January 19, 2012

Home Again

We picked up Abby's ashes today from the vet's office. Mike went with me on his lunch break, so that was good because I really didn't want to go alone. When we took her in for that last appointment, we said we wanted her cremated and that we wanted the ashes back. That was pretty much it for the discussion of such matters. So, when they called to say she was ready to pick up, we were expecting ... I dunno, a cardboard box I guess. But we were so touched when we picked her up - she's in this lovely cedar box (just like the one we bought for Bailey's ashes, only a bit bigger). It even has her name carved into the top of it. And they also gave us a clay imprint of her paw. It's the sweetest thing. It even has a couple of her hairs stuck in it - which is perfect because she was always such a hairy thing! If you even thought about petting her, seventy-five hairs would fall off of her, drift over, and stick to whatever you were wearing.

My good friend from Tripawds made us this lovely video of Abby. It includes some of my favorite pictures of her - some of them will hopefully even make you smile. I'm sure we'll watch this over and over again.

I think my favorite part is when she barks at me after trying to steal my socks. Boy she could be pushy when she wanted to play!

We sure miss her. She was so full of life; it's too quiet around here.

January 17, 2012

An Open Letter & A Banner

I wanted to send Dr. V. and his staff a letter to thank them for the help they gave us with Abby, and I decided I’d make it an “open letter” so everyone else can see how great they are too.

An Open Letter to Dr. V.
Dear Dr. Vancil and all the staff at San Diego Veterinary Cancer Group,

Thank you so much for helping us have an unforgettable year-plus with our beloved Abby. I remember at our first consultation, I came in with a long list of questions scribbled on a sheet of paper. You answered every question before I even got to the list. At every appointment after that, you always took the time to make sure all our questions were answered. 

We have absolutely zero regrets about going through with the amputation. Abby was amazing on three legs. People often stopped us at the beach, after Abby zoomed past or darted and dashed about, to say, "Wow, I didn't even realize she had three legs until she stood still!"

I know that with your help we did everything we could to give Abby a fighting chance. And what a fighter she was, living large for more than a year even with her lung mets. Near the end, she had metastasized cancer, three legs, hypertrophic osteopathy... and she could still run faster than me!

We can appreciate how very difficult your job is, seeing dogs pass from cancer on a regular basis. But we have you to thank for the wonderful and unforgettable time that we had with Abby.  I hope you'll hang in there for a good, long time because helping families get extra quality time with their beloved pups is so very important. 

Finally, I wanted to let you know that we did have a final few wonderful days with Abby. We went to the beach four more times; she ate steak, pork chops, Frosty Paws, bacon, and (her personal favorite) a Flying Dutchman from In-N-Out. On Tuesday, January 10th she started to have trouble breathing while taking a nap. We took her to Dr. Shaprut's office, where they always treated her like the Rock Star that she was. We said our goodbyes and thanked her for being such a special girl. She was still so happy, wagging her tail and eating venison jerky treats right up to the very end. She passed surrounded by love.
Thanks again for everything.

A Fabulous Banner
In other news, Abby got her banner on the Tripawds.com site. Isn't it awesome? 
The folks at Tripawds create the banners as a tribute for active members whose dogs have passed. (With the exception of Queen Nova - a Tripawd hero who has been kicking cancer's butt for three years now! She is the one pup with a banner who is still with us. Long may Queen Nova reign.) We love Abby's banner. It makes us smile (and get a little teary-eyed) every time we see it.

The banners come up randomly, so you never know what pup you might see when you visit Tripawds.com. It's like getting a little hello message from our girl each time I go on the site and it appears. I plan to remain active on Tripawds. I want to pay it forward - helping the new folks on the site after so many people helped us there. I hope that folks will still find Abby's story inspirational, even though she is gone now.

January 11, 2012

A Fiesta Island "Tribute to Abby" Day

If you'd told me I'd go back to Fiesta Island the day after losing our girl, I'd have said you were crazy. But that's what I did today. And I'm so glad I went.

You might remember that one week ago, I posted that we planned to meet up with some Tripawds folks, including the famous Tripawd's Spokesdog Wyatt and the feared-across-three-states (or is it more?) Bernie bin Laden. Even though none of those folks live in San Diego, they still wanted to drive down today to have a Tribute to Abby day at Abby's favorite place, Fiesta Island. They said they would totally understand if I didn't go, but I knew that Abby would want me to. If I didn't go, she would say, "Are you kidding? Miss a day at THE BEACH?" She would have said, "You're nutty, Mama. Go!" So I went.

It was really hard at first - especially turning onto the island without Abby in the backseat. She would always get so excited as soon as we got off the freeway. While we drove around the island, she'd stand in the backseat and hang her head out the window. She could barely contain herself until we'd park and I'd let her out.

But it got better once I got there and met everyone - especially the crazy pups! I took over 100 photos and had a hard time winnowing them down for this post, but here goes:
This is Wyatt Ray - how handsome is he??
This wily ball of craziness is, of course, Bernie bin Laden
...he does sometimes stand still.
This is the aptly named Linda, Bernie's sister
Um, this is also Linda
She can hold her own with the boys.
The boys started a tug-o-war that went on...
...and on...
...and on...

And then Wyatt went for his first ever swim!!

Oh,...and then back on...
...and on...
...and on...

...until talk of burgers broke up the war.

Don't worry - the dogs all got theirs too. (Ab would have LOVED this part...)
And no limbs were lost...
...or even fingers.
Tribute to Abby day was a huge success!

When I came home this afternoon, I downloaded the pictures from today. Then I got side-tracked looking through some of the last photos I took of Abby. All of a sudden, I looked up and saw this:
That is Abby's color! Tripawd-Warrior-Princess-pink. I'm pretty sure she wanted to let us know that she got there okay, and that she is painting the town pink! I'm hoping she met the Original Tripawd, Spirit Jerry, there shortly after arrival. We made a felted wool version of him for his pawrents.

Jerry and Abby would make a cute couple.

I'm sure she is flirting with all the boys up there.

As first days go without a beloved furry family member, it was actually pretty darn good. I laughed more than I cried - and who would have thought that? Certainly not me.

Thank you to everyone! All our family & friends & all the folks at Tripawds for the love and support. It really does mean a lot to know so many other people loved her too and were touched by her.

January 10, 2012

Angel Abby

It is with the deepest sadness we let you know that we had to release our girl today. I will write more later. Our hearts are shattered. Thank you to everyone for your support all through this journey. She was a very special girl and I know she touched a lot of people's hearts.

January 7, 2012

Life's a Beach

Abby had a really good day at the beach yesterday. Here are some pics of the highlights:
Running to greet Dakota!
She found a good stick.
She got a new toy from Dakota's mom

Rolling in stinky stuff is fun!
Best Friends

Today we went to a little park near our house. She had a good time there as well, meeting a pugle and watching the surfers enjoy the large surf we've been having.

"Hello little pugle"

Enjoying the surf...
...and watching the birds

It was a good time. There was the part though where a complete stranger had to hug me. For those of you that don't know me IRL*, I'm okay with hugging people if I know it's going to happen, but am completely awkward about hugs when there's that Are We Going To Hug/Are We Not Going To Hug? thing that happens upon first seeing each other. Those of you that know me IRL are probably going "OMG, she let a stranger hug her? And I can barely get her to hug me?" Anyway, here's how the hug incident happened: as soon as we hit the park, this woman walked over to us and asked me how long Abby had been a tripawd. I told her almost 15 months and she asked how it happened. When I said, "cancer," she said, "oh, how's she doing with that?" :(  It was nice of her to hug me, although I was kinda expecting just a pat on the shoulder and suddenly she's hugging me and not letting go... Luckily another woman came over to meet Ab, which broke it up.

In other hug news, I got a nice bear hug from Dr. V. at Ab's appointment yesterday. (I knew it was coming so, again, that's okay... He hugs you if you cry at the appointment.) He loves Abby. (His whole staff does. They sent me a nice email afterwards saying how much they all love her.) Anyway, at her appointment we had a nice talk. He said how proud he is of us and how well we've done with the fight. He said that Abby has changed lives (that's for sure), and said he can think of at least three of his patients who were going to just put their dogs down when they got the osteosarcoma diagnosis, but decided instead to go ahead with the amp and treatment because he showed them Abby's videos and told them about her and how great she's done. He said this part at the end is the worst part of his job and he doesn't know how much longer he can do it. (Going to need to send him a card about that - cuz he's really good at his job, so he should keep doing it!)

Anyway, just wanted to let you know that Abby is doing pretty well. The Prednisone seems to be helping already and she had a good night - slept the whole night through and her coughing is much less than it was before. Her breathing is starting to seem better, and it really must have been as she didn't get up and move around in the night like she had the night before.

This morning on our way back from the park, I stopped at the store and got her some steak, pork products (bacon and chops) and a box of Frosty Paws. (I also got myself some mint chip... don't want her to have to eat all that comfort food alone...) She very much enjoyed her pork chop breakfast. Tonight, we dine on Flying Dutchmen!

Before I forget - I want to thank everyone for the wonderful emails and the messages on the blog and on Facebook and on the Tripawds forums. It is nice to know how much everyone loves our girl. The support really does mean so much to us.

* IRL = In Real Life - as opposed to my virtual life where I have made so many great friends online via Tripawds. I give hugs all the time, virtually. And I even receive them with no awkwardness. :)

January 6, 2012

A Couple of Days? A Week?

Abby took a big turn for the worse yesterday afternoon. She has been coughing off and on for a while now (a dry hacking cough that seemed like there was something stuck in her throat). Recently it has become more frequent. Yesterday she started to have trouble breathing as well. It is especially bad when she lays down on her side, so we had a not-too-restful night since she was up a couple of times.

We went to see Dr. V. this a.m. The mets are now the size of softballs and the only thing he could do is send us home with some prednisone. He was very sad.

If she was not so darn spunky still, today probably would have been The Day. But even with the problems breathing, she still seems so happy and not ready to quit. Her appetite is still pretty good (for her anyway - she's never been a chow hound). She wolfed down her dinner last night and ate about 10 cookies at Dr. V's office this a.m. She was kissing the other dogs and people at the office. She still wags her tail and chases bugs and shadows and barks when trucks drive by. She still plays with her toys.

There is a lot more to say but that will be for another post. Today I'm taking her to the beach. Even if she can't walk super far, I know she'll love going down there. Tonight or tomorrow we'll go get a Flying Dutchman. Hopefully the prednisone will make it easier for her to breathe and she will have a few more really good days.

January 4, 2012

For Your Consideration

My friend, Karen, put together an Oscar-worthy short film to celebrate Abby's fourteen month ampuversary. You may recall that I refer to her first two lung mets (a.k.a. "lung mints" on the Tripawd's site - hence the film's title) as Boris and Natasha.

Okay, Oscar voters - here it is; for your consideration, I give you: The Mints

Isn't that hysterical?? I think it is the best film ever made. Karen found the Boris & Natasha ornaments while going through some old family Christmas stuff, and of course she immediately thought of Abby's lung "mints."

In other news, my nephew's girlfriend graciously offered to do a photo shoot with us. (Thanks again, Tee!) Of course, Abby came out looking great in all of them. She's not a super model for nuthin'. Here is my fave shot of the three of us. (As you can see, the weather was terrible here on New Year's Day!)

And here is another one that I think is super sweet: (Abby LOVES her some tummy rubs!)
I'm so glad we were able to get the pictures done. That would have been a big regret of mine, if we didn't manage to get a really good picture of the three of us together before it's, ya know..., too late...

In other BIG news, next week on the 11th, Abby is going to get to meet Wyatt Ray - the official Tripawd's spokesdog. Wyatt Ray belongs to the folks who started Tripawds. They lost their beloved Jerry (the "original" Tripawd and reason the whole Tripawd's site was started) to osteosarcoma, but now have Wyatt. Wyatt is a back leg amp. He does not have cancer (Hooray!) but is a tripawd due to the mean people (I just want to interject here that mean people suck) who left him tied up and never paid attention to him. Luckily that former life is way behind him. He is livin' the good life now! We can't wait to meet him. He is actually coming to Fiesta Island to meet Abby!

We are also going to meet this guy maniac. Isn't he cute frightening?!

We are excited trepidatious. If we survive, I'll post pics next week. :)