Rock came into my life when he was just 9 weeks old. A stubborn little pup who stole my heart. I quickly learned he wasn't stubborn but just out thinking me. He became the most brilliant dog I have ever loved. He had a huge vocabulary and was all telling me this or that with all of his grumbles. He had bizarre habits like when he had to go potty he would lift his leg like he had an itch on his chest. Then if you still didn't get up right away he would glare at you and then bounce 3 times to get your attention. Growing up, he never took his eyes off of me and was always focused on me. Very quiet and the only time he barked was to alert me of something odd. As soon as I would look he would stop. He was always a healthy boy with a hearty appetite. When he got to 140 lbs I had to put him on a diet. He was fed Nutro chicken and oatmeal his whole life. In 2007 we started his diet. We switched to Nutro lean dog food for overweight dogs.
He lost 15 pounds by July and was looking great. Took him in for his checkup and he was pronounced one healthy dog. The only thing that worried me is he had bad hips and used to get little fatty growths. When he was 3 he had one on his cheek that got as big as a large marble, he used to play with it like it was his own personal ball so I had it removed. He got another one on his eye lid about 2 years later and it fell off within about a year. I noticed he got a hug one on right side of his ribs. It was as big as an orange but we biopsied it and it was also one of those fatty tumors and I was told not to worry about it. So I did not.
In October of 2007 I noticed he started coughing. I thought maybe he and my other pup had gotten a hold of one of their stuffed animals and he swallowed some fluff. I checked them all and they were fine. I then noticed he was not eating as much as usual and would stop mid stream and almost gag on his food. I would pat him on his back and he would eat some more. This went on for about a week and then I called the vet. Our vet checked him over very very well and said his heart seemed fine, his lungs were clear and he could not hear anything out of the normal. He thought maybe a form of a sore throat and sent us home with some antibiotics. We finished the antibiotics and no improvement. Rock now did not want to eat much at all. So I called again and the vet said for me to try some pepcid and see if that helps. We tried through the weekend and no improvement. We got his blood test back and everything came up normal except his thyroid. Our vet decided he had Hypothyroidism and it can manifest in many different ways so we were to start him on Thyrotabs. Still no improvement in several days so I called our vet again and told him. He said when can you bring him in. I said when can you see him. He said bring him now.
So off we went. We had X-rays done. About 45 minutes later my vet came out and looked very frazzled. He showed me the x-rays and there lie a huge mass in his upper chest cavity. He told me thankfully their oncologist was there and happened to see the x-rays and our vet was looking at them and told our vet he wanted a needle aspiration of it immediately. My vet came in 15 minutes later and told me he was doing ultrasounds on him. I never in my wildest dreams have thought what I was to be told would be a death sentence for my Rock.
15 minutes later, my vet came in and told me they also found 3 nodes on his spleen and the Mass in his chest had mastasized and lay near his esophagus and heart. The diagnoses. Malignant Histiocytosis. A rare cancer commonly found in Bernese Mountain dogs. My vet told me to call the Oncologist in the morning and make an appointment. So the next day I did. Rock now weighed 115 lbs. I went in and talked to the Oncologist and was told that this is a very aggressive cancer. With no treatment I was told 1 week to 2 months. It took everything I had not to drop to my knees and cry. I asked about treatment and was told that none of the chemo treatments available seem to work with this type of cancer but if we tried it would be a 50% chance and would maybe get some good quality time out of my Rock. I made the snap decision to do the chemo treatment. I figured 50% chance is better than nothing at all. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain.
So we started Rock on CCNU (Lomustine) The rescue chemo that is used when all else fails. I was given 2 pills 80 mg and rubber gloves, I was told to get them down his throat. We also started him immediately on 50 mg of Prednisone. I went home that night and gave Rock the chemo. I noticed after the second day Rock had a little more energy. He started to eat a little more. I looked for side effects and we only had side effects from the Prednisone, he seemed very very gassy, and peed in the house several times so we adjusted and took him out more. On day 7 we took Rock in for his blood tests, his white cells had dropped to 600 so we started him on Antibiotics. I started giving him liver and tried to keep him eating but he slowly started to turn away from his food so we started feeding anything he would eat. He got the poops really bad so we had to start giving him Immodium AD and he was allowed up to 4 per day. On day 10 his poop went to soup. I called the vet and he was given Metrondiazole. It seemed to help and by the next day it looked better. Rock was so gassy and I knew he felt miserable. He tossed and turned all night. I started keeping a journal of everything he ate during the day and it really helped a lot.
On Day 26 we took him back for his next check up and blood work. He weighed 109.6 lbs now. His ultrasound showed 50% remission and the 3 nodes on his spleen where now down to one. I was so very happy and felt like we won the lottery. Even the oncologist smiled. Rock had a bounce in his step again. I got his blood test back the next day and his white cells where elevated. I was told they were at 24000 which was good because we knew his white cells would drop when we gave him his next round of CCNU. Rock had a little water on his belly so we also reduced the Prednisone to 25mg per day. I was given 3 pills of CCNU this time only 60mg and my little rubber gloves. We went home and I gave them to Rock. Rock still wasn't eating much but we were just feeding him everything and constantly. Rock was playing again and being his cute little self. I was so happy and so was he. Day number 7 came around and the blood test came back. His white cells only dropped to 1400 which is in range so no antibiotics this time. We were still having problems with the poops so I tried to get him on a more regular diet. He would eat the same thing for 2 days and then all the sudden didn't want to touch it. We started giving him Milk Thistle at this point to protect his liver from the chemo. So in the morning he got 1 1/2 pepcid, 1 immodium 1 metrondiazole and 25mg of Prednisone. He didn't seem to want to eat in the mornings which made it hard for me to give him his Prednisone. I gave his pills with peanut butter. I then started him on the cancer diet and went and bought some Evo and cottage cheese and flaxseed oil. He ate the Evo for 3 days and wouldn't touch it. Kibble or canned. He ate cottage cheese and flax seed as a snack for about 3 days and then wouldn't go near it. We thought maybe it is nausea but we didn't see the common signs of drooling or throwing up. So I looked into Ginger or Dramamine. I got the go ahead for the Dramamine; it didn't seem to help any. So our vet gave us some Cerenia. It seemed to make his eating worse. So we started the junk food again. We had so many tricks to get him to eat anything. I would pretend to eat it and then offer him some and he would eat. I would hand feed him or feed him kibble by kibble. We would sit with him and spoon feed him. I even had my magic spoon since Rock was a food guarder. I would give him some food and he would just look at it, I would get the magic spoon out (a plastic cooking spoon) and tell him the spoon was going to eat it and then try to take his food away from him with it and he would eat it up really quick. There was no consistency with his diet at this point. He seemed to like cheap dog food and hotdogs. The cheaper the better. I bought Moist and Meaty and he would eat at least a bag of it for dinner. We would give him yogurt. We started him on Carafate but it didn't seem to do anything for him. I looked into Slippery Elm and then seemed to make him feel better. 26 days later we took him back to the oncologist and did ultra sounds. I was told that there is no change and at least we are holding the cancer at bay. So we went for round 3 of the CCNU. Another 60mg. The water in his belly had dissipated by now do to us lowering the Prednisone. We talked about Rock not wanting to eat and I was told to feed him anything just make him eat.. So off we went, gave him the next round of CCNU and 7 days later we went to get his blood tested again. Everything was in range. Nothing out to the normal. We did a full panel and he had no elevations in anything, Rock was a healthy dog according to the tests and blood work. I was so happy. I tried to keep Rock on more a stable diet with his Kibble. We spoon fed him his kibble with various things mixed into it. I found an Organic Yogurt he really liked and we mixed this with his food too. I also got him some Probiotics to help with his poo and it really did do wonders with it. Rock was no longer gassy.
I noticed Rock was becoming more lethargic and not wanting to eat at all. He was still drinking water but even going outside he didn't want to play and wanted to just lay down. Rocks next appointment was on the 21st of February. I noticed on the 20th when I went to give Rock his pills he was drooling a lot. I new this was not normal as he had the chemo over 15 days ago. I new in my heart something was desperately wrong. As I left to go to work, Rock threw up. I called the vet from work and was given some Metroclopromide for his Vomiting. He got 20mg 4 times a day now. The next day we took him to the oncologist. We did the ultrasound. We were told we weren't doing any blood test this time as the cancer had went on a rampage. It had more then doubled in size from when he was originally dx. He had nodes all over his spleen and now on his liver and his Lymph node in his mesentery and intestines. The cancer has figured out the Chemo.. We were offered to try the CCNU once a week to attack it another way. I didn't want to do this cause it seemed on the 9th day after the chemo pills he didn't feel well for 4 days. Or try Doxyrubin another form of chemo with only a 15% chance it would do anything. We were given 1 week to 1 month. I asked what I should look for and the oncologist told me that I did not want Rock to die on his own; it would be a horrible death. He would suffocate as the mass in his chest took over his esophagus and heart. He told me to look for labored breathing. We went home and I cried.
I told Rock we gave it a good fight and I understand if he was tired. I told him all the things I wanted to tell him. That was Thursday. By Monday he wasn't eating at all. Just a bite here and there. I stopped giving him his immodium and his metrondiazole and just gave him his Metroclopromide to keep him from vomiting. I came to the realization that the peanut butter I had been giving his pills in was now making him nauseous. I now make him little teeny Alpo balls and poked it in the side of him mouth and held it shut and rubbed his throat till he swallowed. He was such a good boy to eat them. Tuesday he didn't want to eat his pills and got so worked up he was breathing heavy and threw up everywhere. He was getting so weak but he had to have his throw up pills. I managed to get them down his throat. He was very quiet that night and was constantly drooling till about 10pm. The next day he needed some help going up the steps, he was getting so weak. I decided to see if he would eat his all time favorite, Reeses pieces. I brought out the bag and he was so happy. I gave him one and he ate it. I gave him another one and he ate it. I gave him one more and he took it in his mouth laid it down next to him and looked at me as if to say: "Mom, please help me!". This was his way of telling me he was tired. I laid down next to him and asked him if he wanted to see the angels, he took his paw and put it on my arm and laid his head on top of it.
I made the call the next day with the appointment on Friday the 29th of February. The only thing Rock ate for the next couple days were his Alpo balls with his barf pills.
He walked in to the vet's office with all of his dignity and laid down on the blanket I brought for him. I held his paw and kissed him between his eyes which I have done for 8 years. He went peacefully. I miss Rock with all my heart. He was my best friend, companion and confidant. Rock was my soul mate.
I hope this helps anyone whose pup may get this horrid cancer. I have learned it is not the same in any dog. My Rock was never in pain just hungry and uncomfortable. Little did I know that something as simple as a cough and no appetite would turn into a nightmare.
I love you Rock, my Rocketscientist, my Rockopotamus my sweet Rockey Dockey. You are one of a kind and have given me so much. You will always be here in my heart. I miss you immensely and am so lost without you.
Rock's Mom Cindy