Blog Archives

Writing and eating on the toilet seat…

My days have been thrown into turmoil. A couple of days ago I had a little accident, and as a consequence I can’t sit down. How am I expected to write, eat, drive, or watch television? Of course there’s always the toilet seat, that’s comfortable!

A couple of days ago I was walking Stilton, my one year old Standard Poodle dog and was progressing down a steep grassy slope, when in a flash, my feet went from beneath me and I landed with a THUD on my coccyx. My spine jarred and a bolt of pain rushed through me. Aside a little discomfort, I was okay. Stilton, though, seemed bemused, and looked to me with questioning eyes, puzzling over my choice of resting spot.

Back at home, my first thought was to soothe myself with a cup of tea. (Isn’t it what the English always do?) It was going to plan, until I tried to sit on the sofa. I just couldn’t do it. The pain was incredible. I could sit if my weight was forward, away from my coccyx, otherwise … ooh, the agony.

Try spending one day without sitting. It’s not easy, and certainly not for someone who spends the majority of the day resting on ones backside. I can’t eat meals in a relaxed manner, I have to watch television in a horizontal pose, and I can’t even drink a cup of tea in bed.

Woe is me!!!

So what’s my solution? Play more tennis. 4 hours yesterday, and another 4 today! Well, I might as well do something useful with my time! Perhaps that grassy slope could come in useful after all …

A wound failing to heal is not always bad news

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If you have ever lost a loved one to cancer you probably understand me saying that you can become a little paranoid and believe everything slightly amiss is potentially that dreaded disease. I lost my beloved dog, Bella, to canine lymphoma almost two years ago, and I still find myself thinking such things. A limp is potentially bone cancer, and a wound without an obvious cause is skin cancer.

Of course, most things have a simple explanation.

Let me go back about 7 years. It was late August, and Bella developed a wound on her foot. It was swollen, there was a small hole between her toes and it was weeping sanguineous substance. It must also have been painful, because she carried her sore foot, refusing, except in extreme circumstances, to put weight on it.

After a few days we realised it wasn’t healing and so took her to the vet. They checked it out, prodding and poking, and prescribed a two weeks supply of antibiotics. There was no improvement, and the vet had no solution, so we had to sort it out ourselves.

Dried garlic came to our aid. We didn’t add it to her food but sprinkled it on her foot. After about 24 hours, healing had commenced and a scab had formed. It seemed like we were beating it … finally.

Wrong! Days later the wound exploded, opening back up and squirting out more sanguineous substance. Only this time it opened in a slightly different position. We were at a loss what to do. The vets were of no help, and poor Bella continued to limp.

One day, 3 months after her problem started, I was examining the hole when something shot out. Once I had cleaned it up, I discovered what it was … a grass seed! Finally, her foot healed, permanently this time.

So don’t forget. After walkies check your dog’s feet. It can save you and your dog a lot of heartache.

A strange obsession . . .

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Hudson, Gina and Stilton have a strange obsession . . . or perhaps it is an identity crisis or a message passed on from Hudson and Gina’s sister, Bella.

Their problem (or maybe it’s just mine) started two years ago after Bella was diagnosed with terminal cancer, T-cell lymphoma to be precise. She did something none of the dogs had ever done before, not in any of their previous 8 years. She started to eat weeds!!!

At first I pulled her away, worried she was doing herself harm. But she was very persistent, forcing me to investigate. I soon learned she was eating mustard plants, and aside to have nutritional benefits such as vitamin A, C,K and folic acid, there’s evidence they’re anti-cancerous, mainly since they are full of anti-oxidants.

Hudson and Gina noticed her habit, and two years on there is no stopping them.

Here’s how a typical walk goes.

I unhook the leashes and stroll along the path by the river. After a few hundred metres, I turn around. The dogs are stationary and munching mustard plants. They haven’t moved an inch! I call and call, my voice growing hoarse and my blood pressure rising. They are so absorbed in the succulent flower heads and leaves that they don’t notice my screechy cries. After several minutes, I finally get their attention and they trot to my side.

I continue on, continuously passing them instructions to remain at my side, but after a few minutes, my mind wanders and I stop paying them any attention. The next thing I know they are several hundred metres back and eating mustard plants . . . again. Damn them!

What is it with my dogs and mustard? I think I’m going to have to find another walk. To make matters worse they have passed this habit onto Stilton, the youngster of the family, and despite his young age and exuberance, he is almost as bad.

It looks like it’s something I am going to have to live with forever. Better that than cancer.

Tip: Don’t leave dogs in the kitchen

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Dogs provide us with many funny moments, and often it can be when they are at their most mischievous . . . or perhaps that’s just my quirky sense of humour.

I remember a time, many years ago, when I had 5 standard poodles. Yes 5 – 2 adults and 3 pups! When Doug and I left the house we believed the safest place for them was the kitchen, but they were an inquisitive bunch, and being a pack, encouraged each other to do their worst. One of them would seek out food left on the surfaces, whether it was food remaining in a pan or dish, or simply an unwashed plate. By using a paw, it would crash to the floor and they would lick the remains.

Lesson 1: never leave dishes, plates and pans on the kitchen surface. The smell of food, even when it’s just a smattering, is irresistible.

For a while, this mischievous pack of dogs was well behaved . . . until one of them learned to open the fridge. It was a disaster. Whilst we were out, they consumed a 2kg margarine tub, a large block of cheese, and many other goodies. It must have been quiet a sight seeing the raid, and probably very funny. However, cleaning up the mess they had left was not something I would describe as even vaguely amusing. Not only was everything greasy, but, well, let’s just say lots of fat equates to very slippery intestines! And there were five of them! Not fun!

As punishment, Doug sat them in a row and marched up and down voicing his disapproval. They looked so scared and squeezed their terrified bodies closer together. It seemed work, and weeks passed before we encountered any more trouble. Maybe the large magnet on the fridge door helped a little too!

Lesson 2: Put a big magnet or lock on the fridge.

Had they finally learned to behave, or more accurately, had we learned what to do to avoid any situations? It seemed possible. We persisted with the magnet and never left food, even just scraps within their reach. We were always vigilant, checking and double-checking everything on our departure. Nothing could go wrong; we had it covered. Even so, returning home always caused a feeling of dread.

I put the key in the door. It was quiet. Something was wrong. They should be barking and pounding the door with their paws. I knew then they had misbehaved and my stomach sank.

I opened the door. I saw. I screamed.

They had knocked over the deep fat fryer! Oil was everywhere, across the floor, over the kitchen units, and on the dogs. It was a disaster. We both flipped!

Lesson 3: Don’t leave the deep fat fryer near the edge of the surface.

With hindsight, it was very funny. I can still see their oily sorrowful faces, and I can see them trying to get away, unable to get purchase on the slippery floor. They looked so scared, fearing the big man who forced them into a line and marched up and down.

‘He loves us really,’ one said. ‘Not today,’ came the reply.

Lesson 4: Make sure you have a sense of humour at all times.

Using the car as a sick bag

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Just before Christmas, a good friend of mine had had a bout of sickness whilst out shopping in a supermarket. Being the type of person she is, she didn’t want to be sick in the store or the car park, but instead chose her car.

When she related this story to me a couple of weeks after the event, I gave her quite a bit of stick, aware it had been nothing serious. I was amused by her choice of location, especially as her husband had to clean it up since she had been too ill to do it herself! Why she not chosen to go to the toilets in the store or found a hedge remains a mystery. Apparently, she hadn’t wanted to leave a mess. She’s such a good girl!

Her story continued to amuse me over the following weeks, and I found myself bringing it up wherever and whenever I could. Until . . .

My dog, Stilton was due his annual booster, and so I had to take him to the vet. He is only one year old, and he suffers from carsickness. Even traveling 4 miles used to be a trial. Once, when he was very small, I sensed what was about to happen so I hung him out of the car window to be sick!!! Before you say it, there weren’t any pedestrians about; we were driving along a country road!

Unfortunately, this trip to the vets was necessary, and at 24kg he is a bit too big to hang out of the window. The vet is located about 7 miles from home. He hadn’t had breakfast, and so hadn’t eaten for 13 hours. I hoped this would prevent a situation from occurring and it did; we arrived without a hitch.

Stilton was in his element. He was so excited, and didn’t stop whining, wagging and licking willing participants for the entire time. It was wonderful to witness. I am so proud of my little boy.

So, we began our journey home, and we arrived in the driveway without a problem. Had he grown out of his carsickness problem? It seemed likely.14 miles puke-free was an achievement!

My eyes glazed. I would be able to take him to the sea to play with the waves. We could go on long walks and watch the horses, sheep and the cattle. We could visit family and he could receive endless attention.

I turned off the engine and a strange smell wafted across my nostrils. I looked over my shoulder. Stilton looked to me with apologetic eyes. His brown liquid sick was over the car seat and the floor. Lovely!

I ask you, couldn’t he have waited ten seconds?

Thankfully, I have a wonderful husband too.

A year on after the death of a loved one

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Stilton 8 weeks old, with Gina, Bella’s sister

Isn’t it amazing how time heals? Just 13 months ago I lost Bella to canine lymphoma. Whilst it was something I had been prepared for, it was also something I had been dreading. As expected, her death hit me hard, and for a few weeks I was inconsolable. She was my best friend, my faithful companion, my love.

She was diagnosed just before Christmas 2011 with T-cell lymphoma, a rare and difficult cancer to treat. We caught it early, but it was so aggressive that had she have not started chemo on the 2nd January I doubt she would have seen the week through. She had many set backs and nearly died again in late January, but thankfully she pulled through and finally reached remission in April. It was a wondrous moment. My heart was singing.

Like all good things, it had to come to an end; unfortunately for everyone involved, it happened within two weeks. Since the chemo had failed so swiftly, the only other option was steroids, designed only to keep her pain-free until the inevitable happened. She was given 2 weeks to live. She stayed with us for 3 months – they were a happy and (surprisingly) healthy 3 months.

My husband and I cherished every moment of that time, as did Bella. We took her on special walks every day, treated her by allowing her into the bedroom in the mornings, and cuddled her as often as she wanted. We were always happy around her, and never gave her a chance to feel her pain. As a result, she probably had the best 3 months of her life.

It’s so sad reminiscing after the loss of a loved one, but I also feel happy and proud, and grateful to have known her. She was cheeky, animated and energetic; she was a brave, a fighter. She was affectionate and loyal.

What more could I ask? She did the best she could, but it was not to be. It wasn’t her fault she developed terminal cancer. I’m sure she would have liked more time, but I remind myself her life could have been far worse. She could have been a street dog, abandoned, hungry and unloved. In addition, had Bella not died, I would not have found Stilton, a beautiful apricot standard poodle. Soon he will be one year old.

Maybe, just maybe, a small peace of her spirit is within him. What a wonderful thought!

Where there’s hope . . .

I naturally have a positive attitude and like to believe there is always hope.  Maybe I am foolish, but even if I am proved wrong, which I often am, it helps me get through the rough times.  Some call it an inner strength.  I think it is an inability to accept I have been backed into a corner.

Bella, my 8 year old dog has cancer.  She responded brilliantly to the first treatment and her tumour dissolved entirely, but after the second treatment, she succumbed to the harshness of chemotherapy.  She couldn’t eat or drink and was unresponsive to my voice.  It was agony watching her, but I wasn’t going to give up.

For almost a week, I had to syringe small quantities of liquidised food into her mouth.  I felt wretched with guilt.  Should I have ended her pain and misery?  Was I cruel in persisting with the chemo?  I had to follow my gut, and it told me she would pull through.

She did.  Now, two weeks after her last chemo treatment, she is eating huge amounts and is energised and happy, constantly wagging.  It is such a transformation, it is difficult to believe it’s the same dog.  Even the vet seemed surprised and asked, a second time, if she was eating for herself.  Yes, yes, I cried.

And, to top it all, neither her tumour nor her swollen lymph nodes have returned.  Finally, we are getting somewhere, and the oncologist is happy to continue treatment next week.

I’m sure it’s not always going to be smooth sailing, but I like to believe she has got over the worst.  It certainly is a roller-coaster journey.

Isn’t that what makes life interesting?

Difficult decision – A dog with lymphoma

There are times when we all agonise over making the right decision, and it drives you to self-destruction.  If you are like me, your mind never stops whirring, and within minutes, you can change from being entirely certain you have done the right thing, to being certain it was wrong in every respect.  I have been having many of those moments over the last week, as I watched Bella, my 8 year old dog suffer from both cancer and chemotherapy.

 Bella was fine during the first week of treatment, and as well as all of her lymph nodes normalising, she had a healthy appetite, eating cooked minced chicken, potatoes, egg, and liquidised vegetables.  But as soon as I administered the second drug, Cyclophosphamide, she stopped eating and looked decidedly ill.

 The following day, she moved continuously, obviously suffering major discomfort, and by evening couldn’t keep down food or water.  She had to be hospitalised.  My guilt rocketed.

 Why was I doing this?  A couple of weeks ago I looked deep into her eyes and saw a passion for living.  By nature, she is a happy dog – always wagging, always exuberant – and she wanted more time.  I also justified trying the chemo by reading that dogs don’t suffer the way people do.  I am starting to wonder how true this is.

 Bella has an inflamed pancreas, a condition that is normally treated with a diet change consisting of low fat and high fibre.  Did the Cyclophosphamide cause it?  I am assuming it did, as she has never been overweight, nor had fatty meals.

It has been a difficult week, and I have found great comfort by reading about other people’s experiences.  Rarely do we suffer unique experiences, and with the aid of the Internet, it is easy to find someone who has been there before.

Please pray for Bella’s good health.  I will keep you updated.

My worst Christmas – Dog Lymphoma

I’ve just had the worst Christmas and New Year.  Why? I hear you ask.  A week before the big day my gorgeous little dog, Bella, was diagnosed with cancer.  She has a lymphoma, and the tumour was growing by the day.  Panic set in.

Without treatment, dogs have 6-8 weeks to live, and with treatment 1-2 years.  But even though we had the diagnosis, we couldn’t start chemotherapy until more tests had been completed.  A test that normally would take 1 day took a week, due to the holidays, so whilst everyone else was enjoying the festivities, I was watching poor little Bella grow weaker and weaker, and praying that her cancer didn’t reach the point of no return.

It’s an absolutely horrid disease, and my deepest sympathy goes out to anyone who has had cancer, or experienced it through a family member.  What I found the mot difficult was not being able to see what was going on, as the symptoms are not always that obvious.  In Bella’s case, she had a fever and a tumour, but that was all.  How fast was it spreading?  Had it spread to her other organs?  Had it reached the bone marrow?  There is no way of knowing except via tests, and if you let it, it will destroy you mentally.

My advice is focus on something else, anything.  Unless worrying leads you to asking someone a relevant question, or helps solve a problem, it serves no purpose.

I’m lucky, I am a member of a tennis club, and play, on average, three times a week.  I have many wonderful friends, and whilst I choose not to use them as a sounding board, I do use them as a distraction.  I think this is essential for anyone suffering similarly.

Get out and distract yourself.

So, back to Bella.  By the first week of January we had an appointment with an oncologist, and despite her cancer being one of the most aggressive, the prognosis seemed reasonable.  Finally, I could start to relax.  She had her first treatment, Vincristine, and she responded very well.  After five days, the tumour had gone and all of her lymph nodes were back to normal size.  I was elated.

Could it possibly run smoothly?  Week 2 proved to be a nightmare.

More later.