm keeping my eye on. When I last spoke to Dr. J we agreed it was time. But the morning of Inauguration Day Otis looked at me with plenty of dignity in his eyes. I immediately knew it wasn't time. 

Sadly, the tumor won't stop growing. It's enormous, and it's obviously pressing on his bladder because he needs to go out to pee just about every half hour. The steroids make him thirsty, too, I believe. So it's this funny little routine of drinking water, walking around the house for a bit, then to the door, then back in for a little more water. The irony is that he's never been much of a water drinking dog and now that his bladder is being smooshed he can't drink enough of it!

As I feared before, I think the tumor is going to grow too large for him to maneuver around. He's already high-centering on it when he goes up and down stairs. It may not be the cancer that gets him, but the size of the tumor itself. Dr. J and I were saying that if we could just replace the back half of his body the front half could go on for years. That's what's so damn heartbreaking. His eyes and ears still have vitality and life. 

That said, the next time the histamines start firing I'm going to have to let him go. The tumor is too big to allow for another recovery process, for when he recovers, the tumor will be that much larger and meaner. As it is, I wake up everyday wondering if it will be his last. As the day goes by, I'm learning to appreciate the moment more and more. I scratch behind his ear a little more often. I find more patience with his pacing around while the baby is sleeping, although I have to get a little stern with him when he continually attempts to bust through her bedroom door. You see, he likes to lay on her heater. And every time the furnace turns on he heads right for it. He can't hear me say 'no' so I have to run after him before he barges in and wakes her. So, yes, it's possible to still get upset with your dying dog. But hey, you got to take advantage of the minutes when the baby is down. 

Here's a couple snaps of Otis. The first is from his early days. I'd say he was about four. The second is from last Monday, the day before Inauguration Day. He looks pretty spent, but he improved throughout the week. I wish he could start aging backwards like Benjamin Button. 

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