Sunday, May 22, 2011

Through The Fire: Kit's First Month After Surgery

This week made one month since Kitsune came home after his cancer surgery. The doctors at Southpaws removed his left front leg, including the shoulder, so he looks just a bit different from the passenger's side than he did before. A read of the the surgery notes indicate no sign of metastasis at the time, which is encouraging news.

Bringing Kit home was wonderful but tough -- just a day, two days after surgery, he was in tons of pain and the painkillers they'd given him only seemed to disorient, rather than alleviate. With help from two of the vet techs, I got him into my car, and drove home.

Getting him into the house, however, was another story.

Kit knew where he was, and I'm sure on some level he was glad to be home. Yet, from the moment I opened the car door, I knew this wouldn't be easy. He wouldn't maneuver well at all in the back seat, and the soreness and swelling from the surgery made him to tender to lift -- I could loop a towel under his front leg (the only front leg now) and try to support, but every single step was a struggle. He was fighting to move ahead, but his strength wasn't there. Kit wasn't going to get anywhere on physical ability alone, but he pushed for all he was worth - he made it the fifteen feet or so from the car to just inside the front door, and collapsed flat on the linoleum.

Kit looked at me with some confusion in his eyes, as though he didn't quite understand why he was so lame, and looked sad as if he was letting me down. Dogs always want to please their masters, and the best ones practically shame themselves sick when they feel they've let you down. Kit has always been one of the best. I got some towels underneath and around him, brought some water for him to drink, and sat with him.

All afternoon. All night.

I made a nest out of Kim's beanbag chairs, brought my laptop over to watch some Top Gear Australia, and tried to get some rest. With Kit unable to get up and move, I knew he'd have no choice but to evacuate on the floor - that didn't matter, as I was ready to clean up whatever happened. Ever the dog to mind his manners, Kit moaned, groaned, and tried with all his might to hold back, until he peed a river on the floor.  Cleanup was quick and complete, to prevent him from soaking the bandage that wrapped round his chest.

I held him, comforted him, and told him "you're gonna' make it - just hang in there." Kit has always seemed to understand more of my vocabulary than most animals, and he seemed to get it, somewhat.

That first night was rough: He constantly shifted round, moaned and whined, and was generally just the most uncomfortable I've ever seen him. The drugs in his system were wearing off, leaving him groggy and in plenty of pain. I was hopeful, however, that he'd feel a little better the next day. He needed to -- for his sake, and my own.

On day two, after peeing on the floor probably 3 times, it was time to try whatever we could to get him out to the back yard. I had already converted the bottom-floor den from "storage" to "pretty good space for Kit to rest and enjoy some peace & quiet."

Still in the foyer, I helped him up onto his feet. He limped -- aching all the way -- to the back door. One step down, and he was on the grass. He took a few steps, peed, took a few more steps, then laid down. Flat. Exhausted. He stayed planted there for 20 minutes, in fact, not wanting to even attempt to move. The look on his face told me "hey, I'm glad to be out in the yard... why can't I just stay here?"

After spending what seemed like a month laying on the cool damp turf, and after about half a dozen attempts (no go, no go, and oh hell no go) to help him get up and return inside, Kit struggled to his feet, and staggered to the door -- a few yelps, some wincing, but he made it on his own. He took a while to hop his front leg up the one step from the back door into the den, but he made it. And once he was just barely clear of the back door, he plopped down again.

He had gotten up and walked on his own, and it took all he had. Already, he was stronger than the day before.

[To be continued... soon.]

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