An era ended: Chuckles (August 15th, 2000 – January 8th, 2014)

So, folks, after a three-and-a-half year war against cancer, that day has come: we put Chuckles down on January 8th, 2014.

When we brought Chuckles home, I was a teenager, and he was a filthy 3-month-old pup that was scared of his own shadow. We hadn’t even meant to purchase him that day. His ‘breeder’ brought him to us holding him up by the scruff of his neck, and he simply hung there, resigned to this less-than-gentle handling.

We grew up together, he and I. He was a stubborn, loyal, and loving friend, and I was helplessly in love from the moment my fingers curled into his fur.

When I heard the words “chemotheraphy” and “Grade 2″ and “approx. 50% chance of reoccurance” my first thoughts were: “No, absolutely not. He’s mine and you can’t have him!” I didn’t want to share him with cancer, but it turned out that I didn’t have a choice.

We’ve been through a lot since then… Chemotherapy, recurrence of tumors, development of histiocytic sarcoma, more chemotherapy.

Through it all, Chuckles had very little time when his quality of life was poor… The vast majority of the time, he was running around, barking at backyard birds (INTRUDERS!), begging for toast crumbs, getting into fights with raccoons (and losing), getting skunked, trying to fit under the coffee table (hate to break it to you old man, but you only really fit until you were about 6 months old), and breaking all the girls’ and boys’ hearts by playing hard to get (No, you may not pet me. I don’t know you. Seriously, why do you even exist. Go away.).

He taught me to slow down, to pay attention to the little joys in life. He showed me that just because he wasn’t outgoing and exuberant, it didn’t mean that he didn’t love.

I learnt to be a little slower with him, to take the time to really get to know him, and to earn his trust and his affections. From that first little half-sniff of my shoulder when he was a puppy (accompanied by a newly raised tail and a single, dubious tail wag), to the times in his older years when he slept tucked up right beside me, I cherished every little moment I had with him.

I will miss having him around, but I will forever cherish the memories we made together.

May you rest in peace my old man.

Sitting with the old man on his last day with us

Sitting with the old man on his last day with us

Almost doubled in size from October (on the right, with the 'R') to January (on the left, with the 'L').

Almost doubled in size from October (on the right, with the ‘R’) to January (on the left, with the ‘L’).

Laying about and watching TV on a lazy Sunday.Laying about and watching TV on a lazy Sunday.

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Update: 1 week without eating and the seemingly magical recovery

I’ll preface this post by saying that as of the last two days, Chuckles seems to be doing fine, but we just went through a scary two weeks with him.

On Friday, October 12th, Chuckles developed diarrhea, and we started him on loperamide to control the symptoms. By Monday, it wasn’t showing any signs of getting better, and we added in metronidazole. On Tuesday, my old man stopped eating and had no more bowel movements.

He stopped eating (he wouldn’t eat *anything* at all, not even broth), lost weight, become listless. On Friday, October 18th, we took him in to the OVC in Guelph, and they ran bloodwork and chest x-rays, which were completely unremarkable. His bloodwork was perfect, his sarcoma was still in the 6cm range (which is exactly the same size as his last x-ray almost a month ago), and they found nothing during his physical exam.

What a relief! Since we found nothing problematic, we were cautiously hopeful that he’d just had a bad few days with GI symptoms and that he would get better.

No such luck.

Over the weekend, he got progressively weaker, refused *all food*, and all he wanted to do was to lie down with his head in my lap. He refused cooked meats/fish, raw meats/fish, broths, baby food, kibble, canned food, treats, freeze-dried liver (which he normally loves), ice-cream, pudding, desserts, ensure, boost… we tried pretty much everything, and he was having none of it.

On Monday, Oct 21st, we took him back to Guelph for an abdominal ultrasound, fully expecting to see major signs of metastasis, or abdominal growths/lesions, but again, we got a *clean* ultrasound… evidence of a few small bladder stones (he’s not straining to urinate or anything, so that clearly wasn’t the issue), and a small little infarct on his kidney.

His weight was now down to 16kg and he had barely any energy for anything. After refusing food for a little over 6 days, it looked like he had decided that he was done, that he had decided that it was time to go. We had spoken to our regular vet, and thought that it was time to put him down, since I definitely did not want to keep him alive when his quality of life had deteriorated to the point of laying on a couch all day and not eating.

Then, as we were paying in the waiting room, I dropped a piece of Iams dog bone treat on the ground… it’s a hard cookie, and Chuckles typically doesn’t even deign to *sniff* it. I don’t even know what made me try it, but he GOBBLED it up. And then ate 8-10 more of them.

On the way home from Guelph, we stopped at Petsmart to pick up the Iams bones, and he accepted a piece of freeze-dried liver from the cashier. When we got home, he ate some more Iams treat bones, but he still refused all other foods. Turns out that Iams bones have a high liver content, so we went out and bought him some Cesar brand chicken and liver soft food (sub-par ingredients, but I wasn’t going to complain if he would just *eat*).

Over the new couple of days, he ate more cesar, gained back some energy, and looked more alert.

Was this just a little burst of energy before he declined again? or was he out of the woods? It’s 6 days now that he’s been eating, so we think he’s out of the woods, but it was a pretty scary experience while he was on a hunger strike for a whole week!

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Hangin’ out with the Old Man

Hangin' out with the Old Man

Hangin’ out with the Old Man

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Update: 13th birthday, the sarcoma grows, & mast cell disease under control

Hello again everyone,

Just a quick little update… not the greatest of news, but the silver lining is that Chuckles turned 13 years old on August 15th! CONGRATS old man:)

Here are the other updates:

  1. Flare up of mast cell disease:

Chuckles had a sore on his neck that flared up in late May. It’s since healed up completely, but that’s only after he went on CCNU to control both types of cancer.

Flare up of mast cell disease

Flare up of mast cell disease

2. CCNU therapy to address mast cell disease and histiocytic sarcoma:

Chuckles has gone through 4 rounds of chemotherapy with CCNU since I last updated, and aside from a few bouts of neutropenia (which were easily controlled with antibiotics), he has had no side effects. The mast cell disease is still under control, and the patch seen above just looks like normal skin again.

3. Developments:

The most troubling news is that the lung mass (histiocytic sarcoma) has grown from 2.7cm at first diagnosis to 4.6cm. Chuckles woke up last night coughing, and that’s worrying. I’ll keep you posted on how things progress. Update: As of mid-September, the mass is 6m, which means the CCNU has stopped working to control the growth of the sarcoma.

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Bad News: Development of Histiocytic Sarcoma

Hello again everyone,

As you know, Chuckles’ mast cell disease is spreading again.

Unfortunately, chest x-rays to assess how much the mast cell disease has spread have revealed a lung mass 2.7cm long. A biopsy confirmed that the mass is consistent with histiocytic sarcoma, a rare and aggressive type of cancer that is fairly unresponsive to available treatment options.

Chuckles started on Lomustine (or CCNU) as of yesterday to help control the spread of both the histiocytic sarcoma and the mast cell disease.

In general, this new development marks the beginning of the end for my fantastic little man. He might do fine for a few months, or he might decline really fast. I’m not really sure, and so I’m just going to try and enjoy him each day for as long as I can.

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Hangin’ out

Evening before surgery to remove two muzzle tumors

Evening before surgery to remove two muzzle tumors

 

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Recurrence: new mast cell tumors

Hi all,

Just wanted to let you all know that Chuckles has developed two new mast cell tumors on his muzzle. One is right at the original surgery site (where his original tumor was) and the other is a small one slightly off to the side.

We’ve had both the tumors removed surgically, though this is likely to be continued metastasis, rather than new or unrelated tumors.

In lay terms, we clearly weren’t able to get rid of all the cancer with the original surgery and chemo, and now that he’s been off the chemo since July of last year, the cancer is spreading again.

I don’t really have it in me to go through all the details right now, so this will be a a pretty bare bones update for now.

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