My last post written for Takoda was on January 3rd, 2011. It always was my intention to write a final post, but just thinking about it triggered so many tears and I kept putting it off. So then every year as the anniversary of her last day rolled around I planned to write the rest of her story, and to get a memorial tattoo. But it never happened. Until … This morning I was scrolling through Facebook and to my surprise there was a photo of my beautiful Takoda, posted by Tripawds. Tripawds had featured Takoda’s blog today in their blog post DIY #TripawdTuesday: Random Fun with Tripawds Blogs! What the Tripawds writer doesn’t know, since I never got that last post written, is that tomorrow is the 6th anniversary of her last day. Synchronicity!
“Synchronicity is a concept, first explained by psychoanalyst Carl Jung, which holds that events are “meaningful coincidences” if they occur with no causal relationship yet seem to be meaningfully related.”
When I last posted at the beginning of 2011 Takoda was doing thriving. ** Possible Tears Warning** And then, so quickly, things changed. She became weaker and her breathing labored. It became evident that the cancer that had been the reason for her leg amputation had moved to her lungs.
“In metastasis, cancer cells break away from where they first formed (primary cancer), travel through the blood or lymph system, and form new tumors (metastatic tumors) in other parts of the body. The metastatic tumor is the same type of cancer as the primary tumor.”
We found out Takoda had bone cancer (Osteosarcoma) in July, 2011. She’d been misdiagnosed with a CCL tear (a common but serious knee injury), and the tumor was found by our vet when they’d opened up her leg for CCL surgery. Her leg was sewn up, we were notified of the error, and a few days later her leg was amputated instead. Not at all what we were expecting! (You can read the long version here.) At that time, the vet had estimated her post-amputation lifespan at 6 months. On January 24th, 2011 we went to the vet, concerned about her sudden decline. An x-ray revealed a golf ball sized tumor in her chest, restricting her breathing. Exactly 6 months later. The vet told us he could make a special housecall when it was time to let her go.
This devastating vet appointment happened in late afternoon that day. That evening was my father’s visitation. He had cancer too. Over the past few weeks I’d been watching the disease quickly eat them alive. My dad had stomach cancer. He’d called to tell me in October. It was overwhelming. I remember my first thought was I could only handle 1 cancer and I’d already committed to my dog’s. I was so distraught between my dad’s death and Takoda’s devastating diagnosis that I didn’t make it to the funeral the next morning.
I spent the next week on the couch next to Takoda, staying up late watching movies with her. She sometimes struggled to breathe. When we took her outside to relieve herself we now had to support help her by supporting her weakening back legs. She remained a fighter and fiercely independent, much like a toddler trying to prove to you that she could do it herself. There were brief moments of serenity, like being outside late one night when the sky was so clear and the stars were so bright and I found peace in the quote:
“Only in the darkness can you see the stars.” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
There were difficult moments when she walked to the far side of the back yard and sat under the tree and didn’t appear to want to come back inside which wasn’t typical of her and made me fear she was trying to walk away to die in the woods. 🙁 But there were also a number of silly moments, like when very happily she pulled all the stuffing out of a big blanket, and we let her and she loved it. Something she also typically didn’t do. Despite her wild side she was not a destoyer of people things. She’d always been a picky eater but she never lost her appetite in her illness (maybe due to the medication?) … she really, really enjoyed bully sticks, peanut butter-filled Kongs and cheeseburgers right up until her final moments.
Takoda loved to hike and run and hunt, preferably in the woods and preferably in the snow. While walking closely on leash where you had no idea there were small rodents, to my horror she would suddenly have a small furry thing in her mouth. It was shocking and she wasn’t for the weak of heart. This mostly vegetarian non-hunting bleeding heart human had to learn some of the ways of the wild to be her best friend. She thrived on taking me on long runs with a bike or a scooter. She was driven. She seemed unstoppable. Until she wasn’t.
This was our last trip to the woods, on January 29th, 2011:
Takoda’s Last Hike
She could hardly walk and mostly we carried her. We carried her out of the woods. She never walked again. She refused to go the bathroom with help. Her breathing was increasingly labored. We had to make the dreaded call to the vet on February 1, 2011.
It snowed that day. Takoda loved snow. She laid outside while her dad shoveled the driveway. She’d never been off leash in the front yard before. So there was that! She watched the snow with a look of wonder and joy despite her physical condition.
The snow was so intense we wondered if we’d make it to the vet. But the weather made it a perfect last day for her. A snow day. On the way to the vet went through a McDonald’s drive thru and bought her a cheeseburger. She ate the burger with great enthusiasm. She left the bun, and the pickle. At the vet her dad held her in the window while she continued to watch the snow with great interest. Her eyes and personality were so alive though her body was failing and she must have been in tremendous discomfort. There was still a light in her bright blue eyes and I literally watched it fade away as the vet tech relieved her from her suffering. This is something that will always replay in my head. After Takoda I had to let 2 more wonderful, special, and irreplaceable dogs (Catori and Vegas) go with the help of a vet, but remembering Takoda’s final day is still the hardest. I think because with the other 2, the light was already gone from them and not much of their personality remained in their final hours.
I still miss Takoda (and Catori and Vegas) every single day.
A few things I learned from this journey:
Value every day and moment with your dogs. You never know how short life is. But at the same time, try not to think “Oh my god, my dog is 10 already!” (something I’ve been guilty of lately) or “Oh my god, my dog has cancer and might die soon.” Because the end is going to happen. Either to you or to them. And it’s the hardest thing to do, but why shorten that time by excessively worrying?This meme has brought me so much comfort:
While bone cancer and the need to amputate your one of your dog’s limbs seems like the absolute worst thing that could happen, it’s not. Most likely it will be harder on you than your dog. With your help, your dog can still thrive and live a great life. Takoda lived for just over 6 more months here is a possibility of your dog living for years. For us it was definitely worth the journey.
All cancer situations are different. I lost 2 more dogs to cancer. Catori, just 10 months after Takoda and Vegas the following year. Vegas’s cancer was Hemangiosarcoma (a form of malignant cancer that arises from the cells that line blood vessels of various tissues of the body.) His cancer also started with limping and we found a tiny bump on his leg that was removed and found to be malignant. His pain quickly exceeded what drugs could subdue and we had to let him go a few weeks later. He was a 110 pound German Shepherd Mix and almost 11 years old. Catori, another husky mix and pictured above with Takoda, had struggled with a variety of health issues since puppyhood, due to an autoimmune disorder. He was already being treated for high liver levels when suddenly he became very, very sick one day. The next day we got an ultrasound and found out his liver was covered in tumors. They gave us the option of taking him home with a bag of meds to keep him comfortable. We took him home but it was too late and our time was short. He was only 8. He loved Takoda and even though I tried to give him extra love and fun adventures I felt like losing her really affected him.
If your are treating your dog’s CCL/ACL tear (knee injury) conservatively prior to or rather than having TPLO/TTA surgery, and while exercising patience, rest and sticking to a strict regime, and giving your dog quality join supplements your dog shows no improvement after a month or two, and/or their pain or non-usage of the leg increases, there’s some chance there is something happening beyond a ligament issue (even if your vet doesn’t think so). This was our experience with Takoda, and I’ve known one other dog with the same scenario and read of others. This became even more clear to me when my Chow/German Shepherd mix Loki actually tore her CCL a year ago, and then the other leg 7 months later. Now at 10 1/2 years old she has fully recovered (without surgery) and runs and plays like a typical middle-aged dog. During her healing she progressed slowly but regularly and now seems to be 95%+ healed. Something to consider.
The Tripawds community is wonderful and their members are there if you need compassion or support. Even 6 years later!
Now I just need to get that memorial tattoo!
Takoda’s Life video montage (I still can’t watch it):
Howl-o … it’s me Takoda writing this entry! So sorry we haven’t posted lately, but I’ve been busy getting back to normal! It’s been 4 months since my ampawtation, and I am doing quite well! Most my fur has grown back too. I’ve been so busy lately … here’s some highlights of the last few months:
First off, here I am running around on the beach at Saylorville Lake in late October:
You can see that I kept up with my 4-legged brother just fine! More pics are here, including lots of Catori who is a total camera hog (but pretty darn cute, I admit).
Next up, we went to a cool Howloween pawty at Gray’s Lake. I didn’t dress up like a hot dog or a cow, but I still got TONS of treats, love and attention. When you’re a 3-legger with big blue eyes and a tie-dye bandana, I think a costume just might overkill!
This goofy husky was dressed up like a pumpkin. I guess his owner thought that was funny cuz he was a red husky. The things you hoomans do for laughs at our expense makes me so annoyed!
And, on the subject of making dogs look funny, here is something I saw at a dog park:
This boy (I know, right) was not allowed to get his big white Q-tip head wet or dirty. Basically, that meant swimming and playing was strictly forbidden.
Here my head is hidden by a cotton ball tail. Q-tip Head wanted to play SOOO bad. But once he started to get me and the little guy (right corner) into a good game of chase, Daddy said it was time to go.
But Q-tip had a good response for that! WTG fuzzy head! Even prissy white poodles should be allowed to have some fun, get dirty, and be dogs. Sometimes.
This morning it was only 19 degrees. I loooove the cold … it’s making me feel so energetic and happy! I can’t wait to play in snow!
Well, Happy Thanksgiving to everypuppy! Hope you get lots of turkey and sweet potatoes (one of the few vegetables my primal carnivore palate can handle)!
Petfinder’s “Why Less Adoptable Pets Rule” makes me smile…
Here are just a few reasons we love “special” pets:
Older pets are mellower – you don’t have to worry about your lamp getting knocked over!
Physically challenged pets are often unaffected by their handicap – but you still look like a hero!
With “bad reputation” breeds, you get the chance to prove people wrong with your great dog!
Dark-furred pets make it easy to accessorize – black goes with everything!
Pets with behavioral issues allow you to form a tight bond as you overcome obstacles together!
Big dogs are easier to find when it’s time to go to the vet!
Takoda and I have the experience to back some of these claims up! When I adopted Takoda 8 years ago, she was a dark-furred behavioral mess with medical problems. We overcame these obstacles together, and she became an awesome dog – sweet, loving, sociable, athletic and adventurous. I couldn’t ask for a better companion.
Now, of course, she is also a senior pet with some new physical challenges. And I can tell you firsthand, pets do get sweeter with age!
I just got the latest issue (Fall 2010) of Modern Dog Magazine, and it has a 6-page feature called “Terrific Tripods! Three-legged Wonder Dogs”. Absolutely pawsome! The article features 6 tripawds wonderful stories and photos. You can also read the article & see some of the photos on ModernDogMagazine.com here.
The Bark, my other favorite dog magazine, had an article in their last issue (Jun/Jul/Aug 2910: Issue 60, “Three-Legged Dogs” By Nick Trout, DVM. This article talked about a boxer who became a tripawd due to bone cancer, which was misdiagnosed first as an ACL injury (like Takoda). It brought me to tears (both happy and sad).
The Bark also had a great story in their Jul/Aug 2006: Issue 37 called “Three Legs to Stand On“. The cover dog is a tripawd and couldn’t be cuter! I read it the first time with great interest but of course no idea Takoda, then just 4-years old, would ever be a three-legger. I just dug this issue out and re-read it. It’s available online too here.
I saw Takoda position herself to scratch with her right side today and then she look somewhat frustrated. I called her over and gave her a good scritching and that seemed to work fine for her. Otherwise, things are going just fine!
One of my favorite places to walk dogs is a park called Gray’s Lake. We love the beautiful walking trail, beaches, and people enjoying outdoor activities from sailing to yoga to rollerblading. Of course we also love all the adorable dogs taking their owners for walkies and playing in the water.
I have been there this summer with my other pups, but sadly Takoda had not been able to go since the beginning of Spring. Normally we walk the 2-mile loop once or twice and stop for swimming, dog greetings, and fishy hunting in the rocks on the shore. This time we just walked along the water for probably a quarter mile and then took a rest and got a drink and relaxed. We walked back along the rocky shore where Takoda likes to search for dead fish (ewww, I know!). She had a little difficulty figuring out how to maneuver but I let her try and she did well. Then she splashed around on the sandy beach. Takoda met a ball-crazy lab, a weimeraner with a pretty pink color, and a Basset Hound who roo-rooed at her until he finally got to say hi.
We haven’t been out in busy places much yet so it was interesting to hear people’s comments. I heard a few “oh poor dog” exclamations, a few people said “it looks like she gets around really welll!”, and one couple ran up to ask what happened to her. But most people didn’t seem to notice!
Although we didn’t cover much ground compared to our old walks, Takoda was pretty exhausted afterward. I am still working on trying to find a balance between doing everything she wants to do and not doing too much. This was just the beginning of many more adventures as we slowly get back to doing the things we used to do!
Here’s Takoda last weekend practicing her pro wrestling skills with her furbrother Catori. Takoda says “Who needs 4 legs to have a good time?! Not me!“
I saw a beautiful white Shepherd tripawd having a good time at the local Farmer’s Market on Saturday. I also saw two little huskies puppies that were adorable beyond measure! One was red and the other was black and white with blue eye, a little pink bandana, and expressions that were sooooo Takoda. I just stood and watched them a while. One found poop to sniff while the other climbed up in a wagon to lick a little kid’s face, which drew some “awwws” from the crowd. I was there dog-free (highly unusual!), but I got my dog and puppy fix anyway!
I don’t wanna move
I’ll just sit here in my living room and
See what’s on the tube
While I’m hanging out with you …
People pressing my flesh, taking my time
They don’t know a thing about my life with you
I’m trying real hard – it’s hard not to care
‘Cause all I ever really want to do
Is sit around doing nothing with you, because
Nothing’s only fun when you’re there …
I’m not lazy
I’m in love
Tripawd Husky Takoda, 5 weeks after back leg amputation due to bone cancer
This chapter of our life together began one Thursday morning when Takoda suddenly began limping. Saturday morning the limp had not subsided, and we took her to the vet. The vet mentioned a few possible causes, worse case scenario being cancer. While the vet took Takoda in back for x-rays, we (Takoda’s human pawrents) looked at each other in disbelief. Cancer? We wondered why the vet had even mentioned the word. Days before, Takoda was a healthy, happy husky who depended on adequate exercise and entertainment to retain her sanity and ours. Takoda was easing into middle-age as she had just reached her 8th birthday. But as a 47-pound mixed breed I thought for sure hybrid vigor and her medium size would guarantee her a long, healthy life. I pictured her running and playing her way into her mid-teens. I couldn’t picture my life without her and I still can’t.
Takoda returned, smiling happily and pulling the vet along despite her gimpy back leg. The vet told us she had good news. It wasn’t cancer. We breathed a sigh of relief and let go of the panic-inducing thoughts that had entered our minds. We still wondered why she’d even put the grim idea into our worried heads. From the x-ray and the way that Takoda was “toe-tapping”, the vet was sure that Takoda had a partial ACL tear. While annoying and expensive, an ACL tear is a common and treatable injury that will heal with surgery or adequate rest and restriction. The vet prescribed anti-inflammatory drugs and said that she’d probably be better within the week, but that the injury would most likely return and we should consider surgery sometime in the future.
Takoda at the beach in 2009, one year before the amputation
Within a few days she was back to her hyper, stubborn, and very sweet self. Despite the fact that she had stopped limping, we kept her restricted to a leash while outside, kept her exercise to a minimum (hard!!) and discouraged her from jumping on and off of furniture in an attempt to allow the ligament to heal. I became very knowledgeable of canine ligament injuries with the help of some very informative websites, especially Tiggerpoz.com and Conservative Management Yahoo group. I remain a huge fan of these sites, if your dog has a ligament injury check them out.
Takoda has always loved any and all adventures!
For nearly a month Takoda rarely limped or expressed any discomfort. It appeared that she was on the road to a full recovery without the need for an expensive and possibly risky knee surgery. Then one day she suddenly started limping again only this time it seemed a bit worse. Re-injury is quite common with ACL injuries so we assumed that is what happened. At this point we really cracked down on not allowing her to jump or do stairs, we moved our bed mattress to the floor, covered slippery floors with rugs, anything we could think of to help Takoda heal. We decided to give it a few more weeks and if she wasn’t improving we would schedule her for surgery.
Over the next few weeks Takoda got worse instead of better. She stopped using her right back leg at all, and held her leg up consistently. Occasionally it appeared that even sitting was painful. Through this time we had it tough trying to restrict Takoda’s activity, but now she was beginning to restrict herself. We made a vet appointment for a re-check intending to schedule surgery ASAP. This time saw another vet at the same practice. This vet agreed with the original vet’s diagnosis, though he seemed surprised by how painful it appeared that her knee had become. ACL surgery was scheduled for the next Monday.
We dropped Takoda off for surgery at 7:30 July 19, 2010. That morning I posted on my Facebook page, “How empty does your house feel when you’re missing a dog? My husky mix Takoda is at the vet for ACL surgery today. I am trying to pass the time & wait for 4:30 when she can come home. Can’t wait until she can return to her active, stubborn husky self!”
Last winter Takoda was still running like a maniac!
I was told I could call after noon to check on her. It was just about that time when I got a call from the vet. My heart raced when I heard his voice. He sounded distraught and apprehensive. I could barely respond as the vet explained that they’d started the surgery, that Takoda has bone cancer, that he was so sorry, that things are never easy, and that they’d like my husband Jason and I to come in and talk about options and that he didn’t want to do that over the phone. It was hard to answer and hard to listen. He was empathetic and kind and I apologized that he had to tell me such bad news. I felt empty. It was a dark and stormy summer day and rain was pouring. I took my other Husky mix and my German Shepherd for walks which soaked my clothes and drenched my hair and I didn’t feel a thing. I still had to tell Jason and the thought of that cut like a knife. I didn’t have to tell him, from the look on my face he guessed, and we cried. And he said “the crazy thing is, if Takoda was here she’d be comforting us”. And she would have. That’s the kind of dog she is. The “once-in-a-lifetime” kind that knows I’m upset before I do, who won’t leave my side when I’m sick or sad or frustrated. She knows what kind of day I’m planning by the shoes I put on, what trail we’re driving to by direction we leave the driveway. She’s smart, intuitive, and fiesty, and she is our world.
These are the eyes that see into my soul.
Takoda the day after the amputation, still a bit groggy
“A dog is the only thing on this earth that loves you more than she loves herself.” — Josh Billings
At 4:30 that day we met with the vet. He explained chemotherapy and amputation and told us to take our time. We had decided on amputation before we’d left the vet. He told us it wasn’t a cure but it would allow her to be nearly pain free in just days, and that was about all we needed to hear. He delivered the devastating and startling prediction of 4-5 months until the cancer would overtake her. We still hope to beat the odds and that months will turn into years, but at that moment a pain-free week, month, anything was something.
Takoda was groggy and her leg was stapled from the would-have-been surgery. Not wanting to miss a moment, we stopped at a little park on the way home and let her walk a little which she loved. We walked a short distance to a little creek and then carried her back to the Jeep.
Another photo from the day after amputation, already smiling!
Three days later on July 22, 2010 we returned to the vet for a second surgery, Takoda’s amputation. Thanks to a good dog friend, I discovered bonecancerdogs.org and Tripawds.com, both of which were a huge help in preparing for the amputation and knowing what to expect. This time I called the vet and she was doing just fine. She was awake and standing. We were able to take her home the same day. I was nervous on the way to pick her up. But once I saw her everything felt fine. She looked much brighter and better than when we’d brought her home from the previous surgery.
Takoda recovered surprisingly quickly and her wound healed without any issues! We adopted Takoda when she was about 5 months old, and she had a broken leg at the time (another chapter in Takoda’s life ,read that story here>). The amputation was nothing compared with complications and time involved in healing the broken leg. Within a few days she was running and doing the stairs and she even enjoyed a brief playdate with a friend’s tiny dog.
3 days after the amputation we took Takoda to a trail for a short walk to boost her spirits. She was so fast, I couldn't keep her in the photo!
August 2nd Takoda returned to the vet and got her staples and stitches removed. The vet said she was doing great. She took a nap on her back with 3 legs up in the air. She hadn’t done that in a while!
The top photos are from today about 5 weeks in and she is doing amazing. She plays with her fursiblings, runs around the backyard, takes short walks, and nearly caught a ground squirrel today!