Sunday, September 20, 2009

Jenna's Ashes

We spread Jenna's ashes at her favourite dog park tonight. She's with Harlem now, out under the sun where she belongs. She always loved the change in the weather in the fall, so we thought this was the best time to do it.

It's amazing how the hole they left is still so painful. It has been almost 5 months since we've become dogless, and sometimes we still go to the dog park just because we miss being there. But it's not time yet. We aren't ready for a new dog, because we still spend too much time remembering our old ones. The tendency to make comparisons would be too strong, and a new puppy has to be allowed to be a different dog, if that makes sense. But we'll get there, eventually.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The End

I've been avoiding writing this post, because I just didn't know what to say. We put Jenna to sleep on April 23rd. She could no longer walk on her own, and she had lost all control of her bladder and bowels. She still felt reasonably well at the end - she was eating and drinking and she still loved to be petted - so it was a difficult decision to make. But the vet advised us that there was really nowhere to go from there, and her mobility and functioning were only going to deteriorate. We have always promised her that we will do whatever we can for her, but when there was no longer anything we could do, we were not going to let her linger in pain or misery just for the sake of keeping her alive. And Jenna was not the kind of dog who was content to lie still on a blanket on the floor, constantly being cleaned and fussed over. After a couple of days of this, it was clear to us that it was not a life for her. It was just a slow death.

Jenna has always lived for her daily long walks at the dog park. She was a leaper of fallen trees, a chaser of dogs, an eater of shoes, a raider of garbages - a wrecking ball with boundless energy and a fearless, headlong, often disastrous approach to her life. She has always been a survivor. Most dogs would have had it after the first 4 or 5 times she almost died: she fell through the ice on the river, ate a kilo of raisins and almost had kidney failure, ate a wild mushroom and had a seizure, smashed her head on a tree (from galloping around like a lunatic) and developed a neurological disorder, and then she got Evans Syndrome and lost most of her blood cells. She was a regular patient at the emergency clinic. But she lived through all of that. She was indestructible. Jenna the Tank. I really was beginning to think she could beat anything. Even cancer.

I'm not sure if we did the right thing. I hate it when it comes down to the final decision, because no matter what we do, I always feel like we've done the wrong thing. I panic when I think about the fact that she's gone, that I let it happen, that I was there while the vet put the needle in. How could I have done that? How could we have chosen that? Did we kill our dog? I know it's supposed to be the right thing to do. But I understand why they don't let us do it to humans. It's the most horrible decision to ever have to make. It's nothing but guilt and doubt and panic and terror that you've made a colossal, irreversible mistake. It's responsibility for an entire, sacred life that you have to bear. That's the part I struggle with the most.

And now she's gone, and the house is empty. We are dogless people. We are not going to get another dog, at least not anytime soon. Harlem and Jenna enriched our lives immeasurably. Sometimes, when life got really busy, walking the dogs was the only thing we did together consistently. Long talks at the dog park were our best means of resolving disputes or connecting to talk about our day, our plans, and our dreams. The dogs were even ring bearers at our wedding - they've been there through all our ups and downs. They've given us so many gifts. Now that they're gone, we miss them, we grieve for them, but we still have those gifts they gave us.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Worse and Worse

I'm not sure how to even say this. It's happened so fast, and out of nowhere. On Monday Jenna went into hospital with what looked like a simple case of pancreatitis, and now she can barely walk, and she has lost control of her bowels. They think the cancer has spread to her spinal column. With the sudden rate of progression, the vet doesn't advise a rescue chemo protocol. It likely wouldn't make any difference, and besides, she can't walk, and we must consider quality of life. We brought her home from the hospital tonight so we could spend some quality time with her.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bad News

Jenna is much worse. The pancreatitis started to clear up, and now she is weak and very, very painful in her hind end. X-rays revealed a mass. It doesn't look good at all.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Troubled Waters

Well, Jenna is back in the hospital with an inflamed pancreas. We don't know why. I guess the good news is that her lymph nodes don't seem to be enlarged. Now we are just waiting...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Last Day of Chemo

She did it!! Jenna made it through an entire 6-month chemo protocol, and she is still in full remission! Our vet says that Jenna is the only patient she has ever had who has successfully completed an entire chemo protocol. She is also very optimistic about our chances of a long remission. So here's to the Bear, and to many more lymphoma-free years!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Chemo Week #22

Whew! Have I been negligent! I just changed jobs, and in all that hubbub, I ignored Jenna's blog. First thing's first: Jenna the Tank is still bashing through chemo without slowing down. Since I last blogged, she's had 2 treatments and continues to have no adverse effects. We have 2 more treatments left, and then as long as she stays in remission, we only have to go to the vet for monthly checkups. Going to the vet once a month feels like an outlandish fantasy right now, but with things going the way they are, it just might come true.

I guess we must be starting to look tattered and gaunt, because the vet charged us $12 for chemo this week. Thus, hubby took our car to a mechanic today, and was pleasantly surprised to find out that it doesn't need as much work as we thought it did. (Well, he thought it did. I don't fix cars. I just drive them until the wheels fall off. But still, yay!)

February 4th was the 1-year anniversary of Harlem's death. I can't believe a year has gone by already. I don't think I miss him any less; I guess it's just that the edges aren't as jagged and raw anymore. Mostly I can think of him without crying, as long as I don't think too hard. But I miss him all the time. I think about him every day, and I still talk about him a lot. I can't remember the smell on the side of his nose exactly, but I remember the exact feeling of his silky ears and the weight of him leaning on my legs, and the way he would hop on the spot with his toes spread out when you asked him if he wanted to go for a walk.

I think I will always miss him, but I'm glad to know that my memories of him won't fade with time. And as silly as it probably is, I do feel like he's out there, at the dog park where I spread his ashes - in the grass that will come up in spring, and the trees that will bud, and the wildflowers that will grow by the riverbank. We're all made of the same recycled, billion year old carbon, right?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Chemo Week #18

On Wednesday Jenna was treated with doxorubicin, the drug that supposedly causes all the side effects for which chemo drugs are notorious. Jenna is totally oblivious, though, and is bouncing off the walls in the absence of her usual off-leash walks. The vet says we aren't supposed to take her to the park for 72 hours after chemo, and we really do try to be obedient. I think it's as much for other dogs' protection as her own - apparently her saliva, urine and feces are, like, radioactive or something. We're not even supposed to let her lick us, but we do. I figure if she can have this stuff in her veins, it's not gonna kill me to have it on my hands for a few seconds.

So until tomorrow night, Jenna will just have to chill in the house. She lives a life of extreme deprivation, as you can see.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Always Get Insurance

I did something foolish today. I added up all of our vet bills from the day Jenna was diagnosed with lymphoma to the present. And I thought, well, what the hell, the blog is supposed to be about sharing information about lymphoma, so ... I'm sharing.

Four months of chemo, plus accompanying medications and bloodwork = $6045.63

Granted, we do still have 5 more treatments to go. The chemo treatments average about $400-$500 a pop. Sometimes it's better (about $100 for the cyclophosphamide weeks) and sometimes it's worse (about $700 for the doxorubicin weeks). Bloodwork-only weeks run up just a painless $90. Sometimes after these weeks we start getting wild ideas about purchasing groceries or getting our car's shrieking brakes fixed.

We do not have veterinary insurance, because we are idiots. By the time it crossed our minds that coverage might be a good idea, both of our dogs were already churning out lamenesses and rare diseases as fast as veterinary medicine could cure them. No insurance company in their right mind would have us. As it is, I have this irrational fear that any future dogs we have will be refused insurance based on the medical records of our previous dogs.

But this is what money is for, n'est pas? For about $1500/month, we are keeping our dog alive - healthily, happily, and energetically alive. Will this delay some of our financial plans? Yeah. In 30 years, when I look back at this, am I going to say to myself "jeez, I wish I'd just put the dog down and saved that money for a mortgage down payment"? No, I most assuredly will not.

Just the same, I advise all new owners to take out insurance the instant puppy comes home. We're extraordinarily lucky that we are in a position to pay for this. If this had happened a year ago, I really don't know what we'd have done. Imagine having to euthanize a beloved family member only because you didn't have the money to save her?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Chemo Week #16

Yesterday marked week #16 of Jenna's chemo protocol - vincristine this time. We have 5 more treatments to go. Jenna "the Tank" is fine, as usual, so there's not much to report (thankfully).

I am carless this week, as hubby is out of town and has taken our only set of functional wheels, so we made arrangements for Jenna's grandpa to deliver her to the clinic and collect her when the chemo was done. He managed the whole process like a seasoned dog owner, and is, I think, well on the way to getting a furry friend of his own. We just have to convince grandma that this is a good idea. I think grandpa and I have decided that a nice yellow Labrador would be just the thing. Isn't that right, Mom-in-law? ;)

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A New Year

Happy new year everyone! We are so thankful that Jenna is still here, and still hale and hearty as we begin the new year. She did great over the holidays, and survived all the visiting and the endless goodies with energy and appetite to spare. She met the cousins' new baby, endured an entire 24 hours with my sister's crazed one-year-old Lab/Beagle, and stole and devoured an entire gingerbread cake, the only consequence of which was a prolonged bout of gag-inducing flatulence.

Next week she's scheduled for her week 16 chemo treatment, and we will be able to celebrate 4 whole months of extremely high-quality life with lymphoma. Of course we're grateful for whatever time we get with her, but the way things have been going ... well, it tends to make you pretty hopeful. So here's hoping for a healthy 2009 for Jenna!