Val's Page

The start of the story

Original E-mail Letter About Val - 5/2/02

May 2, 2002, Thursday:

Unfortunately, it looks like this story will end sooner than we had planned.  Today, Val had surgery to remove a tumor the size of two grapefruits.  It emanated from her spleen, which the surgeon also removed.  There are other small tumors on her abdomen wall that the surgeon couldn't remove.  As he said, he bought her some time.  He estimates that she has three months.  She is spending the night at the clinic to give her a chance to heal so she won't hemorrhage.  If she is alert and eating tomorrow, then she will be able to come home.

She should get back to her old self after she recovers from the surgery.  She should be fine for a while.

May 3, 2002, Friday:  

Morning:  I called this morning to see how Val was doing.  The lady who answered the phone turned me over to the surgeon.  He said, "She's driving me nuts!  Come and get her!"  They fed her this morning and she scarfed up her food.  They took her outside and she peed.  They do check-outs between 3 and 5, so I told him we'd be there at 3!  Now I'm waiting for Eric to get home from picking up Galen...

Evening:  She's home.  She's sleeping on the couch.  She was happy to see us, but a little subdued because of the pain patch she has on her leg.  It's a time release thing that she only has to wear for a couple of days.  I have to give her antibiotics in the morning.  We have to watch to make sure she doesn't chew on her staples (28 of them!), otherwise she'll have to wear an E collar.  She had to take it easy getting in and out of the van and going up the front stairs.  (Eric tried to lift her to put her in the van, but that hurt.)  When she got inside the house, she went to the kitchen and had a few bites of her food.  Then I walked her out the back door and she peed.  We have to take her out on the leash because she isn't supposed to run around at all.  We're not too worried about keeping her calm for a few days.  But when the pain patch comes off Sunday, she will probably perk up and want to jump around and chase her bunnies (stuffed).

They weighed Val before and after the surgery.  She lost 5 pounds!

It sure feels good to have her home.  I know it's only a matter of time before one of the other tumors grows large, but having her back here makes it seem like it will be easier when the time does come.  I suppose it will be different then, but for now, I'm glad she's back.

Val Update E-mail - 5/3/02

Comments from Friends of Val

May 4, 2002, Saturday:

Val did fine during the night.  She got up at 3:00 a.m., which she usually does.  I tried to coax her down the stairs to go outside, but she didn't want to.  She drank some water and then went back to her bed.  In the morning, I had to work to coax her downstairs.  Once she was down and outside, she moved a little easier.  I think she's a bit sore after not moving for a while, but then it eases up when she starts moving.  She did her business outside, then came in for breakfast.

We had Galen's birthday party.  We didn't have to worry about Val getting excited.  She laid on the couch most of the time.  After dinner, presents and dessert, around 4 p.m., I coaxed her off the couch to go outside and then to eat dinner.  Eric's mom said that she was sad to hear about Val and was not sure if she could bear seeing her, but now that she had seen her, she felt better.  Everyone loves Val!

Relaxing with Uncle Carl

May 5, 2002, Sunday:  

Val woke me up at 5 a.m. whining.  It took a while, but I got her out of her bed (quietly, without waking Eric) and then tried to coax her downstairs.  She walked back and forth between our bedroom and Galen's room a few times.  She must have realized that it gets easier to move around after a bit.  Finally she was ready to tackle the stairs.  After I walked her out to do her business, she sniffed at the food in her bowl.  Then, like she frequently does, she looked at the counter where her treats are stored.  Of course, I gave her one!  Then after a drink of water, back upstairs.  Once back in our respective beds, she started whining again.  Eric then woke up and asked what was wrong.  I told him that if you pet her she will stop whining.  He got up a went over and pet her for a moment.  Then, when he returned to bed, she started whining again!  Finally, she come up and joined us on the bed, snuggled between us.  Everyone was happy!

We went to the Aurora Village PetCo to see some greyhounds.  There was a black with a little white female named Molly looking for a home.  Molly was cat safe, quiet and on the small size - for a greyhound.  We spent some time visiting with her.  We brought Val in from the van to meet her.  They did fine.  Molly was more interested in Val than Val in Molly.  But Val did sniff at Molly and didn't seem to mind being sniffed at by a bigger dog.  Molly was everything we wanted in a greyhound, but the spark wasn't there.  That spark was there when we first met Val and she wormed her way right into our hearts.  It was that spark that made us think of her all the time and couldn't wait to go see her again - so much that we went back to visit her a week later on a work night even though it's an hour drive both ways.  It was that spark that inspired us to build that fence in the wind, rain, cold, SNOW, and dark by flashlight on evenings after work in February three years ago.  It was that spark that inspired us to write Val's name in the concrete of the gate posts.

We took Val's pain patch off.  It wasn't too bad - getting it off, that is.  The outer wrap was mostly stuck to itself and only one edge was stuck to her fur.  The vet tech suggested vegetable oil to help loosen the tape and it worked pretty good.  Then there was the patch itself.  Vegetable (canola, actually) oil made pretty short work of it, too.  Now we're waiting to see if she will become more active and/or more sore!

The band is here.  Val greeted each one as they arrived.

She looks and acts like an old dog now.  With her bony hips and white face, it's easy to imagine that she is five or six years older.  That makes it a little easier to accept that she won't be around for much longer.  We are really grateful for the extra time we get to spend with her.  I wonder how much of this has to do with all the prayers friends and family are saying.

May 6, 2002, Monday:

Same routine as last night, but not as much work to get her down the stairs.  Once again, she joined us in bed after she took care of her business.

In the morning, as she was getting ready to go down the stairs, she suddenly turned her head around as though she just realized there was something on her belly.  She did this several times.  I was worried she would start licking her incision or worse.  Eric only had an afternoon class so he was home most of the morning.  I ran home around 2 p.m. to check on the "puppy."  She was fine.  I went ahead and fed her some lunch - rice and a bit of dog food.  I noticed that she was filling out nicely and doesn't look so bony anymore.

The clinic didn't get the lab results yet.  I guess we'll get them tomorrow.

May 7, 2002, Tuesday:

I have some good news and some bad news.  I'll give it to you in the order I received it.  First the bad news.  The lab report came in.  It is cancer.  That news doesn't change anything really.  She still only has about 3 months to live.  Dr. Sinibaldi said to spoil her and give her anything she wants.  In other words, business as usual!

Now the good stuff.  We went to the BEDOG meeting where Val and I received an award for Novice Handler of the Year from Deb, our first teacher.  We took her Novice Obedience class twice last year.  After that we took an Advanced Obedience class from Kandice.  After a couple of classes, Kandice told Deb, "You should see the whippet I have in my class!"  Deb said, "You mean Val?"  Val has become known among the BEDOG folks as the Wonder Whippet.  Sight hounds aren't the easiest dog to train.  But Val really likes her treats and will do anything for them.  Once I started teaching her things, it kept getting easier.  I think she figured out, "Oh, she tells me to do something, I do it and I get a treat!"

We chatted a bit about how Val didn't have a chasing (lure) instinct when we first got her.  Kandice asked me to share how I got Val to start chasing the lure.  All the whippet people know to use a plastic bag on a string and maybe a fishing rod or broom stick to help swing it around.  But Val wasn't interested until I tied her Floppy Disk and the bag to the string!  It wasn't long before she was a Field Champion.  

Then Deb won the BEDOG member of the year!  Congratulations, Deb!

Me, Val and Deb (Val's chewing on a carrot)

Isn't this cool?

Still working on that carrot!

Afterward, I caught Kandice feeding Val a wrap (minus the lettuce and tomato) a bit at a time.  Val was doing that cute thing where she sits with her tail between her legs and wags it.  It's so funny!

Snoozing on the couch after the ceremony

May 8, 2002, Wednesday:

I took today off of work to spend more time with the baby.  Wednesdays are the only day that Eric works all day and I didn't want to leave her home that long by herself.  Her incision looked really good this morning.  There's no red and only a little bit of dark pink.  I made her appointment to have her staples removed next Tuesday morning.  It was actually sunny so I put her beach towel on the back porch for her to sun on.  It's warm there because of the sun bouncing off the house even if it is cooler elsewhere.

May 9, 2002, Thursday:

Nothing new to report today.  The doctor, yesterday, said she doesn't have any cancer in her blood stream,  for whatever that's worth.  We'll miss her when she's gone.

May 10, 2002, Friday:

OK, so we've decided to get another whippet after all.  We are at the top of Laurel's list for a rescue dog and at the top of Jo's list for puppies later this fall when she breeds Fila.

May 11, 2002, Saturday:

Yesterday we all went to a friend's house and visited with this dog...

and this dog...

That's right, the second dog is not a whippet!  That's Beauregard, the Doberman, and the Whippet is Skeezix.  Val enjoyed visiting with them and she enjoyed getting pets from their owners, but she wanted to make sure we didn't go off and leave her there!

She's going up and down the stairs a little faster each day and getting more active.  She hasn't tried to get us to throw any bunnies or the frisbee, yet.  And good thing.  She still has a few more days before those 28 staples come out!

May 12, 2002, Sunday, Mother's Day:

I'm not technically a mother, but I have done a lot of mothering lately!

Last night, Val got to see Dan and Denise's folks.  They were glad to be able to see her and gave her lots of hugs, kisses and pets.

Val's staples have been bugging her.  We don't blame her!  She's been licking them a bit.  Rather than subject her to The Collar, I fixed her up with an old shirt of mine and a belt to cover up her belly and make it inaccessible.

Eric and I went off to a Shakespeare reading and when we got home, she had somehow taken the whole thing off!

It's band practice night, but Val can't run around yet.  Next week she should be able to chase the bunny again.

May 13, 2002, Monday:

We went to our obedience class today.  She did really well.  Next week is grad night.  I think she's doing better than most of the other teams in the class.  She will do really good on her final if she doesn't mess up her sit and down stays!  We'll have to practice those a lot this week.

We skipped the agility class because Val isn't allowed to run and jump until after she gets her staples out tomorrow.  We should be OK for the final class next week though.  Even though she's missed three of those classes, Laura says we should definitely come.

May 14, 2002, Tuesday:

We took Val to get her staples out.  The surgeon got a couple out with no problem, but her skin was a bit swollen around some of them, so he took her back to gas her, to make her groggy.  I came back and retrieved her after a couple of hours.  They gave us some ointment to put on twice a day and we're supposed to keep her from licking herself for a week.  I took her home, had lunch, then practiced our heeling on the patio.  Then I headed out to the thrift store to get a new shirt for Val.  The one she was using was getting a bit tattered.  I got a two cute ones, but one turned out to be too small.  I'll take pictures later tonight of the one that worked.

We're concerned about her belly being puffy still.  She's not as thin as she used to be.  The doctor said it's just because she's eating good and it's food that's in there.  She hasn't been getting much exercise either.  He felt her and said it's not another tumor.

The doctor said the type of cancer she has doesn't respond to chemotherapy or radiation treatment.  But then he said there is a lady in the north end who does radiation and chemo.  So we're going to give her a call just to get info.  We doubt that it is something we will try.  We don't think the success rate is very high and we don't want Val to feel bad for the last few months of her life.

May 15, 2002, Wednesday:

When I was applying the ointment to Val's tummy this morning, I discovered that the doctor missed a staple.  I guess this isn't too uncommon.   A coworker had the same thing happen to her.  Another coworker has a friend that it happened to.  And they aren't even dogs!  So I ran back up there to have the remaining staple removed.  The doctor said the skin on her tummy looked much better.  The swelling had gone down a lot.

I dropped Val off at home and tried to interest her in some Frisbee time before I went back to work, but she wasn't interested.  I put her towel out on the porch so she could sun herself.  Since her belly looked so good, I took her shirt off.  It keeps sliding back and I was concerned about her getting stuck and not being able to move her front arms without me there to pull it back up periodically.

She's eating treats good, but isn't interested in her food.  Which is just as well, I guess, since her belly is still rather large.

May 16, 2002, Thursday:

Val's belly was bigger this morning.  Eric called the surgical clinic and they recommended we take her to our regular vet.  They were sure it wasn't another tumor.  Could be bloat or some sort of post-surgical something or other.

I took a long lunch and took her in.  They did a couple of x-rays.  It was just fluid.  From the tumors.  So they drained her ($257).  Well, most of it anyway.  Now we have to wait to see how long it will take for her to "fill up" again.  The doctor said they can drain her a couple of times, but that's about it. 

It could have been worse.  If it her intestines had gotten tangled, they would have had to operate again.  The doctor said we would have had to make a decision right away.  This way we get maybe a couple of more weeks.

She's standing next to me and I'm petting her with one hand while I type one handed with the other.

May 17, 2002, Friday:

Val's belly didn't stay small very long.  We were really scared that her time is going to be up really soon.  Eric talked to the regular vet clinic.  They said the fluid buildup probably won't stop.  They said sometimes, when the dog gets filled up, then it will stop.  If we have her drained, she will just fill up again.  They said they look for three things when deciding if it is "time."  If the dog can be with its people, has mobility and is eating, then it isn't time yet.  Val is certainly with her people.  She can move around, albeit a little slower than usual.  Now, she isn't really eating normal, but she will eat people food.  I gave her a chopped up turkey wiener with some rice and egg that I had cooked up this morning.  I threw in a handful of dog food.  She ate all the wiener, most of the rice and none of the dog food.

When I cooked up the rice/egg thing this morning, I put some in a bowl and added a little cold water to cool it down.  Val sniffed at it, then moved a little away and sat down.  I scooped out some rice on a fork and she did eat that.  She ate a few more fork half-fuls - rice bits flying falling off onto the floor - then was done.  She doesn't usually eat in the morning, but she hadn't eaten any dog food the day before, so I was worried.  I gave her a spoon of peanut butter while the rice was cooking and she scarfed that up.  I use peanut butter to give her her pills.  She isn't taking any pills right now, but I gave her some peanut butter anyway because she likes it.

The surgeon said we will know when it is time.  She doesn't seem to be in pain, just a little uncomfortable.  When she goes out into the yard, she keeps squatting as though she's trying to pee.  We think the fluid is pushing on her bladder, or she knows something is in there that is supposed to come out.  (I know that feeling!) As long as she keeps eating people food, I guess she's ok.  We'll get some healthier food for her than wieners!  We figure that since we're not sure, then it isn't time yet.

I hope she's feeling up to going to her class on Monday night.  It's grad night and she always does so well and enjoys her classes.  We'll just do the obedience and I think we'll skip the agility class!  If we make it, I'll try to have someone there to video tape it.

May 18, 2002, Saturday:

After we went out to eat last night, we stopped by a grocery store and got some beef chuck steaks.  I cooked one up, chopped it up and put it in a bowl with some of her rice/egg stuff.  I put a handful of dog food in, too.  Once again, she ate all the meat, most of the rice and, as far as I can tell, none of the dog food.  I want to try to make sure she gets all the necessary nutrients, so I'm going to try her on some wetter dog food.  You know, canned.  We usually feed her Iams and they have canned.

May 19, 2002, Sunday:

She doesn't look very good today.  She isn't eating much.  She eats a few bites of steak and then that's it.  But then later, she eats a few more bites.  I realize that getting wetter dog food will be pointless.  I'm giving her as much "good" stuff as I can muster up and get down her.  (Magic, the 17 1/2 year old cat, is getting some of the meat, too.)  Last night I picked up some round tip steak.  

Val's getting pretty skinny except for her belly.  She's still alert and gets around fine.  She's spending a lot of time laying on the floor next to the baseboard heater.  We take turns petting her, massaging her and, in general, babying her.

I picked up a clay set and we made an impression of Val's foot.  They lady vet who helped us with Puder (another old cat) made one of her paw, so we thought we'd do one of Val.

Evening:  I took Val in to the vet to have her drained again ($144).  Her belly was getting pretty tight.  I weighed her when we got there and before we left.  She lost 1.8 pounds.  They said it was 3 times the amount that they drained last Thursday.  She seems more comfortable now.  Still, she only ate a few pieces of meat.

May 20, 2002, Monday:

With Val hardly eating anything, she is getting weaker and skinnier.  She ate four bites of beef this late afternoon when I got home (I came home from work a little early), then didn't want any more.  I gave her some sugar milk which she liked and drank all of.  I did get her to eat some peanut butter this morning and I think she ate one of the wiener pieces I left in a bowl on the floor in the kitchen sometime during the night.  (I don't think it was Magic (the cat) because I saw her eat the piece of cheese that was also in there.  If she had found the bowl last night, she would've eaten it then.)

When she gets up during the night and goes outside, comes back in, has a long drink of water, she comes upstairs and lays in the hallway at the top of the stairs.  So I coax her back into the bedroom where it is warmer.  This morning, I heard her go out right before my alarm clock told me to get up.  After my shower, I went looking for her.  She was laying in the downstairs hallway.  I went to get her some meat and she jumped up onto the chair in the dining room.  I covered her up and let her stay there.

Eric called this morning and found out that the vet who came to our house to euthenize our cat last year is on vacation until after Memorial Day weekend.  We don't want to wait that long.  She isn't eating.  She doesn't feel good.  So he called our vet clinic and the surgeon clinic and got a list of names.  He lined someone up for 12:30 p.m. Thursday.  Now we just have to try to keep her comfortable until then.

Oh, yeah.  I'm not going to try to take her to class tonight.  She's too weak and isn't interested in food much anyway.  A dog who's treat trained and isn't feeling well isn't going to work very well.  I'm content to know that she did really well last week and if she wasn't sick, she would have done really well on her final test.

May 21, 2002, Tuesday:

Morning:  Ok, so the milk wasn't a good idea.  Val threw up the milk, chicken and cat food I had been feeding her (a few bites each).  She was nice enough to go outside to do it.  I go out with her when I'm here and awake.  She pees, then wanders around the yard:  she takes a few steps, then just stands there.  Sometimes she looks like she might be trying to do a "poo squat."  Then she walks to another spot and stands there.  Then finally, she'll do another "pee squat" and then maybe she's ready to come in.

There have been a lot of ups and downs this last week.  Whenever she eats anything I think she's feeling better.  But then she only eats a few bites and that's it.  She didn't want any cheese yesterday.  That's her favorite.  I keep trying different things to find out what she'll eat now.  Normally, she isn't allowed to have cat food, but I tried it last night and she ate some!  I left some out by her food bowl (which hasn't been touched in a week) and I think she ate a little this morning before I got up (or it may have been the cat).  My goal is to keep her mobile until Thursday.  She can still go up and down the stairs, in and out of her doggy door, up and down on/off the couch, and I want it to stay that way.  I have to get her to eat enough to try to keep some energy in her.

It's easier now that we have a date for her end.  Of course, we would much rather have the old Val back (or the young Val), but we don't like seeing her like this either.  And of course, there is no cure.  We know there is nothing we can do to make her better, just to make her as comfortable as possible.

Evening:  Val's date has been moved up.  It was a schedule change to accommodate the doctor's schedule.  It's now going to be Wednesday at 6:00 p.m.  That works out for us, too.  It gives Eric more time to get home from work.  And it will put Val at ease sooner.

Val's getting more obviously unsteady.  She ate a few small pieces of chicken, but that's all.  She turned her nose away at peanut butter, mozzarella cheese, cheddar cheese and cat food.  She licked a broccoli flower then turned her nose away.

Her belly isn't as large as it was last weekend.  I was worried that since we were going one day longer than between the last two belly drains, she would be really full and tight.  She actually doesn't look too bad right now.  She is getting bigger but doesn't seem to be getting bigger as fast as before.  That's one less discomfort for the poor baby.  

She just stumbled off the couch and went outside.  I followed her, grabbing my coat on the way.  As soon as I opened the back door, I saw it was pouring.  I ran back out the front to the van to get the umbrella that was stashed under the seat.  I caught up with Val, not too hard to do, in the yard.  She was staying close to the edge where she had some shelter from the bushes.  I'm glad to see she still has some sensibility!  I followed her around the yard holding the umbrella over her as best I could.  She didn't stay out as long as she usually does.  We're back inside now.  I dried her off and she is now laying on the floor covered up with a blanket.

E-mail Announcement - 5/21/02

May 22, 2002, Wednesday:

Early afternoon:  When we got up, Val was on the floor in the guest room laying on a sheet and mattress pad that was on the floor (the room is in transition right now).  I figured she had gone outside and was too tired to go up the stairs.  I brought her bed down and put it in the living room next to the computer desk where she has been laying a lot.  I turned the heat on in the living room for her.  Then I picked her up and carried her in and put her in her bed.  You can tell she's tired by how heavily she plops down.

Val ate a little bit of peanut butter this morning.  She sniffed and licked lightly at the spoon, then turned her head away.  I thought maybe it was too much work for her, so I pinched a bit off with my fingers.  She liked that.  I went back twice to reload the spoon.  The spoon wasn't full any of the times; in total, she ate maybe 3/4 of a teaspoon.  Not much.

Before I left for work, I brought her comforter in from the van and set it up in the bedroom where her bed was just in case she decided to go back up there.  That's where she usually stays when we aren't home.  I then put a couple of blankets on the floor in the guest room in case she ended up in there.

When I came home from work early she was on the floor in the living room in front of the heater.  She was laying Phoenix style but with her head down.  She didn't raise her head, but her tail twitched as I drew near.  She was happy to see me!  Of course, she always is.  I covered her up with a blanket.

I offered her some peanut butter since that worked this morning.  She didn't want any.  She eagerly lapped down some water, though.  I offered her a bit of cheddar cheese.  She didn't want that either.  So I warmed up some chicken bits, some beef bits and a wiener slice.  She ate a couple of the chicken bits.  She didn't want anything else.  I offered her some more water and she drank some more.

It's hard to see her like this.  She'll be at peace soon.

Evening:  It is finished.  

Around 4:30 p.m. she made her last trip to the back yard.  It was just starting to rain, so I took the umbrella out and held it over her one more time.  Eric came home soon after.  Around 5, I offered her some more chicken.  She ate it.  So I cut up some more.  She ate that.  I cut up the remaining bit and she ate all of it!  Of course, we realized she would probably throw it up later in the night like she did the last two nights if she would have had the chance.  So her last meal was chicken.

Surrounded by her toys

I avoided taking any pictures of her skinny body and bloated belly.  Those images are burned in my mind and I'd rather other people remember her the way she was - strong, muscular and slim.

The vet lady was a little late and had to call twice for further directions, but she made it to our house.  Val raised her head and wagged her tail at her.  We talked a bit and petted Val a lot.  Sometime between 7 and 7:15 p.m. Val took her last breath with all three of us petting her and me saying gently in her ear, "It's ok" and "Good girl."

We buried her in the back yard with under the plum tree.  She's on the other side of the tree from Puder, the cat, who died last summer.

It wasn't as traumatic as I thought it would be.  It's a relief to not see her walking slowly, all skinny.  It definitely was better to have her back for a little while.  Even though the three months turned into three weeks.  Even though much of the three weeks was spent worrying about and nursing her.  We had three weeks to get used to the fact that she was leaving.  If she had gone suddenly, if she hadn't survived the surgery...I don't know.  That would have been really hard.  Not that it isn't hard anyway.  And we sure miss her.  We miss our baby.

Happy thoughts and wishes for Val from her many friends

Val's Home