Friday, August 26, 2011

P for Pug Life

Our Pug, Dexter, has had a rough couple of weeks.This really sucks, because the poor little guy has had a hard enough life. We adopted Dexter two years ago from the Minnesota Pug Rescue. They couldn’t tell us how old he was, because he was a former puppy mill dog, but best estimates put him at about a year and a half. Puppy mills are not nice places (this is a HUGE GIGANTIC understatement), so the first year or so of Dexter’s life were filled with abuse and neglect, culminating in him and his sister being left in a large garbage can outside of a humane society. They were thankfully found and eventually ended up being placed with Minnesota Pug Rescue.

Dexter’s former life had obvious effects on his personality and demeanor. When we first met him, he wouldn’t let us near him because he didn’t trust strangers. Of course, given his past, this was totally understandable. He was skittish, flinched at the slightest movement, and spent his first week at our house curled up in the corner of our sectional couch where he could watch everything around him and no one could sneak up from behind. We’d have to be really careful trying to pet him, because if you approached from anywhere near his head, he flinched and dove to the ground in a seemingly uncontrollable reflex response. In addition to trying to gain his trust, we also had to try to potty train him. This was no easy task.

He has changed by leaps and bounds since joining our family. He’s a much more confident, happy, and all around good dog. Words cannot express how much love we have for this silly little dog. The tough road we’ve all traveled since taking him in has bonded us as a family. That’s why the past couple weeks have been so devastating…

It started with his feet. He would NOT stop licking his feet. We thought that his paws might just be dried out as a result of the soap daycare used for his bath perhaps not being fully rinsed away. When a good cleaning and rinsing of his feet and the application of puppy moisturizer didn’t help, and he escalated to chewing his paws, we knew it was time to go to the vet. Musicman made the appointment, and since he gets off of work earlier than I do, he brought him in.

The night before the appointment, I reminded Musicman to have the vet look at the bump on Dexter’s neck. For about a month now, he’d had a bump that started out looking like an ingrown hair but had grown to the size of a large wart or cyst. We’d decided that, since it didn’t seem to cause pain or problem, we’d have it looked at the next time Dexter needed a vet visit. That time had come.

I beat Musicman and Dexter home the day of the appointment, so Lucy and I sat and waited for them to return. When I’d gotten home, Lucy’s mad and persistent barking let me know that she was not at all thrilled that daddy had brought brother somewhere and left her home alone. I had just gotten her calmed down when we heard the car pull into the garage. I was shocked when Dexter came running into the house with a giant plastic cone around his head and neck!

Musicman informed me that Dexter’s paws were infected. As a result, he would be on antibiotics for 10 days, the cone would need to stay on for the duration to prevent further licking, and we’d have to soak his paws in a Betadine solution for five minutes every night. Poor pug! (We went out a few days later and got him an inflatable collar in lieu of the cone. He now looked as though he were prepared for a shipwreck.)

Then, Musicman broke the really bad news to me....

The doctor was pretty sure the lump on Dexter’s neck was a tumor. The needle aspiration they’d done at the office during the appointment caused her to think it should be removed as soon as possible. After removal, they would send it out for a pathology report to determine whether or not it was cancerous. If it was, we’d have to discuss treatment options. The vet said radiation wasn’t a good idea for dogs of Dexter’s size, because little dogs don’t seem to handle it well at all. However, she seemed quite positive that, even if the tumor was cancerous, the surgery would take care of the problem.

We were devastated. How could our poor little dog have cancer? He’d had a hard enough life! This was the last thing he deserved! After getting over the shock and crying for our poor little Pug, we agreed that we’d spend the $400 for surgery. Of course that meant we wouldn’t be going camping, or going to the Minnesota State Fair, or doing a few of the other fun things we’d hoped to do with the few weeks I had off this summer, but that $400 was a small price to pay to possibly prolong our little boy’s life.

We scheduled the appointment for last Friday. We both took last Friday off of work in order to drop Dexter off for his surgery; we both knew we’d be too worried to be able to focus on anything at work. I cried as we got ready to leave the house. Dexter seemed to know something was up as he was extra cuddly. By the time we got to the vet’s office, I was a complete mess.

I felt like a horrible puppy mom and awful wife as I told Musicman I’d wait in the car with Lucy while he brought Dexter into the clinic. I knew I just couldn’t handle leaving my little guy there. Our family short one member, we dropped Lucy off at daycare so that she could run out her energy for the day. A tired dog is a happy dog, and the exhaustion she experiences after a day at daycare would prevent her from bothering Dexter that evening as he tried to recover.

Musicman and I went to breakfast and then spent the day at the Minnesota Zoo, reliving our second date, as we tried to keep our minds from wandering into negative “what ifs.” We did end up having a really fantastic day. We were relieved when we finally got the call from the vet that the surgery had gone well. She warned Musicman that they’d removed a wide margin around the tumor, so we should be prepared that Dexter’s neck might look worse than we’d imagined when we picked him up later in the evening.

She wasn’t kidding! When we were finally able to pick up our little buddy, we were stunned by what we saw. This is how he looked the next day:

They shave almost his whole neck!!

The vet gave us pain pills for the next few days, told us she’d call us when she had the pathology results, and had us setup an appointment two weeks out to have Dexter’s stitches removed. As we drove home, all Dexter did was cry. It was so pitiful and so sad, because we didn’t know exactly why he was crying. Was he starving after having not eaten for almost 24 hours? Was he in pain? Was he just out of it? We assumed it was a combination of all three. Thankfully, once we got home and gave him a couple treats and some water, he calmed down and cuddled up for a nap:

Musicman got the call on Tuesday, our third wedding anniversary, that the pathology results were back. I was at orientation for St. Scholastica (happy anniversary to us!), so unfortunately Musicman had to hold on to the news until I got home at 9:30 that evening. The report indicated that the mast cell tumor was cancerous. However, we had fortunately caught it early; it was Stage 1 cancer. The news wasn’t all bad. The doctor had taken a really wide margin and the marginal tissues showed no cancer cells, meaning it hadn’t spread. This means they got it all with the surgery!!!

Though we still have a week to go before his stitches are removed, Dexter seems as though he’s back to normal. He’s gonna have one heckuva badass scar! We joke that this will make him look way tougher. Next time he goes to daycare, he can tell the other dogs that he was shot or stabbed in a knife fight, because that’s PUG LIFE. (Get it? It’s a play on thug life. Yep….we’re totally those crazy dog people.)

The vet warned us that there is a chance that Dexter could get another tumor sometime in the future, so we should keep a close eye on him. However, for now at least, our little Pug is cancer free and we are incredibly thankful and happy! We’re going to continue on as though we have a perfectly health dog, because we do now. And, of course, we’re going to continue to spoil the heck out of both of our dogs and enjoy every single moment we are fortunate enough to have with them.
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  1. omg, I am so glad he is ok!  I love pugs and I love rescued animals so much. Bless your hearts for taking him in!  I was a nervous wreck reading this, hoping it ended well.  I was crying reading this!  Give him a big hug for me and I hope he feels 100% better soon.

  2. Oh, my goodness, that poor little guy!!  I'm so glad he made it through that fiasco, however, and is on the road to recovery!  He's so lucky to have found you and musicman!  Also, that inflated neck cone is just adorable!!  Please keep us posted on his progress, and let us know how he's doing!  God bless ALL of you!

  3. Oh my gosh, poor guy! I don' t know what else to say, but that I hope ALL of you recover fast. Take care!

  4. Thanks, Kathie!! I'm not going to lie, he was A LOT of work when he first came to us. There were lots of tears and frustrations along the way, but if people can handle a little bit of life disruption like that, rescuing is more than worth every moment! I'm sorry you cried! I cried a lot in the days leading up to his surgery, then during the few days we waited to find the results, then of course a little bit afterwards too. It is amazing how attached we've become to this little guy.

    He IS 100% better (besides the missing hair that needs to grow back still), and is back to his old Puggy self. And we couldn't be happier about that! :-)

  5. Thanks, Joan! I adore the inflated collar so much! While I'm glad that Dexter is recovered, I miss his shipwrecked look. ;-) He's doing GREAT!!! 

  6. Thank you!!! Life is back to normal. The little guy doesn't even seem to remember having surgery a couple weeks ago. All is well with us.


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