Thursday, July 10, 2008

Olivia’s Bass

This is Bass and his little girl, Olivia Brown. Like many little girls, Olivia absolutely adores her dog. Bass is 13 and Olivia only 5, so she has never known life without him.

But Bass has cancer. Specifically, Bass has lymphoma. Stage 4. And that makes Bass a very sick dog. So, a while ago, Bass started chemo. His vet, Dr. Suzanne Caruso-Brown, is also his "mom." That makes her Olivia's mom too. And that puts Suzanne in a very difficult position. "It's hard to be the mother and the doctor, let me tell you ... how do you tell your husband and your daughter that your family dog has lymphoma? My medical mind and my maternal heart are in battle."

But, after discussing Bass' options with one another, Suzanne and her husband Michael decided that chemo was the choice for Bass, for now, as long as they see positive results. It's been a difficult struggle, as you can imagine. One day things look pretty good. The next day, not so much. Sometimes Bass eats, sometimes he doesn't. Instead, he expresses his disdain for his food-of-the-day by burying it under any piece of laundry that's handy. Indeed, despite his disease, Bass still has a sense of humor. So, Bass now gets pretty much what he wants to eat. Grilled chicken? You bet. Arby's roast beef (without the bun, of course) -- why not? Suzanne says they're now cooking for Bass, and he's on a 95% meat diet. Olivia calls it "canned spaghetti and cheese meatballs." It's really his food with his pills hidden in cheese. And who hasn't done that trick before!

Suzanne and Olivia heard about 2dogs2000miles from Malea, the Director of 2dogs, whose own dog Max was himself a cancer patient of Suzanne's some years ago. Reading the 2dogs web site is where Olivia learned the expression "puppy up!" One night Bass got growly while Suzanne was unhooking his fluid line. But Olivia was right there with a "puppy up!" for him. Everyone should have a best friend they can tell "puppy up" to.

For the most part, Bass seems in good spirits. Like Suzanne says, he has his growly days, but that's to be expected. In her updates, Suzanne writes about the different drugs they're trying, and the tremendous progress that's been made in anti-nausea drugs and powerful drugs for pain. Bass is still eating his 'spaghetti and cheese meatballs' and gets his Arby's too. Bass, you really need to demand a nice thick steak!

And now Bass sports a very special collar too, one given to Suzanne by Malea, and tucked away long ago, hoping it would never be needed. It was Max's collar, made for him when he was struggling with cancer. Suzanne writes, it's a "very special black collar with healing stones that belonged to a very special cancer fighter named Max. The stones are a light pink [quartz] and hand sewn on with the greatest detail. He will wear the collar until the end of his fight." It now has a St. Francis medallion attached to it as well. So Bass is both well loved and well attired.

When Bass was first to start treatments, Suzanne had decided he would have to be hospitalized for at least 48 hours after his chemo, for his own comfort and because of safety issues -- to keep Olivia from being exposed to the drugs he's being given. The morning he was to leave for his first treatment, Suzanne had placed Bass' bed in the front hall with her purse, his chart, and her lunch, before leaving for work. "Olivia cried about me wanting to take his bed to the hospital ... in a way she was almost acting like if his bed was here then he would have to come home. She took his bed and placed it on top of ours, then laid on it. She then offered up her blue star blanket instead, making me promise that I would wash it when he was done using it."

The first time Bass came home after his chemo, Olivia made Bass a wonderful Welcome Home sign. And just the other day, Suzanne writes, "Olivia and her sitter made cupcakes and she found a candle to put in one of the cupcakes." (Suzanne notes that this was all Olivia's idea.) "When I got home with Bass she asked us to light the candle and we made a circle on the kitchen floor. Mike and Olivia held the cupcake in the center of the circle. We all joined hands as best we could, with Olivia and I holding opposite sides of Bass' rose quartz collar. Michael led us in a prayer -- (remember, Olivia's idea) -- thanking God for bring Bass to our family and asking if it is His will to make Bass better to guide us with the knowledge to help make that happen. Olivia blew out the candle and Bass got to eat the cupcake!"

As for Bass' name -- Suzanne writes, "My husband is with the Tulsa Police Department. When we first moved to Oklahoma from Boston, so that I could attend veterinary school, he was studying Oklahoma Law Enforcement History. The first black United States Marshal was from Muskogee, Oklahoma and his name was Bass Reeves. It just seemed to be a good, strong, brave name."

And so Bass is!

Olivia and Bass, Suzanne and Michael -- you are the true spirit and heart of 'puppy up!'

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