Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Duke's Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Tuesday

Four and a half years ago, I was wasting time on the internet and found a puppy at the pound whose face was just irresistible.  He was a boxer-mastiff mix mutt, who they called Elwood.  I decided I needed to have him, and my husband, who is the sweetest man in the universe, actually spent the night in the parking lot of the pound, in December, in order to be the first one in line when he became available for adoption.  That little bundle of paws came home on his lap that day and changed our lives forever.

I like to say that he's the world's most expensive free dog.  As a puppy, we discovered that he has terrible food allergies.  We searched high and low for a food that wouldn't cause a reaction, even giving him, at our vet's recommendation, some ridiculously expensive food made from ostrich meat.  No, I'm not kidding.  Shortly thereafter, he dislocated his knee, but the vet decided that he wasn't a good surgical candidate, and we had to instead basically keep him immobile for 4-6 months so it could heal on its own.  Yeah.  A six month-old puppy.  Pardon me while I double over in hysterical laughter.  Eventually it did mostly heal, although he still has trouble going down stairs, and it gets stiff and sore in cold weather.  We found a food that he could tolerate.  And we got another dog so that he would have company during the day while everyone was at work or school.  For the most part, they were growing and thriving, and keeping us on our toes.

But then, last summer, we noticed a lump on Duke's side.  At first I thought it was just a big bug bite, but it didn't heal, and actually kept getting bigger.  We made an appointment with the vet and they did a biopsy by inserting a needle and extracting some of the material and sending it off to a lab for analysis.  It came back positive for a type of  malignant cancer which is fairly common in boxer-type dogs.  He was scheduled for surgery shortly thereafter.  On the day of surgery, the vet noticed another lump, further back toward his rear end, that she also thought looked suspicious.  They decided that it should be removed too, just to be on the safe side.

His recovery was difficult.  He had two very large incisions, one of which started swelling up with fluid.  He had to go back in and have a drain put in to relieve the pressure and allow the incision to heal properly.  The cone was a constant source of misery for him.  He had trouble getting to his food and water bowls, and up and down stairs because it was in the way.  For the next week or so he bashed it into every conceivable object in the house, including the humans.  He also decided that he couldn't possibly be expected to do his business if he couldn't sniff out the perfect spot with the cone in the way.  All in all, he was a pretty terrible patient.

But when the lab results came back after surgery, they were promising.  They thought they got all of the cancerous tissue, and said it that the disease was at an "early" stage two (on a scale of 1-3, 3 being the worst).  So, shortly before his 4th birthday, they gave him an estimated 60-month life expectancy.  Because larger dog breeds tend not to live very long, 60 months would be basically a full life span.  His hair grew back and the scars faded to a slightly less Frankenstein-ish appearance, and he was back to his old self before long.

A couple of months ago, he was laying on the floor in our TV room, in his favorite sunny patch.  Because of the way the sun was shining on his fur, I noticed a lump, halfway between his two old incision sites. I felt it, and there was definitely something there.  We took him in for his annual checkup and shots, and I showed it to the vet.  She agreed that it needed to be removed, but told us that because it was on the small side, his recovery should be easier this time.

Yesterday he went in for the surgery, almost exactly one year after the first surgery.  Everything went well and he was back home resting on his bed that night.

So far we're still not a fan of the cone.  He's still too drugged up to care right now, but he and our other dog, Abby, suffer from serious separation anxiety.  Because she's an idiot and can't be trusted not to pounce on his incision, she had to spend the night alone in their room without him.  She voiced her displeasure with this state of affairs by barking all.night.long.  None of us got a wink of sleep.  But we're so, so glad that he's home.

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