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7 Oct

I just wanted to write another brief note today to say thanks to everyone. All of your comments and well-wishes have really helped us through this difficult time. You made us smile, laugh and cry, too, so I guess we’re even. 🙂

The community of dog lovers out there is truly amazing! THANKS! I didn’t know what to expect when I started this blog, but the response has been overwhelming.

Veronika and I are collecting our thoughts (and a bunch of photos) for a final tribute to J that we hope to post sometime this weekend. We’ll also share some thoughts on what we learned from this whole experience. I hope you’ll stop by again to check this out.

In the meantime, give all of your pets a little extra lovin’ and a few extra treats today… and take the time to get out there and explore with your furry friends.

Photo by Sarah Beth Photography


Happy Birthday!

29 Aug

Hey, Jasper at the keyboard. What? You don’t think dogs can type? Well, obedience classes are pretty high tech these days, ya know.

Today’s my ninth birthday. I think that’s 63 in doggy years! Wow, I don’t feel a day over 30.

Where has the time gone? Seems like just yesterday I was a wee little pup learning the ins and outs of housetraining. (Between the two of us, I had it figured out early on but liked the extra attention so I kept having “accidents”.)

Anyway, today was a great birthday! After waking up Todd’s friend Jon and doing my morning business in the yard, I had a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and kibble. Yum!

Guess what happened next?!? Guess, guess, guess!!

We went to my favorite place in the world – the Minnehaha dog park. I just luuuuuuv swimming in the Mississippi River on hot days! I’ll share a few pics below.

I have a strange new thing I like to do in the park these days (gotta keep those humans guessing!). I stick my head all the way under the water and grab a rock between my teeth! Todd thinks I’m going to eat it, but I’m not that crazy. I just like placing the rocks on the shore. I’ll let you in on a little secret. I do it in the hope that the next time we visit the park, Todd will pick up the stone and throw it in the river so I can chase after it. Fun, fun!

After an extra long stay at the park – it’s great being the Birthday boy – I had a yummy peanut butter and jelly sandwich back at the house. Don’t tell Veronika, though. She probably wouldn’t want me eating that sweet strawberry jelly, but I liked it!

Next on the agenda, a much needed nap. Think I slept for about 5 hours. Ahhhhhh…

Todd decided to take Zooey out for a walk. Good idea! She drives me crazy when she hasn’t been out of the house all day. I love my little sis’, but she’s a squirrel-chasin’, rabbit-harassin’, toe-lickin’ maniac when she doesn’t get enough exercise! Plus that gave me a little more time for sleep.

I think I could get used to this Birthday thing because for dinner I ate like a king. I had fresh salmon with potatoes, veggies and some more kibble. Could’ve skipped the kibble, though, and just stuck with the good stuff.

After some peanut butter treats and some back scratchin’ it was off to bed for me. What a day!

Enough woofin’ from me, here are some photos.

Photo: I love riding in the car!

Photo: We made it to the dog park.

Photo: OK, let’s get going!

Photo: Throw the rock! Throw the rock!

Photo: Check me out.

Photo: So many rocks, so little time.

Photo: The far end of the dog park. My favorite place in the world.

Photo: Time to go home.

Photo: Here I am devouring a PB&J.

Photo: Shhhh, nap time…

Photo: Salmon dinner!!

Photo: Phew, I’m tired now.

The Good, the Bad and the Unknown

22 Aug

First, let’s start with the good. Actually, the really good.

Jasper had a wonderful week! If it wasn’t for the lump on his side, you wouldn’t even know that he was sick. He was jumping on the bed, running to the door with a tennis ball in his mouth each time I got home and playing and swimming in the river with no sign of pain. What a change from last week! I can’t tell you how great this makes me feel.

Other than tweaking his pain meds, we really didn’t change anything else this past week.

He even felt strong enough for another 3+ mile hike in Afton State Park on Saturday. Like I said, it’s been a good few days.

J and T chillin'
Photo: J and Todd chilling out on the couch after a day of hiking

The other nice thing that happened is that we got our first look at the photos we recently took with the extremely talented Sarah of Sarah Beth Photography fame. Her photos are truly magical.

I’m sure when I’m old and grey and enjoying my last days on this planet, one of the photos she took will be sitting by my bedside. Thank you, Sarah!

Now for the bad.

We had another heart-to-heart with the veterinary oncologist this past week. We’re almost certain that Jasper’s latest – and likely last – chemo drug isn’t slowing the tumor’s growth. At this point I’m starting to think that this is some sort of super-mutant cancer. We’ve tried everything we could to slow it down, but to no avail.

During the visit, our vet said something that really stuck with me. He said, “Dogs have mastered the art of living in the moment. They aren’t waiting for the next birthday or Christmas. They only care about what they’re doing right now… and how they feel at that moment.”

This was part of his response to our question about how we’ll know when it’s time to say good-bye.

So, where does that leave us?

For starters, we’ve begun to accept the situation. All we can do now is manage the cancer with pain meds. J is on pretty low dose medication at the moment and he had a great week, so at least we have that on our side. I feel strangely positive tonight given the gravity of our situation. I’m sure all that could change in the coming days and weeks, though.

Veronika and I have also started making plans for the end. We have the name of a vet who does at-home euthanasia. We have the number for a place that handles pet cremation. We’re getting things lined up now because we both know that when the time comes to let go we just won’t be thinking straight.

Which brings me to the unknown.

We still don’t know for certain how this will play out or how much time we have left.

Today was a beautiful day, though, and J had a joyous time running and swimming in the Mississippi River dog park. I’m happy and thankful for that tonight.

Who knows what tomorrow will bring, but while he’s still here I’m going to walk over and give him a good-night hug.

Sweet dreams, buddy.

Miracle Drug(s)?

27 Jul

I started this blog by saying “Jasper has cancer.” Today I’d like to make a change. “Jasper is living with cancer.”

Ever since we returned from our South Dakota road trip – and after he slept for nearly two days straight – he’s been acting like a young, healthy dog once again. He’s eating all his food, hopping on the bed to wake us up in the morning and chewing on his favorite purple squeaky toy just like the good old days. I think all the hiking, swimming and fresh air did him good!

Jasper's pills
Photo: Just a few of Jasper’s cancer pills

He’s also taking a collection of 7+ different pills, but so far (fingers crossed) the latest chemo drugs don’t seem to be adversely affecting him. From what we can see, the tumor on his side appears to have stabilized. He has another appointment this Thursday at the University of Minnesota Small Animal Hospital, so we’ll have a better idea of his condition after that.

I said earlier that I was going to write about the ups and downs of living with a pet who has cancer. This has certainly been an “up” period, so we’re really thankful. I’m not sure how long it will last, but I’m not thinking about that tonight.

J hits the Big Time (plus Facebook info)!

29 Jun

Wow, what a week for good ol’ Jumping Jasper-Roo!

His story (and lovable mug) have been featured on dog blogs across the country. It feels great knowing his “tail” is touching others! (Sorry, couldn’t resist!)

To provide updates on Jasper’s latest adventures, I’ve also started a Facebook group for him. Just search for “The Adventures of Jumping Jasper-Roo the Vizsla Dog” and join today.

Here’s a rundown of some of the wonderful blogs out there that have mentioned Jasper:

The Happy Wag – Roanoke (Virginia) Times

The Bark Magazine

All Dog Blog

Finally, thanks to all of you who’ve read the blog and taken time to comment. On the days when I’m really struggling to deal with this situation, reading your words of hope and encouragement gives me strength and happiness. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Why haven’t we done this before?

25 Jun

Why does it usually take a tragedy – or a near miss – to jolt us from our routines and remember what’s really important in life?

On August 1, 2007 the Interstate 35W Bridge collapsed in Minneapolis killing 13 people and injuring 145.

I was playing tennis just blocks away when it happened. I remember the roar of emergency vehicles going by and smoke rising on the horizon. We all rushed inside the tennis center and stood motionless in front of the TV monitors, unable to comprehend what had just occurred.

My whole family crossed that bridge multiple times during the day, so I was freaking out. I grabbed my bag and rushed over to my parents’ house. As I drove I kept thinking, “Is everyone OK?” Little did I know that my mom had driven across the bridge fifteen minutes before it went down. When I arrived at their house she was visibly shaken.

The next day I asked my mom for a ride to the light rail station in downtown Minneapolis. Veronika was working in London at the time and I was flying over to spend a few days with her. Before hopping on the train, I said to my mom, “If something happens to me, please take care of the dogs.” (I’ve always been a little nervous about flying, and she was the one who watched over the dogs when we were away)

I gave her a hug, waved and walked away to catch a train to the airport.

Jasper and Mom
Photo: My mom and J as a puppy – my most precious photo (2001)

Veronika and I spent the next day – a gorgeous, sunny day – strolling through London and taking in the sites. When we returned to her apartment in the afternoon, there was an urgent message. “Call your sister right away. It’s an emergency.”

My sister answered the phone and as she started speaking I collapsed to the floor.

While I had been on the flight to Europe, my mom had suffered a major brain aneurysm. She was rushed to the ER, but there was nothing more the doctors could do.

I can hardly explain the emotions I felt. I was stuck in London with no way of getting home until early the next day while my mom was in a hospital in Minneapolis slowly slipping away.

Around 3AM, my sister called with the news that our mom had passed away.

It may seem strange, but in the weeks and months that followed I felt an incredible sense of calm (along with the obvious sadness). For a stressed-out, anxious worrier, it was unlike anything I had ever experienced. All of a sudden the concerns that had been plaguing me no longer mattered. Life became simple, which brings me to Jasper.

In the years since my mom’s death, the stress of everyday life slowly returned. But now I’m starting to awaken once again to what’s really important. It isn’t the arbitrary deadlines, the latest technology gizmo or the size of your house. It’s the simple moments we share with family, friends and yes, our pets. Seems obvious, right?

Can you believe that I’ve lived in Minneapolis for nearly twenty years and I’ve never walked around Lake of the Isles? One of the most beautiful urban lakes anywhere. Sure, driven by a bunch of times, but never bothered to stop.

On Friday night, Veronika and I took the dogs for a walk there. It was like an evening escape to Italy! But with mosquitoes.

For years it was the same routine with Jasper. Go to the northeast dog park once or twice during the week. Visit the Mississippi River dog park on the weekends (still one of my favorites). Watch a lot of TV.

Photo: Jasper’s favorite thing – WATER!

No more! Now we’re getting out and visiting new urban trails during the week while exploring a new dog park every weekend! Did you know there were trails up and down the river bluffs in Inver Grover Heights? A swimming pond for dogs (and turtles and frogs) in Bryant Lake Park? A marshy woodland preserve that looks like something out of Africa in Brooklyn Center? These places rock! Why haven’t we done this before?

This past weekend we went to our new favorite place in the cities – Afton State Park! Jasper loves swimming in the St. Croix River at the edge of the park, Veronika and I love the fields of prairie wildflowers and we all love hiking the endless trails through pine and hardwood forests. After four hours in the park swimming with J and walking until our legs hurt, I felt the best I have in years! Wow!

This is really what life is all about.

Afton State Park
Photo: Todd and Zooey taking a break while J swims in the St. Croix

To end on another positive note, the doctor asked us to do some “informal” at-home measurements of Jasper’s tumor on a regular basis. We were so happy this evening when we did the measurements and found it hadn’t grown in the last week.

It’s the little victories that keep us going now.

How long does hope last?

17 Jun

How long does hope last? The question has been on my mind all day.

We often say we’re hopeful that we’ll get the job, hopeful that we’ll do well on the test, or hopeful that tomorrow will be better. But is there a point when we give up hope and accept our situation for what it is? I’ve been thinking about this a lot today.

The last couple weeks have been a roller coaster. A week ago Tuesday, while Veronika was traveling, I was startled awake at 4:30AM by Jasper crashing off the end of the bed and nearly falling into the wall. His whole body was shaking and he could hardly stand up. At first I thought perhaps I had had a bad dream and startled him.

I rushed him outside where he continued to shake and wobble as I thought, “OK, this is serious… but stay calm, grab some clothes and get to the ER ASAP.”

After the second car race to the ER in a month (thank goodness the hospital is so close), he was taken into intensive care and I was left to wait. Once he was stabilized, the docs sent me home and said they’d call when the specialists arrived for work.

Found out later in the day that he likely had a blood clot in his brain. My first thought was, “Damn! Don’t know how much of this I can take.” By evening, he was back to normal and we haven’t had any issues since.

Stormy skies over Minneapolis
Photo: The unsettled sky outside tonight – perfect for this entry

Today was yet another follow up visit with the veterinary oncologist, Dr. Husbands, and his team. I like this particular doc because he seems to genuinely love Jasper as much as we do. Well, almost.

Fortunately, the tumor has stayed pretty much the same size, maybe even shrinking just a little. The next thing we’re going to try is a somewhat experimental drug – can’t remember the name right now – that will essentially try to keep the tumor from growing any new blood vessels and expanding. That’s the hope at least.

Best case scenario is that it halts the growth and may actually shrink the tumor. Second best is that it’s simply inhibits growth. Third possible outcome is that nothing happens. In that case, the doc gives J one to six months to live. Hearing those words – “one to six months to live” – is like a kick to the gut.

So, this is where “hope” comes into play. We were hopeful that surgery would get rid of the cancer. Nope. We were hopeful that chemo would take care of it. Nope. We were hopeful that radiation would work. Seems to have slowed the tumor. A little. Now we’re left to hope that an experimental drug that wasn’t developed for this type of cancer will give us a little more time with our dear Jasper.

And so I’m back where I started. Wondering where does hope end? And perhaps, where does reality set in? I guess all I can do is try to enjoy each day and each moment now.