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It was just a small lymph node…

Maia was diagnosed with Lymphoma on March 31st, 2015. I do remember the date because this is the day where I went to sign the lease for the store. I thought she had an ear infection because she was shaking her head so much. I will remember that morning forever. I took her out of my truck and went back for Sophie who was limping. I had one step inside my vet’s office with Sophie and  I knew right away something was dead wrong. Maia’s lymph nodes were swollen and he thought it was Lymphoma. I do not want to give Lymphoma a capital L but my auto speller doesn’t want to hear about it. It doesn’t deserve a capital L that’s the least I can say.

 

From the minute I got her, I loved her. She was 8 weeks old and she was perfect from the beginning. Taking her out of a pretty cold garage a day before a snow storm, she never ever did anything wrong in her life. NEVER. She never chewed anything which was inappropriate (right Zeke?). She never had an accident in the house. Maia has just been my perfect pup from 8 weeks old until that March 31 of 2015 where cancer had the bad taste of invading her body.

 

If I had done nothing she would have been gone within 6 weeks. So we did something. I learned a lot about Lymphoma. There are two types: B cells and T cells. The B cells respond the best to chemotherapy. So 2 days later, we started chemotherapy. When I said we, she was the one to take the crap, but going every week for six months takes a toll on the parent too. This is when we developed that bond. I knew her so well. Maia is a very sensitive girl, and when she felt crappy, at one point, she stopped eating. Yes, she became anorexic. The oncologist I was seeing at the first place told me: “Put a bowl of kibbles on the floor and she will eat when she will be hungry.” All wrong. I knew my girl. I knew how sensitive she was, and that’s one of the messages I want to send tonight: Trust your feelings about your dog. The vet or oncologist or any other specialist doesn’t know your pup like you do.

We left fast that place where they were treating every single dog with Lymphoma the same way, and as a matter of fact, they almost killed my girl after giving her a sulfa antibiotics which made her temperature rise to 105 and became totally lethargic. Who would not be when you have such a colossal fever? I was the one, not the vet, to figure it out. That was the week where I took her away from that place, and found Dr. Beck, an oncologist at the Hope Center in Vienna, Va.

She got us right away. Right away she treated Maia as Maia and not as a dog with Lymphoma. She saved my girl. And after six long months of chemotherapy, Maia went into remission. It was in October of 2015.  Cancer came back in July of 2016 and I do believe that it came back because of me. Maia and I are like two peas in a pod. I have to stay Zen for her or she starts worrying about me as much as I worry about her. In June 2016, one my other girls, Lola died of liver cancer a month after being diagnosed, and it took my Zen thing kind of away from me.

 

So we started  chemotherapy again for six months every single week…. And in January of this year, she was in remission again, and sue me, but 5% of the dogs with Lymphoma get into remission like forever, and that was the plan. Why would not she be in those 5%? She was my mighty girl, and we had such a streak of bad luck between the Lymphoma,  a torn cruciate and then the Vestibular Disease, my girl deserved a break…. and we got that break until yesterday.

 

At her last monthly oncology recheck, they found a swollen Lymph node, but Maia had allergies, an ear infection, so it had to be that, right? They gave her antibiotics but at one point when I went to my regular vet, he decided to do an aspiration to see what was in that swollen node. I was not worried. She had an ear infection and those lymph nodes are supposed to do their jobs when there is an infection lingering around right? Then it was Labor Day weekend (Reminder for me, and only me: don’t trust anything happening on Labor Day weekend!), and I noticed the node was getting smaller, so I was totally at ease when my vet called me yesterday to break the news. The pathologist was 100% sure that cancer came back with a vengeance: “high grade Lymphoma”. It took me a second to google it to see that it was the most aggressive form of Lymphoma striking as many internal organs that it could. Lymphoma is like a snake. You never see it coming. It goes so slow…. But then it attacks and you don’t even realize where it was coming from.

 

The thing is my girl is happy. She eats pretty well, goes for walk, swims (it just took her ten years to enjoy it), barks at me if I stay too long in the pool area while another dog is swimming. So tomorrow, we are going to see the oncologist, not Dr. Beck who is unfortunately on vacation this week, but the other one. I know one thing, and one thing only: I want her to stay happy. I want her to leave on a good day. So I have no clue what is going to be said tomorrow. I just know that I do not, it’s not I do not, it’s just that I cannot make her miserable to have her a few more weeks with me. It would be so unfair to her. And at the end of the journey, it’s all that matters. A very wise friend told me some time ago “Dogs are not afraid of death.” Today is a no man’s land since I don’t know what tomorrow will be made of. I just know one thing: my girl is going to leave after having a very good day because that’s what she deserves, and I will not cry because I just don’t want her to worry about me. It breaks my heart. For a year and half, every day, she went to the pool with me. She is so paranoid that I could forget her (how could I? Seriously?) that by 7;30am she is by the front door, making sure that I will not go anywhere without her. How do you go on after that?

 

 

I have no clue…. The ironic thing is that I stopped writing a year ago after Jackson died. It was like my brain was frozen as well as my fingers. How ironic that I start writing again when another death is going to hit me. A year ago, I had an animal communicator come to my house because you see I was worried about Maia. She was refusing to drink except if I were giving her a glass with fresh water. The first thing that animal communicator told me when I said I was worried about her, she smiled, and she told me “that’s the first thing Maia told me: that she was so worried about you.” Life after Maia? I have no clue how it will be. I have no clue how many times a heart can be broken. The only thing I now for sure is that I will deal with myself after she is gone, because for the time being, it’s all about Maia. 

Black eye peas are over rated and a K9 swimming pool for 2016!

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I skipped the black eye peas this year. They are really over rated in my book. I was good last year and took a full teaspoon of those things first thing on January 1st, and it was probably one of the crappiest years in my life, so I like to live dangerously, and this year I just skipped the darn thing!

2016? I used to write my goals every January, hit the gym right away like at 6:00 am on January 1st. Yes they are open. I wonder if they ever close! These days,  the gym I belong to could also be called my favorite charity! (I wonder if it could be tax deductible!) I picked the mutts over the gym. You see with my pack, I need to walk them two per two meaning that I need to do a minimum of three walks a day, here goes the gym. Right there I have at least 4 miles before my day starts.

What do I want in 2016? First of all, I want my family and my friends (four and two-legged ones) to stay healthy. I want a gentle year for everyone even my worst enemies! I don’t have any enemies! I want my K9 swimming pool to open early this year. It took the pregnancy of an elephant to have my pool become reality, but for the time being, it’s still under work. Huge hole in the floor which still needs a lot of TLC, did I mention a lot of TLC, before I could have my happy swimmers in there!

I want Maia, my sweet girl, a nine year old Labrador retriever to stay in remission from Lymphoma. 15% of the dogs stay in remission like forever, so why not my girl? She is doing well right now. Ironically, on March 30th of last year, I was signing the lease for the K9 pool store. Just before signing the lease, I dropped off two of my dogs at my vet: Maia for what I thought was an ear infection, and Sophie for what I thought was a torn cruciate, thanks to the snow which never went away that winter. The time it took me to drop off Maia and go get Sophie from my truck, hell fell on my shoulder, or should I say this is the moment where the earth stayed still. In two minutes the world changed from a happy place to a nightmarish one when my vet told me very sure of himself that Maia had lymphoma, and without any chemotherapy, she would be dead by May. I left both of my girls there while I went to sign the lease with uncontrollable tears running down my cheeks. I would have signed my death sentence that minute. My mind was focused on my girl with her beautiful and sweet golden eyes.

2015 was a year where I fought for everything. First for Maia to live. It was a very rocky road with her. I thought I was going to lose her last July. 6 months of chemotherapy every week for 6 weeks, then a break of a week, and then another six weeks, I am sure you can see the picture. What I learned from these six months, the essential part is that you have to trust the oncologist, and have a good relationship with him or her. It was not the case, and I had to change oncologist in the middle of the treatment. You see, the oncologist knew how to give those drugs but she did not know my dog like I knew her. She discarded what I was saying about Maia being so sensitive, and just shutting down because she was nauseous and not feeling well. Instead of trusting my judgement, they decided not to see the horse in front of them and look for a zebra. They were convinced that Maia has some huge cancer somewhere else and wanted to do every kind of test on her. This is where I stayed STOP. They would have killed her with all those tests. I changed place and went to a new oncologist who was wise enough to know that every dog is different and that treatments have to be adjusted.  I will write a post on my experience with chemotherapy and my girl another time, but I just wanted to show how rocky the road had been. I have not even talked about two of my other labs (mom and daughter) who got the same knee surgery for the same injury in April, and I can’t forget my little guy, my Cairn terror like a girlfriend calls him, who is in the last phase of heart disease. So, yes 2015 freaking sucked and I am extremely happy to have let it go, and have welcome instead a brand new year where everything is possible. Like Trump would have said “2015 you are FIRED! And don’t ever try to come back! Capisce?”

I want 2016 to be a long quiet river for once and not Niagara Falls.

I want the K9 Aquatic Center to open smoothly and to be able to enjoy dogs having fun in the warm water.

It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do when I grow up, and I finally did. My dogs did help me a lot in the process though.

All my dogs alive or over the rainbow gently guided me towards the idea of a pool for dogs. They all contributed in the idea.

From Zeus, my heart dog, who had arthritis in his knees and all kind of pains and aches with old age, and who was just rejuvenated each time he was having a swim in warm water, to Zoe who is so stressed out by life (please don’t even ask why!) that the only way she can shake off that stress and at the same time a few pounds is by swimming, to my various dogs who had knee surgeries or injuries where swimming in warm water is the best rehab,  I would have been to be totally dumb for not figuring out at the time, that it was what I was supposed to do.

So, I know that I already have many impatient dogs ‘parents who keep asking me “when is it going to open? When?” The answer is now more precise: We are shooting (crossing fingers and paws) at the end of February, March would be the latest.

So, while waiting for the pool to open, I have to take this opportunity to wish every dog and his or her human a gentle and exciting (the good way!) 2016!

Ready? Set. Swim!

 

Dominique