Please Meet Me at the Door

Sleepy BrodyPlease meet me at the door.
Please, I’ll do anything.

This is my new mantra every time I drive towards my house. I repeat it. I beg. I cry. I park the car holding my breath and I walk in the door full of wishes and promises to do anything to have Brody meet me at the top of the stairs.

I have heard that knowing your dog is sick matters less about their food consumption, less about their energy level and more on that one moment when you come home – are they greeting you at the front door? It has been about two weeks and only once or twice (yesterday was one of them) have my prayers been answered and there has been a wiggly nub waiting for me as I walk through the doorway.

Brody is hurt and we can’t find the pain. We have had x-rays, we have had blood work, we have had an ultrasound, we have tested for lyme and he passes every medical test. It isn’t the cancer, it isn’t the solo hind leg, it isn’t an infection and it isn’t lyme. I am out of money – let’s face it… I am beyond the point of out of money. We have him on 3 pain killers and have him on the oral chemo. He eats, drinks and goes to the bathroom just fine but he hurts and I hurt too.

I haven’t slept in my bed with my wonderful husband in about two weeks. I sleep on the schedule of a new mother – I sleep when my baby sleeps and that is a sporadic schedule. We have more appointments that I cannot afford next week. Until then I keep him comfortable, we snuggle, I operate day to day on autopilot and I hope, pray, and make deals with higher powers for some sign of recovery.

I have invested most of my wishes on that wiggly nub at the top of the stairs, greeting me at the door when I come home – that will be my sign.

No One is Afraid of a Three Legged Rottweiler

Three legged BrodyAs you know, my dog Brody has three legs – he actually just had his 6 month ampuversary. I got Brody when he was too young (5 weeks) and when I was too young (20) but over the past 12 years, we have figured out some things and become quite the team.

Brody is half Rottweiler and half Doberman.
Strangers typically don’t like us.

We gave up on dog parks early on because if there was ever a scuffle, the Rottweiler is always to blame (even though you all know it was that Pomeranian who started it). In crowded public places we tend to stick to quiet corners so mothers don’t haul their babies away from the ‘attack dog’. When we first moved into our adorable neighborhood on a cul-de-sac, my new neighbor even referred to Brody as ‘the evil dog’ and told her children to stay away from him.

Brody, I think, grew to be nervous around people because people were nervous around him.

Now Brody has three legs. He is the same dog he was before but missing a limb. Since the accident and recovery, I have noticed a huge change in Brody’s public personality. Wherever he goes, he acts like he is the mayor. He walks up to strangers, he leans in to guys on the boat for an ear scratch, he smiles and wiggles his nub and he greets every dog he sees.

At first I attributed it to the fact that he was no longer in pain, or that he was just so happy to be alive but last weekend I think I figured out why the public personality switch – people SMILE at him.

Brody at home is sweet, funny and cuddly. Home is where he feels safe and liked. Last weekend when we were taking the boat to Peaks he was doing his new routine of greeting everyone while they waited, poking his head in ladies grocery bags to see what they had and making friends. I picked my head up and noticed something I never saw before – everyone waiting for the boat was looking at Brody and smiling. People came up to him and said he was a good boy and asked questions about his amputation.

Three-legged Brody isn’t scary. He is a survivor. He is an old dog who makes people route for him. He is down a limb but he is happy and active. Brody likes people now, because people like him. Women aren’t snatching up their babies when he walks by, they are pointing him out (‘see the old doggy sweetie’) and they are asking if their child can pat him.

Since this realization I have been thinking a lot about human assumptions of not just animals but of other people. How much of how we treat a person affects their personality or just their day? Are we projecting more on other people than they are expressing to us?

Just something to think about and while I do, Brody and I are going to walk around and make sure we are smiling back at all of our potential new friends.

Donating What You Want, When You Want

Donation boxAs most of you know, Brody (my dog) has bone cancer. During each of his chemo treatments, I was a complete mess. Mind you this was merely weeks after his horrible accident and amputating his hind leg so I shouldn’t have been allowed out in the real world.

At his second chemo appointment, I decided to run an errand instead of waiting. The treatment itself was going to be about 45 minutes. Instead of waiting there and panicking, I decided to run to PetCo to pick up some of his new food.

I gathered my items and went to check out.
After my items were scanned the teller woman asked me:
“Would you like to donate to the Pet Cancer Awareness Fund?”
“No thank you, I am already quite aware”, was my curt response.
She looked at me with a disappointed grimace. I grabbed my things and left.

As I left the store, I was surprised at how angry I was. I am using most of the energy I have to hold myself together, I just wanted to run a simple errand and I was again bothered to donate to another cause. She obviously had no idea where I was coming from, or what was going on in my life but it felt like some type of invasion.

How many other people have been made to feel this way as they check out of the super market, at a movie theatre, while at an event? Why are we pushing issues and causes at people while they shop?

I bet these campaigns are really successful. Catch people in public, where they will be judged by their peers if they say ‘no’. Catch people when they are spending money and they might be willing to lose their change or one dollar more to help a cause. Yes, I bet they work – but they are uncomfortable too.

I am not rich, not even close, but I actually donate a good amount of time and money to causes that are important to me but I do them on my own time. I also love to donate to friends who are running a race, completing a triathlon or a bike race for a cause. Not just for the cause to but in support of my friend’s effort.

Shameless plug: Feel free, if you are in the mood right now to donate to my ‘bail’. I am being ‘arrested’ this Wednesday and need to make my bail to get out. Proceeds go to the Muscular Dystrophy Association to send two kids to Pine Tree Camp. Not a bad cause.

Should we be able to donate what we want, when we want?

In a better world, yes. As I said before, I bet these at-the-checkout campaigns are effective but what do you know about these organizations and where is your money going? Like the Pet Cancer Awareness Fund I was hit up for at Petco… what the heck is that? Is it to educate owners on getting xrays more regularly? Where would my money go? To making pamphlets about cancer or to making more boxes to put at more checkouts?

Should you donate? Of Course! If you have something, you have more than someone else. I am a firm believer in donating to an organization in need. If you don’t have money, you at least have your time and talent to give and everyone has blood… you can always at least donate your blood 🙂 But what I like to do is select my cause, my amount, and how and when I donate it. What I have decided I don’t like is being asked at the checkout to donate to mysterious causes.

Donor’s Choose

If you are new to donating or if you are wary because you want to know where your hard earned money is going, you should check out Donor’s Choose. With this special organization donor’s choose what public school projects and supplies they want to give to and how much. They also get updates from the student on what their contribution did for these children. Pretty cool ‘eh?

My friend Marc Pitman told me about I thought this was a great idea. No more wondering where your money is going when you write that check – now you can choose exactly what you want your money to be used for. There is a short video below with some more information.

Should I have been so abrupt with the poor girl at PetCo? Probably not but for the first time the cause that was being shoved in my face at a checkout was something I was way too close to and it made me think about how many times this has happened to other people. Should you donate to causes and funds and nonprofits and charities etc., of course you should and maybe if they all meet their quotas they will stop bugging us when we are buying our toilet paper.

If you do want to make a donation, I would still recommend going straight to your cause and researching them and what they do with donor dollars. Something tells me when you cut out the middle man at the check-out line, the organization gets the funds more directly.

Obviously this is my opinion spurred by an uncomfortable situation but I would love to hear from more of you on your thoughts on the matters I brought up… my mind can always be changed.

Photo credit: Mindful One

Can Three Legged Dogs Swim?

throw the ballPopular question when people hear about our journey with Brody is if he can still swim. Good news is, yes he can and we have video proof for your entertainment!

Now Brody wasn’t a very GOOD swimmer to start. He lifts his front paws up out of the water, we think it is because he is trying to keep his head dry. Of course, since he lifts his legs out of the water, they make a huge splash as they enter the water and he ends up getting more wet.

So don’t judge on form because that has always been a little off.

I cannot thank enough the wonderful people at Portland Veterinary Specialists and Portland Animal Emergency Clinic for making all of this chapter possible. Brody is happier than I have ever seen him and having an awesome summer. Leaps and bounds from where we were just 2 months ago.

Brody Update and Things We Try to Forget

Three Legged Dogs CAN SwimSo some new people have been making it to this blog and some regulars have reached out to me and asked for updates on Mr. Brody man.

If you are reading that line and are completely lost already, Brody is my 11 year old Rottweiler/Doberman pup that I have had since he was 5 weeks old. We found out the hard way (there is probably not an easy way), that he has Osteosarcoma, or bone cancer, and we amputated one of his hind legs.

Brody is doing great (we think). He is so damn happy all the time. He went through his first round of chemo, which is three separate chemo sessions, like a champ. He loves going to see the ladies at Portland Veterinary Specialists. He has never been a big fan of the vet before but he charges through the door each time full of excitement. Everyone has been so kind and patient with us.

Randomly, one of his vet tech’s from when he was a young lad in Durham, NH, is actually now at this vet and she remembered him right away. They are buds!

Now with the three sessions over, we wait a few more weeks and go back and run some tests to see what, if anything, the chemo has done.

Chemo for Dogs

Chemo for Brody didn’t slow him down one bit. He ate and was active almost every day. The day OF each chemo sessions he sleeps a lot but that is because they give him knock out meds and it is just a big exciting day – getting doted on by 5 women.

I am sure there are super scientific reasons to why chemo effects dogs differently than people but there is also something to be said for a dog’s spirit. They don’t have that sadness, fear and trauma from events like losing a leg or going through chemo. They just do what they do and they want you to love them and more patting, hugs and love seem to help too.

The Things We Try to Forget

I will admit I have been bad about Brody updates. I can tell you I have been busy (I am writing this from DC), I can say there isn’t too much to report but I know the real reason and it is that I am trying to forget. I am a happily ever after person, I am a Disney fan (I even worked for that damn mouse) – I like happy endings and I have a really hard time digesting sad things.

Brody HidingThis process is hard, sad, scary, expensive and all I want to do is make my baby better (yes, he is my baby) and I can’t. So I am living in each day, each wag of his nub, each walk and each kiss on the face as I leave the house in the morning. I don’t want to think about what this part of the journey is about. I am avoiding it.

Is avoiding your problems healthy? Probably not but it seems to be the only way I can deal. I couldn’t function when this all first happen. I didn’t want to see even my closest friends because I didn’t want to talk about it.

I was angry I had to keep up with ‘life’ when all I wanted to do was spend the extra time, I literally just bought, to hang out with my main man. So for me to be a functional part of this society, I have to push it out. That whole missing a leg this is a pretty good reminder but I am making it work for me.

I will try to be better about updates. In the past few weeks we went camping in Brownfield for two nights, found out 3 legged dogs can swim just fine at Sebago Lake, visited the doggie grandparents on Peaks Island for the Fourth, had lots of fun walks in our neighborhood and even met a two legged dog (one-upper much?). For the next two weeks we sit tight and we will make some more big decisions after our next visit with the vet.

Thanks for all of your love and support. It all gets passed on to the Brody man. This would be worse without the love we have felt from friends, family and even people we don’t know. Thank you!

Two Week Update on Brody the TriPawd

Brody lookThank you all so much for all of your support and well wishes from my last post. We have felt the love from our closest friends to complete strangers here, on Facebook, Twitter, your calls and texts – not to mention the cards and flowers addressed to Brody O’Brien. As of today, Brody has been home for two weeks from his hind leg amputation.

With two weeks at home, I thought it was time for an update. I have had a long couple of days so I cannot promise you the finesse of my last post but I can get you some good news and facts.

So far Brody is doing fine and adjusting so well. Adam and I are amazed at how well he is getting along. To be honest, he is adjusting much better than I am. We were told when we were making this decision that dogs get along just fine and that it is the people that have a hard time adjusting – they were right. I am so unbelievably happy to have my best friend but obviously I am sad that he had to go through this.

As we reach the two week mark, we can start getting him off some of the medication. He was taking 6 pain meds, 2 antibiotics and 1 anti-inflammatory a day. Now we only need to give him the pain medication as necessary. I am happy about that. I always feel weird giving dogs medication, because they can’t tell you how it effects them. Brody has been sleeping a lot. Of course, a lot of that is to heal but I am curious how much is from the medication.

Getting around

Brody has been getting around pretty well. We have gated off the inside stairs, they are really slippery and a little narrow. There just isn’t enough room to be clumsy and it is hard for him to get his grip, for now. He can do the outside stairs great! So we have him coming in and out the back stairs and he is totally fine with that.

We have been carefully working on building strength in that back leg without over doing it. We have no idea what we are doing but we are trying. That back leg gets pretty tired and he hangs his rear pretty low when it is tired.

Last Thursday we were in the front lawn and Brody decided to run down the street (we obviously live in a no traffic area, I didn’t let him run into a busy road or anything), so I let him go – as far as the stop sign and then we turned back. Each day since, we have gone a little farther – yesterday we even did a full circle of the block.

Chili is ok too

My neighbor asked me the other day how the other dog was doing. For those of you don’t know Chili, he is the master of this house. He is a border collie mix who makes sure we are all in our places, he is fed on time and that Penn will never go out of business – just to keep up his tennis ball supply.

Chili and Brody have a very brotherly relationship. Not the ‘we love each other so much’ brotherly relationship but more like the push you down the stairs, steal your toys, take your bone, tattle on you when mom and dad get home kind of brother. Nothing there has changed. Dogs don’t seem to know that something is different the way a human does. Chili is just being Chili and he is just excited we have got so many new toys lately.

Brody is still Brody

Lots of people have asked about Brody’s personality and I am very happy to say that Brody is still very Brody-like. He is goofy and silly, cuddly and funny, loves his walks, eating fine, drinking plenty and he seems to be loving all the attention and visitors but he has always loved that.

I on the other hand seem to be the shell shocked one. I feel like I have been to battle and I know there is still more to come. We still have some other things to figure out, we still have physical (maybe emotional and mental too) strength to get back as a team and we have more things to get used to and figure out. The good news is we get to do it together.

Thank you all again for checking on us and sending your love, good thoughts, advice and for listening. We wouldn’t be pulling through this as well as we are without the love and support of our friends, family, community, new friends, people who have been through this and complete strangers. Thank you very much from me and from Brody.

Brody Has Three Legs – Just Don’t Tell Him That

Brody Sleeping Day 1One week ago, on Easter afternoon, we took the dogs for a long walk in Robinson’s Woods in Cape Elizabeth. Our walk was probably 3 or 4 miles and no one could have been happier.

When we got back to the Jeep, Brody went to jump into the car and something went very wrong. He screamed in pain and there was obviously something very wrong with his hind, right leg. We calmed him as best we could and got him to lay in some leaves at the edge of the woods. We knew we were not going to be able to get him into the small Jeep and had to find someone to come and help us.

After a good friend drove from three towns away to help us, we as best we could scooped broken Brody into the back of the vehicle and made our way to the Animal Emergency Clinic. Poor Brody was in so much pain, it was absolutely heart breaking.

When we were able to see a vet, the first impression was not good and he eluded to some very big problems that they may not be able to fix. Brody was knocked out and xrays were taken.

Brody has bone cancer – Osteosarcoma

Brody xrayBrody had severely broken his right, hind leg right at the hip. It was shattered. The cause for such shattering with such little force was that he has bone cancer, or Osteosarcoma. The bone cancer had left the bone so pockmarcked and hollow that just the force of jumping into the car shattered it.

They were going to keep him heavily sedated and have a surgeon look at it in the morning to confirm that she could not repair the bone. There was just too little to work with.

We were sent home to wait. Adam and I didn’t talk much. I was beyond hysterical and did not/could not sleep. I could feel my heart breaking and was most frustrated that I didn’t even have anything to hope for.

Very few options

The surgeon called. The bone could not be repaired. She was in agreement that it was Osteosarcoma. She said he could be a candidate for amputation. Brody is 11 years old; don’t tell him that either – he thinks he is 5. Dogs his age were less likely candidates for amputation because their other leg that would need to support them was old or arthritic, and their blood work could come back poor because their body is already fighting the cancer or the cancer could have already spread into their organs – especially their lungs.

I asked for the support of my family and my husband that this decision was mine to make. It has been ‘Brody and Amanda Takes on the World’ for 11 years. He is a momma’s boy and I am completely enamored with him. There were two paths to take – let him go, or amputate and hopefully buy the guy some more time. I can’t even begin to walk you through every thought I had while making that decision. What were you doing for the dog and what were you doing for yourself? I can say after all of it, I decided that Brody wasn’t done yet.

It was a long shot but we had to let the Brody man give it a try. For the first time in this whole experience, I had something to hope for.

So we got more tests taken:

  • His other leg… remarkably strong
  • His blood work… normal except some elevated counts that were from the trauma of the broken leg
  • His chest xray… totally clear

11 year old Brody, was cleared for surgery to remove his leg.

Three legs… ain’t no thing!

Brody’s broken leg was removed Tuesday afternoon. We were able to pick him up Wednesday morning. Late Tuesday and early Wednesday Brody had decided he didn’t want to vet techs helping him anymore and wouldn’t let anyone near his cage. As we walked in and I started to talk to him, he started talking back (he thinks he can talk). We pulled his blanket out of the cage and he buried his head deep into my chest.

Amanda O'BrienHe was heavily medicated, very bruised, wearing a cone and most notably, missing a leg. We removed his IV, he continued to bury his head and ‘talk’ to me until we asked him if he wanted to go home. He clumsily (think Bambi on ice) got up and did his best to run all the way out of the vet’s office. He crashed into a wall or three but he was intent on breaking out of this joint. Outside, he took the longest pee with a new aggressive lean maneuver and let Adam carry him into the car.

The car ride home was very emotional as he continued to bury his head into my chest and ‘talk’ to me. I felt like he was telling me about the very bad last few days he had and I would like to think he was thanking us for making the decision we did.

Brody FlowersWednesday at home was slow. Still heavily medicated he was not very interested in eating or drinking. He slept a lot but did make it outside on the leash a few times. He even tried to make a go at the back steps when we took our eyes off him for a second.

Thursday was better. We began to get our appetite back (including me). We drank water on our own. The heavy medication was worn off. Outside trips were easier and when Adam came home that night, Brody got up to meet him at the door all smiles and wags. Not a dry eye in the house.

Brody and his duckFriday was even better and we moved the recovery room to the upstairs. He navigated down steps well but needed a little help on the way back up. He would look back at Adam with an look that was easily read as ‘little help here?’ and Adam would carry him the rest of the way. He even spent some solid hours outside in the lawn, just standing and smelling but it was awesome. He also snuck out of the bedroom at night and helped himself onto the chair in the living room.

Saturday, we may have outdone ourselves the day before because Saturday was a little slower. Appetite was back all the way though, he was interested in toys and loved having a few visitors. He slept really well through the whole night in his bed.

Today, well today has been awesome. Our first adventure outside was hysterical. Brody even attempted to chase a squirrel. He pranced around for awhile and even mistakingly tried to lift the only good back leg he has to go to the bathroom. He was literally standing on his two front paws for a second, until that obviously ended they way you expected. My parents came to visit their grand-dog and brought delicious bones. He has gotten on and off his chair a few times, rested in between adventures but Brody seems to be back.

Adjusting to Three Legs

Brody StandingI am shocked at how quickly Brody has adjusted to three legs. Of course he slips sometimes but he doesn’t seem to be phased by it much. There was an incident where he rested against the fence to go to the bathroom, stairs are tricky and need supervision, backing up and tight turns are hit or miss but it is absolutely amazing how well he is adjusting.

The surgeon told us that dogs don’t feel that sense of emotional trauma that humans have when they lose a limb, they just adjust. She also warned us that is was harder on humans to see a dog with three legs than it is on the dog. She seems to know what she is talking about so far.

What is next?

Physically, Brody is under surveillance for two weeks after the surgery. We don’t want an infection or for him to fall on that already very tender area. Then after that, we adjust as a family. I am looking forward to some good walks and enjoying Maine in the summertime with my best friend.

The cancer will be back. In my non-medical way of explaining it, bone cancer is already in the rest of your system. It is in your body and your blood – just because we amputated that ‘bad’ part doesn’t mean it went away. We had them send the leg away for more tests and hopefully that will be able to tell us more about how advanced this is. Hopefully we will get more of a timeline on how long we may have with old man Brody.

Emotionally, we heal and try to get back to normal, or what our new normal is. After the decision was made I found some really awesome resources online. A friend sent me Dog Cancer Survival Guide: Beyond Surgery, Chemotherapy & Radiation, which then gave me a better idea of what things I should be looking for. I stumbled on Tripawds – A User-Supported Three Legged Dog Blog Community. I am still going through a lot of information but it is a whole online community for dogs who have lost a limb, usually from this type of cancer, and their owners.

Huge Thank You

This was honestly one of the hardest weeks of my life. If you are a dog lover, you may understand. If you are not, you think I am crazy. I got Brody when I was 20 years old, living in an apartment in Durham, NH. He has done more than change my life, I honestly think he has saved it. He changed me, he showed me our new life and he is my bestest friend.

I didn’t talk to a lot of people as this was happening. To those that I did, I owe you big time. A huge thank you to our families that let this be my decision and who backed me after I had made it. A huge thank you to family who brought us food, when we didn’t realize we weren’t eating. To the family and friends that sent Brody flowers, toys, cards and their thoughts and prayers – every single one of them helped.

Thank you in advance to anyone who wishes us luck from here forward.

The biggest thanks is of course to my husband, who grieved with me, cried with me, accepted my decision, made the cutest pill calendar in the world, who carried my 80 pound dog when I cannot and who loves me and my very special dog Brody.

Wish us luck!