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Searching for Hope

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I’ve never really been a fan of tragic love stories. They fill the audience with hope and great expectations only to spoil the ending with devastation. Our goal of writing this blog is to give hope. For us, for others, and especially for Nixon.

For Nixon’s story to make sense, you need to know the beginning:

At the end of 2014, I met the man who would become my future husband, Caleb.  I was swept off my feet with this kind man who had the biggest heart and most knee weakening smile. His most amazing quality was how much love he had for his Great Dane, Nixon. He could talk about his “son” for hours and our most frequent phone conversation topic was what Nixon was doing. Actually, most of our phone conversations where Caleb talking to Nixon (you should hear his responses…HILARIOUS). I had always considered myself an animal enthusiast and meeting someone with an even greater love for his own dog made me feel like I had fallen straight into a Disney movie (obviously my life goal).

Our love story was fast and full of adventure. I remember the night I got to meet his parents… it was the same night I got to meet Nixon. All of the usual “meeting the parents” butterflies were tripled from the anticipation of meeting his pup son. Upon opening the front door, this HORSE came running at me full speed almost knocking me to the ground. Nixon showed me nothing but love and affection even though he had just met me and I felt the words placed on my heart “Christina, this is your new pup son”. I fell head over heels for both of these boys within a day. They were so full of life and full of love and touched everyone around them with these qualities. Within a year, Caleb and I were engaged (bringing Nixon’s new puppy brother Moose into the equation) and we were ready to ride off into the sunset with our little (actually HUGE) furry family. I knew Great Danes were known for having short life spans, leaving great heartbreak when they crossed the rainbow bridge. With that in mind I also knew that Caleb losing Nixon would be one of our largest hurdles in life. What I didn’t know was how close we were to this hurdle. Thus begins our scary journey and catches you all up to last Friday.

Friday morning I got a call from Caleb while I was at work. During his normal “good morning” stretch with Nixon he noticed his front left leg looked swollen and he wanted to know if I had seen it. It wasn’t a normal puffy swollen that you would expect with spraining an ankle but after extensive Google research we thought “oh yeah, it’s totally just a sprain”. He didn’t favor that leg at all but he was due for his annual appointment and I was excited about finding a new vet for him so we went ahead and brought him in. THANK GOODNESS WE DID. The best advice I can stress from our experience this week is that if you have any type of feeling that something is wrong with your Dane…BRING THEM IN. During the physical we got really awesome reports: He was very big and very strong (haha sorry vet techs). He was handsome and well nourished. His heart was strong. He was negative for all types of critters that could cause him harm. He needed to have X-Rays of his leg done because he might have cancer…..wait, WHAT??  Then our vet started to tell us the risks of Great Danes getting a type of cancer called osteosarcoma. It was an aggressive cancer causing excruciating pain and would require amputation. Now let’s just let that sink in for a moment. Caleb’s sweet baby Nixon… the same dog that gave our 9 month old puppy a run for his money 30 minutes ago because he had the toy he wanted to play with had cancer? Caleb and I looked at each other as they took Nixon to the back for the imaging with reassuring faces. No, they must just be doing this for a thorough exam. I remember thinking “they’ll feel so silly when it comes back showing his ankle is sprained”. Twenty minutes and an eternity later and Nixon was back with us followed by the vet. As the vet turned off the lights to show us the pictures, my heart dropped. Doctors don’t do all this for good news.

It was cancer.

Fast forward to today and here is what we have learned: Osteosarcoma is an aggressive bone cancer in dogs. Once diagnosed you are given options none of which include a cure. You can either palliatively treat your dog and try to make them comfortable until the end which they have projected to be two months or you can have the limb amputated and follow with chemotherapy to slow down the cancer (there is a 90% chance it has already spread at the time of diagnosis).  And after all of those treatments they average that he will have a year to live a good quality life. That’s a pretty big leap from a sprained ankle.

As of today, we have met with an oncologist at UGA and we have made the choice to have the surgery and follow with chemotherapy.  We are hoping to be part of a clinical trial that will help financially but either way we will follow this course. Nixon is 4.5 years old, strong, and healthy and we believe that if anyone can overcome an amputation…it is him. His surgery has been scheduled for next Thursday (12 days after his initial vet visit). It is so fast. So overwhelming. So heart breaking.  We are jumping back and forth by the minute of wondering if this is the right choice but we are reassured each time that there is no best choice here…we just have to give him his best chance. Nixon currently is sore from the biopsy and sleepy from pain medications and already it is heart breaking to watch…we are dreading and flat out fearing the weeks to come. I am so grateful to have found this tripawd group since before this week I really had no idea this was even an option for Great Danes. Thank you all for your encouraging blogs and stories.

As I wrote earlier, a large goal of this blog is to give and get some hope so I end with a plea to all of the current tripawd parents for advice, support, or just kindness in general.

22 Comments

  1. My Otis is part Dane, and doing great after losing his front leg (no symptoms at all until it broke when he was walking in our yard). The first two weeks are hard, but Otis was hopping from day 1. (OK, he slept a lot, and only went out when he really needed to, but he got there under his own power. Jerky treats as a bribe helped). We have completed our chemo, and he is a happy dog. No one knows how much time they have left, but it is a joy when you see your dog doing normal doggy things post amputation, even just laying in the sun. And no, you cannot start leaving food on the counters because your dog only has three legs – my daughter asked, and Otis answered right away! Would love to see more photos – Otis is also black, with a white blaze, and I love comparing him to the full Danes.

    • sirnixonsmom

      June 23, 2016 at 8:32 pm

      Thank you for your advice and support! I’m so happy to hear Otis is doing so well! I’d love to follow his journey as well 🙂 I’ll definitely post more pictures and if you have an Instagram account he has is own (spoiled rotten haha) @nixon_1017
      Thank you for your reply and support!

      • We have a blog too – Otis and Tess – Photos – If you want to see pics of my boy and his sister, Tess. (But no instagram). There are some other Danes on the site, including Eurydice, who just posted some videos of post-amp activity.

      • Hello! Yes it is a very tough decision but you have to do what is best for your baby! I also have a 4 year old dane that recently had amputation and i do not regret it at all!!!! She is recovering well. I also entered a clinical trial at UPenn and that has been amazing as well… Go for it… You will not regret it.

        • sirnixonsmom

          June 24, 2016 at 1:13 am

          Thank you for the vote of confidence! How long ago was her surgery? Any tips so far? So glad to hear you don’t regret it. THANK YOU THANK YOU! We’re hoping we can get in the trial. He had a mass in his mouth so they had to biopsy that and make sure it wasn’t cancerous. Hopefully we’ll have some (good) news by Monday.

          • She is now two months out. The first 10 days after surgery were hard for us being that we live on the 4th floor but after that she made leaps and bounds every week. Do you know what the trial involves like what is the mesicine they are trying in the dog?

          • sirnixonsmom

            June 27, 2016 at 7:25 pm

            Oh wow! I’m glad she’s doing so well! I’m not sure of the medicine yet…I know it’s an additive their using along with the traditional chemo drug. It’s a double blind study so we won’t know until after he begins whether he will get the additional/trial drug.

  2. First of all, you are a wonderful writer!
    Secondly, you both obviously love Nixon a lot, which is a great start. You’ve done your research. And you’ve landed here 🙂 Bigger dogs do seem to have a harder time getting up after surgery – it seems harder to find their balance & be able to walk, but once they do, it’s better. The first 2 or 3 weeks will be the hardest. Stay on top of the pain medications – give them around the clock for good coverage. And make sure you keep in touch – we will be here for you, no question is too small.
    Donna & Murphy

    • sirnixonsmom

      June 23, 2016 at 8:25 pm

      Thank you so much! I’m so excited to have a support system in and out of our house. You all are such wonderful people and we are so blessed to have you on this journey with us!

  3. Welcome to the family, sorry you find yourselves here. As you navigate the site, you will see examples of many large dogs on this journey. As the others have said, it can be harder on big dogs, but certainly not impossible. My Tripawd is a Dobe, who was 8 1/2 years at the time of surgery. He’s now 2 years post amp and doing well. Good luck as you move forward, and do make use of all the tools here…..Live Chat, and the helpline are great resources for questions, concerns and support from those who’ve traveled this road.

    Paula and Nitro

  4. Hi there Nixon and family, I am extremely sorry that you find yourselves here but want to say welcome to our community !
    Nixon is such a gorgeous Dane, me and Eurydice are in love with him already!
    I totally understand what you say about Danes, I had many dogs (and cats) in my life (started with a Daschund) but when I adopted my first Dane, a gorgeous blue girl called Kinky, my life changed forever!
    Eurydice is my current baby girl, she is an harlequin who looks a lot like a friesian cow, a few centimetres shy of 1m to the base of the neck and 77kg pre amputation.
    Just like your lovely selves, it started like something trivial, she had stepped on a chestnut husk and was limping … not a big deal …
    Well, five vets later (and as my mommie’s heart was saying something was not quite right) I went to a veterinary hospital and the vet there said he would like to do an X-ray as he thought it could be cancer.
    She was not five yet and my world collapsed !
    As the X-ray confirmed the dreaded news, we were referred to an oncology hospital where she had a Pet CT Scan done the next day to check if there were cancerous cells anywhere in her body but luckily she was clear.
    As you say, this doesn’t mean cancerous cells were not already present, they are just to small to be detected.
    We were given the same options as Nixon and, like you, went for amputation and chemo. Amputation was done less than a week later, she is now two months post amp and having her third chemo session next wednesday with no side effects whatsoever, I only give her nausea pills for the first 3 days after each session.
    Nobody knows how long I will have my baby girl with me, we were told to expect her to live one year but, as I have seen in this wonderful site, lots of dogs live much, much longer lives so I can only hope Eurydice is going to kick statistics in the butt !!!!
    As for you gorgeous, gorgeous boy, I assure you they DO recover from amputation and they CAN have a hoppy life !!!
    Of course, things will change and there will be a “new normal” they get tired far quicker than before, having such huge bodies to carry around on three legs so big walks may no longer be possible.
    Eurydice is also a front leg amputee and I have to say I wondered if she would ever be able to cope … well, she is hopping around, no going up and down stairs yet, I am not sure if she will ever be able to deal with that, although Otis has managed to tackle that at month 3 post amp so maybe Eurydice will achieve that too.
    You have to brace yourselves for Nixon’s return from hospital as the first few weeks are really hard for them and us.
    Really important to keep his medicine schedule impeccable, another good thing is to keep a diary reg food, water, pee and poo.
    Poo will probably only happen days after the operation, in our case 1 week later, I was terrified as to how she would manage but she did, with no fuss at all.
    As for water intake, Eurydice stopped drinking a few days after she arrived so I started giving her water with a big syringe and made notes of how many ml she would get per day. If this happens with Nixon, don’t wait, just go straight to the syringe as drinking is fundamental for our babies!
    Another good thing is to keep a t-shirt on every day until the stitches come out and have a good, soft harness on top of the t-shirt so you can always help out if he needs. Ruffwear harnesses are the best as we discovered recently.
    Another crucial point is making absolutely sure Nixon will not slip, so if you have hardwood floors you must cover them! We got carpet and rubber underlay underneath and cut everything to measure so she never slipped which is good news as if that happens it can be a confidence killer for our giant babies.
    The period before stitches come out is really difficult and full of ups and downs … you will have better days and worse days … the pills have side effects so they may become drowsy, panting and out of their minds.
    But it will all become radically better after stitches are removed and from then on you will see your gorgeous Nixon’s confidence improve every day.
    My heart is with you both and gorgeous Nixon, rest assured you will get through this and will see your boy happy and enjoying life hopefully for a very looooooooooooooooooooooooooog time !!!!
    Have a look at how well my girl manages on 3 legs at week 5 after amp on the Presentation and Diagnosis forum under “Eurydice my lovely great dane’s new life on 3 legs” (page 3) You can also check her out on Hopping Around forum under “Eurydice sporting her new ruff wear harness” and “Eurydice hopping around”
    I have to say I accepted much better the amputation decision (in my heart, as my brain knew what to do pretty quickly) when I saw videos of Danes hopping around. It is definitely much easier for smaller dogs than for our baby giants but we all get there in the end 🙂
    Sending you both clouds of kisses and XXL cuddles to gorgeous Nixon (did I say we are in luuuuurve with him???) do not hesitate in contacting me if there is anything I can do to help, everybody at Tripawds is here for you too !
    Ps Thank you so much to Otis mom for bringing your blog to my attention xx

    • sirnixonsmom

      June 24, 2016 at 7:38 pm

      I feel like I just got an email from a celebrity! I have been watching your sweet baby girl hop ALLLLLL morning and I’ve sent her videos to Caleb. She is so beautiful and charming…and graceful!! I’m so impressed, Eurydice. You go, girl! Nixon will be too when I show him tonight (no doubt he’ll fall in love with her like we did today). Thank you so so much for all of the advice and beyond that thank you for the HOPE. Thank you Eurydice for being so resilient and excited to live! Caleb and I will sit down with your tips tonight and make sure we have everything we need in place next week. I’m excited to move forward for Nixon’s sake… he has been so sore ever since the biopsy. You would have loved our family snuggle group last night! Nixon’s grandparents are allowing us to move in with them during all of this since we currently are on the third floor of an apartment so naturally Nixon went there after his biopsy…but Nixon can’t sleep without Caleb…the puppy can’t sleep without Nixon…and I hate sleeping in an empty apartment so there we all were snuggled in the living room for Nixon’s slumber party. He was a very gracious host…he even let us share his pillows! If nothing else, this journey has shown us how much unconditional love pets and their humans share and I’m so grateful to have Nixon to love this much. Nixon is so smart and I have no doubt in my mind that he will ROCK THIS! Much love to you and your sweet girl. We’re loving our Tripawd family!
      Ps. Thank you Otis’ Mom!!

  5. Hi there !!!!
    Eurydice is asking me to say she loved your comments about her being a celebrity 🙂 she is a very happy girl indeed and always adored the attention she got from humans and … she talks !!! Does Nixon talk ?
    The vets love it as she always behaves like a normal dog through exams but every time the vets sit down and start explaining things she sits down too and starts the discussion: “so, eurydice is well ” and she goes woof wooooooooof woof “as she tilts her head, “results are these ” and she replies wooooooof wooooof wooooof woof It’s hilarious !!!
    Danes are such clowns I adoooooooore them !
    Let me just say I adore animals in general and there are many clowny breeds (French bulldogs are hilarious too) but Danes are my top favourite 🙂
    I cannot tell you how much I laughed reading your description of Nixon’s new home with all of you snuggling together and letting you share his pillows 🙂
    He sure has the most loving family ever which is all he needs to make a full recovery in no time ! Is the puppy also a Dane ?
    Yes, we have a lot to learn from our dogs, their love is unconditional, there is nothing they would not do for us and they are completely happy just to be with us, no matter what, I wish we humans could be that purrfect, we can only do our best …
    I would like to send you my contact (I am on whatsapp too) through the private messaging here at Tripawds just in case you have anything at all you would like to talk about after the operation, would you send me a message so I can reply ? Which country do you live in ?
    It is not that I think you won’t be able to tackle things, of course you will, and Nixon will too but sometimes one just feels like pouring our hearts out to someone that has been there with a similar breed, I know I had my moments where I just needed a friendly voice on the other side of the phone to bring me back to hearth 🙂
    I am keeping my fingers crossed and Eurydice is keeping her paws crossed for Nixon too, sending you pawsitive energy and lots and lots of hugs and super cuddles to your gorgeous boy xxx

    • sirnixonsmom

      June 27, 2016 at 7:40 pm

      YES! Nixon talks ALL OF THE TIME. We call it his “dinosaur” language…he likes to politely ask for water or to go potty but sometimes he talks just for the heck of it. Caleb and Nixon are hilarious when they get to talking to each other. He has a terrifying bark for when he doesn’t recognize someone approaching the house but he saves that for when he wants to alert us that something doesn’t feel right. He’s such a wonderful protector.
      The puppy is a great dane as well 🙂 I will post a picture of them together. He is a 9 month old Blue Dane and he just broke 100 pounds! I would love to send you my contact info…I have to admit I have no idea how to use the whatsapp but I’m totally down to try it out. I purchased the harness you recommended and Caleb is going to make him some custom t-shirts I think haha (he’s a graphic designer/tattoo artist). We live in the States…Georgia specifically. Love and snuggles to your sweet girl! xoxo

  6. Hey there,
    Just posted another video of Eurydice and Luna, a beagle she met today, thought Nixon would be interested 😉
    It’s in Size And Age Matters forum
    Sending you a big hug and super cuddles to your giant cutie Nixon ❤️❤️❤️

    • sirnixonsmom

      June 27, 2016 at 7:32 pm

      Oh my goodness. Eurydice is such a beautiful, sweet lady!! Thank you for guiding me to the post! Its so encouraging to see such a great adjustment. We are kind of freaking out a little now that we are three days away from the surgery. Friends and family are concerned that Nixon won’t like his “new normal” but we are confident that this will give him his happiest ending. Fingers crossed! Love to you and your sweet girl! I’ll show Nixon and the baby Moose her latest videos tonight during our slumber party!

  7. Hello, Sir Nixon’s Mom:

    I am Mom to a recent amputee – and while he’s not a Dane he is a larger and very deep chested dog (a sled dog x sighthound mix). I know that sinking feeling of disbelief well, Pofi has a different cancer and our diagnosis took much longer because of it. But he has done tremendously well and Nixon is so much younger, I am sure he will do very well.

    Love your story so far and your writing style. Nixon is one handsome and very lucky lad.

    We also are blogging and are just 7 weeks post amp now.

    Lisa (Hester) and Pofi the Tripawd

    • sirnixonsmom

      June 27, 2016 at 7:30 pm

      WOW! I just watched the video of Pofi going up the stairs…how cool! Fingers crossed Nixon adjusts as well as your beautiful baby did! Thank you for posting!

  8. When you have the surgery, consider posting in a forum. We can subscribe and it will make it easier for us all to follow new comments.

    • sirnixonsmom

      June 27, 2016 at 7:25 pm

      Will do! Thanks for letting me know! I’m still trying to bump my way around the site haha.

  9. Hello. I always thought Nixon was an odd name for a dog and didn’t expect to meet another Nixon! I’m sorry you’ve had to join us but THIS IS the place for hope.

    Emotionally, Nixon looks to be the perfect candidate. The dogs that adjust the best are the great communicators and human trainers. We will be here for you but realize that the first 2 weeks are going to be some of the hardest 14 days of your life – somewhat physically and a lot emotionally. You will look at him and ask yourself every day, “did I make the right choice?” during that time. Some dogs give you the answer earlier, some do it later but you’ll get your answer between days 10 and 20.

    Just remember that we’re going to be here for you and most likely someone else has gone through what you’ve encountered before. If you have hardwood floors, get yoga mats from Five below or vinyl cupboard liners to make paths through your house. Get a Ruffwear Webmaster Harness as that will be your best friend. You may need use a towel or make a belly band from a grocery bag for the first few days too.

  10. Hi there Nixon, Moose and human family !

    Oh, so Nixon is also a clown 🙂 just like miss cow here and boy, do I know what you mean by big barking at strangers approaching the house …
    Ask the DHL man what is thoughts were when he pushed a note through the letter box … when I arrived I saw the sheet of paper showing the neat holes made by her fangs! And when he came back to deliver the packet he couldn’t believe his eyes as Eurydice was sitting beautifully in the hall looking at him like an angel, as mom asked her to do. He did ask if this was the same dog 🙂 🙂

    Oh my DOG, what joy to have TWO Danes !!!!!
    My girl Kinky was a blue Dane too, they are stunning, waiting for pictures here !!!
    It looks like Moose (love the name) is going to be gigantic, weighing 100 pounds at only 9 months and still a long way to go until he is fully grown !

    So glad you got the harness, it will help you enormously whilst he is recovering just remember to keep the strap near the rear a bit loose or off when he is sleeping during recovery.

    Custom t-shirts !!!! How cool is that ??????
    Please post pictures, he will be the grooviest dog ever 🙂

    So you live in Georgia, well that’s a shame, our furry babies will never meet, we are in London so a long way away … but keep the updates, photos and videos coming 🙂

    As for my contact, whenever you want send me a private message and I will reply, whatsapp is really easy to install on your smart phone, once I have your number I’ll send you the link. It is marvellous because you can send photos, videos and messages plus all calls to whatsapp numbers are free !

    Now onto a more serious subject.

    The operation date is approaching fast and you feel really anxious, I know.
    There will be lots of moments where you will feel so sad looking at Nixon with the one lonely leg and remembering how beautifully he run before plus all the things he will not be able to do anymore.
    Sometimes you will even feel rotten and tears will be shed…

    All I can say is try to think pawsitive and focus on the fact Nixon is there with his loving family, you are saving him and he is so happy just to be around both of you and Moose, four legs or three.
    His life will change yes, he won’t be able to run like before and he will have to learn to adapt to his new him. And so he will. And so will you. It is a promise.
    Once his stitches come out everything will be so, so, so much better.
    The first two weeks are the hardest but you will all sail through it.
    Remember to be pawsitive as he will pick up on your energy and if you feel miserable so will he.
    You will have your “old” Nixon back slowly but surely, to spoil and love and enjoy hopefully for many, many, many years to come.

    How long is he staying at the hospital ?
    When you pick him up just look into his loving eyes and not at the incision, he is going to be so excited to see you, you won’t believe !!!!!
    My girl came out and she literally dragged the nurse as she hoped like a bat out of hell towards mommie here 🙂 I cried like a baby hugging her, good tears, happy tears.
    The hospital nurse sent me a picture of Eurydice sitting a couple of days before I picked her up. It was a huge shock but I am glad they sent it as I had a little time to prepare myself mentally.
    I also took one of my partner’s t-shirts to the hospital so she came out from the ward wearing it and the nurse told us she went bananas as she knew it was daddy’s shirt straight away.

    We are thinking about you and Nixon, our hearts are right there in Georgia … you will all be ok !

    Sending you both a shower of kisses and cuddles, tummy rubs and ear scratches to your furry gorgeous boys 🙂

    Do keep us update ok ? xxxx

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