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2020 killed my dog.

July, R.I.P.

July beat cancer for the first time in 2016 after having her toe amputated. She beat it a second time when she had a portion of her ear removed in 2019. This past July, she had a mammary tumor removed. Three times seems to be the limit.

In late October, she got wobbly in the legs. We crossed our fingers that it was a spinal problem. She initially responded to treatment, but she took a turn for the worse about two weeks ago when she lost even the ability to stand with assistance. It was downhill from there.

So long as she was lucid and had an appetite, I felt it was my duty to support her however I could — I couldn't justify killing my dog simply because she had become inconvenient. But I realized late last night that we had probably reached the end of the line. (I'll save the gory details except to say that cancer can be a real bitch.) I had her euthanized this afternoon, and she died in my arms.

For the better part of the past decade, July had been my shadow. Her sister, Victoria, wanted to be near me; July *needed* to be near me. She followed me everywhere and complained to whoever would listen when she couldn't see me. I can't blame her. Who else was she going to get to take her for walkies or hand her a slice of pizza?

I already feel like I'm missing something when I walk into a room and don't hear the tappa-tappa of toenails trailing behind me. I keep looking for baby, and she's not there anymore and never will be again. That will take some getting used to.

Thanks to Kelley for bringing her into my life and thanks to Mom for being a substitute Walter when necessary over the years. Thanks to her vet, Jeff, for helping me keep her around as long as we did. (Fourteen years is a good, long life for a standard poodle!) And especially thanks to July for doing your best to make 2020 bearable for as long as you could.

In happier times

I loved my girls.

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I had a poodle cartoon scheduled to run today, but sometimes life interferes with your plans. Victoria died at 5:25 AM. Her overtaxed heart gave out.

Victoria, R.I.P.

On Monday, April 25, Victoria collapsed at the end of her daily walk, so I took her in to see her vet the next day. He heard a "crackle" in her lungs, and given that I had noticed an occasional cough over the weekend, he prescribed a regimen of amoxicillin antibiotics. The next day, when her blood work came back from the lab showing a deficiency of thyroid hormone, we started her on levothyroxine treatment. But things only got worse.

The following Saturday, Victoria woke me up with a heavy, rapid breathing. Not exactly panting, but close. I took her back to the vet to see what could be the matter. He thought the likely culprit was the amoxicillin. It's rough on the stomach and common allergic responses include heavy breathing. Over the next few days, she didn't improve, so I stopped that treatment. When she still didn't get better, I stopped the levothyroxine, too. (It can have similar side effects.) Neither of these actions helped her.

She always had a big heart

By now, Victoria had no appetite and very little energy. So the vet called for radiographs of her heart and lungs on Tuesday, May 10 to see if he could find something we were missing. He did.

Her heart was abnormally enlarged and her lungs were filled with fluid. This was bad. Very bad. There were two possibilities: either the heart was causing damage to the lungs, or the lungs were causing damage to the heart. He scheduled an echocardiagram for the next day to figure out which possibility was the one hurting her. It turned out to be possibility three: a tumor.

Heart Based Tumor would be a great band name

Victoria had surgery to remove a mammary tumor last June. They just cut it out. That wasn't an option here. Honestly, neither was much of anything else. The tumor was aggressive and had already done a lot of damage. The fluid in her lungs wasn't actually in her lungs: it was serum that had leaked from her blood vessels into her thoracic cavity because of the bad pressure the tumor had created. Her whole circulatory and respiratory system was breaking down fast. Chemotherapy was the only treatment option for the tumor, and given the type of tumor and damage already done to her body, even that wasn't really an option. So I did the only thing I could do: I took my dog home to die.

I was told to expect that she wouldn't survive two weeks, so I tried to make her last days special. I gave her a haircut because she typically appreciated that sort of personal attention. (She lay still, but I know she loved to be touched.) I took her for a ride in the Jeep to pick up her favorite food, pepperoni pizza crust. (She refused to eat it, but I could tell that she enjoyed the smell.) And at night, I let her have the best spot in the bed: mine.

She didn't get to live out those two weeks. Sixteen days after her initial collapse and not even 16 hours after her ultimate diagnosis, she passed away beside me on the floor. She'd gotten up at 4:40 AM struggling to breathe. I lay down with her until long after her heart finally gave out. She took my heart with her when she left. I loved that dog.

Goodnight, my queen

Thank you, Kelley, for finding her. Thank you, Mom, for giving her to me. Thank you, Jeff, for trying to save her life. Thank you, July, for being so patient with your Sister until the end. Thank you, Victoria, for brightening my life for the past 7 years.

The poodle comic scheduled to run in today's space will be seen tomorrow.

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The people who work at the veterinarian's office now recognize me on sight. Sometimes you don't want to go where everybody knows your name.

Earlier this week during our daily walk, Victoria got weak and collapsed. I took her to the vet. Her blood work came back indicating that her thyroid had stopped functioning. The vet considered that good news. He was worried that it was her heart. Whew!

The last vet visit was for July's meibomian adenoma (er, a benign cyst on her eyelid), so I guess it was Victoria's turn. I would prefer it if they could go a month without needing medical care. I want them to be happy and healthy, but I didn't really think the day would come where I was spending more each day on my pet's health than my own, especially considering that Obamacare means I'm now paying $300/month for the peace of mind knowing that if I have to go to the emergency room, it will only cost me only thousands instead of ten thousands.

(I'm this close to voting for the next asshole who promises me that he'll cancel Obamacare because he wants to give bigger tax breaks to Wall Street banks. Stones and Walters only have so much blood.)

Anyway. Victoria is now on a course of antibiotics and thyroid medication, which, while expensive, are cheaper than heart surgery. We'll check back with the vet next month to see how things are going. So long as the vet will still take my credit card, Victoria doesn't have anything to worry about.

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I was coding in the basement when Victoria asked for water. I grabbed her water dish and walked upstairs, turned on the sink, and filled the bowl. Looking in the sink, I decided that I should probably fill the dirty crock pot and let it start soaking, so I turned the water on it next. July, always one to think she's missing the party, came upstairs to see what was going on without her. Victoria decided that she might as well go outside while we were all up, so I let her and her sister out. Figuring they were only going to be out for a minute, I rushed back downstairs to finish the bit of code I was working on before I got distracted and forgot my potential solution. My solution wasn't perfect, and it took a little re-configuring to make work.

Can you see what I did wrong?

Ten minutes later, Victoria's barking let me know that she was ready to come in. Too bad the kitchen sink couldn't bark. I'd forgotten all about the water!

The crock pot had filled to overflowing, and because of its size, overflowing meant the kitchen counter. Which meant the kitchen floor. Which meant I was flooding the house. Water was everywhere, including seeping through the floor and dripping into the studio below. Naturally, several pen & ink drawings were directly below the leak and I've had to throw them out. Bummer.

Anyway. That's what I get for interrupting my coding to give Victoria some water. Sorry, girl, but next time you're going to have to wait.

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For those of you who have been following along at home, July has now had a second surgery. The biopsy of the nail revealed she had a squamous cell carcinoma. In an attempt to curtail the spread of the cancer, the vet amputated her toe at the metatarsal.

The Internet tells me that squamous cell carcinoma is relatively common in "large breed dogs with a dark coat" like, say, black standard poodles. Long term prognosis is largely dependent on how early the cancer is caught. In hindsight, maybe stepping on her toe this Thanksgiving was a good thing.

It figures that July would have the relatively unglamorous toe cancer. She's my needy child. When my diva, Victoria, wanted a little attention, she went straight for the cream of cancers: breast, the best of cancers. July's much more down to earth.

July has been taking all this in stride (figuratively). That may be because she's discovered what all she has to do is look at me with those big brown eyes and whine a little, and I'll drop what I'm doing carry her to a bowl filled with Beggin' Strips. What can I say? I'm a sucker for dogs with cancer.

Baby has another vet appointment next week (her seventh in six weeks). I hope to find out then whether she will need radiation treatment. In the meantime, I'm going to have to start looking for another job. Two dogs with cancer in 2015 has really put a dent in the bank account.

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On Saturday, the Philadelphia Eagles cut Tim Tebow, who was competing to be their 3rd quarterback. On Sunday, the Eagles signed Josh Morris, a quarterback not good enough to play for the woeful Jacksonville Jaguars. I'd better run this pic of me in my Tim Tebow mask now, because this might be Tebow's last stab at a position in the NFL.

The girls love Tebow

Despite his playing for Florida and thumping his bible hard enough to wake the damned, I still like Tim Tebow. He seems like a pretty good influence on a locker room. Coaches say they don't like him because he doesn't "show well" in practice. No, his mechanics aren't great, but there are easily a half dozen starting quarterbacks in the NFL less mentally prepared to lead a team to victory than Tebow. Being a winning quarterback takes more than just completing touchdown passes in practice.

There's no point in crying for Tebow. I'm sure he'll land on his feet. It's just a shame those feet won't be under center in the NFL.

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Vet says Victoria had a benign mammary tumor. He thinks they got it all, and Victoria is cancer free. Hooray!

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Yesterday Victoria had surgery to remove a melanoma.

A tiny button of death

As you can see, it was a tiny thing that looked like an out of control mole right below her third nipple. When I showed it to the vet on Friday, he said, "Clear you calendar. We'll be having surgery on Monday." And we did.

Chicks dig scars

Victoria came through just fine, but she's spent most the time since sleeping off her misadventures in the clinic. The vet says she didn't sleep much after her surgery because she was too busy barking at all the other dogs. (Even groggy, Victoria can be a little bossy.) We're still waiting for results from the lab to tell us how bad the cancer was. I'm told that will take a week.

It's the new look for high fashion poodles

The good news is that Victoria wears an Elizabethan collar like she was born for it. The bad news is that July is jealous that her sister is getting all the extra attention. There's no reasoning with a poodle scorned.

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Victoria doesn't like movies as much as I do.

One bored poodle

You try watching television with that staring back at you.

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I came down with a migraine headache yesterday just as I was preparing to take the dogs for a walk. Victoria was very understanding, July less so. I think if I broke my leg, July might bring me her leash and try to drag me out the door.

I should take this opportunity to thank my parents for all the trouble I must have caused them. I'm sure I was far more stubborn and less forgiving than my poodle. Everything I know about parenting, I learned from my poodle.

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To be continued...

 

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