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Journey’s end

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Mom here. Sadly, Fionn earned his wings on June 12 so I am left to finish his blog. He got 9 months and 1 week post amputation, quite a bit longer than the vets predicted after finding mets, and all but a few weeks completely pain free.

In the months since we last posted some amazing things happened. After we found out about the lung mets and I posted about not being able to afford more treatment, someone called UC Davis and anonymously offered to pay for half! I do not know to this day who that was, but they are an angel on earth. While I chose not to pursue more treatments  (I did not want the remainder of his life to revolve around vet visits) the offer was so uplifting. In the meantime, Fionn was busy enjoying life. Lots of trips to the barn, the dog park and the lake to swim. He went with me everywhere he could and was a grand ambassador for the Tripawd Nation. 

In Feb. we were told 1-2 months was all we could expect without more treatments. we set a goal of making it to the Northern California Tripawds meetup at the Mill Valley dog park in May. And we did! We got to meet tripawds we had only “met” online and got to see Sassy the rescued greyhound we met at UCD right before her surgery. We told her mom about Tripawds and she is doing awesome! It happened to be Fionn’s 8 month ampuversary so I brought hats, cupcakes, hotdogs and cookies for everyone! It was a fabulous PAWTY! These folks were well prepared, they even had a cart we used to take Fionn back to the truck. It was a long walk from the parking area and, while he made it to the park, he was too pooped from all the fun to get back.

The wagon worked out so well, I bought one to use at home. That way, we could take longer walks without worrying that Fionn would quit part way. It took a bit to get him used to it (ok, it took cookies and my lifting his butt, but it worked!      

All this time I was looking for signs of the mets getting worse. Lethargy, coughing, breathing heavily and not being able to lay on his side. He was slowing down, but had none of the other signs and I chose not to xray him during this time. Rather suddenly, he started having trouble getting up and was reluctant to move. His remaining front leg was ouchy to the touch. I figured he has hurt it somehow so I took him in to our regular vet who took xrays of his chest and leg. Surprisingly, it looked as if he only had the one met still, but the other chest xray was at UC Davis so we couldn’t tell if it was bigger. His lung mets were clearly NOT the problem and his leg xray showed the real issue. He had a rare syndrome called Hypertrophic Osteopathy- (HO). He is one of only 3 dogs on Tripawds to have it. It is an inflammatory, very painful, overgrowth of bone. It was on all his long bones in the leg (and likely elsewhere too). It is caused by the lung tumor, but it is not cancer. The only cure is removing the tumor. We put him on more pain meds and since it looked as if there was still only one met in his lung, I took him to UCD for oncology to weigh in on possible treatments. They compared the chest xrays and found there were 2 more, very small mets so lung surgery was out. They suggested an infusion of a biophosphonate that it used in dogs who do not get amputation to reduce pain. They had ONE dog with HO who they had used it on and it worked. Their plan was to see if the infusion helped his pain and then try the chemo route we had discussed earlier to see if that would “interrupt” the connection between the lung tumors and the HO. Amazingly, the anonymous donor was still willing to help pay for it! He had the infusion on a Wed and I was told if it didn’t help by Monday, it wasn’t going to. In the meantime, his pain just kept getting worse and on Saturday, he could barely get up. Going out to potty was very much like the first few days after surgery and the drugs made him loopy. He wasn’t Fionn anymore. With the exception of the arrival of pizza that night! He woke up, barked and hobbled to the door to lick the pizza delivery boy half to death. I’m sure the kid still has no idea why I was crying so much over a pizza delivery! Fionn blissfully ate pizza and garlic bread sticks. On Sunday, I knew we had come to the end of the journey. The pain was certainly no better and his quality of life was gone. My daughter came over and we cooked him a steak and let him eat a pint of ice cream while we petted and loved on him. Before the vet was scheduled to come to the house, he needed to go outside to potty and managed to hobble to the grassy area next to my house he loved so much. He did his business and had a nice roll in his favorite spot. There was no way I was going to make him try and go back to the house, so the vet helped him peacefully off to the rainbow bridge right there.

I am alternately grief stricken and angry. Angry because he did not die from the lung mets. I could have had many more months with Fionn if not for the HO. Yes, there was never going to be a happy ending to this story, but we all want just a little more time. Why this dear, dear dog got such a rough deal in life is beyond me. First his owner dies, then he is left at a shelter with a mass they won’t remove so he is (thankfully) shipped off to the rescue. There he has surgery, lives in a kennel for some time, is adopted and brought back because the other dog hated him. Finally, we find each other and life is WONDERFUL……. until the damn cancer. So not fair. BUT, I shared 23 months with the BEST DOG EVER and for that I will always be grateful. See you (and all my other good dogs) at the Bridge Fionn. I bet the grass there is perfect for rolling!

Pics from his final day:

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  1. By: jerry on June 28, 2017 at 3:33 pm      Reply

    Nancy, thank you for sharing these details with us. I imagine most of us can relate to the anger you feel about the cancer and the HO and all the rough spots that Fionn was in through absolutely no fault of his own. Poor guy!

    But never, ever forget that you gave him the BEST 23 months of his entire life and nothing can take that way. Your love, caring and concern more than made up for the bad stuff he went through and now Fionn is a happy transitioned soul, ready to enlighten us here on earth in some other eternal way. His presence will be felt forever, and all the lessons he learned through you, shared with many others.

    Thank you for being part of our community. We’re honored to be part of your and Fionn’s journey.

  2. By: linda8115 on June 28, 2017 at 4:15 pm      Reply

    OH Nancy I have a hunch Fionn’s last 23 months were the best times of his entire life in spite of all he went through during that time! I hate too that HO took him and it is so unfair. But know that the time he spent in your loving care were his best! The love you gave him in that 23 months was enough for a lifetime and Fionn thanks you for it as he tells everyone at the bridge about his glorious times and adventures you made possible!

  3. By: hester on July 3, 2017 at 4:31 pm      Reply

    I am so sorry you had to let Fionn depart this world. And I understand your combination of grief and rage.
    But he was a lucky lad indeed to be so loved and so well cared for. He was so happy in his life with you.

    Wishing you comfort. Wishing Fionn restful ease and the sweetest of dreams.


  4. By: chanceypants on July 13, 2017 at 5:56 am      Reply

    I’m sorry Chance and I couldn’t have met you and Fionn at the meetup in May. We had planned on being there but that was when the HO first started to get bad… like literally those days leading up to the meetup.

    I’m mad about the HO in our case, too. Our stories are so similar — Chance and I have only had each other for 3 years. And it sounds like their osteo diagnosis and amps were within weeks of each other.

    I very much hope that Fionn is there waiting at the Bridge for Chance when he arrives. xoxo -Patricia

    • By: rmmom on July 13, 2017 at 2:27 pm      Reply

      I wish we could have met too Patricia! It’s odd that 2 dogs with such similar timelines for surgery would both get such a rare condition. Saying it’s unfair is an understatement. All you can do is shower love on Chance and celebrate the time you have had together, even though it was certainly not long enough! Fionn will most definitely be there to meet him, like Chance he loved every dog he met. Eurydice too! It will be quite the pawty up there❤️

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