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Griffin's Journey

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Sep 15

It has been a bit over three weeks since I last provided an update, mostly because not much new has been going on with us.  Griffin received the second dose of his Yale canine cancer trial vaccine a few days ago.  We will return to AMC for an appointment with Griffin’s oncology team on September 26th after a break of 6 weeks – the longest we have gone with no major medical appointment since his diagnosis!  Griffin will have chest x-rays taken on that day to determine if the vaccine and/or Palladia is having a positive impact on the lung mets previously identified and determine our next course of action.

While Griffin remains in good spirits and generally active, we have been experiencing some difficulty with his eating habits.  In my last update, I indicated that he had started to become picky with his food, which turned into a full on refusal to eat any of the food – kibble, canned, or home-cooked – that he previously ate willingly.  He was happy to eat most human food (meat and cheese) and some other varieties of canned food, which is why I did not think that Griffin was feeling nauseous.  After consulting with his oncology team, I started Griffin on Cerenia, usually used for vomiting (which Griffin was not experiencing) but which can also address nausea, a sign of which is pickiness with eating.  Unfortunately, the Cerenia had no noticed effect and at a cost of over $10/pill, it wasn’t worth keeping him on it after 5 days of no changes.

After racking my brain for what could turn Griffin off so completely to his regular food, I made the connection that I was giving his chemo meds with his afternoon meals, so if he was experiencing nausea from the Palladia, he was likely connecting his old foods with that unpleasantness – smart boy!  I began administering his chemo meds right before bedtime and I switched him to a new kibble and wet food to test my theory, and he mostly rebounded with regular eating.  We had an extended visit with my godchildren in Pennsylvania, so he was spoiled with lots of human food during this time!  [He also mastered going down uncarpeted wood stairs multiple times a day unassisted!]  After returning home a few days ago, Griffin no longer seemed enamored with the new canned food that he eagerly ate while out of town, so we are back to the drawing board.  I have a few varieties of canned food, and hopefully we will hit on one he likes consistently.  I’ve also done a bit of research for new kibble (he’s eaten Taste of the Wild his entire life and I’m a bit sad that we need to find a new brand!) and ordered small bags of 3 varieties so that we can find a keeper that meets my quality requirements and his gastrointestinal preferences.  And finally, I ordered CBD oil from Ellevet, which will hopefully address his lack of consistent appetite and any nausea he may be experiencing.

Thankfully, Griffin’s weight has remained stable during this time, a difference of -0.4 lbs. in the 3 weeks between his vaccine doses, which is good news.  I am really not accustomed to worrying about Griffin’s eating habits and I really hope we solve this issue soon!

On the fun side, while in Pennsylvania, we took walks at the “duck park”, hiked a nature trail, and generally had a blast with Joana (17), Makaylah (10), Gabriel (9), and Savannah (3).  Griffin also got a fabulous haircut at Bow Wow Bliss (we have groomers in 4 different locations outside of NYC – Long Island NY, Baltimore MD, Pottstown PA, and Buffalo NY – all of which are amazing and so much less expensive)!  I do believe Savannah thinks Griffin is hers, though it was Makaylah’s bed upon which he slept each night.

Our return to NYC coincided with the arrival of autumn.  Griffin enjoys the cooler weather, but I was not ready to wear a jacket on our walk this morning!  😏  It’s been a while since I’ve posted a Griffin fetch video, so enjoy this one and make sure the volume is turned all the way up to hear him gently snoring while snoozing away the afternoon after our long morning walk today!

Aug 23

Griffin received the first dose of the Yale canine cancer trial vaccine yesterday!  We were originally scheduled to travel to Connecticut tomorrow in order to avoid the $1,200 cost (tax deductible donation to Yale University) of having the vaccine sent to our local vet, but the vaccine was mistakenly sent to Griffin’s oncologist last week.  Dr. Mamula, the lead vet for the trial, very graciously allowed us to keep the vaccine, lowering the cost to $300.  So, instead of having to travel about an hour and turn over Griffin in the parking lot to staff of a clinic we don’t know and pay about $225 for that consultation, we were able to have our local vet administer the vaccine with me in the room for $65.  That was a total win for us!

Griffin started Palladia and Piroxicam last week.  He does not seem to be experiencing any side effects, but he has been a little picky with his food the last few days.  He is still eating, but whereas before he would literally lick the bowl clean for his afternoon homecooked meal, I am now having to coax him a bit to eat most of it.  Nothing has changed with his food, and he eagerly eats treats and human food (for example, cottage cheese and chicken), so I’m not sure what’s going on.  When Griffin is not feeling well, he will refuse all food/treats, so I don’t think he is nauseous.  He has gone from 60lbs on July 18th to 56.7lbs yesterday, losing one pound just from August 14th.  His local vet says he is in ideal body condition, and his oncology team doesn’t seem concerned, just cautioning me not to force him to eat.

Other than the recent food pickiness, Griffin continues to do well.  The weather in NYC was cool enough not to need the AC for most of last week, and the lower heat/humidity made our daily morning walks more enjoyable.  Griffin will return to his local vet for the second dose of the vaccine in 3 weeks and has an oncology appointment 2 weeks after that to repeat the chest x-rays and determine our next course of action.  Not including the trips to our local vet (walking distance from our house) for the vaccine injections, this will be the longest break from major medical appointments that we’ve had since Griffin was diagnosed in March – whoo hoo!

Griffin and I started our virtual hike across the Continental Divide with Team Tripawds yesterday.  My amazing family – Anita, Virginia, Mom, Dad & Donna, Kerri, and Marcie – were extremely generous in their donations, raising $1,000 for the Tripawds Foundation.  Griffin and I are so very lucky to have their support and can’t wait to cross the “finish line” after walking 26.2 miles!

xoxo Stacy

We used Griffin’s red wagon a ton while on vacation to haul things down to the pond and pavilion, and we accidentally broke the push handle bar.  His original wagon has been discontinued but I was lucky enough to find a replacement one which is almost identical.  Griffin was very color coordinated on this day, modeling his Ruff Wear Jet Stream cooling vest and enjoying the shade provided by his new chariot!

Griffin and I don’t share our apartment with anyone else, so I never close the bathroom door when showering, brushing my teeth, etc.  If Griffin decides that I’m in the bathroom too long, he comes to stalk me.

Even the rain doesn’t dim Griffin’s joy at romping in the grass.  The geese weren’t too sure what to make of the 3-legged orange animal rolling around in their field!

Aug 14

Griffin had an oncology appointment today, with follow up chest x-ray results that were a mixed bag.  I’m a bad news first type of gal, so…the latest x-rays show that Griffin has 3 nodules in his lungs, an increase from 1 on July 8th.  The good news is that while they thought there was only 1 nodule in those last x-rays, they have determined that there were actually 2 of the same size located close together (hence why they thought they saw only 1 from 2 different angles) and that those nodules have decreased in size by 30% and 50%.  The new nodule seen today is the smallest in size of the 3.  So the new chemo agent, doxorubicin, seems to have had some positive impact, but not as strong an impact as we would have liked.  Griffin’s oncology team at the Animal Medical Center is amazingly collaborative with me and together we agreed that we should suspend his doxorubicin chemotherapy to allow Griffin to receive the canine cancer trial vaccine from Yale.  I had prepared for this several weeks ago, proactively scheduling an appointment for Griffin to receive the first round of the vaccine on August 24th (he needs to be at least 3 weeks out from his last chemo treatment).  His team and I had previously discussed metronomic therapy and agreed that Griffin would begin taking palladia (oral chemotherapy drug, 70 mg every other day) and piroxicam (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory, 8 mg every day).  We were already in the process of switching Griffin to piroxicam, which required a washout period from his last NSAID (galliprant), so he was able to start both drugs today.

While I would have loved for Griffin’s x-rays to show that his lungs were completely clear, I am grateful that the lung tumors are responding somewhat positively to chemotherapy, and I am hopeful that the metronomic therapy will continue to have a positive impact and his immune system will kick into gear in this fight once he starts the vaccine.  I am further thankful to live close to Yale and will be able to easily travel there for the vaccine, avoiding a $1,200 cost to have it sent to my vet.  And finally, I am blessed that Griffin continues to do well overall, remaining active with a strong appetite and an energetic approach to life in general.

We talk a lot on the Tripawds site about “being more dog” after a cancer diagnosis – living in the moment and finding joy in the little things.  One way I do that is by taking photos and videos of Griffin almost every day, but I realized that that I am rarely in those photos.  So, I scheduled an outdoor photo shoot a few weeks ago and I am thrilled with the outcome!  If using a professional photographer is out of your budget, you could ask a friend to take photos that capture you interacting with your pet.  The love that Griffin and I share so clearly shines through in these images, and I will cherish them for the rest of my days.

xoxo Stacy

Aug 09

Griffin and I spent last week at Beaver Creek Farm Cabins in Lancaster County, PA where my family vacationed for years during the 1980s and where a group of us returned in 2018.  I love the tranquility and disconnected pace at Beaver Creek, but this year’s visit was particularly special due to the restrictions the pandemic has imposed on our ability to visit family, most of whom we haven’t seen in months.  So many of Griffin’s favorite people – nieces, godchildren, and chosen family – were with us last week, and coupled with the freedom to roam and swimming in the pond, it was definitely Griffin’s version of paradise!  Griffin did not let his tripawd status slow him down – he swam for an average of 5 hours each day we were there!

Griffin has always been protective of the kids, especially in the water.  When they yell coming off the diving board in a pool or the pond, Griffin feels the need to “rescue” them.  You can hear him whining in some of the videos as he tries to get close enough to save them while also holding onto his bumper float toy.  The kids became quite adept at throwing his toy far away from the diving board so that they could jump in peace for a few minutes!

I hope you can tell from the photos and videos below how much of a blast we had on our vacation! We hope that you are having good times and finding tranquility in this summer of covid.  Stay safe!  xoxo Stacy

Our cabin is at the end of the road going through the covered bridge.

My dear friend, Virginia, brought her pups, Dewie and Peanut, and Griffin was thrilled to share his vacation paradise with them!

Griffin never missed a chance to cuddle with his kids!

My oldest godchild, Joana, is one of Griffin’s absolute favorite humans because they have grown up together.  The first photo was taken in March 2020 when Joana was 7 and Griffin 8 weeks; the second photo was taken last week!

We are missing a few in this photo, but Griffin and I consider all of these kids “ours” – Valerie (10), Gabriel (9), Hailey (12), Makaylah (10), Phineas (9), Savannah (3), Madeleine (19), and Joana (17).

Griffin was an absolute fish, coming out of the water only when forced to rest or eat!

In the videos of Griffin’s swimming below, I hope you can appreciate the beauty of our vacation home!

Jul 29

Griffin modeling his Ruffwear Jet Stream cooling vest while taking in the view!

Griffin had his fifth round of chemo today (second round of doxorubicin), which was preceded by a rehab session.  The rehab therapist said that Griffin was an excellent patient during massage and stretches, and his oncologist, Dr. Camps, was happy with the results of his blood work prior to the chemo treatment.  The Animal Medical Center has loosened certain Covid restrictions, and I was able to accompany Griffin into the hospital and up to the rehab/oncology floor before turning him over.  And, I finally got to meet Dr. Camps in person – whoo hoo!  👏

Griffin is completely recovered from his wagon accident.  One outcome of the accident is that we have switched back to using the Animal Medical Center for his rehab.  For the last 2 months, we had gone to a rehab place in New Jersey that allowed me to remain with Griffin during his sessions, and it was nice to get out of NYC occasionally.  However, we had to cancel Griffin’s appointment scheduled for the day after his accident and it was difficult to reschedule it due to limited availability.  So, I was grateful that AMC was able to squeeze us in the weekend after his accident and we have set up a schedule for Griffin to have a 30-minute rehab session immediately prior chemo, both of which occur on the same floor of the hospital.  And, because the rehab sessions are conducted by a veterinarian, my insurance will cover the cost.

Griffin has the best smile!

While we had gone to AMC for two rehab sessions soon after Griffin’s surgery, it has been a while since the last one, so Dr. Cherno conducted a comprehensive re-examination of Griffin on June 18, 2020.  He said that Griffin looks great and is moving well.  Dr. Cherno gave me a bit of a scare when he said that Griffin was painful in his front outer toe knuckle and that he could feel a thickening of that joint.  He said that Griffin bared his teeth when that joint was manipulated, so he and Dr. Camps (who happened to be there that day) recommended taking an x-ray to rule out any significant issues.  Thankfully, the x-rays were clear and no matter how hard I pulled, bent, or squeezed that joint once we were home, I could not get any reaction from Griffin, so I’m not sure what was going on. 🤷‍♀️

Another silver lining of that incident is that I noticed Griffin seemed to have more energy and could move more easily once his activity restrictions were lifted, which I believe is a result of being on the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) Galliprant which Griffin  took before and after his surgery.  Griffin’s oncologist recommends the NSAID Piroxicam, which comes in standard doses of 10mg or 20mg, but the correct dosage for Griffin is 8mg.  So, I now know about veterinary compounding pharmacies which create custom dosage pills/capsules.  It was worth the time I took to comparison shop as I found a wide range of prices ($0.47 vs. $1.63 per capsule) for the same exact prescription, and chose Golden Gate Veterinary Compounding Pharmacy.

   

Griffin and I had another great visit last week to Long Island to spend time with Dad and Donna.  Griffin continues to swim with his right leg tucked high, using it only when turning.  Dr. Cherno says it is normal for dogs not to use their back legs at all (hence the name “doggie paddle”), although in videos taken years ago, I can see that Griffin used his back legs while swimming. And while we were on Long Island, Griffin got a much needed haircut, as can be seen in the before and after photos above!

Sunday will be Griffin’s 4 month ampuversary – hooray!  On Saturday, we are heading to Lancaster County, PA for a week-long vacation with family and friends, and Griffin will have a blast with some of his favorite people!  We hope that you are enjoying some summer fun and staying cool under this heat dome that has settled across the country.  Stay safe!  xoxo Stacy

Griffin enjoying life and the cool grass still covering in the morning dew.

Griffin swimming using his own special doggie paddle style.

Griffin checking out the dog trail while we were on Long Island.  He usually runs ahead but always waits for me to catch up.  What a good boy!