The sad part of this post is that for a while, Tony and I thought we were going to lose Rudy to melanoma. The happiest part of this post is that it looks like he's now cancer-free and should remain so. Woot!
It all started four Saturdays ago when we noticed drops of blood around the apartment. Rudy had a painful-looking sore on his gum in the lower-right quadrant of his mouth. We made an appointment for him and Missy with our fantastic veterinarian, Dr. Sane. We took Missy to the vet too because she seemed to have a fungal infection on her ears; they looked powdery white, and she was scratching them.
Dr. Sane diagnosed ringworm on the outside of Missy's ears and a yeast infection inside. He gave us two medicines to rub on the outside of and flush inside her ears. He said ringworm is terribly contagious, but Tony and I (who are nomally prone to skin issues) and Rudy have managed to avoid getting it.
The doctor needed to keep Rudy for a few hours. He didn't think the sore was anything to worry about, but he was going to biopsy it just in case before cauterizing it.
Rudy was superhappy to see me when I picked him up. We gave him pain pills with his dogfood, which we started moistening with water to make it easier for him to chew.
And then I pretty much put the sore out of my mind until two Tuesdays later, when another doctor at GVAH called to break the bad news: The biopsy indicated that the sore was a melanoma. She said it hadn't appeared to be melanoma because it was colorless. She said they would do another test to confirm the diagnosis. She was reluctant to say what Rudy's prognosis was if it was indeed melanoma, but I pushed her to tell me. She said it wasn't good because, as with humans, melanomas in dogs tend to spread to other parts of the body and to recur.
The timing of the call was great because I had to leave immediately for an appointment with my therapist. So I was able to cry my eyes out in my therapist's office instead of at my office. I waited until I got home to tell Tony the news, in person. He was, of course, as devastated as I was.
On Saturday morning, I called to see whether the second test had come back. The same doctor I'd spoken with before (she's one of the new doctors in the practice, and I can't remember her name) said she wasn't sure how early she should call on a Saturday so she was glad I had called. Rudy definitely had melanoma, and the next step was to see an oncologist at BluePearl.
Neither of the two oncologists on staff at this specialty and emergency veterinary hospital has Sunday hours, so I made an appointment for Monday. And I made arrangements for our usual doggy driver, Alice, to take Tony, me, and the boy to BluePearl's office, which isn't far from Columbus Circle.
Before we got the confirmation from GVAH, we were hoping that the first test result had been a mistake. Now, we were hoping the melanoma wouldn't have spread and would be treatable.
Dr. Lachowicz was great. He said that if canine melanomas spread, they almost always go to the lungs or lymph nodes. If both of those areas were clear, Rudy would have a good chance of living a normal lifespan and, well, dying of something else. And there's now a melanoma vaccine for dogs that preps their immune system to immediately destroy new melanoma cells should they return.
He said Rudy would need surgery to remove every last trace of the cancer and some healthy tissue beyond it to give him a margin of safety. (Because Dr. Sane didn't think it was a melanoma, because it didn't look like it usually does, he had cauterized the sore instead of cutting it out in its entirety.) The doctor kept Rudy for a while so he could do a chest X-ray and aspirate Rudy's lymph nodes to look for signs of cancer. His lymph nodes felt OK, so that was a positive sign. Tony's busiest workday is Monday, so he went to his office, and I went home to await word.
A couple hours later, the doctor called to say that Rudy's X-ray looked clear. He would have the results regarding the lymph nodes in a couple of days. I texted the good news to Tony and took the subway to pick up our brave little woofer.
On Thursday, Dr. Sane performed laser surgery on our basset boy's mouth. He cried that night worse than I've ever heard him cry before. (Like Cody before him, Rudy is usually very stoic. He didn't flinch when the veterinary assistant at BluePearl put a rectal thermomenter in his butt.) His mouth must have been hurting like hell. We gave him more pain pills with his food.
I can't be more grateful that it looks like Rudy is going to emerge from this terribly scary illness relatively unscathed. Tony has rightly called Rudy "irreplaceable." There's no sweeter dog than our hound. He's always happy to meet new dogs and people. He wags his tail almost constantly. He's an absolute joy to be around. We weren't ready to see him go. Not that we'll ever truly be, of course. But it definitely seemed too soon.
Dr. Sane really likes our new girl. He cutely referred to the feathering on Missy's back legs as her "pantaloons." Hee hee.
Last Sunday, the Gerbers and I took Rudy and his cousin, Molly, to hang out with a pack of bassets at the 2nd Annual Basset Hound Meetup in my old neighborhood, Park Slope.
Rudy and Mollzy Girl rode in the very back of the Gerbers' SUV.
Rudy seemed to recognize his old stomping grounds. And I do mean STOMPING. The boy's got huge feet. :-) Tracey parked on 2nd Street. David and Molly led the way toward Prospect Park West.
The initial meeting place was the gazebo facing Grand Army Plaza. As we approached GAP, we could hear bassets barking and howling. The excitement was building.
Rudy's tail wagged a mile a minute. He was the biggest dog there, though one named Buckley was close in size.
Here he is approaching Porterhouse, who had the coolest name.
And here's another Rudy, who I remember meeting when we lived there. (UPDATE on Oct. 27: Here's a post on QNY where I describe the Rudy-Rudy encounter before the Brooklyn Pride Parade. And here's a post on Hawleyblog with a quick mention of it.) This Rudy was very vocal, and so was a basset named Ollie.
After a little while, we all headed into the park.
In this shot, taken by David, Molly is in the foreground and the Rudester is toward the back on the left.
And here's Matt, me, and Mike with our two hounds.
You can see Matt, Mike, me, Molly, and Rudy in the scrolling shot of all of the bassets in a row at about 1 minute into this video. And you can see me with Rudy, David taking photos, and a glimpse of Tracey about 35 seconds in. And here's the F'ed in Park Slope writeup, which also has that video and a link to a DNAinfo story.
On the ride home, Rudy rested his head on the ramp. He was exhausted from all of the excitement.
Back at our place, Missy and Molly hit it off right away.
For lunch, we served (leftover) cauliflower purée that I'd seasoned with turmeric and nutmeg and topped with more dashes of those spices ...
... and the last frozen container of my Chicken Corn Chowder, with Mary's Gone Crackers crackers.
The medicine I put on the outside of Missy's ears glued up girlfriend's hair something awful. She got some pretty bad knots at the base of her ears, some of which I've cut out because I didn't think I'd be able to undo them without causing her much pain. There are still a few left that I'm going to have to wait on snipping until her fur grows out a bit more.