Wednesday, April 14, 2010

On today's agenda: Grief Therapy

Ok, today's post is really something I've been putting off for the last year of having this site & I'm afraid it will be long.  Since today is the 3rd anniversary of my Little Dude passing over the rainbow bridge (ok, I know that's a bit corny, but it's a nice way of thinking of where he is now), I thought today would be the most appropriate time for me to share...and honestly, a very good reason for me to have a good cry.

So here it is...Ollie's Cancer Story:

Bulldogs should be named the Educators of Dogs. I have learned so much about this breed & mostly since Ollie passed, but while he was here we learned to pay attention. So often our pets just become part of our lives & we don't notice little things like...When was the last time he ate? Or what is this thing on his ear? It seems bulldogs, being the clowns that they are, are always in your face in one way or another & you learn to pay attention & watch them a little closer.

I know that's part of the reason we brought Oliver to the vet in the first place. Ollie would take his nap with Steve...usually right on Steve's Steve had no choice but to pay close attention!! One day in January 2007, Steve had told me that Ollie's muzzle was swollen. I didn't see it; thought Steve was overreacting & really didn't give it another thought...until I finally DID see it.

Right underneath the nose, there is that "line" that goes down to the upper lip & splits the muzzle in you know that part I'm talking about? Normally, Ollie's was black...but once it started to swell that line started to turn it was splitting open. He didn't seem to be in any pain & we watched it for a week or so, but eventually brought him in to our vet.

Steve brought him in & the vet wasn't sure what it was, brought up the possibility of cancer--which of course we didn't believe at all--and took a little sample of the area & sent it in to be biopsied. We waited. And waited. And waited. Finally, about 1 1/2 weeks later it came back as "Inconclusive" & it was recommended we see a dog dermatologist (who knew such a thing existed) at the University of Minnesota Veterinary School.

So in mid-February, we went to the U of M--Dermatology department. We met with a very nice doctor, who of course loved Ollie & he LOVED being there because people were paying attention to him (like we never did--yeah right). She did an exam of his face & told us that Ollie had yeast infections all over his face, his folds, both ears....we felt like the most awful bully parents ever! (We didn't know the things we know now about fold cleaning--as you'll see in the photos below.)

Also, she told us that she looked over the inconclusive results & that it could be allergies or it could be cancer....umm...what? I'm no doctor, but allergies OR cancer? How could you possibly confuse the two? But apparently it's very easy because over the next 6 weeks Ollie had his muzzle biopsied at least 3 other times & each & every time it came back as inconclusive--could be cancer. Very frustrating. His biopsies went across country from one Vet school to another & back to the U---all with inconclusive results.

First they did needle aspirates of the muzzle & then realized they needed a bigger sample so they took a cut of it & sent that in.....In the meantime, there was a raspberry-like growth beginning by his nose (in the fold). So then they started biopsying that...again....inconclusive. At least they're consistent right???

I searched online, I couldn't find anything. I spoke to the breeder we got Oliver from & there was no cancer in his bully family. I found a bulldog vet (who I told Steve--we will go there from now on) to see if the growth was a bulldog thing?? It wasn't. We were so frustrated & confused & just not sure what to expect--but it can't be cancer right? I mean he's not even 2 years old yet.

Then one night Ollie started having head god. They were so scary. We rushed him to the U's ER & they said they could watch him overnight for $750....ummm...that's ok. We'll just stay up with him thanks. One of the things that I think was causing the head tremors was that Ollie had not been getting a lot of sleep. Ollie started waking me up in the middle of the night. I'd take him out & he wouldn't do anything. So one night I slept on the couch & I got woken up by hearing this "thud" was him tipping over. He was falling asleep standing up & then would tip over.

I think he couldn't find a comfortable position to sleep because of the raspberry pushing on is nostril, he now had a lump the size of a softball in his neck & his original still swollen muzzle...he could barley breath. So he'd stand up, fall asleep & tip over....poor honey.

Once we found the lump in his neck, we once again brought him to the U. They decided to biopsy the ENTIRE raspberry along w/removing the lymph node that had the lump. That was on April 3rd and a week later, there was another lump!! Once again, they sent the biopsies to another Vet school (Philadelphia I think) & on April 12th I got the phone call at work that he indeed had two types of cancer.

The swollen muzzle was a low grade sarcoma, which alone would have been treatable. However, the raspberry was melanoma, which was malignant & spread to the lymph nodes...and at that point I totally lost it. She had told us that if ever the results came back saying that cancer was in the lymph nodes there was not a lot they could do for him. She wanted me to call the Oncology department at the U (remember this was still the dermatologist) to see what our options were. First, I had to call Steve & tell him.

I went home & cried all night. Ollie just looked at me like, "Oh Momma--Iz ok." When Steve came home that night, Ollie greeted him at the door & we all just sat there together. The next day I called the Oncology department...they were rude & insensitive & I felt like I was just another $120 "consult" fee...when they could tell me over the phone there wasn't much but comfort care that could be done for "my dog".

Radiation--well they didn't offer it here, I'd have to go to Madison, WI.
Vaccine for melanoma--it just came out, but the U is not part of the test study.
Chemo--just not really recommended for dogs.

Wow...gee thanks. So we kept our original appointment with our regular vet for the next day, Saturday, April 14th to have his stitches removed from the last biopsies. After a morning where Ollie basically “told” me it was time, we had some time with him & later that morning, my little dude finally got the sleep he so needed.

February 12th 2007-you can see very little swelling under his nose.

February 25th 2007-getting more swollen in such a short amount of time. 
(He was prentending to be a lion in this photo.)
March 19th 2007-the start of the "raspberry" to the right of his nose.  Muzzle continues to swell.

April 2nd 2007-"raspberry" seemed to grow in record time. 
March 19th 2007
April 2nd 2007
March 19th 2007
April 2nd 2007
Sorry this got so long...thanks for the therapy.


  1. I am so sorry you all had to go through that. Ollie, what a handsome Little Dude. He was lucky to have you, Steve and all your love. Yup, a good cry for me this morning too. (((hugs))) to you on this third anniversary.

  2. Sorry that you had to go through this with your sweet pup. But I appreciate you sharing this story because I believe it will help other bully owners like myself.

  3. Oh that made me sad for you. I am sorry that you lost sweet Ollie. But know this, after reading that, I will be MUCH MORE observant with Chloe... you're right, there are things you just don't notice... and you think "oh we'll watch that". I appreciate you sharing the pictures too as I need visuals to know what to look for.

  4. Kim, Otis and StellaApril 15, 2010 at 9:54 PM

    Ugggggg...nothing like crying before bed! Now I'll have swollen eyes for tomorrow (Stella's big ortho appt.)! Oh how we love them!! I can't imagine my life w/out them. Thank goodness Ollie had so much love. What a doll he was - too cute. Take care!