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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Making a difference...

It is now almost two whole months since Heidi's diagnosis. I never thought we would be where we are now...back to just about normal. It is just mind blowing to me; that in two short months, 8 fleeting weeks, we go from indescribable terror and fear about hearing the word "cancer", to constant worry about kidney values and skin flaps, to the dread of having to walk into NEVOG for an appointment where we would be told our fate. But all along this bumpy road, we never lost hope. We have had great support to remind us when times got really tough that things would go back to "normal" someday and hopefully, in the long run, Heidi would be OK. We all would. And now it seems like we're almost there. Looking back, I cant believe how fast that time went by...

It is truly amazing to me not only how fast the body can heal (Heidi grew a 2 inch by 6 inch strip of skin in about 3 weeks!) but how well the spirit holds up. I mean, I know I should be surprised. Look at me. I went from being a blue baby to having two open heart surgeries that completely altered the way my circulatory system works, to surviving a blood clot, almost bleeding to death and then having a stent placed to allow me to be able to breath and live. And I'm only 27! Yes, looking at that all compacted in a short sentence looks impressive, but living through it and having all of that time pass in between incidents makes you forget a little bit of the fear and anxiety you're living with. But with Heidi, her whole illness has been so compact; almost like the sentence used to describe it. And although I have been an obvious part of it, it hasn't been MY BODY going through it...although I now know and have a new respect for how my mom feels when I am sick! But I also now know how she must feel when she sees me get better...

Heidi is totally back to her old self...in fact, she might even be (if possible) more energetic! She wants to play almost non stop (even to the point of bringing her toys to bed with us) and she is getting into more mischief: she barks and herds us through the house during our daily routines even more than usual, and the other day I came home from work to find my bedroom trash was picked through and then spread all over my floor! There was nothing in it but papers and dryer sheets, but...why is my 7 1/2 year old dog doing this to me?!?! I think just because she can...and because she wants to remind me that she is NOT SICK!!!

We try and take daily walks and have already been to the beach several times. Monday the girls made their debut at school-we were doing a palpation lab, so we were able to bring our dogs to locate things we had been learning about; in this instance, bones. They did GREAT! Everyone was impressed at how well behaved they were, and they made friends with the other dogs that had come in. I know that in a few weeks we will even be back to kayaking, which I cant wait for! I'm of course still being diligent about their health, though: I check Heidi's leg and incision site on her side daily, and I have started them both on some new supplements. They go in for their annual visit at the end of May, and at that point will have titers and their 6 month blood work done. I'm also going to go ahead and have chest x-rays and an abdominal ultrasound done then as well...

I am SO GRATEFUL to be so blessed and, lets face it, lucky. I can't believe how well things have turned out. But again, although this fact makes us blessed, it is because we have been lucky. So many of my friends have lost their fur-kids (even just recently) to this dreaded disease called "cancer". But even witnessing my friends pain of fighting their dogs' battle, and seeing dogs that I watched grow up lose that battle and pass over the bridge, I was still detached from the grief. Although I tried hard not to think about it and put myself in their shoes to spare my own feelings and emotions, I cant pretend it didn't obviously affect me...a lot. But like so many other situations in life it takes personal experience to truly know what it feels like and to want to make a change; to make a difference.

And so, with Heidi as my motivator, but Wally the Greyhound, Diesel the Rottie and Forrest the Newfie as my inspiration, we have decided to participate in the "Paws for a Cure" walk: http://www.paws4acure.org/home.html

This walk helps raise money for families in need of help to treat their dogs cancer. It is our honor and privilege to walk for our friends. I initially decided to walk on my own with the two girls, but after talking with my mom (and her request to walk with us) I decided to create a walk team. At this moment, its just us two =0) But we hope there will be more to join us! And if there is anyone out there unable to walk but still looking to help, you can pledge to sponsor us right on Heidi's team page, which is here: http://www.paws4acure.org/teamheidi.html

This is kind of a big deal for us; not only because of the incredible mission and purpose of the walk itself, but it is going to probably be a real challenge for us. I know some people who just finished the Boston Marathon, but for Heidi and I, this is ours. I don't think I have walked 3 miles since I got sick last year...I'm sure I can do it, but I know we wont be the ones setting the pace! And of course with Heidi's leg still healing and arthritis, it will be a challenge for her too. But this is too important for us to pass up...the challenge of facing cancer (and then having to worry about how to pay for its treatment) is a much bigger one than some 3 mile walk...

Thank you all again for your support, your following and your well wishes for my family. If you are able to sponsor us, thank you. If not, that's OK! Maybe there will be something in your area that is looking for support-like volunteering. Please consider helping out a truly worthy cause...we don't want anyone to have to go through what we and our friends have...

Friday, April 9, 2010

stinky, stinky stinky? HEFTY HEFTY HEFTY!!

I'm seriously considering sticking my dogs in a Hefty bag. Sticking them in a Hefty bag, tying the ends TIGHTLY shut, and then putting said back out on the curb. Why such drastic measures? Because my dogs SMELL. They smell BAD. Almost indescribably bad. And I don't know why. I went to work today, then went to the grocery store, and then came home. I grabbed some of the groceries and carted them into the house, where I was immediately jumped by my attack dogs. I bent down to say a quick hello, and then ushered them outside to potty. I grabbed the rest of the groceries and went back in the house. I bent down again to give the girls a more proper and thorough greeting and that's when it hit me. The stench. That smelly smell of something that smells smelly. It smelled like old, rancid, left-on-the-counter-too-long goat cheese...with metallic overtones...like someone had added rusty nails to the mix. I smelled it on Shelby first. I was a little overwhelmed. She followed me into my bedroom when I went to change, and jumped up on my bed. Then my mom came in, and went to say hello to the girls too. "Don't pet Shelby!" I warned. She asked why, and I told her to have a good sniff. "Oh my GOD, what IS that?!" she asked. THAT is a very good question...

I took her into the bathroom and decided to try and wash some "stank"off. Yeah. It turns out my wipees that I use for emergency "bummy checks" dried up. I tried re-hydrating them by running some water over them, but to no avail. They did not come back to life. Their slightly flowery scent did not return. Damn. I didn't have anything else. Oooh! Lets try some essential oils! Those are good and strong, and the few I have Shelby seems to like. I put a few drops on my hands, rubbed them together and applied to Shelby's head. Then I crossed my fingers and smelled my dog in some bizarre, backwards version whats supposed to happen.

No change! Now she just smelled like old, rancid goat cheese with essential oils added in! Dammit!!!! Well, there's nothing I can do about it right this second. I had other stuff to do, like make dinner, iron and some other things around the house. It wasn't hurting her, and I just figured I could snuggle and kiss parts of her body other than her face and head. Then I bent down to take a toy from Heidi and I smelled it on HER TOO. Did she get it from Shelby?!?!? Was it spreading like some form of noxious gas???

Now I was not only completely bemused, but...a little worried. Having a stinky smell on one dog was bad enough, but...what if they both got into something? I figured Shelby might have rolled in something outside, or stuffed her head onto something...because that's what she does. She rolls in smelly seaweed at the beach, and head-presses and rubs after eating. She also eats poop. Heidi does gross things too, but different types of gross things: eating socks and undies, and licking body stuff-like her scabs on her surgery site and blood (eeeewwww....) So the thought of them both eating something gross is odd...and scary.

I looked EVERYWHERE. They only have access to the kitchen, living room and my bedroom when we're not home. I just cleaned the house on Wednesday. And we always make sure everything is picked up before we go in the morning. I couldn't find anything. Not on the carpets, floors or furniture. I thought maybe one of them had gotten sick and they both ate it ? (Yeah, I know. Even though they're Shelties, they're not all perfect all the time!) I found nothing. Then I searched outside. Still nothing. I'm really puzzled.

All I know right now is that not only am I going to be rearranging my schedule to fit baths in in the next few days, but I'm also going to be keeping an eye out for anything weird: any weird behaviors or any weird physical signs that they did ingest something not meant for Shelties to eat.

On a happier note, Heidi continues to improve day by day. She has no more scabs and her scar is nice and pink (which equals healthy!) She does have a few more fluid pockets that are from suture reaction; some of her internal sutures are making her skin angry-they are making little pustules that rupture and which allows the suture to poke through. The surgeon told me to pull them...so I did. I've removed about 6-7 inches (in various sized pieces) from the little wounds. I've kept them clean and put antibiotic ointment on them, and most of those are healed too...although I did find one or two that haven't burst yet when I checked her tonight.

We've been to the beach twice, and will continue to build up all of our strength and stamina. She's playing tug with her toys like a FIEND and just wants to go Go GO!. Shelby's humoring her and playing with her a bit, but shes definitely enjoying getting out and about too...and being able to chase the birds again! The weather is getting nicer, so we'll all get more active over the next few weeks. Hopefully by the time the really nice weather comes, we'll be in decent shape to really get out and enjoy it! (More on that later).

Keep your fingers and paws crossed for us and the smell. I'm so used to snuggling and kissing them all over; I'm like some weird drug addict who huffs my dogs. They each have their own individual sweet smell: like the mixtures of the various places we go outdoors, essential oil blends that we use for flea/tick repellant and just overall cleanness. I have to say my dogs are NOT the stinky kind...they don't even usually smell when they get wet! I'm hoping the baths will do the trick. Otherwise, we will be DESPERATELY looking for some kind of "doggy febreeze"...or some Sheltie sized Hefty bags!