Tuesday, April 26, 2011


"We're ready to go!"  Zephyr and Astro in the warm spring grass.
Zephyr has been doing so well the past two weeks that we have been able to go on many nice walks in the forest.  We started out with 30 minute walks and yesterday we were out for 2 1/2 hours.  These pictures are from our walk yesterday.  Zephyr's energy has been great for all our walks.  Zephyr and Astro are staying on their Flexi's during the walks because I'm sure they would turn the forest in to a race track if they were both off leash, and that's still not an option.  Even on the Flexi's sometimes they break out in to play and it's a challenge to  keep them under control.  And, I have to say that most of the time it's Zephyr that instigates the on leash romps.  If it weren't for the shaved arm bands and belly, no one would even be able to tell that anything had happened to Zephyr. :-)

It's been almost eight weeks since Zephyr first got sick, six weeks since he started showing the neurological symptoms and things got really bad, and five weeks since I brought him home from the neurological center.  He is having an awesome recovery from the encephalitis!!  There have been no signs of it for over three weeks.  His coordination, balance and eyesight are all normal.  He's off the phenobarbital and is only taking 5mg of prednisone twice a day, which is a really low dose for him.  His last blood work showed that his white blood cell count was back to normal, about 9,600, so he was set for his next chemotherapy treatment.

On Friday I took Zephyr to Phoenix to see Dr. Knowles for his second chemo treatment and a recheck.  She was super happy with his progress and kept saying how great he looked.  He weighed 85.3 lbs. which is about his normal weight, maybe a little less.  Zephyr was very happy to see everyone, and it was nice for them to be able to see him as his normal happy, goofy self.  In the exam room he kept going up to Dr. Knowles and giving her kisses on the cheek, it was so cute.  We went outside and she was able to watch his gait and see him running around checking everything out.

Zephyr did have his chemotherapy treatment of Lomustine (CCNU).  It ended up not being a lot less than the first 60mg rather than 70mg.  Dr. Knowles wanted to lower it to 50mg but the oncologist recommended against that, so 60mg it was.  He'll start taking an antibiotic tomorrow.  I'm a little worried that he will get sick late this week or this weekend from his WBC count dropping low again.  She said the prednisone helps to raise the WBC count which might help prevent him from getting the fever, etc. again (he wasn't taking prednisone the first time because it had possibly caused some blood in the stool).  Also, I am completely prepared this time with fluids and another antibiotic to give him if he does get the sickies again.

I asked about what type of encephalitis Zephyr has.  My main question was whether he has granulomatous meningoencephalomyelitis (GME), which is a progressive disease that is usually fatal.  She doesn't think he has GME because it usually effects females, is not common in greyhounds, and his response to treatment is not really typical of GME.  She thinks this was an immune mediated (autoimmune) response, which is what she's said from the beginning, and that it probably was a response to something that he came in contact with.  This is good news because GME doesn't usually go away.  She thinks Zephyr has a good chance of not having a re-occurrence, and she's seen this type of encephalitis before.  The scary thing for me is that I don't know what he might have come in contact with that could have caused this.  There are lots of possibilities including, poison, toxin, virus, and who knows what else.  Hopefully, I'm explaining this mostly correct.  From what Dr. Knowles said and what I've read, I've learned that this is something they still don't know a lot about and are still studying.  So, in the end I think I won't ever know for sure what happened to cause the this or exactly what type of encephalitis it is, and that only time will tell if it is completely gone.  That's rather unnerving, but what can I do about it?  Not much, so I will just be ever grateful that Zephyr is still with me and that he is having such a great recovery.

Cruisin' around checkin' out all the new sights and smells.
Our walkies have been really nice, the snow is gone and it's warmed up.  I think this has helped us all feel better and like things are starting to get back to normal.  We've been taking it easy walking on mostly flat ground and not going too far, our longest less than four miles, and not going too fast.  This has given the boys lots of time to investigate and smell around and it's really helped me to relax and get rid of some of the stress.  Yesterday we explored a little and found a few new trails, at least one was a game trail because it headed right to a wire fence where I could see that the animals were crawling under to get past. 

Aahhh, nice cool fresh clean water!
In our exploring we took an old road/trail that ended up leading down to Pumphouse Wash.  It was a really nice secluded spot with a few small pools and lots of trees.

Splish and Splash!
We stayed here awhile, walked around, and the boys played together.  It was really nice to be out and relaxed not having to worry about much.  I've been feeling a little less worried since Zephyr has been doing so well and especially after the great recheck with Dr. Knowles. 

"La, La, La, I'm playing in the water on a nice spring day!"
Astro has been able to get out on some hikes with friends and their dogs the last two weekends.  One was with a few friends and seven other dogs.  All the dogs were able to go off leash and Astro had lots of fun running around.  The real fun started when they found mud puddles.  Unfortunately I was a bad blogger and did not bring the camera, so words will have to do.  Astro loves to lay down and rub his face in the mud and then get all spunky and zoom around.  Zipper, a Pyrenean Shepard, gets her coat soaking wet and then flies around looking like some kind of explosion.  Mouse, a rough coated Dachshund, decided to go swimming in the biggest puddle.  She was just paddling around while everyone else was spinning around.  It was a lot of fun to watch all the dogs.  This weekend we went for a nice walk with Chris and Friday and Linus at Fort Tuthill.  When we were getting the dogs ready Friday went over to my car and was looking and smelling around.  We're pretty sure he was looking for Zephyr, so sweet.  They all got to do some wrestling and to run in the tennis court.  Chris had been working on Drafting with Friday and Linus.  I am thinking we need to hook Astro up to the cart because he pulled me up all the hills on the hike.  As long as Zephyr is feeling well enough for me to feel comfortable leaving him for the day, and as long as it's not too hot, I will be taking Astro to a lure coursing trial on Saturday.  It will be his first trial and I'll just have him do a JC run, but it should be fun.

"Aren't I lookin' Super Fine?"
Yes, you are!  Zephyr's coat did get a less shiny and soft.  He also lost a lot of muscle tone and, of course, hasn't gained a lot of it back because he's been taking it easy.  I think both of those things are normal for what he went through.  They are both already improving though.  The funny thing is that since he has gained weight but doesn't have all the muscle, Zephyr is looking a little, ah hem, rounder in the rear and waist.  I told him not to worry, he just takes after his mom.  ;-)  I actually think it's great, it has always been a struggle to keep weight on this boy. 

When we met with Dr. Knowles I made a comment like, Zephyr can't wait to be able to run in the forest.  She responded with "Maybe in the winter".  Ouch!  I was hoping for maybe later this summer.  I'll have to try asking that question again in a month or so.  They do get to run in the yard though.

I have absolutely no doubt that Zephyr would run full out if I let both of them off.  He would probably end up out of energy, sore, and with a few cuts, which is not an option for him, so we compromise.  To help with the problem of the Flexi's getting tangled up I let Astro off but kept Zephyr on leash. 

This doesn't count as running in the forest does it?

Zig this way.
Astro's got the moves to keep Zephyr moving.
Zag that way.
Resting in the shade. 

A very happy boy coming back from exploring.  And, a very happy mom was waiting for him.
On the way back they had calmed down and I decided to let Zephyr off leash, but kept Astro on.  He explored a little but didn't break out in to the zoomies.  FYI, this doesn't count as running in the forest either.  ;-)

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Feeling Good

"It snowed and I'm going to get to play in it!"
Here's Zephyr, the happy boy who's been feeling pretty good and a little nutty this past week or so!  The encephalitis still seems to be under control, Woo Hoo!!!  I've been taking lots of pictures and thought I would share some along with an update.  My thoughts might seem a little random, it's hard to keep track of everything and then write it down in an organized fashion.  But, I'm finding that writing is really helping me handle everything.  When Zephyr came home I started documenting everything in a notebook.  Dates, times, amounts, behaviors, etc., of everything that happened.  I'm up to about 20 pages now.  When he first got sick over a month ago I thought I was over exaggerating about being so worried about the fact that his head seemed to be bothering him, rather than thinking it was something small and simple, and considering all kinds of horrible things.  I remember even seeing something about encephalitis.  We all know how that turned out, so now every little detail is considered important.  :-)  I have a science background too and I'm sure that has something to do with wanting to record everything, plus it just makes me feel better to write it down.  It's definitely not an exaggeration to say that I have been, and still am, extremely worried about Zephyr and everything that has happened and that could still happen.  I even worry about the fact that I worry and that Zephyr, Astro, and the kitties can tell when I'm so worried and upset, and that it affects them and Zephyr's recovery.  Holy Cow!!  

"Mom, please don't worry so much, I'm going to be okay.  Plus, I love all the chicken and beef you are cooking for me."
I try to stay positive, project a happy attitude for Zephyr and the others (I know they sense these kind of things),  remind myself that I am doing the best I can and that Zephyr is doing a great job of getting better.  I think I'm hyper-sensitive to all this because Zephyr is my first dog, I love him so much, and I've never had a young healthy animal get so sick.  I feel very fortunate to have him right now because I've heard even more stories of people suddenly losing their young dogs. 

Under house arrest and ordered to get even more rest!
Last Thursday, and Friday I was worried that he was coming down with something.  He had been sneezing some and on Friday morning he had a little goop in one eye.  I had been taking him on short walks and, although he had really good energy and wore his coat when out, I was worried that he might have done too much or picked up something from another dog that had been on the trail.  I had also been giving him a limited diet, boiled chicken or beef, at the time because his stool hadn't been normal since getting sick and I really needed to get them under control.  Thursday night he was so hungry, and I was so worried that he was getting sick and needed more nutrition, that I mixed chicken, kibble, and some of the EVO canned beef up and let him eat as much as he wanted.  I think he ate about five cups in addition to the meal he had in the afternoon.  I also stopped the prednisone for 24 hours because it would be suppressing his immune system that was already suppressed from the chemo.  Happily, after the eye goop and more rest, nothing else developed.

Gettin' goofy on the couch!  "Ain't I a cutie?"
Overall, Zephyr's energy and strength have improved even more.  His mood has really improved, he has been very playful and happy.  His personality is getting back to its regular self.  I'm sure his white blood cell level has improved even more from his last test at 3,500 a week and a half ago.  I'm pretty sure he has gained back more of the weight he lost too. 

What a beautiful sight!
Zephyr and Astro have been able to play again and they are so happy!  I always stay close by to monitor and play referee.  Zephyr doesn't have all his strength back, you never know what could happen, and I'm not in the mood to take any chances (although Zephyr is), so I calm things down when he starts doing things like his 180 twists over Astro.  :-)  I want to let him play though because I think it helps him stay happy and also builds strength and coordination.

"I'm so happy Zephyr is getting better!  He's the best!"
Astro has been so awesome through all of this.  I'm sure that he knew/knows what's going on.  When Zephyr wasn't feeling well Astro was so calm and would lie down next to him.  On the Saturday that Zephyr was in the hospital and not doing well I took Astro with me to visit.  Zephyr could barely wake up, etc., so for awhile I just laid next to him and Astro laid down too and rested his head on Zephyr.  What a sweetie.  He has also be extra cuddly with me.  Astro definitely hasn't had his share of walks, running, and play in the past weeks.  He's handled it so well.  I've played with him some in the house and the backyard.  I've also done some fun "training" sessions with chicken and beef treats in the house with both Astro and Zephyr to try and help with boredom.  There doesn't seem to be any kind of cognitive damage from the encephalitis or seizures.  While things were bad he was circling to the right and the Dr. said that was because the right side of his brain was stronger.  I think maybe the left side was more effected by the encephalitis, but I still need to ask about that.  During our sessions I've had him do lots of left turns and circles to strengthen that side and he's done well.

"Uh, Pablo, that's my dog bed."  "Oh yea?  Try and make me move Astro!  Besides, how many times have I seen you try to fit in a cat bed?"
All of the cats; Riley, Pablo, and Annie have even been great too.  They've been sleeping on the bed with me more and often with a dog or two.  Yes, Zephyr's able to get on the bed, no problem.  I've had Zephyr's fabric crate, the big 48 inch long one that is even taller than my bed, at the foot of the bed since he came home, although I'm not zipping it up anymore.  Today when I got home they were playing in the bedroom.  Zephyr decided that rather than go around the fabric crate to get on the bed he would just jump on it and then on to the bed!  Scared the crap out of me!  Then a few minutes later he just jumped over its corner and on to the bed.  I decided that it was time to fold up the fabric crate.  :-)

"What? I know you were done anyway."  Cracker thief!
It's safe to say that Zephyr is even more spoiled now and can pretty much do no wrong.  He's been very hungry and for the first time even begs for food.  I had finished having some cheese and crackers, but there was one cracker left.  He just walked up and took it.  I just watched, let him take it, smiled, and grabbed the camera.  :-)  I'm scared to think about what will happen when I stop cooking chicken and beef for him, and Astro and the kitties because I have to be fair.

"Ha, Ha, Ha, Ha!  We're playing together in the last snow storm of the season!"
This past weekend we had another snow storm, about 10 inches fell.  On Sunday I let Zephyr and Astro out for a few short play sessions.  Again, I referee.  They had the best time and Zephyr did great with no slips or accidents.   

"Catch me if you can, Zephyr!"  "You know I can, Astro!"
I even let them do a few laps around the yard.  It was great to see them playing and running together.  I'm sure it was the happiest they both had been in the past month.

I also want to mention that on Sunday Zephyr had his first normal poo in over three weeks!  Who knew that poo could be such a great thing!  I was so happy! LOL!  His stool had been very soft or runny most likely from all the medicine and diet change.  He's down to only the phenobarbital, prednisone, and Pepcid AC.  As long as things go well, he'll be off the phenobarbital within the next week.

Happy, tired boys after playing in the snow.
I'll probably start taking Zephyr on short walks again tomorrow.  He was full of energy when I got home today and he kept going to the front door wanting to go out.  He's been playing off and on all evening and talking it up too.  Currently he is barking at Pablo, who was resting peacefully.  And he wonders why Pablo gives him a hard time.

Sweet sleepy guy.
This Friday Zephyr will go for another blood draw to check his white blood cell count and everything else.  As long as it all looks good the next Friday we will go to Phoenix to see Dr. Knowles for his next chemotherapy (Lomustine, CCNU) treatment and a checkup.  He'll have to start taking all the antibiotics again then, which is a bit of a bummer because it will probably mess his GI track and stools up again.  The chemotherapy dose will be lower this time since his WBC count dropped really low and he got sick the first time, so that will be better.  I'll be able to talk to the Dr. and ask some questions I still have then.  I'm just so happy that I was able to get him the treatment he needed and that it has gone so well.  The other morning before I got out of bed he jumped up and licked my face.  I couldn't have been happier!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lots of Rest

Zephyr did a great job of getting better this past week.  He started to really gain energy and strength.  He was having some trouble peeing, it was hard for him to get things going, but that's improved a lot.  The neurological symptoms are basically gone, virtually no visible symptoms at least.  His balance and coordination have really improved.  He still slips a little, can trip on things, and can make a mistake going down the stairs.  These things seem to happen especially when he is tired or loopy from the phenobarbital.  He's on a schedule to reduce and hopefully eliminate the phenobarbital.  He's gotten to the point where he really wants to play and has even trotted, and galloped in the yard.  His gait and body is a little off when he gallops/runs. I'm having to be very careful that he doesn't overdo it.  I've let him and Astro play some and a little in the yard, but as is typical for Zephyr he wants to go all out and get too rowdy so I have to reign him in.  :-)  He's also enjoyed barking at neighbors and passers by, chasing a few ravens, and had a couple visitors yesterday and today who were probably surprised to see the little beast bouncing around and me trying to hold him back.  Zephyr has his own little pharmacy going on too.  He doesn't seem to mind since the pills are being wrapped in Muenster cheese (it's soft enough to wrap around and stick to the pills).  He also gets cooked chicken or beef with his meals which seems to be working out nicely for him.  Astro and the three kitties think all these bonuses are pretty good too.  I'm starting to take him on short slow walks.  Today the Dr. said maybe another month of recovering.  I don't want to take any risks and he still gets tired fast and needs lots of rest to heal. 

I took him for more blood work Friday and his WBC count is at 3,500 (normal 7,000) now and everything else looks good.  He's also gained four pounds since last Friday.  He's started taking prednisone again today.  That's also to suppress any inflammation.  He'll have 1 or 2 more rounds of the chemotherapy medicine, Lomustine (CCNU).  His next dose won't be has high since they know how low his WBC level dropped.

So, Zephyr seems to be doing great so far.  I still have questions for the Dr. about what might happen in the future.  She was pretty positive when this all started, saying that often there is recovery without permanent damage.  We've just been focused on getting him on to his recovery, so we haven't talked much about that lately.  It is really hard to not constantly worry and fuss over everything I notice. 

I feel very lucky to have him right now.  I've heard a few stories of friends losing their young healthy dogs in a matter of hours, one was just right before Zephyr got sick.  He's doing an excellent job, I'm really proud of him.