February 2, 2018

This is the log of the last 5 months of our black labrador retriever, Sparky.  He was diagnosed with lymphoma on September 1, 2017 and died on January 26, 2018 at the age of 7.5 years.

It is written for other dog owners going through difficult times with their dogs having cancer, specifically lymphoma.

I wanted many times during the last 5 months of our dog's life to speak to other people in a similar  situation, to ask them questions about what we are going through, to look for any encouragement or just to feel that we are not alone.

So, you will find here our dog's story.

Everything about his good and bad days.
Details about the evolution of the sickness and the medication he was given.
Our struggle with his diet, diarrhea and stool issues.
Our emotional and mental status during his last few months.
Changes to our daily life habits.
How often we went to the vet and why.
What we tried with the hope that he will get some benefit.
His last day.

It has been a week since Sparky is no longer with us and we miss him dearly. There is no street in our neighbourhood that does not remind us of him. The house seems so empty without his energy and happiness everywhere.

Fridays are the worst. He died on Friday, January 26, 2018, at 2.53 pm.

Rest in peace, Sparky!


Wednesday, August 30, 2017

I promised Nicola, my daughter, that I will take her one day to see New York. We booked 5 days in New York to see all the city's attractions: the Statue of Liberty, the Rockfeller Centre, Central Park, Times Square, The Met, Guggenheim Museum, the bridges. She was very excited about the trip and so was I.

But Sparky was not feeling well since Sunday and I am not sure why. The first sign of something happening was on Sunday while playing fetch with the ball on a meadow.

While running after the ball, I heard him making some sounds when breathing. I thought that he had some throat irritation which would go away in a day so did not pay much attention to it.

Next day, he started coughing, not too often but enough to get our attention. He also started moving slower, sometimes very slowly as if in pain. This happened before when he strained a muscle while running in the park so we hoped that it will go away this time too.

I took him to the vet who suggested blood tests and xrays. I was reluctant to do them because why do such complicated tests when most probably he just had an infection? I was sure that he will not stay still for the xrays so sedation would be needed. So without blood tests and xray, what else can it be? The vet explained that they had many cases of kennel cough recently which is contagious and any dog can take it from other dogs in the dog park. Kennel cough would last a few weeks but it is not dangerous even if unpleasant and stressful. She could not be 100% sure without doing more tests but the chances of being kennel cough were high.

So she prescribed the antibiotics which we started giving Sparky. The antibiotics did not seem to bring an improvement for the next 2 days so on Wednesday, just before leaving to New York, I thought about going again to the vet for detailed investigation.

My wife, Sorana, calmed me down saying that if the situation would not change in the next one or two days, then she would take the dog to the clinic.


Thursday, August 31, 2017

We left for New York.

We took a very early flight and arrived to our hotel in the late afternoon. After checking in, a short trip to Times Square and then straight to sleep with high hopes for the next day.


Friday, September 1, 2017

We woke up early and had a good breakfast.

Then we spent the next few hours in Central Park, the Guggenheim Museum, walked through the city to the Trump Tower and Rockefeller Centre and finally had dinner to Applebees.

After dinner, off to more things to see.

A text message arrived on my phone from my wife, Sorana, saying that she took Sparky to the clinic as he was making noises as if in pain and couldnt get up from the floor. She had to put him on a blanket and drag him outside, get him in a cab and drag him again to the clinic. And I was in New York ....

This was not sounding good so I and Nicola aborted the remaining day plans and went back to the hotel. I did not plan on calling back to Canada from New York so no roaming was available on the cell. I managed to add some funds to it and called my wife. She was with the dog at the clinic and waiting to see the doctor. She was sure that Sparky just has a bad infection or maybe pneumonia.

We hung up agreeing that she would send us news as soon as possible.

I turned on the TV and watched the beginning of the Captain Philips movie with Tom Hanks. I opened a beer and laid on the bed in a comfortable position. Great movie, I was enjoying it a lot until a new message arrived. Sparky has terminal lung cancer!

Terminal lung cancer!

Cancer! How can this be possible? For Sparky? There must be a mistake, this cannot be!

I called my wife right away. She was crying. The xray that the vet took showed a mass in Sparky's chest which indicated most probably lymphatic cancer. There was also lots of fluid in the lungs pressing on all other organs and limiting a lot the dog's breathing.

The vet said that they will try to get the fluid out with a diuretic (Furosemide) and if it worked, the dog could live to tomorrow. If not, we may have to put him down that night.

In just one day, we went from Sparky being a bit sick to getting put down.

Surreal is a little word compared to how this felt. Shock, despair, loss of words, panic, all these came one after another that night. My wife explained to the doctor that we were away so asked if we could  do something so the dog lived a few more days until we came back?

The vet sent the xrays to a radiologist asking for a second opinion. The opinion was harsh but a bit better. Lymphoma cancer, maybe a few weeks of life. If Sparky could pee a lot with the Furosemide's help.

Fortunately, the medicine worked very well, Sparky peed continuously for 5 minutes outside and was very happy and playful now. They went back home with a box of pills including Prednisone, Metronidazole, Gabapentin.

The vet gave Sparky 40 mg of prednisone once per day considering that the dog's weight was 45 kgs. He lost more than 5 kgs in the last few days before the diagnostic.

Back in New York, I and my daughter decided to go back home the next day. I started looking on for tickets and found 2 tickets for a morning flight.

I could not sleep that night. Every 30 minutes, I woke up to check the time and the cell phone. Maybe there were more messages from home, maybe there was an email. My daughter, Nicola, cried until very late in the night and eventually went to sleep.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

We woke up around 9 am.

None of us could eat much so we threw away all the food from the fridge. We packed in a hurry, called a cab and went straight to the LaGuardia airport.

In the airport, my daughter found the strength to go around the shops for some souvenirs. I was just praying and crying about my dog and hoping that he would be alive when we got back home.

This was the longest plane trip I ever took. Just a few hours seemed much longer than going to Europe and back. Each second was like a minute and nothing could be comforting. I bought a data plan during the flight hoping that I can email my wife and get some news. Every 5 minutes, I would refresh the page hoping for something from her which would not come until 2 hours later. Sparky slept ok and was just lying on the carpet in the living room and she was just staying with him.

After something that felt like forever, we made it to the YVR airport of Vancouver. We jumped in a cab and got home.

Knocked on the door reluctantly and ... heard Sparky barking!!!!!!!

The door opened and Sorana let us in. She was still crying but Sparky looked normal, happy to see us, wagging his tail and going around us to see if we were alright, as he did every time we came back from a trip.

We then sat all down and talked about the situation.

Nothing changed since last night but Sparky was much, much better, almost normal.

He ate well in the morning, slept almost all day and spent the remaining time in my wife's lap. Imagine a 100 pounds dog in anyone's lap!

A bit later that afternoon, we decided to go out with him for a walk.

He looked very normal, with great energy, in front of everybody and "showing us the way" as usual. The walk went around the building but not too far, we sat on the grass for a bit and then noticed that he seemed very thirsty. Nicola went home to get water while the rest of us remained on the grass.

We will see increased thirst because of the prednisone. He will start drinking much more water than before and pee a lot which means more walks and possible not only during the day, but night as well. (Sorana)

OK, if this is how things will be, so be it.

Nicola was already back with the water which Sparky drank. Then, completely unexpectedly, he started looking at us as if saying "what is the matter with you? I am fine so lets play with the ball". We all laughed and walked a bit more before going back home.

All emotions from the plane went away and I was almost calm now. Strange how I calmed down once we were back home. Nothing was different for Sparky yet but his presence was sufficient to make us feel better.


I miss ....

I miss walking Sparky in a sunny morning.

Or a cloudy evening.

I miss him walking me in a dry afternoon.

Or a rainy night.

image from


Sunday, September 3, 2017

Next day was Sunday.

Everyone got up early.

We took Sparky for a walk. He looked completely normal and healthy. How little could we see and know from appearances and how different the real situation was!

After the walk, I started discussing with my wife about what to do next. It was clear that cancer is not curable (my mom died because of it some years back; chemotherapy helped somewhat but did as much good as bad for her) but still maybe there were other things that we could try for Sparky.

The vet mentioned that the cancer likes a lot carbohydrates so we should avoid feeding him anything with wheat, maize, rice and potatoes. What was the name of the diet he mentioned? High protein diet. Meaning meat. This is what we would do then. No more rice, no more canned food, nothing else than beef meat, either fried in the pad with no oil or boiled. He lost around 5 kgs in the last 2 weeks so we should feed him well to regain the weight.

What else could we do?

First, what exactly was lymphoma?

I did a few searches on the internet and these were the results:

"Lymphoma in dogs is a common cancer of lymphocytes. Between 15% and 20% of malignant tumors in dogs are lymphomas. Lymphomas can occur in the lymph nodes, spleen, liver, and other organs. The cancer can be aggressive and if left untreated, can lead to a high mortality. Treatment with chemotherapy has been very successful, adding months and occasionally years to the dog's life.

Which dogs are at risk for developing lymphoma?
Lymphoma primarily affects middle age to older dogs. There does not appear to be a sex predilection. Golden retrievers, boxers, bullmastiffs, basset hounds, Saint Bernards, Scottish terriers, Airedales, and bulldogs appear to be at increased risk of developing lymphomas. Only 10% to 20% of dogs are clinically ill when diagnosed; the majority are brought to the veterinarian because of recently identified swellings or lumps.

Why do dogs develop lymphoma?
While we understand how lymphomas form, we still do not understand why. In cats, there appears to be a strong link between some forms of lymphoma and infection with feline leukemia virus, however, in dogs such a link is not apparent. At the same time, some authors have hinted at a possible genetic correlation, but further studies need to be performed to determine the exact risk factors involved in canine lymphoma. Dogs who have a suppressed immune system appear to be at increased risk."

It looked like a lot of dogs got lymphoma so the disease was not rare at all. Also, it affected middle age to older dogs. And it affected dogs with suppressed immune system.

This summer, same with the previous years, Sparky had his usual issues with hot spots. We found once in a while patches of red skin under his coat which made him uncomfortable. It could be because of an allergy (probably seasonal and related to something from outside as he did not have hot spots in the spring, fall or winter), because he scratches too much or some other reason.

Could the hot spot situation, which this summer seemed worse than the previous year's, be related to the lymphoma? I did not have a clue.

What else was there for Sparky?

I googled for a while about what other people did for their dogs in similar situations. Some people used supplements like K9 Immunity and Apocaps and, even if the feedback was sometimes negative, it seemed to work for many dogs.

So I bought one box of each to give it a try. Why not? It may help Sparky or not, but without trying, we could not know.

Sparky slept today a lot and also wanted to go out every few hours for peeing. But otherwise, he looked calm, in good mood and happy to see everyone again at home.

Sparky (the little one) playing with daddy


Monday, September 4, 2017

I was taking Sparky on a longer walk and we met one of our friends, a woman walking her dog.

Unfortunately, Sparky did not like any dogs of the Labradoodle breed so he could not play with the other puppy. For some reason, he did not like Huskys either.

She asked about how he was doing so I told her about the cancer.

She mentioned something that was very encouraging for the next 5 months.

Do you remember my previous dog, Woody?

The one that got into a fight with Sparky and we barely separated them?

He died too a while ago.

I took him to the vet because he wasnt feeling well and the vet found a severe heart problem. The life prognosis was bad, just 2 or 3 weeks of life. Well, Woody lived another 11 months so dont believe everything that the vets say. They dont know more than we do sometimes. 

During his ilness, we took it with Woody a day at the time.

And considered each good day with him a gift.

I guess that we were very luck then.

Because we got so many gifts in Sparky's remaining time with us.


Tuesday, September 5, 2017

I was so upset on this day.

My wife found a letter under the door from a well-intentioned neighbour sending condoleances for our loss.

For a minute or two, I could not understand what it means. Condoleances? For what? Sparky is still alive. Why would anyone send condoleances if the dog is alive? 

It did not make any sense and made me so angry. Some of the anger came from my inability of making sense of the card but it was also about the card reminding us that Sparky's time is limited and that eventually he will die. 

Everything was explained in a few days.

Our neighbour saw us with Sparky and had a moment of high anxiety. She thought that he was a new dog which resembles Sparky so much, how can this be and how did we find him?

She and my wife met a few days before and Sorana mentioned in tears about Sparky going to die. Our neighbour understood that Sparky actually died. This explained her reaction seeing Sparky alive and also the card.

I am smiling now about all these.

Sparky being sooooo happy (Tofino, BC)


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

I was taking Sparky for a walk on a side alley.

And we found this photo mug behind a building:

I don't know for sure who the dog is but I suspect him being Max, an old labrador that Sparky met many times as a puppy.

Max was at the age where he could not play too much and, like many adult dogs, did not appreciate puppys with their annoying energy and enthusiasm.

How could he when probably his joints were sore, maybe he had arthritis, could not run too much and was walking with difficulty?

I always liked the message of the mug so much:

Be the kind of person your dog thinks you are.



Thursday, September 7, 2017

We started seeing some of the Prednisone's effects. Fast breathing and panting, resting inside a lot, drinking so much water, being hungry often.

Because of the amount of water he drank, Sparky needed to go outside every few hours which was difficult but doable when I or Sorana were at home. Nicola, unfortunately, could not walk the puppy as he was too big for her (105 pounds, about 50 kg). One strong pull from Sparky and Maria would follow him anywhere as per the saying "Follow the leader".

Sparky always had the tendency of being the pack leader and sometimes we would not mind him doing that. This was probably related to our refusal of neutering him and keeping him intact. In retrospect, I am sorry of not neutering him so he could have played much more with other dogs at the park (which otherwise would avoid him or try being aggresive, good luck with that!) and swam in the ocean more frequently. But for each of us, neutering seemed completely abnormal when he was little.

So for now, we took him out every few hours to pee.

The length of the walk would determine when the next walk happens. If the walk was long enough and he peed everything out, then the next walk was in about 4 hours, maybe 5. Otherwise, expect 3 hours on average.

Good thing though that he had lots of enery and did not mind the frequent walks. I enjoyed them as well since they gave me more time with him.

More time was what I was most interested in, more time, more time, until time stops.


Friday, September 8, 2017

My wife found a doctor at a clinic from the neighbourhood who specializes in cancer. I am not sure if she is an oncologist or not. We will ask for a second opinion even if the chances of the diagnostic being wrong are very low. The appointment was set for next week.

On Sep 1, we were told that Sparky will only live a few weeks. It was already about a week since the diagnosis and he was still doing well. We lived a day at a time, having no clue what tomorrow was going to bring, and every day was a gift so far. How many more days will we have with him? I did not know, no one did. What I did know was that I would spend as much time with him as possible and ignore many other things that I used to do.

Life became very simple after the diagnosis. Wake up, give Sparky something to eat, then the prednisone, walk him, give him breakfast, go to work, come back at 5, walk him, give him prednisone, give him dinner, walk him, go to sleep. So boring some people might say! But I was happy. Sparky was still with us, enjoying his food, his walks (even if they were the same, more or less), his family, his toys.

There was no need of anything fancy or new for us to be happy.
If Sparky was doing well, so were we.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sparky started to drink so much water that he had to pee every few hours.

All other daily activities adapted to his walks because if we did not take him out, he would pee inside.

For a Saturday, this meant walking him at 8 am, 12 pm, 4 pm, 8 pm, 11 pm and then over the night around 2 or 3 am. I was starting to get tired from so much walking since we were making probably 5 kms every day, maybe more.

The night walks were not something that Sorana could do so the only remaining person for it was me.

Before September 1, I was going to sleep at 10.30 pm or sometimes even at 11 pm. Knowing that I have to get up over the night, the sleeping time went down to 9.30 pm so, if I have to wake up at 2.30 am, at least I am partially rested.

Last night's walk was particularly interesting.

We went outside at 2.30 am and I let Sparky off-leash in the nearby park. It was not cold at all, fresh air, no rain, clear sky and a very beautiful moon. He sniffed everything in the park and marked the territory and then we took a short walk around the neighborhood.

Just I and he, no one else was awake at that time.

We could go as fast or as slow as we wanted and in any direction. No cars to avoid, no other people, no other dogs.

From the amount of his energy and of tail wagging, I am sure that he enjoyed the walk as much as I did.

We were back in the apartment at 3 am and went straight to sleep.


Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sorana accuses me that I cheat on her with the dog.

This is hilarious!

What does she mean by it?

This were the coordinates of a typical day for me.

  1. wake up, give Sparky the prednisone, then some food to go with the medicine
  2. take the dog for a long walk in the morning 
  3. give the dog his breakfast (if prepared in the evening); if not prepared, make it first
  4. come back from work, go shopping mostly for the dog
  5. cook dinner for the dog
  6. give prednisone to Sparky
  7. walk Sparky in the afternoon
  8. spend time with him when we come back
  9. give him dinner
  10. watch a movie with the dog sleeping close by

So, in Sorana's view, everything in my life is about Sparky which promotes him to wife as well.

Sparky was named with this occasion Wifey.


Monday, September 11, 2017

I never understood why Sparky was so impatient outside.

All the time, he pulled the leash and went ahead of us as if in a permanent rush.

Every flower had to smelled, all bushes sniffed, all trees ...... 
Some things are better not said :)

I guessed that this was his temperament, active, agitated, full of life and wanting everything now.

But, with his recent sickness which unfortunately will lead to his end sooner or later, I had a different perspective.

Dogs live less than humans. I always hoped that Sparky will live at least until 10 years old. It will probably not happen. Each year that they have is the equivalent of a few human years. The first year counts for probably 10 human years, the second for 7, so on. I assume that his last year could be translated in 5 years of mine.

Going from years to days, each of Sparky's days is 5 days of mine. Now if you would know that each day of yours is actually 5, would you walk slowly or very fast? Also, if you would have at least a suspicion that this is your last year of life, how would be your life? Calm or agitated? Intense or slow?

So I got his rush now, given the situation that we were in.

And I no longer tried to temperate it during our walks. Did he want to go fast? No problem. Did he want to cross from left to right and back from the right to left? No problem. He should do anything that he would like to do in his remaining time.

this is not Sparky but still cute


Tuesday, September 12, 2017

My wife took Sparky to the doctor for the second opinion.

It was what we expected, lymphoma, with a significant tumor in the chest and a few weeks of life expectancy.

There were 2 options of treatment.

Do the tumor biopsy while it was still there since under prednisone it might dissappear, at least for a while. The biopsy would confirm if we were dealing indeed with lymphoma or not and determine the type of cancer. Depending of the type of cancer, we could opt for a chemotherapy or another, if this was what we wanted to do.

Or continue with a high dosage of prednisone which might improve the situation a little bit but, since prednisone is not a cure, the cancer would come back sooner or later, stronger than before.

Because the life expectancy was just a few weeks, we did not see any reason to cause Sparky more suffering by doing the biopsy. Less suffering was desirable and also to make him to have the best possible life for his last few weeks.

The vet agreed with our option. 

Considering the size of the tumor, chemotherapy was probably not a good idea because no one knew how the dog would react to it. It was also expensive and very difficult to do. The dog would need to go to a special clinic twice per week, sedated and given the chemotherapy intravenously, then brought home and constantly monitored. For any negative change in his situation, we would have to go back to the clinic. Often hospitalization was also not excluded in case of complications from the "treatment".

The best case scenario for the chemotherapy would be, if the dog responded well to it, about 1 year of life.

So knowing that he had at best 3 weeks of life, we chose not to do the chemotherapy. The vet explained that, if not done right away, chemotherapy was not effective after prednisone was taken for a longer time. So it was now or never.

Prednisone was the "medicine", together with furosemide (to drain the water from his body) and metronidazole, an antibiotic for stomach bacteria that may cause diarrhea or loose stool. We started seeing looser stool recently so this was one of the things discussed.

Prednisone was considered the "miracle drug which saves lives". Many dogs lived for a while after getting it but just for a while. On average, a few weeks, in rare occasions maybe a few months. Initially, it has a strong effect on reducing any internal inflammation (which may make the cancer go away) but over time it has less and less efficiency. Also, it impacts the internal organs over time (liver, kidney). 

Without a biopsy, how would the doctor know that we dealt with lymphona and not something else? Good question. She did not know for sure but chances were very, very high.

How would the dog die in these conditions? Why did my wife have to ask this? He would either die suffocated when he could not breath any longer or one of his internal organs would give up and cause a massive internal hemorrhage.

Ignorance is bliss for exactly this reason.

You need more information hoping that you can do something good with it and have a chance to help. But the opposite may happen as well. You may just understand that the situation is hopeless, that there is not much to do and all that is left is hope. Hope that Sparky would be given more time to be with his family until he joins his larger family for ever.


Wednesday, September 13, 2017

There are 2 different sides of Sparky since the cancer diagnostic.

Inside, Sparky sleeps or rests all the time. The only things that make him get up and show some interest are his meals. Well done beef steak in the evening, boiled beef in the morning, snacks during the day.

If anyone sees him inside, it makes sense that he looks as if something is wrong. He just does not have any energy at all and seems either sad or depressed. That is what dogs do. If they experience anything out of normal, they start sleeping more. It does not matter if they have a cold, or maybe some pain or feel dissoriented or are dizzy.

Outside, however, he is a different dog. Energetic, going in front of me during the walk, wanting to smell everything, always interested (on good weather) in playing with the ball. If we play with the ball, he runs after it with high enthusiasm and seems very happy.

Anyone that looks at him during a walk or while playing with the ball would say that he is a beautiful, healthy labrador.

We see what we want to see.


Thursday, Sep 14, 2017

We finally received the supplements ordered from Amazon: 1 box of K9 Immunity and another of Apocaps.

K9 Immunity is made from all sorts of mushrooms which can be beneficial for humans and , why not, for dogs as well. We will start giving them to Sparky tomorrow together with the prednisone, furosemide and omega 3.

Apocaps had turmeric and cucurmin in its composition so it could be useful as well. But a careful reading of its pamphlet found that it is not recommended to combine Apocaps with steroid medications like prednisone. Was I glad that I read the instructions fully! This was unexpected and so awful. I had lots of hope in it being able to complement prednisone and help Sparky in one way or another. It looked as if we could not use Apocaps for now but we could at least keep it for future  when prednisone would be ineffective.

So, no Apocaps for now but we could give K9 Immunity a try.

Both of them had mixed reviews on with some people writing negative reviews after not seeing any improvements in their dogs. Others were very satisfied with the results even if no one was sure if their dogs improvements came from these pills or something else.

To be honest, turmeric, cucurmin and mushrooms are no cure for cancer. They can help as part of the diet cancer but how much is very difficult to say. Apocaps, for example, is nothing more than a supplement created by a vet to help his patients figure out the exact percentages of ingredients that should be added to their dogs diets. It is not a medicine, just a supplement.

Prednisone and the chemotherapy are medicine.

Prednisone is a solution for now, a way of buying more time with the dog and with the worst side effects. Chemotherapy is as horrible as prednisone, maybe even worse but at least can have some serious impact on the cancer.

But since Sparky only had a few weeks of life left (2 weeks passed already, I wondered how many were left), chemotherapy was out of the picture and prednisone the only medicine for him. Until today. Tomorrow, we will add one pill of K9 immunity and, if Sparky tolerates it well, we will increase to 2 pills per day very soon.


3 generations of labradors

The grandmother (yellow lab), the father (big, black lab) and the son, Sparky (small, black lab).


Friday, September 15, 2017

In the morning, Sparky was very fussy with the food and did not want to eat what I prepared for him the night before. 

He was ok during the morning walk so, since my wife was home that day, I left the food with her to give it to him later and went to work. 

In a coffee break, around 11 am, I checked in with her about how he was doing. He slept the whole morning and did not show any signs of waking up. He did not want to eat anything yet and was not interested in another walk. We both thought that this was fine and agreed to talk again after lunch. 

Around 2 pm, I called her again to find out that his behavior was kind of unusual. Still sleeping, still not eating, not drinking water either (strange since he always drank lots of it), still not wanting to go out. She was starting to believe that something is not right and asked me to come home right away. 

This was not a good sign, I thought, no eating, no drinking water either, sleeping since morning and not going out. I assumed that the worst could happen so jumped in a cab, being sick worried about the dog. 

I got to the door and knocked a few times. A strong and repeated barking came from the other side. The door opened and I saw him, happy as usual to see me. 

He got up, drank water from his bowl and went out for a decent walk to the complete surprise of my wife who joked that "he only wants me for his walks". 

After the walk, since he was starving, I made one of his "diet" meals, good, juicy beef steak, fried in the pan with no oil. He ate 2 of them, around 800 grams of meat and was normal for the rest of the day. 

We ended the evening grateful that another day passed and he was still around. 

I also learned that, going forward, I wont go to work without him having breakfast first. I would prepare something (steak) the night before. If he ate it for breakfast, great. If not, I would have some other options ready.


Saturday, September 16, 2017

Today was a very difficult day.

I started giving Sparky many different things in addition to the Prednisone and Furosemide. Vitamins, Omega 3 and K9 Immunity.

The result was that he got a bad diarrhea of the worst kind. It made him uncomfortable and in need of going out more often than before, both during the day but also at night.

Last night, my wife walked him at 11 pm and then I had to do it at 1 am, 4.30 am and 7.30 am. What a night! I got up in the morning getting almost no sleep and feeling like a zombi.

I was upset with the outcome but it was not Sparky's fault. The fault was all mine in assumming that I could give Sparky so many things in the same time. I would have to stop the vitamins, omega 3 and the K9 Immunity and focus of fixing the diarrhea which, if not managed fast, could lead to weight loss and dehydration.

I did not want to try the chicken and rice again so spoke to the vet. She suggested giving Sparky the Hills digestive care food which was not ideal for the cancer (as it uses wheat, corn and rice as ingredients) but it could help with the diarrhea.

I bought a bag of the digestive food from a nearby vet and filled Sparky's bowl. As expected, he came closer, sniffed it a few times and went away.

Fortunately, I knew the solution. Got some bacon and cut it in small pieces, then mixed it with the digestive care kibble and served it again. He ate it all this time and even wanted more of it.

Then, the diarrhea stopped but he did not poop either which was probably a sign of improvement.

I will have to try giving him again Omega 3, vitamins and K9 immunity but in a different way. Try one, see if he tolerates it well, then add one more and so on. But first, his stool had to come back to normal.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

More than 2 weeks passed since Sparky's diagnosis. We were told that he has only a few weeks of life left and he seems ok still. He sleeps and rests most of the time when inside which is normal because of the prednisone. Outside, though, he is, as always, a very different dog.

This reminds me of the time when we asked a dog trainer to help us with obedience training for Sparky when he was about 6 months old. The trainer worked with him inside and was very pleased with the dog's response. She could not understand why we were so anxious and agitated about such a sweet, calm and cute puppy. But then, we took him for a walk. After coming back, she only said that "this is going to take some time, he is a different dog outside!".

look, missy, you pull, i pull, lets see who wins!! awesome game you showed me!!

Coming back to today, he is still doing well, same as yesterday and day before yesterday. If there are any changes happening, they are not visible to our eyes.

So 2 weeks passed, what does this mean going forward? Are we getting closer to the end? Should we expect him to die soon, today, tomorrow, in a few days? Looking at him, I cannot see any signs of this happening yet.

I am getting anxious a lot about his situation but every time I hear an voice coming from inside saying that "he is going to be ok, he is going to be ok, he will live for now". It is probably my subconscious helping out and telling me how things are. And I believe it, the more this voice comes, the more I believe it.

Sparky is going to be fine, he will live for now, no one knows for how long, but he will be fine today.


Monday, September 18, 2017

I had a serious scare last night.

Every night, I woke up around 2.30 am, gave Sparky lots of water to drink and then took him to the dog park to pee.

That is what we did last night as well.

After the dog park, we walked through the neighbourhood for about 15 minutes and started going in the direction of our building.

We were just passing the bushes where, a few years back, Sparky jumped in to show the skunk who lived there who is the street owner. Sparky believed, of course, that he was. So, long story short, the skunk won and Sparky came out of the bush completely humiliated.

Tail between his legs, head down, with a sad expression on his face and stinking horribly.

I took him upstairs to the dismay of my wife.

We heard that tomato sauce helps with the skunk stink so I bought the whole shelf of it from the store.

Then, we put Sparky in the bathtub, one of his least favorite places, and used all the tomato sauce. It helped partially only so we had to get used to the stink which persisted a few more weeks.

So last night, we were walking by the same bushes and I was smiling at those memories when I saw something funny walking 10 meters in front of us.

It cannot be, I thought, it cannot be, it cannot be.

A skunk was walking slowly on the side walk, with his tail up.

Am I happy that I saw him!!! This was the last thing that I wanted, to go through the tomato sauce bath at 3 am in the morning!!

Imagine our night, just me, Sparky and the skunk awake at 3 am.


Sparky's Email - Wednesday, February 21, 2018

We got an email yesterday from Sparky:
Do you miss me guys? 
I know, I know, I miss you too.... 
We will meet again, be sure of it, one way or another, first in your dreams, later, well, we will see ... 
But we still have our great memories together, don't we? 
For example, remember when you brought me home, put that cute blue leash on me and took me for a walk?

That was the best moment of my day. 
I thought that you want to show me your favorite game, you pull, i pull, lets see who wins .... 
It was so fun seeing that you like pulling on things since that made me believe that maybe all three of you are dogs too. You just bark in a different language and dont have a tail. 
By the way, I am well here, in my next home and there are plenty of friends. 
Some of them look just like me :) 
Max sends you his regards:


Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Lots of rain last night and this morning.

Generally, we do not mind rain at all. Unless it is pouring, the walks go on and sometimes we even play in the park with the ball.

Sparky likes these days to drink a lot of water from the puddles formed on the alleys. I let him do it yesterday and today but won't do it again.

My wife explained that if the water is not very clean, it may have lots of bacteria in it which, considering that his immune system is weak from the cancer and prednisone, can make his stomach upset.

So I will have to keep him from drinking from the puddles and bring water bottles and a bowl on the walks in case he gets thirsty. Which he does often both inside and outside.

Other than this, Sparky is still doing the same as in the last few weeks.

Nothing changed in his life. Eating very well, sleeping and resting a lot inside, playing outside on good weather (less on bad weather), drinking lots of water and peeing.

We are exhausted from the number of walks that he needs but there are not many options available.

Peeing inside is not good and neither is wearing a dog diaper.

I refused so far buying the diapers since he may be uncomfortable wearing them and would probably take them off during the night.


Wednesday, September 19, 2017

We had a great play outdoors day.

Since the weather was just amazing with clear sky, lots of sun and good temperature, I took Sparky to his favorite meadow for his favorite thing to do: playing with the ball.

We got there in about 15 mins since it is at a decent distance from the apartment. As soon as we got there, I let him off-leash and he started jumping around out of excitement. I had to calm him down since his level of energy was not what it used to be even if his enthusiasm was the same.

I had him lying down on the grass for about 5 minutes to catch his breath. Sparky did not protest much but his face showed dissapointment. Something like "what are we waiting for? lets go, lets go, lets go".

Then I threw the first ball, not too far but not too close and watched him running after it with a feeling of anxiety. What if he cannot run after it? What if something happens to him because of the running? What if, what if ....

Nothing bad happened. Sparky ran after the ball the same way as when he was healthy and then dropped it to my feet. Not because he was so nice and disciplined, on the contrary. He did it because out of all balls that we play with, I threw the "worst" one first knowing that he will give it back with the expectation that the good balls follow.

Then, I threw it again. And he brought it back one more time. We took a break here so he can catch his breath again and slow down a bit.

And then continued the same play with a few ball throws, then a break, then a few more, then a break. Towards the end of the play, we stopped using the "bad" ball and switched to the good one that he liked to chew so much. At this point, the game changed somewhat since the ball was his and I had to take it away either by tricking him or by pulling it out from his mouth. Good luck with that!

About 40 minutes in total but not too much exercise. Just enough to get his muscles working, his motivation and mood improved and his overall happiness a bit boosted.

As usual, after the play ended, faster than Sparky intended, I told him to go back home.

His expression was priceless. Go home??? Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyy? Noooooooooooooo! We stay here, the grass is nice, it is so quiet, we have the balls, birds are singing, what do we need more?

Very dissappointed in me that I like home more than the meadow:

We came back after our play happier than when we left. He was pleased doing his favorite activity and I was pleased for the same reason. The fact that he slept and rested so much inside was somewhat more tolerable if he had great plays outside. For one hour, he was completely normal.

The weird part is that anyone seeing him running after the ball would totally not believe me about the cancer. Because he did not look sick on the meadow, not even a little bit.


Thursday, Sep 20, 2017

Days go one after another.

Sparky is still doing the same, rests a lot inside but is playful and energetic outside. He does have his moments when the afternoon walk ends in 5 minutes if the weather is rainy or foggy. 

Every day that passes, we wonder what is going on. Both vets that we talked to were very clear about Sparky only having a few weeks left. And still here he is, playing outside, eating very well, with no noticeable signs of decline.

We have no complaints of course and wish that things will continue this way for as long as possible.

Life is so simple now. 

Get up, give Sparky his pills with a bit of food, go for the morning walk, then breakfast (with the food prepared the previous evening) and I go to work.

I come some days in the lunch break to walk him since he cannot hold his peeing for the whole day because of the increased thirst.

In the afternoon, another walk around 5.30 - 6 pm, then the evening pills, cooking the dinner, dinner for the big boy and then staying together for a while.

Not much time is left in the evening so after talking to the girls about our day, I go to sleep.

During the night, we have the night walk for about 30 minutes and then we sleep until the next day.

This is pretty much the schedule of most days.

As simple as it is, I don't feel bored at all and would not do anything else.

I am not interested in meeting anyone, not interested in going out, not drinking any longer.

If Sparky is still with us, nothing else matters.


September 24, 2017

I have never bought so much meat in my life.

Every time I go to the store, I leave with 4 or 5 kgs of meat and have to explain to the cashiers that it is not for me.

The meat won't last for long since Sparky eats about 700 grams at each meal. It is a lot to give him but we are just following the vet's advice here. High protein diet is good for cancer since the cancer feeds itself from carbohydrates like rice, flour and pasta. The hope is that the "meat diet" will slow the cancer growth a little bit by not providing what the cancer thrives on.

Sparky does not seem to get bored from so much beef. I would have but not him. Sometimes, I have the impression that he could eat more than what I give him.

He reacts so funny when he understands that I am preparing his dinner.

He comes to the kitchen, lies down at the entrance and watches every gesture of mine.

Sometimes, he looks back to be sure that no one else comes for his dinner. He probably kept this habit from the times when there was a bit of competition over food between him and Chic, our cat.

The meat is not cheap at all so I had to figure out which store has the lowest prices.

Still, the expenses are high but if this helps Sparky, it is all worth it.

Anything that we can do for him (within reason) will be done.


September 28, 2017

The vet told us a few weeks ago that Sparky has probably two or three weeks of life left.

It has been almost a month since the diagnosis and he looks the same to me, maybe even a bit better than last week.

Still enjoying his meals, still playing with the ball, still liking his walks. I cannot say that his quality of life is lower in general. Inside, he rests as usual or sleeps but outside he looks "very healthy".

We made today the appointment for the 30-days checkup which will include blood tests, a general exam and the x-rays for the lungs.

Everyone is agitated and anxious because who knows what the situation is. Maybe things are the same with his disease, maybe worse, could they be better?

We already got a month more with him which is a lot considering that, on September 1, the vet thought that Sparky may not make it through the night.

I am hoping that time will continue to be patient with him.

My good feeling about Sparky being well for now is present still.

I guess that the visit to the vet will confirm it or not.


October 2, 2017

Today, we had the first check-up of Sparky's condition since he was diagnosed with lymphoma a month ago.

The vet appointment was after lunch. We got there with a cab, waited a few minutes at the reception and then the doctor was with us.

She checked Sparky's heart which seemed normal. Lungs were normal as well with no fluid in them.
The respiration rate was almost normal, still a bit elevated but nothing too worrying.

The second part of the visit was about taking blood tests and xray of the lungs and chest.

Sparky looked desperate going with the doctor without me, same with every other time when he was without us.

Since the tests would take about one hour and a half, I went to a nearby coffee shop and waited there for the time to pass. Time seems to expand in situations like this and an hour feels like 3. It was difficult not to ask myself the same question over and over: what could the results be? is he better, the same or worse?

I went back to the clinic earlier that I should have and everything was done. Sparky came out after 10 minutes looking in all directions for a familiar face and was very happy to see me and me him.

One of the nurses took us back to a room to wait for the doctor with the xray results.

The doctor came in. I could not understand just by looking at her face if the news are good or bad. She showed me the xrays and explained that there is still a mass in the chest. It looked scary on all of those films.

So what does this mean? The mass was still there but was it the same size, bigger, smaller?

The mass was smaller than before, significantly smaller actually when compared with the initial xrays.

This was amazing news! So the prednisone helped and Sparky was actually doing better!

Yes, she confirmed again, explaining that this is rather rare, to see such a decrease in the mass after one month of treatment with prednisone. This was a good improvement but we should keep in mind that it may be just temporary and that the cancer could come back.

We knew that, it was impossible to forget.

But Sparky was better today and since we lived a day at a time since Sptember 1, today was a great day.

What about the blood tests?

The blood tests will be ready in a few days so someone will call us with the results.

Also, the doctor suggested sending the xrays to a specialist, a radiologist, for a second opinion. I could not see any reason why we should not do this.

We left home after getting a refill of prednisone and antibiotics, in case the diarhhea happens again.

Everyone was extremely happy that night at home, including Sparky.

After days and days of uncertainty and anxiousness, we had a bit of hope.
Through a miracle, Sparky was not just living but actually he was better than a month ago.

That day was for me one of the happiest days of the whole year given the improved condition of the puppy.

My feeling that he was still doing well was confirmed, at least for the moment.
He was well and will continue to be well.

I went to bed very happy and grateful that night.


October 3, 2017

Yesterday was one of the brightest days of 2017 for me.

Hearing from the doctor that Sparky is doing better and that the tumor from his chest is smaller made me incredibly happy.

The happiness spilled on the following day as well.

I took Sparky in the late morning to our favorite meadow to play with the ball and be in nature. The sun was up there, the skies clear, birds singing, perfect day to be outside.

During our play, I got a message on my cell phone from my wife saying that I should call the clinic since they want to talk to me. We just talked yesterday, what else is there to talk about? The blood tests! They said that the results will be ready in a few days so this must be it, the vet wants to tell me the results.

I called the clinic with a certain anxiety. One of the assistants connected me with another vet who explained that the blood tests look normal under the circumstances.

What does that mean, exactly, normal under the circumstances?

Some of the liver markers were higher than normal and this applied to the kidneys. The higher values were caused by the prednisone's side effects which is known for having bad impact on the internal organs over time. But the blood test values were not worrying for now and we should consider them as a good sign of Sparky doing well.

Not easy to swallow the "doing well" part when the liver and kidneys were doing worse but probably the vet was right. We knew that prednisone has side effects and here they were.

Just before hanging up, I asked about the second opinion of the radiologist on the chest xrays. Did he agree with the vet's interpretation? Was the chest tumor smaller?

A short pause happened next.

Oh no, what could this mean?  Please, do not tell me something bad ............

Actually, the radiologist said that there is no tumor in the chest. He cannot see any trace of a tumor on the xrays meaning that the tumor is in complete remission for now.

Did I say already that yesterday was one of the best days of the year?

Today is FAR BETTER than yesterday.

February 2, 2018

This is the log of the last 5 months of our black labrador retriever, Sparky.  He was diagnosed with lymphoma on September 1, 2017 and died ...