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Caring for a Three Legged Dog or Cat

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Bella: Seven Year Old Saint, Possible Osteosarcoma
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22 December 2016 - 2:06 am
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Hi, I have a Saint Bernard who’s about 7, she is on the smaller side and was extremely agile, lean, and wicked fast. She’s amazing and has done amazing things to help people very young and old in crisis situations that you cannot imagine. She is one of a kind and I have been privileged to have her in my life.

Last Thursday, she decided not to get up. I brought her to the emergency room. 95% chance its osteosarcoma. Blood tests, radiographs, chest X-rays, hip x-rays. Upper humerus has indications of osteosarcoma.Spoke with every doctor on rotation over the weekend. Monday met with an oncologist. Tuesday a radiology oncologist and a doctor who’s written a lot.  Today I spoke with an expert surgeon (she’s had her spleen removed 4 years ago and had her stomach flip last month)and talked with her neurologist (she has seizures). All were extremely generous with their time and many didn’t charge for the consult. I also Researched places leading the research and making the best progress. Who’s getting funding and who’s not. In sum, i educated myself so I can make the best decision possible for her. All roads point to amputation and chemo. She’s in pain but on meds at home.

Sadly, amputation is the right choice. One that my parents do not agree with. Also, I have 2, 10 year old boys. one is furious with me about her ‘possible’ amputation. It’s just before Christmas, she’s uncomfortable and I’ve got 2 kids who I don’t want to ruin Christmas for or scar them by moving too fast. But my dogs are my kids too and this disease is nasty and fast. So, before Christmas, amputation=ruin Christmas, or Monday, amputation. If it wasn’t for my kids I wouldn’t wait. Either way I face caring for her with my kids on break from school and really upsetting them. Then there is my job and the cost. My poor girl deserves the best and this is tearing me up thinking of her. With kids, I just don’t know how to make this not a horrible experience for her and my kids. Oh, and my parents think I should let her go. Not an option since all doctors have said she is a good candidate for amputation. So, so difficult. I can lift her but this is really, really hard otherwise. Can anyone offer suggestions? I was thinking of some kind of covering for her. When her stomach flipped and she had surgery, I brought her home before Halloween looking like a mummy with a gentle gauzy shirt and that helped my kids deal and Bella didn’t care. Losing an entire arm is really different. Please, give me some advice: how do you handle this with an employer; manage costs; help Bella; not scar my kids…and anything else you can think of.

The Rainbow Bridge

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22 December 2016 - 9:11 am
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Hi Bella’s people. I moved your post here so that Bella has a topic all to herself. Please consider registering as a member: after your first post your postings won’t need approval.

Bella is so fortunate to have you for her mom! You have all surgeons in agreement that she’s a good candidate for surgery? That is GREAT! Celebrate for having one less hurdle, many people don’t have that advantage when it comes to giant breed dogs.

I know what you’re up against though, we see it a lot here. Many people who have never been around a Tripawd are first horrified at the thought of amputation. But once they see how well a dog or cat can do on three legs, their minds are changed forever.

Let’s start by trying to address your questions:

Your employer: How much time can you take off? If you can keep her at the vet clinic for two days then you’d only need to take the rest of the week off, and you’ll have the weekend with her. Although giant breed dogs in general take a little longer to get their bearings, most are on their feet and able to potty within 24 hours (your vet won’t let her leave the hospital until she does). You may need to help her balance at home for a few days, but a simple grocery bag sling can help.

Costs: remember, chemo is optional. Not everyone does it and it’s not a requirement. We opted out and our Jerry lived two amazing years. Many have beaten the odds. Some have not. But over the years we’ve learned that while chemo gives dogs a statistically better chance of living longer, it doesn’t guarantee it. As long as you get rid of the horribly painful leg, you are giving Bella a chance to live out the rest of her days as a happy girl.

Kids: others here with kids can help you better than I can, but I will tell you this: you will set the tone for how they react. The more ‘normal’ you treat Bella, the more the kids will respond accordingly. You can prepare them by showing them our photo gallery of giant breed dogs. And don’t forget to show them Patchy’s blog. He’s a Saint who is living the good life on three legs!

K gotta run for now but hang tight for more insight from our awesome members. Don’t forget to review Jerry’s Required Reading List for lots of tips too!

It's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four.™
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22 December 2016 - 10:50 am
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Welcome to tripawds Bella’s mom! You are in absolutely the right place for support and advice. We are all here because we were or are in the same boat as you. Firstly, there is NO wrong decision about how you proceed. The decision you make is the right one for your dog and your family. Whether or not amputation seems to be the obvious choice, there are so many other things to consider, not the least of which is the financial aspect. That is a legitimate issue for those of us who are not wealthy or do not have pet insurance. You should NOT feel guilty about decisions made based on cost! I’ll try to touch on all your concerns and many other will chime in here with other ideas I’m sure.

Financial– depending on where you are located, there may be a vet school running a trial. Currently, there is an osteosarcoma trial run by the NCI that will mostly pay for the surgery and all the chemo. They are doing it all over the country. Sadly, my dog did not qualify, but I met another tripawd in oncology last time that did and his mom said it was the only way she could have done it. Another thing to consider is getting a Care Credit card. It allows you to pay off the costs interest free up to 18 months. Even though my dog did not qualify for the trial, I was able to have vet students do the surgery for $1200 vs $3000-3500 for a specialist. They are supervised by a senior surgeon and did a great job. I chose to do chemo, but Jerry is right, it’s absolutely optional and many here chose not to. My savings is wiped out and I have had to cut back on many things, including Christmas presents for my daughters. They are in their 20’s, in college and I help support them as a single mom. So yeah, it was a hard decision, but my girls are 100% supportive.

Kids– Mine are obviously older, but they used to be 10 and I feel strongly that they would have managed just fine at that age. Kids are amazingly resilient and I guarantee they will love showing off their tripawd Bella to all their friends at the park! We take my Fionn everywhere and my girls volunteer to hold his leash so they can bask in the attention he gets. Everyone LOVES a tripawd! Get her some cute t shirts to wear (you will need to cover her incision to keep it clean and keep her away from it anyway and it reduces the shock factor. The incision is UGLY).  What are the boys into? She could wear star wars, monster trucks etc. They can pick some out! You can’t protect them from all of life’s crappy moments, it would not be in their best interest anyway. You can explain to them that if you do not amputate, Bella will continue to suffer in pain (my vet described the process as the bone exploding from within) and bone pain in humans is the WORST (I know this for a fact -I do MRI in a large hospital). The pain will not be able to be controlled well and she will eventually either fracture it and you will have an emergency euthanasia, or you will be forced to euthanize her before that. I think watching her suffer, potentially for months, and then be put to sleep would be FAR more traumatic to your children and incredibly stressful for you. As a mom, I totally get the need to protect and sacrifice for your kids, I do, but mom, YOU want to do this and YOUR wants and needs count too! We too often put ourselves last as moms and I think that’s a bad idea. And btw? Your parents or any “well meaning” friends don’t get a vote. This is your dog and your life decision to make. There will always be people who think you are crazy to consider it- I work with a few. I feel sad for them. They have obviously never felt the love of an animal.

Work- I am lucky that I had lots of vacation time and an understanding boss. Because we were trying to get into the trial, Fionn’s surgery happened about 2 weeks after diagnosis so they knew I would be gone a little ahead of time. He had surgery on a Thursday and came home the next day. So, I took off that Friday and all the next week. Fionn weighs 85lbs and I have stairs to go outside, so it was a bit of a struggle managing his potty trips, but we got through it. I had friends come check on him the first 2 days I went back to work, but after that he did fine on his own. He was navigating the stairs AND his dog door by day 5 or 6 post op. Honestly, if your boys are home, they can be helpful in lots of different ways and I think it will be a great learning experience. They can write their own blog or journal about it and present it at school! You can enlist their friends parents in helping out with play dates and such so they can burn off steam. For the first few days your energies will be spent on Bella I’m afraid.

Timing- yeah, this happening right before Christmas sucks big time. There is a another new member going through the same thing right now. While I really don’t think you would be “ruining Christmas” – it WILL make the process more stressful for YOU. Many of us waited for various reasons before doing the surgery. I’m not sure a few days here or there will make much difference. Bella has had cancer likely for A LONG TIME. You didn’t know it until it got bad enough for her to show signs and dogs are experts in not showing their pain. It is one of the reasons osteosarcoma is so deadly. Those cells are busy spreading well before we amputate.

In addition, DO read Jerry’s required reading list. Download the books, read the blogs. Read Fionn’s blog (link in my signature). He and I blogged every day from right before surgery through the first 2 weeks. I made a list (look for the highlights page) of all the things I bought or had on hand that I found useful. There are daily incision pictures so you are prepared for what it looks like. Your journey will not be exactly the same, BUT it will prepare you for what to expect. And, you will see how quickly life got back to (a new) normal.

I am so, so very sorry you are joining us on this journey and at such an incredibly bad time! We are all here to support and help in any way that we can. There are people available in chat to help right away too. Please keep us up to date on Bella’s progress. Best wishes for a fast, easy recovery!

Merry Christmas!

Fionn and Nancyheart

Nancy- mom to the FABULOUS Fionn. He rescued me in 2015 when he was 6. 

Right front leg amputation at age 7 for osteosarcoma 10/6/16. Taken too soon 6/12/17. Read about our journey here:

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22 December 2016 - 12:59 pm
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Hi Bella and family 🌹🐾🐶

So sorry to find you here but this is definitely the best place to be under the circumstances.

It is really tough … but you are lucky your Bella is a good candidate got amputation as Jerry says … 

In my case, I have a huge Great Dane and although my kids weren’t a problem as they have their own families now, my partner didn’t even want to think about amputation.

As it turned out and knowing how painful osteo is and how fast it evolves I took the decision myself and do not regret it for a second.

No leg, no pain and that’s a fact!

As for chemo we went all the way and are still having it but others didn’t and at the end of the day there are no guarantees with or without chemo …

Dogs do recover from amputation and they live totally happy lives on 3 no doubt about that!

Of course, there are risks involved with the surgery, it is major surgery, but the vast majority get back to being their happy selves especially after stitches are removed.

As for your kids, I would try to explain to them there is a pain free life for Bella after surgery, without surgery she will be in excruciating pain, escalating as time goes by, and very quickly too.

There is lots of advice ready for you if you wish to proceed with the surgery, we have all been there and will hold your hand every second of the way! 

In the meantime perhaps you could take a look at my posts as me and Eurydice have been on trips together, the first one 5 months after amputation and the second now, at 7 1/2 months after surgery, maybe that will help your parents and your kids realise how happy Bella can be on 3 legs !

It is in the Anything Goes forum under Eurydice’s travels in Europe 5 months after amputation and Eurydice’s travels in Europe with lung mets 7 1/2 months after amputation.

Whichever your decision may be please remember we are ALL here for you and Bella, you are not alone !!!!

Sending you a huge bear hug and lots and lots of cuddles to your sweetie 😘😘😘💞🐶

Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-) 

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22 December 2016 - 3:17 pm
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I am sorry that you have to embark on this journey with your sweet girl 🙁 We started down this road nearly a year ago.  Our Saint Patchy was diagnosed in January last year and after several weeks of anguish we went ahead with his amputation.  He is still doing well 9 months later 🙁  We had lost his dad in December last year to cancer and were not aware of the options for amputation at that time.  The pain he went through before we helped him cross over the bridge, is something I don’t want to go through again it was truly awful and escalates so very quickly.  Patchy was in a great deal of pain before the amputation and though he is minus 1 leg he is also minus a huge giant pain monster.  It is much easier to see them without the leg than to watch them suffer with the horrible pain.

It is frightening to think about the surgery but I can tell you that once you are on the other side you will have no regrets. 

To still have them in our lives and see them happy is so worth the price of a lost limb.

I wish you peace and comfort as you make the decisions for your girl and know that this community will be there with you every step of the way.  I came to find this community the day we brought patchy home because I was so overwhelmed.  They have been my angels ever since ad have truly become life long friends.

Sending you many hugs of hope for your future with your sweet girl 🙂  Summer and Patchy

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22 December 2016
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24 December 2016 - 6:16 am
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What an awesome surprise to login and see my post and replies! Thank you all so much for taking the time to respond to me. I am grateful that there are people willing to take time out of their busy lives to help me, a stranger! And at this time of year. 

Your ability to relate and provide examples was very reassuring. It’s really difficult sometimes for me to step aside in a crisis and think of what I want to do instead of caring for everyone else. That’s a lesson that I am working on more and more as I get older. For some reason, I find it extremely difficult with my dogs.

I figured out how to become a member, so I should be showing up that way to the admin. Please let me know if I need to do something else.

I love all of the ideas and advice:

-getting my kids to blog or write about it and present it to their class

-taking them to pick out fun t-shirts. I was going to do that myself, but involving them is a much better idea.

-setting the tone. That is so right. With everyone. I will take the lead and say and model how things will be.

-being strong in my own decision despite other family opinions, and doing what I want to do not just thinking of my kids (So hard to remember sometimes as a single mom trying to fill all shoes and do it all.)

…Everything you all said. Thank you.

I’ve come to terms with the amputation. Surgery will be next week.

I have many questions from all of the research I’ve been doing. I would be very grateful for a reply again.

1-Do you think I’ll need something like a harness or something else to help lift her from laying down and get her used to balancing to pee and poo? She’s going to loose her left front leg. She’s such a dignified princess and does her business well away from everyone. So unlike my other dog who could care less where you are. Suggestions?

2-Some recommend getting an orthpedic bed. Does she need one? There is one which has the most positive reviews for large dogs but it’s 7 inches high. Do you think that will be an issue for her to be able to step up on it as a front leg amputee?

3-I read that there is a better alternative from the plastic cone she will have to wear for 2 weeks. It’s a soft waterproof doughnut that slides over her head. Is that necessary? Will it make a difference for her?

4-What about running around and chasing a ball? Will my St. Bernard be able to do that without falling over? 60% of her weight is in her front.

5-I read that for long walks you need some kind of supportive device. I saw some dogs with wheels? That looks expensive. If it’s needed, is there a used source?

6-I read that nutrition is important for her longevity now more than ever. I feed my dogs very high quality food, but is there something specific that I should be doing with protein ratios, or  something? One source recommended a particular brand formulated for cancer survivors.

7-aftercare…sounds really, really hard. For such a big girl, any particular advice?

I very much look forward to your replies.

Many thanks.

Bella’s Mom

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24 December 2016 - 6:32 am
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Now that you’ve offered…🙂I have more,and more questions.

Eurudice- thank you for suggesting the link. What do you have on your dogs paws at the oncologists and what is the harness?

Also, for anyone who knows, I trimmed her nails and fur on the bottom of her paws. Someone also suggested dremmeling her nails as short as possible before she gets out of surgery too so that she has a better chance of not slipping, and I don’t have to bother her for a while about trimming her nails.

What about rug runners? I have wood floors with some rugs. What did you do?

Bella has a pretty red bow on her today and has been brushed out very soft so she can get even more love, hugs and kisses from everyone over the holidays. 

All the best to you all,

Bella’s Mom

Livermore, CA

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24 December 2016 - 10:20 am
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Hi Bella’s mom, thanks for registering.  Now that I have approved your first post as a member (well, 2 since you posted before I got up!) your future posts will not need approval.

Traction is very important for Tripawds- you will want Bella to have secure pathways everywhere in the house.  Some use throw rugs and runners, yoga mats also work.

A sling- the vet will probably send you home with a sling, many do.  You can also make a grocery bag sling as Jerry suggested above.  Many here use the RuffWear WebMaster harness, I know that is what Eurydice uses, but you may not be able to use it right after surgery because of the incision- you should ask your vet about that.  I know some front amps have put a tee-shirt over the incision and used the harness right away. Here is a post on choosing a harness.

There are several alternatives to the cone of shame .  I used the donut type when my quad pug boy had his knee surgeries.  You can put a shirt on her to keep her away from the incision and maybe leave the cone off is she is closely supervised.  You really don’t want her licking at the incision at all.

Do check out the Reading List and consider downloading one or more ebooks from the Tripawds Library .

Merry Christmas to you and your family!

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010


              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

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24 December 2016 - 3:10 pm
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Hi Bella and Mom 🌹🐶

Gosh, I am SO glad you decided to go ahead with the surgery and get rid of that painful leg 👍🏼

Concerning your questions: 

Harness – Eurydice wears a ruff wear harness and I swear by it but until stitches came out she wore a soft harness (called easy something …) over a T-shirt. (she is a right leg amputee) This harness was padded and soft so there was no possibility of it fiddling with the incision. 

Bed – Eurydice has a couple of memory foam mattresses which are great because they mould to her body shape, are comfortable but at the same time they are hard enough for her to be able to stand up and lie down without sliding. I’m sure there are other matresses which will do the job, the main thing is not to get soft ones as our babies can easily loose balance getting in/out of bed and injure themselves if the mattress slides or is too soft … 

Cone of shame – I really don’t know, as my girl never wore anything. She never bothered the incision, T-shirt and harness were worn at all times and also I stayed with her all the time so no possibility of her doing anything without me seeing it …

Runnjng around and chasing balls – the answer is yes, she definitely will be able to do all that but only in due course! You must not let her overdo it, she has to build up her strength step by step and also do not expect her to be full of beans for a while, Bella being a gigantic breed she’ll probably need longer than smaller dogs to get back into shape… but once she does … ayho silver 🐎🐎🐎

As for your point 5 no, you definitely do not need anything at all for long walks ! You must let her rest between hops as much as she wants and always bear in mind until you know she is fully fit and strong again ALWAYS make sure you calculate the distance taking into consideration the return journey too. As Bella feels stronger she will be more energetic but you are the one who needs to keep in mind her effort to come back! 

Food – I used to feed Eurydice Royal Canin Giant dry food and chicken fillets for extra protein, alternating raw chicken, boiled and grilled. I would also give her salmon and sardines on occasion. Since her cancer (and after recovery was over) I reduced the meat progressively until zero as she obviously doesn’t run like lightening as she did before. She only eats her dry food now (plus occasional treats) as she needs to be light on her feet to make it easier to hop on 3. Nevertheless, there are lots of pawrents here who give their babies all sorts of supplements so I’m sure you’ll have a lot of advice soon.

Aftercare – well, recovery is no piece of cake for big girls like ours. But recovery doesn’t last forever either! 

They shave a vast amount of fur so it is not easy for us to look at but the t-shirt keeps the area clean and protected and hides it from view too.

I would suggest you have a look at pictures before you get her back or better still ask the hospital to email you a photo of your girl. They did that with me and although it was hard to watch I could see my baby’s beautiful shining eyes and smile! 

Rugs and mats are crucial !!!! Traction is vital for tripawds, especially big tripawds! If they slip it is a huge confidence killer and also potentially dangerous … I bought a couple of rolls of carpet, cut it (more or less) to measure and placed rubber underlay under it for extra grip. You don’t need to cover the all area, just make paths for Bella to hop everywhere, she will stick to the carpeted areas. 

Eurydice stayed at the hospital for 3 nights because I was really nervous I wouldn’t be as competent as the trained nurses there … she was 77kg so I was extremely concerned with lifting her etc.

The first days after she arrived were tough, she had difficulty getting up (the harness was a godsend) and going out for pee/poop. 

But slowly but surely we made it!

She didn’t poop until day 2 after getting home (i.e. she didn’t poop for 5 days after surgery) but the surgeon was not worried and it all happened naturally … I was concerned about how she would managed but it was no sweat for her. 

During the first weeks of recovery Bella must rest A LOT and that is normal.

She may or may not stop eating/drinking, so the key is giving her anything at all she will eat from eggs to sausages, chicken etc etc 

If she stops drinking you can add a bit of chicken broth or even a bit of ice cream as Sally did 😆 to the water. 

There are other tricks but no need to go into those lengths now … 

Normally there is a crash between days 3-5 as hospital medication is coming out of their system, that is normal.

The first landmark date is stiches removal, from then on generally dawgs get better and better and better !

You must keep a very close eye to pain medication and keep the schedule to a T, you will have lots of advice from others.

I also kept a diary showing timing for medication, food and water intake, pee and poops and how long she would go out for each day. 

Remember, only very short hops for pee/poop during the first weeks!

Finally, the booties. I had them custom made because my girl’s paw is so big there is nothing at all on the market for her size.

They are padded inside and the fabric is anti bacterial, the outside foot area is anti slip so she never ever slides, the only downside is they are not water proof. 

Eurydice wears them on slippery, hard or rocky surfaces to give her a grip and protect her feet.

Because of Eurydice’s huge weight and the fact she shifted her gait as a tripawd, her back feet had sores that never healed despite of me applying cream on a daily basis, hence the booties.

But your Bella may or may not need it, time will tell. 

So glad your girl is looking even prettier than usual with a gorgeous red bow 🎀 we need pictures young lady, lots of pictures 📷 and some videos for good measure 📽

Sending you much much love and lots of cuddles to your gorgeous girl and … Happy Christmas 🎄😘🐶💞

(as it turned out I am on my own tonight, or better said with Eurydice, my Dad was suddenly taken to hospital yesterday so him and my Mom couldn’t join me today … plus my daughter is working … but hopefully they will be fit enough to join us tomorrow for Christmas lunch🦃🍾🍸🍴)

Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-) 

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24 December 2016 - 3:23 pm
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oh I just remembered … I think the soft harness Eurydice wore before stitches cane out was. Asked ezzydog or something very similar 😘😘😘💞🐶

Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-) 

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24 December 2016 - 3:25 pm
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Sorry … damn autocorrect ! 

I meant ezzydog forget the Asked before it don’t know where that came from 🙄😶

Eurydice 77kg/170lb Great Dane limping end of April 2016, amputation (right front leg/osteosarcoma) 4 May 2016 6 courses of carboplatin followed by metronomic therapy, lung mets found 30 Nov 2016. 3 courses of doxorubicin, PET scan 26 Jan 2017 showed more mets so stopped chemo. Holistic route April 2017. Lung X-ray 5 May 2017 showed several tennis ball size mets, started cortisone and diuretics. Miss Cow earned her XXL silver wings 12 June 2017, 13 months and 1 week after amputation and 6 1/2 months after lung mets, she was the goofiest dawg ever and is now happily flying from cloud to cloud woof woofing away :-) 

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