It’s been five months and 19 days since Ferdinand’s amputation and the boy is still rocking on. He finished up the chemo treatments like a boss and got a clean bill of health from Dr. Mones at Alpine Hospital. He gave us a little scare with a cough but then Fiona the Fierce — Ferdi’s Chihuahua sister — came down with the same cough so it was decided that it was just allergies or a little bug.
He gets tired more quickly nowadays but that’s the only sign that he’s not at full capacity. Otherwise, he acts like a pup, playful, cuddly, raring to go at the slightest jingle of the keys.
He is somewhat of a local celebrity. I was in the bank with him (Elevations Credit Union is very cool about him coming in despite the sign on their door) and a guy rushed over to him, cooing his name and hugging him like they were long lost pals. He finally stood up from the love session and acknowledged the bewildered look on my face by explaining, “I’m one of his Apple store friends! I haven’t see you guys in a while…”
We spend every Sunday morning at Tod’s coffee shop in Gunbarrel, sitting on the tiny patio (the sidewalk) having breakfast, reading the paper, communing with the other regulars, planning out our Home Depot shopping list and generally enjoying what we refer to as ‘our Sunday church service.’ For us, it’s better than church because 1) we get coffee and 2) we have Ferdinand with us. He has weekly admirers who bring him treats and last week someone even brought their Great Dane puppy, Gus, to meet Ferdinand!
It’s funny, everyone who meets him says how much they’d love to have a big dog like him but the big ones just don’t live very long and they don’t want to put themselves through that loss. They tell stories of dogs with cancer whose people chose euthanasia over amputation because they couldn’t bear to go through all that and then lose them anyway. I get it, Ferdi is our fourth Great Dane, they do break your heart sooner than a little dog. And amputation was an incredibly difficult choice with no guarantees.
But I also get that every Dane has been worth the heartache whether we lost him at two years old or at three or at nine and a half. The surgery, as difficult as it was, has given us a little more time with this one. We can never know how much more time we have with him of course, the vet says it could be years, but even if the worst happened tomorrow, we know for sure that it will be worth the anguish to have five more months, 19 days and counting.
My little spotted superhero started receiving chemotherapy on Monday — exactly three weeks after his surgery. He was a bit nauseated the first night but the doc had hooked him up with some nice meds so that was all better soon. Tuesday he seemed back to his old self other than taking frequent and ferocious pee breaks.
I wanted to watch over him through the first couple days post-chemo so I took him to work with me. You haven’t seen fun until you tell a crowded office full of people not to let the very large, very affectionate Great Dane lick them because his saliva is poisonous. It was like the vintage cartoons of a shrieking woman jumping up onto a chair in a tizzy when she sees a mouse… Bwah-ha-ha
Later, we made a visit to Pharmaca. It’s always a very dog friendly store but take a newly-minted amputee Dane in there and the place explodes with love and kindness and concern. It was a little overwhelming but also very healing. He had so many admirers fawning over him you’d have thought he was one of the One Direction boys. About half of the 15 or s0 people that he met didn’t notice that he was missing a leg until it was pointed out by him walking/hopping down the row of well-wishers. (Seriously, they queued up like a receiving line at a royal event).
Before his surgery, I had read on many many other blogs that dogs and cats show amazing resilience when faced with losing a limb and that info played a big part in our choosing to go ahead with the surgery. Well, add this one to the list. He has absolutely blown us away with his ability to step up (pun intended) and face the world with three legs and a brave heart.
We should have known Ferdinand would do great without one leg. After all, most guys are much more attached to their balls than they are to a leg — and he lost BOTH of those when he was just a pup. Well, he didn’t lose them per se, but you know what I mean.
Surgery was Monday. That night he was so looped out on drugs that he couldn’t blink, so fuhgeddabout standing. We had visions of him being one of those dogs we had seen in You Tube videos – the ones who seemingly hop off the operating table and race their humans to the exit door, doing a full-body tail wag. Umm, no. Our delicate little flower barely had control of his bowels let alone his legs. Night #1 was spent in the Alpenglow ER with IV fluids and lots of round-the-clock attention.
Tuesday morning when we picked him up for the transfer back to Alpine Hospital, he was a bit better. He could blink. By that afternoon he could sort of hopple (that’s hop/hobble) with a great deal of assistance from the doc and a sling or two. Dr. Mones said watching Ferdinand was like watching someone do the classic “rub your head, pat your tummy” trick. Ferd knew he had to hop on that front foot so he was trying to do the same thing with his back legs! After some deliberation, we decided (meaning I decided – all by myself – with no help from my daughter or husband who instead told me, “you’re the one who’s going to be home with him, you have to decide this,” for which I am both grateful and deeply resentful) that he was ready to come home. His eyes were clearer and most importantly, he knew where he was. He wasn’t happy about being where he was. He needed to be home.
Arriving at the homestead we had our first glimpse of his enormous coping ability. Alijah and I had asked our buddy, Julia, to help us with the unloading process. SuperJulia lifted this giant dog completely by herself out of my little SUV and gently placed him on the ground. With a sling assist, he walked to the door and then astounded us all by hopping right up the 5 steps into the house! He promptly collapsed as soon as he got in, but we were overjoyed to see even a brief revival.
He and I spent a loooooong, restless, sleepless night on the napping sofa on the main floor. (Yes, we have a sofa designated specifically to napping. It’s a popular activity in our household and we have elevated it to an art form.) He couldn’t decide whether he wanted to be on the dog bed in front of the sofa or the actual sofa so he swapped back and forth about every half hour. He’d get on the sofa, snuggle up to me for a bit, then roll my ass onto the floor with a single, well-placed kidney kick. I’d curl up on the dog bed (he’s a Great Dane, his dog bed is pretty much a twin size mattress) and thirty minutes later he’d crawl down there and repeat the kicking-me-to-the-floor-process, whereupon I’d drag myself back onto the sofa to start the cycle over again. By 3:00 a.m. he’d somehow managed to skooch his entire bandage down to his waist, thereby entirely exposing his sutures which were bleeding profusely. Or what I considered profusely but my sister, Nurse Heather, said was nuthin’. Hubby was roused (from what I was bitterly imagining to be a peaceful slumber in our king size TempurPedic) to come down and help me recreate the bandage (with supplies that he had gotten from Walgreens earlier – he has actually been tremendously helpful throughout this whole ordeal despite what my whining might lead you to believe).
Wednesday it was back to Alpine to have the makeshift bandage replaced by people who actually knew what they were doing. Ferd was fairly dismayed to be heading back to the vet but we were glad to see how delighted the docs and staff were with his progress. He was able to walk with only minimal assistance from a sling we borrowed from our friend Renee. They dressed him up with an Alpine Hospital t-shirt modified to be a cape for our little super hero and sent him on his way.
It’s been smooth sailing ever since. The boy loves his back yard so he and I spent most of the day out there Wednesday. He did a lot of walking around on his own, only needing help on the stairs to and from the yard. Today our friend Kathy came over to sit with him while I had to go in to the office for a bit. By “a bit” I mean three hours. And by “sit with him” I mean she sat beside him, in the back yard, reading to him no less, for three solid hours. What a trooper. When I came home and relieved her from duty, Ferdo wouldn’t budge from the yard. He lifted his head, looked at me briefly, squinted his eyes like he couldn’t quite make out who I was or what I was saying, and flopped his head back on the grass. I figured he’d stay there while I walked Kathy to the door. Just as we got inside I heard something behind me. I turned around to see Ferdo running along the sidewalk from the yard to the house — about 40 feet — and then BOUNDING up the stairs like they were nothing, skidding to a halt and sitting at the screen door, grinning like a maniac!! He’s been following me around the house ever since. He seems to think he’s done with all this boring lying around bollocks.
We can’t say “THANK YOU” enough to all the people who have helped us but here’s one more shot at it: THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU to Dr. Mones and the whole staff at Alpine Hospital for Animals, Dr. Williams and the whole staff at Alpenglow ER, Renee & Don, Julia, Kathy, and my sister Nurse Heather for talking me down in the face of what I still insist was a LOT of blood.
First, thanks to everyone who responded with advice and encouragement. This has been such a hard decision. Trying to weigh quantity of life vs. quality. After researching dozens of similar cases, we believe and hope and pray he can have BOTH. Without the surgery we would only be able to manage his pain for a few more weeks before it becomes excruciating. We’ve been told that the bone is basically exploding from the inside out in slow motion as the cancer eats away at it. When it finally becomes decimated, it shatters. At that point no amount of pain meds can help and he would have to be euthanized immediately. I just can’t let him be in that kind of pain in his last few weeks. As counter intuitive as it seems, the amputation and recovery are far less painful.
SO, our decision is that unless we get some contradictory information about his blood work this afternoon, we’ll proceed with the amputation Monday and follow up with chemo. Our research has told us that he will recover from the amputation and be his old self in about 10-14 days, maybe a few days longer because of his size. Other Dane owners whose dogs have had similar surgeries back this up. Even Gibson, the World’s Tallest Dog recuperated and adjusted very quickly to being a “tripawd.” Vets often say that dogs are born with “three legs and a spare” so it’s not much of a handicap to a dog. Nothing like the handicap of the pain he is in currently. His other legs, back and hips are all solid and he is not overweight so he should be just fine.
Initially we were concerned about his remaining time being unpleasant due to the chemo but we’ve been assured that chemo does not have the same horrible side effects on dogs that it does on humans. At worst, he may be nauseated for a day or so after each treatment but that can be managed with anti-nausea meds. His lungs are clear – no visible metastases yet. Statistically speaking, the cancer will almost certainly come back – in his lungs next time — but hopefully the chemo will delay that. With the amputation and chemo together his chances of living 1 year are 45-55%. I’ll take that.
Thanks for all your support. The whole Rubey family truly appreciates it! Check out the video of a giant harlequin Dane missing the same leg as Ferdinand – digging for gophers!
My baby boy, Ferdinand the Great Dane, was diagnosed with osteosarcoma yesterday. Bone cancer. Terminal in almost all cases. We took him in to the vet because he was limping a bit. Not a lot, but a bit more than his usual “I pulled a muscle acting like a wing nut at the lake” limp. We were expecting to hear torn ligament, maybe arthritis since he is 7 1/2 and in Great Dane years that makes him eligible for AARP. Instead, 15 minutes later my whole world came crashing in. If he’s a candidate for amputation we might get lucky and have him around for 3 more months. If not, we’ve got a month left.
I should have known. He’s been trying to tell me for a long time now and I refused to hear it. For the last few weeks, sometimes when I would glance over at him sleeping I would suddenly feel the loss of him. LIke just for a second he was already gone. And I would think to myself, “Oh Holy Christ how am I going to survive him passing?” And then I would scold myself for thinking that way: “What the hell is wrong with me? Why am I being so morbid? Yes, he is 7 but he comes from a strong genetic line – he had relatives that lived to be 13. Obviously I’m just being melodramatic — he’s going to live to be 12 or even 14. After all, he is very small for a Great Dane, only 105 pounds, so he is exempt from all the size-related ailments our other Danes faced, right?”
No, he’s not our first Dane. Although right now I’m feeling like he may be our last. I don’t know if I can do this again. Sidney the Insane was first. He died of complications during his neutering when he was only 2. Then Norman the Never-Met-A-Stranger suffered a massive coronary while playing in the back yard shortly after his 3rd birthday. Harvey the Poet Prince lived to the ripe old age of 9 before a stroke claimed him. For a year during Harvey’s reign we had a brilliant girl Dane named Kelsie. We rescued her when she was 3 and she never quite got the swing of our family. We were blessed to find her a new home with a family that adored her and pampered her until she passed away at a respectable old age. And now there is Ferdinand. My heart that one is. I’ve loved all of them of course, to a degree that was well beyond balanced, but there has always been something special about this spotted little Mama’s boy.
So once again I think, “Oh Holy Christ, how will I survive this one?” This fucking cancerous murderer is extraordinarily painful to its victims. Which means some day very soon he is going to look at me with eyes that say, “it hurts too much, Mom. Make it stop.” And I will. I will end the pain. But part of me will end too. I know it’s completely selfish to be thinking this way – that the cancer is attacking me as much as him. But then, no one ever doubted the limits of my selfishness.
This family is so much fun! This is the second year I’ve gotten to do their photos for the holiday cards and both times have been both a challenge and a hoot 🙂 Between a model sister, mischievous little brother and a runaway bulldog there’s never a dull moment but we always end up with some gorgeous portraits …
I guess it had to happen sometime. After 14 years as a dog photographer I finally had a dog that tried to bite me. Bizarrely, it was a Rottweiler! I was expecting it to come from something tiny and yappy and fierce like my own Chihuahua. But no… a big laid back Rottie. Huh. He didn’t break the skin and really I wasn’t nearly as upset as his humans. Still got some nice photos!
This Golden Retriever spent the first three years of her life as a breeder in the puppy mills but now she’s been rescued. Just a week ago she started her new life as a beloved companion and her Human wanted to commemorate the moment with a photo shoot. Look at her smile!