It shouldn’t surprise anyone who’s been reading Mina’s blog since April that our carpet is a crime scene. Cancer and chemotherapy teamed up to make my sweet Mina Bean vomit, have diarrhea, and be incontinent all over the carpet in our apartment.

None of it was Mina’s fault in the least, but she always looked so unhappy after throwing up or letting fly the liquid poo. It wasn’t enough that the chemotherapy made her feel terrible, but it also made her violate her code of behavior. Mina’s not a fancy girl, but she seems to appreciate a clean carpet to lay on and a home that’s not an obstacle course.

I cleaned up after her diligently, always reassuring her as I cleaned that everything was OK, that she was a very good girl and not to worry. “We’re a team, sweetie – you make a mess and I clean!”

Still, there’s only so much that vinegar and baking soda can handle and today it’s time to clean the carpet. A friend is coming on Saturday to stay the weekend and I need to remove forensic evidence from the carpet.

You’re wondering why this is such a big deal, right? I’m wondering that myself. I think it’s because it feels like I’m cleaning up vestiges of living, breathing Mina baby. Am I sweeping away her scent and her hairs and DNA? Am I making too many changes and bringing in too many new things since Mina died? (There’s a new tablecloth, computer, purse, and scanner to date.) We talked about this a little last night in the aplb.org chatroom. Someone felt it was wrong to make any changes because it would alter the landscape of her life with her beloved companion. I feel that way, too. Let’s face it – canines like routine, they like things to be in the same place and this is true especially as they get older. That’s why I’m so glad we enjoy living here because Mina was nine years old when we moved here and she was clearly unhappy about another change.

But, as Mina’s Auntie Sue told me, it’s not nice to put your guests on an Aero bed on the carpet if the carpet bears reminders of Mina’s illness. So that’s what I’m going with today: I’m not sweeping away bits of my baby girl, but sweeping away vestiges of the hateful cancer that she fought so hard against and lost.

It still makes me sad and I’m not going to fight it.

I love you sweetie, I love you, I love you, I love you

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Mina is in hospice and I’m the hospice care giver. You never think of this part of your life with your beloved pet when they’re frisky puppies, but you always hope they have long, happy lives. I think Mina’s had a long and happy life with me. She has enriched my life in more ways than I can ever repay her. Here’s what our day is like, when I’m able to stay home with her.

4:00 a.m. – Alarm rings, I get up, stumble to kitchen, put 1/8 teaspoon of Cell Salts homeopathic remedy in my hand. Wake up Mina, let her lick it from my hand.

4:10 a.m. – Get dressed to go outside for our morning walk.

4:15 a.m. – Try to wake up very sleepy Mina to put on her carpus brace and harness. This takes a while because she’s old and she takes Benadryl at night.

4:25 a.m. – Stumble outside and slowly make our way downstairs. If it’s raining, she stops to pee on the lawn, if it’s dry, then we might walk a little ways until she has to poop. On very good days, she’ll walk for about 20 minutes at a very slow pace. This doesn’t happen much any more. We used to zip around the complex in about 12 minutes flat, including potty stops, when Mina was healthy. She had this trot that you had to see to appreciate, because her butt swayed as she bounced along. She rarely walked, she always bounced.

4:45 a.m. Mix up the liquid homeopathic medicine, syringe it into Mina’s mouth. I spend the next 15 minutes doing “busy work” to give the homeopathy a chance to do its thing. Now that Mina’s on Prednisone again, at a the 20 mg. per day dosage, I grab all the sheets and towels off the carpet, and spray the pee spots with a vinegar and water 50 percent solution, then put all the laundry in the washer. By then, it’s time for breakfast!

5:05 a.m. BREAKFAST! Mina is ready to eat, thanks to the palliative wonder drug, Prednisone. She gets baked chicken thighs or baked beef (mixed with oatmeal and parsely and a little garlic powder). When she’s done we start the supplements/medication round. That includes a couple of spoonfuls of organic baby food (she likes Earth’s Best, especially the creamy chicken apple compote dinner) with a third capsule of IP6, then the following are wrapped in organic peanut butter and popped into her mouth: half tablet of Iron Free One Daily vitamin, a fish oil capsule, one capsule of IMM Power hybridized mushroom supplement, one tablet of Dasuquin MSM, 250 mg. tablet of Metronidazole (for diarrhea which comes right back if she doesn’t take this medicine), and 10 mg. of Prednisone. Then she gets to lick the spoon.

That whole process takes about 15 minutes. On work days, it’s become impossible for me to get out the door by 6 a.m. unless I have absolutely everything ready the night before. On non-work days, I’ll have breakfast and tea while reading work e-mail, etc., until around 7 a.m. when it’s time for another walk. Mina is usually ready for a somewhat longer walk by then, but sometimes we don’t make it even to the leasing office.

I intersperse my work time with taking her outside frequently, because of the Prednisone, and feeding her. Mina will eat at least four meals a day now, and she’d eat more if I let her! Lately, she’s allowed to have almost anything she wants including my food, as long as it’s not any of the foods known to cause instant toxicity. Yesterday evening she ate almost as many roasted carrots, parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, and sweet potatoes as I did. She’s also fond of Auntie Lolo’s Cheese Nips.

Mina sleeps a lot now and she often sleeps deeply, but mostly at night with the aid of Benadryl. Last night, around 11:45 p.m. I awoke to check on her and found her laying on her side between the couch and the coffee table. Her mouth was open slightly and her outer eyelids closed and, in the half darkness, I couldn’t discern any breathing. My heart stopped for a moment as I said her name, she slowly opened her eyes, sat up, and started coughing. I gave her some water and she panted until I calmed her down again.

She still gets up to bark at people or dogs going by our open windows. It’s chilly in here, but I keep them open to make her more comfortable. If she feels I’m spending too much time at my desk, or too much time in the kitchen, she lets me know but laying down nearby and staring at me until I stop what I’m doing and pay her some attention.

By 4 p.m., it’s time for another round of meds and supplements. This time she gets a larger quantity of organic baby food with 1 teaspoon of bone meal mixed in – a favored treat. Then she gets 1000 mg. of vitamin C with bioflavanoids, 1 milkthistle capsule, 20 mg. Prednisone, 250 mg. Metronidazole – all wrapped in peanut butter. She typically takes all of this after she eats.

Around 8 p.m., I give her 50 mg. of Benadryl to help her sleep because the Pred can make her restless all night. Dogs can handle more Benadryl than we can. Around 8:30 p.m. it’s time for the Cell Salts, then 15 minutes later the second liquid homeopathy dose. I’m still giving it to her, even though it didn’t halt the progress of her cancer, because it’s only beneficial, has no side effects, and is likely doing some good for her in some way.

Mina sleeps out in the living room, and has for nearly three years now. She used to sleep at the end of my bed, or on the floor beside my bed, until around March of 2007. I’m not sure what triggered this complete change in her sleeping habits, but she absolutely will not sleep in the bedroom unless I’m not in it.

Every day is a good day while Mina’s here with me. I do notice decline in her energy every day now, and she hasn’t picked up a toy to play in a week or so. We are closer than ever and I treasure these days with her.

s.

I don’t think it will be the last for us.

Mina was up most of the night coughing, gagging, drinking water, and getting me to take her outside. I don’t think either of us slept more than a couple of hours. I feel like I’ve been hit on the head with a hammer.

This morning she took a much longer than usual walk at a very slow pace, limping a bit more as we neared home. She ate a good breakfast, took all her meds and supplements, and is resting on the tile by the door. I’m trying to get some work done from home.

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.

That’s what I call my kitchen now that I have to boil and dismember chicken carcasses for Mina’s bland diet. I get them from Whole Foods so at least they’re not filled with animal digest, hormones, and antibiotics, but free-range is a myth and buying those carcasses troubles me deeply. Boiling and cutting them up makes me want to puke every single time.

Mina eats the carcass with great gusto. It’s not nutritionally balanced, though, and I can’t coerce her into eating the Udo’s Pet Essentials supplement when I sprinkle it on her food. She just turns and walks away. DIVA. SPOILED.

She’s eating a lot and drinking a lot and peeing a lot. She’s still taking 10 mg. of Prednisone every other day and I cannot wait for her to get off this steroid. My water bill for 48 days was nearly TRIPLE what it is usually because of all the laundry to keep Mina and the carpet pee-free. Chemotherapy is not eco-friendly. I shudder to think what my electricity bill looks like but now that she’s shaved down for summer, the thermostat is back at 77F.

Overall, this looks to be a good week for the Bean. She’s energetic – y’know, for a 12.7-year old pooch – she’s very interested in eating, and she’s perky enough that I think we might venture to the winery in Delaplane on Saturday before it gets crowded. We both need a pleasant outing, I think.

Just got to get her to eat a more nutritionally balanced diet for a cancer patient and then figure out how to get some muscle back on her bones. She’s so cute with her new haircut that I’m constantly smooching her face and I think she’s getting annoyed with me.

s.

From Buddha, via Colleen:

“Those who unhesitatingly embrace and tenderly serve
All suffering creatures during this degenerate age,
Just as a loving mother painstakingly cares
For even the most wayward of her children
They alone are the teachers of the holy life.”

Mina had her IV treatment with Vincristine today. This drug is commonly used in non-Hodgkins and canine lymphoma and is administered intravenously. Here’s how it works, according to Wikipedia: “Tubulin is a structural protein which polymerises to form microtubules. The cell cytoskeleton and mitotic spindle, amongst other things, are made of microtubules. Vincristine binds to tubulin dimers, inhibiting assembly of microtubule structures. Disruption of the microtubules arrests mitosis in metaphase. The vinca alkaloids therefore affect all rapidly dividing cell types including cancer cells, but also intestinal epithelium and bone marrow.”

If Mina is going to experience side effects, they’ll probably occur in the third or fourth days after treatment. That’s when the drug reaches its peak.

Overall, her cancer docs are pleased with how she’s doing. They measured her peripheral lymph nodes and found they had shrunk a little. They’re nowhere near normal, but they’re smaller. They palpated her spleen and it didn’t seem smaller, but they didn’t perform an ultrasound to check.

She stays on the prednisone at the same dose she’s been on the past week. It’s possible they’ll reduce the dose after this week, though, but she’ll have to be weaned off it slowly.

She lost a pound. That was depressing news. I asked why, when I’m feeding her several times a day, is she losing weight? The vet tech said it could be that she’s shedding her cancer. She has lost a lot of muscle mass.

But the news got even more depressing … Mina’s CBC results indicated anemia of 32.5 percent along with an elevated white cell count of 17,000. This could mean that the lymphoma is in her bone marrow. If that proves true, then the chemo won’t extend her life. We won’t know until next week when they take blood again for another CBC. I’m not dwelling on this now because I just want to enjoy being with her and not be all depressed and sad.

The VIMP budgies were puffed up and snuggling today.

The VIMP budgies were puffed up and snuggling today.

I took Mina home and gave her the prednisone in a beef-flavored Pill Pocket, and left to visit Dr. Cliver and run some food errands.

At Dr. Cliver’s I got a prescription of Metoclopramide, in case she does have nausea and vomiting – I’ll need to pick up some Imodium in case she has diarrhea.

I mentioned the anemia and white cell counts to Dr. Cliver and she asked what I’m feeding Mina. Right now she’s still eating boiled chicken and cooked Chow Now along with a few treats. Dr. Cliver had read the label on the Chow Now and said “There are no carbohydrates in Mina’s diet!” She thinks it’s possible the lack of carbs in her diet could account for the anemia and recommended … potatoes. Apparently, dogs love potatoes. I hope she’s right because I don’t want this to be the way Mina’s life ends. Not without a few months of feeling good and doing all the things she loves, y’know?

So, off to Marshall to Bloom for their brand of chicken that’s most like the stuff at Whole Foods and a five-pound sack of Yukon gold potatoes, then to the Marshall IGA for a few more cartons of Chow Now, then home to the Mina Bean. She ate more chicken and chicken Chow Now, and is resting in front of the open window.

Next week, we have to take a urine sample for analysis because cyto-toxic drugs can cause cystitis. They’ll recheck her CBC, as well. At a later date, they plan to do another ultrasound of her adbomen and chest for evaluation of her internal organs/structures to judge further response to chemotherapy treatment.

And if one more person asks me how old Mina is and says, “Well, she’s lived a good, long life” I swear I will cut off their head.

s.

… not the new couch.

s.