Rusty’s Cancer Chronicles

Rusty’s Cancer Chronicles
Rusty is an F1-B Labradoodle, born July 30th, 2008
Rusty’s mother was a white medium size multi-gen Australian Labradoodle and his father was red miniature Poodle. We choose the F1-B because of my severe allergies to animal dander and this is our first dog in many years. We also wanted a medium size Labradoodle to make it easier for us to handle him. His color was very red when he was born, hence the name Rusty, but is now a light red.
Because of our many dog owner/lover friends I began sending out random emails to keep them informed as to Rusty’s status. Rusty’s cancer had such an impact on us that I decided to post some of my emails on DoodleKisses to see if anyone else had a Doodle that was dealing with cancer. My chronicle also turned into a therapeutic outlet for me and was a help for both of us from all the support we received from the DoodleKisses members. I have since added two more support sites that I am sharing Rusty’s story with.
Chuck Holliman, Rusty’s Dad

Rusty, week before surgery
Rusty driving the GEM, at 6 months

Friday, January 16th
Rusty has had a small bulge on the inside thigh of his left leg for several months, which our Vet thought was probably a muscle tear or a hernia. Around Thanksgiving it started slowly growing and we took him to Dr. Godfry in early December; she did a needle biopsy and ultrasound which were inconclusive and said let’s check it in a month. The growth has become much larger over the past month, and is now the size of a small orange; she did another biopsy & X-Ray this week. Dr. Godfry called last night and said that the results came back 50-50 that the growth is a tumor and is malignant but the lab needs a larger biopsy to be certain. Dr. Godfry seemed hesitant to perform the more extensive procedure and scheduled an appointment with an Orthopedic Surgeon for 8:30 Monday morning for the biopsy. Dr. Godfry said she did not consider cancer as a possibility until the biopsy came back, as it is extremely rare for a dog to develop cancer before they are two years old.

The bad news hit us like a ton of bricks Thursday night; it just seems so unfair that this could happen to him at such an early age. We are doing a little better tonight but still have our tearful moments with him and holding our breath until next week’s results come back. It may be our imagination but Rusty seems to sense something, maybe our concern for him, as he doesn’t let us out of his sight.
We had him groomed today, back to a summer cut; we were really enjoying his shaggy looks but that requires daily brushing and if he has surgery, it will probably be a while after surgery before he can be groomed.

Monday, January 18th
Rusty was introduced to his new Vet, Dr. Douglas Huber, who is an Oncologist Orthopedic Surgeon, this morning and we are very pleased with Dr. Huber; he spent an hour reviewing and examining Rusty before admitting him for a Tru-Cut biopsy procedure. When we picked Rusty up this afternoon, he spent another 30 minutes with us as to his observations from the biopsy and a discussion of the next steps in Rusty’s treatment. Unfortunately, Dr. Huber is almost certain that the tumor is cancer; he sent the biopsies to Colorado State University which he said has the best animal cancer labs and pathologists in the nation.

He is hoping to have the results back Wednesday evening; if the results are malignant, Rusty will go back for X-Rays on Thursday to see if the cancer has spread to his chest cavity or other internal organs. If it has spread internally, that could be the end of the road for treatment. We are hoping and praying for the best possible outcome and that it has not spread into his body; everyone in the Dr.’s office said what a sweet and friendly dog he is, which all of us know that he is.

Thursday, January 21st
We talked to Dr. Huber this morning and the news is not good. Rusty has a fast growing sarcoma form of cancer, but he will not know the type of cancer until he receives a more comprehensive report from the lab later today or tomorrow. He again said that it is very unusual for a dog of Rusty’s age to have such an aggressive form of cancer. We will take Rusty in at 1PM today for X-Rays to see if it has spread into his chest or internal organs. If the X-Rays are clear, we will take him to an imaging center in San Diego tomorrow for CT scans and Ultrasounds views, as the cancer could just be starting in his body and not show up on the X-Rays. The CT scan will give Dr. Huber a three dimensional picture of the tumor and Rusty’s leg so that he plan the surgery for next week. Dr. Huber said that Radiation or Chemo treatments alone would not be able to stop this type of cancer; if there is any chance for Rusty, it is through surgery to remove his leg and Chemo therapy.

We just returned from the Vet and Rusty is sleeping as they sedated him for the X-Rays. The X-Rays were all normal and his blood work is normal which is step one. Jan asked Dr. Huber when he would do surgery and he said let’s wait until we get the results of tomorrow’s CT scan & Ultrasounds, as the cancer could still be there but not showing on a X-Ray. He did say that if Rusty is clean after tomorrow’s tests he would amputate his leg Tuesday morning. We are off to San Diego tomorrow for the tests which will take five hours; we hope the rain has subsided by then.

Dr. Huber called this evening and with the pathology report and the cancer is a Fibrosarcoma (soft tissue) level three which is the most aggressive and there is a 50% chance that it has metastasized to other parts of his body. Dr. Huber said that if everything goes well with the surgery and Chemo treatments, Rusty should have one to three years of quality life or possibly longer; unfortunately, he could also have less than a year.

Saturday, January 23rd
We had a long, tiring but productive trip to San Diego yesterday; we drove through snow, hail and rain so heavy that freeway speeds were 40 MPH (which is quite unusual for Southern California). Fortunately, there were no accidents and most drivers were slowing down with the weather conditions. Because of the weather, Veterinary Imaging Center of San Diego moved us into priority status and processed Rusty quicker than their original time estimate, so that we could avoid the rush hour traffic on our way home. The weather was the same for our return trip other than no snow; Rusty was sedated for the scans and images and slept all the way home which was good.

The imaging center performed CT Scans of his whole body, chest and left thigh region and Ultrasounds of his abdomen and heart. All of the scans were clear and showed no signs that the cancer has spread into his internal organs. There are a couple of Lymph Nodes in his stomach that were enlarged but they don’t think it is from the cancer. The CT Scans of the thigh showed that the tumor is touching the pelvic region and is very close to crucial areas of his anus and penis; the Radiologist is also a Vet and said that Dr. Huber would have a real challenge in making sure that he gets the entire tumor when he removes Rusty’s leg. The Vet also cautioned us that a recurrence is highly probable because of the aggressive form of cancer and Rusty’s age, confirming what Dr. Huber had told us when he reviewed Rusty’s treatment options.

Because Rusty is so healthy otherwise, which we hope will allow him to fight any recurrence of the cancer along with Chemo therapy, we feel it is worth the risk of surgery to give him the extra time. I don’t think we are being selfish in our desire to extend his life; if he was going to suffer any pain or have a lower quality of life we would not perform the surgery. We are up against the clock in making our decision as the tumor has grown significantly in the past five days and will spread internally very quickly if it is not removed.

Dr. Huber called us last night and again discussed our options. In his preliminary review of the scans he feels confident that he can remove 100% of the tumor, which may also require removing a portion of the Pelvic region. The imaging center had transmitted the digital images to Dr. Huber and he has a program on his computer that allows him to construct a 3-D model of Rusty’s leg from the 2 dimensional scans. He is working on the model this weekend to plan his surgical procedures; we will take Rusty in at 7:30 AM Monday morning as Dr. Huber wants to perform the surgery ASAP. He will again assess the probabilities that he can remove 100% of the tumor after evaluation of the model of Rusty’s leg. If we are all in agreement, he will then perform the surgery.

Monday, January 25th
It has been a very long day! We took Rusty in at 7:30AM this morning and Dr. Huber. just called at 8:30 PM. The Dr. had hoped that Rusty would be prepped and the surgery would begin around 11:00 AM, but he called us at 1:30 PM and they were just getting started. After seeing the tumor’s growth since last Thursday’s visit, he spent more time adjusting his plan of attack and getting the surgical team prepared. Rusty was in recovery when he called and he said that he was doing fine. Dr. Huber said that the surgery went as planned, without any major problems or bleeding and he was able to remove the tumor and leg intact; it will be sent to the Colorado State University Animal Cancer Center for analysis. The Dr. felt very comfortable that he was able to remove a safe margin of non-tumor flesh for 95% of the area; the 5% where he had to take less was in the area of the penis and he could not take any more without causing damage to the area. When he gets the reports back from CSU, we will know if he was successful in completely removing the tumor. It will probably be Wednesday before we can bring him home and it is doubtful that we will be able to visit him tomorrow as they are concerned that he would get over excited on seeing us. We are preparing our spare guest room for Rusty as he has to be kept quiet and closely monitored for 14 days after he comes home.

Dr. Huber. is spending the night with Rusty! He has an inflatable air bed and will put that in the recovery room to sleep on so that he can monitor Rusty.
The complete leg and tumor were sent to Colorado State University to make sure Dr. Huber removed the entire tumor and perform additional analysis as to the type of tumor. The results will probably be back early next week and Dr. Huber said that we will have to take an aggressive Chemotherapy program to knock it out.

Rusty before surgery, note the size of the leg on the right
Rusty after surgery

Rusty at Vet's ready to come home
Rusty at Vet's office, last photo with all 4 legs
Rusty at Vet's office, right after surgery
Rusty at Vet's office during recovery

Tuesday, January 26th
Dr. Huber called and Rusty is doing so well he wants us to bring him home this afternoon! He said that Rusty had recovered from the surgery much quicker than expected, probably because he is so young (18 months this Saturday) and he thinks it would be better for him to be home in familiar surroundings tonight rather than spending another night in the hospital. He has bandages, a drain tube, etc. that we will need to monitor but we want him home too. Now we just have to keep our fingers crossed for a clean report from CSU, which will probably come Friday at the earliest.

When we picked up Rusty, Dr. Huber showed us the before and after surgery X-Rays and reviewed the extent of his surgery procedures. In addition to amputating Rusty’s leg, he removed a portion of his Pelvic bone. The before X-Rays depicted how much more the tumor had grown since he X-Rayed it last Thursday. The Dr. said that in another few days it would have been impossible to remove the entire tumor without impacting vital organs, which would precluded him from doing surgery. They shaved Rusty’s entire hind quarters for the surgery and with the summer cut we gave him before the surgery; he certainly does not look like the same guy as his before surgery photos. Dr. Huber used the leg’s skin to cover the area where the leg was removed and when the hair grows out there should not be any noticeable scar line. Right now there is a huge incision line from the front of his abdomen to his anus; the bandages will come off by the end of the week.

Wednesday, January 27th
Rusty’s first night home went very well; obviously he was exhausted and happy to be home. He slept most of the night and was not too active; the challenge will come when he is rested and wants to be more active. We have to keep him from running, jumping or playing with Oliver, his cat brother, for the next 14 days or until the sutures are removed. He has one pain med that is given once a day and another that is given every 6 to 8 hours, depending on if he is showing signs of pain and an anti-biotic pill that he takes every 8 hours. He also has a vacuum bottle connected to the drain line in the incision which has to be emptied and measured every 8 hours. We were up at 1 and 3 AM to give him meds and empty the bottle and again at 6 AM, which we are normally up anyway, for his anti-biotic. We have a couch and recliner in the room which allows us to stay with him. We purchased an orthopedic bed for Rusty and he really appreciates the comfort it provides. He is confused and bewildered, but is still the same sweet and lovable boy he has always been. Oliver realizes that something is different with Rusty and wants to spend time with him; however we are keeping him out of the recovery room.
Rusty is to get several small meals a day and so far readily eats everything put in front of him. He is also drinking a lot of water and piddling regularly. I lowered his potty box (we don’t have grass in our yard) which enables him to walk in and out of it. Dr. Huber provided us with a sling that goes under his mid-section to help him keep his balance when we take him outside for his business. We are keeping him confined to our spare guest room where we put down an area rug on the tile floor and he is able to get around fairly well on three legs. When he gets off the rug on the tile, he has more difficulty keeping his leg from slipping and maintaining his balance. We are looking at putting down additional area rugs or the self stick carpet tiles in the halls as our house has 100% polished tile floors. That will provide him with more stability when he is released from his recovery room.

Rusty at home after surgery, not feeling very perky
Rusty's surgery

Friday, January 29th
Rusty went to see Dr. Huber today for his first follow-up visit; Dr. Huber was pleased with the healing process and removed the dressings to allow air to reach the sutures. We are still in the recovery room 24/7, although Jan moved to her recliner in the family room, which is right outside the door, and that allowed me to move to the couch from the recliner. I am now able to keep one hand down next to Rusty so that he knows we are close by; Jan sets the timer for the next dosage time and prepares the food for Rusty to take his medicine with. We are getting a little more sleep, but nothing close to normal. Rusty has some pain, but only a couple of instances where he really cried out; once was when I put the sling under him, so I may have pinched the surgical area.

Monday, February 1st
Rusty returned to Dr. Huber this morning for his 2nd follow-up. The Dr. said that everything is healing as expected and he removed the drain tube, which should make Rusty a little more comfortable as he doesn’t have to wear the surgical sweater & vacuum bottle. Rusty’s next appointment is Sunday afternoon when Dr. Huber will remove his sutures; this week is going to be a challenge for us as the sutures are beginning to heal & pull and Rusty wants to get to them, which is a big NO NO. We purchased a larger Elizabethan soft collar for Rusty as he could reach an area near his anus with the smaller hard collar he came home with. The surgery area is already showing improvement in appearance and he has a little “peach fuzz” hair growth coming in. Rusty was very appreciative of his outing, even going to the Vet where he loves everyone. Dr. Huber said that he could start having visits from his non-doggy friends beginning Wednesday.

We talked to the Dr. this evening and he had just received the pathology results from Colorado State University; the report said that the tumor has “clean edges” which means Dr. Huber removed the entire tumor and a margin of clean tissue around it. Dr. Huber cautioned us that although he is pleased with the report, it is not a guarantee that he removed 100% of the tumor as something could always be hidden. If the report had come back with “dirty edges” that would have required additional surgery or radiation. The report also indicated that with the larger tissue sample, some portions of the Sarcoma could possibly be a level 2 rather the original level 3. Dr. Huber said that while level 2 was less aggressive than level 3, it is still a very aggressive form of cancer, especially in a dog of Rusty’s age. The report did not change his prognosis on the cancer returning in the next 1 to 3 years. After Dr. Huber removes the sutures on Sunday, we will spend an hour with Dr. Macy, who is an Oncologist and will begin Rusty’s Chemotherapy treatment at that time.

Rusty is learning to get up and down much easier now and even sat on his haunch for the first time tonight; his balance on three legs has also improved. He has to remain on a leash to keep him from trying to run or jump for another two weeks. Rusty’s appetite has returned and every day he is acting more like his old self, which is amazing as it one week ago today that he had surgery. We purchased some cute dog shirts and a sweater to keep him warm; the temps in the desert drop during the night because of the clear skies, and with almost half of his body shaved, we were concerned he might catch cold.

Monday, February 8th
Rusty saw Dr. Huber yesterday and had his sutures removed, for which he was very appreciative; Dr. Huber said that his recovery was going very well and he did not see anything for us to worry about from the surgery. We then met Dr. Macy, the Oncologist, who is also very nice; he came in and said my name is Dennis and sat down on the floor with Rusty. Dr. Macy discussed the various Chemotherapy options that are available for treating Rusty (they are all the same drugs as used on humans, nothing has been developed for canines) and the two specific drugs he felt were the best for Rusty considering the type of cancer, the aggressiveness of it and Rusty’s age. We accepted his recommendations and he gave Rusty his first intravenous treatment of Vinblastine, which he will receive the first of each month for six months. He also takes two capsules of Lomustine orally two weeks after his IV treatment. We have to wear gloves when handling the Lomustine capsules, picking up his potty and not let him lick us or the cat for 24 hours after taking the medication. They also gave him an injection of Maropitant Citrate for nausea with the IV and four days of 16mg tablets to take at home. They are keeping Rusty on the Meloxicam (Metacam) which is a NSAID and helps with the pain; he has been on Metacam since the amputation. Dr. Macy also says that it has some benefits in helping Rusty deal with his Chemo treatments. They will monitor Rusty’s blood counts, liver functions along with additional scans and X-Rays to make sure the cancer has not returned.

Rusty 2 weeks after surgery

Dr. Macy hopes that this treatment plan can delay the recurrence of the cancer in Rusty. Rusty slept for 12 hours last night after the treatment, but so far has not suffered any nausea or vomiting which are the most severe of the side effects of the drug. They did give him an injection to prevent these side effects and he has oral medication for the next four days to counter them. His appetite was good this morning and he is motoring around the house very comfortably, again very appreciative to no longer be confined to the recovery room; he hopped up on the couch in my office (with a little difficulty, but surprised both of us) where he is now fast asleep. Jan and I are back in our bedroom and our wonderful bed after sleeping on the couch and recliner in the recovery room the past two weeks.

Thursday, March 4th
Rusty went to Dr. Macy today for his second IV dose of Vinblastine; they also did a comprehensive blood workup and everything was completely normal. He received the usual anti nausea injection and pills. His reaction was pretty much the same as his first treatment, maybe a touch more diarrhea. Rusty has been handling his Chemo treatments fairly well; not much nausea but some diarrhea issues; Dr. Macy had us adjust his diet, which is all healthy foods (primarily EVO brand canned and dry), along with ground beef, brown rice & beef broth, and add Fibercon & probiotic supplements to his intake. This has reduced his diarrhea episodes to only occasionally.

Thursday, March 25th
Our lives have returned to some normalcy over the past few weeks; we are adjusting to Rusty’s treatment schedule and needs while catching up on all of the things that we pushed off the first four weeks of Rusty’s ordeal. Rusty continues to improve daily and amazes everyone how well he gets along on three legs. I found an online support group,, whose members have either been or going through what we are dealing with. I have been posting pictures of Rusty and blogs on DoodleKisses and Rusty has a lot of fans and supporters on that website.

After the February 7th visit and suture removal, Rusty has been able to move around the house more comfortably; to give him some exercise we began with short walks and are now up to ½ to ¾ mile daily walks. Rusty will let us know when he is getting tired and wants to return home. I am trying to do some jogging with him as it seems to be easier for him to run than hop, however at 71 I need to work on my conditioning.

After seeing him slipping on our polished tile floors we decided to put down indoor/outdoor carpeting in our hallways, master bath and family room. We also added three area rugs to our master bedroom, which Jan was wanting anyway, which allows Rusty pretty much solid footing throughout the house. We purchased the “Ruff Wear” harness w/lifting handle that was recommended on the Tripawds website which facilitates getting him in and out of our SUV. We also purchased elevated feeding bowls which seems to help him in eating. His appetite is generally pretty good, although it suffers after the twice monthly Chemo treatments; he usually does not eat for a day or two after the treatment. Occasionally we have been giving him a special treat of going through the “In & Out Burger” drive through where he gets a plain meat patty. Dr. Macy sort of frowns at us but it is so special for Rusty that we will continue with it; as soon as we pull into the drive through line Rusty gets so excited he can hardly contain himself.
Rusty was looking longingly at our bed, which he used to be able to jump up on, and after looking at what was available online, I designed a set of stairs that allows him access to our bed. Because of our bed’s height, 30 inches, I added sideboards to prevent him from falling off the steps and a side exit which allowed for a shorter length and fits bedside the bed. I stained it to match our bedroom furniture and Jan had me add carpeting from our left over scraps. It only took Rusty a couple of times to master using it and now he flies up and down it; he is so proud of it that when we have company he takes them into our bedroom to show how he can navigate the stairs.

Rusty showing off his new bed access
Rusty's new bed stairs

Rusty has had a slew of Dog Park parents stop by for visits which he really enjoys (he must get very tired of seeing only Mom & Dad) but he really misses his dog park buddies. On March 3rd we had a luncheon for several of the dog park Mom’s who have been so supportive of Rusty with visits, new toys, etc. Rusty enjoyed seeing all of the Mom’s but was very tired when they left. We are very fortunate in Sun City that we have two off leash parks, in addition to many green belts and lakes that we can walk on leash. Rusty will not be able to return to the dog park until he is off Chemo, and Dr. Macy says maybe not at all. As a result, boredom is our biggest issue with him now; we play games in the house and with the return of warm weather we hope to get the okay for him to get in the pool after his next Chemo treatment on April 5th. Rusty and his cat brother, Oliver, play and run through the house the same as when Rusty had four legs. We purchased a fabric tunnel maze for Oliver when Rusty was confined after surgery as he was feeling neglected and wondering what was happening to his brother; both of them play cat and mouse in the maze and it has been good for both of them.

We have season tickets to several performances at the McCallum Theatre in Palm Desert and were fortunate that we did not have many shows during the past two months; one of the dog park Mom’s offered to stay with Rusty last weekend (March 20th) which allowed us to have a leisurely lunch with some friends and take in a performance; our first “date” since the middle of January when all of this started. We are looking forward to being able to get out some more knowing that Rusty will be in good care. As you can see from the photos that were taken in early March his hair is growing back nicely; we had him groomed on Monday, which was eight weeks to the day from his amputation, to even out his coat from where he was shaved for the operation.

Rusty 8 weeks after surgery
Rusty 8 weeks after surgery

I give him nightly massages which he really enjoys, particularly in the area where his leg was removed and scratch the areas that he cannot reach because of his amputation. I am also checking for any lumps or growths that might be developing; of course there is nothing I can do to detect anything internal. When he is through with his Chemo treatments in August, we may take him back to the imaging center in San Diego for more scans and Ultrasound views to see if the cancer has metastasized to his lungs. The Colorado State pathology reports gave the cancer a 50% chance for metastasis since it was a grade 3 tumor.

His super personality has not changed and he is such a happy dog that it has been worth every minute of our time, the extreme stress on both of us and the changes in our lifestyles to accommodate Rusty’s needs. We just hope and pray that he will be with us the full 1 to 3 years of his prognosis, knowing it could be much less, and cherish every moment with him. No regrets on our decision for surgery and Chemo! Rusty will see Dr. Macy on April 5th for his third IV treatment.

Tuesday, April 6th
Rusty went to see Dr. Macy yesterday for his monthly Chemo treatment; he received the usual IV dose of Vinblastine and the anti nausea injection and pills. Dr. Macy continued the Metacam for another month; we discussed the diarrhea issues that Rusty is having and he suggested we add Imodium as needed. If that does not help he may put him on a prescription anti-diarrhea medicine but would like to avoid taking that if possible. Rusty’s blood work was again very good, A-, only because his platelets were a little low. Rusty had a restless night and was up twice to go potty, which was again diarrhea. He has been taking it easy today which is his normal reaction; his appetite was normal last night and today. There are a couple of spots, about the size of a dime, on Rusty’s back where the hair was much darker than the surrounding area; Dr. Macy did a needle biopsy and they are benign! He thinks that it may be some sort of skin infection that has irritated the hair follicles’ causing the color to change. Every change in Rusty causes us to pause and hold our breath. Dr. Macy gave the okay for Rusty to start swimming and a possible visit with my mother in June. Rusty seems to have a need to chew on his paws, not sure if it is from boredom or a need to chew; we asked Dr. Macy if we could give him raw bones and he said no because of his compromised immune system.

We have noticed on our morning walks that the warmer weather seems to affect Rusty more, as he seeks out the shady side of the street. Also during the day he pretty much stays in the house lying on the cool tile floor. We asked Dr. Macy if this is from the Chemo treatments and he said it was; that the chemo impacts a dog’s sensitivity to both heat and cold temps. I guess we will keep Rusty in the pool a lot during our torrid summer, and look for a cool location for a getaway after he is through with his Chemo in August. Rusty’s activities are fairly normal and he seems to accept his new routine better than he did in the beginning; we notice that in the evenings his rear leg must get tired as his hops are less energetic. His next appointment with Dr. Macy is May 4th.

Sunday, May 9th
Rusty has had a very good month! We got off to a slow start after the April Chemo treatment with the continuing diarrhea issues and nausea; Dr. Macy prescribed Budesonide twice daily for the diarrhea and an additional week’s worth of anti-nausea pills. After a couple of days the diarrhea stopped and his normal appetite returned. Rusty’s energy level has returned to pre-surgery levels and we added an evening walk to help him use up the new energy. Our friends who knew him before surgery can’t believe how much he has regained his previous energy and enthusiasm; his three month Ampuversary was April 25th. It certainly seems that it has been a lot longer than three months since his surgery! For the first time his mid-month oral dosage of Lomustine did not slow him down this month. He still has trouble understanding why he can’t lick us or his brother for 24 hours after the pills. Jan gives Rusty his daily pills in “dog food meatballs” which he eagerly gulps down.

We have been taking advantage of the cooler weather to catch up on our outdoor projects that were put on hold for the two months that Rusty required 24/7 care or we were preparing the inside of the house to accommodate his “Tripawd” needs. Rusty has enjoyed supervising the projects unless he has to be in the sun as the Chemo makes him much warmer and he avoids the sun whenever possible. We did not cover all of the tile floors when we installed the indoor/outdoor carpeting, and he seeks out the exposed tile to lie on to be cooler. We will be keeping his coat to a summer cut to help him keep cool this summer. We ordered a “cool mat” for him to lie on when he is on the patio and he has his “swamp cooler” vest from last summer that we will begin using for his walks when the heat arrives.
Between our continued unseasonably cool weather & winds, we still have not been in the pool. Rusty did take a pre-swim dip a couple weeks ago; he is our “Cabana Boy” in keeping the pool clean of debris that the wind blows in. He was walking on the wall that separates the spa the pool, which is about an inch above the pool water level, and slipped and fell into the pool. He immediately swam over to the steps and climbed out like he was trained to do; we met him with towels and dried him off. He seemed a little shook up but was fine and continues to perform his daily pool cleaning duties. We are now taking him for early morning walks around the lake; several of his dog park friends have been meeting us for the walk and Rusty really enjoys seeing some of his old dog park buddies!

Rusty went to see Dr. Macy Monday for his monthly Chemo treatment, his 4th with 2 more to go; he received the regular IV injection of Vinblastine and the anti nausea injection and pills. This time he seemed to do much better, however he is still on the anti-diarrhea pills which may have made the difference. Dr. Macy said when the prescription runs out next week not to refill it until we see if the diarrhea returns. He slept most of the afternoon on Monday and all day on Tuesday, but has been very active since. His appetite has been almost normal this week, with only couple of meals that he refused to eat. His blood work results were not quite as good as before, but Dr. Macy said that they were all still within acceptable levels. Rusty has lost a pound since last month’s visit and Dr. Macy was concerned with the loss; we are hoping that it is the extra evening walk. I am weighing him at home and he has been the same weight for two months. He had a mild cough for a few days which made Jan very concerned; he has not coughed for several days and we are hoping it was allergies, as the pollen levels are much higher than normal because of the extra rain this year.

Tuesday, May 25th
4th month Ampuversary! Rusty is getting around better than ever and his appetite has returned with a vengeance. He had his monthly dose of Lomustine Chemo last Monday and has handled it better than in previous months; last week he finished his Budesonide which he was taking twice daily for the diarrhea. Dr. Macy asked us not to refill the prescription and see how he was without the medication; unfortunately the diarrhea returned full bore this week and he is back on the Budesonide. His appetite is still good but he seems so exhausted after going potty so many times, including 3AM last night.
Rusty was due for his Bordetella Booster shot last week and Dr. Macy gave us the okay to continue with his normal preventive care treatments. As Dr.’s Huber & Macy are referral Vets only, they do not provide regular preventive care for their patients; we introduced Rusty to a new Vet, Henry Randazzo, on Wednesday. He is highly recommended and has several other vets practicing with him. He spent a lot of time examining Rusty and is hopeful that Dr. Macy’s treatment will give us more than the 1 to 3 years of our original prognosis. We just did not have the level of confidence with our previous Vet that we need at this time. She may be correct that the growth on his leg was possibly benign for the several months that were observing it and asking her about it, before being diagnosed as malignant in January. However, we will never know if an earlier more aggressive investigative approach would have changed the final outcome for Rusty.

Rusty seems to be more apprehensive the past couple of weeks and will not let us out of his sight; not sure if this is a phase of a 22 month old puppy, we certainly hope so, or if there is something going on such as the cancer returning. He seems to have a need to be able to lick us every chance that he has, and gets upset if we don’t let him get in several licks. This really makes it tough for the 24 hours after Chemo when he is not allowed to lick us or the cat; he just doesn’t understand why he can’t lick us.

Monday, June 14th
Rusty has had a very busy couple of weeks since the last update and overall has done very well! A dear friend from Portland arrived on Thursday the 27th for a long Memorial Day weekend and left the following Tuesday; having company in the house kept Rusty occupied as to what was happening and checking on Sally’s room. Rusty went for his first “official” swim while Sally was here; he did fairly well, obviously tiring much sooner than before. The missing leg did not seem to have any effect on his swimming ability. The only problem he encountered was in getting out of the pool; he can swim to the steps for an easy out or jump from an underwater ledge to the spa wall and walk out. He used to jump from the ledge with ease and tried valiantly to do so this time but did not have the strength with only one leg to make the jump. I will need to put a barrier on the spa wall to force him to use the steps to get out of the pool; he seems to like the challenge of jumping and it was just too hard watching him struggle when he could not make the jump.

On Thursday, June 3rd Dr. Macy gave Rusty his 5th IV Chemo treatment and everything went well; his blood work was better, A- this time, although a couple of the liver functions had slipped a little, but still within margin. Rusty did fine with this treatment, he slept most of the day which is normal and had a hearty appetite for dinner. Dr. Macy asked us to stop the daily dosage of Meloxicam (Metacam) which is a NSAID and helps with the pain from surgery. He seems to be doing okay without the Metacam; however he has hunched up and seemed to favor the surgery area a few times when he was walking. His appetite continues to improve along with his energy levels, although he still tires very quickly when playing or walking. Jan gives his twice daily diarrhea medication, along with Fibercon in “meatballs” made from EVO canned food, which he really enjoys. He still has occasional bouts of severe diarrhea even with the medication.

On Friday morning after Chemo, we packed up and were on the road to see Rusty’s Grandmother (my mother), who will be 89 in August. It is a 6 ½ hour drive to her home on the Central California coast; Rusty seemed a little uncomfortable the last couple of hours of the trip and we stopped a couple of times for a potty break without success. When we got to Grandma’s Rusty made a beeline for her back yard and had a large diarrhea potty; I guess that he was uncomfortable but did not want to go potty in a strange area (he is very fussy about having a clean potty area.

A neighbor was celebrating his 80th birthday at his son’s in Templeton, CA, which is about 25 miles from my Mother’s. We had asked her if she would keep Rusty while we were at the party, and she was so excited to be able to care for him and she had all of her neighbors and friends come by for a visit. The temperatures on the coast were in the high 50’s most of the time; Rusty and Jan enjoyed the much cooler weather, but I was very chilly. My mother really enjoyed our visit, especially Rusty and it really perked her up! We returned home on Tuesday and Rusty slept for the entire trip other than our lunch stop at In & Out Burger where he had his meat patty.

This was Rusty’s first major trip since surgery and he handled it very well; we were very pleased and proud of him. He remembered his Grandmother’s house & yard and we stayed at the same motel as before, which hopefully reduced his stress. All of us were happy to return home and get back into our daily routine. A neighbor looked after Oliver while we were away; Rusty and Oliver spent almost an hour chasing and playing with each other on Wednesday morning. He will receive his 6th and final IV Chemo treatment from Dr. Macy on July 2nd.

Rusty & Oliver, one week before surgery

Friday, June 18th
We gave Rusty his 5th dosage of Lomustine yesterday; he is not eating today which is his normal reaction and so far no diarrhea issues. Being separated from us for 24 hours is really hard for him to understand; with his great personality he wants to be with us constantly. A week from today will be his five month Ampuversary! The hot weather really takes a toll on him; his energy levels have gone down in the past couple of weeks and we are hoping that it is because of the hot weather.