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Mister Rusty Bucket

The Hoppy Adventures of Our Tripawd Brittany

To Lucy, with Love

The one and only, Miss Lucy

Today has been one year since we lost Lucy and for those of you who have survived such a loss you know that the time goes so quickly and yet stands still. Lucy was my first dog as a grown  up, the first dog that was all mine. She was a true and perfect friend and I miss her every minute.

I met Lucy when she was two days old. My boss found a pregnant dog tied to tree in Nashville and took her in and let her have puppies on her antique yellow sofa. I got to see the eight puppies almost every day and watched as their tiny eyes opened and they began to move around. I loved playing with them but was not considering adopting a puppy. One day I came in to work and heard this pitiful, mournful crying. My boss had taken the puppies outside town that weekend with a “free puppies” sign and every pup had been taken…except one little black girl. I couldn’t stand to hear her crying so I asked if I could just take her home just for the night so she wouldn’t be so lonely. I didn’t have a kennel so I brought her home in a plastic mail bin. Well, one night turned into 14 and 3/4 years and it was the best decision I ever made.

Lucy and I checking off a bucket list visit to the Walker Art Center

Lucy was my best friend, my confidant, my protector and we did everything together. Lucy was wicked smart and could learn new words quickly. She was incredibly agile and loved to go hiking. We went all over, the two of us, and I always felt safe with her by my side. Three years later, with Lucy’s consent, we adopted Rusty after he had been hit by a car and she helped me nurse him back to health and the two of them became thick as thieves. Lucy was always the leader and Rusty was happy to follow his big sister anywhere.  Lucy was definitely the brave one in our trio. She was the one who would go investigate things that went bump in the night while Rusty and I cowered under the covers. She would lead the way on the trail and choose the safest path. One day Lucy and Rusty were out in the yard and I heard her start “alarm barking” so I ran to see what was happening. I couldn’t believe it, a giant turkey vulture had flown into the yard and had picked Rusty up off the ground. Lucy was hysterical and was jumping straight up into the air snapping at the bird. She was relentless and it finally dropped Rusty and flew off. I couldn’t believe it, Rusty was unscathed (although he didn’t want to go outside again for a couple weeks and has never gone out in the yard without me attached to his leash again – I doubt that damn bird can lift me).

Rusty and Lucy were opposites in just about every way. Lucy was a very dainty eater, she would take food so gently and lick an ice cream cone very carefully. Rusty, well, you better guard your fingers and ice cream disappears in about 3 big bites! Lucy loved to play with toys, especially squeaky toys and would trot around joyfully with her orange dinosaur, Norman. Rusty…he thought squeaky toys were the worst and would hide in another room and cry while I let Lucy play with Norman. Lucy hated to get wet, she thought rain was torture. Rusty loves water and canoeing and swimming and has a kiddie pool on the deck. Lucy liked to sleep near me, but not touching and if I bumped her at night she had to get off the bed in a huff. Rusty wants to lay right on me and barks at me to pick him up and snuggle. Lucy would bark at anyone who approached the house and would defend Rusty and I from any kind of danger. Rusty will run and hide when the doorbell rings and pray that no one finds him. But they were the best of friends and would play and run and roll and have a big time.

My two beautiful kiddos

Lucy was a pitbull and Australian Kelpie mix and I always thought she needed some sheep to herd, instead she got a fluffy white Rusty dog. The first time I told her to go out and get him in the yard her little face lit up! It was as if she had been waiting for that command her whole life and she took off like a shot and back she came with a bewildered Rusty who couldn’t understand why Lucy was shuttling him up the deck steps. She was so proud, I was so proud, Rusty was confused.

My view for many, many, many walks

We moved to Minnesota over two years ago in November and spent Christmas Eve at the emergency vet (as you do) when Lucy, it turned out, had vestibular. Then in February, she had an emergency splenectomy for what turned out to be hemangiosarcoma and we did IV and oral chemo, a liver lobectomy and homeopathic treatments. Rusty was such a good support system for her (and for me) and went with us to every appointment and waited with me in the waiting rooms and snuggled with her on the rides to the vet and took his “medicine” right along side Miss Lulee. Lucy was a wonderdog and even hemangio couldn’t keep her down.  The initial vet told us she probably wouldn’t survive the splenectomy but she did and she set records at our specialty vets for hemangio and lived for 18 months!

Rusty wearing his sympathy “chemo” bandage so they could get treats together.

It was devastating to lose her, heartbreaking, gut-wrenching, and just unimaginable. Rusty has really stepped up though and will watch out the window and has even barked at the mailman! I could never have guessed this time last year what this past year has held in store for me and Rusty. Rusty has done so well and has become so strong and is now the cutest little guy on three legs. We celebrated our Lucy today. We went and got her favorite ice cream and her favorite cupcake (she only liked the gluten free one) and went to the Nature Park where we spent countless hours on adventure walks. We busted out our best bottle of wine and said a toast to our best girl. We remember you today Lucy and are thankful that we were lucky enough to share our lives with you. You will never be forgotten.

With so much love,

Mom & Rusty

Here are some pictures…

Me and My Best Girl

Stealing a Kiss

Lucy with her favorite ice cream

Me and Rusty today at the ice cream shop (a huge thanks to my Mom who loved Lucy so much and helped me every day when Lucy was sick and did all of these adventures with us today I wouldn’t have made it without her)

Me and Rusty today with Lucy’s favorite gluten free cupcake – she was very particular about pastry!

Me with Lucy & Rusty at Quarry Hill for an adventure walk

Me and Rusty today at Quarry Hill in memory of Miss Lu

Miss Priss on her birthday – she loved to dress up and if I held her t-shirt up she would come over and stick her head through the neck to help put it on!

Lucy with her paw on her little brother “watching” him as they rode home from a chemo appointment.

Two Month Ampuversary!

Rusty rockin’ his new Tripawds bandana.

Today marks TWO MONTHS since Mister Rusty became a super tripawd and I could not be more proud of this little guy.  I can’t believe that two months and one week ago I was standing in a vet’s office looking at an x-ray of Rusty’s knee, hearing the words “cancer” and “amputation” for the first time and standing there desperately trying to process what was happening, trying not to start sobbing and trying to stop my body from shaking uncontrollably.  Then two months and 5 days ago I was staying up way too late reading online about cancer and amputations in medical journals when I decided to find out what real people had to say about these subjects and wonder of wonders I found and everything changed. As I read blog entries and forum posts I became less scared, more confident, more optimistic and most importantly less alone. Every day I am thankful for this community. I had battled hemangiosarcoma with my dog Lucy and the difference that having the support of this community and sharing in other people’s journeys after Rusty’s diagnosis has made all the difference in the world.

Give me the treat!

We are celebrating today! One thing that cancer has taught us is that milestones big and tiny are important and should be celebrated. Rusty’s Tripawds bandana arrived in time for this ampuversary and he looks pretty smart sporting his new blue kerchief.  Rusty Buckets has had a fun day: ride in the car, hop around the block, ice cream cone, lots of treats, PT with more treats, belly rubs, ear scratches, neck scratches, celebration muffin, bird stalking, yard sniffing, sun bathing, lots of napping – you know ALL the good stuff.

Enjoying some sunshine

Please give your buddies a hug or an Angel kiss for us today in honor of this little hopper!

Lots of Love, Amy & Mister Rusty Bucket

Showing off his new duds

PS. My sister gave me this mug, isn’t it the coolest?

Love this Mug!



Day 26 – Trials and Triumphs

May has turned out to be an unexpectedly busy month for our family filled with emotional highs and lows, fears and unexpected blessings, trials and triumphs. Rusty had his two week post-op visit and the surgeon said that his incision looked great and he was very happy with Rusty’s progress. Our only concern was that Rusty had been starting to knuckle under on his remaining back leg (he had FHO surgery at 6 mos. ). When Rusty would get up after sleeping he was having trouble hopping and would knuckle under and stumble. The surgeon checked his conscious proprioception and he saw what we did, that Rusty was not quick to flip his back foot over. We decided to wait and watch and if it does not improve or gets worse we will visit neurology.

‘You can’t see me’ – Rusty “hiding” on his way to the vet

Rusty also had his first physical therapy appointment. He was very nervous at first but when he realized that this visit did not involve needles or x-rays and was instead full of peanut butter treats he decided he was a fan of physical therapy! We went through all kinds of strengthening exercises that we will do everyday and learned that his knuckling under may be due in part to weakness in his back leg. We also learned how to use a dremel on his nails in order to keep them very short. Everyone at the rehab clinic was very friendly and encouraging. We will be back in three weeks for a follow-up.

Rusty listening carefully to his physical therapy assignment

Last Friday we noticed a couple new bumps under Rusty’s skin that were dark in color. I took him in so a vet could take a look at them on Saturday. She did a needle aspirate and determined that they were both sebaceous cysts – Yeah! All was well until yesterday when Rusty woke up with a stiff neck. This has happened twice before and normally lasts a couple days. We aren’t sure what causes it but he is obviously in pain and can’t turn his head or shake and has trouble laying his head down. We have taken him in for this before and have some gabapentin we can give him for pain. We feel so bad for him but luckily the meds work quickly and it doesn’t happen very frequently.

Rusty is now taking K9 Immunity Plus and started Synovi G4. He is still on the san shedan and artemisinin and we give him turmeric and kelp powder. He really is doing so well and learning how to balance. He loves doing his physical therapy for treats and we found out by default, as he ran through his trick arsenal trying to earn a treat, that he can sit and down and roll over and even tried to shake hands while lying down which is pretty darn cute.

We are so impressed with Rusty and so thankful to everyone on this site for their input and for sharing their stories. Here’s to an uneventful June…

May was exhausting!


Day 10 – Good News and a Good Day

Yesterday was a pretty great day for our family. We received the pathology results from Rusty’s amputation and it turns out that he has chondrosarcoma, grade 1, well-differentiated and not present in the lymph node. As far as cancer diagnoses go this is what we were hoping for Rusty. The results of his pre-surgery blood aspirate had shown “consistent with chondrosarcoma but osteosarcoma cannot be ruled out”.  We made an appointment with the oncology department at UW Madison and had prepared ourselves for chemo but it isn’t recommended for chondrosarcoma so we cancelled the appointment. We had just gone through an 18 month battle with hemangiosarcoma with our sweet Lucy and are very glad that Rusty’s amputation has been successful and that he has a good prognosis. I imagine there aren’t a lot of people who are cheering when they learn they have chondrosarcoma but under these circumstances we are counting ourselves very lucky indeed.

Resting Easy

On the amputation recovery front, Rusty is continuing to do very well and is learning to balance on three legs. He would really like to get at his incision so he has to wear the fancy pants Mom made for him! His can-do attitude is contagious and we are so proud of his progress.

Rusty’s fancy German lederhosen pants!

Day 9 – “I Scream, You Scream, We All Scream For Ice Cream”

Nine days post surgery. It was a beautiful, sunny day today on Mother’s Day and we decided to celebrate with a fun car ride to get ice cream. My mom and Rusty and I took a short drive to get a vanilla cone and use the gift card Rusty had received from my Dad and sister.  Rusty LOVES ice cream and works very hard to get every last bit out of the cone.

Working hard to clean out the cone….

All gone!

Rusty is continuing to heal and adjust to his life on three legs. We are adjusting to the sound of his new walk. I think he sounds like a cantering horse. We are working out a routine for food and meds and supplements and he is thrilled that this means he gets to eat more often throughout the day. We still don’t have pathology results from his surgery but I am so happy with his progress that I am rather enjoying the not knowing. I still have my fingers and toes crossed for good news.

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