Monday, June 25, 2012

In Loving Memory of Hudson James Mendralla

You were my world, Jimmy James.  We'll miss you forever and you will never be forgotten.

Hudson James Mendralla
June 2004 to June 2012

Huddy Buddy
Budda Boo Bear
Hoober Boober
Prince Habiboo
Bouncing Baby Boobers
Bare Butt Bouncer
Jimmy James
Jimmy Shimmy
Shimmy Jamepoo
Shampoo James
Shimpy James
Big Velvet

Theirs not to reason why, Theirs but to do and die

 On Saturday, June 23rd, Tony and I said goodbye to our beloved Hudson.   Hudson came into our lives in December 2006.  He was our very first big dog and taught us all about the true meaning of “gentle giants.  He was a patient brother to his bossy little sister, Lexi, and a protective tough guy for his timid brother, Porter.  He was a goofy boy who loved to play, even if it wasn’t playtime.  One of his favorite fall past times was tearing open the bags of leaves that we had just raked and making nests of the leaves.  He loved the water and spent each summer lounging in his wading pool at home.  One of his favorite places was the dog pool at City Bark Parker.

Hudson was a people lover and never met anyone he didn’t like, but he was a mama’s boy through and through.  Wherever I went, he had to go too.  We had a special bond that can’t be put into words.

In May 2011, Hudson started limping.  After lots of misdiagnoses, it was determined that he had Osteosarcoma.  He underwent an amputation surgery three days later.  Four hours after his amputation, he got up and was walking.  Some big dogs struggle for a week or more to learn how to walk without one of their legs.  I remember the vet tech calling me in tears to update me on how well he was doing hopping around the lobby.  Three weeks after surgery, Hudson began IV chemotherapy treatments.  He was a trooper through everything, and a sweetheart to all his doctors and techs.  Our oncologist confided to me that his appointments were automatically scheduled to last 20 minutes more than any other dogs because the staff all wanted time to see him.  Before chemo, he would be paraded through the back rooms of the hospital visiting all the techs and specialists, even if they didn’t work with him.

Chemo fought back the cancer and while he did get metastases in his lungs, he was considered in partial remission since they were not growing.  Hudson was happy, healthy (aside from the cancer) and enjoying attending BDHP events as a Great Dane ambassador.  Sadly, in May, we began to notice lumps under his skin.  When biopsies were performed, they were found to be osteosarcoma.  Only 10% of osteosarcoma cases metastasize in the skin, once they do, they begin to attack the liver hard and fast.  Our vet hypothesized that he had 2-3 months of quality life left.

Soon thereafter, we began to notice a decline.  He was still feeling fairly good, but he was sleeping a great deal more and tired easily.  On Wednesday night, the 20th of June, he began limping on his front paws and we knew we were in trouble.  We took him to his oncologist on Thursday and were told that the cancer had moved to his front leg.  Amputation wasn’t an option.  Osteosarcoma is extremely painful and drugs only dull the pain, so we made the very difficult choice to let Hudson go.  He went home with us and was spoiled rotten the next few days.  His final dinner was a medium rare steak from Outback, with a Chocolate Pecan Brownie Sundae for dessert.

Hudson passed in our arms on Saturday evening, surrounded by his family at home.

Hudson was an inspiration.  He got us involved in rescue, which has become one of our greatest passions.  He has given hope to others fighting the cancer battle or facing an amputation. Three different vets offices have taken videos and pictures of him bouncing around on his three legs to show to families who are facing the decision to amputate.  Hudson and I have personally met with four families dealing with amputation and/or chemo to talk them through their doubts and offer hope for the future.  We will be forever grateful that we had the chance to love him and be his people for 5 ½ years.  He taught us what it was to be brave in the face of overwhelming odds, and how to battle them with grace and strength.  He will be forever missed and leaves a huge hole in our hearts.

I Knew What They'd Say Before They Said It

Hudson started limping on Wednesday night, June 20th.  As soon as I saw it, I knew we were in trouble.  There are those who will say "Look on the bright side, he may have just pulled a muscle."  Those people have not been living with him for the last two weeks.

Hudson has been tired.  He sleeps most of the day.  He still plays and has fun for short periods of time, but he tires quickly.  He is still eating, but he isn't finishing.  He won't even start without being tempted with a little something delicious being added to his bowl.  I knew he hadn't been active enough to strain anything.

He already had an oncology appointment for the next afternoon, so I gave him a little extra Tramadol until then.  Upon arrival, we weighed him and he had lost three pounds since our last visit.  I talked to our oncology tech and gave her all the details of what we were seeing at home, and pointed out that all his subcutaneous lesions seemed larger and that the mass in his mouth had grown over his teeth.  They were no longer visible.  I also requested that they x-ray his front left leg, which seemed to be the one he was favoring.

They took him back and Dr. Glawe began measuring the changes in his sub-cu tumors.  Before she even did the x-ray, she came out to talk to me and ask me "where my head was at."  I told her I knew what the x-rays were going to show and that we were prepared to deal with the outcome.  We had already selected a vet that could come to our house and allow Hudson to pass with his family around him.  We were prepared to let him go on Friday night, if necessary, but that I needed her direction in that aspect.  I didn't want to let him go too soon, but I didn't want him to suffer either.

Dr. Glawe shared that Hudson's blood count (both white and red cells) were in the normal range, precluding anemia and low white cell count as the reasons for his lethargy.  The mass in his mouth had grown from 0 to 4 cm in diameter in three weeks.  The subcutaneous nodules had both grown 20% larger as well.  Clearly, his cancer is progressing.  I confirmed that I wanted to have xrays done anyway, in spite of his obvious decline.

The x-rays showed a new bone lesion of the proximal humerous.  Approximately 50% of the cortical coverage remained in place, so a pathologic break was not imminent, but Hudson was in pain and there was nothing, aside from radiation, that could be done.  There was no guarantee that radiation would in any way extend his life, and it certainly wouldn't help him to feel better.  We made the hard decision to let him go in the next 24-48 hours.

I had Friday off of work and spent the vast majority of the day with Hudson.  We napped, we ate hamburgers and we played with his favorite toys.

I had to host a bridal shower on Saturday, so Tony got to spend a day with Hudson as well.  They cuddled and napped together, ate lots of treats and played with toys.  They lounged outside in the sun and laid in the grass together.

Dr. Magnusson was scheduled to come over at 8:00 PM, so we soaked up the time we had left with our boy.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Trying to Stop Your Leaving

Got a pebble, got a pebble in my hand
And I toss it out into the middle of the Rio Grande
But the river keeps running
Don't even know that I'm around
I can throw in a million more and not slow it down,
And that's kind of the way I'm feeling,
 Trying to Stop Your Leaving

There's nothing I wouldn't try
If I thought it would change your mind

Trains a'coming, Rivers running, Pains a'coming, Tears a'running...and that's kind of the way I'm feeling, knowing I couldn't stop your leaving

Monday, June 18, 2012

Please Understand....

I've begun counting the minutes left with my boy.  This means that every single time I have to leave him, I have to evaluate how much time I lose.

When I turn down your Happy Hour invite, please don't be upset.  It's nothing personal.  When I don't show up to the event you very generously chaired, please don't be insulted.  Hudson isn't really up to long visits anymore and I'm not going anywhere without him.  It's bad enough that I have to go to work everyday.  I don't want to regret wasting any more time with him that.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Hudson's oral tumor has already grown back and is approximately 1/2 the size it was before he removed it.

Clearly, his cancer is getting aggressive.  I spoke to his fill-in oncologist and Dr. Glawe agrees that surgery every 2 weeks to remove the tumor isn't feasible.  We are continuing to treat with oral chemo, but have added Tramadol to the mix to try to keep him comfortable.  The regrowth was a hard blow to take.

We've really been noticing that Hudson is slowing down in the last week.  He spends a great deal more time sleeping, he's eating less (but still eating!!) and his enthusiasm for seeing people is waning.  He's delighted to see people when they come to visit, but he tires quickly and goes to lay down.   I think a large part of this is that he is unwilling to expend the energy trying to get around Porter who is an attention hog, but it still breaks my heart.

He still likes to play, but his play sessions are getting shorter and his naps are getting longer.  We have another oncologist appointment on Thursday the 21st (one week away.)  I'm considering requesting a x-ray or ultrasound of his liver to see how much it is under attack, but I'm not sure that I want to know.

Hudson still looks good and he doesn't appear to be feeling bad yet.  It's not time just yet to say goodbye, but it's coming, and sooner than the 3 months I was hoping for....

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hudson : Oral Surgeon MD

Hudson did not have his surgery on Monday the 4th.  Why, you ask?  Because he chose to remove his tumors himself.

When we first adopted Hudson, he was reactive to thunderstorms.  He ate through the wood panel in his big ol' dog house.  After that, we started leaving him inside and the problem seemed to solve itself.  Until Saturday the 2nd....

Tony and I had gone to the Parisian Market at Aspen Grove with my mom.  Out of nowhere, a storm blew in.  We headed home, but not soon enough.  Apparently, when the thunder began (which we didn't even hear at Aspen Grove) Hudson panicked and decided that he needed into the master bedroom.  We had shut the door when we left, so he decided to eat his way through.
This picture was taken after the pieces of door were picked up and the blood scrubbed from the carpet.
When we got home, there were blood droplets all over the wood floor at the base of the stairs.  We assumed someone had sliced open a paw or something and checked everyone's feet for damage.  Nothing.  I began cleaning up the mess.  The blood trail continued up the carpeted stairs, so I followed it to evaluate the damage done to the carpet.  When I reached the top and turned the corner, the destroyed door greeted me.  Figuring that it was Hudson, based on his reaction four years ago, I checked his mouth.  His tumors were gone and blood was flowing sluggishly from the wound.  I called the ER vet to explain what had happened and they suggested I bring Hudson in, but our favorite vet tech, Megan, wouldn't be back for 20 minutes.  Since it wasn't a true emergency, I decided to get a headstart on cleaning up the mess before we left.  I grabbed a trash bag and began picking up all the splinters of wood.  On the fourth handful, I felt something squishy.  It was the largest of the tumors.  I then sorted through the debris to find the other.  I bagged them up and left Tony to finish removing the devastation.

Upon arriving at Animal Hospital Specialty Center, Megan came and met us at the door and walked us back.  I gave her the bag of tumors and she took Hudson back to have him assessed by the doctors on duty.  They all felt that surgery was no longer necessary, as Hudson had removed the growths down to the gumline.  He was already on amoxicillin and the bleeding had stopped.  They rinsed his wounds out to make sure there were no splinters embedded and sent us home.  (Free of charge.  They are wonderful people over there.)