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Griffin's Journey

Aug 27

Gracie, the petite Golden Retriever, came to live with me on July 11, 2021 as a foster through Rescue City.  Two days prior, she had been surrendered by her family to the NYC public shelter severely malnourished, weighing only 29lbs.  While understandably needing a bit of time to decompress and adjust to a new home, Gracie showed her sweet, calm, smart, and loving nature from the start.  She struggled to eat even when presented with tempting foods like chicken and hamburger, some days showing interest and most days not.  She was diagnosed with kennel cough and her inappetence issues continued for several weeks.  Through it all, Gracie loved being outside, going for long walks in the park and taking car rides with her inquisitive little nose resting on the back seat windows.  An ultrasound was finally performed on July 29 and one of her abdominal lymph nodes was aspirated at that time.  The pathology results came back positive for high grade lymphoma, a cancer that spreads through the lymph nodes.  It is difficult to pinpoint when Gracie’s cancer might have first presented and the rescue decided to proceed with a course of oral chemotherapy in the hopes of extending Gracie’s life.

On the day of her ultrasound, Gracie started taking prednisone, a steroid which has worked wonders to improve her appetite and overall gastrointestinal function.  She has been steadily gaining weight (up to 36lbs now) and looks like a different dog than the one who came to live with me almost 7 weeks ago.  Earlier this month, she accompanied me to Beaver Creek Farm Cabins in Lancaster County, PA for a week of vacation with family and friends, and thoroughly enjoyed her time at one of Griffin’s all-time favorite places.  Despite the cancer, Gracie has been living a great life and the plans were to proceed with finding her a forever family.

Not today Peanut – that stuffed elephant is mine!

Gracie scratched her back all the way down the hill!

About a week ago, Gracie exhibited lameness and swelling in her right hind foot that was diagnosed as a soft tissue injury and she was prescribed gabapentin for the pain.  She bounced back quickly and was walking normally a few days later.  Three days ago, Gracie woke up with pronounced weakness in her left hind leg – limping, swaying when standing, staggering when walking, and having difficulty getting up and down.  I initially thought that Gracie might be experiencing a delayed reaction to the gabapentin, which can cause ataxia in dogs, especially in their hind legs.  More worrisome, the thought also crossed my mind that her cancer could have spread to her spine.  We made an appointment with the neurology department at the Animal Medical Center (the hospital where Griffin was treated) and Gracie was seen there yesterday.  A physical exam revealed that Gracie was very painful in her left hip and femoral area.  Subsequent pelvic x-rays showed severe osteoarthritis in both hips; the vet said that it was the worst case of osteoarthritis in the hip area that she had ever seen.  Both of Gracie’s femur bone “balls” are out of the “sockets” in her pelvis.  It is unclear if the recent lameness in her right leg caused the condition of her left hip to worsen, but this is a medical condition with which Gracie has been living for quite some time.  Until three days ago, Gracie was compensating well for her condition and our hope is to manage her pain well enough to allow her to return to that level of mobility.  In addition to the prednisone and gabapentin, Gracie will start taking amantadine long term and codeine for the next 5-7 days.  Once she is fully mobile and pain free, we will decide how to continue treating her cancer.  If Gracie does not show improvement to the level of being able to walk comfortably in the next 10 days, we will likely make the decision to humanely euthanize her as her quality of life would be so significantly compromised without the ability to take pleasure in doing the things she loved best.

When I agreed to foster Gracie, I thought I was getting a dog that needed to be well fed for a while.  I did not anticipate that Gracie’s medical issues would so closely mirror Griffin’s – struggles with cancer, inappetence, and mobility.  So many times in the last few weeks I have found myself grieving for Gracie and for me, struggling to stop comparing her experience to my boy’s, and hoping that Gracie would find a forever family that would love and care for her for whatever time she had remaining so that I could avoid the pain of her dying while in my care.  And then a few nights ago while watching a César Milan show, I heard him say, “You don’t get the dog you want, you get the dog you need” and it stopped me in my tracks.  I know I have been a better advocate for Gracie because of my experience with Griffin. I also know that her quality of life is vastly improved from when I first met her because of those advocacy efforts.  And while I’m still trying to figure out what I need to learn from loving Gracie, perhaps it is enough to know that I got the dog that needed me.

 

7 comments so far

  1. Courtney Russell
    4:13 pm - 8-27-2021

    You are the best dog mom and person I know. Gracie is exactly where she needs to be ❤️

  2. Virginia
    5:42 pm - 8-27-2021

    Beautiful post!

  3. audrey hendler
    6:51 pm - 8-27-2021

    Wow. Beautiful and sweet and tragic. May taking care of her bring you peace.

  4. Michelle
    8:06 pm - 8-27-2021

    YOu are an awesome person. Cesar is right and I have heard that saying before. Just love that girl as long as you have her. Keep her happy and as pain free as you can. It’s never easy to know what or when or even how long we have.

    Thank you for taking care of her and give that sweet girl hugs.

    xoxoxox
    Michelle, Jasmine, Chief, Sasha and my Angels Sassy, Bosch, Baby Simba and Sweet Snickers.

  5. dobemom
    11:43 pm - 8-27-2021

    Wow! Such an amazing and powerful post this is! I SAW that episode of Cesar…I can’t even begin to fathom what caring for Gracie has brought back to you, mentally and emotionally. I know you will do right by this special girl, and I agree, I think Griffin must have had a paw in sending her to you. Thank you so much for being her salvation – whether for just a short time, or for whatever time she has left. When life was beyond hard with Nitro, I’d repeat over and over in my head, “Let my faith be bigger than my fear”; another one was “If your path demands you walk through Hell, walk as if you own the place”. Heaven surely has a place for you! Sending prayers and love as you and Gracie move forward.

    Paula and Warrior Angels Nitro and Kodi

  6. Jody
    11:02 pm - 8-28-2021

    I love you! That is all.

  7. Donna Keller
    11:49 am - 8-30-2021

    Your words are so powerful, Stacy. Your ability to move me to tears and smile at the same time is unbelievable. For as long as Gracie has, I am so happy she has that time with you. Watching her eyes follow you wherever you go, I know she loves you so much, as did Griffin. You are an amazing and awEsome dog mom! Love you and love that you are so kind to foster.

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