Decided to do a Saturday morning check on the 2 Purple Martin houses I have. Previously I counted 60 eggs. This time I counted 73 eggs. It looks like it’s going to be a very busy year for the parents. A couple of the nests have 7 eggs. On those nests, those parents really have to work hard to keep those babies fed. So far we’ve had a relatively good year in terms of rain, and the temperatures have certainly been lower. Hopefully the can hunt down lots of dragonflies when those babies start getting really hungry!
Below are the current nest and egg counts
Nest 20 – 7 eggs (was 6)
Nest 25 – 5 eggs (was zero)
Nest 5 – 5 eggs
Nest 3 – 4 eggs (was 2)
Nest 4 – 6 eggs
Nest 8 – 6 eggs (was 5)
Nest 6 – 6 eggs
Nest 7 – 6 eggs (was 5)
Nest 11 – 5 eggs (was 4)
Nest 9 – 7 eggs (was 6)
Nest 10 – 6 eggs
Nest 12 – 6 eggs (was 5)
Nest 2 – 5 eggs
Nest 1 – 0 eggs
Total = 73 eggs (was 60)
I first got the call from the vet surgeon on Thursday. I think she said something like, “well, we got the pathology results back for Sascha.” I had prepared myself mentally for just about anything the vet would tell me, except for what she actually told me.
Sascha did NOT have cancer and Sascha does NOT have cancer. The tumors in her spleen were not cancerous tumors. “Excuse me, what?”
Sascha did not have cancer and does not have cancer. It’s very unusual (I can’t remember if she said they have never seen it, or rarely seen it), but Sascha’s tumors in her spleen were the result of a blood infection, not cancer.
Let me back up a bit and re-describe my meeting with the internal medicine vet on the day of surgery. Sascha had at least 3 very large tumors in her spleen. In all likelihood it is cancer. In 75% of cases of tumors in the spleen the cancer has normally spread to other organs. In about 25% of cases the cancer is contained just in the spleen. I’m sure he said of course there are some unusual circumstances, but that’s how my brain translated the information.
Thus, Sascha’s results were extremely rare, and quite frankly, there could not have been a better outcome. I’ve been asked by a couple of people was it even necessary for her spleen to be removed. Absolutely! The spleen was enlarged, and had at least 3 very large tumors inside. The chance of the spleen rupturing and Sascha bleeding internally was very high.
So what about the 2-6 months time frame that Sascha was expected to live? Well, I think you can throw those numbers out the window. Assuming we can treat the blood infection with antibiotics, Sascha should be just fine. She still has the spinal nerve degeneration, which I wasn’t even considering treating because I didn’t expect her to live long enough.
And, if you’re curious about how Sascha is doing and feeling, I can tell you she is acting completely normal, just like she was before all the medical events. She constantly has a toy in her mouth, digs in the trash to eat paper towels, occasionally barks while in her crate just to annoy me, and loves to snack on an occasional piece of dog poo when I’m not paying attention:-). Frankly, I don’t care what she does anymore, I’m just happy she will likely be around for a little while longer. She gets her staples out on Tuesday so I should have more information to share at that time.
Sascha Day 9 After Spleen Removal
I decided to do a nest check today in all of my Purple Martin houses, and I hit the jackpot. I’m just including one picture just so you can get an idea. All told, there are 60 eggs so far in twelve different rooms. I’m sure some of the counts will go up, especially in the nests that just have 2 or 4 eggs.
First Purple Martin Eggs of 2014
Nest 20 – 6 eggs
Nest 5 – 5 eggs
Nest 3 – 2 eggs
Nest 4 – 6 eggs
Nest 8 – 5 eggs
Nest 6 – 6 eggs
Nest 7 – 5 eggs
Nest 11 – 4 eggs
Nest 9 – 6 eggs
Nest 10 – 6 eggs
Nest 12 – 5 eggs
Nest 2 – 5 eggs
Total = 60 eggs
Well today is day 4 since Sascha had her spleen removed. I’m still awaiting her pathology results from the surgery.
In the interim, let me share the latest. Sascha is back to her crazy self. I didn’t do a post on day 3, but this photo below explains it all.
Sascha Day 3 After Surgery Back to Chewing Her Bed.jpg
See the cute German Shepherd with her ball? Look in the bottom right hand corner. See the missing piece of her bed? Well, that’s good ol’ Sascha. I’ve never, ever been able to put a bed in her crate, even the supposedly indestructible ones because she loves to tear them up. She’s also back to eating dog poo, “accidentally” dropping her toy in the pool, just begging me to throw her toy. She also is wolfing down her food like the old days.
Now for the day 4 update. It’s basically the same as day 3, she just seems even more energetic and has her old loud bark back when the UPS guy drives down the street to make a delivery. Tonight I was attempting to eat an apple, which Sascha immediately noticed and started giving me those puppy dog eyes. She then proceeded to lay down, then sit, then lay down, then sit, trying to figure out what she had to do to get a piece of my apple. My Golden Retriever Maggie (12 years old) also noticed Sascha acting like a “Jack-in-the-box” so she too proceeded to lay down, sit up, etc trying to get a piece of my apple.
Day 4 Sascha Wanting Piece of My Apple
Day 4 Sascha and Maggie Wanting Piece of My Apple
Before I forget to mention it, thank you to all the folks who wrote to me personally on my first post regarding Sascha’s cancer. I appreciate all the thoughts.
So today is day 2 since Sascha had her spleen removed because of three tumors. We don’t know if it was benign or malignant, and as I think I mentioned in my first post, I probably won’t find that out until mid to late in the week. In short, Sascha appears to be doing great, and quite honestly I’m amazed that she is pretty much acting like her normal self. I know I sure wouldn’t just two days after surgery, but Sascha ate a full meal today (first time since before surgery) and is carrying around a toy wanting me to throw it so she can retrieve (which of course I cannot do until she heals).
While I can’t promise daily pictures and posts about Sascha going through this event, I am going to try and document as much as I can. That being said, let me take you back to early Saturday morning when I got the call from the vet that Sascha was already eating and walking around and that I could come pick her up. Needless to say I was over-joyed to be able to bring her home as quite frankly they mentioned that may not be likely since she has the spinal myelopathy and would have to be on her back during surgery and would probably be pretty sore.
They bring Sascha in the patient room, and Sascha looks pretty much like she always does, just a little slow, and with quite a bit of fur shaved off around her stomach. Her tail was wagging when she saw me, and she tucked her muzzle into my chin as that’s her normal behavior when she’s really trying to connect with me (or at least my interpretation of her behavior).
We walk out to the truck with no problems. I lift her in the back of the truck and she lays down on her new bed I bought her to be placed in her crate. That look on her face is not what I expected. She looks bright eyed and happy. Compare to me if I had my spleen removed and you’d see a guy with a scowl on his face wondering how someone could want to take a picture of me after I just got out of surgery. Just another reason why pets can be so awesome!
Sascha laying down in the car after surgery
I get home and several of the neighbors are outside because we were having a community garage sale. A couple of the neighbors knew about Sascha and were curious as to how she was doing. I lift Sascha out of the truck, and she literally pulls me towards the neighbors. This silly dog apparently has no idea she just had surgery one day previous, and also has some spinal degeneration.
After she greets the neighbors and they all pet her, I take her inside to take a picture of her once again, and took a new picture showing her incision.
Day 1 after spleen removal German Shepherd looking at camera
Day 1 incision after spleen removal in German Shepherd
You can see from the picture above, the incision is pretty long, running almost the entire length of her stomach. It’s also rather red around the incision area. Compare that to day 2, where much of the redness has decreased.
Day 2 incision from spleen removal in German Shepherd
While I may sound rather upbeat about Sascha’s behavior just two days after surgery, I’m under no illusion about the seriousness of what is occurring. While I won’t know the results of the tumors found in her spleen until later in the week, as well as the results about knowing whether or not the cancer has spread, the odds are that it was malignant cancer and it has indeed spread. But, as I promised myself in the first post, I’m really trying to only focus on the present day, not starting a countdown until she may no longer be around.
For those folks that know me personally, there is nothing that I won’t do a little research on to try and gain a little knowledge. The same is true of Sascha’s cancer. I ordered a book from Amazon called Dog Cancer: The Holistic Answer: A Step by Step Guide. My plan is to gather as much information as I can on traditional treatments as well as holistic approaches so I can make an informed decision on how best to treat Sascha.
Last, but not least, I read something last night that I really wanted to share that really helped me put things in perspective. Assuming Sascha is in the statistical averages regarding her cancer, she may only be around 2-6 months, and depending on the type of cancer, could get chemotherapy which may prolong her life by an additional few months. If you think like a normal human, you might be thinking that if the average German Shepherd only lives 10 years, 4 months, having an additional few months of survival doesn’t sound very significant. However, if you think like a dog, or at least in dog terms, if her life is extended by say 1 year, that’s almost 10% of her entire lifespan! Of course the realist in my quickly returns and reminds me that I will not do chemotherapy, or even continue chemotherapy if Sascha has significant deterioration in her quality of life. If she suddenly stops carrying around a toy, doesn’t want to follow me everywhere I go, and doesn’t have that spark in her eyes, then I refuse to have her endure any type of treatment just to hang around for me. If dogs have memories, then I’m going to do my best to ensure that the memories of her life were full of wonder and joy, of hoarding all toys in the backyard, of chasing squirrels, of swimming in the pool, and always keeping a watchful eye on me and wagging her tail. It will not be of the sickness of chemo, that toys that used to be fun to squeak and hold now take too much effort, and that looking at her owner used to bring her joy but lately it just takes too much energy.
Well this is certainly not a post I want to do, but perhaps through my blogging about it, perhaps it may help someone else, perhaps I will learn something to pass along, or perhaps a miracle will happen.
Let me first offer some background. About three weeks ago Sascha, my 10 year old German Shepherd would not eat. Not one bit. Not even one little piece of kibble. I immediately took her to the vet the next day as obviously something was wrong. Since Sascha has been healthy her entire life and has had no medical problems the initial diagnosis was some type of infection, and we treated that with antibiotics. After about three days of antibiotic treatment Sascha was back to her old self and eating her food. Now about two weeks later, Sascha once again refused to eat (this was on a Friday). I took her into the vet first thing Saturday morning. After a brief discussion with my vet, I saw this certain look on his face that something was not good. I asked him to share what he was thinking. He mentioned that it was a little premature, but he was suspecting cancer or some type of tumor. The next step was to get some blood work and take some x-rays.
We did the x-rays and they showed an enlarged spleen, and blood work said she was anemic. He suggested we give her some IV fluids that day, and then on Monday bring her back and give her more fluids, which I did. On Monday we discussed next steps. The next steps were to take her to another specialist vet to get an ultrasound on her spleen. I should mention that throughout this last week or so that Sascha had been experiencing some weakness and instability in her hindquarters as well.
Today is Friday and I’ve spent the last five hours at the veterinary specialist. The results were not good. Basically Sascha has at least three large tumors in her spleen, degenerative myelopathy, and possibly some kidney dysfunction. The vet was very frank and honest with me. Since the spleen processes a lot of blood, with the tumors in there there was a significant risk of rupture which could be fatal. Additionally, even with surgery (splenectomy) prognosis is poor (3-6 months on average). Here’s how my brain was processing this information and how I felt emotionally: “Perfectly normal healthy dog will likely be dead in 3-6 months even with surgery.” Obviously heartbroken as Sascha has been the protector of the house, the guardian of Maggie (my Golden Retriever), and ridiculously loyal to me, wanting to follow me wherever I go and always wanting to just watch me.
I asked the vet when could they do the surgery, and how much it would cost. The surgery would be $3000-$4000 depending on if they needed to do a blood transfusion. That was on top of the x-rays, ultrasound, urinalysis, orthopedic consultation, and examination which cost a little over $1000. It turns out they could do the surgery late this afternoon and I said “just do it.” There really wasn’t a question in my mind on whether to do it or not. I would do it no matter what the cost.
Got a call around 5:30pm saying that Sascha is out of surgery and is doing fine so far. They will reevaluate her in the morning to determine if I can bring her home, or whether it will be Monday before I can do that.
I thought I would add it some little tidbits about what I’ve learned today, as well as what are some of the questions folks have asked me.
1. Does Maggie notice Sascha is not home, or notice that she is not sick? – From what I can tell, Maggie hasn’t noticed a thing yet. Whether that’s because she’s 12 years old, or because Maggie is much more into people than animals, I’m not sure. Behaviorally Sascha has been acting relatively like her normal self, so I don’t suspect Maggie would notice anything different at this point in time. Also, Sascha’s cancer has not greatly affected her physically just yet, so I don’t think Maggie suspects anything. Now once Sascha comes home from her surgery, and once Sascha starts to deteriorate, I would suspect that Maggie would notice. Whether or not she experiences some kind of depression or sense of loss remains to be seen. Sascha was always more observant of Maggie than Maggie was of her, so I really have no answers at this point in time.
2. How or why did you decide to do the surgery versus just putting her down considering the poor prognosis and the high cost of treatment? – Putting Sascha down is/was not even a consideration, because previous to her surgery today and being slightly anemic, Sascha has been acting the same as she always has. Always had a ball in her mouth, always loved being outside with me, and always wanting to lay next to me when I watch TV. So, Sascha hasn’t experienced any loss of quality of life so putting her down didn’t even cross my mind. However, despite how much I love all of my animals, once Sascha’s quality of life is no longer present, I refuse to keep her alive just to satisfy my own needs to keep her alive just so I don’t feel sad. She’s given me more joy over the last 10 years, so I will not have her suffer in any way just for my own emotional needs. Once that time comes I will do what needs to be done, but not without considerable sadness and loss, but I feel I owe her that dignity.
3. How are you going to deal with such a short period of time with Sascha? – Well statistically the odds are not in Sascha’s favor, but there is a chance that she is a statistical outlier and the cancer would be totally removed from the spleen removal. Second, I’m going to do the best as I can do just focus on the present, to enjoy each day that I have with her, rather than focusing on I’ve only got a few months left with her. When I start thinking how little time I have with her I just get incredibly sad. Focusing on the present makes me appreciate each day instead. As my primary vet suggested, “just think like a dog.” They don’t focus on the past or present, they just focus on the moment.
4. Why don’t dogs live a long time after the spleen removal? – From what I have learned, and from what my vets have educated me about, dogs don’t live a long time even if you removal the cancerous spleen because by the time the spleen has been removed, the cancer has likely already spread through the bloodstream. I also asked my vets about the dying of a dog with this condition. What they both told me is that in general, it is not painful. The dogs may have some labored breathing and loss of energy, but they are generally not in any pain (again it depends on the type of cancer). When the time comes that Sascha no longer enjoys a good quality of life, or begins to suffer or struggle in any way, then I will do what (in my view) is the only respectful thing to do.
Those are the main questions, but if anyone has any other questions feel free to ask, and I will answer as honestly as I can. I know the primary focus of my blog is on nature and wildlife, but thought this post might help others, and it also gives me a little outlet to express what I have learned, what’s on my mind, and perhaps one day to look back on and remember what I was thinking. I’m not sure how frequently I’ll be posting on Sascha’s condition just because of the lack of time, but I will try and provide fairly frequent updates, as again, it may help someone else who experiences this type of situation in the future, or maybe someone has some experience that they can share that I can learn from.
I guess it might be pure coincidence, or perhaps something related to the wind and weather, but both the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds and the Monarch Butterflies were sighted today. I saw 3 Monarch Butterflies (no pictures unfortunately as I was driving), and when I got home, I noticed a familiar sound I haven’t heard since last year. A Ruby Throated Hummingbird!
It’s a mature male that has arrived and starting to stake out his territory. What’s even a little more interesting, is that the Rufous Hummer is still here as well. The weather is supposed to be nice tomorrow, so perhaps I can get some nice pictures.
In the interim, here’s a couple of pictures of the mature male hanging around my pomegranate tree.
Mature Male Ruby Throated Hummer On Pomegranate Facing Left
Mature Male Ruby Throated Hummer On Pomegranate
I haven’t been able to get an exact count of the number of Purple Martins in my two housing structures, but I think there are around 20. When they fly in for the evening it sounds very strange as you see these diving birds all coming to the housing at one time. They haven’t started building any nests yet, and that makes sense as it has been colder than normal. I would imagine as the temperatures start to rise they will begin building their nests.
Male And Female Purple Martin With Wings Spread
Male And Female Purple Martin Female Yawning
Male And Female Purple Martin In Gourd Housing
Well I’ve got good news and bad news about the Eastern Bluebirds so far. The good news is that there definitely is a male and female visiting my backyard. The bad news is that I’ve seen no evidence of them trying to build a nest in one of my many nestboxes, and they have not eaten any of the mealworms I have provided so far. It’s still a little early, so hopefully they decide to nest in my backyard once again.
Female Eastern Bluebird In Orange Tree
Male Eastern Bluebird In Maple Tree
This juvenile Rufous Hummingbird has been with me all Winter. Unlike Ruby Throated Hummingbirds, he’s the toughest thing to photograph. He’s very shy, flies away as soon as he sees me. I believe this is the same guy that came around last Winter as well. He’s got to be pretty lonely, as I’ve never seen another of this type of Hummer in my backyard.
Rufous Hummingbird On Bamboo Branch
Rufous Hummingbird On Bamboo Branch Side View
Well this was unexpected. I’m out in the backyard (as usual) and I suddenly hear the familiar call of a Purple Martin. There was only one. I need to check my previous blog entries from last year, because I think it was about 3 weeks later that the first appeared.
**Update: The first Purple Martins appeared February 6 of last year, so mentally I was clearly off. They are right on time:-)
I thought I would provide a little update on my dogs as they have been featured throughout my blog for a number of years.
Maggie, the Golden Retriever, turned 12 years old on January 10, 2014. From what I have read, the average age of a Golden Retriever is around 10-11 years old, so I’m happy that Maggie is still around. Health-wise, Maggie is quite healthy. Yea, she’s a little slower than she used to be, her teeth have worn down a bit, her face has really turned gray, and she has some cataracts in her eyes, yet she’s basically the same dog I have always had. Her energy level is good. She still loves to roll around in the grass (or mud) to scratch her back, and when it is warm enough, I still cannot keep her out of the pool:-). Probably the biggest change for Maggie recently is her vision. She can still see, but the cataracts do impair her vision. If I drop a piece of food in front of her, she no longer snatches it out of the air. That doesn’t mean she can’t sniff it out once it hits the ground. Maggie, like most Golden Retrievers, thrives on being petted. She would make a terrible guard dog.
Sascha, the German Shepherd, is 10 years old. She will be 11 on July 26, 2014. Sascha too has some very minor cataracts, just a little gray on her chin, and some worn down teeth. Like Maggie, her health appears just fine. She still loves to eat her own poo, birdseed and paper towels. Sascha, at her ripe old age of 10, is quite the sweetheart in her own way. Whereas Maggie has to be by my side and constantly petted, Sascha doesn’t require as frequent of petting, but I do have to be in her range of vision. She watches me like a hawk.
I took a couple of recent pictures of both dogs, and just to show the effects of aging and time, pulled up some old photos of when I first got them.
Maggie The Golden Retriever At 12 Years Old
Maggie The Golden Retriever Staring At Camera
Sascha The German Shepherd In January
First Night Maggie And Sascha Were Introduced
Maggie The Golden Retriever On Her First Day Home
I’m going to assume that this is the same Rufous Hummingbird that visited last Winter. I’ve seen this little bird for about 1 month now, and it is a real challenge to get a quality picture. I actually pulled out my bird blind to get these pictures I captured today. This bird is very skittish. Normally as soon as it sees me, it flies off. It acts completely different than the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds which appear to care very about my presence.
Rufous Hummingbird Showing Gorget
Rufous Hummingbird At Feeder Showing Tailfeathers
Rufous Hummingbird In Flight
Rufous Hummingbird Tongue Sticking Out
Well, it’s been a long time since I have posted any pictures. Quite honestly I was just taking a break, and running a little short on time. Despite the dreariness of Winter, I do have quite a few Winter birds in my backyard including American Goldfinches, Pine Warblers, Pine Siskins, House Finches, Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmouse, Brown Headed Cowbirds (yuck!), Carolina Chicadees, Yellow Rumped Warblers, Blue Jays, and a lone Rufous Hummingbird (I’ll post about that separately).
Here’s a few pictures I took today (Saturday).
Pine Warbler Eating A Nut
Tufted Titmouse Eating Peanut
Pine Siskin Surrounded By Goldfinches
American Goldfinches Crowding The Feeder
American Goldfinch Perching
Brown Headed Cowbird Perching
Tufted Titmouse Hiding In Bottlebrush
Recorded another video tonight of the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds. The light was not that great, but if all goes well I should be able to record some good videos over the weekend.