Sunday, March 31, 2013


It's just a quiet Easter Sunday. Annie is sleeping in and even Orphée is quiet. We will spend a peaceful day off enjoying a good book and each other's company.

To all my readers I send wishes for a very Happy Easter and a Happy Passover. As I go forward with this blog there will be updates for Annie, some surprising developments with Orphée and final comments concerning Buddy.

Enjoy whichever holiday you celebrate and have a happy spring!

Friday, March 29, 2013


What did I learn from this experience with Annie?
  • If the consequences of the medical issue can be profound, always get a second opinion even if you agree with the diagnosis. We should have done this from the very first time the subject of the lump was discussed. An earlier surgery would have translated into less anxiety and worry for us, less of an ordeal for Annie and probably lower medical expenses.
  • Don't lose sight of the bigger picture. I convinced myself everything would be OK, losing sight of the worst case scenario. I'm not advocating doom and gloom here, I'm just saying that hoping for the best but preparing for the worst might be the best course of action.
  • Ask questions, ask questions, ask questions. And did I say ask questions? Ask 'em until you're blue in the face; ask 'em until you have satisfactory answers you can live with and enough information to make intelligent decisions.
  • Stay calm and carry on. The British motto from the days of the blitz holds true when dealing with medical emergencies. The stress of a major medical crisis is the same as being under siege. If you don't stay calm you won't think clearly, act rationally or make solid decisions.
  • If you're uncomfortable with any aspect of diagnosis, treatment, etc. talk it over and talk it out until you are comfortable.
  • Above all, love your animal and try not to communicate your negative feelings. Our pets really do sense what we feel. You want to stay positive, calm and loving so your pet won't be stressed any more than necessary by their medical emergency.
  • Finally, don't spend time beating yourself up. You are only human after all, there is only so much you can do and as long as you are doing the best you can be easy on yourself.
Annie's saga is by no means over. Our little family will  have to relive the possibility of another cancer diagnosis with every 3-month Oncologist visit. Another medical emergency came back in force and it will be the subject of the next post.

Monday, March 25, 2013


After all the sweating, worrying, waiting and praying we received a call January 13th from the surgeon letting us know they'd obtained clean margins. Annie's office appointment 3 days later brought more good news - no radiation needed. Her stitches were removed but from now on Annie needed to see the Oncologist every 3 months for a checkup starting from the date of her 2nd surgery.

The surgery site was healing nicely. I checked her incision every few days gratified to see and feel the hard ridge of the incision receding nicely. It seemed a bit odd but both ends of the incision were still hard and lumpy. I surmised the reason to be extra dissolving stitches at the ends but didn't know for sure since I'm not a doctor or surgeon.

Meanwhile, Annie seemed to continue to be a bit uncomfortable when lying down on the surgery site although it happened less and less as time passed. My January 30th examination of her incision turned up a stitch protruding from the end of the surgery. We made a special trip to emergency to have it removed and were told if any more came up we could cut them ourselves.

So Annie continued on the path to a full recovery. For the first time Artie and I felt she had a good shot at a full recovery and we had an opportunity to have Annie in our lives for a few more years at least. Dare I hope I could consider my sweet Annie a cancer survivor? I toyed with the idea of doing a monthly count of her progress but decided to put that idea on hold until after Buddy's one-year anniversary. Little did we know Annie would face more medical issues.

And my list of takeaways from this experience? The lessons learned will be outlined in my next post.

Saturday, March 23, 2013


Recently, I've been talking with my friend Phyllis about cats - our cats, our love of cats and our initial dislike of cats. I, for one, was never a big fan of cats until I met and fell in love with Buddy.

Neither was Phyllis who graciously agreed to be a guest blogger for 8 Paws and 2 Tails. Here is her story... 

How I came to love cats
For almost my entire life I had a real fear of cats. I’m not sure why. The only unsettling, yet infrequent experience I had was with two cats who lived in Massachusetts, Spooky and Thunder. These cats were aged, wise and loved to pounce on me. They so enjoyed seeing me jump.

Flash forward many years later
A dear friend was dying from cancer. She displayed so much courage in her fight. As a final request a notice went out to see if someone could care for her aged and cantankerous cat, Annie. No one was able to take Annie, so, because of how I felt about my friend I took her cat.  Annie came to me on a Saturday and spent the next three weeks under the bed in the guest room. She had come from a one bedroom apartment in Manhattan and now she was in a house.

 I cleaned her litter box and gave her food.  She gave me dirty looks. She was eating and loved running up and down the steps. We were not connecting and I felt so sad because I could not explain to her what had happened.

Then, according to her time frame, we met on the landing.  She put her paw on my hand. At last she had come to feel comfortable in her new home.  I moved her bed onto my landing and we became best friends. She always greeted me when I came home and loved when I sang to her. Her song was Annie Fa-fannie, I love my beautiful Annie. Her tail moved like a metronome.

All was well until she developed a severe case of pancreatitis. After six days in the hospital she recovered. Her very skinny legs had been shaved for some medical procedures and she looked like a poodle. I had her for another six months and then she really got sick. Although it was a very difficult decision, the vets encouraged me to put her down. Since they had been tending to her since I first got her (bless their hearts, they even made house calls!) I knew that they were right. After her passing I got a personal letter about her from each of the employees of the Vet hospital. I had Annie Fafannie 20 months. And, I grew to love her because she was so brave. feisty, independent. Not overtly loving but always happy that I was there.

Currently I am in the process of removing the carpeting that Annie got sick on, and although I suffer from cat allergies, I know that there is another cat in my future.

Annie Fafannie

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


New Year's Eve and New Year's Day were as depressing as Christmas. I was nervous over the different possible outcomes of the surgery; I hoped for the best but I was expecting the worst. Artie, on the other hand, was extremely angry about how this played out; the possibility of losing Annie so soon after losing Buddy was very distressing. Both of us were upset that by trying to avoid any surgery Annie now had to go through not one but two operations.

Friday, January 4, 2013, the day of the follow-up surgery arrived. Annie's appointment was for 7:30 AM. Her surgery was scheduled for morning. I received a call during the afternoon from Dr. Cherrone, the surgeon who performed the operation. She sounded very upbeat as she reported Annie went through the surgery successfully and was recovering nicely, however, we would have to wait for the biopsy results to determine if the margins were clean and whether or not we had to go forward with radiation therapy.

Both Artie and I were emotionally totaled, counting the hours until Annie could come home. 6 PM Saturday we were at VERG waiting to collect Annie, get post-op instructions and leave for what we hoped would be an uneventful evening at home. When Annie entered the exam room, we were stunned to see her acting completely normal. The only evidence of surgery was the big bandage wrapping her entire midsection. She was alert, thrilled to see us and busily exploring the room, smelling the floor and furniture and, as always, begging for attention from the Veterinary Technician and us.

Annie was on medicine and we needed to keep the bandages on for awhile until we were sure any residual bleeding or oozing from the wound stopped. Never in my wildest dreams did I expect to pick up Frankenweenie but that is exactly what Annie looked like with her long scar closed by staples! The pictures below were taken about two weeks after the surgery. A significant amount of swelling at the surgical site had already gone down and her hair was starting to grow back.

My next post will continue with our post-surgery experiences.

Annie resting prior to our daily exam of her sutures.

The second surgery incision was twice the length of the first surgery.
Close-up of staples; you can see swelling especially at both ends of the incision.
Another close-up of Annie's surgery.

Saturday, March 9, 2013


Quite a while ago I promised to write about Annie's surgery once I could bring myself to do so. Now is the time.

As anyone following this blog will know, Annie had a lump at the bottom of her rib-cage for more than a year. Both myself and Artie as well as Annie's doctors were monitoring it. The lump felt like a fatty tumor. At the time of Buddy's death, Artie wanted to have it removed; I did not want to put her through surgery if it wasn't necessary because of her age as well as the dangers associated with surgery and anesthesia. We decided to continue to monitor the lump.

Around Thanksgiving we noticed the lump was bigger. Not by much but now we were concerned with 'quality-of-life' issues - would it be uncomfortable for her to lie on her side? If we didn't remove it now and it became bigger wouldn't surgery be riskier as she aged?

Annie went for an office visit December 13th. We discussed our concerns with the doctor and a sample was taken. When the cytology report came in December 15th, the findings were as follows:

"No significant inflammatory response was evident. The spindle cells displayed minimal atypia. Findings may reflect a benign fibrosing cystic structure, cystic spindle cell tumor (fibroma or low grade malignant potential sarcoma), or other underlying nonexfoliating fibrosing cystic structure."

At that point the both of us AND the doctor wanted it removed. Surgery was performed December 20th; Annie came home the same day. She was still somewhat under the effects of the anesthesia, on Rimadyl, not interested in food or water and did nothing but sleep. It took a few days for Annie to return to her usual self - a sure sign that my girl is older now.

Christmas was a somber affair as we worried about the biopsy results. The results of the biopsy came December 26th and the lump definitely was cancer. The report characterized it as a slow-moving soft tissue sarcoma. The surgery did not produce clear margins; Annie needed to have additional surgery. If the second surgery did not produce clean margins, she would need radiation therapy. We were referred to Dr. Cohen at VERG (Veterinary Emergency Referral Group) and an appointment was made for the next day.

Early the next day, Artie and I took Annie for her consult with the oncologist. Dr. Cohen was wonderful and Annie fell in love with her. After the exam, Annie was taken for a series of x-rays while we waited in the examining room.

Dr. Cohen returned with the x-rays and reviewed them with us. Annie had several points in her favor.
  1. Her behavior was normal which Dr. Cohen assured us was a good sign.
  2. There were no visible tumors on any of the x-rays - a good indicator that the tumor most likely wasn't metastatic.
  3. Radiation would only be needed if the second surgery did not produce clean margins.
  4. Annie had a good chance of a 100% recovery if the second surgery produced clean margins.
We discussed radiation therapy which would be done over a period of eighteen days if needed. My mind was reeling from the logistics.  There were 3 places Annie could go to, the Animal Medical Center in NYC, a facility upstate or a facility in New Jersey. She would go on an outpatient basis which meant going in and coming home daily or she could stay for 5 days coming home for the weekends. Dr. Cohen suggested not thinking about next steps until we had the post-surgery results. The follow-up surgery was scheduled for January 5th and we all went home to wonder what 2013 had in store for Annie health-wise.

I will pick up this narrative in a second post along with post-surgery photos.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


Did I ever think for one minute Orphee's surgery would be the only issue to deal with Monday? If I did then I was to be sorely mistaken.

It was an extremely busy day. We had to travel to the clinic to drop Orphee off and then again to pick him up. Breakfast out at a local diner then some grocery shopping just so the trip would accomplish more than delivering Orphee for his surgery then home. We did some housework in the intervening hours then made the trip again to pick up our patient.

We monitored him for the rest of the evening, fed Annie, did chores and headed off to bed at 2 AM, a very long day indeed. Annie would not settle down so I let her out and to my horror she passed bloody urine. She began to whimper and seemed very tense and uncomfortable. By 3 AM we were at the 24 hour Emergency Veterinary Service.

Thankfully, we were the only emergency - no other pets or pet owners just an empty waiting room. We were led to an examining room where a Vet Tech did a workup and we awaited the doctor. By now Annie was really crying and begging to be petted. I knew it was serious because Annie LOVES going to the doctor. It is an exciting adventure for her filled with new sights, new sounds, new smells and above all new animals to see and new people to make friends with.

The doctor examined her, asked questions and I could tell that her recent cancer surgery and the possibility of it spreading were on his mind although he didn't voice it. By 4 AM we were back home with antibiotics and painkillers, instructions on how to administer the meds, what to watch for and a reminder to take her to her doctor one week after finishing the medicine, sooner if her symptoms worsened.

I opened the door to the inner hall to find a note informing us Orphee picked our departure as the time to move into my apartment.  There in the Living Room was Artie asleep in the recliner with Orphee in his lap. Annie was only interested in going back out; totally ignoring him as she headed for the back door.

After wrapping her pills in boiled chicken and managing to get some of her medicine in her, I put her to bed then lay next to her. Covering her up and throwing a heavy bathrobe over myself, we fell asleep for a few hours. Orphee headed for the front stairs when Artie left for work at 6:30 AM. I left with him, heading for a local Mom & Pop store to purchase a jar of peanut butter - a surefire fixer-upper to get Annie to take her pills without a battle.

The peanut butter did the trick and with the remainder of her pills ingested both Annie and I went back to sleep to try to recoup from the evening's emergency.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


The big day finally arrived Monday and Orphee was off on his second adventure this time to be neutered.  We dropped him off by 8:30 AM. After going through what would be done and what we had by way of a medical history, we were instructed to return for him between 5 and 6 PM.

Artie and I used the opportunity to vacuum and wash the hallway stairs and floor. We emptied and disinfected his litter box, filling it with fresh litter. Then we settled in to wait. I discovered I really missed him being around even though he only hangs out in the outer hallway. Artie felt the same. Annie kept looking for him as well which was funny because he won't let her get near him.

We picked him up, received instructions for his care, found out he did fine and were told repeatedly what a handsome guy he is. They also couldn't get over how big he is. At last weigh-in Orphee was 14 lbs. Needless to say, Orphee was a bit groggy from the anesthesia. When we arrived home we put the case on our couch to let Annie and Orphee get to see each other eyeball to eyeball and to smell each other. That went well.

Orphee surprised us by calling us after he used his litter box (apparently he decided it needed to be cleaned). He also sat upright outside the apartment door looking inside. Artie brought him in and walked him through each room allowing him to get a good look at 'the lay of the land', hoping he will become more at ease with his new surroundings. Then we placed him on the floor.

He surprised us by slowly walking to the apartment hallway and hanging out there for awhile before deciding to head back to the outer hall and his stairs. He also surprised me by crying very loudly for food; something he never did before.

By the end of the evening he was fully alert but surprisingly exhibiting more of what is probably his real personality. Orphee is getting comfortable with us and coming into his own. We're thrilled.