I feel like the title to this post sounds like it would make a really great title for a children’s book. Although teaching kids about narcotic administration would probably be frowned upon. Anyhoo….
Back to Hank and another humorous moment in our journey……
The day after Hank’s second radiation session at CSU, he seemed a little mopey and wouldn’t eat….and I about became unhinged. Again, exit common sense vet brain that would tell me that it was because he had been schlepped for over an hour in the car, anesthetized for several hours, recovered, schlepped home another hour only to repeat the same thing for second day (also while we were in the middle of moving to a new house and at night he was being moved between our old house and my mothers house), and enter my emotional owner with a dog with a terminal illness brain that told me it was because the radiation hadn’t worked and he was in awful pain….. despite the fact that I had him on the highest doses of practically even pain medicine I could give him (tramadol carprofen, gabapentin, amantadine) and he was getting massage and acupuncture at home. But no….I thought he was in pain and dying and this was it. Just typing this I want to smack myself. Of course he was mopey- he was obviously exhausted, and clearly so was I to have come up with this ridiculous hypothesis.
So, as you can imagine, when I went to work that weekend (the day after coming back from CSU), I was grasping at other pain relief methods that I could find to help keep him comfortable for what I had convinced myself would maybe be another week because he wasn’t himself and this meant his pain was just so, so bad. Then, after digging through our pharmacy at work at 3 am one morning a day or two later, I found my light-in-shining-DEA-packaging. Fentanyl patches!!! Yes!! This was it!! Who wouldn’t want to be given a constant infusion of Fentanyl (an opiate narcotic that is 10 times more potent than morphine) when in pain? It sounded awesome to me, so I was going to try them on Hank. Since he wasn’t eating well and I was struggling to get him to take all his oral pain meds, this seemed like an easy fix: pain relief without having to hide pills in random things to get him to eat them. So I grabbed him from his kennel (he of course comes to work with me most nights now, although recently Adam told me I had to “share” and I can only take him every other night), shaved a credit card sized piece of hair from the side of his thorax and slapped on the patch……good job Dr. P- you’re a genius! I was very proud of myself.
And then started the 48 hours from hell.
When we got home in the morning to our new house, (which was a disaster of boxes and furniture and shit I didn’ t even know I owned) it was the first time Hank had been there and our first morning trying to sleep in a new bedroom/house. Which for someone who works nights, this is stressful in itself because in order to sleep well during the day (and hence not be a stark raving mad beotch from sleep deprivation), your bedroom needs to be comparable to the best hotel room you have ever slept in- dark, cool, comfortable, quiet and relaxing. Our bedroom that morning was the complete opposite- boxes in every corner, bright as hell thanks to a stupid 2 x 2 foot window near the top of the vaulted ceilings that didn’t have blinds, and therefore, it was hot. Very hot. By that time, the Fentanyl patch had been on Hank for about 5 hours and I could see a certain glaze to his eyes that told he me was….well….high. I tried to feed him breakfast, but he wouldn’t eat, so I got him upstairs and into his bed. He fell asleep for exactly 10 minutes- enough time for me to get ready for bed and all snuggled in, and then…..the whining began. I told you about Hank’s ability to produce the most high-pitched, non-stop, slowly-letting-air-out-of-a-balloon kind of noise that makes you want to scratch your ears off your head and shove socks down what is left of your ear canals right?? Well, that’s what ensued. I, of course, then tried everything that morning to get him to shut the hell up- laid with him on his bed, rubbed him, tried to get him to eat, took him outside, moved his bed to different spot(s), let him get in bed with me (don’t tell Adam) and it wouldn’t stop. It just wouldn’t stop. By this time, it was 2 pm that day, I hadn’t slept and I was about to completely lose it because I was pretty sure this meant he was still in horrific pain, and that the Fentanyl was not working….and if that was the case, well then, I may as well just give up.
We went on like this for another 24 hours….and it was terrible. The kind of terrible that results when your Roomba vacuum runs over fresh dog poop in the middle of the night and smears it all over your house (for those of you who don’t know the story I am referring to, make sure you empty your bladder and please read this: Roomba Pooptastrophe). I would literally leave the house and I could still hear him whining. Yep, more than 24 hours passed before out of the blue, in a desperate state of sleep deprivation/emotional exhaustion, it occurred to me that next morning at 6 am while I was sitting with Hank on his bed about to smother him with a pillow (because had had me up all night…whining….AGAIN. OMG, I can still hear it) that he had been on Fentanyl after his amputation. And he didn’t do so hot. In fact, he was a BIG ‘ol mess, remember? Well, the thing about using opiate narcotics in dogs is that in most cases, they work great for pain and don’t cause many side effects. However, there are some dogs that will become dysphoric with narcotics, meaning that instead of feeling loopy and weird and just enjoying it like they should, they get disoriented, irritable and anxious because they do not like the way they feel- i.e Hank after his amputation.
The thought slowly crept into my mind over the next few minutes as I sat there that this past two plus days of absolutely no sleep, constant worrying about Hank’s level of untreatable pain/complete lack of appetite and seizure-inducing whine torture was all my fault. Well i’ll be….he wasn’t painful- he was dysphoric! Once this realization hit, in a moment of complete panic and giddy relief, I reached down and ripped that Fentanyl patch off Hank so fast that I not only startled him, but I didn’t have time to remember that that stupid patch was held on by a very strong adhesive that took about a 2 cm square surface of his skin with it. And you would have thought I had just amputated Hank’s leg all over again because the facial expression he gave me after this happened would be the dog version of “What the fuck?!” (I know this because I get this look from dogs/cats on a daily basis….although I am pretty sure cats have this look on all the time). He promptly got up, stumbled over me and whimpered his way down stairs (as if to make me feel extra guilty) while I sat there holding this dumb patch in my hand that was now adorned with skin and blood. Stupid devil patch.
Thankfully, over the next 24 hours, Hank slowly came down from his bad Fentanyl high, started eating again, got back on his regular pain meds, stopped whining (thank all that is considered good and holy) and returned to his wiggly, happy, hopping, crotch-punching self that I hoped would still be around for a little while. So we are now spending our days exploring our new neighborhood while Hank chases prairie dogs, hunts/catches/eats bugs and flies (yes, my DOG does this), swimming, spooning and I take him to McDonald’s at least twice per week for an ice cream cone. And so far, aside from an occasional limp, you would have no clue anything was wrong; you wouldn’t have a clue that there was a new tumor, you would think his time was ample and his pain was non-existent…… and this is the fantasy world in which I choose to live for now. And its awesome 🙂
P.S. Remember when I referred to Hank’s glorious tongue-smacking-my-face-and-I-love it running style these days in my recent Three-Legged Dog Days of Summer post? I finally got a video…..