Sunday, April 12, 2009

The story of Sampson

I got my Sam-dog over Memorial Day weekend in 2002. He has seen me through so many changes in my life--moves over 5 states, marriage, pregnancy and a child, two other dogs, and all of the highs and lows of the roads in between. Unfortunately, he has been less than blessed with some tummy troubles. Through all of our trials and tribulations, I find out more about life and myself. Below is an archive of older blogs about his journey...

March 11, 2008

Well, we're at it again...keeping vets in business. I feel it's only fair that since I devoted a blog to Angel, Samspon deserves the same. (Angel, by the way, seems to be on the mend. She is overly anxious sometimes, but I think that just goes with living in our crazy home.) Anyway, Samspon is on his 5th (I think...I have lost count) round of severe pancreatitis since November. He ended up at the emergency vet this weekend with severe pain and what has become our "routine" diagnosis. Each time, they tell me it could be fatal because some of his blood levels are so high--off the charts, literally. But he must be a rare case because every vet who has treated him has told me so. He has survived numerous times (as has Angel) what many dogs don't even survive once. And he bounces back very quickly.

Tomorrow he goes in for a host of (expensive) blood tests and an ultrasound. Most likely he will be having surgery soon after that. Again, some people question whether or not this is worth it. And, maybe I am crazy, but I still don't question it at all. If it was something that couldn't be treated, I would make the necessary decisions. But if it is treatable, don't my dogs deserve a chance to live? And feel good? I think so.

I do tend to lose my sanity over this lately--especially the costs. But I just think that this is what needs to be done. One day in the vets office, I was literally in tears--but only while the vet was out of the room. I guess she could tell when she came in. You can imagine how ridiculous I must look trying to keep a dog under control while taking care of a toddler and trying to hold back the sobs. Sanity definately leaves me quickly. :o) Anyway, on this particular day, the vet said "You know you're a saint?" I told her thanks. She then said "And you're stronger than you think." I told her sometimes it doesn't feel like it. She smiled and told me that I am a strong person. I guess I can trust her judgment since she sees me so often. :o)

While I don't think I am going on the list for sainthood--ever--her words made me look a little deeper into myself. It seems to be a trend that my dogs have a way of helping me reflect on my own life--and humanity in general. I am trying to reframe my perspective on lots of things in my life and these types of situations help me see how to do it. Maybe instead of feeling upset that somehow I got the two sickest boxers on the planet I should feel happy and lucky--yes, I said lucky. I seriously doubt that many people would do (or could do) what we have done for our furry family members. I try to believe everything happens for a reason--and maybe these dogs ended up in our home not just by chance. We have saved their lives--more than once. And I do gain strength in myself through them. They do challenge me (and my sanity) but they always reward me. I didn't know when I brought Samspon home in the palm of my hand that our journey would turn out this way. But he has seen me through every twist and turn of my life since he entered it...and I owe it to him to see him through every battle of his life--and help him overcome what can be overcome.

I won't go as far as to compare my dogs to my daughter, but I will say that there are many similarities. They teach me something new every day. And I will say that having them benefits my daughter's life as much as mine. She learns from them, too and she loves them. I feel like sometimes BECAUSE of the stress and challenges we go through with the dogs, it makes me a stonger person. And being a stronger person means being a stronger mother for her. I don't know if anyone can see the similarities and the positives, but I do.

So to try and cut this blog before it turns into an emotional thesis, I will just say I am hoping for the best with Sampson. I am hoping for many more happy years with both of my dogs--but mostly I hope every day they have is happy and healthy and I will do what I need to do to try and make sure that happens.

A Bandage Snack and a Severed Arm
April 28, 2008

If anyone is interested in an update on my dogs, here you go...
Our weekend was filled with vet visits (again). They have each experienced multiple bouts of pancreatits since I last blogged. Sampson has fielded the brunt of it. He did go about a month without a big problem, but he has had to have IV fluids and meds about 8 days in the past 2 weeks. We are awaiting results from a new blood test from NC State for both of them--we still have 4 weeks to wait. Sampson is most likely going to have to have exploratory surgery soon to take a closer look and get biopsys of, well, just about everything in his belly. We are really, REALLY hoping Angel continues to do relatively well--we are not sure that we want to put her through any more procedures (other than the latest--see below) since she has been through so much and has multiple health problems. She is such a fighter.

So why the subject, you may ask? Well, both dogs spent the weekend with IV catheters in their arms as they had to have IV meds and fluids Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. They kept them in over the weekend to make sure they could successfully eat and drink again before they removed them. On the way home from the vet on Friday, Sampson (who hadn't eaten in about 3 days) ATE the bandage covering the IV cath. Yes--a traumatic discovery for us, but it passed. (Literally, last night in his poop.) He does have a history of eating things that he shouldn't (reference: 2003ish when he ate a toy and we had to have emergency surgery to remove it) but it has been so long--and he has had these IV caths and bandages countless times since November but he has never done that.

Today when I went to have the IV caths removed, the vet tech accidently cut Angel's arm when she was removing the bandage holding it on. So now Angel has 2 staples in her arm...poor thing. These dogs just can't catch a break. And I feel horrible for the vet tech--she was about in tears. I told her it was okay, but she was feeling so bad. She said Angel didn't even move, it was just an accident. (They always tell me what a good patient she is--Sampson has his good and bad patient days.) They called their regular doctor out of surgery and they cleaned and shaved her arm, gave her a surgical prep, and put the staples in. The bandage can come off tomorrow and the staples can come out in 7-10 days. (We do not have to pay for any of this.) :o)

Well, maybe I am wrong...maybe these dogs CAN catch a break. Somehow, they found US. A family crazy enough to see them through ALL of their ups and many downs. The vet tells us it's not their time yet and that we should still keep fighting. Is it still worth it? Without a doubt, yes!

If this is my calling, I'm out of the office today
July 16, 2008

Last week at the vet's office, our veterinarian told me that it just might be my calling to take care of animals--even the ones no one else would take care of. She tells me this as Sampson is dealing with another bout of pancreatitis. Poor guy!

Everyone knows that I am crazy about dogs, but not everyone knows that I also have a cat--well, as of today HAD a cat. She has lived with my parents all these years. I got her in 7th grade--her name is Ruffles. She was about 18 years old. I got her from the local SPCA the day after another one of my cats died. She has been a furry member of our family since December 19, 1991. (Yes, I am OCD with pet-dates.) I won't go into too many details about her life--because that's a lot of stuff since we go so far back. :o) But she has been very, very sick lately and today was her day to cross the rainbow bridge. I will miss her--but I said my goodbyes when we were home last month because I was pretty sure I wouldn't see her again. But we gave her a good life, too. She was Sampson's first big sister--yeah, she beat him up and he has always feared her. When I brought him home in the palm of my hand, she was a giant compared to him. I don't think he ever realized that he grew and she stayed the same size...or maybe it was just the claws he remembered. Either way, she was a special member of our family and a big part of my life for many, many years and I will miss her--but I am happy to know she is not sufferring any more.

Well, back to Sampson...they did x-rays today because he is not bouncing back this time like he normally does. It turns out that he has spondylosis--basically, a type of arthritis in his spine. That is what took Angel. And they found it the exact same way. She had a terrible bout of pancreatitis and they did x-rays to look at her, and found it by "accident." The doctor told me that it is not nearly as severe as Angel's, but it is in multiple places and it might be what is causing him additional pain this time around. She seemed hopeful that we could manage it...but there is no cure.

Anyway, maybe it is my calling to rescue and care for all of these four-legged creatures...and I am definately crazy enough for the job and I do believe that it is worth it. But today, if it is my calling, let this serve as my out of the office reply for the afternoon. Can someone pass the vodka? :o)

Adapting and Overcoming From If Dogs Wore Braces
November 13, 2008

And Sampson, oh my, how he has had to adapt and overcome. The poor guy can't have table scraps--a dog that can't eat table scraps! His tummy has given him problems since the very beginning. But he learned to deal with it. As a puppy, one time my dad dropped a chili dog and it bounced off of his neck and he caught it in his mouth. Little Sam-dog sat there with a chili dog in his mouth drooling like a waterfall, but he didn't even bite down. My dad removed the hot dog and threw it in the trash. Sampson just sat there...and he had a mustard and chili stain on the white part of his neck until his next bath, poor guy.

Whoever said money can't buy happiness never had a dog like Sampson
January 22, 2009

Well, Sampson has had yet another one of his “episodes.” I knew I was jinxing myself when I had been talking about how well he has been doing lately. (It had been 5 months since he was last sick…a record in the past year and a half!) We found ourselves at the vet ER last night and at his specialist in Wilmington today. I do think that I am getting better at spotting the early signs (not to toot my own dog-crazy horn or anything) because he was not nearly as bad symptomatically as he can get and the tests indicated that. To make a long story short about this bout of whatever he has, they still don’t know what is causing it, but they are leaning more toward general GI problems instead of “true” pancreatits. No, I don’t really know what I’m talking about medically, but I hope this is good news.So we spent another $600+…there goes the big flat screen tv I have been wanting so I can see my Wii games better. But I have something better than a big tv—or even a tv from this decade! I have an amazing companion. Even when he is sick, he still brings me so much happiness. With Buzz deployed, he is the man of the house. He even puts up with Daisy better than us humans! And even when he is sick, somehow he can manage to give me a little kidney bean dance and an occasional sloppy kiss. I can see in his eyes that he is still in there, fighting for all of us. (Though I fear the day I see the look in his eyes that I saw in Angel’s telling me she was ready to go. I hope that time is in the far distant future.) Having Daisy around threatens the complete loss of my sanity on a daily basis. However, she is bringing out something that I hadn’t seen in a while…Baby Sam Dog. She has helped to give us a little bit of Samspon’s puppyhood back! Now some days I wonder if this is a good thing. I mean, after all, he was supposed to rub his good manners off on her, but instead she has helped him to forget pretty much everything he has learned over the past 6 ½ years. Oh well. At least there is entertainment value—if not for me than for my neighbors seeing me running around outside in my pjs in the snow trying to get things under control. (And I saw Marley and Me last weekend…it has given me some hope for Daisy.) As usual, I am not really sure what my point is, or even if I have a point at all. Other than to let everyone who thinks I am crazy know that, yes, I am in fact crazy. I spend an insane amount of money on my pets and my dogs are a part of my family—even Daisy. But all of that money has gone toward something more valuable than interest earned in a bank or a bigger tv so I don’t have to sit two feet away while trying to not get booed off the stage in Guitar Hero…it has given me my Sam-Dog, my Angel-girl, and (gulp) my Daisy Duke. Those who don’t understand may have more money in the bank, but I bet they don’t get the warm and fuzzies for boxer booty dancing. I always have someone to cuddle with, a shoulder to cry on, and someone who can make me feel better without saying a word. Just when I think it’s impossible to feel any more alone in this world, I always have a little tail shaking my way letting me know otherwise.

Only Sampson...
February 6, 2009

Here’s another (short version) Sampson update for anyone who is interested:

Sam Dog spent another day at the vet—after a night at the ER. He got really sick last night and we landed at the emergency vet at about 2 am. He never was able to go to sleep because he was so uncomfortable. This morning, he would have nothing to do with me—or pretty much anyone. The vet even brought up the topic of euthanasia. He is doing somewhat better this evening. He got some steroids and some pain meds—last night he had some anti-nausea meds and will get more tomorrow. He has been fasting since Wednesday—we are hoping that giving his entire system a rest will help him feel better, but that makes him weak. Today he got some extra vitamins and sugar in his IV fluids. He is starving (I think that’s a good sign) so if we make it through the night with no problems, he will start a hypoallergenic diet tomorrow. We are re-questioning the inflammatory bowel disease issue. He will probably be having some exploratory surgery in the next few weeks and hopefully that will give us a definitive answer…and hopefully he will have an easily treatable/manageable condition that will allow us to have at least a few more years together. Please keep us in your thoughts (and if you believe in praying for a dog and his family) and prayers.

In all of this tough stuff, Sampson still manages to bring some crazy Sam the Man into the mix and make us all laugh. He gets a little obsessive-compulsive about his IV catheter. (It doesn’t help that the tape they use to cover it gives him a rash—it’s got to itch under there!) They have to have a vet tech with him like ALL the time he is there. When they try to put him in a crate while he is getting his IVs, he tries to pull out the IV and cath. However, they have found out that if he has his own room (like an entire room) he is okay with it all. So, today, my dog got his own room…they transformed the pre-op room into Sampson’s very own suite. Seriously, only Sam! That’s my boy! But that gives me hope that he is still himself and he is fighting to make it out of this—I mean, if he’s being that selfish he can’t be losing all hope, right? I am very, very worried, but am trying to stay hopeful. I hope our future will hold some more healthy, pain-free years with my kidney-bean dancing, nub-tail wagging, crazy jumping, excellent cuddling, silly talking, private room stealing boxer boy.

Let's be serious...and calculate the situation
February 10, 2009

Sampson is doing better and I hope he continues to do so and I hope it lasts. As we were making plans for Sampson’s treatment for the upcoming weeks, I asked his veterinarian if she thought I was crazy (since I am usually a person who calculates every cost and tries to act rationally). She said absolutely not. She said Sampson is a very rare and serious case and my dedication is inspiring. I also found out that some of the employees at the vet’s office (of whom I pay their salaries, mind you) have asked if I was making this up or causing it. (Sam’s doctor did strongly defend me, thank goodness.) But I got to thinking after that conversation, is this really THAT crazy? I don’t think so. On the surface, there are two parts to this equation (1) pets and (2) spending a lot of money. But when you dig deeper, there are two more parts (3) saving a life and (4) doing things to make yourself feel better. Let me explain…

1. People do some crazy things for their pets, but if you are an animal-lover, most of them are really not that crazy. People dress their pets, have birthday parties (with cakes and decor) for them, make MySpace pages for their pets, put them in little bags and take them out on the town, and anthropomorphize their pets in all kinds of ways. They are members of our family and we treat them as such.
2. People spend a lot of money on a lot of things. We are a society of spenders and money talks in our world. We buy houses and cars (generally on credit). We have to have the nicest clothes and the most expensive jewelry. People can get a little crazy with the money (or credit) they have, too. Anyone who has driven around Jacksonville has seen something like a PFC sticker on a Mercedes (yes, seriously). People spend a lot of money on their pets, too.
3. (1 + 2 = 3, by the way—you know how I like numbers) Lots of people who have had a pet have found themselves in a situation where they have a big vet bill that they don’t want to pay or can’t afford—and do it anyway. Animals are living beings—and they do become members of our families. Saving a dog won’t change the world, but it will change the world for that one dog. I have very close friends who have gone to great lengths to save their four-legged best friends. I have met people along the way who have done the same. There was a lady who had a boxer with a rare condition who spent tens of thousands to save her dog from a rare condition that eventually took its life, for example. When we took Angel to Florida for her surgery last year, I met a couple who was putting their dog through chemotherapy. There is a lady I see at the vet every morning who is bringing her cat who is going through renal failure in for treatment (we have become buddies). Watch the Animal Planet sometime (it’s on the vet’s office, that’s how I know this) and see what people do for WILD animals—who are not even family pets! It is not that out of the ordinary for people to go to great lengths to save the lives of animals.
4. There are some theories out there that say no matter what someone is doing, they are always acting out of selfishness or self-interest. Some of these theories go so far to say that no one does anything for selfless reasons—that even Mother Theresa was truly acting selfish because her seemingly selfless acts made HER feel better about herself. Now, I don’t believe in that! There are people out there (like my mother) who do lots of things purely for the good of others without thinking of themselves. However, we all do things to make ourselves feel better. I eat an insane amount of chocolate and ice cream when Buzz is deployed, for example. We buy those fancy cars and nice clothes because it makes us feel better. Well, doing what I do for my animals makes me feel better—I need them, especially now. And, maybe more importantly, K needs them—“Sam-man” is quite possibly her best friend.

So basically, there is a host of psychological and social factors at work in my situation—none of which are that outlandish when you stop to think about them. I am not doing things that other people don’t do—I just may do in an unconventional way because those are the cards I have been dealt. I mean, I doubt many people have had two dogs like Sampson and Angel with so many issues. (I mean, ishas, if Katie is reading this.) But I don’t spend money on frivolous things (well, except for Wii). Come to my house and check out my tvs or go shopping with me to see how I spend money if you don’t believe me. Or, better yet, ask Buzz to take you for a spin in his phat ride when he gets home—but don’t sit in the back seat because the back doors of the ’91 Honda Civic only open about 80% of the time. J My point is that people spend money on what they think is important and people do a lot of things for their pets. It just so happens that I have to combine those two things—and I don’t think that anything I could have bought over these past few years could bring me as much joy as my boxers.

From It takes both the rain and the sunshine to make a rainbow
February 20, 2009

I'm usually a glass half empty type of person. My friend says that she wants to know what happened to the glass--what was it before it was half anything? Great point! Well, over the past week I have had some ups and downs and for a few days was pretty sure that my glass had fallen and broken and I was wondering if it could ever have anything in it again....

Sampson, oh Sampson...Sampson had exploratory surgery last week and we got the results back from his biopsies this week. He has inflammatory bowel disease. This is relatively good news! (There were no abnormal findings from his pancreas. YAY!) Inflammatory bowel disease is pretty serious and it may take some time (yes, more trials) to figure out what works for the Sam-dog. But his doctor says that IBD can be managed. They say that it is likely that he will still have flare ups but our goal is to make them few and far between. I know it's still a long road, but at least we have a diagnosis so we can move forward. I still feel bad that it took us so long and that he has had to endure so much suffering.

Anyway, he had a very tough time after the surgery--poor guy has about a foot-long incision on his belly with lots of staples. He was on 14 pills a day for a while, too, but we are down to 4 now. He was having trouble sleeping and wasn't eating or drinking so we had to be at the vet for a few more days. Daisy has struggled without a playmate, but I have been pretty proud of how well she has handled herself. Sampson still has a ways to go, but I am finally seeing my Sam-dog reappear. I hope this is only the beginning of his recovery and he will be our kidney bean dancing fool for years to come. I'm not giving up on him--he hasn't given up on us, thank goodness!

As usual, no real point here...just rambling about my life and mostly my dogs. I guess what I am saying (hence the subject of this mess of words) is that it takes the tough times to get us where we need to be sometimes. It's the long, lonely days and nights of deployments that make the boring times together amazing. It's the busy days where I want to pull my hair out that make me cherish watching Cars or building with Legos--even if the house is a mess. It's (unfortunately) the pain and sadness of all that we have been through with Sampson that makes this diagnosis give me hope. It's that fear of breaking down in the Commissary that makes my veterinarian office breakdown seem not quite so embarrassing. :) It's hanging out with friends after (or even during) a tough day/week/month/deployment that reminds me that I am truly blessed. I hope my glass is gluing itself back together and it fills up again--maybe with a cocktail??? :) I know we will have spills along the way, but as long as we pick ouselves up and are able to move forward together, maybe it's not ALL bad. I hate the tough times for all of us, but whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger--just ask Sam!

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