Tuesday, February 18, 2014

An update on Mol [and an update on the update]

It's just coming up to two years since Molly, who is just short of fourteen, was given a baleful, lucky-if-she'll-have another year, prognosis * from the vet.She tires more easily, is greyer and slower and has various age-related symptoms and health problems, but very largely they've been quite good years for her, and we've appreciated the time that we've had with her.  Emy, her vet, when I remarked at some point that she had exceeded the forecast by some way, said that she tended to be reluctant to make such predictions because people often berated her if their animals did live longer. I suppose I can understand this, but I can't really imagine being angry because of having more life with Mol than we expected to have.

Lately, though, she's been giving us something of a roller coaster ride of worry.  She's been slightly wonky on her back legs for a few weeks now, but without giving us great cause for concern, we put it down to age and a pain-killer and a rest usually fixed it, then just over a week ago she jumped up on the sofa next to Tom, turned round then started suddenly to whimper and cry and was unable to move her back end at all or raise herself.  It was quite late in the evening and there was little chance of a vet, so we gave her a painkiller, bedded her down downstairs and I slept (not much) down there with her.  One of the worst things was she really needed a pee but couldn't stand to do it.  At about five in the morning, on about the fourth attempt, she finally got up on her feet again and the immediate cause of distress being resolved, she slept peacefully.  I phoned Emy who said best let her rest if she's recovering, and by the end of the day she was more or less back to normal and carried on that way for a few days.  However, when it happened again at the end of the week, later at night with no apparent trigger when she was going to bed, we took her in on the Saturday morning, still in a pitiful state, and Emy gave her cortico-steroids, injection and follow-up pills.  Emy's initial diagnosis was spondylitis, a kind of arthritis of the spine, which causing a pinched nerve.

The medication worked a treat.  By the following day, Sunday, the first really fine and sunny one we've had for a while, we were able to take her out in the car to the coast at Erquy, she was comfortable an enjoyed a walk along the harbour wall. There was a hint of a twinge in the evening when she jumped down, but she had a good night and was bright enough the next day.  But that evening, Monday, she missed her footing a couple of times and was cramped up and crying again on going to bed, so it was the two of us downstairs again, where she seemed to be able to sleep better, and early this morning she happily jumped down, took her constitutional in the garden and scampered upstairs to join Tom in bed.

We were due to start reducing the dose of the steroids today, but I rang Emy and gave her an update, and she recommended maintaining the higher dose, especially in the light of the fact that she - Emy - is going away for a long weekend on Thursday, so I went to get some more of them.  We chatted a bit (I left Mol in the car) and she said that there was a possibility that it could in fact be a tumour on the spine, either spread from the earlier mammary tumour or developed independently, rather than simply the spondylitis. An x-ray would determine this, if it were so then the steroid treatment would remain the same, but we would then know, and, she said, 'it might make certain decisions easier'.

On returning home, Mol was in such a weak and miserable state again that we were beside ourselves, and resolved that we would have to do anything, even the final, heartbreaking thing, to stop her from suffering, and I rang Emy straight after her lunch to book the x-ray for tomorrow.  Mol wolfed down her breakfast she'd left uneaten from the morning despite barely being able to stand to do so, we took it in turns to cuddle her on the sofa, and after a few hours she jumped down spryly, followed me about mischievously from room to room, asked for a walk (only a short one but taken briskly and cheerfully) ate a good dinner, sat on my feet in the kitchen scrounging carrot peelings, rolled around on the mat and generally behaved as though there was nothing whatever the matter. The very thought of having her put down seemed like an abomination.

And so it goes on, one minute she has us convinced this is it, the next she's bright as a button again with barely a limp. We don't know what's going to happen next, and it's all very exhausting. But tomorrow's x-ray should give us more information, and a it more idea what we might expect and how best to deal with it.

Update on the update: The x-rays showed no tumour on the spine, and not a lot of spondylitis, in fact, but what Emy did identify was a hernia in her groin which may be a large part of the problem.  The treatment remains the same. She was on very lively form during the visit; doors inadvertently left open meant I had to dive to stop her racing out of the door onto the street when she was placed on the ground after the procedure and ignored for an instant while I was waiting in the waiting room. But later I had to go out and left her at home with Tom and she's been uncomfortable and miserable for much of the afternoon, and is still moving with a lot of difficulty.  Rest and medication is prescribed, but she can't go on with the steroids indefinitely as they have undesirable side effects. We just have to do what we can and see how it goes.

Molly on the harbour wall at Erquy, Sunday 16th February


[*An odd footnote to this: when looking back over that post from two years ago, I saw again an anonymous comment which I noted at the time, because I couldn't identify who it might be from, yet it had a ring of kindliness and sincerity and I had the feeling I ought to know its author. However, unable to solve the mystery, it slipped from my mind.  Then, a few months ago, I was indulging in a bit of casual googling and lurking of the 'I wonder what happened to...' kind, as you do (don't you?) and found Rommy's owner.  Re-reading my old post and that particular comment with the knowledge thus gained, the piece of the puzzle fell into place.  Most probably that reader has long since drifted back off into the ether, such impulses of curiosity being usually short-lived, but in case not, for the record, I was surprised, intrigued (I could surely only be found by an outside chance and/or a very circuitous route) and really very pleased. However removed one might feel from remote past selves, I've learned one can be quite surprised by joy to learn that other people associated with them are still in the world and making it a brighter place.  And I was very touched that P chose to partially de-lurk to extend such a kind and sympathetic comment about our Mol.  I hope you and your beautiful family are well and thriving, and still blessed with the love of a good spaniel!]


Anonymous said...

Sending hugs to Mol and I hope things go well with her x-ray; I'm very glad to hear she perked up and started to look better again and hope she carries on like this :)

I like her little cowl/ scarf, very trendy!

Rouchswalwe said...

Sending fur ruffles filled with warmth and love for dear Mol! I'm happy to read she has her appetite back.

Zhoen said...

When she's sure she's had enough, I expect she'll let you know clearly. Poor old gal.

the polish chick said...

judging both from your blog, and from a comment tom once made on mine, i know she is such a part of your lives. here's hoping she manages to stay happy and pain-free. loved pets aren't animals, they are family.

Marly Youmans said...

Hugs to Mol!

Lucy said...

Thanks all, I'll add an update to the update now.

Chloë, the cowl's rather good isn't it? It's an old one of mine that was always a bit small, she's worn it for several winters now, I always hoped it would help her not catch cold and get ear infections!

R - her appetite hasn't suffered, which is one reason we don't feel she's ready to give up. It's partly because of the steroids, of course, so in a way we're happy she hasn't got too ravenous, since that can be a problem too.

Z - I hope you're right, it gets hard when she's suffering but so determined to hang on. People are a bit glib about it, I think, oh don't let them suffer, don't mess about, get on with it etc. She's just such a determined, strong little character like that. Fortunately our vet is understanding and always ready to discuss the matter sympathetically but realistically.

PC - thanks dear. The pain-free bit is hard to manage sometimes just now, but somehow she manages to hang on to a certain lust for life anyway, which makes it difficult to assess the situation. We can't imagine our day-to-day lives, or our home, without her, though she affects, and limits, so much we can do and plans we can make. But that's life. And love.

Marly - thanks, she still enjoys those very much!

Marly Youmans said...

Ah, that is good. In my experience, they enjoy those right to the very end. I've learned quite a bit from the patience of a dog in the face of illness.

Rouchswalwe said...

Just read the update to the update. I imagine Mol is much like we are, determined to get up and go when the pain lessens, and then she suffers from having overdone it a bit. When my furry dude was in pain, I would sing to him, and it seemed to help somewhat. I am sending more loving fur ruffles Molly's way by special airmail! And I'll raise a glass of quality ale to you and Tom for strength.

Catalyst said...

Oh the declining years are so sad. And the animals can be so unpredictable. My heart goes out to all three of you.

Natalie d'Arbeloff said...

I dread to hear of any animal suffering but especially those beloved pets who are part of the family. Mol is certainly a unique character and surely knows that you and Tom care deeply for her. Makes me feel weepy.

zephyr said...

Oh, my goodness...what a journey it is to love and be loved. i'm glad for the better news and completely understand how the ups and downs toss one about. i continue to hold Molly, you and Tom in my heart. They do teach us so much, those dear furry folk.

Unknown said...

How I feel for you and for Mol! On two fronts: the steroids (my medicine) and your worries about her. It is so easy to become bogged down in my own miseries. I am thinking about you and Tom and Mol.

christopher said...

I have followed your Mol and you the whole of my blog life. Recently a "big dog" has entered my sphere though it usually consists of me and cats. The cat has accepted dog presence quite easily, by the way.

Dog is part Irish Wolfhound and while not to size, she is definitely to shape. The cat and I agree that Dog is the gentlest of creatures. So on hearing about your Mol, my heart ripped a little and something got in my eyes, both of them.

I truly protest the goodbyes, and yet I have ever been willing to do what I must. I will never abandon the four footed at the last. I too would sit with Mol all night if it was necessary. Oh by the way, Dog has a name. Stella.

Lucy said...

Thanks again, dears. So far we are weathering the period without access to our vet manageably. She has bad patches, then with a good rest she's up and ready to enjoy life again. The rest periods involve quite a lot of sofa time, to be shared with Tom or myself, which means we have to organise things rather carefully around her, usually involving knitting, dozing and watching TV, so I am rather more au fait with the sport of curling than I expected to be.

She had a ride in the car this morning while I went about one or two errans, well padded in the front seat, which she seemed to appreciate but emerged from stiff and uncomfortable, but we feel she needs to be able to enjoy at least some of her normal pleasures. This evening she's in good form.

Doubtless plenty of people would have already taken the euthanasia decision by now, but we're not prepared to give up until she is, and just now she's so very much herself and full of life.

Roderick Robinson said...

I wasn't sure there was anything I could contribute other than sympathy, so I held back. Sympathy from the West Riding usually consists of a thin veneer overlaying a log of self-interest.

Then V started clearing out the booze cabinet and came upon an almost empty, unlabelled bottle with one of those wire-operated self-tightening stoppers. I worked the wire, smelt and sipped and lo I was transported, the rotund figure of M.Kervoaze grinning companiably and Mol - almost like an estate agent - showing me first her front room then her back at the rear of the Citroen.

May I be delicately pragmatic? You mention a hernia; usually this demands surgery. From personal experience I can say anaesthesia often represents the greatest area of risk when the scalpel's at work. It might be worth considering surgery for an extra, entirely emotional reason. If it's successful then you'll have benefited Mol, if it isn't then you may have avoided taking that decision you're so dreading. I realise I'm suggesting you take comfort in self-delusion and that calm rational adults should be proof against that. Well I'm not for one. And I hope for Mol's sake that if push comes to shove you won't be either. I may have just crossed a socially forbidden boundary; if I have I'll go away and weep. But that was a strong tasting shot of sloe gin and it encouraged me to take the risk.

Lucy said...

Robbie, thank you, no, you've not said anything amiss, and what you say is food for thought and genuinely appreciated. The vet did mention surgery, but not with any inclination to push the matter. We've tended to say no more surgery for her, she's 14 and had so much intervention and anaesthetic it didn't seem fair, but I do take your point, and wouldn't altogether rule out discussing it further. At the moment she seems to be improving somewhat; we're really looking to see if she can go the five days pain-free and with normal movement till Emy gets back from her trip away, then take it from there.

I am glad you enjoyed the sloe gin!

Tom said...

Robbie, I too would like to add my thanks to Lucy's for what you have said. I would like to say more, but perhaps further words are not necessary. Again, my thanks.

Clive Hicks-Jenkins said...

It's a fact that all we bloggers have been admiring Mol at a distance for so long, that her troubles… and yours... become our troubles too. We could all take a leaf out of her book when it comes to matters of discomfort, because from what you've shared, it's clear that Mol is just getting on with things, supported by the knowledge that when things become too painful, then you're there for love and sympathy and whatever else needs to be offered. In all respects, she's in a very good place indeed. That we should all be so lucky when we get sick.

Easy to say, Lucy… though not so easy to do… but try not to fret, as she'll feel that. Calmness will serve everything best. Thinking of you.

C xxx

Anonymous said...

Sending lots of positive thoughts across the oceans. x

Lucy said...

Clive, that's such a lovely, helpful comment, thank you. I kind of feel we're all learning to cope with the situation a bit better already, not panic and worry so much when the bad moments come, and this reduces them a bit, and to stay more upbeat and pragmatic and appreciate the better moments, which are still the majority. We have to keep more of an eye on her though.

HHB - lovely to see you, I'm very touched you're still reading!