Sep 21, 2010

Fade to color

I haven't been that inspired to write about Castor's and my experiences lately. It seems that this ordeal has faded into the background quite a bit. A good thing, for sure. Still, I don't want to get complacent and stop being grateful for time with my boy. Hasn't happened yet.

The fact is that Castor's mostly adjusted to tripawd life. And me to it. Now, it's time for me to readjust to my life. Certainly, that entails spending lots of time at home with him; fortunately, I work from home 90% of the time. However, I also have begun to leave the house more regularly to work nearby.

Many say to me that Castor's lucky to have me, that I'm doing everything I can for him. I believe that and appreciate the thoughts. I know that I have handled these transitions really well. My veterinary background, including our friends still in the business of saving animals, my fortunate work situation, and my immense support system are to thank.

I started worrying that I was also tapping into my survival instincts of long-ago. You know those people who "thrive" in crazy, stressful situations? Children who grow up in alcoholic homes can become unfeeling, controlling perfectionists who seem to have unimaginable situations under control, when really they are just sweeping the floor to spite the people shitting in the house. Or something like that. I don't think that's what I'm doing now though.

I am not in denial. And certainly, I've been feeling a lot. Am I a bit controlling? Well, honestly, yes. Especially with regards the boy. (And how to brew tea, how to clean the bathroom, where to keep the blankets, ... Yep, there's lots to let go still!) However, progress has been made. Lots of it.

This time around, I seem to be not losing it or clinging to it, but rather focusing more deeply, with an almost intuitive sense for how to navigate the chaos. Now, I am staying present for the ups and the downs.

Speaking of vertical movements
The stairs are an obstacle best overcome by two people. With Rob's help, Castor travels up and down our stairs with ease. Rob's shoulder on the other hand...Well, Castor takes the last four steps in one big leap. I'm working on changing that, but he doesn't seem to understand. Hitting bottom probably never felt so soft.

Here's us taking him up and down. It might not be too clear, but sometimes he's just pawing at the ground. Usually I use the Walkabout rather than just carrying his rear.

We're casually looking for a new place to live sans stairs; however, most places are not nearly as fabulous, small, crappy, more expensive, in less desirable areas, or most commonly, still have stairs. Also, we love our landlord, Dr. Color.

The only real problem currently is that it requires two people, one strong enough to carry most of Cas's weight. He seems to carry 80-95% of his weight in his front legs now, especially going down stairs. He attempted a handstand the other day, floating his back leg of the stair for a couple of seconds. That's my little yoga doggie (Dogi??).

Getting the house in order
We have finished making the house tripawd friendly. They tend to slip a bit more than on four paws, so we had to sufficiently cover the hardwood floors. I discovered a new use for yoga mats. We bought a couple to place over random slippery floors. Bonus: walking on cushy yoga mats feels awesome too.

I also found a cheap-ish way to raise his food and water bowls. I bought two seven-gallon buckets, and Rob cut big holes in the lids to hold stainless steel bowls. The bowls fit snugly, and although the buckets are not so attractive, that will soon be fixed too. I found a pleasing fabric to place over them. I just have to sew them up a bit. Sweetness.

I still want to buy him these ridiculous(ly cute?) socks for wearing in the house, but I've thus far resisted the sweet, consumptiony urges emanating from deep within my bowels. Useful? Probably. Needed? Not really. My mom did get him some Ruff Wear booties though, for outdoor trips.

I have just begun to let Cas stay home alone too. Sure, for only an hour or less, but I'm easing into it. The I only time I left him alone, for an hour, after we were back in San Francisco, he licked his suture enough to cause that tiny infection. Since his suture is healed and no infection lingers, it's safe now. (Go Clavamox!)

Why so somber?
I'm used to Castor being remarkable for his beauty and sweetness, but not for what he's lacking. I completely forget that seeing a dog hopping around, missing a leg, especially one as big as Castor, is arresting. Then someone at the park puts on their pouty face and asks, "Aw. What happened?" That's actually not so common, thankfully.

I welcome people's reactions and questions. I would much rather talk to people about such things. Awkwardness, discomfort, and pain often come from silence. (Another lesson from my adventures in childhood.) Fortunately, most people are willing to ask questions and many don't seem altogether unfamiliar with tripawds.

Still, it's a tad jarring when people seem sad about his new architecture. To me, he's Castor. He's not different at all. Certainly not diminished in any way. Clearly, things about him are different, but I don't even think of him as having had four legs. Difficult to explain, I guess. (Or I'm just failing at an easy task? Either way.)

Do you ever feel a sense of loss when thinking about the times you didn't have hair under your arms? Maybe it's like that. You don't even think about it, right? I really don't mind shaving.

Perhaps that's a weird analogy. Be that as it may, the only "Aw, I really miss ..." moments I've had have been thinking of our hour long walks up the hilly neighborhood. No biggie.

Speaking of hair, Castor's hair is growing back. (Like that transition?)

I must say I adore his little nub. Before if I ever wanted to stop Castor in his tracks, I would just rub his inner thigh. He would stop immediately. He loves it. Now, if I rub the inside of his left hip, he lifts his little nub out. It's adorable!

So there you have it. Castor can do no wrong in my eyes. That's unconditional love.

Partner yoga
I've started Castor's stretching and strengthening routines. I'm still figuring out the details, and we're starting off slowly. After we go out for a short but exhausting walk/run in the afternoon, I have him do two to three squats, i.e., have him sit and stand. I have Rob hold his walkabout harness to help ease his rear's descent, if need be. He's doing great. I reward him with carrots, of course.

After that, I have him lay down on his left side, so I can start by stretching his right rear leg. I am reading The Healthy Way to Stretch Your Dog, a book about...well, can you guess? Since it's important to stretch when the muscles are warm, I want to work the back hip first.

From there, I stretch his right shoulder and elbow. The I get him to flip over. (That's the hardest part!) It's not a great to flip Danes over their backs, so I have him sit up to change sides. Anyway, he's so good about it all. I'll put up some videos of specific stretches once we've seen the physical therapist at Davis. Then I'll know I'm not screwing it up. =)

After our first session, he got super playful. Enjoy this cuteness!

Go get 'em!
Oh, yeah. Cas is back to playing. He fell once and almost a few times, but he's getting it. He's running after dogs, running after Rob, and tossing sticks around. So cute.

The most popular comment pre-amp was, "you got a saddle for that thing?" (Nope, you aren't the first one to think of that. ha!) The number one comment now is, "it's only been three weeks?!" If you are facing the amputation question, it has been my experience that they figure it out. These creatures are so unbelievably resilient. You will be amazed. Certainly, if your loved one faces other challenges - arthritis, other compromised limbs, etc. - then it might not be so easy, but Castor's near blind and totally rocking it on three!

He's been feeling so good for the past week and a half. The chemotherapy didn't cause any side effects that I noticed. The night after he seemed a bit uneasy. I thought he might be nauseated. No diarrhea, no vomiting, and no missing meals though. By day four, the Carboplatin should be out of his system too.

For the first three to four days we had to be careful with his urine, i.e., avoid getting on our skin. The problem with that is whatever gets on his skin will inevitably get on mine. (He sleeps in my bed.) So, I had to try to keep it off him. The problem with that? He pees on cement at least once daily, and it splatters like crazy.

You should have seen me trying to get a pee pad under him outside. I followed him around in circles, hunched over, pee pad in hands. Just as he'd start to squat, I'd toss the pad down, he'd hear it, look back at me with indignation and start walking around again. It took about four times on average.

Too bad for you, there's no video - maybe next round. It was hilarious.

We were all happy to leave day four behind us. Without any notable problems with the chemo, he can continue getting the same dose, and we can keep kicking the S out of this cancer. Yay!

His next treatment will be September 30th.

(He snuggles with me in the car too! ♥)

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