Caring for a loved one with a disease/illness and the toll that it takes on the caregiver and the recipient!!!

Zeus, the leader of The Boxer Gang

"Caring for a loved one with a disease/illness and the toll that it takes on the caregiver and the recipient!!!" (It isn’t all peaches and cream but this needs to be shared to help others as they take this journey.)

Warning, this is a very long post.  :-)

This is not my normal kind of post but I thought that it was important to share with you the journey of Zeus and I and the impact that it has had on both of us, as well as the rest of The Boxer Gang.

A little background for those of you that are new to this page and a recap for those that have followed our journey from the beginning. Our journey started on March 12, 2015 at 7:15 pm when Zeus had his first large seizure. I had just walked in from the garage after having been gone for about 30 minutes and I could hear Zeus crashing around. At first I thought that he must be playing, something that he loves to do when I come home or any other time for that matter, lol. He is a playing machine.  :-)

However, when I came around the corner to look for him at the front door, I immediately knew that something was very wrong. Zeus was wobbly and falling over. Drool and slobber covered his face and he had a glazed look in his eyes. It was the first sign that something was terribly wrong with him. He walked around the house and could barely keep his balance. He walked into the trash can and barked at it. He was startled and lost. I knew right away that he had just had a large seizure.

Zeus was one month away from turning 9 years old so I knew right away it was trouble. Seizures don’t typically begin at that age unless it is brain lesions or a brain tumor. It is very rare for Epilepsy to present itself after the age of five in dogs. Zeus had another large seizure three hours later and off to the ER we went. The next morning he had one more large seizure and from there we went immediately to our fabulous veterinarian Dr. Unger. She immediately took him back and put him on an IV of Phenobarbital. I sat with him for about five hours and tried to keep myself from crying…it didn’t work.

On Monday, March 16, 2015 I spoke with Dr. Unger and we made our first appointment for the following week with Dr. Jennifer Rich, a Neurologist. We took Zeus in for a Neurology consult and an MRI. My suspicions were confirmed through the MRI. Zeus had a large tumor that took up just over 20% of his brain cavity. We were 95% sure that it was a Glioma. I was devastated, in shock, and at a loss for words. All I could do was cry and sit there in disbelief, even though I knew that a tumor was the most likely outcome. It is called denial and hope. I was hoping that the result would show something simple even though I knew that it wouldn’t.

Now came the hard part, our true journey together began. Zeus was on Phenobarbital for the seizures and Prednisone, a steroid to help with the swelling in his brain. I wasn’t sure what to do next, so I dove into the research and the literature and the prognosis was not a good one. I decided to share our story on The Boxer Gang’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/TheBoxerGang/ and that was really the beginning of something special. Several Facebook fans reached out that had experienced a similar situation and they shared their stories and their protocol that we would soon adopt.

This is where the hard part begins. Zeus had to get up several times in the middle of every night to go outside to go pee. The Prednisone and the Phenobarbital made him very thirsty. As a result, he drank a ton of water and he couldn’t hold it for long. We were up every two to three hours and even more often on some nights. I was averaging less than 2 hours of total sleep every night. I am a very light sleeper to begin with and I was constantly monitoring him to make sure that he was not having a seizure and to see if he needed to go outside to pee.

Exhaustion is not a good thing and I was not able to sleep much while all of this was going on. Additionally, on March 30, 2015 I started getting up at 5 am every day for 30 days to take him to Radiation treatment. I would drop him off at 7 am and pick him back up around 1pm. I was driving over 110 miles on a daily basis to drop him off and pick him up from treatment. Plus I was working my normal 10 to 12 hour management job. Thank God I work from home!!!

Adrenaline, fear, and compassion kept me focused for the first 45 days or so. After that I started to feel exhaustion take over. The high stress and lack of sleep led to less patience, anger, fear, sadness, lashing out, depression, and an overall sense of being totally out of control. I was on edge and spiraling out of control. I was praying on a daily basis when all of this started. However, when I reached the breaking point, I began to pray many times a day. I asked for guidance, patience, and the ability to manage the stress of the situation. I suspect that Zeus was experiencing similar feelings as most patients in this situation do. They are scared and don’t know what is going on or worse they know what is going on and they are scared to death.

Why do I share all of this with you? I share it because these symptoms, feelings, and behaviors are very common for people in a caregiver and or patient situation. They happen whether you are caring for a human or a pet. I want everyone to know that it is normal and that you need to get help where ever you can. Don’t wait until you are so deep in the stress of the situation that you snap.

To be 100% honest, I felt tremendous anger toward the situation and toward Zeus at times. I was scared, frustrated, angry, fearful of the outcome, lost, confused, and most of all I felt helpless and powerless to help my baby.

Zeus and I have always had a very playful and interactive relationship before this situation occurred. He loved to play and push me and I enjoyed him doing that. This permanently altered our relationship. I wouldn’t change a thing and I am glad that I have the ability to care for him.

However, it has created a lot of change that I wasn’t prepared for at the time and I still struggle with to this day. We don’t get to play together much, if at all. He still loves to play but he does most of it by himself. He is fearful of me at times because I have to take him to endure things that he doesn’t enjoy and often times he doesn’t understand what is happening to him. When you add the drugs, the damage that the tumor did to his brain and his neural pathways, you get a person/pet that isn’t who they used to be and they act much differently, through no fault of their own. The dynamics of the relationship are changed forever. The tumor has also caused Zeus to lose sight in his right eye and most of his hearing. This has added to the dynamics and caused him extra fear as he has had to adjust to this change and doesn’t understand it. I have had to learn to help him regain his direction and deal with his physical challenges.

I have lost my temper with him at times out of frustration with the situation and I have made many mistakes when that has happened. I have lost my temper with myself and have gotten extremely angry with my actions and lack of control. I have even smacked him on the butt when he doesn’t listen because I was so angry at the time about the situation, his behavior and mine for that matter. I have punched a hole in the drywall because I was at my wits end and it made more sense to hit the wall than him or the rest of the kids. I share this not because I am proud of it but because it happens to many people in situations like this.

If you don’t get help it will escalate to a point that is not recoverable from. There are resources out there for you to access, such as, books, Doctors, family, friends, counseling, etc. Please reach out and get help. Do not take this journey alone or you will find yourself in a very dark place that you may never recover from and it can lead to a bad spiral of emotions, behaviors, and a multitude of other challenges.

Fortunately he and I are not alone and I have great resources to access. Plus, sharing him on The Boxer Gang page, our journey, his funny antics, and everything else along the way, helps keep things going in the right direction. It is one that takes constant monitoring and focus. It is not a journey for everyone. It takes massive amounts of patience with the patient and yourself. It takes a caregiver attitude, compassion, love, a drive to learn more and it also takes the ability to step back and assess where you are failing so that you can make changes and improve. If you are not helping and you are causing more harm than good, then you need to step away and let someone else take over.

I will continue to make mistakes and I will continue to learn from them. This journey does not have an end but only a continuation. Our relationship will continue to evolve until we meet again at the Rainbow Bridge and I get to apologize for my shortcomings and my mistakes. He will look at me, smack me around a bit and then cover me in slobber and kisses like he did before all of this took place.

I Love you Zeus, always and forever!!!

#ZeusStrong #CancerCanKissMyCuteBoxerButt #InRemission

Reflections on having a pet, by Jeffrey Feole

A few days ago someone asked me if I would ever have another pet with the impending loss of Zeus!

My thoughts are as follows:  Do I have a deep sense of loss for my pets when they die?  Absolutely and I equate that sense of loss with the deep sense of love and the bond that was created between us.  If I didn’t feel the loss so deeply then to me it meant I didn’t feel the love as deeply either.  I wouldn’t trade the sense of loss for anything.  I would rather feel deeply than feel nothing.  To me that is what makes me a living breathing caring human.

Do I wish that I had more time with Zeus or any pet for that matter?  Unequivocally and resoundingly YES!!!!!  I would like them to live at least 25 years or longer.  However, they start out perfect so they don’t need to live as long as us crazy humans.  We take forever to get it right most of the time, if we even get it right.  J

Do I let my dogs sleep in the bed?  Let me think about that for a second….really, have you not seen my images of them all in the bed together or sleeping next to my wife in bed.  https://www.facebook.com/TheBoxerGang  Heck yes, they sleep in the bed.  They are pack creatures and so am I.

My wife tells me that I am part Boxer.  I tell her not really, I am 99% Boxer and 1% human and like it just the way I am.

Feel free to share any of your thoughts on this.  We don’t all agree so no worries if you don’t agree with me on all of this or any of it for that matter.  This is simply the way that I choose to live my life with my precious family.

Best wishes and Much Love,

Jeffrey

Dad to Zeus, Amber, John, Sky, and Foster Dad to Ms. Jennifer (The Boxer Gang)

Fostering and giving back!!!

Jennifer and Rescue Photography.jpg

Are you on the fence about fostering to help an animal in need?  Fostering is one of the most heartwarming and rewarding experiences that I have encountered in my time while volunteering with rescues.  It is another way for me to give back along with the free rescue photo sessions that I provide through my Pet and Family Photography business.

Is it hard work?  Yes, it can be challenging.  Do they require love and attention?  They certainly do and they need structure and help figuring out the family’s routine.  Does it always work out perfectly?  Don’t make me tell you a story, everything doesn’t always work out perfectly.  However, I would rather give it a go and have tried than to have done nothing at all.  Is it difficult when they leave and find their forever home?  You bet it is!  However, I would rather cry watching them leave our home to live a life of joy in a loving forever home than cry because no one came to help them and they died alone, frightened, and sad in a shelter.

In the last 5 years I have had the pleasure of working with a great rescue named Legacy Boxer Rescue.  LBR is located in the Dallas Fort Worth area of Texas.  They are a wonderful organization that helps Boxers in need of a temporary home before they find their way on to a forever home.  We are on foster #19 with Legacy Boxer Rescue.  Our current foster has been with us for five months and may be here a while.  I don’t tell you this to scare you, I share this so that you realize that they can be with you a while physically but will be with you in spirit and mentally for the rest of your life.

Our average time with a foster has been approximately two months.  The shortest amount of time that we had a foster with us was three weeks and the longest amount of time that we had a foster with us was thirteen months.  Sugar is the foster that we had for thirteen months and I miss her every day.  I don't regret having Sugar here for one minute.  On the upside I get to see her whenever her family goes on vacation.  I tease her forever family that I will start entering them into vacation sweepstakes so that I can see her more often.

If you aren’t sure that you want to foster right away then try volunteering with a rescue or a shelter.  Then if they have something like a temporary foster program or a foster sitter program try that out.  If you like how you feel and want to do more then do more.   Something is better than nothing.   You might surprise yourself and save a life in the process, it might be your life that is saved because you feel again and make a difference.  It will certainly make a difference to the animal you saved.

Best wishes,

Jeffrey

Pets and Children in Hot Vehicles: How you can help!!!

Summer Pet and Children Safety

Heatstroke is deadly and our beloved pets and children can die in a very short amount of time when they are left unattended in a vehicle.  What can you do if you see or hear of a pet or child left in a vehicle alone?  Well, there are several actions that you can take.

One of the first things that you can and should do is call for help.  If this is for a pet call the local animal control or the police department to report a pet in a vehicle.  If this is a child call the police department. Tell the person that the pet or child appears to be in distress and is in danger.  Endangering a pet is against the law in many places and this is definitely true for children.

Try to find the parent/guardian of the pet or the child.  Capture the make, model, and the color of the vehicle as well as the license plate.  Go into the nearest store or mall and ask for security or a manager and have them announce it on their loudspeaker system if they have one.  Have them make the announcement as specific as possible regarding the type of pet or what the child looks like and that the pet or child is locked inside the car and is in danger of heatstroke.

Then go back out to the vehicle and check on the pet or child to see if they are still there and in distress.  The guardian may have come by and taken care of the situation already.  If not keep an eye on the vehicle and the pet or child and if necessary help them out of the vehicle if no one arrives in time.

Look up your state and city laws about pets and children in hot vehicles and what you are allowed to do legally.  The best thing you can do is educate yourself so that you are prepared to save a life if necessary.

Stay Cool,

Jeffrey

An Arabian photo session in Ponder, Texas

Horse laughing, Ponder, Texas
Arabian jumping for joy, cute pet

This past Sunday, not too far from Flower Mound, Texas, I had the pleasure of doing a pet and family photo session with several beautiful Arabian horses.  These gorgeous horses were very playful and quite affectionate.  Their mom has been working with horses for over twenty five years and she has them very well trained.  It is easy to tell that they absolutely love her.

After they finished jumping around and playing with each other I managed to get a kiss or two from them.  That was my first horse kiss.  The sweet four year old painted Arabian planted the kisses on my cheek.  She is pictured above being silly with her dad after he told her a joke.  ;-)

This was my first family photo session with a group of horses and their human family.  ;-)  I definitely look forward to doing more horse and pet photos with families in the Flower Mound and surrounding areas in the future.  I remember horses being playful from my childhood days but not that playful.

It was wonderful to have so many great memories brought back from what seems like a lifetime ago with my Step-Father and all of his large animal work as a veterinarian.  He practiced large and small animal veterinary medicine for 35 years and I was fortunate enough to make many visits with him to meet and help the animals.

What type of memories of pets and animals do you have from your childhood?  Did you have animals and or pets while growing up or what do you have currently if you are still young and living at home?

What types of pets do you have?  We of course have four Boxers plus a foster Boxer, so five in total at our house.  There is never a dull moment living with The Boxer Gang.

Have a great week.

Best wishes,

Jeffrey

Pets on the Hill (Bringing a community together for Rescue Pets)

Great Dane Pet

I had the pleasure of participating in the Pets on the Hill adoption and awareness event this past Saturday in Dallas, Texas.  There were more than seven rescue groups from the surrounding Dallas and Fort Worth areas at the event.

I took over 250 pet and rescue photographs of Boxers, German Shepherds, Great Danes, Pit Bulls, Labrador Retrievers, Yorkshire Terriers, Shepherd Lab puppy mixes, some beautiful cats.  The fabulous animals ranged in age from 8 weeks to 10 years old.

I love being able to give back to the community through my photography business.  I feel honored that I get to provide high quality images to help raise awareness of those in need by capturing their spirit through photographing them and using their images to help them find their forever home.  The animals are looking for homes in the Flower Mound, Grapevine, Dallas, and Fort Worth areas as well as several other cities in the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex.

Have a great week!

Jeffrey

Modeling is hard work for a Rescue Pet

Pet Rescue Modeling for a Photographer

This is what happens when you do a Pet Rescue session.  The model gets very tired and takes a nap right in the middle of the Photo Session.  The things that we Pet and Family Photographers have to endure or is it that the models have to endure?  :-)

Ms. Martha was exhausted from all of the modeling and decided that she needed an unscheduled break.  I heard her say something about the Puparazzi being so hard to get away from.

Martha is a Rescue with Legacy Boxer Rescue in the Dallas Fort Worth, Texas area.  We did her photo session at a local park in Flower Mound, Texas.  She was very sweet and managed to give me a few extra kisses even though I made her sit and look pretty.

Jeffrey

Midnight lost and found!

Midnight and Joy

This is Midnight and his mom Joy.  Midnight was taken to the families veterinarian to be neutered and chipped and somehow the veterinarian's office managed to let him escape prior to his procedures.

Midnight was on the run in the Dallas Fort Worth area for eight long days.  The volunteers at Legacy Boxer Rescue along with many other volunteers searched for Midnight in a coordinated effort with his family.

Midnight was very fortunate that he was able to elude being killed in traffic.  He was finally recovered by his family near a creek bed in a local park.  He was emaciated, dehydrated, and covered in ticks and burrs. 

He had several puncture wounds and lacerations on his rear flanks and was bleeding from fighting with wildlife in the park most likely coyotes or bobcats...he was doing as good as could be expected after his ordeal.

I reached out to his mom when I heard what happened and offered to do a complimentary photo session for him.  We scheduled the Pet and Family photo session after his wounds had fully healed.  He is a bit leery of new people now but he did pretty well with me and I even managed to get a kiss or two from him.  ;-)

His family will now have several images, photos, and memories from his photo session with The Boxer Gang Photography.  Midnight is a gorgeous sweet boy with beautiful eyes.

I do love happy endings and being able to capture his smile.  We had a nice time walking around a park in Flower Mound, Texas.

May all of your family members be safe and happy like Midnight and his family.

Best Wishes,

Jeffrey

A fun rescue photo session with the Boston Terrier Rescue of North Texas

Sunday, while doing a Boston Rescue photo shoot in Plano, Texas, I got to kiss an eight week old Boston Terrier.  The sweet puppy and another Boston Terrier puppy were at the Boston Terrier Rescue of North Texas Picnic.

I managed to capture photos from seven Boston Rescues with BTRNT while I was at the picnic.  The rescue animals repaid me with kisses for providing free photo sessions.  The photo sessions help capture quality images of the rescues to help them find their forever homes.  It was great to see all of the families out there with their pets giving back to their community and enjoying some perfect weather.

Boston Rescue Puppy