Like a boss

I can’t believe it’s been so long since I last posted.  But so much has happened, as predicted.  And more.  But that’s not what this post is about.  I got my renewal notice for supporting the Tripawds blog and realized that day after tomorrow is Dieter’s one year ampuversary!  Wow.  He has been on such a long journey (I hate that word, but it’s appropo).  And you know what?  He’s beating it like a BOSS.

We have been so lucky to be in Utah.  There is an amazing vet center, with amazing doctors (and staff!) who have really brought the latest in cancer care science and rehabilitation to the forefront of their practice.  I drive 30 minutes to see them and have no trouble doing it.  I’ve recommended them on the blogs, so if you’re in Utah, you’re in luck.

Interestingly, I wrote a post a long time ago about the importance of rehabilitation.  At the time, I had not started Dieter on rehab, but had been convinced by others that it was worthwhile.  I can now say that Dieter’s current state of health (mental and physical) is significantly improved through rehabilitation.  I can’t stress it enough; if you have access, do it.  You will be amazed at what your dog can do with help.  In addition to rehab, his vet recommended a change in diet, weight loss (he’s lost 14 lbs), and some ongoing medication that will help protect his joints (Adequan and meloxicam).  She’s run a barrage of tests on him over the last few months, and his chest x-rays have been completely clear so far.

The last post I wrote before this was was about the ups and downs, and the down I was referring to was the sobering conversation about average life expectancies for dogs with osteosarcoma.  Jim and Rene responded to that post by reminding me that each dog is different and that the averages are just averages.  In looking back, I realize that there was no way to know, at that time, whether or not Dieter would fall into that average.

About a month ago, Dieter finished his rehab, and he had a general review check-in with his vet.  She told me that she had never seen such a strong three-legged dog before, and that Dieter had responded to therapy extremely well.  Of course, the therapists are all ladies, so Dieter was happy to do whatever they wanted him to do, ha!  I was very pleased to hear that Dieter could now basically do anything he wanted, from a physical standpoint.  I asked the vet what else I could do, aside from what I was already doing, to help him.   She said nothing, that I was a model dog mom in this situation.  Again, I was pleased.  Then she got quiet.  One of the things I like most about Dieter’s (and now Otto’s) vet is that she’s a straight shooter.  She’s quick, to-the-point yet personable, and operates from an evidence-based perspective.  She is a CSU graduate and keeps in regular contact with them to keep up on the latest.

But her going quiet made me anxious.  Then she said, “You know what?  I think he can beat it.  His systems are all super healthy, his images are clear, he shows no signs of cancer or evidence that he’s fighting anything, and there are a bunch of things we can do to avoid factors that have known associations with osteosarcoma. [apparently certain vaccinations?]  He’s on the right diet, and is physically and mentally very healthy.  I think we have a success story on our hands.”  I was shocked.  I asked her if she’d had other patients who had beat it, and she listed off a short list, most of whom had osteosarcoma, and one dog that had lymphatic cancer.  All lived out full and healthy lives.  I just couldn’t believe it.  But she’s no BS-er; she would not have said anything if she didn’t believe it.  I asked her if she was serious about 10 times, and she said yes every time.  As with Jim and Rene, she reminded me that every dog is different, and Dieter has a good combination of things going for him.

I probably won’t ever clear the cobweb of anxious possibility from the corners of my mind, but in that moment I realized that I’d been approaching life with Dieter as a short-term proposition, waiting for the other shoe to drop.  It started to dawn on me that there was a real possibility that he would be around for a while.  I honestly can’t remember something giving me as much joy as that realization.

Here’s a recent picture of my beautiful, healthy boy, enjoying the grass in Utah.  Like a BOSS.  😀

Dieter 9-14

Ups and Downs

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve posted, and it’s because school had been taking up all my time.  I’m finished now, and things are slowing down a bit, which is nice.  Some of the big things on our plates have dropped off.  Today is a day of ups and downs and as this blog is my means for getting some of this stuff out of my system, here goes.

Ups:  Dieter is done with chemo, and his first chest x-rays post chemo are clear.  Confirmation will come from the radiologist later this afternoon, but his primary oncologist said everything looked great.  He can go back on salmon oil and glucosamine chondroitin for his joints.  He is doing so well.  He can still only take short walks, but he loves those walks and going out and about.  I took him to Lowe’s with me a couple of weeks ago and he loved it.  They also loved him, of course.  He plays hard and has fun with his buddies in Phoenix more often now, as I’m able to go up more often.  For him, life is good.

Downs:  There’s really only one down.  And it’s really not for him, it’s for me, and for that I’m thankful.  I asked his oncologist today what to expect in terms of average life expectancy at this point, given that his lungs are clear now.  She said that on average, the lungs start to show the cancer about a year after the initial diagnosis, and then with low-dose chemo, to only expect another 6 months.  Now, I know there are other things I can do, and as a researcher, I will look into stuff pretty thoroughly, but it’s still a sobering conversation.  I’m not sure I was prepared for it, to be honest.  There are still so many other things going on (moving, graduating, a conference coming up) and he’s just so normal and happy, that it’s hard to take in.

I’m glad we’re moving somewhere where D can experience some fun stuff.  He’ll have his own backyard, with grass (we’re all ready to leave rocky, sandy AZ), snow to play in, lakes to swim in.  I’m hoping to be able to bring him into work with me some days, and if I can’t, it’s ok, I’m just a 2 minute drive from campus.  Until then, the answer is no, you can’t have too many bones.  Haha.


Need a cathartic shot in the arm? Watch Derek.

I’m a big fan of movies and TV, and I have certain movies and shows in particular that help me to get out the feels that are hard to get out sometimes because I have to be the strong one, pretty much all the time (“tough girl” personality, two dogs, too much going on, not many friends to really lean hard on, and I live away from a small family).  If you’re in my position, or just want to experience something that really mirrors the emotional experience of these forums and the experiences of so many here in order to help you get those feels out, you need to watch Derek.

Derek is a show created by Ricky Gervais, and if you’re a fan, you may be a little disappointed at the concept but you need to give it a try.  If you’re not a fan, you need to give it a try.  It’s not typical Ricky Gervais.  Gervais plays a mentally challenged man who works in a nursing home.  He has friends who work there (Karl Pilkington plays the handyman) and he participates with the residents in their activities, hangs out with them, and generally just lives life.  He has a crush on the nursing home manager.  He likes frogs.  Gervais plays Derek with an amazing amount of deftness and respect for the character he’s playing, this is not a make-fun-of-the-slow-guy show in any way, shape or form.

The show is about kindness.  In the show, people come and go, they live and they die.  Life in the nursing home is not sugar coated in this show.  Their entertainment is decidedly home-made.  Money is tight.  The challenges that the nursing home manager has are all laid out before you.  There are some outright hilarious scenes, there are scenes that will make you cheer, and there are some scenes that will make you bawl your eyes out.  There is an abundance of hope and and an abundance of sadness, but the theme of kindness flows through it all.  This is the secret of the show.

Every time I come on this website, I feel like I’m watching Derek.  The parallels are apparent.  You see the same hopes and sadnesses, the same struggles with everyday life that is changed and has in many ways become limiting.  Derek himself is limited, yet he lives his life to the fullest, and this is another theme you see over and over on this website (Cora, I’m talkin’ to you, girl).  You also see kindness.  Everywhere.  And it’s glorious.

I’m too embedded in life with Dieter sometimes for me to see the big picture.  This website helps, and so does watching Derek.  I highly recommend you give it a try.  It’s on Netflix, there is only one season, and there are only 7 half-hour shows, so it’s easy to get a sample or binge watch the whole season in 3-1/2 hours if you want.

If you watch it and it helps you or you just like it, leave a comment; I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Review of Petego Rear Car Seat Protector

As I mentioned in my other post, the other dog-related purchase to go with my car was a seat cover.  I have tried several seat covers over the years (as I’m sure you all have as well), and needed some special features for my big tripawd puppy.  I wanted one that had a non-slip bottom, and one that had a better way of attaching the bottom to the corners of the seat.  This last feature was a problem with every other seat cover I’ve had.  In some cases, these problems made the seat cover entirely worthless.

Bottom line?  Highly recommended.  I’ll talk first about some of the general features and then about these two issues. First up, the seat cover is a very sturdy canvas-like material.  I was genuinely surprised at the quality of the material.  It is thick and somewhat stiff; it seems like it could take a beating, although I have not tested it with dirty, wet dogs yet.  It has the standard attachments to the back headrests, but these can also be looped over the corner of the seat and attach on the side if you don’t have rear headrests or want to hook it up that way.  I’m not sure how well that would keep the seat cover back up, but I think most cars have headrests these days in the back.  It’s pretty big; I have a Ford Flex and it covers the entire back (bench) seat.  It also has a (slightly) padded, quilted bottom.  I really liked this feature as a little extra.

Now to the good stuff.  The underside of the bottom has some sort of non-skid mesh material attached to it.  It’s similar to those non-slip things you put under rugs, but more industrial looking and much thicker.  I have leather seats in my car, and the bottom of the seat cover *does not* move.  This is the best non-slip seat cover solution I’ve found, hands down.  The other thing that was amazeballs is the way the seat cover attaches to the outside corners of the seats.  There are large neoprene (think wetsuit) “straps” (they are very wide, so not really a strap, I just can’t find the right word for them) that grip the corners of the leather seats and stay there.  Between the non-skid bottom and these straps, the bottom of this car seat isn’t going anywhere.   It also has a nice “curtain” that comes down the sides and front of the seat cover, so it ends up actually covering all the leather.  Lastly, there are two small cylindrical foam attachments to the underside of the seat cover that wedge in between the seat back and seat bottom, which helps to keep the cover nestled into the seats.  There are slits for seat belts for 3 back seat passengers (canine or hominid).

I paid $73 for this from amazon (use the Tripawds link!), and it was worth it.  I can’t see myself buying another car seat cover, to be honest, and I can’t think of any downsides, except that it’s pretty big and may not fit smaller SUVs or cars.  I have a Ford Flex and it’s just a teeny bit (like 1/2″) too deep for the seats (which are big to begin with).  It comes in the usual tan, grey and charcoal colors as well as a couple of striped combos if you’re into a little flair.   Please feel free to ask me any questions if you have them.   Below are some photos with the whole set-up, and a couple of slots with the seat protector and seat extender.  Jennifer


car4 car3 car2

See more at:

Review of Petego Car Seat Extender

Hi all,

I recently purchased a new car, as my old car was too small.  Not only was the back seat bucket-style, but its small size really became a problem when Dieter became a tripawd.  Also, I could not take both dogs and all my camping gear in the smaller car, and since camping is a priority, there you go.

As part of my new car purchase, I made two other purchases with the dogs in mind.  One was a seat cover, which I will review in another post, and the other was this inflatable seat extender platform.  There are a lot of back seat car solutions for dogs, but each of my boys are 100lbs, so it needed to be sturdy.  Hammocks were out, as were the flat boards that hang from the back of the front seats.  Just looked too unstable.  I wanted to give the boys as much square footage of flat, supportive and comfortable space, so I bought this inflatable extender and tried it out.

Bottom line?  Highly recommended.  Since it’s inflatable, it can be customized to the space in the back seat area.  I have a pretty big car (Ford Flex) and fully inflated it fits perfectly.  There are three air chambers, configured like a short pi symbol.  The two “legs” fit in the footwells of the back seat, and the top part extends all the way across the back of the car.  Inflated, this creates a huge back seat area for the dogs.  They’ve stretched out, curled up, laid side-by-side, and the platform does a great job supporting them both.   It has the standard pvc-coated plastic sides and bottom, but the top surface is a textured material.  I still thought it was too slick, so I’ve put dog blankets (from LL Bean, these are awesome, too) across the platform to create a cushion that has a little more traction for them.  This also keeps the dogs’ claws from possibly damaging the top, although it doesn’t seem like that would be a problem, the top material is thick and sturdy.

It comes with it’s own inflating pump that runs off a 12V outlet, so you can inflate / deflate on the go if you want.  It was $68 on amazon (you can use the link to buy it!), but well worth it if you ask me.  The plastic is thick, so I feel pretty good about it not ripping, and it doesn’t move once it’s in. The only downside, and this is *minor* is that the little plugs are hard to get in their holes once you’re done inflating.  You gotta move quicker than with other things (like my air mattress) and you really have to push them in.  The good side to this is that they’ll stay in and you won’t have to worry about random deflation.   If anyone has any questions about this, please feel free to ask me.  The dogs have been on a few 2+ hour trips with it now and it’s been fantastic.    Jennifer

Here are some photos:

car3 car2 car1

See more at:

The importance of rehabilitation therapy

Happy New Year, everyone!

Dieter is doing great!  He has still been getting around well, and has a lot of spunk and joy.  Next Tuesday is round #3 of chemo.  I can’t believe he’ll be halfway through that.  So happy.  He’s taking it well.  It seems to slow him down for the first week, then he slowly works his way back to the puppy he is.  I wanted to share something important that I learned today.

What I learned today:  Read, read, read, read, read.  The surgeon who amputated Dieter’s leg told me that I would not need rehabilitation therapy, that Dieter would learn on his own, over time, how to do stuff.  I did a little reading today and I learned that Dieter learning how to do stuff on his own does not mean that he will do stuff in the right way, to avoid injuries (either acute, or long term), especially since he is young and has not had a lot of hiking, swimming, etc to help him learn how his body works in a variety of physical situations.  I took my bed off it’s frame to lower it in the hopes that Dieter would be able to get up on the bed more easily and sleep with me, as he’d done before surgery.  The last three nights I’ve been working with him, with treats, to get him to see he can make it up.  He gets up on the sofa all the time and the bed is now the same height as the sofa.  All wrong.  I did some reading today and discovered that the way he does these things now can cause him injury and long-term problems as well.  He needs to learn how to do things in a way that will not hurt him, and I’m now starting to rethink how he does everything from walking, to getting into and out of the car (I basically lift him up, haha).  I realized that I need help.

I’m a student, and don’t have a lot of money, but I’m going to look into getting some help with rehabilitation therapy.  There are a couple of places in town with certified therapists and I’m hoping I can have one of them meet Dieter, and help  me come up with a plan that I can do entirely at home on my own (I can’t afford to take him to therapy sessions).

It just makes sense.  I had a shoulder impingement for *years* and finally had some PT for it a couple of years ago.  No issues since then.  Same with a bum knee I’ve had all my life – periodic PT has helped tremendously.  I now realize this applies to Dieter, too, and am taking the idea very seriously.  I think everyone should, for the long term health of their pet.

photo (12)



Dieter update and Happy Holidays!

Hi all,

I’m sorry things have been a little quiet from my end.  Maybe it’s because things have been not-so-quiet around our house (s)!  Dieter has been doing great; he hardly reacted to the first round of chemo, so I’m optimistic that we’ll be able to get a total of 6 rounds in.  Round #2 is tomorrow (yes, Xmas eve), and I’m all set up with meds to help him if he has issues.  He was running with his extended pack all weekend, and has totally worn himself out.  But, the exercise and companionship was really good for him.  I can see his back leg is getting stronger, and in conjunction with longer walks, I will start some home exercises with him to help build his core and work those muscles on the remaining back leg.

I got a new car this past weekend, one that is much bigger and will ultimately be better for all of us.  In conjunction with that, I’ve purchased a couple of things that I think will make life in the car much easier for Dieter.  I will post a review of the items after we’ve had a chance to use them.  They are a non-slip backseat cover and inflatable “pillows” that fit the foot wells in the back, to create a wide, flat surface in the backseat of the car.

I want to wish you all the happiest of holidays!  Dieter wears his bandana proudly every day and I am so grateful for this community!  You all are the best, and I hope your holidays return to you what you’ve put out to the world in helping so many people with this process.

Much love,

Jennifer, Dieter and Otto

P.S.  Sorry no pictures this time around.  Family is coming in, so there will be plenty to share soon!

Rhythms of daily life

Well, Dieter is almost 3 weeks post-op, and has started chemo.  His stitches are out and the incision site looks amazing.  Totally closed up.  He seems to be taking chemo well, although he has had some nausea.  Our vet is wonderful and she sent us home with some medications that have helped.  Today I was able to coax him onto the bed (I took it off the frame so it would be lower for him) and I’m hoping he got the message.  Before all this started, he was my sleeping buddy every night.  He’d jump up on the bed and sleep right next to me.  I have really been missing that (seemingly) little thing, and I know he has been, too.  We’ve slept together on the sofa a couple of times, and also on the floor a couple of times since this all started, and each time he’s snuggled up real close.

Now that all my travel is done for the semester, and class is winding down, I am turning my thoughts to the rhythms of our lives and how this has all disrupted that.  This has been so much for everyone to take in, and it’s hit my little family hard.  Otto is struggling as well, I can tell, and he’s put on some weight since he hasn’t been on his daily walks for about a month.  Remember my post on nicknames?  Well, now I have a new double nickname for the two of them.   Jabba and Luke.  Get it?

I feel like all three of us are at the point where it’s time to re-establish routines.  They will have to be different, so more change is in store.  Otto is a sniffer on walks.  I call walks with him “sniff-peditions.”  He has to sniff every last leaf, needle, rock, etc. along the way, so Dieter was always pushing the pace.  Well, now that he walks even faster (I have to jog sometimes), there’s no way I’m going to be able to walk them together.  At least for now.  Dieter needs to be pushed to exercise on multiple shorter trips, so he can build up his strength and balance, and Otto needs lots of long walks to burn off the fat.  So, more changes, more changes.

Being essentially a social psychologist, I know that the effects of change on people accumulate, and I think it’s no different for dogs.  Hopefully new rhythms to our days will give us all a sense of security and continuity.

Until then, we’ll just chill…


The good, the bad, the ugly, and being true to yourself

Well, the title says it all.  The good — Dieter received his bandana in the mail today!  Thanks Rene; the yellow color looks awesome against his black fur.  Here is the best shot I could get of him.  It shows the best part, I *heart*  The nice thing is that he doesn’t mind wearing it!  So, on it stays until it needs washing.  🙂


Dieter tri rule

He’s been a little listless today; the neighbor’s comings and goings got him up and barking, though, which is a good sign.  He is healing really well; I’m continuously amazed.  Although he did open up a couple of stitches night before last.  I’m not sure if it was from sitting on them, or licking, but he had to go in for replacements yesterday.  He’s doing well, though.  It’s his one-week ampuversary and he has no more bruising.  He can move all around the house without a problem and even goes through the dog door without a hitch.  I think he’s experiencing some itchiness and some phantom pain, but I’ve talked to the vet about both of those.  They are so nice, they don’t care how many times a day I call with questions.

The bad — In the course of balancing some bank accounts, I discovered just how much all this has cost so far.  That’s the bad part.  Ouch!  I never did, nor will I ever, ask how much it costs for whatever treatment he needs.  As a grad student, it’s tough to see my savings account drain, but so be it.  By this time next year, I’ll be making plenty and can carry debt until then.

The ugly — along with his one-week ampuversary came a call from the oncologist.  Osteosarcoma, and how quickly can I get him in for chemo.  Although I knew that’s what it likely was, it still hit hard to hear it.  So, I immediately made myself some hot chocolate and turned on some soothing music.  And got to thinking.

There are many phrases that you hear in life for which you really only have a cursory understanding of their meanings, until some life experience teaches you the meaning.  I remember absolutely *hating* the phrase, “you choose to be happy” until I got it.  Then many years later, I learned what it meant to say “you can’t love someone else until you love yourself”.   Really, that one is kind of like when the airline steward(ess) tells you to put your oxygen mask on before your child’s.  You’re no good to someone else if you can’t breathe yourself.

Now, I feel a dawning understanding of the phrase “make every day count”.  I used to think that meant accomplishing all that you had to do for that day, or at least doing some good for the day.  Or, make sure you were moving in the right direction for yourself.  Or something else…I’m pretty sure I had no clue.  Ha.

There are a lot of ways that one can “make every day count”.  I posted somewhere else that I was going to start a gratitude jar.  I never was good at gratitude.  It’s not that I’m bitter, I just have tried to practice gratitude and it never stuck.  I fell off the gratitude wagon several times after just a few weeks at it each time.  It doesn’t feel like enough to just be grateful that Dieter is around and reasonably healthy.  So I’m taking back what I said about a gratitude jar.  Screw it.

I’m more of a hands-on person.  That’s a big part of who I am, and I know that about myself.  I do much better if I can roll my sleeves up and get in the muck.  Dieter’s got about a week until he can really start to move around, so until then, I’m gonna do what I do best, and some other things.  Research, research, research.  I was told the median life span, with chemo, was about a year.  What’s the mean?  Mode?  The closer these three numbers, the less can be done to change them.  If they’re farther apart, then there are factors that make some dogs last longer than others.  What are the differences between dogs that last the median vs. the mode or mean?  I sure hope the oncologist knows the difference between median, mean and mode, or it’s gonna get embarrassing (for her).

And tonight, I’m gonna read to Dieter.  Tomorrow I’ll be sitting on the floor next to wherever he is when I have a couple of Skype meetings.  We’re spending Thanksgiving by ourselves, so he gets to share the meal with me.  Chicken (too lazy to run to the store and get turkey at this point, plus I’ve been sick myself), and a couple of family specialties.  Then, I’m not sure.  We’ll see.  But, I’ll make it count for him.

Dieter relax

Aloha, friends, aloha.

On dogs and nicknames

There seems to be an interesting phenomenon regarding dogs and nicknames.  I’m not sure how many people do it, or how many nicknames, on average, people have for their dogs, but it’s definitely a Thing.  If you’ve been following along, you know I have two dogs, Dieter, the star of this blog, and Otto.  Both are labs, and so they both like to mouth everything, and lick everybody.

Early on, Otto started to accumulate a lot of nicknames, mostly around his propensity to lick.  Here is a sample:  Don Lickles (the first), Lick Skywalker, Licky Martin, and so on.  Of course, there were the inevitable Otto-<insert thing here> nicknames, like Otto-man, Otto-pop, Otto-matic and Otto-pilot.  I think all told, Otto is up to about 20 different nicknames that are in active use.  The most recent is Bessy.  He’s put on a little weight, and when he sits, his genital/underside of the hind area looks a little bit like a cow’s udder.  We’re mean, I know.  But we say it lovingly and pet and kiss him, so he doesn’t seem to mind.

Dieter has been slower to accumulate nicknames.  So far, he has Heavy D (because he’s so big; a nod to the big rapper, who is also a gentle giant, I understand), Nipsy Russell (because he likes to nip at you to get him to play with him) and the aforementioned Die-tard for when he gets puppy-level wound up.  The BF came up with a great nickname for Dieter last night.  This one’s going to stick:  Chuck Norris.

So here’s what happened.  Faster than I could catch him, Dieter hopped out of one of his beds, made a beeline for the sofa, and jumped right on up.  The vet tech told me not to let him jump up on things, but it happened so fast, there was nothing I could do!  I was a little freaked out, but obviously no harm was done.  I texted the BF about what happened, and he responded, “you might need to rename him Chuck Norris”, then, “Chuck Norris only has three legs because his fourth leg is kicking ass in hell!”

Pretty good, huh?

Here’s Chuck Norris (I hope that’s not trademarked or anything, or I’ll be in trouble) splayed out on his Big Barker.  I will echo so many others in endorsing this bed; it’s an awesome investment and cheaper than some other high end brands of “orthopedic” beds.  It also got here super-quick, from CA to AZ.

Dieter 2-2