August 9, 2007

Dear Friends,

I have to let you know, Devo is sick. He has had an occasional odd cough for a few months, but showed no other signs of being ill. Last week we noticed that his breathing was labored and he was panting more than normal. Took him to the vet on Monday. She doesn't know exactly what is wrong. Needs more tests. There is fluid on his chest and his abdomen contracts when he breaths (way more rapidly than normal). Xrays, blood test, poking and prodding yielded two possibilities: heart disease or cancer. There was not cancer detected in the fluid test and his blood tests were close to normal (but not perfect). Devo is scheduled for an ultra sound next Thursday to verify a spot on the xray near his liver. A tumor is suspected. He is on antibiotics for possible pneumonia.

He is still his happy, gentle self, but I can tell he is sick. Please say a prayer for him. I'll let you all know what the ultra sound turns up. He is far to young to leave us. Please don’t call. I’m having a hard time dealing with this and would prefer to report his progress this way. Sorry, nothing personal.

August 15, 2007

Dear Friends,

We got the ultrasound moved up to last night. A first class radiology clinic only 5 miles from the house. Dr. Kramer (excellent) spent 45 minutes looking at every internal organ belonging to Devo, and then some. I was there the whole time, amazed at the pictures on the screen. Dr. Kramer said he makes at least 3 people cry per week, but what he has to say about Devo bothers him the most. He just didn't see anything that could be directly linked to Devo's condition. No tumor or lesion was evident. What he could do is rule out heart disease & pneumonia (happy about stopping the antibiotics, it was distressing his GI). The source of the fluid on his chest and abdomen is still a mystery. However, there is still the possibility of cancer.

I won't go into the myriad of possible next steps (mind boggling, I'm still processing everything). The immediate goal for me is to get a second opinion. Dr. Kramer actually suggested this and I agree. In the meantime a couple of mild drugs will be prescribed to mitigate the symptoms. So far I’m pleased with the vet team of our regular vet Dr. Earls and Dr. Kramer. Another specialist’s opinion is needed, but I don’t know who that will be yet. No unnecessary tests or procedures have been done and they always have Devo’s best interest in mind, plus the costs. I have also been researching alternative approaches.

Sorry for the dour tone of my first email. The sobering news was like getting hit in the head with a phone book. I'm approaching this more clinically now, with the idea that Devo and I have a mountain to climb and we just need to find the right route to the summit. He clings to me more that ever, but I’m sure it’s because of my doting over him. The days of chasing the ball and swimming are over for now. Short controlled walks seem to make him just as happy.

Devo got his belly and sides shaved yesterday (for the ultrasound). He is quite the sight!!

August 23, 2007

Dear Friends,

Devo was examined by a third Vet in as many weeks on Tuesday. From the existing, collected records, Dr. Wilson found a few puzzling results, but was at a loss about his affliction. I left Devo with Dr. Wilson for a few hours. She drained 1500ml of fluid from his lower chest while he stood there and licked her hand! He is more comfortable now and was quite happy to come home.

One possibility has come up based on Dr. Wilson's experience in Fresno. Valley Fever! Rather than describe it, here is a very good link.


Valley fever fools many vets and doctors (humans and dogs can get it) into thinking they are looking at a patient with cancer or a heart/lung disorder. As you all know, Devo was in Phoenix (it's very common here) for 2 months and spent time traveling through other parts of the country where the fungus spore that causes valley fever thrives. None of that in the Northwest.

We'll know more next week after more tests. After researching everything I could find, I'm now convinced it's valley fever. It is treat-able and survive-able, especially in strong dogs like Devo.
Sorry to be so detailed, but you are all dog owners and lovers, so if you can learn anything from what I am experiencing, that is my ultimate hope. It could save you time, money and maybe even the life of your fur baby.

August 27, 2007

Dear Friends,

Dr. Wilson is back in town and just called to give me her complete report on Devo. She said it is a 90% certainty it is cancer. Since she was gone the last half of last week, on Friday, I had my regular vet draw blood and send it to the special lab in Phoenix to test specifically for Valley Fever. I figured a couple days head start IF it is Valley fever would be worth the $125.00. Results won’t be in until the end of this week.
>>Results of this test were negative<<

In the meantime, details about his cancer. The cells were carcinoma in the way they displayed. What that means is; it is cancer that develops in the tissue lining of his organs. No tumors to biopsy, nothing to go in and remove. It could be originating in any of his organs. I’m sure that is why it’s been so hard to diagnose. Unfortunately, it is a death sentence. We will do our best to fight this via non-traditional methods; homeopathy/naturopathic, energy healing, whatever makes sense and doesn’t make him more miserable. Dr. Wilson is very articulate and a realist. She cannot recommend chemo, because is just doesn’t have a track record for curing this type of cancer. I appreciate her candor.

He is still strong enough to take a trip to the groomers at Scrub-a-pup today. He loves the girls there. They fussed over him and were very gentle and caring. Wanted to get him cleaned and trimmed up for the tough weeks that follow. They were also a good source for a holistic vet across the sound in Poulsbo.

Here we go, wish us luck. Will keep you all informed of his progress.

August 29, 2007

Dear Friends,

Took Devo into see Dr. Wilson today. She took another 800ml of fluid from his lower chest area. We could do this every week, but it’s not contributing to his cure, it’s only relieving pressure thus allowing him to breath a little easier and be more comfortable (OK, I guess if it lets him sleep better, it does help). At $200 a visit, this can add up fast. As the disease progresses he may become more resistant to having needles poked into his chest. Right now he puts up with it with very little squirming. I doubt that will last much longer.

Started his regiment of supplements last night after spending the day (Tues the 28th) with a herbalist (Justin, a nice lady) who has experience with treating cancer in dogs. Armed with my extensive research, Justin and I agreed on a list of starter supplements that support what is called “the shotgun approach”. We can’t just focus on one supplement. We are hitting Devo and his cancer with every nutritional supplement that works well together and I can afford. I won’t get into the fine details of all the available supplements reported to help fight cancer. Ted Schneck’s book about his (layman’s) experience treating his dog has been my most valuable reference.

However, this doesn’t mean that the course of action I am taking does not take into consideration the “curative” potential of many of the ingredients. So here I sit, with Devo finally sleeping (hard REM) next to me, under the desk. Next on my list is to document all the supplements, their dosage, frequency and application method. Some can be mixed with his food (he is much more finicky and prefers the stankiest tripe canned food to be mixed with his kibble). The rest is administered with a large oral syringe. So far Devo has been good natured about dad squirting this gross tasting brew in his mouth. All of this, twice a day.

Additional details a year later -- After this first fluid removal, Devo had his chest drained every two weeks until the end. Dr. Earl preformed the remaining fluid draws and was astonished by Devo’s willingness to put up with such an invasive procedure with no complaint at all (he just slowly wagged his tail). The supplements and routine described above was pretty much the way we spent our days the last two months of Devo's life. I didn't send any emails the last 27 days, just withdrew into the role of head caretaker in Devo's own personal MASH unit.

Farewell email - October 29, 2007

Dear Friends,

Devo lost his fight with cancer on Friday (Oct.26th). I thought we had checked the progress of his cancer, but it came roaring back early last week. His shining light was deteriorating fast and he never took his eyes off me for 4 days. I knew then it was time for the last and kindest mercy. I will miss him more than I could ever describe here.

I wanted to thank each of you for being his friend, pack member or just someone who made his acquaintance briefly and realized what a pleasure having a sweet, balanced dog could be.

Also, thanks for indulging me and my detailed emails over the last 3 months. Many of you wanted to know these details in order to have an understanding of what every one of our beloved pets could face. I have gathered a library of material and knowledge about canine cancer these last few month. Don’t ever hesitate to ask if there is any help or information I can provide.

- A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you more than he loves himself.

- You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, 'Wow, you're right! I never would've thought of that!'

- Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole

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