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Griffin's Journey

Jun 28

A lot has happened for Nori in the last 2 months!  She had TTA (not TPLO) surgery on her left hind leg on May 24th, and came through like a champ!  After trying a soft, padded cone for a few days, I bought a surgical sleeve that worked amazingly well (after I figured out how to anchor it so the straps didn’t slip off her hind end!) at protecting her leg without needing a cone.  Before the surgery, Nori was very protective of her body overall, but especially wary of any touching on her legs or near her hind end.  After surgery I was able to handle her leg with gentle persuasion and about a week later she had no reaction at all to having any body part touched.

We took recovery slow and easy, although as she started feeling better and was weaned from all meds, Nori definitely wanted to walk further and longer than she was allowed.  Benebones and Himalayan Yak treats were very helpful in keeping her busy!  About 3 weeks after her surgery, Nori was my travel companion for a 3-state, 10 day road trip that gave her the opportunity to meet many new friends of the kid, dog, and even cat variety!  She was a very good girl for a grooming session in Baltimore and looked so sleek afterwards!  Nori especially loved our last stop at my sister’s house in Virginia where she had the freedom to roam in a large backyard with my 5-year old niece trailing her every step!

The best news is that Nori was adopted on Saturday!  She is living a fabulous life in Massachusetts with parents who are experienced with Airedales, lots of neighborhoods dog friends, and a mom who will be home all day.  And her new name is Faith! sp_hearticon2

I do miss having Nori in the house, but I actually find myself missing Griffin more.  The day of Nori’s surgery, I of course was hoping for everything to go well for her, but I also found myself grieving for Griffin and how his surgery was not curative like hers would be.  And now that she has been adopted, I know that she is gone but living a great life while Griffin’s absence is permanent.  Overall, I loved being Nori’s foster mom and feel like I can add “skilled canine nurse” to my resume now!  I might serve as a respite foster for about a week in July for a heartworm positive pup whose foster family has vacation plans but otherwise I’ll be taking a short break from fostering until August due to my own travel plans.

I hope everyone is having a safe and fun summer, and enjoying time with family and friends!

May 03

This is Nori and she came to stay with me on May 1.  She is an almost 6 year old Airedale Terrier (likely a mix due to her size, which is currently 107lbs).  She has a cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) tear in her left knee and will undergo tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) surgery to repair it on May 17th.  She was surrendered by her previous family to the NYC Brooklyn shelter and then taken in by Rescue City, an organization with which I volunteer and foster.  She was placed with an emergency foster family for a week before coming to me, so this poor girl has been through quite a lot in recent weeks.  I’m not sure how long I’ll have her, but I hope I’ll be able to see her through surgery and recovery, and give her a solid start down her weight loss journey.

Nori is an absolute dream in the house and walks reasonably well on leash.  She loves other dogs of all sizes, kids, and adults, though she is in more of a “say hello quickly and move on” stage with humans – not sure if that will change.  She enjoys lengthy naps after our leisurely morning and afternoon walks.  She is starting to show some interest in toys and loves bones/chews.  Her leg is clearly bothering her, but she is so sweet and acting more relaxed with each passing day.  I am supposed to be crating her overnight and when I leave her alone, but she is definitely not a fan.  Like Griffin, her favorite sleeping position is sprawled on her side and even the XL crate (currently taking up quite a bit of real estate in my living room) does not allow her to stretch out.  I left her loose in my bedroom when I went out for a few hours today and she was snoozing contently when I returned, so I’m not going to push the crate.  I am home full-time, so I’ll be able to enforce rest and limited activity after her surgery without needing the crate.

Her pain seems well managed for now.  My Tripawd experience has given me the confidence to advocate for her to be appropriately medicated…and to know to use Velveeta for administering meds easily.   She came with prescriptions for Carprofen, Gabapentin, and Amantadine, but the Carprofen has already run out and the Gabapentin will run out on Wednesday.  I know I have to go through the foster chain of command, but I really wish I could simply contact Rescue City’s vet directly to get what she needs.  Fingers crossed that the meds issue is resolved promptly!

I am really enjoying having a dog in the house again and having a routine of caring for another living being.  And my Tripawd experience has ensured that our home is well prepared for Nori – rugs for traction, elevated feeder, and firm dog beds (although like Griffin, Nori seems to prefer the floor over beds!).  I am not certain I can lift Nori into the wagon at her current weight, and I’d like her to be a bit more comfortable with me before I try, but hopefully I’ll be able to use the wagon during her recovery period.

Nori and Griffin are very different in a lot of ways – size and training are 2 big ones – but there are things she does that remind me of him which makes me smile.  And then there was this photo of Nori…kind of took my breath away how much the close-up resembles Griffin.

I probably won’t post too often, but I’ll definitely be back to provide a Nori update after her surgery.  In the meanwhile, please enjoy these videos and send healing thoughts her way! sp_hearticon2

Mar 11

It has been one month since I said goodbye to Griffin.  The sharp sting of grief has mellowed to an ache that has burrowed deep into my bones.  I still look before moving the ottoman.  I still catch myself automatically soothing, “You’re okay” when I hear a car backfire outside.  I still feel disoriented when I wake up without a solid warmth snugged up against my side.  My days feel adrift without our routine and the house is so very quiet.  I miss Griffin tremendously and I expect that I always will.

From Griffin’s diagnosis to his surgery through five different chemotherapy protocols to the very end, I was grieving.  Not every day and not all the time, but the anticipatory grief of losing him was pretty consistent and every oncology appointment that never resulted in good news brought me low again.  Each time I cycled through denial, anger, bargaining, and depression a little quicker, trying desperately to stay in a positive mindset knowing there would be plenty of time for tears later.  And now it is time for me to practice acceptance.  My beloved boy is gone, and nothing will bring him back to me.

My very wise 14-year old niece shared this quote with me: “As long as there is love and memory, there is no true loss” (Cassandra Clare).  One of the best things I did after Griffin passed was to ask everyone to share their favorite memories of him.  From family and friends, to colleagues at schools where Griffin accompanied me, to staff at the hospital that treated Griffin and the hospital where we volunteered, to my neighbors – over 100 people shared stories about Griffin.  I knew most of the stories, but the new ones were lovely surprises, as were some photos and videos that I had not previously seen.  Each story affirmed what I already knew – Griffin was an amazing soul who touched so very many people with his joy, his gentleness, his empathy, his silliness, and most of all, with his capacity for unconditional love.  Reading those shared memories is a balm to my aching heart and the document into which I have compiled them all will be a treasured legacy.

It has been one month since Griffin passed and while I feel sad every day, I am doing okay.  I go for daily walks in our favorite park.  I attended an individual therapy session and a pet loss support group meeting.  I started volunteering with a local dog rescue processing adoption applications and completed initial steps to become a volunteer with two other organizations.  I am steadily working through a list of spring cleaning tasks.  I have buckled down to find a full-time job.  I am reading a ton of books.

One of those books was The Beauty of What Remains: How Our Greatest Fear Becomes Our Greatest Gift by (Rabbi) Steve Leder.  He writes, “We lose so much love to death, and if that love was real and deep, the grief is real and deep.  Grief is not a race to be won or an illness to be cured.  To deny grief its due is to deny love.”  I am very lucky to have the support of so many and no one would question my need to grieve, but somehow reading that passage really made plain to me in a way that I did not fully understand before that love and grief go hand in hand, mirroring each other in their depths.  It is comforting to think that when my grieving is over, the beauty of our love will remain.

On a practical level, I know that how long or how much I grieve will not change the fact that Griffin is no longer by my side.  And so from a self-preservation perspective, I try to focus on gratitude rather than sadness.  I am grateful for so many things about how Griffin passed – that he did so peacefully at home, that he was not in pain or scared, and that it was so clearly his time to go.  I am grateful for the 11 years that I shared with Griffin, and considering we were rarely apart even when I was working, it probably adds up to far more time than most people get to spend with their pups.  I am grateful for Griffin’s magic, as evident in the outpouring of stories, and that I lived in the presence of that magic up close each day.  I am grateful that Griffin inspired me to work towards a healthier lifestyle and made even the bitterly cold morning walks fun.  I am grateful for all that Griffin taught me – patience, kindness, being fully present, determination, curiosity, and finding joy every day.  Griffin truly was the sunshine of my life and I will love him forever.

One day I will create a video to celebrate all of Griffin’s life, but in the meantime, I hope you enjoy these photos that each represent a year, from 2010-2021, that Griffin spread his sunshine to all of us.  Thank you all for the love and support that you gifted us throughout Griffin’s journey.  May his memory be a blessing.

Jan 18

Griffin turned 11 years old today!  We celebrated with an extended morning romp in the park with Griffin’s best friend, Murphy, and a brief family Zoom party this evening.  Griffin chowed down on a chicken and lamb meatloaf cake with Velveeta frosting.  [Fun fact – The blue candle on his meatloaf cake is from Griffin’s very first birthday 10 years ago!] Earlier today we delivered some goodie bags to Griffin’s friends in our apartment building that contained delicious pupcakes and squeaky birthday tennis balls.  What a fun day!

Griffin celebrated his 9 month ampuversary in Buffalo, NY.  We were so happy to visit my mom, 2 sisters, and 2 nieces whom we had not seen in a year due to the pandemic.  My niece, Abby, accompanied us on daily walks in her neighborhood and she always made sure to give Griffin lots of treats in the afternoons.  Abby had a dream about Griffin while we were visiting and was kind enough to type it up for me!

Griffin started his 5th chemo protocol (Chlorambucil) 11 days ago and has not exhibited any negative side effects.  His cough, likely due to a combination of acid reflux and the lung tumors, is limited to a handful of times each day, most often occurring during the night hours after Griffin has been laying down for an extended period of time.  Aside from the cough, Griffin is healthy and in good spirits.  His weight is stable, his appetite is strong, he loves eating treats and playing with toys (especially squeaky balls that belong to Murphy), and eagerly runs out the door for our daily morning walks no matter the weather.

♥ We hope that 2021 brings good health, great adventures, and much happiness to all of you! ♥

Dec 26

Griffin and I were lucky enough to have an extended stay with my godchildren this month where we experienced the first snow of the season!  Griffin has always loved the snow and I was so happy to see him romping with the kids.  During our visit, Griffin also  supervised virtual learning, went for walks in the foggy park, took some well-deserved naps, toured the neighborhood to check out the Christmas decorations, guarded the children while they were sleeping, and learned a bit about playing rugby.

After returning to NYC, Griffin had an oncology appointment on December 23, 2020, where chest x-rays showed that unfortunately, his lung metastasis has continued to progress.  Griffin had been taking cyclophosphamide (metronomic chemotherapy) for 7 weeks, so the growth of existing tumors and new ones signaled that the chemo was not working.  I made the decision to change Griffin’s metronomic drug to chlorambucil, which will be his 5th type of chemo.  Griffin tolerated very well 3 of the 4 previous chemo drugs (carboplatin, doxorubicin, and cyclophosphamide), so I feel comfortable giving a new one a try.  If there are any signs that he is not doing well (as occurred with palladia when he stopped eating), I will immediately stop.  It is possible that the chemo is having no effect, but it is also possible that the chemo is slowing the growth of the lung tumors and in the meantime, doing something feels better than doing nothing.  Aside from the x-rays, Griffin exhibits no side effects from the lung tumors.  The oncology team said that his breathing sounded good (no wheezing or crackles) and he is still active, playing fetch and walking a mile each day.  I was recently reminded (thanks, Rene!) that very little about Griffin’s tripawd journey has been normal, and I’m holding onto that true statement with hope that he will continue to defy the odds.

One new medical concern is a cough that Griffin developed about a month ago that his oncologist believes is related to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  The cough is a hacking, non-productive cough that ends with Griffin gagging and swallowing.  It never occurs when he is active and almost always occurs when he has been lying flat for a period of time.  The episodes are short (5-10 seconds) and occur 6-7 times a day at their worst.  His oncologist first recommended famotidine (Pepcid, 20mg/day), which worked well for about a week (reducing his coughing episodes to 1-2 times per day) before the cough resumed at the previous levels.  We added omeprazole (Prilosec, 20mg/day) a few days ago and it seems that the combination of the 2 drugs is having a positive impact.  I also try to elevate his head when he is sleeping on the floor (my mom sent Griffin a 2-foot long Lamb Chop stuffie, which works great as a pillow!) and I feed him 3 smaller meals each day.

In the meantime, Griffin and I continue to enjoy every day we have together.  He was able to frolic in the NYC snow for a day after we returned, making a few snow angels and leaving 3-legged paw prints along our walk.  He loves spending time with his bestie, Murphy (a mini-goldendoodle), racing to see who is first in getting to the ball that Murphy’s mom endlessly throws for them.  Our Christmas was a quiet one with just the two of us at home, but with the results of my most recent covid test back quickly, we are heading to Buffalo, NY tomorrow to see my mom, sisters, and nieces whom we haven’t seen in a year.

Griffin and I hope that your holidays have been filled with peace and love, and that 2021 brings good health and great joy to you and your loved ones!