Bone Cancer Dog Jerry Outlives Vet PrognosisMany in the Tripawds community were surprised when, on October 3rd, my pawrents announced that I earned my wings. The day before, by the looks of my popcorn video, it seemed that I was doing OK. And although October 2nd and October 3rd were only one day apart, within those 24 hours, things changed dramatically.

I’ve always tried to be upfront about my cancer, so in the next two blog posts, my pawrents and I feel strong enough to share the details of our last hours together. My pawrents words are in italics.

One Last Try

The days leading up to my birthday were filled with lots of love and affection. While I was able to do some cool things, like go sightseeing and play “get the stick,” I was obviously slowing down and taking longer and longer to recover from movement. It wasn’t for lack of trying–believe me, I tried. But every time I attempted to play like I used to, I would poop out, plop down, and hang out panting until my strength returned.

Three legged dog Jerry at the Continental Divide, ColoradoThe wait times were becoming longer, and my walking distances shorter.

Working with only one lung thanks to my lung metastasis, my breathing became harder, as did my panting, especially at the end of the day. On a few different nights, I hardly slept a wink. I just felt like I couldn’t catch my breath. I would pant and wheeze with a disturbing little whistle sound, often letting out a deep cough then attempting to hack something up. But by morning, I would feel better. By evening, it would happen again.

When my pawrents called Dr. Mullins for help, she told them about albuterol, a bronchodilator pill that would help open my lung airways.

We debated about trying one more drug. When Jerry first got sick, we promised him that his life wouldn’t be filled with doctor appointments and drugs. While we believe in the “NGU” philosophy – Never Give Up! – our own personal belief was that there would come a time when no amount of medical intervention was going to stop this horrible cancer from robbing him of his spirit. At some point, it would be time to just live hour to hour, and enjoy our time together without medicine getting in the way.

Jim and I thought we did a good job of keeping our word to Jerry, but as we realized that the cancer was taking over, it became harder to listen to our hearts, and know just when to say when.

As Jerry’s health started deteriorating, we asked ourselves: At what point would the number of drugs we were giving him, be the equivalent of keeping him alive for us? Was all this pill popping fair to him? Was it improving his quality of life, or just helping him stick around a few more weeks or even days? Was his time really at hand, or could science give him some more quality time with us?

These were the hard questions we found ourselves asking, as we started measuring Jerry’s quality of life, day by day. We asked: was he having more good days, than bad days? If not, we would know the time had come to say goodbye.

Our Time Draws Near

Three legged dog without Ruffwear HarnessUp until my birthday on October 1st, my days were good, filled with fun and sunshine as we explored one of the most beautiful places on earth. But on my birthday, while we were still camped at the Grand Tetons National Park, I was having a hard time breathing, so Mom and Dad gave me some albuterol for the first time, and that’s when things started to unravel.

The albuterol worked fast. In about two hours, I was breathing with ease again, but I had a reaction to it. The albuterol made me wired, like a crazy person on speed. My raspy lung sounds went away, but my breathing had sped up. I was jittery, and all I wanted to do was run, far and fast. But my body would have none of it. So instead of working out that energy, I just sat there, panting faster than I ever have, and wishing that I could just sprint for miles on the beach to work off that anxiousness. At that point,  Mom and Dad decided that this drug was not something they wanted to give to me again.

That night, as we were all sitting down to eat my birthday dinner together, I had to pee, bad (a side effect of the Prednisone I was on). As Mom and Dad sat at the table eating dinner, I got up and tried to run to the door, but couldn’t make it fast enough to tell Dad to take me outside. For the first time since I was a puppy, I peed on the floor.

Dad threw open the door and I started to run outside. But without my harness on, I slipped out of his hands as he tried to grab me, and tumbled down the RV steps. I did a face plant, right in the dirt. Mom screamed out of panic, Dad ran out to help me. Mom started crying. Dad tried to comfort us, but things were just a mess. I felt so, so terrible. After a long, long pee, I walked a few feet and sat down for a while.

It took hours for us to calm down. We eventually sat down to have cake, but things just felt sad. Especially when I wouldn’t eat the yummy carrot cake they got me. It was becoming all too clear that my quality of life was slipping away.

Continued…

Canine Cancer Anticipatory Grief Coping Guide