November 2010

Losing Lucy

November was a rough month for Dan and I as we lost our Lucy to cancer. It happened so fast. It's depressing, but I wanted to write it all down.

Since Lucy was a puppy she has had problems with her throat. On occasion, especially when she's excited, she'll make this throat clearing noise until I get her to sit and calm down. In late September and early October she had been doing it a bit more often, but I didn't think anything of it.

On October 7th, I took Lucy into the vet to get her bordatella vaccination. She gets this every year as the kennels require this before they will board a dog. At the same time I scheduled this appointment, I also scheduled Lucy to have her teeth cleaned and a skin tag removed from her hip. That appointment was set for October 15th.

On the morning of the 15th, Lucy was really excited. She loved going out to get in the car with "Daddy", even if it was to ride to the vet. Dan dropped her off and they noticed she sounded a little congested. They checked her out and all seemed fine, so they cleaned her teeth and took care of the skin thing and sent her home with me in the late afternoon.

Saturday, October 16th, Dan and I took Lucy with us for a long car ride up to the North Cascades. We did a couple of little walks, but nothing major as we wanted her to rest and relax after surgery. She loves to ride in the car more than just about anything else. During the day, we noticed a raspy sound to her breath, but she seemed fine.

The following week she started to sound worse, like she had a cold. I called and made a vet appointment for the soonest I could get in, Monday, October 25th. They said it sounded like she had a cold or "a touch of " kennel cough and sent her home with 10 days of antibiotics.

After 10 days there didn't seem to be much improvement, if any. She had a runny nose now and she sounded pretty bad. It seemed like she was having real trouble breathing. So I got the next available appointment with the vet for 3:30p November 9th.

As soon as the vet saw her, she was concerned. Lucy had been getting worse on Monday and Tuesday morning. I thought her gums were a little on the blue/purple side. The vet listened to her lungs, which sounded fine. Then she looked in her mouth and immediately told me to take her to Central Kitsap Emergency Vet in Silverdale. It was 4:30 by that time, but they are 24 hours so I headed over while the vet called to let them know I was coming. I called Dan at work and had him meet me there as it's somewhere between home and his work.

We got her checked in and they put her into an oxygen incubator type contraption. The specialist would look at her in the morning and call us to schedule a time to talk to her.

Dan and I met at the vet's office on Wednesday, November 10th. We met with Dr. Cook-Olson. Our worst fears were realized when she told us that she suspected the problem was an aggressive tumor in her soft palate. She wanted our permission to keep her another night and to run a bunch of tests and biopsies to determine her prognosis. We agreed.

It was a horrible night at the Carvin house as Dan and I contemplated the prospect of losing Lucy. There were tears and we talked again about our feelings regarding quality v. quantity of life. Not a lot of fun.

Thursday morning the doctor called. Lucy had a mass cell tumor in her soft palate. Because of how fast it had grown, she was not optimistic about her prognosis. She laid out all kinds of treatment options. Lucy was not a candidate for surgery because of the location and size of the tumor. She suggested we send her home with some medications (Prednisone, Pepcid, Benadryl) to try to reduce the size of the tumor. After that we could consider a couple of chemotherapy options. I picked her up at 2pm and brought her home.

We gave her the medicines and started feeing her shredded chicken with white rice and baby food. She was happy to be home with us, but still wasn't feeling 100%. The runny nose stopped after a couple of days, which made us hopeful that the medications were working.

On Saturday we took Lucy for a little walk up at Gazzam Lake near our house. She did pretty great and seemed to enjoy smelling and peeing on everything. She didn't go quite as far as she usually does, but we let her set the pace and Dan carried her for a little bit when she didn't want to walk.

On Sunday, November 14th we took her for a bigger outing. I really wanted to take her to the beach because that's her favorite place to run, but the weather was not cooperative. We decided instead to take her to Point No Point up in Hansville, on the northern tip of the peninsula. We took her to the local park down the street for a quick walk and potty break. Then we stopped and got sandwiches for Dan and I and then off to the lighthouse. We had our picnic in the car as it rained.

It stopped raining after lunch, turning more to a drizzle. We bundled up in our rain gear and headed out towards the beach. We took Lucy off leash and she was so happy. She didn't really run orbits like usual, but she was having fun sniffing the driftwood and saying hello to the other dogs that were there. We just walked the loop back around to the car and went home. She was a happy dog!

Lucy's Last Outing

The next week her Aunty Mindy came by to see how she was doing and brought Lucy's friend, Bella to visit. Lucy was having a great day and felt good, wasn't wheezing, and had good energy. It was a happy day and I was optimistic about her being around longer than we expected.

On Wednesday, November 17th, we took Lucy back to Dr. Cook for a re-check. Lucy was so funny. She was thrilled to see Dan there when we arrived. She was excited to see where we were going, but when we went through the front door, you could see her say "OH NO! Not this place again!" But we promised we weren't going to leave her.

Dr. Cook was not happy with her progress. She was glad that some of her symptoms had abated, but the size of the tumor hadn't changed at all. We all had a long talk about chemotherapy and her chances of survival with different treatments. The money were were talking about was scary, but our decisions were made by the fact that her chances of recovery were essentially nil. The doctor said we might be able to get another 5-6 months with all these treatments. And she might make it months with just the medications she was on. Dan and I decided to bring her home and hope for the best.

It was terribly difficult. She's such a huge part of our lives. She's home with me all day and since we don't have children, she's the closest thing we've got to a baby. Not having her in our lives was too hard to think about. But we were comfortable with our decision and decided that every day we got with her was a gift. Whether it was days or weeks, we were going to enjoy our time with her.

On the 21st, we took her on a walk up to the dog park by our house. She loves to walk with the two of us together. She looks back and forth between us as we head up the hill. She was pretty tired when we got her home, but I thought she seemed okay. Later that night her breathing started to get worse.

Monday the 22nd we had snow flurries in the morning. The snow kept coming. Lucy's breathing was getting worse during the day and I started to wonder if today was the day. I had talked to Dan a couple of times and he was really busy at work. He agreed to head home early since the roads were getting bad. He had a 1:30 meeting and a photo to pose for at 2pm, but after that he would come home. I thought that would give us enough time to get to the vet if Dan thought it was time.

He called at 3:30pm to say that he had just got out of his meeting and was headed home. At the same time I was watching TV of the cars stuck on the freeway in Seattle. I was super worried about him being able to get home. As it got close to 5pm, the wind was really picking up and our power started to flicker on and off. I quickly got some dinner on the stove and started moving things downstairs if we had to camp down there if the power went out.

About 5:30, as I was putting the last of the cookware from dinner into the sink the lights went out and stayed out. I called Dan and he was not making much progress getting home. He had run into a total blockage of the road to the freeway and had gotten off and was taking surface streets to Poulsbo. I told him about the power outage and he said we should go downstairs and get the basement set up.

Dan pulled into the driveway at about 7:30, only 4 hours after he left his office 30 miles away. The dinner I made wasn't hot, but it was still warm, so we ate that and put the leftovers in the refrigerator. After that I told Dan about how concerned I was about Lucy and how I had hoped he could have gotten home earlier so we could take her to the vet. Dan thought she sounded bad, but seemed happy he was home.

We spent that night in the basement, in the dark, with the heat provided by the wood burning stove. At about 1:30 in the morning, Lucy wanted to go outside desperately. In the time it took me to slip on my jacket and boots, she was pooping all over the living room floor. :( We got her outside for the rest and I started cleaning up the mess as best I could by flashlight and without water. She went back to sleep, but was restless and agitated. We tried to sleep to, but we were both up a couple of times as Lucy started to throw up and was having real trouble.

At 7:30am, I was trying to call the vet. Their phones had been forwarded to the emergency vet in Poulsbo about 15 miles away. Neither of us liked the idea of inching our way over there with the chains on, so we kept trying to call our local vet.

By 10am we still couldn't get through, so I gave the emergency hospital our information and told them we were on our way. I got all the documentation from Dr. Cook and put it in my purse, wrapped Lucy up in a towel and grabbed a pile of paper towels. Dan had put the chains on the car and we made our way out.

Dan wanted to drive by the local vet to see if they were there, but unable to unforward their phones. It was only a block out of our way, so it made sense to try. We got there and an Open sign was in the window, but the hospital was all dark. Dan ran in to see if they could help us while Lucy and I waited in the car. Dan waved us in a couple minutes later.

Dr. Barfield and a tech were there in the dark. We went into an examination room lit with a camping light and got ready to say goodbye. It was quiet and Dr. Barfield is so wonderful. We gave Lucy lots of kisses and hugs and told her how much we loved her. I got to hold her while the doctor gave her the first shot. I held her in my arms and she looked up at Dan and we talked to her until she was sleepy. Then we moved her to the table and the doctor gave her the final shot that stopped her heart. We said goodbye and they told us that they would send us the bill later.

Dan and I went to Safeway, which was in the dark, to see if we could buy some lunch meat or something, but all the frozen and refrigerated food was already tossed out. So we inched back to the house to sit in the dark and miss Lucy. Our power came back on the next day and our water the morning after that (Thanksgiving morning).

We decided to have Lucy cremated and have her ashes returned to us. I have no idea what we're going to do with them, but we have discussed a couple of ideas. On Saturday, November 27th, we needed to get out of the house. The snow had melted and we decided to go to Long Beach, WA for the day. We had a nice time, but there wasn't a moment that both of us weren't wishing Lucy was there with us. Standing out on the beach and not seeing her running giant orbits around us broke my heart. We both miss her so much. We probably always will. She was a good dog.

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