Road to recovery — Part I

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Rio underwent the amputation surgery yesterday, February 8.   I’d been having a really hard time with the idea of her losing her leg, and I wasn’t positive even as we went to our appointment with the surgeon if I was going to go through with it.  I’d been trying to think about it from the angle of “if it was elsewhere on her body, what would I do?”.  If it was on her back or her haunches or some other easily operable spot, the surgery would have been scheduled within hours of the diagnosis, so what was my problem?  The surgery was imperative if she was going to survive this particular tumor.

We’d had friends (both 2- and 4-legged) over for SuperBowl on Sunday, and had taken her to a friends house for playtime on Monday.  She was the Woo for both!  She played, and ran, and chased a ball, and sniffed, and got lovies and treats, and ate some grass, and had a jolly good time.  I wanted more of those days, and the only way I was going to get them was to go ahead with the surgery.

We drove down to the vet (a 60-mile jaunt, one-way), and met with the surgeon.  He said a couple of things that pushed me off the fence.  First of all, he told me that once Rio was under,  both he and the oncologist would go over Rio with “a fine tooth comb” and if they found anything that indicated the cancer had spread, they would pull the plug on the surgery.   This was good, because I kept thinking that if there was any possibility that it had already metastasized, there was really no point in her losing her leg.  The second thing he said was that, in the wild, dogs will always struggle to persevere.  They are fighters and they don’t give up.  They love life and living, and will try with everything they have to have even just one more day.  When he said that, I knew that if I didn’t go forward with the surgery, I was the one who was giving up.  I was letting my fear dictate her survival.  And as much as I was afraid of having her leg amputated, I was more afraid of losing her.

So we signed the admittance forms and all the paperwork, and I had a meltdown as the tech led Rio out of the room.  The first of many for the day, I’m kind of embarrassed to say.  But, my little trooper came out of the OR with flying colors.  She woke quickly from the anesthesia, and slept well through the night.  This morning, she’s off the epidural, and they are weaning her off of the injectable pain meds and transitioning to the oral variety.

She hasn’t really eaten anything yet.  Little Miss Picky doesn’t want her usual food — she wants special food this morning.  I told the vet to give her whatever she would eat.  She also hasn’t gone potty yet.  It could be due to the fact that squatting may take some getting used to, or because of the epidural, she may not be feeling a full bladder all that well yet.  Either way, the doctor wasn’t really overly concerned yet, and Rio is doing well enough that they are pretty sure she can come home later today.

I’m writing all this now, in hopes that I can be strong for Rio when I see her.  The surgeon warned us that it’s not a “pretty” surgery and he said that it is perfectly natural to be shocked initially by how bad it looks.  I know Tripawds has photos where you can prepare yourself for how it looks, but I haven’t worked up the nerve yet to look at them — I can be a little squeamish.  I’m hoping to focus on “it’s the Woo!  I’m so happy to see my girl!” instead of her surgical site.

We have been prepping the house all morning to get ready for her.  We have a lot of slippery surfaces, and what we affectionately call our “Crash Test Dummy,” Rio’s little sister, Zephyr.  We moved the furniture around to provide a straight shot to the door — fewer corners hopefully means fewer opportunities to slip or lose balance.  We’re also using area rugs to cover some of the slippery zones.  But the Zephyr Factor is another story… She has two speeds:  turbo and coma!  And being an 80+ lb. girl, she’s going to have to be monitored as Rio heals.  Her enthusiasm alone could cause accidents.  Our other dog, Tosca, is pretty sedate, but the last few of times I’ve taken Rio for an outing alone, even when it was for surgery, “T” has been a little aggressive with the Woo when she got home.  So we’ll be playing referee there, too, I think.

We bought her a nice new bed.  She’s used to sleeping up on our bed, curled up in the bend of my knees, and since that won’t be possible for a while, I wanted her to have a nice firm bed that she can lounge on while she gains her strength and confidence.  We will probably have to shoo the other “bed warmers” off from time to time, but that’s how it is….

I’m not exactly sure when Rio will begin her chemotherapy regimen.  That will require twice-weekly round trips to the vet, if I remember correctly from last time.  Or maybe that was the radiation regimen…  It’s been a while since we had to do the drill.  They are adding CCNU to the Vinblastine this time — she only had the Vinblastine last time, and handled it pretty well.  She was a bit run down by the end of the series, and her tummy was pretty upset, too, but other than that she did good.  I’m expecting my little warrior to battle her way through this next few weeks as she’s done in the past.  We will keep things fun, lots of treats and special pick-me-ups along the way.  And focus on one day at a time…..

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5 thoughts on “Road to recovery — Part I

  1. Hope Rio is doing well post-surgery. It’s a rough few days/week right after surgery, but it gets A LOT better quickly. We did the same, bed-wise, with Abby. Prior to the surgery, she slept with us, but we bought her a special bed to sleep on. I’m so glad we did – she really likes it. Even still sleeps on it now, 3 months post-amp. She spends the night there, then gets up with us at about 6:30 every morning for a cuddle and falls back to sleep. I think we are ALL sleeping better. Hope you’ll have similar good luck w/ Rio liking her new bed. Sending good thoughts Rio’s way.
    Jackie (Abby’s mom)

    • Thanks Jackie and Abby,
      Rio likes the new bed, but would rather be on the couch during the day. So far, our other two dogs have pretty much stayed off of it, leaving it open for Rio if and when she wants it.
      The hardest part of post-surgery has been that Rio thinks she’s totally fine. She’s been tough to rein in. She’s a resilient little thing!

      Micki (Rio’s mom)

  2. Please do remain strong for Rio. Doing so will make recovery much easier, for everyone. If you want life to be normal again, you must act as though life is normal. Best wishes for a speedy recovery! Thanks for the update, please keep us posted.

  3. once you see that beautiful girl, so happy to be back in your arms, you will forget all about being scared and being sqeamish. be strong for her, and she will help define what ‘brave’ really means. our tripawd sisters and brothers can be our best teachers, if we are open to listening and learning. when in doubt, just love on her even more, and you’ll get through.

    charon & gayle

    • Thanks, Charon and Gayle, for the best possible advice. She already has shown such bravery through multiple rounds of treatments. I can only continue to strive to be as strong as my Woo. My best wishes for your recoveries as well.

      Micki (Rio’s mom)

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