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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Good News and Thank You!!!!!

Regardless of what the day holds, K and I always try to start it with a sunrise outing on our trails. I especially treasure it on days when the rest of the day looks ominous. K glowed red this morning at sunrise. As we stood atop a ridge, I knew that I'd forever remember my sunrises with K.
Today's plans included a visit to the canine cancer center to figure out why K has an oozing wound over the area where she had radiation treatment to kill osteosarcoma tumors.

Finally, for what feels like the first time in this journey, we got good news!! K has a skin wound and infection. The xrays of her limb showed that the radiation did its job on the tumors and showed no signs of a bone infection - so no surgery is needed. With a course of medications and the dreaded "cone of shame", the wound should heal.

But, before embarking on our scary day, K had an amazing surprise arrive at the front door this morning - an unbelievably generous gift from some of you to help K through her cancer treatments.

The box caught her interest immediately. Hmm, Orvis... I wonder what it could be?
With some help, the box opened for K and she poked her head inside to sniff the plush contents.
We pulled out an absolutely perfect gift - a memory foam bed, just for her!!!
We've had one memory foam bed for a couple of years but it's very popular so K doesn't always have access to it (due to "bed-hogging" by a certain black dog who shall remain unnamed). You can see that the unnamed black dog took a major interest in her new bed but she held firm.

After receiving her gift, K headed off to the hospital for a day of tests. When she returned, she was tired and had to wear the dreaded cone. That combination could make any dog grumpy. Because of your incredible gift, she had her very own bed for comfy snoozing. She's been ensconced in her luxurious nest since arriving home.
She sends you the hugest THANK YOU ever!!!!
We feel so very very lucky to have found *you* - an incredibly supportive community of dog lovers. Here's to the Power of the Paw!
We literally cannot thank you enough.

Just one more note - one of the people who organized this gift is having a scary dog health crisis, and her dog, Lilly, will be in the hospital for a few days. If you could lend her support at her blog or her Facebook page, it would be wonderful.

Monday, January 30, 2012

An unexpected twist

K and I witnessed sunrise this morning, a highlight of any day. I've been quite concerned about her "radiation burn" on her front left leg. You can see in the photo below that it's not a lot worse than yesterday, and she was behaving as if it didn't hurt her. A "bow" is a behavior that K likes to do whenever a camera is pointed at her. So, this bow was her idea...
We wandered around in the forest, looking for animal tracks and sign. K's energy was good for the first half of the walk.
But, she started to lag later in the walk. I need to plan shorter walks for a little while.
I've been concerned that her radiation burn is oozing. I talked with K's oncologist this afternoon, and she's concerned too. The oozing can be a sign of a bone infection or bone tumor regrowth. But, it can also be a sign of a skin infection - a relatively minor complication. So, we're trekking to the vet school again tomorrow to have xrays done. The scary part was that the oncologist wants a surgeon present for the consultation "just in case amputation is needed". That wasn't a possibility that I wanted to hear.

This journey has not been predictable. The only predictable part is the many twists and turns.

It's odd that I took this photo of K's quadrupedal canter today.

Sunday, January 29, 2012


K seems like she's feeling tired but isn't having any intense side effects from her chemo treatment. However, her radiation burn, from the stereotactic radiation treatment 3 weeks ago, has become a sore subject. We're keeping her leg covered with a sock at home, and my fingers are crossed that it doesn't get infected when her white blood cell count almost inevitably drops after this chemo treatment. Here she is, enjoying a kong with her dog food frozen inside it. Kongs can distract K from almost anything.
This morning, we hiked up to Hug Hill, for only the second time since her diagnosis. It's not a long hike to this peak but the trail is covered in several feet of snow. Until a few days ago, it was loose snow and almost impossible to walk or snowshoe through. Then, after a warm day that consolidated the snow, it froze solid so we can hike on top of the snow! K led the way this morning.
As we hiked up the steep trail today, I felt so grateful that K was capable of visiting our favorite local peak. If she'd had her front limb amputated like osteosarcoma patients normally do, I don't think that she could do this hike, especially not on a slippery snow surface. Because we chose radiation to kill the bone tumors, she still has her front leg, and we can climb to this beautiful spot.

K seemed over the top happy to be on Hug Hill too. She ran right over top of the peak when we arrived. I called her back and she popped over the top! Doesn't she look happy? Look at the sparkle in her eyes.
This evening, all four of us took an evening hike. Again, I felt overwhelmed with gratitude that we have this time with K. Who knows how long it will be? But, we can wander the forest together, all four of us, right now.

During our evening hike, the sun set on mountains with snow blowing off the peaks.
After we'd fled the cold wind back down into the forest, the skies lit up in brilliant pink and blue.
Nature is an artist like no other.
And the moon shined through the sunset.
Another day with our K... and I am grateful.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

K lives strong

K and I sneaked in a short hike yesterday morning before her chemotherapy today. We saw a spectacular, but a little ominous, sunrise. A mild snow storm was heading our way, as you can tell from the clouds.
We climbed up even higher to get a clearer view of the eastern horizon. We sat in the cold wind, snuggled together, watching the light show.
The sun never really came out so K wasn't bathed in that gorgeous sunrise glowing light that brings out her reddish highlits. Despite the cloudy skies, K cheerfully bowed on a boulder.
The rest of the day was spent on K's chemotherapy treatment. She came through it fine, seeming a little tired but otherwise happy. This morning, we slept late and then headed out for a short hike. I took a photo of K high "on a pedestal". K is "living strong" despite the cancer treatments.
In the photo above, you can barely see the main side effect of the radiation that K received 3 weeks ago to kill the osteosarcoma tumors in her bones. A radiation burn has just emerged on the skin of her left front leg. She wants to lick it incessantly so she's been wearing a tube sock over her leg in the house.

When we're out and about, K forgets about her burn and thus doesn't need the sock to prevent her from licking it. In the photo below, K had just spotted someone hiking far below us. You can tell by her posture that she believes that she's the queen of the area!
As we dropped down off the plateau toward home, she heard the hiker again. She wouldn't turn away from the sound. We rarely see or hear others on the trails because we're normally out earlier than everyone else. So, today, she was fascinated by the progress of the "interloper".
As she sat there like a statue, the ferocious winds that whipped through our world all day kicked up snow near the ground. You can see the fine mist of snow and K's flapping ears in the photo below.
So far, it seems as if K is handling her second chemo treatment in stride. However, some of the main side effects take a few days to show up so we'll be keeping a close eye on her.

Several of you have asked if we have pet health insurance. Luckily, we do. We bought insurance for K when she was a tiny puppy, and it's been worth its weight in gold. It covered a major surgery to remove deer bones from K's stomach and intestines a few years ago. It also covered multiple severe cases of pancreatitis that landed K in the hospital. It's currently covering her cancer treatment. Believe me, we've felt thankful for the insurance many times in K's and R's lives.

Thanks to all of you for your kind comments.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Holding onto time

K and I especially relished our time together today. We started the day in the glow of the intense sunrise light.
Tomorrow is the second of K's six chemotherapy treatments. We are told that some dogs have tough side effects with these carboplatin treatments. So far, K's only bad side effect was a brief dip in her neutrophil count, requiring her to take antibiotics for a week. I'm so glad that she didn't get sick.

Our fervent hope is that we can extend her life with these treatments. Without treatment, most dogs with osteosarcoma die within a couple of months. With the treatment protocol that K is getting, there's a chance that we'll get a high quality year and there's a very long shot that we'll get even more good time. Today was most certainly a high quality day! It's been slightly more than a month since her diagnosis.
Sadly, we've had two dogs stricken with cancer in the past (Acadia and S). Both were elderly and had other serious health issues so we chose not to put them through cancer treatment, and cancer rapidly took their lives. K is much younger and stronger than they were... so we want to give her a chance at more high quality time on Earth. So far, we've been pleasantly surprised by how easily she's handled the treatment. Her current life is full of fun and love - so we're guessing that K agrees with our decision.

This morning, we wandered the woods with no particular goal in mind. K found scents that caught her fancy and sprinted through the snow with her nose to the ground. I smiled and sighed. I'm so happy to see her still thriving.
As we wandered the woods, it felt almost warm because of the strong sun. A flock of robins fluttered and chirped around us. A woodpecker drummed high in a tree. Despite the sub-freezing temperature, it felt almost like spring.
We finished our day with a sunset hike, watching the glow of the sun falling below a bank of clouds that enshrouded the Continental Divide.
The waxing moon, a tiny sliver, fell toward the western horizon as dusk fell on a peaceful day.
Our fingers and paws are crossed for K tomorrow, hoping that her treatment goes well, and that she continues to thrive.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: K romps at sunrise

Each romp with K is a miraculous gift.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Miraculous world

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. Albert Einstein.

When I look around me, the whole world is a miracle. The mountains, the sky, the trees, the bears, and our dogs.
I hope that a miracle is underway in this aspen grove. My friends and I spread huge number of columbine seeds in our forest last fall, including in this aspen grove. The seeds are sleeping right now under a deep layer of snow. I hope that we have new columbine seedlings next spring!
A storm moved into our world today, right in the middle of my snowbike ride. It was sunny when I started on the trails, following in the footsteps of two coyotes.
And, a thick snowy soup had invaded by the time I finished. It's been tough to keep riding even though K can't go with me on snowbike rides anymore. It makes me sad but I know that my spine feel worse if I don't ride.
K took advantage of the day to snooze by the fireplace.
Now, it's still snowing - not too hard but it feels like deep winter outside. The Labraduo loves it.
The softly falling snow speckled K's chocolate fur this evening.
During our evening hike, R had his trademark high-voltage energy. Sometimes it feels like he's going to levitate straight out of his skin with pure energy. He's an inspiring soul - he grabs every instant of joy and fully immerses himself in it. The miracle about R is that he's recently turned a sharp corner, becoming much more focused on us than on the world around him. I can be far more relaxed while hiking with him than I used to be.
I wonder if R's transformation will last? I think so. Miracles can happen.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Sunrise blazes and wildlife stirs

K and I started our morning hike early enough to see the mountains bathed in the light of the rising sun. I have to admit that, since K's cancer diagnosis, I've had trouble dragging myself out of bed early enough for sunrise, probably due to the blues. Seizing this morning was an inspiration - I enjoyed it so much!
We also witnessed the sunrise itself. It was so quiet and peaceful without much wind. The only sound was a confused chickadee who was singing his springtime courting song. Sorry, mister, but spring ain't here yet!
I'm grateful for every single sunrise that K and I have the good luck to see together. None of us knows how many we have left in our lives... so I appreciate each one. K's fur took its "sunrise red hue" that I love so much.
K didn't seem to want to stay still for long. We started exploring, enjoying the fact that a few patches of ground are visible for the first time in a long time!
K's energy level is good but not as high as a week ago. I've found myself worrying about her more, wondering what the evil cells are doing inside her. I think that fretting is par for the course, and I'll probably see false meaning in every yawn and cough in the coming weeks and months.
We're doing everything within our power to fight the cancer. Now, we need to enjoy each day rather than worry (yes, this is a little pep talk directed at myself). We have a few more days before her next chemo treatment on Friday.

K looked very happy when she ran this morning, and I smiled along with her. Look at the sunrise reflected in her eye.
In the places with snow, I could see fresh animal tracks - showing me that the wildlife is stirring again, particularly overnight when the snow is firmer and easier to travel on than in the sunlight. My trail camera captured a big buck in the middle of the forest...
... a coyote walking furtively down our driveway...
... and a bobcat following suit. I think that this photo shows the kitten from the pair who we followed this summer. I'm basing my guess on his paw size relative to his body size and on his slightly more spotted and lighter coat than the adult who walked our driveway the other night.
It's good to know that some wildlife have survived our relatively tough winter so far, and that the ones in my photos look healthy. The bobcats look as if they've been eating well. The indomitable spirit of the bobcat lives on!