Shelby – 3 weeks as a tripawd

WOW … what a difference three weeks makes. I can remember 3 weeks ago tonight, I was rushing to Advanced Critical Care to visit my brand new tripawd (who was so drugged yet she wagged her tail so she knew I was there). I was scared and nervous to see her new look and thankfully she had a bandage on her wound to ease me into it.

Flash forward three LONG weeks. Shelby and I have had so many ups and downs. The first night she was home was clearly the honeymoon period as it only went downhill from there. Our first weekend, I wanted to cry from lack of sleep and being unable to calm or soothe her (I even begged the vet to take her back till she chilled out).

We removed her pain patch and reduced her pain meds and added some doggy valium. It sort of helped. She assumed ownership of my bathroom and still hangs out in there at night but definitely lets me in there more often than not.

Nights are still hard on us. I get home from work around 5/530 and she’s happy and alert to see me. We go for a quick walk and I fix her dinner. Our new dinner routines takes about 3 rounds of negotiations before she eats it all. Basically I have to add stock or something to make it taste/look better. It’s a constant back and forth of my adding stuff to make it more palatable to her. And it’s not that she’s not hungry (she IS). She just wants chicken or turkey w/her dinner. Spoiled! Then she has a quick nap w/me on the couch (approved couch time only). Snuggles, pets, cuddles galore!!!

After I eat my dinner, take her out for a quick pee, all hell breaks loose. She pants, she paces, she stands. NO reason. This goes on for about 1/2 hour while I desperately try and ignore it as to not enable her. She hates if I am on the phone, the computer, anything that detracts from her. Her front limbs seem more stiff but that doesn’t make sense to me. Finally she puts herself to bed in the bathroom and I just have to assume (since I can’t see her) that she’s fine and not doing anything she shouldn’t be.

So three weeks down…. this mom is trying to be less anxious, less quick to pick her up and coddle her OR feed her when she goes a little bat crazy, more trying to ignore it since it’s not real pain or discomfort but rather a tactic (I hope) to get attention. I still freak out when she walks on an uneven sidewalk or does a quick hop/step to reverse course. I tend to pick her up when anyone comes w/in a foot of us. I pick her up to carry her across the street. Our new normal is definitely harder on me. I don’t regret taking her painful leg off. I just wish that I could ease up. Perhaps it’s harder on the humans. Oh to be a dog… ignorance really can be bliss. #shelbystrong

Before she heads off to the bathroom for the evening.
Before she heads off to the bathroom for the evening.

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Shelby day 18 – continuing to improve

Shelby had been home for 2 weeks now and when I think back to where we were 2 weeks ago (not sleeping, calling the vet 24/7 to see if ‘this’ was normal, shutting her out of my room) to where we are today – pretty peaceful and calm and everyone sleeping through the night, I am relieved! We are settling into our ‘new normal’.

Shelby continues to take respite in my tiny bathroom – and while I try and find the humor in it (it is kind of funny) it does confuse me. She always used to go lay in her bed after eating and now she takes to the bathroom as she has assumed that is her new bedroom.

BUT she will come out for snuggles and hang out with me in the main room. She even snuggled with me on my bed earlier when I put her up there. We had an outing today to a pet store for treats and she was 100% “Shelby” -tail wagging, looking for attention, happy, perky ears.

She tries to go on longer walks and then will just stop and appear tired or maybe is just milking it so I will pick her up. I carry her up and down the stairs more than I should but I worry about her other legs so much. My back has finally had enough but I”m trying to get stronger.

We still have a long battle to go and we both know that. The odds are against us. It’s been a long journey, heartbreaking at times. When her leg broke in June, there was no definitive diagnosis of cancer so we kept the leg and that decision plagues me to this day. I have to learn to find peace and let it go and know that I have done everything right with the information I had at the time. And that Shelby knows that. And she knows she is loved more than anything else. #shelbystrong

Shelby out of the bathroom!

Picking out her own toys!

Shelby’s recovery day 16

Shelby continues to recover pretty well. She’s alert, most of the time, happy to see me, eager to go out or get cuddles/snuggles. She will cuddle with me on the couch if I pick her up. She doesn’t seem eager or able to jump up on her own – even though I have been told with her stitches out, she can do so on her own now.

However, since about day 3 of her recovery, she has taken up residence in my tiny bathroom. At first I thought she was using it as a ‘safe zone’ or ‘den’, the fact that she goes in there ALL the time now – day or night – is just disturbing to me. I don’t know why it bothers me so much other than it’s not the normal for her. She will come out now, if I call her, which is a huge improvement (in the beginning, I had to drag her ass out of there). She is perfectly fine with me being in there with her when I’m getting ready or taking a shower.

Last night I decided to wash the linens in there, including her bath mat. You would think I took away her best friend. She was seriously lost and despondent without that bath mat in there. She just walked back and forth – looking for the mat, seeing if it had magically appeared. When it came back, she was so happy.

Sometimes she faces me in the bathroom but most of the time, she faces booty side out, like she is shunning me. I have heard this is normal and eventually she will come out for good. But I miss her sleeping near me in my bedroom, hearing her snore, knowing that she was/is there.

This has been the longest recovery from a surgery that she’s had (she’s had 3 in just 7 months) but since I can get her to cuddle, I know she isn’t in pain or upset or sad. Perhaps that mat just feels the most soft on her belly. But she is a fighter! #shelbystrong

Shelby’s journey from four paws to three!

Shelby Lynne was born in New Orleans, LA sometime around October 15, 2000. Shelby was adopted by her mama from the Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter in winter 2001. Found on the street, she had no name, no history, no background but she was fixed, house-trained and had lots of love to give!

From day one, Shelby was a spit-fire. It quickly became clear how Shelby ended up at the shelter since she was prone to escaping. Shelby was never one for crates or confinement of any kind – she was (and still is) an extremely strong-willed little dog. Shelby is part Jack Russell Terrier and part Shiba Inu. Shelby has never really been a barker but she’s 100% curious about everything around her. Shelby’s main goal in life is to love and to be loved. She would sell her mama out in a heartbeat.

Shelby’s kind and loving heart quickly qualified her to be a member of the Visiting Pet Program where she would visit hospitals and spread her cheer. She was a delight and brought lots of joy to all who met her.

In 2004, mom and Shelby relocated back to Seattle, WA. It was there that Shelby really found her voice, her spirit. She became the ‘apt’ dog and everyone knew her BUT no one knew me. It was there that Shelby had her first snow, learned that it was necessary to learn to pee in the rain and went on many hikes, runs, adventures with mom. In winter 2007, mom packed up the bags and relocated to Los Angeles. Shelby was in heaven. A place by the beach?!? What more could a dog want? Shelby and mom became even more inseparable (if that was even possible) and Shelby became known to all as the “love of my life”. My best friend.

We quickly realized we could take mini road trips to wineries, the beach, Palm Springs – all places that were extremely dog friendly. Shelby became my best travel buddy. There was almost no place Shelby wouldn’t/couldn’t go. Weekend adventures, happy hours, hikes … you name it, Shelby and I did it. But she was starting to slow down; a sad reality of the aging process. Yet as a 10+ year old dog, she still had a lot of puppy in her eyes and spirit.

June 2013 – the worst day of our life together. After a normal visit to the Farmer’s Market, Shelby went to jump in my car; something she had done a million times. She missed. She landed on her back left leg and made a sound no parent ever wants to hear. It was and remains the first time she has ever nipped at me. She was petrified and I quickly had to assume the alpha role and calm her down. What happened next will haunt me for the rest of my life. I rushed her to her vet and they said that the leg was broken. They told me they could fix it come Monday and they would keep Shelby comfortable over the weekend. It broke my heart to leave my injured baby behind.

Monday morning – the bad news the fracture was worse than previously thought and we would need a specialist. They found us one. I picked Shelby up and brought her to the specialist along with her Xrays. The specialist proclaimed – in the middle of the waiting room while I was holding my dog – that the break was due to cancer, the leg would have to come off and this dog was going to die. I have never felt as punched in the gut as I did at that moment. I demanded a second opinion which confirmed the same results – pathologic fracture. As I felt my life flash before my eyes as I contemplated my options, I found a strength I didn’t know I had . I had to be strong for Shelby. I took Shelby to another vet – mainly for a 3rd opinion and this place was highly recommended. Also, since I didn’t care for the specialist and his ‘diagnostic delivery’ method, I wasn’t going to let him cut apart my dog if I could avoid it.

Of course, we got the same diagnosis again and as I prepared on a Sunday night to have my dog’s leg amputated, we got a call. Perhaps there was no evidence of cancer (due to at least 3 biopsies). Perhaps there was a chance to save the leg with a plate and a few pins. Knowing that they could get a better biopsy while the surgery was going on was peace of mind. I chose to save the leg. Shelby came home with flying colors. She was a new dog and I felt a huge weight off my chest.

Shelby continued to recover well. Biopsies on her spleen (for masses seen there) and bone came back inconclusive for cancer. I truly believed we dodged a bullet. Shelby went back for her 6 week check-up and she was still limping more than she should. I chalked it up to older dog stuff. The masses on her leg hadn’t gone away but I didn’t expect them to. Her surgeon said we would continue to have to watch it.

September came – one week before I was to run my 11th marathon. Out of the blue, Shelby got really shakey and upset. I rushed her to the ER vet and they said her spleen looked enlarged. We had just had a great weekend w/friends – there was no reason for this. The next day, her same friendly surgeon said the spleen needed to come out. So she had her 2nd major surgery and did well. They sent the spleen off. She stayed at the vet for almost a week while I left town (at the urging of her vet since I almost bailed). I brought my girl home and we waited for the results. At this point, Shelby is the queen of her vet. They ALL love her and all pulling so hard for her so I know the call the vet had to make to me to tell me that Shelby had hemangiosarcoma was one of the hardest calls she had to make. I was devastated. The prognosis is not good – even with chemo but we elected to treat with chemo. We were hopeful that the chemo would help the leg (the limping was the same but some days worse than others). Her vets encouraged me to take off her leg and I didn’t want to. I thought she needed to build muscle back in it. I just wanted to make it through the holidays with my girl. I treated her like a China doll. She did great on the chemo. She was just getting ready for her 6th and final chemo when she did something to that leg.

We had no choice. We did X-rays and found that 50% of the bone mass was gone since her X-rays in June. Whatever it was was eating away at her leg. The humane choice was to remove her leg. She was in pain. My baby who has never showed me pain was suffering. January 8th – almost 7 months to the date – Shelby underwent her 3rd major surgery; not without complications; the dog was/is anemic, there were more masses found on her lungs, she was tired. BUT she pulled through like the champ that she is! Her new tagline is #shelbystrong and #dogisafighter –

Shelby’s recovery from this round of surgery has been her hardest to date. She had a horrible reaction to all the pain meds; they made her crazy and psychotic. We had to put her on Trazadone for anxiety. She will just stand from time to time and stare off into space. She won’t sleep near me anymore.

But from the first day, she has walked well (lots of practice hopping around for the past several months), she has done all her outside business normal. She eats like a champ!!! It took about 12 days to really see that sparkle in her eyes back; that spirit that everyone knows is Shelby. She still shakes from time to time; acts a little off or scared. But she will 100% snuggle, give ‘loves’ and let me pet her and kiss her as much as I want.

She has also taken up residence in my tiny bathroom. People have said that she’s denning or nesting. That it is her safe zone. To me, for a dog that has always hated to be confined, it is so out of character for her. But she camps out in there – day in and day out. It’s to the point that she will no longer move if I need to be in there.

Today, January 21st, 2014 – Shelby will get her stitches out, she will get her last round of chemo and we will start out maintenance dose of chemo for life. Shelby was given 3 -6 months – with chemo – from September. I am still optimistic she will make it to March and beyond. We still don’t have a definitive diagnosis on what caused that leg to break (they are doing another biopsy on it). Shelby continues to fight and for that reason, I fight for her. She wants to live. I can see it in her eyes. Everything I do and have done, I do for her.

My goal through all of this was for Shelby to know how much she is loved; every single day of her life. She is the first dog I have had as an adult (I grew up with dogs). She has been there through my 20s, my 30s and soon, my 40s. She has been there through broken hearts, happy times, sad times. She is sometimes the main reason I get up in the morning. She has given me purpose. I didn’t realize how much she has helped me live, love and grow and I am not ready to say goodbye to her yet but when that time comes, I do know that Shelby will always be in my heart and she will always protect me and she will join my dad in heaven and together, they will snuggle, play and that she will be safe. #shelbystrong #dogisafighter