Murphy was about 8 months old when we adopted him. We had been looking around Petfinder for a little bit to find a companion for Cassie who was turning 2 years old and had lost her first friend, Taz, a year earlier. We had to drive 2 1/2 hours to meet Murphy (who was named Trevor by the rescue group), and we arrived at the store with minutes to spare before closing. Cassie & Murphy ran to each other as if they were long-lost best friends and we knew immediately that we would be taking him home with us!
In October of 2012 Murphy started limping on his right front leg. At first I didn’t pay much attention to it, thinking that he probably just did something running out of the door. After a couple of weeks, I took him to our vet to be checked out. Our vet was unable to pin-point exactly where the pain was, so he ordered x-rays at a radiology center and put him on a pain medication and anti-inflammatory. The medication seemed to help and Murphy was able to walk fairly well, which might have influenced the radiology center. They did a quick set of x-rays, but didn’t medicate him to get a clear picture. They told me everything looked good.
By Thanksgiving, Murphy had completed his medications and was limping again. The pain seemed worse than before and I took him back to the vet with a CD of his x-rays. He thought that maybe he could see something near the elbow, but the picture was a little blurry so he wasn’t sure. He renewed the pain & anti-inflammatory medications and said that if those didn’t work, he would send us to an orthopedic specialist.
In January, Murphy finished his medications again, and again started limping. He refused to eat or drink and when we could get him outside he would yelp. I was convinced that he must have a fracture that was missed on the x-rays. I called and asked for the referral. It took a couple of weeks to get in, but in February we finally made the hour and a half drive to Michigan State University. Murphy was so good and allowed the orthopedic fellow to completely manipulate his leg. He also walked down the hallway for him before going for his x-rays.
Most of you know the feeling I felt when he reviewed the x-rays with me – the floor just fell out from underneath me. Cancer? What? That wasn’t even on my radar! I’m a nurse! How did I not think of that? There was a small chance it could be a fungal or bacterial infection, so they did an x-ray guided biopsy that day. It took a few weeks, but the results were inconclusive.
In March we did more x-rays. I could see that the tumor had grown and it was eating away at the bone. It was just a matter of time before the bone would break. The doctor was surprised that Murphy was able to walk on it at all, even with medication. We decided to go ahead with amputation.
April 4, 2013 Murphy became a Tripawd. He came home the next day. The next couple of weeks were pretty rough. Thankfully, I had this place! Murphy’s final diagnosis was histiocytic sarcoma. A very aggressive cancer usually found in the organs. With chemo, 50% of dogs live a year. We might get lucky and get 12-18 months. His oncologist had done some research on histiocytic sarcoma, so that helped.
Murphy had 6 doses of CCNU, which is an oral chemo. He had to take Denamarin every day to protect his liver. And he had lab work done on the day of his chemo, plus a week later at our regular vet. He tolerated the chemo very well. During the treatment, his oncologist took a position out of state….what? Now what? Well, they would just keep on treating him. OK, just breathe. Another oncologist started covering, just one day a week. Turns out that she grew up near here and used to work with my regular vet!
So after chemo ended, Murphy had a set of x-rays and Dr. Swanson found a tumor on his left shoulder blade. I thought, well, that’s it, it spread, but we declined any further chemo, because there was no sense in putting him through any more. A couple months later x-rays showed that his lungs were still clear and the tumor unchanged. A few months later, the same thing; and so on, and so on.
And here we are …. 3 years after surgery and still hopping strong! Murphy’s lungs are still clear, that lump/tumor is still there. Murphy can still jump on the bed, chase squirrels, bark, eats everything, and is still the same, sassy, stubborn boy!
Murphy & Cassie 2006