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Day 577

May 18th, 2019

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After her splenectomy, Izzi was like a brand new dog. She was so much happier and more playful and it was such an amazing thing to see. Unfortunately, she still wasn’t super playful with the rest of our dogs. Something changed in her as she got older and she changed even more after her amputation. She just wasn’t interested in being friends with other dogs anymore. The summer prior to her diagnosis and surgery, we started separating her from the rest of the pack. So by now we had a very smooth routine for the rotations each day and everyone was comfortable with the process. Everything was going so well. Life was good.

Then one day in January, on the 31st to be exact, I came home from work and began the process of letting groups go outside to potty. I started with the small dogs and it was a fairly nice day so I was letting them frolic out back for a while. A few weeks before, we had a bad storm and our fence was partially damaged. We thought we had a decent ‘band aid’ on the area but boy were we wrong. The yard behind us at the time contained two large dogs who spent all of their time outside alone, bored and neglected. Apparently they were aware of the hole in the fence. Something on this day led to a scuffle at the fence and ultimately led to my beloved chihuahua, Timon, being pulled into their yard and killed. This was by far one of the most painful and devastating days of my entire life. I am still haunted by the trauma of that day and I’m sure I always will be.


I tell you this horrible story, to tell you about the next chapter of our adventure. There’s a happy part next, I promise. Within a few days of this terrible event, I felt a need to fill this enormous, chihuahua-sized hole in my life so I picked up a new foster pet. I named him Moose. He was a tiny brown chihuahua who loved sleeping around my neck and I will always be grateful for the comfort he provided me over the next month.

Eventually Moose found the perfect home and then, you guessed it, along came another foster dog on April 4th.. This next kid was a mysterious mixture of breeds. We still can’t be sure what he is but maybe someday we’ll splurge on a DNA test. He is probably a bit of dachshund and your guess is as good as mine on the rest.  We called him Bubba until we could decide on a proper name. It turned out that he learned Bubba so quickly, it ended up sticking. Bubba is one of the friendliest, sweetest dogs I’ve met. He can get along with literally anyone or anything. Due to his amazing personality, Izzi LOVED him.

They became best friends right away and that’s when I knew we had to keep him. She would run around the yard and chase him, she would play toys with him, she would even put his entire head in her mouth like an alligator but she never bit too hard. I hadn’t seen her so happy and energized in a very long time and it was magical. So on April 29, 2018 Bubba became an official member of our family. The summer of 2018 was spent playing outside as much as possible and enjoying this new found friendship.






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Day 408

April 12th, 2019

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Izzi’s first year post-amputation flew by. She had a long and bumpy recovery but she got stronger and was doing really well. She had a great summer and was able to celebrate her 10th birthday. Life on three legs was her new normal and things were going so well that I finally started to let my worries slip away. I knew the risk of osteosarcoma spreading was extremely high but I thought maybe she was in the clear at this point.

In October, about a year and a month after amputation, she started to slow down considerably. She seemed to be a little tired and sore. Her remaining knee had two previous surgeries so I was growing concerned that it was starting to fail under the added stress. I took her into the vet on 10/18 for an exam. Her leg actually seemed quite strong and she had good mobility. X-rays showed some arthritis but nothing of major concern such as new tumors or any tears. There was a possibility that the anchor used with her cruciate repair could have come loose and could be causing some pain but we could not see it on the x-ray and this is apparently very rare – especially 5 years post-op. We opted for Rimadyl to ease her arthritis pain and if it didn’t help we would have to consider a CT scan to check out the cruciate ligament anchor.

Unfortunately, she did not get better. She seemed to be getting worse. Her face, her eyes, her expression, everything was showing me that something was very wrong. She would not get out of bed in the mornings. She didn’t want to be picked up. She was flinching every time we tried to touch her. Exactly two months passed by and one evening when I came home from work she was almost frantic. She was panting hard, licking her bed like crazy, and extremely restless but she couldn’t seem to get up. We rushed her to the vet immediately. They pushed and pulled on all her legs but didn’t find anything concerning. Then they pressed around on her belly and felt something hard so they decided to do x-rays. What they found was shocking – she had a grapefruit sized tumor in her abdomen. It was unclear exactly what the tumor was attached to but it seemed to be extremely painful and there was a very high probability she was bleeding internally. We took her home for the night and returned first thing in the morning for an ultrasound. They determined the tumor was attached to her spleen. Her vet came in later that morning and met with me to discuss options. She would likely pass away from the bleeding if we didn’t act quickly. They would have to remove her spleen and it’s a risky surgery which could still end in disaster due to blood loss. He asked how I wanted to proceed and somberly let me know there’s a chance Izzi won’t be with us much longer. He informed me they could do a blood transfusion if needed but it would cost an enormous amount of money in addition to the already high bills for diagnostics and then the surgery. She would have to stay in ICU for several days to recover from this major operation. But if she made it through surgery, she could still live a good and normal life without her spleen. So the obvious choice for me was to send her to surgery immediately.

So on 12/18/2017 Izzi had her spleen removed along with an enormous hemangiosarcoma. She came through surgery without any complications and did not need a transfusion. We were so very lucky to have caught this in time to save her and she was so brave and strong, as always. She had to have her blood checked frequently while in recovery to make sure her counts were all at acceptable levels. I can’t remember exactly what was low, but maybe her platelets? Or RBCs? I’m not sure but it did take her awhile to increase her levels and maintain them steadily. She was refusing to eat the entire time she was there, even when I visited with extra stinky canned food. She was stubborn and just wanted to go home.They decided she would likely do better at home so they let her check out after about 48 hours. The night I picked her up she RAN out of that hospital. I hadn’t seen her run like that in a long time. As soon as she got home, she jumped up to her spot on the couch and made herself comfortable.

Recovery after the splenectomy was surprisingly easy. We could tell right away that she was feeling a million times better without that monster inside her body. She still didn’t want to eat a whole lot but I made her as much shredded chicken and veggies as her heart desired. By the start of the new year, she was doing amazing. She was almost like a new dog. Seeing how well she was doing made me wonder how long that tumor had been growing and I started to feel bad for not catching it sooner. I have since learned that hemangiosarcoma is a silent killer and is often not caught until it’s too late. Her decline was so slow and it could have been related to any number of things so I had to remind myself we did the best we could and we were fortunate to beat it.

The entire experience was a very humbling reminder to expect the unexpected. Life is short and can change in the blink of an eye, especially when cancer is involved.



Day Forty-One

March 12th, 2019

Adjusting to life on three legs was a challenge for Izzi and for me. I wasn’t sure what to expect, what was normal, or what I should be concerned about.  I wasn’t sure how to care for her but I really wanted to do ‘all the right things.’ I read, and read, and read and my head was spinning with an overload of information.  There are so many theories and ideas of what works and what doesn’t work and it seems every single dog’s experience with cancer is different. It’s a little overwhelming to say the least.

I decided not to put her through chemotherapy. I have been told the process is much different for dogs than it is for humans but the thought of it still bothered me very much. My next step was to visit a homeopathic vet to see what sort of natural treatment options we might have. Her first visit was on 10/15 and I really liked the vet. The office was small and cozy and she had a big soft bed in the floor for the patient to lay on during the visit. Izzi loved big soft beds. This initial visit was more of a consultation. We discussed her diagnosis and prognosis. We discussed diets and she highly recommended feeding raw but I wasn’t sure I could make that work. In case you missed it, I have a lot of dogs. I couldn’t financially manage much more than what I was already doing. She also recommended a ton of vitamins and supplements but again, I couldn’t make it work. Not to mention, Izzi hates taking pills. We discussed some at-home activities with an exercise ball to help Izzi improve her balance and strengthen her remaining back leg. Then we scheduled a second visit for the next week. When we returned, Izzi had a chiropractic adjustment, acupuncture, and a massage with aromatherapy. Izzi had never, ever put up any sort of argument at the vet before. She was always the most laid-back, easy-going, happy dog. She didn’t care if she was getting poked, or prodded, or pushed, or pulled as long as she was getting attention she was happy. Sometimes she would let out a fart if she wanted to retaliate but she was never rude in any other way. But this was different. She actually tried to bite during the adjustment and she was very antsy with all the acupuncture needles in her back. It was clear she was not happy at all. This experience really opened my eyes. I realized that all of my decisions from here on out had to revolve around whether or not Izzi was happy. I had already put her through a major surgery, a difficult recovery, and asked her to learn how to hop around without an entire leg. I was not going to do anything else that she didn’t want to do. Yes, sometimes there were necessary things that she didn’t *love* doing but they were for the greater good. But overall, my new philosophy was to just do whatever Izzi wants to do. Whatever amount of time she had left needed to be the best time of her life.

Since I had no idea how much time she would actually have, I decided to contact a pet photographer to take some photos of Izzi so I could have them as keepsakes. We met out at a park on a Saturday and it was easily the windiest day of the year. But we made it work and got some really nice photos. I didn’t realize how far of a walk it would be from the car to the trees and then back to the car. Poor Izzi was really struggling by the time we got finished with the photo shoot. I felt like a bit of a dummy for not planning that a little better.

Recovery from this point over the next couple of months seemed to plateau. She was tired and she was weak. She scooted around the house a lot as an alternative to walking. It was easier for her and that was okay. I spread long rugs out across the entire house so she could hop around on the wood floors if she wanted but she preferred to scoot most of the time. She reserved her hopping strength for trips outside to frolic in the grass or splash in her pool. She took pain medicine for quite a while and she took Dasuquin for her joints. I got a sling to wrap around her waist with long handles so I could easily assist her with walking any time she needed help.  We had an oddly warm October so she got to splash in her pool quite a bit which was awesome. We started going for short walks, just to the end of the street and back and she would be flat out exhausted afterwards. I started to worry she was never going to be strong enough to do much more. I invested in a cart with wheels because I thought that would help ease some of her frustrations from the loss of mobility. With wheels she would be able to run and play more. Boy was I wrong. She was a very independent and somewhat stubborn girl. She did not want anything to do with that dumb cart.

By mid-December, she was perking up. She was able to go on longer walks and she went without her lifting harness about halfway. She would ‘run’ all the way to the park but when it was time to go home, she wasn’t as enthusiastic.  I would have to put the harness on and support her on the way home. Christmas time came and we took our annual Christmas photos with the tree. Then we got some snow just after the new year. Izzi always loved snow but we don’t get much in OK so it was a real treat when it happened. When we woke up that morning and saw the snow she did tripawd zoomies all over the backyard. Then just like that, it was warm again. By March her swimming pool was set up again and she was splashing in it every chance she got. Looking back, I’m really thankful for all the extra warm days she was able to enjoy.

In early March she sprouted a new bump on top of her head. It was a little scary because I didn’t know if it was some form of cancer returning or if it was just a coincidence. She had it removed almost immediately just to be safe. We didn’t send it off because I was literally as broke as you can be by this point. But they examined it there in the office and it appeared to be just a run of the mill cyst so we felt fairly confident there was nothing to be worried about. She had a little Frankenstein scar on her head now to go with all the others.

After this we had a very uneventful summer… which meant it was a great summer. We spent a lot of time outside enjoying the sunshine and the swimming pool. We had a lot of great foster dogs during that summer too. Izzi didn’t like sharing her pool with them so I had to make sure she didn’t get too sassy about it. I took a whole week off work in August to hang out with Izzi and the other dogs at home. And then Izzi got to celebrate her 10th birthday in September. A year prior, I was told she may only live for 3-6 more months so this was an enormous and exciting milestone. We made it 365 days.

Trying out the new wheels:

A pupaccino just for fun:

Going for a walk:


Opening a gift:

Snow Day:


More swimming:

Running around like a champ:

Hanging out with some friends:







Day Seven

March 10th, 2019

Izzi came home on September 11th, 2016. I had tried to imagine what she would look like with three legs but it didn’t really make sense until I saw it with my own eyes. It was surreal to see her hopping around, standing at her bowl getting a drink, or laying in bed with three legs and a nub. I also wasn’t prepared for how gruesome the nub would look at first. The bruising spread across her entire abdomen and it was the brightest shades of red, pink, and purple I’d ever seen. When we left the vet, she was more than ready to go home. She hopped all the way out to the car by herself. I did have to teach myself how to carefully lift her in and out of the car because she couldn’t make that jump on her own. I purchased a twin sized memory foam mattress and set up a giant nest in the living room. We spent the next week laying in her bed, snuggling, eating treats, and watching Parks and Recreation. She didn’t have a big appetite at first so I had to top her food with shredded chicken to tempt her. She was also very naughty about licking her stitches every time I turned my back.  I eventually had to invest in one of the largest plastic cones I’ve ever seen. The cone made her furious. As her way of protesting, she would walk extra close to the walls and drag the cone along them to make a ton of obnoxious noise. It was hilarious.

She was supposed to get her stitches out after 2 weeks but about a week in, she started developing an opening along the side of her stitches. I wasn’t sure it it was normal so I took her into the vet for a checkup. They put her on some antibiotics as a precaution. A few days later, the opening had grown and there was a lot of fluid leakage. It was looking worse, not better. I called the vet and asked if I should be worried and he told me to come back in right away. They suspected she may have contracted MRSA during her hospital stay. The cultures came back and she definitely had it. She was prescribed Chloramphenicol and I was sent home with a large box of gloves. Apparently it’s a pretty serious drug and I was supposed to avoid touching it. Needless to say I was a little freaked out!!

Izzi was always difficult to medicate. She always knew when I was trying to sneak her a pill via a piece of cheese or lunch meat. Unfortunately chloramphenicol tablets are ENORMOUS and I couldn’t effectively hide them in anything. I had to get creative and I went through a lot of chicken that week trying to force those pills down her. Some times she didn’t even want the chicken so I had to give up and try again later. I’m not sure if it was the medication, the serious infection, or a combination of both but she felt extra cruddy. She didn’t want to eat at all and she just wasn’t her self. She was leaking a ton of thick fluid from the opening of her incision. I had to fashion a pair of shorts for her to wear to collect it so she wasn’t spreading her infection all over the house. I had to take her to the vet daily for cold laser therapy on her wound and I hated dragging her up there. She didn’t feel like it. She was tired of being there. She was over it. This was the very worst part of recovery. She was miserable and I felt so terrible for putting her through all of this. Thankfully, after only three days on this medication, I could see a real difference. She was finally healing. I was taking photos every day to track her progress and it was crazy to see them side by side.

She was feeling better and better. She wanted to hop around the yard and sunbathe. She gradually started wanting her meals without me having to beg her to eat. And her wound healed up enough that she was finally able to get her stitches out almost three weeks post-op.

Here is a video of her first time trying out the new ramp. I love her little tail wag at the end.

Some photos of her bruising from her first day home vs. about five days later.

The giant cone of shame. Hahaha!

Izzi’s pharmacy.

Progression photos showing MRSA infection healing over a span of three days.

On this day, she was feeling a lot better and she really wanted to swim. She was not happy that her pool was empty.

We went for ice cream after she got her stitches out.

Day One

March 9th, 2019

September 5, 2016 was Izzi’s 9th “birthday.” She had been limping for a while and it was getting gradually worse. Initially we suspected arthritis, then possibly a complication from her previous knee surgeries. It seemed pain medicine was doing nothing and eventually the dreaded lump appeared on her ankle. I remember the vet sighing when he felt it and I remember his tone when he said “we need to get an x-ray of this leg.” I could see the pain in his face as we looked over the x-ray together and saw the damage to her bone. It’s pretty crazy and unbelievable how quickly cancer appears, grows, and takes over its target. I would be reminded of this several times throughout the course of this journey.

After seeing the reality of the limp and seemingly tiny lump, I was faced with a decision on how to proceed. Do we biopsy this thing to see what it is? Odds are, it’s osteosarcoma. It’s going to continue to grow and she’s going to be at risk of breaking her leg. Odds of it being literally anything else are slim to none, so why even put her through the biopsy and why wait any longer? After asking approximately one hundred questions, I opted for amputation. The vet assured me dogs do very well on three legs. I had the nagging questions of whether or not Izzi would choose this. Would she choose to go through the excruciating pain of losing her leg and learning to walk again on three? Would she choose extraordinary measures to give herself just a little more time? I didn’t know what she would choose but I knew she was strong enough to give it a try. I knew if I didn’t at least try,  I would regret it immensely. I decided we were going to move forward with amputation and if she just couldn’t do it, I would face the decisions that would come along with it. But I had to give her a chance. The surgery was scheduled for September 9th and it was time to prepare for our new life on 3 legs. There were SO MANY unknowns and what-ifs.

Day 4: We went to the dog park to have one last 4-legged adventure. She always loved swimming at the dog park. I couldn’t let her off leash because her leg had gotten so bad and I didn’t want her to overdo it. We still went to the pond and she waddled in, followed around some of the other dogs, stole their tennis balls, and drank some pond water. It was a really nice farewell to the fourth leg.

Day 5: 9/9/16 was surgery day! She went in early for x-rays and blood work. We needed to make sure there were no lung mets before proceeding with amputation. I waited anxiously for the call with the results and was so relieved to hear her lungs were clear and they were able to take her back soon. This was a Friday and I had to work which was probably a good thing because it helped keep my mind off all the worries. I came home for my lunch break and was surprised to find out that a couple of dear friends came over and built Izzi a custom ramp out back so she would have an easier time getting up and down the steps. I was still so nervous but this helped me feel like everything was going to be okay because I wasn’t alone. I was surrounded by helpers.                                        

Day 6: I was able to go visit Izzi in the ICU. She had to stay a couple of days but I went to visit her as much as possible. She was on an IV drip with good pain meds and the techs were helping her adjust to tripawd life. She figured out how to hop around pretty quickly and she was even getting up to go potty on her own.