Friday, July 27, 2012

I Miss Her So Much

Last night, I told Justin that, over the years, I have randomly wondered which of my girls would be the first to go.  It's something that I have been naturally dreading and trying to prepare myself for ever since I first got Jocie 11 years ago.  I told Justin that I would try to imagine what life would be like without Sam, or what life would be like without Jocie, but any time I would start to think about what my life would be like without Lou, I just couldn't.  I literally could not imagine my life without Lexie in it.  I still can't.  I'm still in...not denial...but total disbelief. 

I pulled up some old videos last night because I wanted to replace the memories I have from these last couple of months with those from much happier times:

I would be lying if I said that Justin and I haven't already talked about getting a Doberman puppy sometime in the near future.  I wish I could tell you that I can't even bear the thought of "replacing" Lexie, but that's not true.  There is a huge void in my life now.  While I love Sam and Jocie with all my heart, they just have very different personalities. 

Jocie's a goofball and cracks me up sometimes with her weirdo behaviors (she has this whole OCD routine she performs before she eats sometimes that you just wouldn't believe), but for the most part, she's kind of a loner.  I call her my "cat-dog" because she generally likes to just keep to herself and hang out behind the couch most of the time, and she only comes out whenever she decides she wants a little attention. 

Sam is SUCH a sweetheart.  I have often referred to her as my "human dog" because I swear she feels emotions just like a human.  In fact, ever since we took Lexie yesterday, Sam's been sleeping in the laundry room, which is where she usually hides whenever there's a thunderstorm.  She also refuses to sleep on the doggy bed where Lexie last slept.  She just feels every emotion SO deeply, and she wears her heart on her little doggy sleeve.  In general, though, Sam is one of the laziest creatures you'll ever meet.  Maybe it's the coonhound in her, but all she wants to do is sprawl out on the couch, sleep, and eat.

It's Lexie's GIANT, active personality that has left such a void in my heart.  She's what made this house feel alive.  Dobermans are notorious for being demanding for affection and attention, and that's exactly what I miss about Lou.  Again, I love my Sam and my Jocie, please do not get me wrong about that, but, well, for example, when I got home from work yesterday, no one came running up to greet me.  Sam kind of lifted her head up and wagged her tail at me, and Jocie finally came out from behind the couch when I asked the girls if they had to go pee, but I missed having my Lou right there at the door waiting for me with one of her stuffed animals in her mouth, with her little nubble (tail) going a million miles a minute (we called that "nubble trouble").  Also, for some reason I prefer to sit on my living room floor whenever I watch TV sometimes and lean back against the couch, and when I did that last night I really missed how Lexie used to come over and lay down on the floor right beside me.  I will especially miss her in the winter because we used to snuggle on the floor by the fire together.

So, again, I'm not even going to pretend that my heart isn't aching for Lexie's void to be filled.  No dog will ever "replace" my Lou, of course, and part of me feels very guilty for even considering adopting another Doberman puppy so soon after Lexie's passing, but I just don't know how long my heart can survive with this huge hole in it.  I'm definitely not going to get a new pup before September, though, because I have a vacation coming up at the end of August.  So, I have over a month to really think about it, but Justin seems to agree with my reasons for wanting another Dobe and is all for the idea.

No matter what, Lexie will always be my first true Dobe love.  She stole my heart from the minute I laid eyes on her.  I'll never forget that day, either.  Chris answered an ad in the local paper for a Doberman puppy and brought her with him to pick me up from work.  As soon as he walked around the side of the car with that adorable little baby girl, I completely melted right there in the parking lot.  I even remember saying, "Oh my GOD," and my hands grasped at my heart the moment I saw her.  Yeah, she definitely had me completely wrapped around her little paw from Day One. 

Anyway, I feel like I'm just rambling now.  I guess there isn't much else to really add to this blog, I just feel almost panicked at the thought of ending it.  It's the same feeling I got last night when I purchased Lexie's urn online.  Justin and I spent a good hour or so shopping for an urn in which to keep Lexie's ashes.  (I paid to have a private cremation for her so that I could keep her ashes.  I plan to put some of her cremains with Chris' ashes, which I will be scattering someday, per Chris' wishes.)  We chose an urn that basically looks like a double picture frame, but there is a box behind the main frame for her ashes.  We were happy with our choice and I added it to the online shopping cart, but just before I clicked "Purchase," I had a moment of panic.  I looked at Justin and said tearfully, "I don't want to buy Lexie an urn."  What I meant, of course, was just that I wanted her to still be alive, but Justin understood exactly what I meant.

So, as I said, that's the way I'm feeling right now in regard to ending this blog.  In a way, this feels like another big, heartbreaking good-bye.  I have "met" so many wonderful, caring, and amazing people because of this experience, and it warms my heart that so many of you have told me that you feel like you knew Lexie, despite having never met her, because of this blog.  It saddens me in ways that I can't even express in words that this is all now coming to an end.  I hope you all know how much your support and encouragement have meant to me.  Your kindness and generosity have changed my life forever. 

In fact, after I post this final blog, I will be heading over to the Special Needs Dobermans website to set up a monthly donation.  It won't be much right now, as I am currently thousands of dollars in debt over Lexie's medical expenses, but I know from personal experience that even a $5 donation can help save a Dobe in need.  So, for the rest of my life, I will be donating at least $5 per month (more when or if I ever have more to give) in Lexie's name to this and possibly other organizations who help people in need pay for their beloved pet's medical expenses.  I highly encourage everyone who is reading this blog to do the same.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.  I know that Lexie appreciates all of your love and support, as well.  Please take care, and give all of your fur babies a kiss on the nose for me.  :)

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Saying Good-Bye

When I got up this morning, I found that Lexie's mammary wounds had bled through her doggy bed during the night.  I can't believe she even found the strength to get up, go down the front steps, and walk into the yard to pee, but she did.  She did it for me.  She fought so hard for me for so long, but she collapsed on the sidewalk before she could make it back into the house, and I knew at that moment that I wasn't going to make Lexie fight any longer. 

Justin sat with her and said his good-byes while I got ready to take her to Dr. Ellis.  Then, before I left, we held each other and cried as I thanked Justin for taking such good care of my Lou.  I told him how much she loved him.  It broke my heart to see him crying so hard for her, and for me, but it also made me realize just how lucky I and my girls are to have him in our lives. 

Unfortunately, Dr. Ellis wasn't at Animal Care Clinic today, so they sent us to Dr. Mark Ayers' office.  All of the staff and Dr. Ayers were so kind to me and Lou.  I'm glad that she was surrounded by so many kind, happy voices in her final hour.  I'm also so glad that I decided to stay and be with her while she was euthanized.  I put my forehead against hers and held her face in my hands as I thanked her for loving me and told her what a good girl she was.  She was peaceful, and I also felt at peace as I finally let her go.  I made her promise to find me again someday, though.  I have a feeling she will. 

Oh, Moomie.  I'm going to miss you so very, very much.  You'll always be my little turd, and I'll love you until my last breath.  Thank you for making me so happy for so many years. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lexie's Still with Us

I'm exhausted from getting so little sleep last night, but I just wanted to give a quick update before I completely pass out to let you guys know that today was not the day for us to say good-bye to Lexie. Dr. Ellis said Lou's symptoms last night could be related to cancer pain, or they could have been withdrawal symptoms from stopping her Tramadol cold turkey on Monday.

Therefore, the plan now is to start her back on regular doses of pain medication for a few days, then wean her off very slowly after that. If her symptoms improve, awesome. If they don't, at least we'll know they're definitely cancer-related, and I'll feel much more at peace letting her go at that point.

For now, Lexie's stitches are out and her eyes look really good. She hasn't been trembling or moaning since she's been home, either. She's going to be sleeping a lot due to her pain medication, and I don't think she ate today, but Dr. Ellis gave us some anti-nausea medicine to hopefully help improve her appetite. So, we'll try that tomorrow.

Regression and a Big Decision Today

Despite having a really good Sunday evening, Monday, and Tuesday morning, when I got home from work yesterday evening, Lexie had regressed.  She didn't want to eat anything, not even hot dogs, and she was very weak.  A little later in the evening, she finally went into the kitchen to drink some water.  She drank a TON of water, actually, but then she staggered into the living room and threw up all the water she had just drank.  Justin tried to tell me that she probably threw it up simply because she drank so much so quickly, but there was no consoling me.  I knew that none of this was good.

We decided to sleep in the living room with Lexie last night because she had started moaning and groaning a bit.  Mind you, Dobermans are known to be big whiney babies, especially when they're wanting some attention, and this is definitely true with Lexie.  However, Justin and I didn't sleep all night because we each took turns laying in the floor, spooning Lou and trying to comfort her.  No matter how much we cuddled her, though, she continued to moan and groan all night long. 

Finally, around 5:00 a.m., I tried to give her two Tramadol pills for pain.  She wouldn't open her mouth for me, but I managed to pry her jaws open just enough to slip the tablets into her mouth.  A few minutes later, she spit them out.  We did this a couple more times before she finally swallowed them.  I thought that the pain medication would at least knock Lexie out so that maybe Justin and I could sleep for a half-hour before we had to get up for work, but she still continued to moan and groan.

At that point, I felt that it was probably time to end Lexie's suffering.  It just so happens that she already had an appointment with Dr. Ellis this morning because she's supposed to have her stitches removed today (such cruel irony).  So, I texted Zach, Kristy, and my mother to give them all the heads up that Lexie may not be coming home from the vet today.  Zach and Kristy both came over to say their potential good-byes.  I asked Justin if he would be willing to help me take Lexie to the vet because I wasn't even sure at that point if she was able to walk.  She had barely moved a muscle all night long.  However, when I asked Lexie if she had to go pee, she actually sat up.  She even managed to stand up, although she was very unsteady, probably due to a combination of the pain medication making her loopy and half of her body being asleep from not moving all night.  Regardless, she managed to find her way onto the porch, then down the front steps and into the yard to pee.  She even got into the car all by herself.

Normally, I'd be very happy about those things, especially with Lexie getting into the car independently, but all it did was make me even more confused about what I should do.  On one hand, I know I'm going to have to euthanize her eventually, no matter what, and I certainly don't want her to suffer if she's in pain.  On the other hand (and I realize I'm probably just trying to convince myself of this), I keep wondering if her backslide yesterday evening and all the moaning last night were reactions to stopping her pain medication cold turkey.  (We stopped giving her the Tramadol after her Monday morning dose.) 

The reason I'm having such a hard time just "letting go" right now is because I want SO BADLY to be able to give her at least a few happy days after being fully recovered from her surgeries before it's time to finally say good-bye.  When I told this to Kristy this morning, she said, "But you have given her a LOT of good days.  She's lived a very happy life."  I know this is true, and Kristy makes a good point, but I just hate with all my heart the thought of Lexie going through all this pain and misery, all those trips to Ohio, those long, overnight stays at MedVet, and THREE surgeries, only to finally come home and be euthanized before her stitches are even removed.  I mean, what was the point of any of this?!?

People also keep telling me not to beat myself up and that I made the best decisions with the information that I was given at the time.  I know this is also true; however, that doesn't make any of this easier for me to accept.  It doesn't stop me from being SO ANGRY over the fact that I was told Lexie's abdominal ultrasound showed no signs of cancer, which was the reason why I decided to let her have the enucleation surgery in the first place.

Speaking of that, I sent Dr. Kennedy an email full of questions yesterday, to which he replied yesterday evening....from his iPhone.  I am now going to copy and paste the questions I emailed to him and his answers for you to read (I have not altered this text in any way, other than highlighting his responses):

  1. Could you please tell me again exactly what Lexie’s cancer diagnosis is?  I tried to take notes while we were on the phone, but all I wrote down was “vascular and lymphatics,” “inflammatory mammary carcinoma, “Stage III,” and “50/50 it will return in 12-15 months.”  Obviously, I should have taken better notes, but I was in a combined state of shock and devastation at the time.
Mammary carcinoma

  1. You mentioned on the phone that the size of the two mammary tumors removed during Lexie’s surgery were quite large, and you said this was “concerning.”  I actually have a few questions regarding this:
    1. How big were the tumors? Over five cm
    2. Why is the size of the tumors still concerning if they were removed? Because we could not take the amount of normal tissue desired to be sure all cancer was removed
    3. When you first mentioned the possibility of removing Lexie’s swollen mammary glands on July 7, 2012, because you said the tumors could be cancerous, I informed you that Lexie had just recently had an abdominal ultrasound, which I was told showed no cancerous tumors.  At that time, you explained that it takes billions of cells to form even a small tumor that is visible enough to be seen on an ultrasound.  If that is the case, and the two tumors removed during Lexie’s surgery were so large that you find them to be concerning, why weren’t they visible on her abdominal ultrasound performed June 20, 2012? The statement about the cells refers to x-rays. I do not know what to say about the presence of the masses at the time of the ultrasound. There is always some mixed inflammation. In these rumors and that might be why they were so obvious to me.

  1. When you said that there is a 50% chance that another tumor will appear within 12-15 months, does that mean that the two tumors that were removed during Lexie’s mastectomy were the only cancerous tumors she had?
The only ones we could detect. It is likely that more will form in others glands or within our surgery site

  1. You mentioned something about further tests being done on the tumors to see if any lymph nodes were also removed during surgery.  Could you please re-explain the reason for this?  Also, when do you expect to have the results of these additional tests? We submitted a mass of tissue. The lymph node should be in that mind of tissue. If the pathologist finds it he can assess any sites for metastasis (spread) as this will worsen her prognosis if found.
I do not know when to expect it back but hopefully by the end of this week

  1. Does Lexie have a life expectancy given her recent diagnosis?
 Potentially as little as 5-7 months

  1. Do you know of any current clinical trials for canine cancer treatments for which Lexie might be eligible?
 not that I'm aware of

I'm a little infuriated by his response to question #2c.  Why would he have answered my question about Lexie's abdominal ultrasound with information that pertained to X-rays?  I am 100% certain that I did not ask him about Lexie's X-rays because 1) her X-rays were not performed at MedVet; they were done at Animal Care Clinic in Huntington, and 2) When Dr. Kennedy called on July 7 to discuss Lexie's swollen mammary glands, I mentioned her abdominal ultrasound to him because it had just been performed at MedVet two weeks prior, and I was told that the ultrasound did not show any cancer.  I didn't mention Lexie's X-rays to him because they were X-rays of her chest, not her abdomen.

Anyway, I know that what's done is done and that going over all the shoulda, woulda, coulda's isn't going to change anything, but I just feel so...wronged.  While I can accept that Lexie has cancer and will eventually need to be euthanized, possibly even today, I simply cannot accept the fact that the veterinarians at MedVet missed two Stage III mammary carcinoma tumors that were both over 5 cm in size, nor do I find Dr. Kennedy's reply of "I do not know what to say about the presence of the masses at the time of the ultrasound..." to be acceptable in the least.  I plan to call MedVet today to request a copy of Lexie's medical records, including her ultrasound images.  If another veterinarian looks at Lou's ultrasound and tells me that they do not see cancer, then maybe I will stop feeling so angry. 

In the meantime, Lexie is currently at Animal Care Clinic, and I am waiting for a phone call from Dr. Ellis so we can discuss Lexie's current condition and whether or not she should be euthanized today.  If Dr. Ellis tells me that Lexie's behavior yesterday evening and last night were a result of the sudden medication withdrawal or possibly some other explanation, and if she thinks that Lexie's still got a few good, pain-free months left in her, I will probably choose to bring her home.  If Dr. Ellis tells me that Lexie is in pain due to the cancer, I will not make my Lou suffer any longer.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

So, What Now?

Just to recap, the following is a fictitional representation of the actual conversations I've had with veterinarians regarding Lexie since the beginning of June, 2012:

June 5, 2012 - Dr. Corbett:  "Lexie has an eye condition called anterior uveitis, but the good news is that she's not going blind!  Just give her these medications and follow-up in a couple of weeks.  That'll be $300."

June 18, 2012 [Lexie's eyes are worse] - Dr. Lilly:  "Lexie has glaucoma and she could go blind any minute!  Quick, you must rush her to MedVet!  Oh....wait....nevermind.  Dr. Corbett said to just give her these $100 eye drops, and then take her back to MedVet in two days."

June 20, 2012 - Dr. Corbett:  "Remember when I said that Lexie wasn't going blind?  Well, I forgot to mention that she could develop secondary glaucoma and potentially go blind within hours, which is what has happened.  So, we need to figure out what's causing her anterior uveitis because then we can possibly get rid of the glaucoma, too.  Cancer is one of the things that causes anterior uveitis, so let's rule that out.  That'll be another $700 for a chest X-ray, abdominal ultrasound, and blood work, please."  [An hour later.]  "Good news!  Lexie doesn't have cancer!  Therefore, this must be an autoimmune condition.  Give her these new meds and I'll see her again in two weeks."

June 21, 2012 - Lexie officially loses her sight. 

June 25, 2012 - Dr. Ellis:  "I've consulted with Dr. Corbett, and becuase Lexie's eyes haven't reponded to treatment and just keep getting worse, we both recommend enucleation."

June 29, 2012 - Dr. Ellis:  "There has been a surgical complication.  Lexie's blood won't clot.  She must have developed Von Willebrand's disease.  We're going to do a transfusion, but she's in critical condition."  [Two hours later.]  "The only way we could get the bleeding to stop was to pack Lexie's wounds with gauze, but she's now bleeding through those.  Therefore, you need to rush her back to MedVet tonight and pray she doesn't die on the way there.  You'll also need to pay a $1250 deposit when you get there."

July 2, 2012 - Dr. Corbett:  "Good news!  Lexie's surgery to remove the gauze was a success!  We're not really sure if she has Von Willebrand's disease, though, and we noticed an infection has started in her wounds, but we cultured the infection so we'll know exactly what kind of antibiotic to give her when she goes home."

July 3, 2012 - Dr. Corbett:  "Good news!  Lexie is stable and is cleared to go home!  That'll be $2300."

July 4, 2012 (14 hours later) - Lexie's stitches burst in her right eye, and she has to be rushed to the local Animal ER for an overnight stay.

July 5, 2012 - Dr. Lilly:  "Sorry I waited until fifteen minutes before we close to tell you this, but I don't want to stitch Lexie back up, so you're going to have to take her back to MedVet."

July 6, 2012 - Dr. Webb:  "We just got Lexie's cultures back and it turns out that she has TWO different bacterial infections, which are pretty extensive.  No wonder her incision pulled open!   I guess she wasn't "stable" when we sent her home the day after surgery, after all.  Anyway, we're going to need to keep her for another few days and then perform another surgery, but don't worry, we're going to do everything we can to keep the costs as low as possible for you."

July 7, 2012 - Dr. Kennedy:  "How long has Lexie had these swollen mammary glands?  There's a 50/50 chance that those are canerous.  Those are going to need to come off, too.  I don't have a cost estimate for you yet, but don't worry!  We're going to do everything we can to keep the costs as low as possible for you."  (I mentioned that Lexie JUST had an abdominal ultrasound and I was told that they did not show any cancer.)  "Well, it takes billions of cells for even the smallest tumor to show up on imaging, so even though it's GOOD that her ultrasound didn't show any tumors, that doesn't necessarily mean she's cancer-free."

July 8, 2012 - Dr. Sawyer:  "Lexie is responding really well to her new antibiotics, so we're going to push the surgery back until Wednesday.  I don't have a cost estimate for you yet, and I know we just tacked on another three-night stay to your bill, but don't worry!  We're going to do everything we can to keep the costs as low as possible for you."

July 10, 2012 (the day before surgery) - Dr. Sawyer:  "Dr. Kennedy told me to tell you that he was given permission to discount your services, and the cost of Lexie's surgery is going to be ONLY $1800!  That doesn't include the cost of her seven-night stay, though, which will be an additional $1400.  Don't worry, though!  We may still be able to get you more discounts!"

July 11, 2012 - Some random surgical tech:  "Ms. Bell, I'm just calling to let you know that we're getting ready to perform Lexie's incision repair and mastectomies now."  (I hadn't approved the mastectomies yet because I was told "there may be more discounts," which would be the deciding factor as to whether or not I could afford the mastectomies.  I raised a fuss, and they finally agreed to charge me "only" $1800 for all of Lexie's services over the last seven days, including the mastectomies.)

July 13, 2012 - Lexie comes home.

July 23, 2012 - Dr. Kennedy:  "I just got Lexie's biopsy results.  She has Stage III mammary cancer.  The size of the tumors worries me, though, because they were both pretty large.  There is a 50/50 chance that in 12-15 months another tumor will appear.  You can speak to Oncology about chemo options if you'd like, but they will charge you for the consultation."

In summary, I guess that cancer was the cause of Lexie's anterior uveitis after all, but here's my main question:  If Lexie's TWO mammary tumors were "so large" that Dr. Kennedy is concerned about metastases, then why didn't those two large tumors show up on her abominal ultrasound?  If I had been told on June 20 that her ultrasound revealed Stage III mammary carcinoma and that there was a 50/50 chance that I would have to euthanize her in 12-15 months, I'm not so sure that I would have chosen to have her eyes surgically removed, which would have saved her from having to go through THREE different surgeries and a very difficult recovery (not to mention the thousands of dollars for which I am now in debt).  It also would have saved her the stress and depression that has resulted from her sudden blindness. 

However, I also cannot say for certain that I would have chosen to put Lexie down instead of going through with the enucleation if I had known she had cancer.  It definitely would have been a very difficult decision, but you also have to keep in mind that, at that point, I wouldn't have known that so many other complications were going to result from the initial enucleation surgery (blood clotting issues, infections, two more surgeries, etc.). 

With all of that said, I strongly doubt that I would have chosen to spend so much money just so Lexie could spend her final days adjusting to sudden blindness.  If I had chosen to euthanize her a month ago, I would have at least been at peace knowing that Lexie lived a very full, VERY happy life up until that point.  As it stands right now, I simply don't know how well Lexie is going to adjust to being blind, or how much time she has left.  So far, she's had a difficult time with both recovery and adjusting to blindness.  Her appetite is poor, she's weak, she rarely looks happy, and she has no energy.  If these things don't improve before the time comes when I have to make the decision to put her down (whenever that may be), I will always regret with all my heart that Lexie spent her final days being scared, sad, depressed, weak, in pain, and blind. 

So, what do I do?  I have had several people ask how much her chemotherapy treatments would cost and suggest that I try to do another fundraiser to pay for it, but my heart and my gut are both telling me not to do that.  For one, it took everything I had in me to swallow my pride and ask for donations the last time, and now I just feel horrible that so many people gave so generously to help save Lexie's life, only to find out later that she has cancer.  Besides, Lexie has already been through SO much, and I'm not sure how much fight she's got left in her to go through chemotherapy treatments.  For that reason, I feel like I'd rather just try to make her as happy as possible for as long as I possibly can, rather than keep driving her six hours back and forth to MedVet for however often she needs chemo treatments.

The travel that would be involved is actually another reason why I don't feel like chemotherapy is the best option.  I have already put a TON of miles on my little Prius, and I even had to buy new front tires before our last trip to Ohio because the ones I had been driving on were so bald.  Not only that, but traveling that far that often is just grueling for both us and Lou. I'm not saying that it wouldn't be worth it if it meant saving Lexie's life, but the fact of the matter is that there is no guarantee that her treatments would be a success.  I'm also not even sure that Lexie would be able to receive her treatments on the weekends, as most of the specialists at MedVet only work Monday through Friday.  If that's the case, I definitely couldn't take off work that often. 

Pretty much the only way I would be able to even consider putting Lexie through chemotherapy would be if I won the lottery, or if some other lottery winner came to our rescue, because it would require Justin and I quitting our jobs so that we could move closer to MedVet, finding a place to live that would allow us to have three big dogs, and also being able to afford Lexie's cancer treatments, which I'm sure are very expensive.  Unfortunately, I don't foresee any of that happening, so I feel like the best option is to try to make Lexie as comfortable and happy as possible for the rest of her days here with us. 

So, on that note, I do have some good news in regard to Lexie's recovery.  Since she enjoyed her solo adventure to Justin's parents' house and the car ride home so much on Sunday, we decided to take her on another little adventure yesterday evening.  She got in the car all by herself, which made me happy, although she wasn't as interested in looking out the window this time.  She just laid in the back seat as Justin drove us down to Camden Park, which is on the other side of town, so that I could scout shooting locations for a photo session I've got coming up.  Then, we drove to Kroger's so that Justin could buy Lexie some hot dogs and baby carrots (she gobbled up a hot dog that morning, and baby carrots have always been one of her favorite treats).  While Justin was in the store, Lexie and I took a walk along the grassy edge of the parking lot.  It was a hot evening and she was panting, but I really felt like Lexie was enjoying her "adventure walk."  When we returned home, Lexie ate not one, but TWO hot dogs!  Justin had bought some vitamins for senior dogs while he was at the store, and he managed to get her to eat a couple of those,  and since we were on a roll, I decided to also give Lexie her "hippy medicine," AgariGold and mangosteen juice, which Dr. Wagner from the Integrative Medicine department at MedVet had given Lexie to help boost her immune system and energy levels.  (I'm going to seriously start looking into holistic cancer treatments for dogs, by the way.)

By the end of the day, Lexie was pretty tired, but she had a full belly and seemed happy, which is all I can ask for.  This morning, I was also very pleased because she seemed a little bit stronger than she had the day before.  She was more steady on her feet, seemed more alert, and even had a decent poop!  (It's hilarious how excited we get over Lexie's bowel movements these days.)  We've decided to try weening her off her pain medication again, too.  She didn't have any last night and seems okay so far, so I didn't give her any this morning, either.  Justin will check on her during his lunch break today, and if he thinks she could use some pain medication he's going to give her one pill instead of two.

So, basically, I'm going to try to stay focused on the positive things that happen day-to-day, rather than stay focussed on the fact that, oh my God, Lexie has cancer!  I'm still angry and heartbroken about it, and I probably always will be, but wallowing in sorrow isn't going to help either of us.  So, for Lou's sake, and for the sake of all the kind people who have been so supportive and encouraging, Justin and I are now going to do everything we possibly can to help Lexie fully recover from her surgeries so that she can continue to live the happiest life possible from here on out, even if it means feeding her hot dogs for every meal and driving her around the neighborhood for a couple of hours every evening.  :)

Monday, July 23, 2012

Horrible News

I just got a call from Dr. Kennedy at MedVet.  Lexie's biopsies came back from her double-mastectomy.  She has Stage III mammary carcinoma.  All of the details are a blur to me right now, but Dr. Kennedy said something about her type of cancer affecting the vascular and lymphatic systems.  He also said there is a 50/50 chance that another tumor will either come back in her mammary glands or appear elsewhere within 12-15 months. 

He said that I could speak to someone in their Oncology department about possibly starting chemotherapy, but I know there is no possible way I could afford to give her chemotherapy treatments after already spending thousands of dollars on her eye treatments and surgeries.  Not only that, but there is a consultation charge just to speak with Oncology about chemo options for Lou. 

I'm too shaken up to really talk any more about this.  All I can tell you is that right now I'm heartbroken and angry.  I'm angry that they weren't able to see a Stage III carcinoma on her X-rays, abdominal ultrasound, or any blood work.  If they had, I probably wouldn't have put her through all of these surgeries and racked up another $2000 in debt on my brother's Care Credit account.  I don't mean that to sound cold or sound like all I'm thinking about is money, because it absolutely isn't.  It's just one of the things I'm so angry about right now.  Mainly, I'm feeling horrible for putting Lexie through all of this.  Recovery has not been easy on her, or any of us, and now it doesn't even feel like "recovery."  It feels more like I'm putting us all through torture.  I thought that this tough recovery period would be 100% worth it once she was all better and was able to adjust to her new life as a blind Dobe, but now....

A Good Ending to a Bad Day

Yesterday evening, Justin and I took Lexie up to his parents' house without her sisters.  We thought maybe the little solo adventure might raise her spirits.  However, as usual, when she got into the back seat of the car, she just laid down and didn't even bother sticking her head out the window. 

When we got to his parents' house, she did really well navigating through the unfamiliar environment, and was even kind of lovey with Justin's folks, which kind of surprised me since she's only been around them maybe twice before.  We had brought some of her canned food with us because we were hoping that the excitement might spark her appetite a little, but she wasn't interested in the dog food at all.  As we were eating the delicious chicken enchiladas that Justin's mother had made for dinner, however, Lexie seemed to perk up a bit.  She seemed interested in the smell of our dinner, so finally Justin said he was going to give her his leftovers to see if she'd eat.  Boy, did she ever!  In fact, she seemed to enjoy the enchiladas so much that Justin's mother told him to go fix her another plate, which Lexie also eagerly gobbled up!  I cannot tell you how happy this made me.  :)

After we ate dinner, we went out to the back yard for a little impromptu photo session.  (Disclaimer:  Justin did not want to be a photo because he is several months past due for a haircut, but we all insisted he be in at least one.)

After taking photos, we went back inside to visit for a bit, and Lexie made herself right at home.  I don't know how she knew that Justin's mother had laid out a big comforter on the living room floor for her, but Lexie walked right over to it and plopped down.  In fact, when it was time to go, I had a hard time getting her off the comforter to put on her harness.  I don't think she wanted to leave!

The best part of the evening, though, was the ride home.  Once again, we rolled down the windows for Lexie, but expected her to just lay down in the back seat.  Instead, I turned around to find her doing this:

She was smiling with her head out the back window!!!  Justin and I were beaming!  In fact, we circled the block three more times just because we didn't want her to stop smiling.  I tried to grab a photo of her with my Nikon, but by the time I had it set up she had relaxed a little and wasn't as smiley.  She still looks very happy and peaceful, though:

Needless to say, Lexie was pretty worn out after such an exciting evening.  She barely even noticed when our friends came over to watch HBO shows.  However, she did let out a few of her signature moans and groans to let people know that she would like to be rubbed and pet, which also made me smile.  At one point, Sam laid down near Lexie on the floor, and Lexie kept moaning and wiggling closer and closer to Sam.  She wanted to cuddle with her so badly!  Finally, she made her way over to Sam's paws and laid her chin on them, and that seemed to be enough to satisfy her cuddle needs:

I went to bed a very happy momma last night.  This morning, Lexie still didn't want to eat very much, but I managed to get her to take her antibiotics and one Tramadol.  I asked Justin to see if he could get her to eat some more, and I told him I was going to leave it up to him whether or not to give her another Tramadol (her usual dose is two every 8-12 hours, but we really would like to start weening her, as I'm curious if the pain medication is contributing to her decreased appetite and general shakiness/weakness). 

She seemed pretty alert this morning, though.  While I had her outside on her leash, I noticed a girl walking towards us in the distance.  I didn't want to make eye contact with the girl when she walked by us, though, because I was afraid she may stop to talk to us and then Lexie would bark at her.  So, I just kept talking to Lou as the girl approached, and I noticed that Lexie was sort of "watching" her as she walked by.  I thought, "Wow!  That's pretty amazing.  She didn't even try to bark!"  So, I glanced up at the walker, and it turned out to be Kristy, who was standing there looking kind of offended that I was ignoring her.  I laughed and apologized, explaining that I didn't recognize her from a distance and also explaining why I was trying not to make eye contact.  As Kristy and I were speaking, Lexie started walking towards her.  When she reached Kristy's legs, she gave her a little "Dobe hug" to her shins, which kind of melted me a little.  Lexie really does love Kristy.  (Please check out Kristy's blog, which is full of nutrition, fitness, and even financial tips, as well as some funny little stories about her day-to-day happenings.)

Anyway, what I'm learning is that there are probably going to be "good days" and "bad days" for quite a while until all this dust finally settles.  I was expecting more of a steady progression from "bad" to "good" days during Lexie's recovery process, but it just doesn't seem to be working out that way.  If only all of her bad days could end as well as yesterday.  Here's hoping they will from now on.  :)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Still Not Eating

Yesterday evening, I decided to take Lexie for a ride to the store to get her some canned dog food.  I thought the car ride might lift her spirits, but she immediately laid down in the back seat and didn't even try to look out the windows.  I was afraid she might panic a little while I ran into the store, but she didn't even get up.  I decided to try to feed her some of the Purina One Lamb and Rice canned food right there in the car because I knew if I tried to feed it to her when we got home, Jocie and Sam would probably try to eat it out from under her. So, I sat in the back seat and held the opened can as she licked and nibbled at it.  She actually ate about 3/4 of the can, which made me VERY happy.

A little later that night, after I took Lexie out to pee, I decided to try feeding her the rest of the canned food.  Once again, she licked and nibbled at it until there was only a tiny bit left, and I was very pleased.  However, when I tried to feed her her evening dose of pain medication in a couple of Greenies Pill Pockets, which she normally loves, she turned up her nose and wouldn't eat them.  I decided to wait a few minutes, then tried again, but she still wouldn't eat them.  I tried putting the pills in a piece of the crab meat she loved so much the night before, but she turned her nose up at that, as well.  Finally, when Justin returned home a couple hours later, he managed to get her to eat her Tramadol by putting the pills in some tuna.  We were also able to coax Lexie onto the couch, although her back legs were so weak that I had to hoist her up.

When I got up around 8:00 this morning, I got Lexie up and ready to take her outside to pee.  However, she stopped at the front door and seemed very hesitant to go down the front steps.  This was new.  She hasn't had any problems going down the front steps ever since she came home from MedVet.  She seems very weak right now, though, and I think she was afraid of stumbling down the steps.  She finally came down, although she used a pretty inventive new "side-step" technique, but hey, whatever works.

After she came back inside, after much coaxing to get  her to walk back up the steps, I tried feeding her a half a can of food.  She nibbled at it a little bit, but barely ate more than about 1/4 of a can.  She needed to take her antibiotics and pain medication, but no matter what I tried, she wouldn't eat them.  Finally, I decided to wake Justin up to see if he had any ideas.  (Lexie was trembling a little and I worried that she was in pain, which may be causing her weakness and lack of appetite.) Justin put her medications inside cut up pieces of hot dogs, which thankfully she ate without any protest.  Then, Justin laid down beside Lexie to pet her a little, and a few minutes later I found my two babies cuddled up together sound asleep:

A little later, Justin and I decided to go to Petco to see if we could find a type of dog food that was suggested to me on my previous post, and to see if anyone at the pet store might have any other suggestions for helping Lexie's appetite.  Well, they didn't have exactly what we were looking for, but the Petco employee suggested we try Vita Gravy over Lexie's regular dog food.  I also bought two sample sizes of Natural Balance dog food rolls to see if she'll like them.

When we returned home, Justin tried to take Lexie out to pee, but once again she hesitated at the front steps.  In fact, it took her so long to go down the front steps that as soon as she reached the bottom, she just peed right there on the sidewalk.  Justin tried walking her around a little bit, but she was very shaky, and at one point she kind of just gave up and laid down in the grass.  She also wouldn't eat when we tried to feed her after she came back inside.

So, at this point I'm very worried.  It would be one thing if she just wasn't eating very much, but it's the fact that she's so weak that's upsetting me.   Justin and I are going to take Lou up to his parents' house a little later this evening.  I'm hoping that her pain medication will be worn off enough at that point that she'll feel like eating a little.  I'm also hoping that going on a little adventure to their house without her sisters might perk her up some.   Either way, I'm probably going to call MedVet tomorrow to let them know that she's not eating and she's getting weak.  After all, they still haven't called me with the biopsy results from her mastectomies yet.


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Making Momma Worry

Yeah, I'm worrying a little about my Lou.  She's not eating, she's losing weight, but she's also drinking a TON of water and peeing inside the house.  I thought her increased thirst and decreased appetite might be side effects to her Tramadol (pain medication).  We tried cutting back her pain medication for about a day, but then the following night I noticed she was trembling.  So, we decided we might be trying to ween her off the pain medication too soon and resumed giving her two Tramadol in the morning and two more at night.

As for her desire to eat, it's hard to tell if she's just being picky or if she's genuinely not hungry.  Justin and I ate dinner at restaurants almost every night this past week so that the girls wouldn't smell our food and think that they had any food options other than their own dog food.  Despite our brilliant plan, Lexie never seemed interested in eating her own food.  I got her to nibble some dog food a few nights ago, but it wasn't much, and I didn't see her eat again for two whole days afterwards.  Obviously, this started to worry us, so Justin and I decided last night to give into Lexie's "hunger strike," if that's what it was, to see if she'd eat some people food.  If she turned her nose up at the people food, then we'd know there was a more serious problem happening.

Well, after Lexie anxiously gobbled up an entire package of faux crab meat and two slices of American cheese last night, we've determined that she does still have an appetite after all.  Now, the question is how do we get her to start eating dog food again?!?!  We've thought about buying some canned food and mixing it in with her dry food, but you have to remember that Jocie and Sam are going to want to eat the canned food, too, and canned food is more expensive than dry food.  Therefore, we're kind of afraid to "spoil" them on canned food, as well.  Lexie HAS to eat, though!  She's lost so much weight that I noticed her harness is actually falling off of her now.  She also seems kind of weak on her feet.  

Then, there's the issue of Lexie using the dining room rug as her new toilet.  This is infuriating me, but I have no idea what to do!  The couple of times that I've actually caught her peeing on the rug, I've told her "no," rushed her outside, and then praised her like crazy when she finished peeing in the grass.  I just feel bad yelling at her too much because she drinks a TON of water, so I know she must have to pee a lot, and we're not there at all hours of the day to let her out every time she needs to go.  I'm just worried that maybe this amount of thirst, especially coupled with a decreased appetite, could possibly be a sign that something isn't right.  On the other hand, I'm also worried that she might get into the habit of peeing in the dining room whenever she has to go instead of trying to hold it until I can take her outside.


On a better note, her incisions are looking fantastic.  The swelling over her right eye is looking better and better every day.  Here is a comparison of how she looked Monday compared to how she looked yesterday:

You can see how much the swelling has gone down, and also how her eyes are kind of "sinking in" now.  I just wish I could be happier about the healing progress, but for the time being I'm just too worried about everything else.  She does have an appointment to have her stitches removed this coming Wednesday, though, so I plan to talk about all these concerns with Dr. Ellis.  

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Switching to Weekly Updates (Plus, a Funny Little Story)

I meant to mention this in my post yesterday, but since there haven't been any major developments or emergencies with Lexie over the past week (thank GOD!), I probably will not be giving daily updates from this point on, unless something out of the ordinary happens, of course.  Instead, I will probably start posting weekly updates about Lou's recovery and adjustment to her new life as a blind Dobe.  This way, I won't wear you out with boring posts like, "Lexie ate, drank, slept, and used the bathroom a couple times today.  Tune in tomorrow to see what exciting things she does next!" 

I will tell you that the swelling above her right eye is now showing definite signs of improvement, which is quite a relief.  Her left eye must have had a tad bit of swelling, too, which I didn't really notice until yesterday.  It's not that I noticed her left eye was swollen, though, it's more like I've noticed that the swelling must be going away because now her left eye is actually starting to look a little "sunken in."  It's a little weird, I'm not going to lie, but at least her incision in that eye looks really, really good. 

Another weird thing I've noticed is that, even though Lexie no longer has any eyes in her sockets, the muscles around her eyes still move sometimes, as though she's looking around.  In fact, when I first noticed this the other night, it was actually quite a funny moment.  (I'm a little embarrassed to share this, but it's too funny to keep to myself.) 

Now, admittedly, I was a bit tipsy when this happened.  Justin and I were having a nice, relaxing evening at home, and I had probably had two or three glasses of wine by this point.  I decided to use the flashlight app on my iPhone to check Lexie's incisions, and when I held the flashlight up to her face, I noticed her eye muscles move.  Obviously, her eye muscles were probably just reacting to the sensation of something being held close to her face all of a sudden, but in my tipsy state I actually thought that she had reacted to the light.  So, I said to Justin, "Hey, are we sure that Lexie can't see anything?"  (Mind you, her eyeballs have been surgically removed.)  Justin immediately burst into laughter, then quickly regained his composure and said, in a very calm and reassuring manner, "I am absolutely, 100% positive."

Okay, okay, so maybe it wasn't the smartest question I've ever asked, but at least it's given us something to laugh about.  :)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

One Week Post-Surgery

Well, we've made it a WHOLE WEEK without having to rush Lexie to the vet!  Hooray!!!  I am also happy to report that, as of this morning, the swelling above Lexie's right eye looks like it may have gone down a tiny bit.  It hasn't improved much, by any means, but some progress is better than no progress.  I'm not worried about it being an abscess, either, because it's not tender, it's not seeping at all, and it doesn't feel warm to the touch.  In fact, her incisions actually look really good!  She's such a good patient, too.  She never protests when I apply a warm compress to her eye, and last night she even let me clean some of the dried scabs off of her cheek and the bridge of her nose without whining or even moving a muscle.  I figure Lexie's been poked and prodded so much at this point that she probably understands that people are actually trying to help her whenever they mess with her face and eyes like that.

As far as adjusting to being blind, Lou is definitely getting around the house a little better than she was a week ago.  She still gets a little lost from time to time, and she still refuses to go out onto the back deck or use the bathroom in the back yard for some unknown reason; however, she does a much better job of finding the water bowl in the kitchen all by herself, and Lexie has even established a preferred route from the kitchen into the living room, which is through the dining room. 

Lexie is also finally becoming more confident about climbing onto the couch, which makes me very happy because that has always been her favorite spot to snuggle and sleep.  For a while, she would only get up on the couch at night, after Justin and I had gone to bed.  We had tried coaxing her onto the sofa with us several times over the last few days, but she would always just lay down by our feet instead.  Then, last night this happened:

I still tear up when I watch that video.  Haha! 

We also decided not to give Lexie any pain medication last night, as she seemed more alert and hasn't really been showing any signs of pain (when we first brought her home, we knew it was time for her pain medication whenever she would kind of start trembling).  Our plan is to cut back on her Tramadol and only give it to her once in the morning because it will help her sleep while we're at work.  If she starts showing any signs of pain, of course, we will give her another dose at night, but I really don't think we'll need to.

So, overall, Lexie's first week of recovery has gone fairly smoothly.  We're still about another week away from being able to have her stitches removed, but in the meantime these are the next signs of progress that I'd like to see:
  • I'm hoping that the swelling above Lexie's right eye will greatly improve within the next week.
  • I want Lexie to eat better (we're completely cutting out table food for all the girls). 
  • I'd love to see Lexie's mood improve.
  • We'd eventually like to ween her off the pain medications completely.
  • I expect Lexie to become even more familiar with the layout of the house and bump into walls, furniture, etc. much less.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I'm So Exhausted

Last night, Justin and I agreed that the swelling over Lexie’s right eye may have worsened a bit (I photographed her from the left side so you could see how far her right eye incision is bulging out).  Neither of us was very concerned, as we thought she possibly just bonked her head while we were at work, but we thought it might be a good idea to call MedVet anyway.  After all, last Saturday, when a woman from MedVet called to check on Lexie, I mentioned to her that I noticed a tinge of blood in Lexie’s stool that day, and she told me to discontinue Lexie’s anti-inflammatory medication, as that can sometimes cause bowel irritation.  So, Lexie hasn’t been taking her anti-inflammatory medication since last Saturday, and I thought that maybe they would just prescribe her a different kind of anti-inflammatory once I told them that the swelling in her eye had gotten a little worse.

The woman I spoke to last night, Julie, asked me all sorts of questions:  How has Lexie’s appetite been?  Is she drinking water?  Is she going to the bathroom regularly?  How is her mood?  I was able to answer all of these questions with either “good” or “yes.”  Then, Julie asked if the swollen skin around Lexie’s right eye was warm or tender to the touch.  I put her on hold as I felt Lexie’s eye, but I couldn’t really feel a difference in temperature between her right and left eye, and she didn’t act like it bothered her when I touched it.  Then, Julie asked me to take a couple of pictures of Lexie’s eye, email the photos to Dr. Kennedy, Lexie’s soft tissue surgeon, take Lexie’s temperature (note to self: NEVER use the digital Walgreens thermometer EVER again!), and then call her back.

After following Julie’s instructions (Lexie’s temperature was 101.2, which is in the normal range for a dog), she contacted Dr. Kennedy, who reviewed the photos I sent him.  He said it looks like it could just be a seroma, which is normal.  However, if the swollen area becomes tender, if we notice a discharge that looks more like frank blood and not bloody fluid, if there is an odor, or if the discharge looks like pus then we are to bring Lexie back to MedVet because it could be an abscess.


 All I could do for the rest of the night was stare at Lexie’s swollen eye.  I went to bed in tears over the possibility of having to take her back to MedVet. 

This morning, the swelling didn’t look any better.  Then, after Lexie bumped her face on the steps while coming back inside after going outside to pee, I noticed a little bit of blood (not bloody fluid) coming from the swollen part of her eye.  I've also noticed that Lou's appetite seems to be diminishing, although Justin thinks she’s just becoming picky because we made the mistake of feeding her a lot of table food when she first came home.  At first, she would eat both table food and dog food, then she stopped eating her dog food, and now she’s even becoming a little picky about table food.  I used to put her medication inside little balls of bread, which she loved, but now she turns her nose every time I offer her the same bread.  Then, I started putting her medication inside these organic peanut butter treats our friends, Zoltan and Sarah, made for her, which Lexie also loved at first, but now she no longer seems interested in them.  This morning, the only way I could get her to take her medication was to put the pills inside rolled up slices of cheese, and even then I felt like I was making her eat them.  Not only that, but she looked kind of shaky and unsteady on her feet while she was walking around this morning (all the more reason for me to worry about her while I’m at work today).

I honestly don’t know how much more of this I can take.  My life has basically been CONSUMED with worrying and taking care of Lexie ever since she first became sick at the beginning of June.  In fact, I feel like I no longer have a life of my own. 

I have a large, close group of friends, whom I love.  We would all hang out at least a couple times a week and on the weekends, and when we weren’t hanging out, we would all keep in touch daily via social networking and text messaging.  However, I can’t tell you the last time I sent someone a text or posted anything on Facebook or Twitter that wasn’t Lexie-related.  For that reason, I haven’t really texted anyone or tweeted in a long time because I feel like I’m just wearing everyone out with Lexie stuff at this point, and yet there’s honestly nothing more important to me right now, which is why I can’t even think of anything else to talk about.  I have also turned down several invites to various cook-outs and other random opportunities to hang out because I needed to stay home and take care of Lexie.  I have made time to hang out with my friends on a few occasions over the last couple of weeks, but whenever I do, I feel like I literally have to bite my tongue to keep myself from talking about Lou all night, and I just worry about her the whole time anyway. 

I’ve also fallen behind with my photo editing (I’m a photographer on the side) because of all my trips to Ohio and now having to watch Lexie like a hawk, and my house is a complete wreck for the same reasons.  Justin and I haven’t done anything fun or spent any quality time together since June, either.  Our lives and conversations revolve solely around Lexie.  We’ve got a big beach trip with our friends coming up at the end of August, which normally I’d be super excited about, but this year I’m almost dreading it because I know I’ll just be worrying about Lexie the whole time (she’s going to be staying with Justin’s parents, and she’s not very familiar with them or their house).  Not to mention the fact that I’m the type of person who eats her feelings, so let’s just say that I’m not exactly feeling “bikini-ready” at the moment (all of my work pants are fitting kind of snug lately, which makes me feel awesome.)  In general, I really miss what my life was like before June, 2012. 

With that said, please do not take this little rant to mean that I regret even one single minute of the time I’ve spent taking care of my Lou, because I don’t…at all!  I’m just venting, basically, because I do miss my friends, I do miss having fun, I do miss doing “couple things” with Justin, I do miss not worrying about Lexie 24/7, I do miss feeling comfortable in my clothes, I do miss having at least a little bit of spending money, and I do miss feeling like I’m more on top of things like housework, editing, bills, etc.    

I just want things to feel normal again, but now that I’m sitting here wondering if I’ll be taking Lexie BACK to MedVet soon, it just makes me feel like this TRULY is never going to end. 

Monday, July 16, 2012

What I Haven't Told You...

I wanted to take a moment to address something that I’ve been hearing a lot during the last month or so.  While I have greatly appreciated all the kind comments and praises that I’ve received for going to such great lengths to save Lexie’s vision, and eventually her life, I feel that if everyone knew exactly what Lexie, Jocie, Sam and I have been through together, they wouldn’t think that I was just being a good pet owner, they’d understand that there simply was no other option when it came to saving my Lou.  Therefore, for the sake of painting a more complete picture, I have decided to share an important part of our past.  (I haven’t shared this story before now because, well, it’s kind of a downer, and I also didn’t want people to think that I was just pulling out all the stops to gain sympathy, especially when I had to ask for donations a few weeks ago). 

My girls and I experienced a horrible tragedy in August of 2009, when my husband of 7 years, Chris (whom I had been with for 14 years), chose to take his own life.   He made this decision after a long struggle with alcoholism and failing physical and mental health (pancreatitis and possibly early schizophrenia, although he was never officially diagnosed).  Chris and I had always planned to have children someday, but until we felt the time was right, Jocie, Sam, and Lexie were our children. (It was actually Chris who insisted that we adopt Lexie, despite my reservations about owning three dogs at the time, because he wanted to have a least one dog he was confident would protect me whenever he was away.)  

It’s impossible for me to give a Cliff’s Notes version about everything that happened leading up to Chris’ suicide because it was (to put it very mildly) a giant, complicated, five-year-long mess.   The bottom line is that his gradual, almost unnoticeable at first, downward spiral of mental illness took a sudden plunge in the last few months before his death.  At one point, after we had eventually separated, he had uncharacteristically threatened to shoot me, shoot the dogs, and then shoot himself.  For this reason, when he showed up at my house on that warm, summer night almost three years ago, I initially struggled when he tried to push his way through the front door because my first instinct was to protect the girls.  However, when the towel he was carrying fell to the ground and revealed that he was holding a gun, I knew I just had to get away from him as quickly as possible.  To this day, I still wonder if he had actually come to the house that night with the intention of shooting me and the girls, as well as himself.  I guess I’ll never know, but I will be forever thankful that he let me go and allowed all three of our girls run out of the house before he took his own life in the living room.

Needless to say, it was an extremely traumatic experience for all of us.  Jocie became reclusive, Sam lost almost all the fur off her back, and Lexie wouldn’t let me out of her sight for the month or so that we stayed at my Dad’s afterwards.  Finally, after I was unable to find a new place to live that would allow me to keep all three dogs, I made the very difficult decision to move back into my house.  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to survive in that house, which was so full of wonderful, horrible, and now tragic memories, but the night we moved back in I knew I had made the right decision for my girls, as I hadn’t seen them so relaxed or happy in a very long time.   

Jocie, Sam, and Lexie all comforted me with their unconditional love during that very difficult grieving period, but it was Lexie who actually motivated me to keep moving forward.   It was hard for me to stay sad or depressed for too long when inevitably Lou would bring me one of her stuffed animals and try to entice me off the couch for a game of chase.  It was also hard to feel lonely when Lexie would always insist on laying her head in my lap every time I watched TV, talked on the phone, worked on my laptop, etc.  She even helped me run the household, so to speak, by making sure that I and her sisters stuck to a strict feeding and bathroom schedule (her internal clock is pretty impressive).   In fact, watching all three of my girls fall so easily back into their daily routines and carry on with their lives, thanks to Miss Lexie always cracking the proverbial whip, greatly inspired me to pick up the pieces of my own life and move on.

The bottom line is that Lexie is the one who deserves all the praise for saving me.  She helped me survive when I needed her most, and so I will never do anything less than the same for her.

An ER-Free Weekend!

That's right, we made it through the entire weekend without an emergency trip to the ER!  Woo hoo!  Lexie's incisions barely even had any oozing yesterday.  (By the way, I wish there was another word I could use besides "oozing," because that just sounds so gross to me, but I really don't know what else to call it.) 

Sam has continued to be a little pouty, but usually only when Lexie is actively receiving more attention than her, especially from Justin.  For example, I took these photos yesterday of Justin giving Lexie a little bit of lovin's and also helping her eat (it's difficult for Lou to reach the food in her new elevated bowl when she's wearing her E-collar, so we have to kind of tilt the bowl towards her so she can get the food):

After I took those photos, I turned around to find Sam laying on the couch in full-pout mode as she watched HER Justin giving Lexie all of his attention:

Yes, I know.  She's pitiful.  Don't let her fool you, though.  Sam knows what she's doing.  She knows that as soon as we see her in such a pitiful state, she will immediately receive some undivided attention from either or both of us, which is exactly what happened after I took that photo of her.  At least she's just being pouty in order to receive attention, though, and she's not actually being resentful toward Lexie.  Just a few moments after the above photo was taken, I found Sam curled up with Lexie in the new doggy bed:

Earlier, I had experienced another "awwwww" moment when Zach and Kristy came over to watch True Blood.  Lexie loves Kristy, who was her running partner before Lexie went blind, and Kristy loves Lexie.  So, as soon as Lexie heard Kristy's voice last night, she got up from her doggy bed and tried to find her.  Kristy had followed Zach into the laundry room and didn't realize Lexie was looking for her, but I watched silently from the couch as Lexie found her way through the kitchen all by herself and finally reached Kristy.  When Kristy felt Lexie kind of run into the back of her legs, she spun around and said, "Hi, Lou!" then bent down to pet her.  As I saw Lexie do the infamous "Dobe lean" into Kristy's arms (the equivalent of a human hug for Dobermans), I immediately teared up. 

The best moment of the night, though, came when Justin and I were taking care of Lexie before bed.  While administering her last dose of pain meds for the night and making sure her E-collar was secure, both Sam and Jocie came over to "help" me and Justin tuck Lou in:

All in all, it was a very good, drama-free weekend at our house...for a change!  We've still got a long road ahead of us, as right now we're just sort of in the initial "stitches-watching" phase, which is going to last about another week and a half until her stitches come out.  Then, we can REALLY dive into helping Lexie adjust by taking her on walks with her sisters, trying new games, and just working with her in general to help her become as independent as possible.