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The Last Weekend on Four Legs

Where we last left Atticus he was struggling a bit to shake off the sedation from him ultrasound. He had a good night’s sleep and woke up completely back to normal. That morning, as I worked upstairs, I picked up on something that bothered me. I could hear Atticus groaning.

I spent some time with him, and he continued groaning, and getting up and down a lot. He clearly couldn’t get comfortable. It kept going like that all morning. Hearing Atticus groan is this huge trigger for me, I really struggle to keep it together when I hear pain vocalization from him. I can deal with grief and loss and terrible news, but I can’t deal with standing around while my animals suffer. I just don’t have any tolerance for that. I knew, from previous conversations with our vet, that he was maxed out on his carprofen dosage. Cue another upset call to VCSS to talk to our angel nurse, Trish.

Trish kindly and compassionate let me tell her what I was observing, through my tears. We got a plan to supplement him with some tramadol I had on hand from when baby Spaghetti had a bout of growing pains (it’s an actual thing in giant dogs!). She suggested we go for a walk in the sun, to calm down and clear our minds. She thought a change of scenery might take Atticus’ mind off his pain. This was a really good idea.

I decided to take him for a walk first thing, before finding the tramadol. I grabbed the leash, and out we went. We got about one house away and Atticus took a HUGE poop, that turned to diarrhea. He had a bit more diarrhea as we continued our walk. he wasn’t limping anymore than usual.

We got back in, and Atticus settled right in. No more groaning. I was wrong- his leg didn’t hurt more than usual. He just had to poop really bad. What a weirdo- he didn’t even go to the door and ask to go out! I called Trish back and gave her the update, and asked if I should hold off on the regular carprofen dosage, in case it was causing his upset stomach. She told me no- he needed the carprofen. Osteosarcoma pain is pain like none other- constant, gnawing, unrelenting. We needed to keep up with the carprofen, regardless of the GI side effects.

Poop groaning sorted out, we decided to spend our last weekend doing fun things on four legs.

The last photo I took of Atticus before surgery. He was sharing the sunny spot in our theater room with our cat Basil (and Groku, Spaghetti’s favorite toy).

Saturday was wine tasting at a very dog-friendly winery. We brought Atticus’ bed and shared our charcuterie with him. Sunday we went out for brunch and sat outside. Atticus got his own order of bacon. Afterwards, we went to our favorite city park. It has a dog park, but we hadn’t been there since Atticus’ diagnosis . I was too concerned about him running too much on his bad leg and being in a lot of pain afterwards, or worse, a pathological fracture. We couldn’t go to the dog park, but there is also a short (Maybe ½ mile) nature trail loop. Hiking is his favorite thing, so we took him on a final four-legged loop, which he loved.

Even that short loop was enough to make him visibly sorer on the bad leg. I was so nervous about the surgery, but I was also relieved. The leg needed to go.

Meet the Cast

Atticus is a 10 year old Catahoula mix that my husband and I adopted from a county animal shelter three years ago. I’m Megan. I’m a 35 year-old policy analyst by day, fitness instructor by night. My husband Kevin and I have Atticus, a Great Dane named Spaghetti, and three cats that follow me everywhere like a pack of hungry raccoons. I’ve had many animals, and loved many dogs, but none so much as Atticus.

Atticus at my wedding

It’s hard to explain what’s different about Atticus. A rescue that had sat in the shelter for months, he’d clearly known grief and loss before he came to us. Somehow, that has made him more attached to us, more grateful. Kevin adopted Atticus on my insistence after I found Atticus’ picture on a shelter’s website a few months after we started dating. We weren’t technically living together at the time, but after he got Atticus I only spent one night away at my place, then I wound up staying for good. Atticus is the first dog we both had after losing our previous dogs, and really the beginning of our relationship and family.

This is the picture that made me fall in love with Atticus

Atticus was rescued off the streets of Gresham, OR. He’s a brilliant dog; I can see how he made it as a street dog. At the same time, he always likes to have a pillow to rest his head on, so it breaks my heart to think of him sleeping on a cold, hard street. He doesn’t need us, but he wants to be near us.

Atticus’ nickname is Crunchy Bear, or Crunch. It’s a long story but comes from a text my husband sent me about how our neighbors were staring at Atticus while he “crunched out a two-legged front-pawed bush growler.”

Atticus crossed the United States with me twice. We drove from Oregon to Virginia, and back again, for an ill-fated move. Atticus loved living at the edge of nature in the South, but my crunchy PNW heart couldn’t stand it there. In Virginia we lived in a townhouse with a backyard that led directly to miles of trails. We spent the shutdowns of 2020 exploring the woods. Atticus is probably a better hiker than me.

Atticus isn’t a swimmer, but he loves playing in the creek behind out house.

I wasn’t originally planning on starting a blog about Atticus’ tripawd journey. Writing this out hurts quite a bit. It’s all fresh, and painful, and I know the ultimate ending of our story will be sad. But I think that there’s a place for stories like ours. I read a lot of stories of dogs that bounced back immediately after surgery, and had easy recoveries. Our surgeon told us that recovery, especially for rear-leg amputees was not hard, and some dogs can recover as quickly as within a week. Before surgery I didn’t see (or more likely, I chose to ignore) the stories of dogs that had tougher recoveries. I wasn’t prepared for the recovery we had.

Our recovery experience was not easy, nor was it quick. For about three weeks I thought I had made a terrible decision. I thought I had caused my dog terrible pain and suffering that he would not recover from before the cancer claimed his life. Not to mention we spent a large chunk of our savings on it. Two months out from surgery, my outlook is completely changed. Atticus is back to himself. He is pain-free, and we are getting good quality time with him. So I’m piecing together our story with the rough stuff, in hopes it helps someone else going through this.

Atticus Fights Cancer and Becomes a Tripawd is brought to you by Tripawds.