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This diary is, most importantly, a follow up to WYFP: Ten Wonderful Years, which is a part of Merry's story.  Other issues are addressed, but that's the backstory of my little girl's current struggle.  Thank you for reading.

Many things have been on my plate, especially in this last week; but one of the most important has been Merry's continued struggle.  From the prior diary, you'll remember that there was some hope that her condition was an operable infection rather than a far more dangerous cancer of the bladder.

The good news is, the first possibility proved to be the fact.  Merry, to my infinite relief, was not suffering from bladder cancer.  Instead, she had polypoid cystitis - E. Coli had taken up permanent residence in the wall of her bladder, inflaming it terribly and causing the large, tumor-like growths.  I fear that these growths had been there for some time, as they had noticeable attendant scarring.  The doctor who consulted with me during and after her surgery assured me that I had not critically failed in my duties as Merry's parent.  I think all doctors say things like that, to try and offer some absolution.  I'm not sure if this assurance was truth or polite lie.  I hold myself almost fully to blame for Merry's pain.

However, surgical removal of the masses was possible, and in fact was accomplished.  A piece of Merry's bladder approximately the size of a silver dollar was excised.  Her vulva was also surgically repositioned, to (hopefully) avoid potentiating the conditions which led to all her urinary problems in the first place.  Dog owners, please review this link for information about recessed vulvae in canines (reposted from prior diary - it's important).  There was some concern with wound dehiscence around the site of her perivulvar incision, but overall, Merry healed well and in very reasonable time.  She's old, but she's strong.

There's bad news, too.  In a stroke of bitter irony, Merry is now severely incontinent.  I haven't accused the doctors who treated her - I believe they did the best they could, and unquestionably at least the bladder tissue resection was vitally important for her health - but I believe the surgeries, probably most specifically the vulvaplasty, are at least partially the reason for her incontinence.  Prior to the surgeries, she would occasionally lose some urine while resting; not that much, and that was really it.  Now, basically as soon as she relaxes, she begins dripping.  (If she's up and moving around, she very rarely leaks unless she's very "full.")  Thus, while she was only having to wear diapers at night, she now must sadly wear a diaper at almost all times, or mess the floor in many places.  It's a horrible alternative.  Since she's tailless, the diaper has to be moderately tight on her - I don't like this, as it pulls into her abdomen when she's sitting or lying down.  I try to find a balance of tightness that will keep it around her hips, but not dig into her belly.  It's tough.  And the whole damn thing is unfair.  I'm past the point of screaming rage about Merry's trials (though let me tell you've I've been there), but I frequently remember a time when I knelt in a shower stall, slamming my open palm into the floor, weeping and screaming:  "She's not at fault - it's my fault.  Don't punish her, punish me!"

The hope to positively change Merry's condition isn't over.  There's a really talented canine urogenital specialist over at UT Knoxville who has agreed to see Merry.  She's scheduled to go in this coming Thursday for diagnostic cystoscopy.  If that shows no polyps or other abnormalities within the bladder, we have two options to help her regain continence.  The first is a urethral "bulking" procedure, in which silicone would be implanted in the wall of Merry's urethra (also cystoscopically) to help her urethral sphincter maintain control.  This is the less invasive of the two procedures, but has an uncertain duration of effectiveness (historically, the doctor has seen some dogs maintain continence for 2+ years after urethral bulking, while others lose continence in less than a single year).  The second option is a saline-pressurized hydraulic urethral occluder.  This device looks rather like a chemotherapy port, at least one end of it.  The other end is a small tube which wraps around the urethra and performs the same tightening function as the implanted silicone in the bulking procedure.  The occluder's clinical history is that it's effective for the dog's lifetime; it's also more case-configurable, in that if it's not initially effective, more saline can be added through the port via injection rather than requiring another general anesthesia and surgery.  However, the initial implantation of the occluder is a very extensive procedure, and would require Merry staying a night in ICU.  Needless to say, I'm not thrilled about either idea, but the more invasive (read:  more dangerous) procedure worries me more.  And yet, it seems to make little sense to put her through any procedure whose effectiveness is questionable over the long term.  The thought that Merry might not have enough years left to worry about long-term effectiveness crosses my mind, but I give it little heed.  She's tough as hell, and not ready to go yet - she told me.

As petty as I feel even mentioning money, the cost of Merry's continued treatment does stress us somewhat, for unexpected reasons.  You see, unfortunately, I have another Fucking Problem.

I can't go into much detail, as I use my real name on this site, and also try to behave with strict respect to my employer.  Simply put, I got some very unpleasant news on Monday of this week.  My job description was essentially eliminated.  I hope I don't sound defensive or excusatory to say that this was not due to my performance.  To my employer's credit, things are resolving far better than they could have; I'm still working for them, and in a good position with a good (but lower) rate of pay.  All in all, given how things played out, I have no complaints.  But my family's finances are impacted, and we do have to tighten our belts.

That brings up a third Fucking Problem.  Before my wife and I moved in together, I was living in a smaller home some distance from here.  We've tried several times to sell this home since then, with all the lack of success you can imagine.  We had a tenant for a while; eventually, she told us she had found potentially better circumstances and was moving on.  We brought in another tenant, at the recommendation of the prior one; this proved to be a bad, bad mistake.  (I was far too na├»ve and trusting - should have run a background check.)  The short version is that the second tenant literally never paid rent on time (late the first month and thereafter), and after a few months stopped paying rent entirely.  Excuse after excuse was given, and I tried to be accommodating.  After the tenant stopped communicating entirely, we learned that not only had he fled the premises, but had also stolen several thousand dollars of Rooms to Go furniture and rented appliances as well.  To my knowledge, neither rental company so defrauded has been able to track him down or recover their property.  We haven't heard a word from him in months.

The second tenant didn't totally trash my former home, but far too close for comfort.  A window in the back was broken, allowing rain to come in the living room (at least a section of the carpet there is ruined, if not all).  The kitchen is horrible.  The cabinets and counters are unusable, probably requiring replacement.  We're not sure if the lower cabinets and drawers are salvageable yet.  The bathrooms are worse.  At least one toilet has to be completely replaced; the other may be reparable.  One of the back bedrooms looks like a small clawed animal was left unsupervised there for long periods of time; the carpet is shredded in places, and there are claw marks on the doorjamb and lower walls.  Disturbingly, the claw marks don't look canine or feline - raccoon?  Possum?  Not sure I want to know.

There's more.  The back yard was also trashed.  Junk has to be hauled away.  Much of the house has to be repainted.  None of it comes too cheap, even the parts we can do ourselves, and we're operating on what's about to be a significantly reduced budget.

And while I hate to whine, I feel basically awful physically, of late.  I mentioned earlier that Merry's incontinence after her earlier surgeries has required that she wear a diaper almost all day.  I've been warned by her veterinarian, that - much like her recessed vulva - constant diapering can itself be a dangerous problem, potentially enabling more infections.  I'm giving her a cranberry supplement with her morning meal, to keep her urine pH relatively hostile to bacteria, but I still don't like having to diaper her all the time... so I don't.  Instead of sleeping on our normal bed, I use a $25 inflatable air mattress I purchased shortly after Merry's surgery.  Over the normal blankets and sheets, I lay a layer of puppy training pads.  Merry sleeps on these, so we can still share a bed.  Thing is - again, forgive the whinging - I have moderately severe scoliosis, so my back is rather crotchety at the best of times.  I need a fairly firm, supportive mattress to get restful sleep and less painful waking.  Instead I've been on the floor in a camp bed for over 4 months now.  It's my own choice, and the events that led to it are at least partially my responsibility, so I can't bewail the fates - I'm here by my own hand.

But it's Goddamn annoying.  All of it.

Those, readers, are my Fucking Problems.

Forgive the crammed, run-on writing style, I beg.  Not at my best of late.  Thank you all for reading, and be well.

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