When Mina died five months ago many people told me that “time heals all wounds.” I don’t think that’s true, really. I think time can lessen the pain but the loss is always present. I can’t imagine a day in my life, whatever I have left, when I won’t miss Mina and her soft brown eyes.

Today marks a sad anniversary – it’s a year since I learned that Mina had canine lymphoma. I can relive that trip to our regular vet’s office just as clearly as if it were yesterday. I see on the exam room counter the lab report from the fine needle aspirate of one of Mina’s enlarged lymph nodes. I see the word “LYMPHOMA” in the diagnosis box. I remember Dr. Cliver telling me our options and I remember tears running down my face as I slowly processed the information. “Mina has cancer. She has to have chemotherapy. She might die.”

I called everyone I knew on my way home to Mina. I tried to pull myself together so that when I opened the door Mina wouldn’t know I was upset. That never worked. She was just too smart and tuned in to my emotions not to know something was wrong.

How has it been a year since that awful day of learning what caused her loss of appetite and muscle mass? It seems impossible to be at the one-year mark for anything related to Mina’s cancer. What I wouldn’t give to have that time with her back …

2006, looking out over my shoulder as we drove through Halfway, VA

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Lately I’ve been bunking on the couch in the living room to be near Mina at night. I have to give my back a break tonight, though, ’cause my couch is not comfortable. Eco-friendly, yes, comfy? Not in the least.

Mina’s nights are pretty rough. She pants heavily, with a raspy sound coming from her throat sometimes. She drinks a couple of bowls full of water, and she needs to go outside at least once or twice. The coughing gets really going near the hour of the wolf (around 3 a.m. when you can’t sleep because you’re worried about something), and when she gets any sleep at all, she urinates and sometimes awakens with a start. When Mina’s awake, I’m awake.

I’ve compared notes with Colleen, who’s beloved Tosca is also taking big doses of Prednisone for lymphoma, and we think the panting is caused by the Pred. It’s worst at night, because during the day Mina mostly sleeps.

She takes at least one walk per day to visit her friends in the leasing office, but then we stay pretty close to our building. She has stumbled a couple of times on the stairs and during walks so her arthritic right carpus is getting worse, and I’ve noticed some weakness in her back legs, too. Poor girl has barely any muscle mass left from the cancer, and her weakened immune system from the chemo adds to the problem. I will say, though, that there are some improvements since ending chemo in early September. Her belly,which had turned completely black during chemo, is starting to look more pink. Her hair is coming back and there’s no sign of the return of the sarcoptic mange.

But this is all cosmetic stuff, the cancer is definitely wearing her down. I’m trying to let her know by not making her walk any further than she likes, and by offering to carry her up the stairs (an offer she steadfastly refuses), that she doesn’t have to act as if she feels better than she really feels. I let her sleep when she wants and I feed her at least four times a day – big meals – and she’s allowed to snack on anything I have, too. She can eat shitty dog biscuits, which she seems to love, try vegetables off my plate, and have whole jars of organic baby food for dessert.

So far, she’s given me no indication that she’s had enough, but I fear that will come very quickly, and probably at night.

s.

It’s so nice to have vets, and their staff, who truly care about their patients and their patients’ humans. What a change from our experience at VIMP!

Mina didn’t have an appointment yesterday, but since Dr. Nolan hadn’t seen her in a while, and she was between patients, she took a few minutes to check Mina’s lymph nodes. When I told her that Mina is coughing and hacking at night and breathing very loudly, Dr. Nolan told me that Mina’s mandibular and medastinal lymph nodes are so enlarged that they’re blocking her air passage.

Dr. N. suggested a low dose of prednisone to try and shrink those nodes. So, in addition to the Metoclopramide (anti-nausea) and Metronidazole (anti-diarrhea and anti-bacterial), Mina’s taking 5 mg. of Prednisone twice a day.

Mina on the way home from the vet, looking perturbed

Mina on the way home from the vet, looking perturbed

Already last night she was drinking more water than usual and she ate about four baked, boneless dead chicken thighs. She seemed overly warm last night but I didn’t wake up as often as I had the night before from her coughing. Maybe she didn’t cough/gag as much or maybe I slept too well?

This morning she didn’t seem up to much of a walk, but she did eat some chickens and all over her meds, supplements, and homeopathic remedies.

Thanks to everyone who’s written comments and written to me personally about their experiences with euthanasia. I’ve had to euthanize two pets, as an adult, and I knew that Sammie was ready because she was suffering so, but I was never quite as confident about Wolfie. She had a brain tumor and it was making her constantly hungry and we believe she was hallucinating. Still, that last morning before our appointment at her vet’s office, it seemed she was a little perkier than the day before. I didn’t find the experience at all peaceful as my niece, then 3 and a half years old, was hysterical the entire time. I am determined to do better for Mina when her time comes.

In the meantime, we’re spending as much time together as possible, and I’m giving up my Sanctuary volunteer work to be home with her all weekend. I will resume that work at a later date.

A week after Mina’s last chemotherapy treatment was her happiest period. She was playful and energetic and eating well and we had some hope for a few good months of high quality life.

Since then we’ve found enlarged lymph nodes (right prescapular and right mandibular), sarcoptic mange, a fluidy-feeling lump in the sagging skin under her chin, and more symptoms of arthritis. There’s no more spring in her step or trot in her daily walks, she has a look of pain about her gaunt face most of the time, and her breath could knock a buzzard off a shit-wagon.

Granted, she’s still eating well but she’s not gaining any weight. She’s bony and thin with skin hanging from her belly and under her chin.

Mina, it appears, is in decline. I’ve been wrestling with this all weekend and have probably made us both sick (she has the runs, I have the runs and a slight fever). I’m still hoping the homeopathic medicine will do some good for her but I feel like things are winding down.

Here’s what else I know about Mina … she’s very perceptive and very keyed in to my emotions. I believe she can tell by scent when I’m in full-on high anxiety mode and when I’m relaxed. She probably wishes I’d drink more wine. She still enjoys going for rides in the car. She still enjoys meeting other dogs on our frequent walks around the complex, and she still enjoys a long belly rub and some butt scratches. But I don’t think she feels particularly good at the moment. Maybe this will change, but my brain tells me that it probably won’t change.

s.