Continued from Part 6
Anyone thinking that this was the end of the rollercoaster ride, that the worst was behind us, is in for a bit of a shock. We still had to get Lena adjusted to being a tripod, we had to “tripod-proof” the house, we had chemo to look forward to, and so much more. We’ve only made it over the first hill and through the first loop, there are plenty of ups and downs to come…
We drove out to UVS that evening, getting there around 6:30. That gave them the rest of the afternoon to evaluate her and make sure she really was ready to come home. But as Dr. Lubold put it, “There’s nothing we’re doing for her here that you couldn’t be doing for her at home.” When we got there they took us right back to an exam room and brought her in.
She was exuberant to see us, but we had mixed emotions. She had gone from bloated and on death’s door to skin and bones. I could see every rib and every vertebrae and weighed only 45 lbs (down from a pre-op weight of 57 lbs). But she was alive and getting around pretty well for a new tripod. We discussed keeping her on a high protein diet because her levels were still a little low. She also needed a bland diet because she was still struggling with diarrhea. We decided on a diet of boiled chicken, rice, and egg whites. [Note: I suggest you go easy on eggs when introducing them to your dog’s diet. The first night I made the mistake of giving her what turned out to be a little too much, approximately 3 egg whites, and she ended up getting a bloated belly and wicked gas. A little Pepcid and she was feeling better in no time.] Before we left for home they wanted to give her some meds (metronidazol, rimadyl and tramadol), so they gave them to her with some canned food, which she gobbled down like candy. “Neat trick”, I thought. She usually resists taking pills so I thought they were on to a new trick. And since we’d be home late, we decided to let her eat the whole can as dinner. We paid for that on the way home when the canned food gave her really bad gas.
Otherwise, the drive home was uneventful. I rode in the back with Lena to make sure she didn’t try to stand while we were moving … the thought of a new tripod trying to balance herself while we drove around the Pennsylvania Turnpike left us with all sorts of nightmare scenarios. But Lena ended up sleeping most of the drive.
When we got home we figured the other two hounds would be too rough on her in their excitement to see her. It had been over a week, after all, and we were worried about overly exuberant roughhousing. So after we closed the gate and got Lena out of the car, Suzie made sure to stay right by her side so the others couldn’t knock her over. I let them out of the house and the ran right past me without so much as stopping to say they’d missed me — that’s not unusual, though, as they always run past me and go look for Suzie. But this time they even ignored Suzie and both went straight for Lena and started sniffing her all over, especially her new scar. She just stood there, not even attempting to sniff them. They must have sniffed her for all of a minute before losing interest and running for the back yard. Rather anticlimactic. Lena hopped along after them with Suzie close behind her like a worried mom imploring her to go slow, take it easy, be careful, etc. Lena was having none of that. I can’t say she was “running” exactly, but she was moving way faster than I thought likely, and faster than Suzie thought was safe for a dog that had just had a limb removed one week earlier. But after a week in the hospital, Lena apparently just wanted to get back to being Lena again. The others seemed to understand that she was different, but they didn’t treat her with the typical pack mentality (which is to attack the sick/injured member of the pack). They were actually being careful around her, possibly even ignoring her a bit.
Over the following weeks, we noticed that the other two were indeed keeping their distance and giving way to Lena. We watched Petey who was now, at 86 lbs, twice her size, repeatedly give up his spot on the couch when she wanted it. No growling. No fuss. He just moved. Isabelle took a couple of weeks before attempting to share a couch or dog bed with her, which they had done regularly before all of this. It seemed that she was still the queen of the house.
Because we were worried about the vomiting and diarrhea, as well as how well she would navigate the house as a tripod, the first few nights we had her home I again slept on the floor with her; she on her dog bed and me on mine. [Tip: Puppy training pads (aka. “piddle pads”) are great to keep nearby for a sick dog: they are inexpensive and super absorbent and work great for accidents coming out either end.] The first night she started to scream in pain whenever she tried to get up. It broke our hearts every time and I can still hear it, months later. But it wasn’t just a G.S.O.D., she would also go into a contorted convulsion, twisting her tiny frame away from the missing leg. Naturally, we thought it could be anything from post-surgical pain to phantom limb pain and thought, either way, it should subside fairly quickly. But the next morning she did this every time she got up, every time I picked her up to carry her up or down the two stairs to get outside and every time I set her down. She would twist around so violently that she would actually bang her head against the wall (or whatever was in the way). Freaking out I texted Dr. Couto to see if he’d ever seen anything like this and then called Dr. Brown at UVS to see if she’d been doing this during the week they had her. The answer was “no” from both of them. Could it be behavioral? Or was she really in that much pain?
By Sunday morning she would randomly scream out and throw herself around even when lying down with no one near her. We were beside ourselves. What had we done? What were we subjecting her to? After more conversations with both doc’s we decided to take her off of Tramadol because it can make dogs a little loopy and, we theorized, she was just freaking out… like a bad trip. By that evening it seemed to be helping. The episodes became further apart and she started sleeping through the night. By the 5th night home I was even able to sleep in a real bed again and we just blocked her in the first-floor bedroom with us.
That Monday we decided we couldn’t ignore the other dogs any longer. Obviously Lena was not ready to go for a “W-A-L-K” and we weren’t about to leave her home alone, so we took turns taking the others. Their first walk was on Monday and Lena was not amused at being left out — walks were her 2nd favorite thing. Her most favorite thing was her Ugly Doll, which she would carry around the house or on walks and would occasionally drop it at our feet in an attempt to exchange for a treat. Tuesday afternoon I carried her downstairs to my basement office while Suzie got the others outside. As soon as I set her down, she turned, looked back up the stairs at Petey and Isabelle heading outside for their walk and… squatted and peed right there in front of me! “What the hell!?”, I yelled. Unfazed, she just looked at me while she finished her business. She then calmly walked over to her bed and threw herself down with a huff. Trying to make a point? Yeah, I think so. But that kind of attitude told us that she was getting back to her old self, so I couldn’t get too mad at her. Plus it was kind of funny.
Lena had been spending her days on the couch in Suzie’s office but on Wednesday she spent the afternoon down in my office because Suzie was out. She had been very fussy, pacing around and getting herself into corners where she couldn’t turn around. She preferred the hard floor over the cushy dog beds and had a series of the screaming contortions. She was absolutely inconsolable. When Suzie got home I went outside to close the gate behind her and let Petey and Isabelle out to greet her. I then went back into the basement to carry Lena outside. She wasn’t on her bed where I left her. I looked in the corner where she’d also been lying. Not there either. At this point I’m calling her and looking all over the basement… did she get into the laundry room? Was she stuck in a corner somewhere? The basement is not that big, where could sh…
“What the hell!?”