When Tuffy was about 11, he started to grow a tumor on his belly. It stayed small for a long time and the vet had always told us that surgery to remove it would kill him since he had an enlarged heart and a heart murmur. Well, time went on. The tumor did not affect his day to day existence whatsoever, but did continue to grow. As of last summer (2009), when he was around 13 years and 7 months, the tumor was very large but he was still super active - walking around the block for walks, jumping on furniture, he went to our vacation home on the beach about 5 times this past summer and enjoyed walking on the sand and water, etc.
Around December of 2009, a month or so after his 14th birthday (October 15, 1995 is his birthday) he became very lethargic and the tumor was huge. Like, huge. Grapefruit. He started to lose control of his bladder and we were certain the end was near. We set up blankets and created a "favorite sleeping spot" for him. He still slept in bed with me at night. One night I woke up and found out he had pooped in his sleep. We then put diapers on him during the night to keep him as clean as possible and my bed poop free.
On Christmas Eve, he didn't walk around a lot, and looked very "blah" overall. I was certain I was going to wake up on Christmas the next day and there would be no Tuffy. However, he made it through and was quiet and pretty still for the holiday.
After the New Year, we took him to a holistic vet (the vet that had neutered Turbo as a foster, but was not Tuffy's vet) that started homeopathic cancer treatments and chiropractic care. The main vet of the practice was out until mid January, but the other vet was there, and her speciality was homeopathic treatments. I don't fully remember what the treatment was - Onco Support dietary powder, Hemlock (like the poison) as a homeopathic cancer treatment, and another homeopathic treatment, along with a treatment where they pulled out some blood with a syringe, mixed it with a solution and then injected it back into him (oxygen-ated? Ozone? Don't remember. I'm so stressed, I just honestly don't remember)
The treatments really did work. After this visit, he was up and walking around more and much more "excited" about life. He didn't appear to be a dying dog anymore.
He continued visiting the holistic vet for a few more weeks for treatments and chiropractic adjustments. As the tumor pulled down, it was throwing his back out of alignment. The chiro treatments especially enabled him to walk and he was much happier.
The next visit - the other holistic vet had returned. It was his first time ever seeing Tuffy. His immediate response was, "Well, why don't we remove the tumor?" My dad, myself and my mom were all in the room and we eventually decided that it was time to do so. We had given Tuffy the best life possible and it was just coming to the point where his quality of life WAS affected by the tumor. In previous years (like, when the tumor had just appeared and was very small), his day to day existence was absolutely wonderful and there was no need to put him through surgery at that point. We knew that if nothing was done, that eventually we would have to put him down. He was walking "ok" but not the best, the tumor was heavy on his back, and he was in diapers. His rectum also was bleeding a substantial amount, and the diapers were also needed for that reason. Over the diapers, he was wearing toddler size 3T onesies or short outfits - they kept the diaper in place and provided support to the weight of the tumor.
We scheduled the surgery for Tuesday, February 9th at 12:30. The vet thought it would be a very short surgery.
The surgery lasted about an hour and half and he made it through just fine. The vet said he went into the anesthesia well and out of the anesthesia well. (I'm also under the impression that because it is a holistic practice, it's more of a "gas" rather than some other kind of anesthesia? Again - I'm not medical and I don't fully remember) They also had him on an echocardiogram during the surgery - that might be typical? I don't know.
After the surgery he was a little loopy (as to be expected) but alive! The vet tech made me hold the metal bowl with the removed tumor (ew) to feel the weight that my poor dog had been carrying around. It was heavy! He was given an antibiotic (clavamox) and a pain medicine, along with a homeopathic pain medicine. (arnock? something arn- )
We continued to keep the diaper on him cause he was still un-potty trained. He had a drainage tube still in him and we had a bandage for that as well. After about a week, the drain was removed, and the the stitches were healing well. A few days later, we noticed a bed sore on his back right leg - the band of the diaper had been rubbing against the leg and caused a really bad sore. We took him back to the vet and I was hysterical - I felt that he had gone through all this surgery, and then I personally hurt him with a diaper. The vet diagnosed it as a "pressure wound" and gave us cream. He wasn't real impressed by it and handed me tissues (lol). No antibiotics. A few days later, my dad got upset by the sore and took him back to have it re-evaluated. Again, the vet wasn't worried but also told us to apply witch hazel and the same cream as before, and he really cleaned it up this time. He was then given amoxyacillian and a pro-biotic powder to put in yogurt and feed to him. Also, lavender oil to put on the sore so he did not lick it.
Now we are almost a month post-operation and Tuffy totally has a new outlook on life. His stitches are all removed. The drainage hole is completely healed. His sore from the diaper is mostly healed - it is still slightly red, but it is very clear that it is no longer oozing and is drying out and healing. (Doesn't make me cry looking at it anymore as it did previously)
His rectum still bleeds at times and he is no longer in diapers. However, he will sometimes wander around the house and at times, little poop nuggets will fall out or he will pee. He is back to going outside though (for a while, we had set up weewee pads - we felt it was a bit cold here in NJ to let a 14 year old who had surgery and a shaved belly to go out in the snow) So, he now will go outside (and down the stairs of our upper deck!) and walk around outside, but he doesn't full "remember" that outside is where we pee and poop. Eh, we're still working on it.
Through all this, I have learned that my family will do ANYTHING for this dog. It has been the most stressful past few months - to some people an animal is just an animal. To us, Tuffy is everything. Obviously we don't mind the extra care and the stress that it puts on us, but yeh, it's stressful. It has been tough having visitors come to the house lately - some days, Tuffy is accident free. Others, there are bits of bloody poop around (sorry to be graphic) and it is sometimes very tough to get rid of the lingering smell. Oh well - Tuffy lives with us, visitors don't. I work very close to my home, and have gone home every day on lunch since early December (with the exception of meeting friends to eat for two days, lol) I try to do as much clean up as possible (if there are accidents) and we do a plethora of blanket washing. We have a rotation of about 5 old comforters/blankets. He uses one, and we keep some clean for when he dirties the one he is using, and are constantly washing the dirty ones.
Tuffy was also always a dog that highly disliked other dogs. In October, I did adopt Turbo - and forgive me for saying this - I thought Tuffy was on the way out. However, Tuffy and Turbo have gotten along since that day. They are both large males (30 lbs +) with strong personalities, but they seriously adore each other. Tuffy is so happy now to have Turbo around and the two of them stay with each other all day. Who'd have guessed?
Picture from the summer of 2008. You can see the tiny tumor starting to grow on his belly. It had stayed about that size for a year or so, or more.
Christmas Day 2009. It is very obvious which doggie is Tuffy. Rory is yawning - not her best look. I'm on the right holding Turbo. Charles is the other red Boston being held by my mom.
This image is from about a week ago - mid February 2009- he was still wearing a pad over the drainage hole on his belly. However, I took it to show how he is still all "piss and vinegar" even though he is 14 and had surgery! Prewashing our dishes was always a favorite past time for this Bostie!
I'm so thankful for the great care he has received and amazed that he is still with us. Back in December, I was almost "ok" with the fact that my 14 year old dog was going to die. Of course I was upset, but I was able to accept that fact. The problem now is that he has gone through so much and has come out ok - I am expecting this dog to live to 22! We are just taking it day by day and giving him so much love and hugs.
I do also have to admit that he is also now slightly annoying - he climbs to the 3rd story of the house ("Tuffy! You're geriatric! Go lie down - don't climb up three flights of stairs!") and if we don't fully give him attention (and Turbo is not near him) he will bark and bark and bark - and we he barks, he has a bad habit of pooping himself.
We give him baths about once a week now as well because he does get a bit smelly (and then make sure he does not go outside at all the same day as a bath. Too cold for the little old man)
Most common question asked - what was the tumor? We do not know. The vet told us, and we all agreed, that it did not matter. If it was cancer - it was cancer. If not, it wasn't. It didn't kill him while it was growing, so who knows. Other people suggested fatty tumor, or even hernia. I don't want to think about it. I just hope it doesn't return.
I do also have to say that if anyone needs a good vet in northern NJ, there is one I will highly recommend. I didn't know if I truly "believed" in holistic pet care, but we were willing to give anything a shot. His staff is wonderful and he is a very caring man, and wonderful vet. Dr. Gerald Buchoff We found him through the Northeast Boston Terrier Rescue group as we fostered Turbo - his practice gives a highly discounted neuter to fostered dogs. He neutered my Turbo.