The Forest for the Trees

You should keep a “cancer log” for your dog. This was one of the many pieces of excellent advice that I read in the book “Help Your Dog Fight Cancer” by Laurie Kaplan. Since I tend to have difficulty remembering what happened yesterday, this seemed like a very good idea. I started to keep a log for Girly Girl on the day I read about it in the book.

Girly Girl ate her breakfast, or she didn’t eat her breakfast. Or she finally ate it at noon. She refused to eat yogurt anymore when she always used to love it. She stopped eating her pills and supplements mixed in with her food. She would only eat them with cheese. She won’t eat her pills and supplements with cheese anymore, she’ll only eat them with cream cheese. She won’t eat dinner. She ate dinner but not until after 10 pm. She will only eat dinner if it has baby food mixed in. She will only eat food if I feed it to her.

Girly Girl’s doctor visits are noted. She had chemo. She went to see Dr. Edelbaum our family vet because she just wasn’t feeling very well between chemo treatments. She went for blood tests because there was concern the chemo drugs were lowering her white blood cell count. She was seen by the emergency vets. She had an echocardiogram because the chemo drugs cause heart damage.

The myriad of supplements and medications that we stuff twice a day into my little 54 pound peg-legger are all listed in our log. There are the medications that Dr. Romansik prescribed for her for nausea and diarrhea after the first chemo. These unfortunately did not work. He gave us Sulfasalazin for the diarrhea and Cerenia for the nausea after the second chemo and these worked much better. In addition she also gets marshmallow root, slippery elm, aloe vera juice, L-arginine, Denosyl, Joint 3 (glucosamine, chondroitin and hyaluronic acid), Bone Stasis and a probiotics-enzyme powder blend.

All food choices must be logged. As a cancer dog Girly Girl eats a high protein, low carb diet. Cool proteins only (duck, turkey, and rabbit). When she does eat carbs I try to ensure that they are complex carbs. Finding crunchy treats that are lower in carbs can be a real challenge and we’ve logged a whole bunch of attempts. The furry kids have always had extras mixed in to their dry food. We log all of these and we’ve had to make some changes there as well. With chemo, Girly Girl’s tastes have changed. What she will and won’t eat gets noted for future reference.

We also write down all the real fun stuff like the times she vomited on my arm while I was comforting her and later on my leg. We also note every days poop status. Poop has become very important in our life. Within 24 hours of a chemo treatment Girly Girl begins full on diarrhea. She never recovers normal poop status before the next treatment even with medication. The trick is to make sure that she stays hydrated. The trick is also how many different ways you can describe the consistency of poop. Salad shooter, mashed potato, soft serve… I don’t mean to offend anyone’s delicate sensibilities but this is life with cancer.

Every day I write all these things down. After awhile you get very caught up in these details. Was her poop this morning soft serve or was it more firm than that? Did I remember to give her the Denosyl? I have to remember to log in that we changed food yesterday from Nature’s Variety to Blue Buffalo. But I also note the occasional victory (she played with a toy for the first time since surgery today, she tried the basement stairs today, she ran today, she’s jumping up on the couch with me again, she did a helicopter today!).

While I was busy thinking about poop and food and vomit and supplements and when the next chemo treatment was, I failed to see the proverbial forest for the trees. There, in my log, day by day. All those small victories. They added up. When I finally stopped writing and took a good look at Girly Girl, really watched her. When I stopped thinking about cancer and just thought about my sweet, heart dog. I realized she was back. She was on three legs, but she was truly back. My joyous, squeaky mad, midair toy catching, helicopter doing, roaching (almost), cleaning her bowl, running, jumping, sniffing, demanding to share the couch, loving, girl had snuck back in. Welcome home baby girl! Settle in and stay a good long while.


  1. Simply inspirational - now off to dig through the rest of your blog - thanks for sharing. Cheers Spiffo & Schniff

  2. I have been through this a few times with my hounds and helped others going through the same thing. What can I say.....I wish you a survivor!

    After the intial 'problems' they all ran, jumped and played seemingly unaware of any missing limb.

    I will tell you something I still find rather humorous that happened to me.

    Our girl Sister had been doing so well that when we returned to the vet and they weighed her. I had been so focused on making sure she was eating, drinking....doing well that I hadn't though about other angles of the surgery. Her weight looked good measured through watching how her ribs showed. The vet had her step on to the scale and said her weight...her weight was a good 10 -12 pounds less. I 'momentarily' freaked...and blurted 'but she couldn't have lost that much weight!!! She is looking beautiful...' They just stared at me with looks like 'duh', while I recovered, face red....oh yes...she is minus a leg. That'd account for the weight loss.'

    Yeah felt kind of dumb. :) It was one of those 'head-smacking' moments. :)

    Anyway, I wish you nothing but the best and pray that this has done the job and that Girly Girl will have a long and happy life!

  3. Sistertex, I have to laugh because I had a similar event when Girly Girl got on the scale for the first time before her chemo. I'd been very careful to stuff food into her even when she didn't want to eat, even hand feeding her. I to, gauged her weight carefully. Then she got on the scale and she was 9 pounds lighter. She is such a little peanut to begin with I was just shocked. Luckily though, I was shocked speechless for long enough to figure out much of that had to have been "leg weight". Still I'm tempted to this day to ask how much a leg should weigh because it seems like an awful lot of weight for one little leg! :-) I totally know how you feel!

  4. Beautifully written and informative. Considering how many hounds come down with cancer, this would be a good read for many.
    Hugs to you both.

  5. Have just found your blog & cried my way through all your posts detailing Girly Girl's illness & its treatment. Can't imagine how tough it must've been for you making all these decisions for her. So glad to hear there is a happy ending for you both. She's a beautiful girl, & no less so with 3 legs. Sending her a big hug! Jx

  6. Journals can be so helpful for all sorts of illnesses and behavior problems. I always try to start one when needed.


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