Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Big Tex

Big Tex was rescued from a local kill shelter in the Fall of 2005. C.L.A.W. (The Citizen's League for Animal Welfare) is a rescue group who pulls animals from three different kill shelters in our county.
Tex was an 8 month old Labra-Dane who had been owner surrendered. He was in bad shape and needed immediate help. My husband and I volunteer for this group and we became his new foster parents.

When Tex came into the foster program, we knew it might be a long shot for him to find a forever home. He had been hit by a car, with injuries left untreated. He was also badly underweight and had visible hip damage.

The gash along his back, between the shoulder blades had healed, but not without leaving a scar. Both hips had external scars along with internal bone damage. The bones had been allowed to heal incorrectly.

So we went into "protective parent" mode... and adopted Tex within days of him coming to our foster home.

While his hips "looked" strange, especially when looking down at him from above, they didn't seem to cause pain. We were advised against painful surgery, since it wasn't disabling or painful for him. He ran, played, rolled and wrestled, living life to the fullest. A happy life with his own canine sisters and constant flow of playful foster siblings.

The next 2-1/2 years were blissful with Tex. He was the perfect dog. No issues whatsoever. We firmly believe because he was once a foster kid himself, he took extra care in welcoming other fosters into our home. It was like he was trained to do so.

Tex could always be counted on to welcome (with open paws) any foster dog in need. He knew the drill, the fear of a new place, the uncertainty of new dogs, it is scary for those coming in. Never once was there a grumble from him toward a new foster. It didn't matter to him... male, female, big, little. He would just give then a big sloppy grin & sniff, then trot off with them for a tour of the place.

We noticed periodically, what we thought were dreams when Tex was sleeping. Once in early Spring '08, he had what we then called a "nightmare." Thrashing and whining in his sleep, until we went to him and brought him around. Not until May '08 did we realize we had a problem.

Two bad seizures in one night. With me on the phone to the vet getting advise. The next morning we went to the clinic where he was prescribed Phenobarbital. We spent a couple of weeks getting the dose right to control the seizures. Then the next couple of weeks were good. But with NO warning, he had severe allergic reactions to the med. He broke out in huge whelps all over, ears, around his eyes, lips, even between his toes. Then on to the steroids. More and more of different meds.

He had also developed the habit early on in '08, of rubbing his head with his big paws. Prior to the seizures, we once thought this was just a cute thing he did. Once the other symptoms began, we began to realize this wasn't just a habit.
His head rubbing was obviously indicating pain which was gaining momentum. We tried numerous pain medications to help him find the relief he was so desperately seeking, but nothing worked.

Through two months, many vet visits, prescriptions, tests, x-rays... and watching our boy steadily decline, we were ultimately told he had a brain tumor. Knowing already we couldn't begin to afford a costly surgery or expensive medications, we knew we had to face the heartache of letting him go. Thus relieving his pain.
By mid July my husband held our gentle giant as he departed this world. Leaving a huge empty space in our home and hearts.

This was without a doubt, the hardest decision we've ever made. We had lost much loved dogs to old age before and that's hard enough. But never one so young and so deserving of a good LONG life. One who had experience such a rough beginning in his first year.

My husband and I have a life which combines two very different worlds. Our paying job is a ladies retreat center, our volunteer job is dog rescue. The retreat guests come here knowing we also do animal rescue. Our ladies love to interact with both the personal and foster dogs. This always opens up the floor for many animal discussions.

It's truly hard to grasp the number of people with experiences involving canine cancer. We hear of it each and every weekend. It seems with each passing year, there are more types being mentioned. More and More people losing pets to this disease.

I very much appreciate the Big Dog and his search for an answer. Some way to stop this terrible disease from taking our beloved dogs. My prayer is the cure is found and kids like Tex can live out their years happy and pain free.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


My dog Buddy was diagnosed with multilobular osteochondrosarcoma on December 15th. Buddy was a Katrina rescue and a clear case of abuse. His back left leg is withered and nubbed and an X-Ray revealed that he has buckshot in him. Some of you might know him from the youtube video Our Big Dog posted of him!

On December 17th Buddy and I drove (I did most of the driving) 6 1/2 hours to Columbia, MO to the Univ. of Missouri Vet School. After the Bone and CT scans results I was faced with some very hard decisions to make. I finally decided on having the tumor removed along with part of his jaw and his left eye. Buddy had surgery on Dec. 22nd and we were able to come home on Christmas Eve.

Since bringing Buddy home I have barely left his side. Because part of his jaw was removed he has difficulty eating. The doctor put in a feeding tube that I've been giving Buddy water and his meds through. I've been liquifing canned food for him and he has been able to "drink" it normally. Today he actually ate some canned food out of my hand. I beleive he will be able to eat on his own tomorrow. Of course, he may still want me to hand feed him.

I took Buddy to see Dr. Mitchner yesterday and she gave him some better pain medications. He has been awake more today than the past few days. He's wagging his tail more and even gave his little sister a look that could only mean "you just wait a week or two and I'm taking you down". Lily (the little sister) was very gentle with him today. Lily and Buddy were so happy to see each other. I almost cried watching them wag their tails and kiss.

He has been through so much in his life and just keeps on going. When he went outside this afternoon I grabbed my camera so that I could take pictures of him to send to the Doctor's who cared for him in Columbia. Buddy took one look at the camera and ran from me. I had to chase him around the back yard for 5 minutes before he decided to go to the back door and sit down.

Clear your mind of all other thoughts and picture this...a poor one eyed, three legged dog with staples covering the left side of his face running for his life from a wild woman with a camera. I'm so glad that I have a privacy fence.

puppy up!


Last May, Sophie was stung by a bee in our backyard. Her face swelled and she looked like the elephant man. Naturally, it was Friday at 6pm and the vet’s office was closed. We went to the emergency hospital where she was treated with a shot of steroids and given some Benadryl. The swelling disappeared as quickly as it happened, but Sophie was really thirsty. After 2 days of non-stop drinking, she started having some accidents in the house and looked really uncomfortable. She couldn’t pee. By Monday, things had gotten worse. We went to her regular vet thinking she had a urinary tract infection. He took a blood sample and x-rayed her looking for an obstruction. There were 3 possibilities for her problem – a u.t.i., bladder stones, or a tumor. The blood sample ruled out the u.t.i., and the x-ray ruled out the stones. Her bladder was beyond full and she needed an ultrasound right away.

That morning her daddy was teaching a class and I knew he wouldn’t answer the phone. He knew we had gone to the vet. I called and called until he picked up. I told him our little girl and I were on our way to Tampa for an ultrasound because our vet wasn't sure about what was wrong with her. Troy left his class and headed to the specialty hospital where they had better technology than our local vet. Then I called my Dad and through tears told him what was happening. He wouldn’t let me drive by myself (you know how dads can be) and since I had to pass his house anyway, he insisted on driving while I sat and kept Sophie comfortable.

We had to leave her at the hospital while they catheterized her and did some testing. We went back that night and were given the news. Sophie had transitional cell carcinoma and the tumor was in her urethra. The doctors were researching the treatment options and would give us more information the next day.

We had 2 options. The first was to end her life. The tumor was inoperable. The second was an experimental treatment at the University of Florida 2 hours away. The treatment was extremely expensive – more than we could afford - and they understood if we decided against it.

Sophie was a Christmas present for me. She was 4 weeks old when we picked her out and visited every week until she was old enough to come home with us. Before her 1st birthday, 9-11 happened. Shortly after, her daddy and two friends formed the K-9 Forensics Recovery Team ( They wanted to help fill a void for law enforcement. They trained every week and have become a part of many high profile murder investigations. The team has volunteered their time to help where ever they are needed - all over Florida, the southeastern United States, Panama, and Aruba. Sophie is not just special to us. She has a job.

We didn’t sleep or eat for days. Every night we took the hour drive to see Sophie. After days of wrestling with this life or death decision, we learned that Sophie was a good candidate for the experimental treatment at the University. She would be the 4th dog in their research. They estimate the bill to be around $16,000 without any complications. We already had a $2,400 tab at the hospital and the first treatment would run roughly $6,000. We had just paid off a credit card and knew we could charge her treatment to get started and take it on faith that we’d find the money to pay the bill in 30 days.

Memorial Day weekend, we loaded up the family and headed to Gainesville, FL to get started. Her first treatment of radiation was a procedure called Stereotactic Radiation. It is used in humans to treat brain cancer. With a CT scan, the tumor is pinpointed and then blasted with a large dose of radiation. This is followed by several rounds of chemo to make sure there are no little cancer cells anywhere waiting to grow.

Sophie's story aired on most of our local news channels, CNN and there have been several newspaper articles over the last 7 months. The Tampa Bay area has donated enough money to pay all of her current medical expenses and her future expenses. For this we are beyond grateful. Troy said it has restored his faith in humanity. (He’s a deputy sheriff and doesn’t always get to see people at their best.) I am overwhelmed. I never expected this kind of support.

I’m happy to say that after her initial radiation and 8 chemo treatments, the tumor has been reduced by 80% and there are no signs of the disease spreading. Sophie hasn’t missed any work.

1 in 4 dogs is diagnosed with cancer and nobody knows why. Nobody knows why humans develop cancer, either. Human and veterinary medicine are an overlapping science. If we can find the root of canine cancer, we can not only save our companions, but save ourselves from this horrible disease.

UPDATE. November 2010.

Our friend Laura Fergueson set word today that Sophie has passed away. You can read the full article from the Tampa Bay Tribune here. Our sincere sympathies go out to Sophie's family and friends.

Sophie's service will be held at 6:30 p.m. Friday at the Thomas B. Dobies Funeral Home, 9944 Hudson Ave., Hudson, FL.

Troy Fergueson plans on speaking about Sophie's life and dedication to the community. Items from cases she helped solve will also be displayed, as will Sophie's urn, which contains her ashes. The public is welcome.