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


Well, Dieter’s recovery has been amazing.  The vet’s office said he was up and walking around the day after surgery, and had pee’d and poo’d by day 2 after surgery.  Thursday, the oncology section was “quiet”, so they let him roam around free in the office, and apparently he made himself at home, hopping around, laying on a makeshift bed and eating a piece of Pizza Hut pizza crust as a treat.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing over the phone!  I was in the Detroit airport when I heard this news and decided to celebrate with a couple of beers before getting on my flight  (I was at a job interview while he was recovering).

I picked him up Friday and we spent the afternoon in a quiet house, relaxing for the most part.  Here are some photos.

The area below the incision looks real angry; it’s tough to look at, as you can see.  The oncology vet tech said everything was normal, and that in fact it doesn’t get much better than how he is.  No swelling, no discharge.   He is on some meds, and not showing any signs of pain, so that makes me happy.

Dieter 1-2

Here’s a full-body shot.

Dieter 1-1

And, the you’d-never-would-know-it-happened shot:

Dieter 1-4


Like so many others here, I am amazed and humbled.  I thought I would feel sorry for him, and want to baby him, but aside from some confusing times (which side do I lay on?), he is just fine and I really don’t feel that way at all.  I don’t feel like I have to be watching him or making sure he doesn’t trip up somehow.  Same ol’ D.  I think that’s what makes me not feel sorry for him — he doesn’t feel sorry for himself.  He just does what he does.  He seems more physically stable today than yesterday, which is great.  He pee’d and poo’d in the back yard last night (in the rain), which has an uneven surface and it almost looked like he was going to tumble over for a second, but he did it!  He was a lot more steady this morning when eating breakfast – his back leg did not shake, and he didn’t shift his weight at all.

I’m relieved that the surgery is over, and that he came through so well.  To be honest, I’m just really, really enjoying being home in a quiet house (it’s raining, too, which is nice) relaxing, reading, snacking, and otherwise having a normal weekend (no school work).  I’m going to start a “gratitude jar” today (if I can find a jar), and I think that one of the things I’m grateful for is the opportunity to have a slow weekend.  They are very few and far between in my life.

Oh, Christine, if you’re reading this, he is *still* a 100lb lab, even after the amputation!

Dieter is officially a tripawd – sailed through surgery (yay!)

Whew!  I am one relieved doggy mama.  Dieter sailed through his surgery today.  He was the 2nd amputation that the surgeon had on the docket for the day so I did not get a call until late in the afternoon.  Thankfully, they started him on pain meds as soon as they took him back.  The surgeon said there was very little bleeding, that there were absolutely no issues with the surgery and that Dieter was zonked out on pain meds.  It sounds like it could not have gone much better.  It was time, too, as the pain meds he’d been on were no longer effective — he was not using the bad leg at all, and was vocalizing and acting really (uncharacteristically) stressed out.  I could see it in his eyes.  Poor guy.

I was really impressed with the nurse I met this morning; I have a lot of confidence that they are taking good care of him and I know she’s doing a lot of work to keep him comfortable.  They like to keep their amputations for about 48 hours to make sure all is well, so I will not pick him up until Friday morning.  Thankfully everyone said that I could call and check in on him as much as I wanted.  😀

I’ll post some pictures when he’s home.  Friday morning can’t come soon enough!

Last day on 4 legs

Today is Dieter’s last day on 4 legs.  I had to go into school today and was cranky and antsy to get home.  I wanted to spend as much time with him as possible.  Once home, the dogs mobbed me and it all felt so…normal.  They jostled and jockeyed for the closest position to me.  A reminder that Dieter really is just being Dieter.  And Otto is being Otto.  And that’s not going to change any time soon.  I feel pretty prepared and still have about 30 questions for the surgeon and a last-minute shopping list (haha) but Linda (TriTuck) made a good point in a comment on one of my other posts.  Be ready for emotional events.  I have some important school/work related stuff coming up while Dieter will be in recovery in the hospital, so after tomorrow morning, I’m going to try my best to take things one hour at a time.  If that doesn’t work, then I can scale down to 1/2 hour at a time, or less if need be.

Here’s a picture of him from this afternoon.  I like this view, because this is exactly what he’ll look like post-amputation.  I have never taken my dogs for granted, but I’m determined to use this opportunity to make some changes in my life.  It’s going to be more dog-centered, and that’s not a bad thing.

Thank you to everyone who has welcomed me to the site and offered their advice and support.  It is greatly appreciated!


D 11-18-13

Quick list of what I have, bought and am waiting on for pre-and post-op

Just because I’ve had a hard time finding this information in one place, here’s a quick rundown of what I’ve accumulated to support Dieter’s pre-and post-op.  I’ll add more things as they reveal themselves to be useful.

1.  The Big Barker (7″ of American-made support for your big 4-legged friend – yeah!)

2.  The Webmaster – I’ve been using Ruffwear stuff for years and this product is outstanding, as are all their other things.

2.5.  A soft towel to act as a sling for getting in and out of the car until he can wear the Webmaster

3.  Random “dog towels” – for whatever spills, accidents, oozing, and/or drooling may be going on

4.  Grip Trex booties – these I bought for Otto many years ago and he HATED them.  I’ve been easing them onto Dieter’s feet for familiarity in case they’d be helpful at the vet’s office down the line

5.  Hydrogen peroxide and triple antibacterial lotion – just in case things look a little too pink / red at some point

6.  Inflatable cone – somehow this just seems a teeny bit more dignified than the “cone of shame”

7.  I’m going to buy Bella’s hot/cold pack for pain management

8.  The BF showed up on Friday night with 500 sq ft of commercial-grade carpeting in his truck.  The whole house, which has stained concrete floors, is now carpeted.  I doubt you have as amazing a BF as I do, but now you know the secret.

9.  A baby gate with a swinging door to cordon off his recovery area (aka the bedroom)

10.  A bunch of new toys to destroy as he recovers (Goodwill and Costco are cheap sources of soft toys that destruct gratifyingly easily).

11.  Elevated food bowls – really tall ones since he’s such a tall boy.  His current 12″ ones will not be good for his posture on three legs.  I can’t remember the brand name, but these are 16″ tall and I ordered them from

12.  I raided Costco for soups, canned fruits, cereal, yogurt, Clif bars and other easy-to-prepare and reasonably healthy foods (oh, ok, except for the 15-pack of mac and cheese) so that I would not have to think about what I was going to eat while I was paying attention to his recovery

12.5.  Comfort food (see #12)

13.  The Dog Cancer Survival Guide.  I haven’t started reading it yet, but I’ll review it when I do.

14.  A good book to read for when I can’t concentrate on work or just want to hang out with him while he’s less mobile.

Week 0 or, how much can you handle?


If you haven’t read the “About” section, you need to know one thing for now.  This blog is not for my dog, this blog is for me.  It’s *about* my dog, but *for* me.  One week ago, I was happily at home with my two dogs (Otto and Dieter), doing our normal Sunday night thing — barking at whatever they think they see outside (in the case of the dogs), and watching The Walking Dead (in the case of the human).  Dieter had been limping for a couple of weeks, but he plays rough with Dozer, his step-brother, and so I thought it was just some random strain/sprain.  He always comes home from visits to the BF’s house with random little scars or scrapes from carousing.

I thought it best, though, to take him into the vet, just to see what was up.  Two weeks seemed like a long time to limp.  That’s when it all started.  So fast.  Too fast.  Tuesday at the vet, range of motion tests, x-rays, valley fever titer started (we live in AZ).  Wednesday nothing.  Thursday, valley fever titer negative, hip x-rays, chest x-rays, phone consults with a radiologist, oncologist, and a surgeon, large-gauge needle aspiration, dates for in-person consults scheduled, surgery scheduled and holy cow all the stuff that had to be considered, decided, done, bought, installed, fitted.  It all came crashing down, hard.  When Friday came around and the biopsy results revealed osteosarcoma, it was old news; I was already three steps ahead of that game.

I’m a pretty tough cookie.  I’ve been around the block a time or two.  I’m very good in a crisis; very focused, decisive, able to take in and process a lot of information quickly and deal with it effectively.  I’m comfortable making tough decisions.  Unlike a lot of others facing my situation, the decision to amputate was easy.  Cut off the source of the cancer, alleviate the pain, improve his quality of life.  A painful decision, a tough decision, but an easy call to make.

Of course Dieter is just dealing with it on a moment by moment basis, and he’s fine.  Especially since he scored the hat trick of pain meds – rimadyl, tramadol and gabapentin.  He’s already sitting, standing and placing most of his weight while in motion on his good leg.  He uses only his good leg to get up and down off the couch (which he’s only done once or twice in the last week; he’s feeling it).  If there is something particularly interesting outside, he’s trotting on three legs.

But that’s not how people work, and as a community it’s important for us to understand that the process of arriving at a diagnosis of osteosarcoma and the subsequent treatment can happen VERY fast.  Especially if you are not in an area where valley fever is a problem and your vet team can come to the sarcoma conclusion faster.  That’s why this blog is *about* my dog, but *for* me.  It’s the only way I can think of to process all that has happened in such a short period of time.

The good news?  Clarity.  All of us have a lot going on in our lives.  I’m a PhD student; I’m on the job market, in the middle of my dissertation as well as other research projects, teaching a class and in a long-distance relationship.  But I’ll tell you what, this week, I got a huge dose of clarity, and I am immensely grateful.  More on that later…

About Dieter

Dieter (pronounced dee-ter) is a male, black Lab.  He’s 1 year and 9 months old.  He’s big and long legged; classic American style Lab.  He is a rescue that took me a long time to find, but was the perfect match to our extended pack (2 humans and 4 dogs total).  Goofy, leggy, love at first sight for everyone involved.  He came to the rescue from a backyard breeder, under circumstances that were not clear to us, however I can say with certainty that he has a better life now than he did before.  He is probably the best-behaved Lab puppy you will ever meet.  Naturally mellow, although he did have counter-surfing tendencies when he first came home.  What Lab doesn’t like a little nibble?!  He also has his crazy-puppy moments of racing around the house, but not often.  It is at these times when he is referred to as “Die-tard”.  He has a big brother, Otto, who is 4 years older, and who has a significantly larger repertoire of nicknames (give me time).  They are great buddies and the best companions anyone could ask for.