Sunday, August 17, 2008

Anal Sac Saga: The Final Chapter

Two weeks after Butch’s surgery, we went back to the vet to get his stitches out. Two weeks after that, this past Friday, we went for his final recheck. He’s doing great!

It feels good to me to know Butch isn’t in pain, and he undoubtedly appreciates feeling better, too. I’m sure he’d be even happier if I could communicate to him that the dreaded 45-minute car trips have ended for a while. On the other hand, he’s thoroughly enjoyed the social interaction with his friends at the vet’s office, so the miserable car rides might have been worth it.

When Butch’s veterinarian released him, she joked that she hopes she doesn’t have to see his butt again anytime soon. I know just how she feels. I’m grateful for the excellent medical care Butch received, grateful for the support and good wishes of his friends, online and off, and grateful that there’s a happy ending to this long tale tail.

(First published at Velvet Sacks on August 17, 2008.)

Friday, August 15, 2008

Butch's blanket

Photoshop helped me save what was originally a very dark shot of Butch sleeping beside my bed. There's a terrific dog bed about eight feet away from this spot, but this 20-year-old bedspread is 10-year-old Butch's security blanket. He's loved it since he was a puppy. I finally got wise and cut the thing in half so I can wash one piece of it while he sleeps on the other. (I fully expect to meet my demise by catching a toe in a fold of this blanket sometime when I make a middle-of-the-night trek to the bathroom.)

(First published at Velvet Sacks on August 13, 2008.)


That's my most recent term of endearment for Butch, though I certainly mean him no disrespect.

After a weekend of pain and misery, he's now doing great! Monday at lunchtime was the first time he looked perky since his surgery last Friday, and he's been full of doggy energy ever since.

He's still on antibiotics and pain meds, and he still requires some special care. The grapefruit-sized, shaved area on his rump has to be wiped gently to keep his stitches from getting infected, but both of us seem to be tolerating that procedure fairly well. His plumbing works correctly most of the time. Twice I've found pairs of lima-bean-sized "droppings" that seem to have escaped his body when he wasn't paying attention. He didn't acknowledge ownership of them, so I'm hoping those were anomalies and not signs of the future.

I must say that the two days of constant belly rubs may have spoiled him a little bit. He no longer whines in pain, but he's now incorporating the whine into his bag of tricks for getting me to give him what he wants. He stands at my knee with a wagging tail and an expression of expectation on his face and waits for me to guess what he wants. If I say the right word, he barks excitedly. If I don't say the right word soon enough to suit him, he begins to whine.

The "bucket" on his head seems to interfere with his hearing and/or the sensitivity of his nose, two senses he relies on because of his blindness. As a result, he crashes into things more often than usual, and sleep is reserved for chunks of time in between the screeching sounds of plastic scraping against furniture.

I'm guessing that his temporary hearing and smelling disabilities are also responsible for his sudden inclination to walk so closely behind me that the top and bottom edges of his "bucket" hit me repeatedly in the thighs and calves. We'll both be glad to get rid of that thing when his stitches come out next week.

If you've read this far, then you already know that Butch isn't the only one around here who whines occasionally. Now that I've noticed I'm doing that, it's time to adjust my attitude and switch my focus to how much I love Butch and Kadi and how grateful I am that Butch is recovering so well.

And, since Butch has now finished his nap and has head-banged his way over to the computer to let me know he's up and around, I'll stop writing for now and get us all a treat. Who knows? Maybe I'll even let him beat the living daylights out of the backs of my legs for a while, just to show him how much I care.

(First published at Velvet Sacks on July 23, 2008.)

Butch is home

I think it was a good thing for all of us that Butch spent last night at the animal hospital. This time he looked really good when we picked him up, and there was none of the disorientation that worried me so much the last two times. Allowing time for the anesthesia to wear off made a world of difference.

Kim went with me to pick him up this morning, so her dogs, Lucy and Winston, were here with Kadi to greet Butch when we brought him home. It was really touching to see how solicitous they were of him, checking him out from head to tail, sniffing him all over and licking him gently on the face.

We let all the dogs outside soon after we got home, and they scattered in different directions to find the perfect places to do their business. When Butch started to come back in, his bearings were a few degrees off. He was headed straight for the fence, about two feet to his right from the patio he was aiming for, and he was trotting at a pretty good clip. My calls for him to stop didn't slow him down a bit, but Kadi heard me call. She saw what was happening and ran to intercept Butch, putting her body between him and the fence, nudging his nose with hers, and stopping him just in the nick of time. That was pretty cool to see.

On most days Kadi's interest in Butch appears to be limited to making sure she gets on the sofa before he does, keeping an eye on the treats to be sure hers is no smaller than his, and monitoring other issues that smack of sibling rivalry. Today, though, she's kept an eye on him. When she hears him whimper (and he's been doing a lot of whimpering today), she stands over him and touches him with her nose, gently checking out first his head, then his paws, trying to determine what's hurting him. Then she looks at me, her expression clearly saying, "Do something."

And so I do something. The only thing I've discovered that stops Butch's whimpering is rubbing his belly. He's spent the better part of the day lying at my feet, mostly on his back, and I've spent those same hours watching Hallmark movies on TV while scissoring my feet back and forth from his chin all the way to his inner thighs.

My proudest moment today was when Butch went to the back door and asked to be let out, then walked to the back of the yard, circled around, and pooped. It was a scrawny little poop (he hasn't eaten much since yesterday), but poop it was, and he controlled when and where it happened. I have since scratched "incontinence" off my list of concerns.

Butch isn't due for more pain medication for a couple of hours yet, but he stopped whimpering about half an hour ago, and I'm hoping his pain is finally easing up. Right now he's sleeping soundly, and all I can think as I watch him is how much I'd like to be flexible enough to bend all the way to floor level and give him a great big smooch on those black patent-leather lips.

(First published at Velvet Sacks on July 19, 2008.)

All is well, knock on wood

Butch's vet called about an hour ago to tell me he came through the surgery with no problems and was up and walking around. Despite a substantial amount of scar tissue, they were able to remove both anal glands, which, they hope, were the source of his ongoing infection. Only time will tell for sure.

I am so relieved.

We had expected to pick him up this evening, but the vet requested to keep him overnight because it's so late in the day, because he may have a lot of pain, and because he'll most likely have some unpleasant drainage from his behind. The pain thing convinced me. We'll go get him early tomorrow.

I appreciate so much your good thoughts and prayers, dear readers. I know by what you write that you understand the power of the bond that exists between us humans and our animal companions, and that understanding translates into a soft cushion of emotional support.

I'll update tomorrow after Butch comes home.

Tonight, instead of nursing Butch, I'll spend some quality time with Kadi, one on one, no sharing necessary. She's made it clear many times lately that it isn't fair for me to take Butch with me and leave her home alone, so this is an unexpected opportunity to make it up to her. No doubt we'll both be thinking about our "boy," but part of the time we're thinking about him, we'll be riding in the car.

(First published at Velvet Sacks on July 18, 2008.)

Crossing fingers, saying prayers

Last week, six weeks to the day from Butch's biopsy, we went back to the vet for a recheck. Despite the fact that he's been taking antiobiotics morning and evening for the entire six weeks, his anal glands are still infected. That news didn't really surprise me since he's been on antibiotics of one kind or another for the better part of the last nine months.

Tomorrow he goes back to the vet for another attempt at surgically removing the offensive glands. This time they'll also remove some of the damaged tissue nearby, hopefully leaving enough healthy muscle to keep Butch from becoming incontinent. That's one big concern.

The other one is the anesthesia. It helps to know they'll be using the same combination of drugs that were used successfully for his recent biopsy and not the ones that caused him to stop breathing last January, the first time this surgery was attempted. I'm focusing on positive thoughts (and trying to ignore that nagging little undercurrent of nervousness).

Tonight, we'll have a pre-fast celebration of gourmet dog food and belly rubs, and we'll give you a progress report late tomorrow.

(First published at Velvet Sacks on July 17, 2008.)


Did you believe me all those times I've written that Butch is a fairly large dog?

(First published at Velvet Sacks on July 13, 2008.)

Politico Butch (alternate title: Lie low, unstitch)

Butch has never been particularly enthusiastic about riding in the car, and he's resisted it even more than usual on our many recent trips to the veterinarian. (I guess enough anal probes could have that effect on an otherwise affable pooch.) Yesterday, when I had to take him back to the vet to get his stitches removed, I was expecting quite a struggle.

I couldn't have been more wrong.

When Butch heard me get the leash out of the cabinet, he walked to the front door and waited. Outside, he didn't pull away from the car. He stood quietly until I opened the door, then climbed right up inside it, crossed the back seat and assumed his usual riding position: standing up with his head between the door post and the back of the front seat.

He seemed to be in such a good mood. He didn't pant, didn't tremble, didn't whine. Thirty-five minutes later, when we arrived at the vet's office, Butch didn't wait for me to open the back car door. Instead, he climbed forward between the front seats, over the console and the emergency brake, and followed me out the front door. I barely had time to grab his leash first.

Once out of the car, he didn't fool around. He walked carefully to the curb, took a step up, and led me toward the front door, barely stopping to sniff all the wonderful doggy smells on the sidewalk. He waited patiently while I opened the outer door, then the inner door. Inside, he couldn't have been happier.

It was five o'clock, and the lobby was crowded. Butch worked the crowd. If he'd been human, I would have thought he was politicking, so eager he was to meet all the people and make new friends. He stretched the leash as far as it would go in the direction of each voice he heard, his tail wagging furiously.

After we checked in, we moved over to a seating area to wait. Butch knew the lay of the land. He quickly zeroed in on the table where the treat jar stands and made it his business to buddy up to the lady seated next to it. It didn't take more than 15 seconds for him to score a couple of treats. That lady indulged him for a while, and as soon as she left, another woman who'd been seated nearby got up and moved into the vacated seat. She picked up where the first lady left off, petting Butch and offering him (low-cal) treats. He bestowed many kisses on both of them.

When the vet tech came to take us to the back, Butch followed through the lobby and down the hall as if he could see everything clearly -- didn't miss a step. Inside the exam room, he stood beside me for just a moment, then lay down comfortably on the floor to wait. He showed no signs of stress whatsoever.

The vet came in, and Butch rose to greet her, exchanging his kisses and tail wags for her skritches and still more treats. While this was going on, she and I talked about his progress, and then it was time for him to step up onto the stainless steel table, the one that rises up to waist height at the touch of a button.

Huh-uh. Not gonna do it. The instant Butch's foot touched the table, he pulled it back and dropped into a sitting position on the floor. The vet tech attempted to put her arms under his belly to lift him, so he countered with his favorite anti-bath move: he fell over onto his back and went completely limp, legs sticking out in every direction.

There's no picking him up when he does that.

I give the vet credit for being a good sport. She abandoned the table idea, thrust a handful of treats into my palm, and assigned me the job of holding Butch's head and distracting him with the treats. The vet tech knelt beside him to keep his body still. And the vet, bless her heart, got down on the floor on her knees and elbows, held Butch's tail out of her way somehow, and carefully clipped and plucked the stitches out of his butt.

I chatted with the vet a bit more, after which Butch held his head high as we made one last pass among his "constituents" and left the building. There's no doubt in my mind that if he had understood the concept of applause, he would have expected it.

(First published at Velvet Sacks on June 18, 2008.)

It's NOT cancer!

Hallelujah! Butch's biopsy came back clean, no cancer cells at all.

When I first posted about the biopsy, nan16 commented: "I have heard that sometimes when there have been numerous infections, scar tissue eventually builds up and it looks and feels like a tumor, much like an abscess can calcify around it after a long time." She was right on the money.

Butch has had repeated infections since October, and the speculation is that there was an anal-sac rupture that kept the area infected with bacteria. For now, he's on another four-week round of antibiotics, and then we'll see.

The vet said she doesn't think surgery is an option in the near future because the tissue in the affected area is too fragile. I wonder, though, if an anal sac ruptured, won't it keep on causing infections one right after another? We go back next Tuesday to get Butch's stitches out, so I'll ask more questions then.

Thank you all so much for worrying right along with us. Your support made it a lot easier to keep a positive outlook while we waited for news.

(First published at Velvet Sacks on June 12, 2008.)

Try, try again

Tuesday night Butch whined, paced and chewed at his behind until almost six in the morning. I don’t know if he slept at all, and I personally slept for about an hour, if you add all the five-minute sleep intervals together.

By the time the sun came up Wednesday morning, my brain was so fried that I wasn’t sure what to do. I knew I couldn’t leave Butch alone to inflict certain damage on his new stitches, and I was so exhausted I felt sick, but there were things I had to do at the office. I managed an inadequate sponge-bath and five minutes with a curling iron, then puzzled what to do about Butch. He’d stopped whining. He’d had food and water and had successfully completed his business outside, which was very good news under the circumstances. I made a split-second decision, put the leash on him and took him with me to work.

In the nearly three years since Butch’s eye surgery, this was the first time he’d been anywhere other than his own house, his own yard, or the animal hospital. He hesitated just inside the door to the office, then relaxed when friendly hands and voices welcomed him. I led him down the hall to my desk, spread a clean sheet on the floor, and encouraged him to lie down. He remained alert, wagging his tail and straining at the leash to get better acquainted with new people, then finally calmed down and napped on the sheet.

As soon as the crucial jobs were done, I took the rest of the day off. Butch and I went home, where I thought we'd go to sleep immediately. We didn’t. He licked and chewed, and I made him stop. Over and over and over.

In your comments to my last post, several of you asked about the possibility of putting one of those cone-shaped Elizabethan collars on Butch. If I hadn’t been too tired to respond, I’d have told you about the time when he’d had the cruciate ligaments repaired in both knees. The vet put an E-collar on him then, but removed it minutes later out of concern that Butch’s leaping and bucking would further damage his injured legs. And then I’d have told you that a different vet had tried an E-collar after Butch’s eye surgery, removing it almost immediately in fear that Butch’s blindly violent twists and turns would cause him additional harm. In my mind, the E-collar wouldn’t work this time, either, but you made me think about it.

By Wednesday night I could have slept through a tornado, and I think Butch must have been in the same shape. I only recall telling him to stop chewing a few times during that night, and we got all the way out of bed only twice.

On Thursday morning I was relieved that Butch’s bottom didn’t look too bad, and I thought maybe the urge to chew the stitches had passed. I cut the tail off an old, soft T-shirt and fashioned a diaper I thought might keep him away from the stitches. Then I left for work and worried about him all morning long. By the time I got home at lunchtime, Butch had managed to chew the stitches enough that blood and other gunk was dripping down his backside, and I wasn’t sure if he’d done serious damage or not. I cleaned him up, patched him as well as I could, and made a better diaper, this one out of an old pillow case, with an elastic belt looped through slots I'd cut in it. Then I went back to work just long enough to request emergency vacation time.

Back we went to the vet. Remarkably, Butch hadn’t done permanent damage. Aside from all the licking and chewing, the vet said, he appeared to be healing nicely. She added a second antibiotic to his daily medications, plus an ointment to apply to his stitches twice a day. Then I asked if we could try the E-collar again. I told her everything I just told you about his prior experiences with it, but I was getting desperate. I told her he might just have to suck it up and deal with it this time.

A vet tech left the room for a few minutes and came back with an E-collar. They fastened it around Butch’s neck and we waited for the explosion. He shook his head gently a couple of times. He scooted backwards to try to get away from it. And that was it. There was no more drama. He had a hard time navigating with that big thing on his head -- a harder time than a sighted dog would have had -- but he kept his dignity and managed the best he could.

He’s worn the collar almost constantly since then, and he’s bumped into a lot of things. At first he had a problem of over-correction. If he bumped something to his right, he’d turn 180 degrees to his left and crash into something on that side, but he’s beginning to get the hang of it. Because his nose serves as his eyes, he’s used to walking with his nose just inches from the floor. He can’t do that now without the bottom of the collar dragging against the floor. Instead, he’s learned to walk a few steps with his head held high, then flip it way forward to plop the whole circumference of the circular collar against the floor while he takes a good whiff. He’s figured out how to back out slowly when the collar has prevented him from turning around in tight spots. He seems to have accepted the fact that he can't scratch his behind, or his ears for that matter, and to live with that reality.

This afternoon, not quite brave enough to leap up onto the sofa while wearing the new collar, Butch summoned up the courage to climb up cautiously. Once there, he snuggled up against me and laid his head with its big silly "hat" on my chest. He’s learned that most of the pleasures of life are still available to him, and I’ve learned it’s not so bad to watch television through a semi-transparent plastic cone.

Considering everything Butch has had to deal with in his ten years, I suppose he's grown to understand that a big lampshade attached to his head is no big deal.

(First published at Velvet Sacks on June 6, 2008.)

And now we wait

It'll be sometime next week before we have the results of the biopsy, but Butch is home.

Much to everybody's relief, he had no problems during anesthesia this time. He is showing some of the same behaviors that scared me so much after his last bout of anesthesia -- whining with every exhaled breath, pacing, bumping into things -- but it doesn't frighten me as much this time around.

I can tell that the biggest problem we're going to have in the next few days is to keep him from "chewing" on his freshly shaved behind and possibly pulling out stitches. I just fussed at him twice to make him stop it. After the second time, he climbed off the futon and went into the living room. I followed him in there and found him -- no surprise -- with his head up under his tail.

So, since Butch can't be trusted, I won't write as much as I intended to tonight. I'll post again as soon as I don't have to police him. In the meantime, please know how much I appreciate your concern and your prayers.

(First published at Velvet Sacks on June 3, 2008.)