Pinche's Journey

Chapter 1 ~ Nov. 2003

Chapter 2 ~ Dec. 2003

Chapter 3 ~ Jan. 2004


Chapter 4 ~ Feb. 2004

Chapter 5 ~ Mar. 2004

Chapter 6 ~ April 2004

Chapter 7 ~ May 2004

Chapter 8 ~ June 2004

Chapter 9 ~ Mar. 2005

Chapter 3 ~ January 2004


 January 8, 2004


Lessons in Love Part Two: Loving Someone You Don't Like

I never really liked Pinche.

I love him but I just never really liked him.

Let me explain.

Pinche is a real dog's dog. There is nothing human about him whatsoever -- and if you're thinking "of course there's nothing human about him, he's a DOG", then maybe you're not going to get the rest of this story.

In Pinche's world there are basically two things: Bubba and Milkbones.

While in Bubba's world, there is basically one thing: me.

All kidding aside, do you have a relative that you love because, well because he or she is family, but if you weren't related you would never ever be their friend because you just don't like them?

Pinche is everything in a pet that I never wanted.

Mud is his best friend. Peeing on furniture is a sport. Eating foreign objects whole, a must. Expensive surgeries to get foreign objects out before they kill, a necessity. Almost biting everyone you know, a way of life.

The list could go on and on, but the point is...

Even though I may not have liked him, I love him. I really do.

All 92 pounds of the furry, face-biting, sofa-peeing, tennis-ball eating, weirdest animal I have ever known or owned.

I love him.

He's taught me more than I ever imagined...including that it's ok to not like someone you love -- as long as you love them. Even if you have to love them from far away.

And the strangest part of this all -- the saddest part --- is that now, just when he's turning into a sweet, mellow, lovable, wants-to-lie-on-the-sofa-instead-of-in-the-mud kind of a dog, I'm losing him.

Just when it all seems to have come together, it's all falling apart.

After loving this dog for twelve years, I finally like him.

And now he's leaving.


January 9, 2004


Pinche and I are waiting to meet with the surgeon to find out what the next step is.

Meanwhile, the tumor on his back continues to grow.

The other day "it" knocked down a glass of water on a coffee table as Pinche was walking by.

It's almost as if "it" has a life of it's own...a life that's trying to take another life.

January 13, 2004


Tomorrow is "D" day...

Doctor Day for Pinche.

Decision Day for me.

Pinche and I are meeting with the surgeon to discuss all the things that are wrong and what, if anything, we can do to make them right.

I went thru something similar years ago with Pepito....the cancer, the MRI, the meeting with the surgeon and the horrible agony of having to make a decision.

The decision.

Being the "parent" of a pup is very hard because you have no real idea on what they would want to do.

Do we fight this to the bitter end? Or would you, my furry four-footed friend, prefer no treatment at all?

Are you in pain? Is it starting to hurt?

You are so much stronger than I will I know?

Dear God,
Please, please guide me.
Please let there be an option.
A real one. A good one.
I'm not asking for a lot of time, just enough.
Enough to let Bubba and his best friend live out
their last doggy years in health and happiness.
Please don't let him suffer.
Please help me make the right decision.


January 17, 2004


First of all, I apologize for not having posted sooner. I know many of you have been checking to see what happened in the meeting with the surgeon and I thank you for your interest and patience.

Pinche and I, accompanied by television photographer Patti Ballaz, met with Dr. Kirk Wendelburg at the Animal Specialty Center in Glendale on Wednesday.

Pinche was his usual happy go-lucky grousing self. He hung out the window all the way there and once again I caught people "talking" to him -- including one guy who yelled out "Hey Beautiful!" and as much as I would like to think the compliment was for me, I know better.

Our appointment lasted over an hour and as expected I cried thru most of it (sorry Doctor).

The surgeon basically went over everything I know already -- that Pinche has two different and very serious problems: the cancerous lump on his back and renal carcinoma, cancer in one of his kidneys.

The prognosis is not good and if I choose to not do anything, then Pinche has about two months to live.

The options -- and yes, thankfully there are options to consider although a full cure is probably not one of them -- are surgery and radiation.

Actually, there would be two operations. First, the removal of the tumor on his back and then radiation treatment.

After his back heals, the second operation would entail the removal of one of his kidneys and then more radiation.

The doctor spent the hour explaining to me the pros and cons of it all but ultimately the decision is mine to make.

As was expected, I left feeling pretty devastated and overwhelmed.

The prospect of literally watching my dog die over the next two months is an unbearable one.

Putting him "down" now is not an option -- he is still running around, happy and milk-bone obsessed, which are good signs among all the other bad ones.

Obviously I do not want him to suffer...but it all boils down to two things: operate, radiate and hope.

Or, do nothing and watch him die.

So, what to do?

As we stood outside the clinic -- me hugging Pinche and asking him what he wanted -- Patti asked a question that helped bring a little clarity to the situation:

"Is he a fighter?"


"Is Pinche a fighter?"

"Yes. Yes, he is."

Pinche's canine-adventures flashed thru my mind.

I saw him standing in the middle of a traffic-filled boulevard, soaking wet as he tried to get across and what about the time he swallowed an entire tennis ball and almost died? He ended up losing six inches of his intestine because the ball got stuck on it's way "out"... and then how quickly and valiantly he bounced back after the removal of the first tumor.

Nothing can stop this least not until now.

So yes, he is a fighter.

And so am I.

If there were one chance -- one in a million that your life could be saved -- wouldn't you want to take it?

I know I would.

So now, I must talk with Dr. Ayl about the radiology part of this. What exactly will Pinche have to go thru and what are the chances of the tumor on his back returning.

I will take this one lump, one tumor at a time.

I can do no more than that.

The rest of it is in God's hands.

But at least there is an option.

And where there is hope, there is life.


January 20, 2004


The Milk-Bone Factor

It's funny how the deciding factor in such an important decision ended up being based on something made of poultry digest and dried cheese (just two of the fascinating ingredients in milk-bones).

I am calling it the "milk-bone" factor -- and it has been a crucial consideration in whether to treat Pinche for his cancer or just let him go.

For you see, while I've been busy writing about Pinche dying, Pinche has been busy living.

Living his doggy life to the fullest -- which to him means quality napping, quantity eating, evening walks with Bubba and of course, the staple in his life, milk-bones.

Bottom line is Pinche hasn't let the hump on his back or the ones inside his body keep him from being the happy, albeit strange dog he's always been -- so if he's not stopping, then why should I?

In other words, we're going to fight this thing -- one tumor at a time.

I spoke to Dr. Ayl, the radiologist tonight.

After a very informative conversation on canine cancer and cancer in general, Dr. Ayl recommended Pinche have his kidney removed first so that a biopsy can be done to determine if the tumor is made up of malignant cells or benign ones.

The doctor told me this procedure is much more important and will be less invasive then the one to remove the tumor on his back. It will also determine what the next step should be.

If upon opening up his belly they find the cancer has spread, then there probably will not be a second operation to remove the other tumor.

But on the other hand, if the cancer is contained to that one kidney then there is still some hope that Pinche will be able to live out his last days on his own clock, not on this cancer timetable.

Dr. Ayl will speak to the surgeons tomorrow.

Everyday is a journey for Pinche and those who love him -- we couldn't be making this trip without the love and support all of you have shown us --- thank you.


January 22,2004


From Hope to Heartbreak -- and back again

My heart broke today. And it happened when I least expected it too.

It's back together again but the "hurt" is still sort of there.

More on that later...first, let me tell you about the new plans.

Pinche is scheduled for surgery next Tuesday, January 27th.

That is when surgeons will remove one of his kidneys. They'll also take some cell samples from his prostate and other areas to test.

But -- and there's always a dang 'but' isn't there? -- first a slew of new tests must be done to determine if his other kidney, the one without the tumor is functioning at it's full capacity. It has to be in order for him to live with only one.

Yesterday, I had another long conversation with Dr. Ayl. After meeting with the surgeons, they decided that Pinche will need a blood test, chest x-rays and a renal scan.

So, today was round one -- an appointment with Pinche's longtime vet Dr. Long at Roxford Veterinary who would take his blood and do the x-rays.

It was on the way there that my heart broke.

As Pinche tried to get into the backseat of my car, the weight of the tumor on his lower back wouldn't allow him to jump up onto the seat.

He was stuck sitting on the floor of the backseat. All 103.5 pounds of him.

Keeping in mind that Pinche sometimes snaps out of fear, it's not a simple case of grabbing him by the furry rump and helping him up.

When I went around to the other side of the car to help him, he looked at me with those big brown eyes and gave me a look that I hadn't seen before.

It was a combination of fear, frustration and humiliation.

"I'm scared because I don't know what's happening to me"
"Why can't I jump up anymore?"
"This is so embarrassing."

I may not have actually heard all of that but I sure did see it.

After a few more tries and with a little help that was accepted without a snicker or a snap, he was up on the seat and hanging out the window.

All was good again. Or was it?

All the way there, I had a heavy duty session of questions and answers with myself.

"Am I really doing the right thing?"
Is it time to let go?"
Should the doctors operate?"
"What should I do?"

Pinche would later end up answering those questions.

At the vets he was weighed -- 103.5 pounds. That's about eleven pounds more than a few months ago so it's probably the weight of the tumor combined with the added milk-bones he's been getting.

While I waited out front, they took his blood, a urine sample and
x-rayed his chest cavity.

When the doctor's assistant brought him back, she said:

"Boy, he sure was busy back there playing ball."

"Playing ball?"

"Yes, the doctor was throwing a ball to him
and he was catching it and bringing it back to her."

Playing ball.

The dog who is fighting for his life - the dog who is scheduled for major surgery in just days -- the dog who minutes before had a run-in with a backseat -- was playing ball.

As if nothing had happened. And really, nothing had happened. Nothing he couldn't get over.

Pinche had moved on -- quickly getting back to the business of living.

My questions had been answered.

Heartbreak turned back into hope.

The ball game apparently did him good too. The backseat wasn't as threatening this time and all was well on the way home.

Oh, and most importantly -- the chest x-rays are clear! That is a good sign!

Tomorrow, Pinche has to be in Tustin (almost two hours away in rush hour traffic) at 8 am to have the renal scan.

One test at a time.

One tumor at a time.

One ball game at a time.

Grand total for today: $212.00

January 23, 2004


Pinche was picked up at 6:30 this morning by his other best-friend Dan-Dan who took him to Tustin for his renal scan.

As you've read before, Pinche loves car rides. So for the two hours it took to get to Orange County from the Valley, (only 60 miles away but in Los Angeles' rush hour traffic that means two full hours) Pinche wasted no time napping in the car, choosing to hang out the window instead and "talk" all the way there.

Since they use anesthesia on him, he had to spend the entire day there.

Dan, also known as "Dan-Dan, the dog-driving man" drove me back to Tustin to pick him up.

"He's so happy and full of energy."
A nurse commenting on Pinche

Oh yes he was -- full of energy for the two hour ride home.

Except for the band-aid on his leg, you never would have known that he had been in the hospital all day!

Gosh, dogs are strong! So much stronger than we are.

The results of the scan will be faxed to Pinche's radiologist over the weekend.

Meanwhile, there was more good news today. Dr. Long, Pinche's regular vet, called to say that his bloodwork was back and everything was good -- except for his cholesterol being a little high which right now, in the grand scheme of things, isn't important.

If the renal scan is good then Pinche will have his kidney removed on Tuesday.

So, please keep your good thoughts and puppy prayers coming -- the "white light" many of you are sending is working and very much appreciated.

Keeping our fingers and paws crossed might help too.

Grand total for today: $275.00


January 26, 2004


I just spoke to the surgeon and Pinche's renal scan shows that both of his kidneys are functioning at full capacity.

The surgery is on!

Tomorrow morning I will drop my furry twelve year old off so that the doctors can remove the kidney with the mass on it.

He will then spend the next couple of days in the hospital recuperating.

PLEASE....Please keep those good thoughts coming...we need your prayers now more than ever.


January 27, 2004


The big day finally arrived!

I won't keep the good news until the end...Pinche's surgery went very well!

Dr. Wendelburg, Pinche's surgeon, told me that the tumor was only on his kidney. It had not "sprouted" or spread to other organs, which was a big concern.

They removed the kidney and took aspirates from his prostate and liver. Those will be sent for a biopsy which will determine the next step.

There is still a chance that the tumor is benign and that is what I am praying for now.

As for my boy, last time I checked he was "resting comfortably". He may come home as soon as tomorrow or Thursday.

The doctors are keeping him pretty sedated tonight until a patch that they applied can kick in. The patch contains pain medication.

Part of the operation was taped by television cameraman Julio Duran (gracias). The footage is very impressive -- although hard to watch when it's your dog on the operating table.

A special thank you to the doctors, nurses and staff of Animal Speciality Group for treating Pinche like a star....the same way they treat all their furry patients.

And to all of can I thank you?

You have filled my guestbook and heart with your kind words and thoughts....from putting Pinche's picture on your desktops to putting him in your have sent white light and advice...but most importantly, you have sent and shown your love to this furry rescue pup that most of you have never met.

For that I will be forever grateful and in your debt.

Pinche's journey is still long and the roads he will travel unknown -- your prayers and white light are still very much needed.

Thank you!

January 28, 2004


Pinche is still in the hospital.

Doctors say he seems to be in more pain than they expected and he's also having some trouble standing and walking.

They removed his pain patch and have him on a morphine drip.

Morphine -- now that's a pretty scary word.

There were a couple of other minor but not unexpected complications but doctors assure me that it's nothing to worry about.

I haven't gone to visit him (actually I don't even know if the clinic allows visits) because I think it might be more upsetting to him to see me and then to see me leave.

My poor pooch...

Or maybe I should say my poor pooches since Bubba has been pretty bummed out since Pinche "disappeared". They are best friends, you know.

But Bubba is getting a lot of attention and plenty of walks to distract him -- thanks to his buddies Ivanna and her mommy and of course, Dan-Dan the dog-walking man, also known as Dan-Dan the all around dog man!

Just a few minutes ago, Bubba and I played an awesome game of ball in the living room.

We hadn't played ball in years -- ever since Pinche the wonder dog swallowed a tennis ball and almost died.

I almost died too when I paid $2000 to have the ball and part of Pinche's intestine removed -- so that's why ball playing is a big no-no in this household.

Anyway, I had forgotten the joy that such a simple game can bring to a dog. Bubba was beaming as he romped after the ball.

Another lesson learned from a dog: value the simple things. So often they are much smarter than we are.

More updates tomorrow -- please keep your good thoughts coming.

They are what's gotten Pinche this far.

January 30, 2004

"It's not great but it's not awful."
An update from the surgeon

Pinche is having an unexpectedly rough time walking down the road to recovery.

For some reason, his gait has changed and he's only able to take a few steps at a time before sitting down again.

Doctors have a few theories -- but nothing sure yet.

In addition to the walking which seems to be the biggest concern right now, there were other complications that I won't detail here.

Let's just say they involved the need for an enema.

On the bright side, two out of the three biopsies have returned and there is some good news. Both the liver and prostate aspirations came back cancer-free. There were some "abnormal" cells on the prostate one but doctors say that could be a product of the medication he was under. The important thing is that the cells are not cancerous.

The "big" test result is not back yet and that is the biopsy of the kidney tumor.

Meanwhile, the big boy remains hospitalized.

I will get an update in a few hours and if doctors allow it will probably visit him today.

I know I said I wouldn't but it is a sick-puppy's mother's prerogative to change her mind, isn't it?

I just feel I need to go and inspire him to walk -- a gentle reminder of all the milk-bones that still need to be eaten and that Bubba and I are waiting for him.

I will update this entry a little later with the latest.

Friday @ 6:00 pm


I don't know whether I should laugh or cry right now.

What was an already complicated situation just took the most bizarre and unexpected turn ever.

After I wrote the first post this morning, I called the doctors and got my morning update. Not much had changed. Pinche still didn't want to walk and continued to be in pain although the medication had that pretty much under control.

One of the possibilities doctors were now considering was that Pinche had some kind of lumbar disease. They would be taking more x-rays later.

This afternoon, I went to visit him but the doctor wanted to speak to me first.

"It's not good"

He was right. What I was about to hear and see was not good.

On the x-ray of his pelvic area there was a small thread like object clearly visible on the bottom corner.

More x-rays, these of his abdomen showed an even clearer image of the "thread".

"It's a sponge."

"A what?"

It was indeed a sponge. Left inside of Pinche during the operation to remove his kidney on Tuesday.

Did I mention I don't know if I should laugh or cry?

A very apologetic and humbled doctor explained to me that the "thread" I was seeing was actually some metallic thing inside the sponge which had been left where his kidney had previously been.

I have to confess that the next 30 minutes or so are now a blur to me.

The most important thing is that they now need to get that sponge out.

The surgeons have now ruled out the lumbar disease -- thank God for those x-rays though or who knows when we would have found the sponge -- I guess everything happens for a reason.

That said, Pinche's prostate continues to be enlarged and very painful so the surgeons have recommended castrating him during Project Sponge Removal -- he'll be under anesthesia so now is a good time to do it. They say it will help in reducing the swelling and future prostate problems.

If possible, they are also going to do a full biopsy of the prostate. They did an aspirate before but with the enlargement and pain, a biopsy might give a clearer picture of what's going on.

As for the sponge issue -- there is really no sense in getting mad or upset. The doctor is human and I know that he didn't do this on purpose. My anger will not get the sponge out any faster.

Plus, Pinche taught me how to forgive and forget.

The doctor thanked me for my attitude.

After our meeting I went back and saw my boy. He was turned to the wall with his back facing the cage door so his face was hard to reach. He did have his head up and saw me. A few whimpers let me know he recognized me but he was pretty out of it.

I sat with him for about five minutes and told him that I loved him, that Bubba missed him terribly and that people all around the world were praying for him. I asked him to fight hard.

Oh Pinche..please fight boy. Please.

When I left, the doctors were going to check his vitals and if all was good, then he would be taken to surgery right away.

As soon as the phone rings, I'll let everyone know.


Friday @ 10:45 pm

Oh, what a difference a few hours and hundreds of prayers and rays of white light can make!

Pinche is out of surgery! One sponge and a pair of testicles lighter...

And now there is major good news....the biopsy results came in this evening and the tumor on his kidney was BENIGN!

There is no cancer in his furry-belly! No sponge either!

And the doctors decided that since the kidney was clean, they did not need to do a biopsy of the prostate.

One tumor down -- one to go!

Your response tonight was truly overwhelming. Your emails, cards and prayers have made all the difference in the world.

I cried as I read all of your kind words -- from the family in Canada who was going to leave their porch light on until Pinche comes home to all our newfound friends around the world who sent "white light" and healing thoughts.

And all of this for an old dog you never met! about a lesson in love and faith.


January 31, 2004


Break out the milkbones because Pinche is in the house!

And he's looking mighty good for an old guy who just had two major surgeries in a four-day span.

Doctors called me this morning to report that he was 100% percent better than yesterday -- able and willing to walk around again and ready to come home.

He was, according to doctors, a little grouchy and tired of being in the hospital -- evidenced by when he bit one of the nice doctors shoes as she was trying to close his cage door.

Definitely a good sign - not the shoe biting but the attitude. The Pinche is back -- personality and all.

So armed with a healthy dose of two different kinds of antibiotics and an anti-inflammatory medication, we brought him home to a very happy Bubba.

He is eating -- boiled chicken and rice -- and has already had more than one milkbone, always a good sign!

Aside from the milkbone factor, which as you all know has been an important gauge in all of this, I know Pinche is on the road to recovery because he's already back to being his doggy-dog self.

I know that because as Bubba is sleeping comfortably on the couch with his head propped on a pillow, Pinche is lying on the cold tile near the front door. Nearby, the carpet, a blanket and his bed but no, we have to be on the cold tile.

What can I say? He's special.

And he's on the road to recovery, being shown the way by your white light (porch lights and Christmas lights too, Cyndey-Sue) and accompanied by your prayers and positive thoughts.

One tumor down -- one to go.

Grand total for the hospital stay: $2,948.34

And for those of you who wrote asking if the doctors were going to charge me for the second surgery to get the sponge out and the castration: the answer is NO, they did NOT charge anything for yesterday's stay, operations and all. A considerate gesture which is appreciated.

continue to:
Chapter 4 ~ Feb. 2004

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