Friday, July 29, 2011

July 4th Hike

Astro and I went for a hike with friends on July 4th weekend.  I'm finally getting around to posting the pictures.  There were seven people and eight dogs on the hike.  This was actually only the third or fourth time Astro had gone hiking with a large group.  He had a great time with his friends.  These pictures are all courtesy of Tammy since I forgot my camera.

Woody and his mom, Karin, joined us on the hike for the first time.  Woody had a lot of fun and did a great job.  It was pretty warm for everyone that day.

This sweet girl, Tess, passed away the next week.  She suddenly got sick and it turned out she had cancer.  She had a great time on the hike and you never could have guessed she was sick.  It was so sad to here she had passed.  Lucy is in the background.  She and Astro are the same age and have been in classes together since Puppy Kindergarten.  Now we are in agility together.

Astro trying to get a break from all the big dogs chasing him.

 Happy Hikers!

Luckily this hole almost always has some water in it, so the dogs were able to cool off.  Right before we got to the water hole Astro, Kenda, and Linus found a cow!  That's right, Holy Cow, right there next to the trail!  We were going around a corner, Astro took off, and I could tell he was on to something.  When I got around the corner he was bouncing in the air looking toward a tree and some bushes.  I thought a critter had run into the bushes and then I saw the cow standing next to the tree.  Tammy and I ran up and I called Astro.  He came, but then decided he might like to try to jump a log and go see the cow.  The cow would have none of that and decided it would jump the log and come at us.  We all scattered as the cow crashed through, skidded as it turned, and then ran down the canyon.  Kenda wanted to use her herding skills, but Mom wouldn't let her.  Linus stood guard for everyone.  Astro started to chase it, but thought better when he got to some bushes and I called him.  It was a young cow that was separated from it's group.  I hope it was okay.  I love cows.  :-)

After all the excitement and cooling off in the water Astro and Linus had to get their Ya, Ya's out.

Kenda, the blur, and Ketzel decided to join in the fun.  Astro and Kenda have a little bit of a "friendship" going on now.  ;-) 

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Happy Birthday Astro!

Astro had his 2nd birthday yesterday!  He is is still full of puppy play.  Sometimes out of the blue when he is laying quietly all of a sudden he will start to kick his legs, squirm around, and start barking it up being a complete goof ball.  He loves his toys and he loves to play tug.  He just loves to play!

I do think he is starting to get some of that handsome adult dog look to him.  Sometimes I'll get a glimpse of him and I'll think "He's starting to not look like a puppy".  And then I go back in to denial.  I remember when this started to happen with Zephyr too.  I think it's really neat to watch them change as they grow.

This picture was actually taken during one of his goofy moments.  Astro and Zephyr had been mouthing at each other and then Zephyr started doing the nibbling and grooming on his neck.

The big birthday present was beef trachea chews.  I had seen Scout enjoying some and it turns out our feed store has them.  I made sure to get the ones that looked like they had lots of good stuff on them.

The trachea chews were a big hit with both boys!

In the evening we went on a birthday walk.  It wasn't too long because Zephyr is still recovering from the chemo.  The day before Astro and I did go on a hike with a friend and her dogs.  When we got back to her house Astro had a great time playing in the kiddie pool and then rubbing and rolling in the dirt until his face, chest, and legs were caked in mud.  He also had an awesome time running around the yard with Mouse, a dachshund.

The boys scan the forest for things to chase.  Astro and I have actually been able to get out on a few hikes and I have some great pictures that I'll post soon.

Astro may be getting older but he still thinks he can fit in the famed blue berber ball like he did when he was a puppy.  Happy Birthday Astro, I love you!!!

Monday, July 18, 2011


"HA, HA, HA, HA, HA, HA!"  OMG!  "HEE, HEE, HEE, HEE!"
Someone, I think different people, has visited the blog in the last couple of weeks because they did a search for "What medicine can I take to make my butt look bigger?"  Seriously people?  You want your butt to look bigger and you think there is medicine that will do that?  Well, I guess there is, it's Predinisone.  But really?  Of course this is all because of Zephyr's concern, which he doesn't have anymore anyway.  He's very comfortable with is body.  ;-)  Aren't ice cream, cake, pastries, cookies, Alfredo sauce, ...., the best medicine for that?  Zephyr sure thinks those things are great medicine.  But, he's also taken to wanting bean burritos.  Zephyr says that when you are taking prednisone you are at risk of dying from starvation at any moment.  Except the moment your mother wants you to try a new turkey, fish, and sweet potato canned food, and Astro agrees.  Then you can survive forever without eating. 
"People are so weird!"  Zephyr can't stop laughing and Astro is really worried that people like this exist!
You know how on the Feedjit Live Traffic Feed you can look and find out how people found your blog sometimes?  That's how I found this out.  I like the Feedjit because I've seen that lots of people have found us from searching for hiking with a greyhound, and even greyhound and chemotherapy once.  So, hopefully they found some helpful information.  "Butt" really people??  ;-)  Seriously?  I think it was two different people because the phrase was slightly different each search.  Now I've just realized they'll find us even more often because I used the phrase is this post.  Hey, maybe they'll find some helpful information?  I did gave them a few good options to try.  You know how I am, I just want to help out.  Ha, Ha, Ha, ......, Ha, Ha, .....

Friday, July 15, 2011

Zephyr's Follow-Up MRI and Cerebrospinal Fluid

Even after anesthesia Zephyr was still ready for some pool time.  He also had fun running a little and rolling in the grass. 
This Tuesday Zephyr went for his follow-up MRI and a spinal tap to look at his Cerebrospinal fluid (CFS, fluid from the brain).  Things went well.  Zephyr is a lot better, but not 100% yet.  His MRI came out totally normal, nothing abnormal at all, it looked really good.  YAY!!  It's possible he still has scar tissue because often that won't show on an MRI.  Unfortunately his spinal fluid showed some abnormalities.  The CFS is taken from the base of the head and top of the neck and it showed that there is probably still some inflammation in his brain and that the encephalitis is probably still active.   It had a white blood cell count of 8 (normal is less than 5), the protein was 32 (normal is less than 25).  There is also some overpopulation of lymphocytes and macrophages, which I guess are types of white blood cells that occur when there is a problem.  She said his fluid isn't really bad, but definitely abnormal.

Because of this Zephyr has to continue with his treatment for awhile.  His blood work came back looking "boring" as Dr. Knowles put it  :-) , which is great since he's taking prednisone and phenobarbital.  Since the blood looked good he had another chemotherapy treatment this morning.  It's a little strange having to wear a glove to give your dog pills.  Zephyr is really good with taking pills no matter how I give them.  But when they're wrapped in Muenster cheese, as they always are, Zephyr is usually waiting anxiously for his meds.  After he recovers from this chemo treatment he'll probably take a mild chemotherapy drug, Procarbazine, long term, probably months.  We've also gone back to the prednisone twice a day.  So, this is disappointing.  He was so close to being normal in the fluid.  :-(  She said that when he was first sick if they would have been able to look at his spinal fluid his white blood cell count could have been up to 300 and it's 8 now.  Even if that's an exaggeration it's a huge improvement, which is great.

Astro had fun playing at my parents house while we were waiting to hear about Zephyr.  I did take Astro in the pool and he swam for the first time.  But, he did not really like it and I have the scratches and bruises to show for it.  I think we'll have better luck in a natural pool with a more gradual drop and where he can see the bottom better.
There's a possibility that the abnormalities are there because his body just hasn't cleared all the yucky stuff from the original illness out yet.  She also said that it's possible that he could just go on to heal on his own without more chemo or other medicine.  She said who knows what happens with dogs who have this disease and don't have the follow up work.  But there's no way to know these things and it's just as likely that the encephalitis is still active and that if we don't continue treatment it could come back.  Obviously I can't take that risk.  It's a bummer because he could be taking these nasty medicines when he doesn't really need them.  I'm taking the most aggressive treatment option, the Dr. and I thought it would be best even though he was almost normal.  She thought a lot about whether to give him another dose of the chemo verses just starting him with the mild chemo drug.  I think we're just trying to make sure we do everything possible to get rid of it and not risk it coming back.  Unfortunately I'll never have a 100% guarantee of it not coming back.

My cousin Mike came over to hang out for the day, which was really fun.  Astro decided it was much more fun and safer to hang out with him since clearly I had gone crazy and tried to drown him in the pool.
We're still not sure what's causing the seizures.  It could be scar tissue or inflammation from the encephalitis.  I think maybe she leans toward it being scar tissue, but there's no way to know.  I did learn that inflammation is an actual physical substance of cells, etc., verses swelling which is caused by inflammation.  I had been wondering about this because I could tell she used the terms differently.  It seems like even if he still has a tiny amount of inflammation in his brain it could disrupt things and cause seizures.  Especially combined with his brain still healing and possibly having scar tissue.  We did up his phenobarbital from 45mg 2/day to 60 2/day since he still had one seizure a week ago on 45.

Zephyr loves to hang out on the big middle step of the pool.  When he was there Astro was much more comfortable and actually came in a few times.  When you're in Phoenix in the middle of July, even on a cool day of 103 you're in the pool a lot.  It was actually really fun and relaxing, especially with the good news about Zephyr.
I'm really glad that I had this done.  Overall I think the news is good and this has definitely given us information that has allowed us to give Zephyr a better chance at complete recovery.  I think it will really help me now that I know more about what's going on and where we're at with this.  It's too bad though because he was so close to normal.  She did tell me one dog with this had to have 3 MRIs before it was normal, so that made me feel better.

After a big day Zephyr finally crashed out.  Anyone want to make bets on when the shaved patch will be all grown in?  It's from the spinal tap and actually goes up a little between his ears.  I have to put sunscreen on it to protect his pure white skin.  I tried a bandanna, which looked really cute, but it kept flopping back and not covering the top part.
He'll have to take it easy again in a few days when his white blood cell count is low.  Poor boy.  He's been feeling great though and I've taken him on some longer walks and down to Pumphouse Wash where he and Astro get all nutty in the tall grass.  It's really hard to leave him home when Astro and I are going to do things he would love.  I'm learning lots of patience with all of this.

Friday, July 8, 2011

It Figures

Later in the day the boys were playing.
Just when I start to think things are going well and Zephyr is going to start getting back to normal he has another seizure.  It was like the others, early this morning, 4:20,  while he's sleeping.  I was able to give him the diazepam to stop the seizure pretty quickly.  The main part was about 2 minutes or so, it's always hard to time exactly even when I look at the clock.  Then it takes a minute or so for him to wake up.  And then he is very anxious, confused and concerned, and his eyesight and coordination are off.  The eyesight and coordination seem to come back within about 30 minutes, but he is still anxious and upset for about another hour.  I really think that each dose of diazepam, which is valium, should come with a courtesy dose for the person who just had to administer it to their animal.

I came into the room to find Zephyr had the pile of poop bags on the floor at his feet.  So I let them tear two up and it led to this rousing romp.
So, after corresponding with Dr. Knowles, Zephyr is scheduled for his follow up MRI and possible spinal fluid tap next Tuesday morning.  I'm waving Bye Bye to my savings as I have been since March.  But, I'd rather have him anyway.  I do get the 50% recheck discount.  WooHoo!  I've known she wanted to do this but was trying to put it off a bit.  She says this will tell us if the encephalitis is gone or not and whether we can proceed to eliminate the prednisone or if he will need more chemotherapy.  The MRI might also show scar tissue which is possibly what is causing his seizures.  This is all a huge expense, but since I'm in it this far I think I need to stick with it and follow through with everything.

Luckily he seems to be okay after the seizures.  He and Astro were playing a few times today.
I am already totally nervous about what the MRI and maybe spinal tap will show.  I'm also worried that something will happen while he is under anesthesia or afterward.  Like it triggers the encephalitis or a cluster of seizures or worse.  Again, a complementary dose of diazepam for the parent of the patient would be really nice.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Does This Medicine Make My Butt Look Big?

Update Note: For those of you who ended up here because you are really looking for a medicine that will make your butt or hips bigger.....  You need to stop that!  There is nothing wrong with you.  You are perfect and beautiful just the way you are!  Now, go eat some ice cream.  :-)

Zephyr:  Mom, is my medicine making my butt look big?

Me:  What do you mean, Zephyr?

Zephyr:  My Butt, is it bigger, fatter, softer, rounder?!

Me:  Zephyr, you look great!  Besides, people don't accuse me of dog abuse anymore.

Zephyr:  Agh.  Mom, look close, see how you can't even see my pelvic bones poking out on my back anymore?  And, look it's all puffy and big on my back above where my pelvic bones used to show!

Me:  Zephyr, prednisone does those kind of things.  It makes you hungrier and it can even make you look all puffy and bigger even when you haven't really gained weight.  I've seen that happen to people.  Plus, you've been very sick and you've had to take it really easy and focus on healing the past 4 months.  Which, you've done an excellent job at by the way.

Zephyr:  Look, even my belly is bigger and wider!  I don't like this, I'm not able to go on the big hikes and run and play like I want too.  And, what's up with the heat this summer?  It seems like it's warmer and I don't like it at all.  Also, I'm worried the other dogs will make fun of me and the girls won't think I'm cute.  Oh ya, and my fur on my arms and belly still hasn't even grown all back from when they shaved it, the fur on my lower back legs has thinned, and my skin has been so dry!  This is so frustrating, I've always prided myself on my nice fur.

Me:  Oh Zephyr, I know, I don't like these things either.  But, I'm thinking these are all normal for a pup who's been through so much.  You've been recovering from encephalitis, through three chemotherapy treatments, getting seizures controlled, and taking prednisone.  You're actually doing so well!  Besides in the past 2 weeks we've been able to reduce your prednisone from 5mg twice a day to 5mg once a day.  We could try not giving you fresh cooked ground beef with your meals as often? That might help with your waistline and roundness?

Zephyr:  Ya, I do feel better, but it makes me feel all achy, groany, and tired for about 4 days after we reduce the prednisone.  I know you tried to make it better by only doing 2.5mg reductions at a time, but it was still yucky.  Very funny about the beef, Ggrrr.

Me:  I know, I'm sorry about not feeling well.  We'll do even smaller reductions next time.  But, don't you feel so much better now?  I don't think you have to worry about the other dogs or girls, Zephyr.  Friday is so happy you're getting better, and Kenda sure was happy to see you the other day. You've actually been able to get out on a lot more walkies lately and they're getting longer.  And, what about our walk down to Pumphouse Wash this morning, wasn't that nice?

Zephyr:  It's true I do feel better now, and Pumphouse Wash was awesome!  I loved being off leash and the water was so nice and cool!

Me:  Ya, and I think I saw you doing some running.  You were so happy!

Zephyr:  It was so fun running through the grass and down the trail!  I can't go at my top speed yet or as long.  But it sure felt great!  Why didn't you bring the camera?  No one will believe I was there, and that's really not good blogging, Mom.

Me:  I know, I've been lame lately and always forgetting the camera.  It's hard because usually I have you and Astro both on leash.  It's not easy holding two Flexi's with moving dogs in one hand and taking pictures with the other you know.

Zephyr:  Okay, but I think you need to remember the camera.  People are going to start thinking I'm just being lazy and livin' like a prince or something like that.