Saving Cody: An Introduction….

•November 4, 2010 • 12 Comments

My name is Michelle and Cody was my six year old Labrador Retriever (he was five when I started this blog and he was two weeks shy of seven when he crossed over). We live in a house with two other boys, an orange 15 year old cat named Jimi, and a 6 year old all black crazy cat named Albert. Since Cody passed I spent about four months dogless, but I could not handle it and I now have a “Black dog” named Oscar. I say Black dog because he is a rescue and a “Lab Mix” by default which basically means, they think he has Lab in him but really have no idea whatsoever.  I am completely outnumbered.

July 15, 2005 – June 29, 2012

This is the story, actually it started as a diary of sorts, a way to vent, that I had been keeping in another format on my computer. It is now an online diary/blog of our battle against Canine Lymphoma with Cody, since his diagnosis in mid-September 2010, and what is happening in our lives since he passed on. If you are not familiar with Blogs, the most recent posts are first, so page back to start from the beginning. I write here constantly, documenting his chemotherapy, diet, ups and downs,  the costs and the steps I took to, if not cure him, at least put up a fight like no other. It is a terrible prognosis. This disease spreads rapidly in dogs, they can be dead within weeks, and it is highly prevalent. The statistics are shocking. My boy was only five years old and I could not with good conscience just let him go. So this is our story. I hope this in some way helps other pet owners facing this long road.

As you may have seen in my previous posts, 2010 had been a year of Cancer for me. It started with a friend dying of brain cancer in January, an Uncle dying in May of Lung Cancer, my own terrifying battle all summer, my step sister fighting breast cancer and having a double mastectomy in August and chemo, and culminated in September with my boy and his diagnosis. As much as i felt down trodden and beaten… this is not something I was going to take sitting down. I have never fought so hard and i sleep well at night knowing I tried my hardest to keep him healthy, happy and alive, and I tried EVERYTHING. I made him a promise that I kept every day to the last…

As long as he stays the happy boy I know and love, I will keep fighting for him. But if he ever starts to suffer, becomes so sick that he is no longer enjoying his life, i will not prolong his agony for my benefit. I will let him go.

So this is our story….

 

Weaning…

•July 25, 2015 • 2 Comments

  As most of you know I had to put Oscar on Prozac for a while. His anxiety was dampening his quality of life making him unable to enjoy normal things like simply going for a walk. If we would see people he would tremble and try to run in the opposite direction. We have never been sure what triggered his fear of people, but at one point it was so bad that he was scared of the television. So last November we made a decision to try Prozac and expose him to various situations with a different mindset. It has essentially worked. He has been much better especially on walks and running into random people. But the biggest hurdle that we overcame was when people would come to visit the house. It used to be that he would bark and tremble with fear even 30 minutes after they were already in the house. Not only was this impossible to enjoy guests, but it made them very uncomfortable and him as well. Suffice it to say it was pretty bad.

Since November 1 he has been on Prozac. He gets 20 mg every morning and by December we were seeing a noticeable difference. Being that is the end of July now we want to wean him off of it. I don’t want him on medication for an extended period of time, thinking back to my situation with Cody. I do not want to give Oscar any reason to become ill later in life. Who knows what Prozac does to his insides? 

The protocol for weaning him is to start by giving him a pill every other day for two weeks, and then one pill two times a week for two weeks, and then stop altogether. We are now on the second leg of this. The last time he got a pill was Thursday morning and it is Saturday today. This is the first time he will go two days without a pill. Needless to say I am monitoring him like a hawk. I want to make sure that he doesn’t go through any weird withdrawal or have his anxiety come back full force. That is my worst fear. One of the things that is really important is that he is exercised every day to make sure that he’s nice and calm and quiet, and tired obviously. Only problem is it is raining this morning. 

Dammit.

  As soon as this rain stops I’m going to take him out and wear his butt out! There are times where I chase him around the house with the ball to wear him out if it’s too hot or raining, but that’s not necessarily good for this old body. I actually felt like I got a groin injury running around the house with him a few weeks ago. How pathetic is that? Ha ha!

So here we are on the last two weeks of Prozac. I will keep you all posted on how he does after he is off of it completely. I am hoping that his anxiety stays in check and he can still enjoy a good quality of life. We will be taking him on a mini vacation with us the first weekend in September for my birthday. He will be completely off the Prozac then, so that will be a very good test for us.

  All I care about is that he stays the sweet loving dog that he is. I know everyone says this about their own pets, but he truly is the most affectionate sweet boy there could possibly be. Cody was affectionate but not like this. Oscar seems dependent upon my attention and love. It’s totally sweet. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that animals don’t feel, understand, communicate and love. People who say that clearly do not have pets.

Of course I will keep you all posted. Have a great weekend and enjoy your special ones!
  

Happy Birthday My Sweet Boy…

•July 15, 2015 • 2 Comments

Today is Cody’s birthday.  He would’ve been 10 years old today. It is hard to believe. I still think of him every single day not only looking at my foot and the tattoo of his paw on it, but the painting in my living room and his ashes below. All reminders of my sweet boy who was taken way too young in life.

So Happy Birthday my sweet boy…. I am thinking of you today and every day….

  

An Anniversary…

•June 29, 2015 • 3 Comments

IMG_7453It was three years ago today that I said goodbye to my sweet boy Cody. It never really gets any easier, it just is….

I have reminders of him all over my home and all around my life. As it should be….

This is a short post because it is not really something that should be celebrated in any way, just acknowledged for what it is. An anniversary I wish I never had…

He was the best…

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Rip Off!!!

•June 9, 2015 • 1 Comment

It has been a really long time since I have written here. Only because there’s not very much going on news wise with Oscar. He is still on Prozac and still doing well. I think it has really started to take an effect just recently where we noticed a big difference in his acceptance of people, and his personality. But one of the things that prompted me to write today was regarding Prozac.

Any of you who have been reading my blog for the last few years know that I absolutely love my veterinarian. He was wonderful all through Cody’s illness, he was wonderful when it was time to say goodbye to Cody. I will forever love Dr. Butzer for that. But an interesting thing has occurred since Oscar has been on Prozac. I can’t blame doc, but I can certainly blame the facility. I don’t know who is making his business decisions for him but I disagree with them. Let me explain.

Oscar started out with Prozac on November 4. He had been on it for a month and when I went to get a refill instead of the $30 that it cost in November it was $45. Then in January it was $50. Then in March it went to $85 for 30 pills of 20 mg Prozac. I was absolutely floored and ask them what was going on. They said that the price of the drug was up right now and there was nothing they could do about it. In April it was $87, same answer. So for the next refill I just called and asked them the price and they said it was $92. So I asked them for a prescription. Just a piece of paper. I wanted to shop it around.

I went over to my local grocery store Publix pharmacy and ask them how much 30 pills of 20 mg Prozac cost. Are you ready?

They said the exact same prescription cost $11 without insurance. WithOUT insurance!!!!

I got the prescription filled there and asked the girl why on earth would Clint Moore (which is right down the street ) would charge me so much and she just laughed and said “because they can”. She said so many people come in with prescriptions for their animals because Clint Moore’s prices are so out of hand. 

So my message here today is just a public service announcement that just because your vet says your dog needs a prescription, and they carry it, does not mean you have to buy it from them. Any pharmacy will fill a prescription from the vet. You just have to ask. 

On a lighter note we are dog sitting once again for a 10 month old Labrador named Max. He is adorable. Oscar and Max are good buddies and are having a blast together. Having a Labrador in the house makes me miss Cody even more and want another one. Shhhhh…  Don’t tell my hubby… ;)

   
    

A Tough Controversial Decision…

•January 27, 2015 • 5 Comments

IMG_1466I have been struggling with this decision for quite some time. My cat Jimi is over 15 years old. I got him at a point in my life where I was single, and moving around the country quite a bit. Very nomadic. He has been with me through low points and high points in my life and career, and always been a good companion and a truly sweet cat. And now as he ages I feel like I owe it to him to give him some true happiness and pay back all the love he has given me over the many years.

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You see, Jimi has been having seizures, and at one point along time ago he was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Although I have never seen any sign of that at all and do not really believe that vet. No other vet has been able to detect the signs of that in him. I also know that seizures are common in older cats. He has had a couple, one particularly bad one where I was home alone just recently and he seized and fell over. It lasted for over two minutes and he pooped himself. I think this one caused some damage. He just doesn’t seem the same. He sometimes walks in circles and screams for no reason, but there are some times of lucidity because he does come when called and acts relatively the same at times. As I said, moments of clarity.

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He is definitely showing signs of aging. He no longer grooms himself very well and has mats underneath his belly which he will not let me brush in anyway. He has never liked to be brushed past his head but he used to take care of himself and now he does not. He has basically given up covering anything in the litter box which doesn’t really matter for number one, but number two is pretty awful for everyone. There are times when he starts to sneeze, clearly something is blooming right now here in Florida because my husband is sneezing like crazy as well, but he sneezes so much that he almost falls over and obviously gets dizzy from it. His legs do not work like they used to and he is relatively unsteady. And frail.

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It is really sad to watch. But this is what you sign up for with animals, as well as people. You care for them regardless of their health or age and you try to make the best of it for them as best you can.

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And so enter my controversial tough decision. I have mentioned this before but the little cat in my household, Albert, tortures the shit out of not only Jimi, but the dog as well. After going away on vacation for two weeks it was very obvious that this was no vacation for Jimi. And being home and working from the house I am watching how much Albert tortures everyone. It is awful. He hides whenever Jimi goes to use the litter box and when Jimi is on his way out Albert jumps him. Albert is constantly swatting at his tail and his hind legs, and fighting with him over everything. This is no way to age gracefully.

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So I have decided to allow Jimi to go outside onto the pool deck and sit in the sun, and roam around the backyard. When I first got Jimi he was an indoor and outdoor cat. But since I moved to Florida I have kept him indoors exclusively, for fear of him falling in a canal, getting hit by a car, or getting eaten by something. But when I think about what he really desires, it is always just to lay in the sun and eat some plants and roam around and look at the sky. Isn’t that really what we all want? Just some peace?

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So rather than having him get tortured until he so sick we have to put him down, I am allowing him a last hoorah in the sun. He is basically outside for most of the day, at least when it’s sunny and warm. He spends the night inside with all of us of course.

I have truly grappled with this decision. I know that he could get sick outside, but he’s already sick. There’s not much I can do for him to make him feel any better, so why not allow him to enjoy whatever time he has left? And he is enjoying it tremendously. He has always been a very loud purrer (I just made up that word), kind of like a purr machine. And all he does outside is purr loudly. And drink from the pool as well. Even though there is a dish with clean water out there.

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He is happy and it makes me happy to see him this way. Am I a bad person for allowing him outside? I of course know all of the statistics regarding outdoor cats, but at this point I think no more damage could possibly be done. But who knows?

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I welcome any feedback and thoughts, comments. Even though it is my decision and I have already gone with it, I am still wrestling with it. I love him too much to allow him to be tortured for the remainder of his short life.

What would you do?

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The WONDERS of Prescription Drugs and Vacation

•January 19, 2015 • Leave a Comment

IMG_0632We just got back from a two-week camping vacation in the Florida Keys. We have been so worried about Oscar and how he would be in the campground, around people, and in general since his fear and anxiety usually makes anything social a total ordeal. We got down to Long Key State Park on January 3. We should’ve known from the 3 hour drive that things were not going to be normal this trip. The drive was honestly insane. We narrowly averted many accidents, crazy drivers and insane wind the whole way down with the kayak strapped to the roof of the truck. There was a ton of traffic as well for a Saturday morning. But Oscar climbed in on top of the pile of gear onto his dog bed and was calm yet excited the whole drive.

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The wind was so strong that setting up camp was incredibly challenging. The tent was blowing like a big giant sail and if you’ve ever set up a tent you know that trying to stretch it out, stake it down, and prop it up with polls is not necessarily easy even with no wind. Our very nice campsite neighbor came over to help us hold down the gigantic tent so that we could get it done.

The Whacky Shack

The Whacky Shack

Camp was all set up and the dog was doing pretty good although he seemed to bark at everybody that walked by the campsite, obviously in protective mode of us. Alerting us “People! People are here! See them! See them!” If I had to complain about anything it was his barking when we were talking to people. Oscar just does not seem to know when enough is enough. He is learning. But it was definitely manageable.

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We had a great two full weeks camping beachside. Although there were some very challenging parts to it. We had days upon days of very strong wind which actually broke our tent one night! The same night that the tent collapsed and the polls broke from the wind, (we called the tent the wacky shack) the inflatable mattress also died. It was a VERY interesting night haha! Not only was the tent rocking and rolling, wacky shacking, but we were also laying on the hard ground. This was the end of the first week and we had to drive all over the keys trying to find a new tent or polls to fix the old one, none of which was happening. We actually had to drive all the way back up to Homestead which is a good two hours away in order to purchase a brand-new tent from a sporting goods store. Not something we wanted to do on a gorgeous Keys day…

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Of course as soon as we got the brand-new tent and got back to the campsite, there was absolutely no wind. Instead being very warm this time of year which is unseasonable, usually it is much cooler at this time if you’re down there, there were now bugs. Lots and lots and lots of bugs. Noseeums. Also known as chiggers. The little bastards that you can actually see, that bite you and it really does hurt, and they actually draw blood. Thousands of them. Swarming. Around your face, your ankles, your ears, your neck, wrists, hands, anywhere that you have exposed skin. And they are relentless. Absolutely relentless. And they leave nice red welts. Wonderful…

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So for a good six days we had constant battle with bugs. Oscar had bites all over him as well. Apparently the salt water, the sand, or an abundance of various repellant products does not keep them from biting. Apparently nothing does. As much as I am opposed to DEET I actually relented and used it here and there. It doesn’t really work well either. Nothing keeps these bugs from biting you. It was brutal. They fit through the screen on the tent as well, so they bite us all night long. There is nothing like trying to cover your entire face in a tent trying to sleep.

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And that really was one of the biggest challenges of the entire trip. We got very poor sleep. This has never happened to us before on any of our camping trips to the Keys, and this is our 7th year. Usually it is much cooler out and the bugs are manageable. Not this time. I have never experienced such a brutal relentless bug issue as this trip. And the sleeping, that was a whole other animal. The humidity was high and so when you crawled into the tent to go to bed, everything was damp. Add the bugs to that and you get what I’m saying. BRUTAL!

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The only place the bugs were not biting was out on the kayak in the middle of the ocean. And so we made quite a few trips with the dog in the kayak especially in the morning when the bugs are really bad. Oscar was incredibly good on the kayak and he loves it.

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But beyond all of the challenges, losing the tent in the middle of the night, the deflated air mattress, and the relentless bugs, we had a great time. We did a lot of fishing with the dog on the bridge, we did a lot of kayaking with the dog, lots of beach running and walking, he had a blast. And he was so incredibly good. We were so worried about his anxiety and his fear, but it really was not an issue. We even took him out to dinner and he sat under the table and was generally okay. There were a few incidences of him shaking like a leaf here and there, but for the most part he was well behaved and fine.

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I truly have to contribute this to the Prozac. If this was a few months ago a lot of the things we did on this vacation would’ve been impossible with him. As much as we discussed it and were against putting him on these drugs, I really think there has been a breakthrough. The goal was for him to enjoy himself, and his life. And I think we have been successful at that at this point!

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Oscar was great with other dogs at the campground. Although some smaller dogs, if he was off leash, he would charge. It wasn’t like he was trying to do anything aggressive, he just has no manners.  He would charge out of our campsite over to a dog, wagging his tail but of course the owner doesn’t know that he’s not harmful. As I mentioned before when people would walk by our campsite he would bark like crazy and if they stopped to talk to us he would bark continuously through the conversation which was annoying. There were times where I would have to grab his head and make eye contact to make him stop. We also ended up tethering him to the picnic table with his leash at times where we were walking around, constructing the tents or wanted to go out in the water without him. We have never done this before. I don’t think we have ever tied him to anything prior to this trip. But he was good. He would sit in the shade and watch us diligently.

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We were honestly amazed at how good he was. How different his attitude was comparatively. The Prozac was a good move. It has definitely helped.

And of course, the worst part about vacation, is when it’s over. We had two full weeks without computers, very little phone use, and absolutely no television. And I can’t say I missed any of it. We got home this weekend to find our garden was going crazy, so we had a totally sustainable meal. We ate fish that we had caught ourselves the day before, and delicious chard that we grew in our own garden. This was a first for both of us. Just amazing!

IMG_1410So… the verdict. Prozac has definitely helped. Just 20mg a day has made a HUGE difference in Oscar and our quality of life.

And sadly, we are back to reality now. We have not decided how long we will keep him on the Prozac but we are taking it day by day. I figure another couple of months and he will be over most of his issues to the point of tolerability. Not sure if that is even a word but I am going with it…

The Wonders of Prescription Drugs…

•December 1, 2014 • 1 Comment

I think I have mentioned this before but we decided to put Oscar on Prozac to try to calm his fear of people. We started him on November 1, and if you know anything about these types of drugs they take a few weeks to show any kind of effect. Around mid November, really week three, I started to notice some differences in how Oscar was behaving. Especially when all the windows are open and he can hear the noises from outside.

I have to say there’s a reason for controlled studies. We are having a lot of construction in our neighborhood, they are putting in new water pipes to each and every house in our entire development. The staging of equipment and everything is right across the street from my house and it has been going on for a month as well. So there are bulldozers, lots of workers, lots of cars pulling in and out, huge equipment, a gigantic metal shed filled with tools, lots of loud clanging and banging and booms that sound like small bombs are going off all day, piles of pipes, the beeping from bulldozers backing up constantly, lots of talk, even some port-a- potties, and general mayhem for a dog whose scared of people.

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At first when it started and we opened the windows, poor Oscar could not control himself. He would pace and whine, hide and generally looked stressed out. I got him a Thunder Shirt and that actually did help him a bit. I was shocked that it actually works. I also spray it with the dog appeasing pheromone. But as the month progressed not only did the Prozac start to kick in but I also think he got used to the noises. Hence my theory of controlled studies. How do I know if he’s just used to the noises or if the Prozac is actually working?

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So I’ve been trying to expose him to other situations and notice how he is on walks when we pass people to see if I really think the Prozac is working. I definitely think he is lacking energy on it. He seems to sleep a lot more. That is a side effect I do not like. He is on 20 mg a day. I give it to him with peanut butter first thing in the morning right before I feed him. I called the doc and talked to him about Oscar’s obvious lack of energy and they are going to give me a 15 mg tablet for him to try. It’s crazy to try to figure out what dosage is good for him because he can’t tell you how he feels. This is all so familiar and I don’t have to tell you that I hate giving my dog any kind of meds for any long or short term. I constantly think of Cody and I’m hoping that this short stint of prescription drugs does not have any long-term effects.

How will I ever know? I guess I’ll find out in about 10 years if I’m lucky.

So as I said I’ve been experimenting with taking him out to places with lots of people to see if there is any effect from the Prozac. There is a shopping center around the corner from me and so, for the last two days instead of our normal quiet walk around the neighborhood, I have been walking Oscar up there and through the busy part of the stores. It’s still rather early in the morning, before 9 AM, but there are people milling about. And he absolutely freaks out. He jolts and pulls to try to get away, he hides behind me, he tries to dart into the street but I’m holding him tight so he can’t really get anywhere and just yanks me across the sidewalk. We stopped in front of the Publix grocery store and I make him sit and watch people come and go. He just absolutely freaks out. Pacing and whining and shaking.

I feel terrible putting him through something like this but I have to get him exposed to these situations so that one, I can tell if the Prozac is working at all. And two, I need him to understand that the situations are okay and he is not going to be harmed in any way. It’s all about opening his mind.

It is not an easy job. I feel totally guilty about making him freak out the way he does. If you saw his body shaking you would realize how traumatic it is for him. There is a fine line between what feels like torture and therapy. My husband and I have had very heated discussions about this whole process. He absolutely hates putting the dog on any kind of meds, as do I. But my argument for this is that Oscar deserves a chance at a good quality of life. I do not want to have a dog that I need to keep in the house constantly and causes us to become hermits because we cannot take him anywhere. If we do travel at all and he cannot go with us, he certainly cannot go to a kennel -it would give him a heart attack. So what is my choice? I have to at least give him the opportunity to heal himself, or fix himself, so that we all can have a better chance of a good life together. I enjoy taking him out with me so much and I love his company. There’s nothing like watching him run on the beach, as long as there are no people.

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I love to go camping and I love to travel and unless we can help Oscar get past this incredible fear, we won’t be able to take him with us which leaves my heart at home and I hate that.

Baby steps…

 

 

 

 
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