Monday, January 19, 2009

Lily-American Bulldog

 Lily is the puppy that I didn't want my husband to get because I was intimidated by American Bulldogs. Now, I can't imagine life without her. We brought her home at the age of 8 weeks and our "guard dog" was on duty in less than 24 hours. She wanted to be with us every minute of the day. As a awkward, teenage puppy, Lily was mischievous, rambunctious, somewhat destructive and extremely shy. We decided to breed her when she was 2 years old and she had 18 puppies, earning the nickname "Big Momma". As Lily matured, some of her craziness vanished along with her shyness. She became an extremely loyal, loving and obedient dog. The dog that I thought was supposed to be so tough does an excellent job of guarding the house and the vehicles. However, when she is not preoccupied with her job of "lead guard dog" , she can be somewhat of a diva. She can be extremely stubborn and she does not like to go outside when it is hot or when it is cold. If it's raining she does not like to get her feet wet. Her favorite activities are going on walks, eating, riding in the car and "girls day at the spa" with her puppies, Rosie and Britney.                                                                                                                        Lily is now battling cancer for the second time. In March of 2005 she was diagnosed with stage II mast cell cancer. The lump was surgically removed and followed up with 6 months of chemotherapy. The mast cell cancer has not returned. I was on vacation in July of 2007 when the kennel that Lily was boarded at called me to tell me she was limping. I told them to use their own judgment about whether or not to take her to the vet because I was going to be home in a couple of days. After I picked Lily up at the kennel and brought her home, she seemed to be fine. I never even saw her limp. I did go ahead and make an appointment to take her in to the vet based solely on what the trainer at the kennel had told me. I will never forget the shock and disbelief I felt when the veterinarian told me that Lily had osteosarcoma. The veterinarian was telling me that my beautiful girl, who appeared to be so healthy, had only 3 or 4 months to live. I knew all about osteosarcoma in humans (primarily teenagers) because I had done a clinical rotation at St. Jude Children's hospital years before when I was a pharmacy student. Yet, I was not educated about osteosarcoma in dogs because I had small dogs ( Boston Terriers) for most of my life. I wasn't the one who had decided to get an American Bulldog and I had not done the research. Lily was referred to an oncologist in Denver and I also got a second opinion at The Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University. Both oncologists agreed that the probabililty of Lily having osteosarcoma was about 95%.                                                                        I decided to have Lily treated at CSU and the battle was on. After going over all of the statistics and the risks, I was told that Lily was a good candidate for the limbspare surgery due to the location of her tumor (right distal radius). I was also warned that there was about a 20% chance the cancer could return in the same leg but that a recurrence would not affect her longevity. I decided to give the limbspare surgery a try and I knew we would have to go to plan B if the cancer returned. Lily's standard greeting, whenever I came home, was to stand up on her hind legs and hug me with her front legs. I just couldn't imagine not having the "Lily hugs" and I was worried about how a dog with such broad shoulders was going to get around with only one front leg. Lily had her limbspare surgery on Aug. 13, 2007. The surgery was followed with a 3-month recovery period where she was only allowed limited activity and 5 rounds of carboplatin. The oncologists were hesitant to use doxarubicin because of its cardiotoxicity and they thought Lily's heart might already be slightly enlarged. Lily's recovery went along pretty well until the oncologists took a x-ray in Jan. of 08 and saw that the cancer had recurred. Lily's leg was amputated 4 days later. She recovered without complications and I could not believe what an excellent job the surgeon had done. This time the oncologist thought it was best to go ahead and risk the doxarubicin and closely monitor her heart, so she had 5 rounds of that drug.    Lily and I made it pretty well through the first 11 months of her osteosarcoma but her battle became much more difficult in the summer of 2008. In June of 2008, I took Lily in for a chest x-ray and the oncologist told me that she had one lung met in her right lung. Lily was started on the metronomic protocol (piroxicam, doxycycline and cytoxan) and I was told to return for another chest x-ray in one month. If the lung met was slow growing I might have the option of having it surgically removed. I returned for another chest x-ray in July and I was told that the lung met in the right lung had doubled in size and that Lily now had another lung met in her left lung. This meant that surgery was no longer going to be an option. The oncologist also said there was no point in keeping her on the metronomic protocol because it was not working. I was devastated and when I asked the oncologist how much longer she thought Lily had to live and she told me 2 months. I had been planning on flying to Memphis the next day if Lily was stable. Now there was no way I could go off and leave Lily if she only had 2 months to live. I decided to drive to Memphis with Lily and my Boston terrier, Daisy. While we were in Memphis, we had the pleasure of meeting Luke, Murphy and Hudson.                                                                                 Lily's health declined more in August of 2008. She no longer wanted to go on walks and I noticed that her left front leg was swollen. I took her back to CSU and she was diagnosed with hpertrophic osteopathy. The oncologist prescribed rimadyl and tramadol.  (She also received an I. V. infusion of pamidronate in August and another one in September.)  A short time later, Lily's back legs began to swell also. The veterinarians kept increasing her dose of tramadol until she was at the maximum dose. The vets later added gabapentin in with her tramadol and rimadyl. Lily and I had some really rough days in August and September. Lily was in pain and she did not want to walk. I had to buy a wagon and put her in the wagon, take her outside to go to the bathroom, put her back in the wagon and bring her back inside. I also bought a harness from because lifting a 90-pound dog was difficult for me.  I asked my friends at church to pray for Lily. ( One friend told me that she didn't think there had ever been so many people praying so hard for one dog.) There were some days where Lily did not want to eat and the entire refrigerator was stocked with food just for Lily. Then one day, I couldn't even get Lily's medicine down her so I took her to my primary veterinarian and asked them to give her a rimadyl injection.  The next day, Lily had an appointment at CSU and they gave her a rimadyl injection also. The rimadyl injection lasted for 24 hours and I noticed that Lily seemed to improve after that. I started taking Lily in for rimadyl injections twice a week and she seemed to improve a little bit. As a pharmacist, I was familiar with pain management options for people and I was really frustrated at how limited the options for dogs seemed to be. I finally started to consult some veterinary pain management specialists and Lily saw 2 different pain specialists at CSU. The wholistic pain specialist massaged Lily and gave her an accupuncture treatment. Lily began to improve some. Then the anesthesiologist added ammantadine to her other drugs and the improvement was significant.  I continued to take Lily to CSU for accupuncture and laser therapy and by the end of October, Lily no longer needed the harness or the wagon. She began to walk, even run, down the street to the neighbor's house who always gave her dog biscuits.                                                                                                                                      By November of 2008, Lily seemed to be feeling really good. I was not doing so well though, because I didn't know what the status of her lung mets was. I called CSU and told them that I wanted to have a chest x-ray done and that I wanted to be sure there was not something else that could be done for Lily.  I dropped Lily off for the chest x-ray and when I returned to meet the oncologist I was trying to prepare myself for the inevitable bad news that I was going to receive.  When I walked into the examination room the oncologist was smiling and I was really confused. Then she showed me Lily's x-ray. The lung met in the left lung had disappeared and the lung met in the right lung had decreased in size from 7 cm to 6 cm.  She smiled and asked me if I knew what that meant. I knew exactly. Lily was a candidate for surgery. The oncologist then went on to say that the veterinarians did not have an explanation for why Lily's lung mets had improved. I was told that her case even stumped Dr. Withrow, the veterinarian who started The Animal Cancer Center at CSU 30 years ago. Then the oncologist told me that they could do the surgery the next day and asked me if I needed time to think about it. I told her that I didn't need any time to think about and that I would bring Lily back the next day. I took Lily back the next day (2 days before Thanksgiving). The plan was to do a ultrasound of her abdomen and if everything looked okay they would proceed with the surgery. Then we ran into one final obstacle. They found a mass the size of a tennis ball on her liver. I had to make a decision about what I wanted to do. If the surgeon removed both lesions, it meant that Lily was going to have 2 huge incisions that were perpendicular to each other. I made the somewhat frightening decision to proceed with the surgery. When I picked my girl up on Thanksgiving Day, she looked like a patchwork quilt. Lily had a smooth recovery and the lab results for both lesions that were removed came back positive for metastatic osteosarcoma. Lily had a chest x-ray on Christmas Eve that came back met-free and she has had 2 rounds of carboplatin and gemcitabine given 4 hours apart on the same day. Lily's surgical oncologist says she is hopeful that the osteosarcoma is back down to a microscopic level and the medical oncologist said that Lily is now in uncharted territory. Lily's primary vet, one of her oncologists and one of the pain managemetn speacialists have all referred to Lily as a "miracle dog" on separate occasions and I am thankful to have a little more time with my girl.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Teddy Bear

Teddy Bear's Story

It was Christmas Eve day 2003 when I (Stephanie) finally got the first email from the Yorkie rescue I joined pleading with someone to go get this little dog..he was about to be euthanized. His owners were moving and no longer wanted him. I called my rescue coordinator to tell her I'd go for him and by the time she called the people back that owned Teddy Bear, they had already taken him to the vet to be euthanized. Luckily the vet hadn't gotten to him yet and he was still alive. Teddy's owners were instructed to get him back and were given instructions on a time and place to meet me. I made the 60 mile drive one way to go get him even though I had just had neck surgery and wasn't supposed to drive more than 2 miles. Something told me I had to get this little dog that day. No one else volunteered to do it being that it was Christmas Eve. I was going through a very dark time in my life at that time and I was so hoping to help out somehow with a rescue so this was my chance. So off I went with a crate and a blanket not knowing what I was about to get into. Finally after waiting for 2 hours in a diner parking lot and getting call after call from Teddy's owners that they had to do one thing or another and then would be there, they finally arrived. When they got out of the car and started walking towards me with this sickly looking creature and handed him over to me I couldn't believe my eyes. This wasn't a Yorkie...but what was it??? Being that it was December, it was very cold, so I hurry got the fleece blanket I brought along and wrapped him in it. I asked them how old he was and they 'thought' he was 8 or 9 years old...they weren't even sure. I asked them what they feed him and they told me anything that's on sale, usually the Walmart brand. I cringed at that answer. Then they turned around without so much as a good-by and off they went. They didn't give me so much as a dish, a collar, a leash, or any thing that may have been his. It was as if he was an old rag and they were just tossing him out. I put him in the crate and he and I cried all the way home. I had never seen a dog in this poor shape. He was very weak, could barely stand up and his eyes were very infected from what I could tell. So, Teddy and I drove the 60 miles back home and we both cried all the way. I couldn't understand how someone could let a little dog get in this shape.

When I got him home I put him down on the floor on his blanket and he wobbled over to where my dog's dish was and ate all the kibble that was in his dish. He then went to the water dish and drank like there was no tomorrow. He would try to stand up and would fall because he was so weak, but he was determined to eat and drink which he did with gusto. I would carry him outside and help him stand up so he could pee and then I would carry him back inside. Since it was Christmas Eve and my vet wasn't in until the day after Christmas, I carried Teddy around in his fleece blanket wherever I went. Instead of going to Christmas Eve candlelight service that night, I sat by the lights of my Christmas tree holding Teddy telling him everything was going to be ok. My other Yorkie, Kobe, and my Brittany Spaniel, Jazz, sat by us and were so accepting of this little guy that was taking so much of my attention. It was as if they knew he needed special care.

The day after Christmas I was on the phone calling my vet first thing in the morning to get Teddy seen. They got me in that day. When I unwrapped Teddy from his fleece blanket and set him on the exam table, both vets came to examine him and came to the same conclusion...Cushing's Disease. The hair loss, the bladder infection, the eye infection, the excessive drinking all pointed to Cushing's. So, Teddy underwent bloodwork for the test. I was given antibiotics to put him on for the various infections and home we went to wait. I was told the results would take 2 weeks. In the meantime, since I was only fostering Teddy, his ad was put on Petfinder. As the days went on and we awaited the results of the test, Teddy continued to improve. He got strong enough that he could finally walk on his own. He had a great appetite and never had an accident in the house. His hair started to grow and his infections cleared up. In the meantime he would follow me from room to room. Emails started coming in from people that were interested in adopting Teddy. He was not able to be released until the results of the Cushing's test came back. One day as I was sitting at my computer I saw Teddy go over to my other Yorkie and do the play bow with his tail wagging. I broke down in tears at seeing that. Another night when I came home from my 4 to midnight job, he barked for the first time, wagging his tail because he was so happy to see me. Again I broke down in tears. This little dog couldn't have Cushing's...he was improving, not getting worse.

Finally one day the phone rang and I saw it was my vet on the caller ID. I was so nervous about answering that phone because I didn't want to believe that he had Cushing's. The first words out of my vet's mouth were "the test was negative, he doesn't have Cushing's, we believe it's a case of starvation. His bloodwork was excellent. Teddy will be alright. "I grabbed Teddy and just held him tight and cried but they were tears of joy. I knew then, after the fight he went through, I couldn't let Teddy go to another home. He was staying right here with me. Since he came to me on Christmas Eve, that was the day we celebrated Teddy's birthday every year. Teddy was the best little dog. He was so devoted to me and showed me every single day how grateful he was. I could take Teddy, without a leash, into a crowd of a thousand people and he would stay right by my side, never once taking his eyes off of me. Teddy enjoyed going out in the back yard and just laying in the sun. I always said he looked so content and was out there thinking. He was my little man! Teddy enjoyed running along the fence barking at the neighbor dog Molly, two houses over. He was such a happy little guy.

In October of 2007 I noticed that Teddy had some problems with his one eye so off to the vet we went. She diagnosed him with Dry Eye and put him on a series of drops and ointment. One day as I was holding his head to put the drops in, I felt a lump at the side of his neck just below his jaw. Something told me this wasn't going to be good. I raced to the phone and called my vet. She took him in that day. That was the day my heart broke...Teddy was diagnosed with Lymphoma. From all I read about Lymphoma, Teddy only had weeks to live. I made those the best weeks of his life. I tried to make him as comfortable as possible. When I saw the light going out of his eyes and his health deteriorating, I knew it was time to let him go. Dec. 10th 2007 Teddy and I made our last trip together to the vet. I held him and said my good-byes as he crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. Teddy took a big piece of my heart with him that day. When I found out about 2Dogs2000Miles and what Luke and his boys were going to do, it touched my heart.

I know Teddy is looking down on Luke and his boys saying "PuppyUp!"!"

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

TT Rudowsky

TT entered our life March 11, 1995 and she bid us farewell on December 12, 2003. She had been afflicted with a form of epilepsy and thyroid issues prior to the age of 2 but hemangiosarcoma is what ultimately took her from us on December 12, 2003. Our time with her was much too short but filled with so much love and many, many wonderful memories leaving us feeling, to this day, that she is still with us.

She came into our lives amidst an immense amount of stress and chaos due to aging parent issues and she lightened so many of those days with laughter and joy. We already had an 11 year old golden retriever, Tawny, when we brought TT home and initially I felt like we gave Tawny a death sentence. How would she ever endure the stress of a puppy especially one who seemed to have boundless energy and wanted to be the ‘top banana’! I needn’t have worried…Tawny took a bit of grief from TT initially but when enough was enough she let her know it and their relationship grew into a very close and solid bond. Tawny and Greg, my husband, were TT’s best friends. I strongly believe when we lost Tawny 3 years later, TT missing one of her best Buds went into a deep depression. Ebony, our kitty, who had been a constant companion of Tawny’s since arriving the year prior when my father-in-law passed away instantly bonded with TT through that difficult time for all of us.

We’re hikers and my husband is an avid backpacker as well so TT grew up enjoying nature. We’re originally from New York and while still living there she frequently hiked the Catskills, the Adirondacks and many of the areas of New England. I think some of her best times were when she was backpacking and camping with Dad!

Another great enjoyment of ours was kayaking. We had a double kayak…I would sit in the front and she would be in the middle with Greg in the rear. I often said she enjoyed it so much more when I didn’t go (smile!) then she had the front-seat, and dad, all to herself!

In April, 2003 we embarked on a life changing experience retiring, selling our home in NY and traveling the States and Canada in a motorhome. We were fortunate enough to have TT still with us on the beginning of that journey. She was right there with us hiking the Tetons, parts of Washington, Oregon and Colorado State, enjoying the warmth of the Southeast, Mt. Rushmore and so much more!

Although we checked her regularly, a requirement from our Vet in NY for continuing with medications for the first year on the road, the early signs of the cancer were not picked up by the Vets until it was way too late to do anything medically to help her. She was diagnosed with Hemangiosarcoma in November, 2003. We could have tried chemo but with sound advice from the Vet who diagnosed her we chose not to put her through that. Losing TT was one of the most difficult times of our lives. We miss her dearly but will be forever grateful for being able to share not only the 9 years of her life but especially for those 9 months of fulltime living with her while on the road. It enabled us to be with her 24x7 just enjoying life which is what she did best! Love you and think of you everyday TT…Love, Mom

Every Day Is A Gift!

My husband had planned to adopt a bloodhound and give it the name “Nosey” for obvious reasons. As luck would have it, before we had a chance to even look for a bloodhound, after our old dog died, we met a litter of Labrador Retriever mix puppies that had just turned 8 weeks old and were available for adoption from the Morgan County Humane Society. Knowing that if these puppies didn’t find a home they could potentially be euthanized, we adopted not only the yellow lab (whom we named Elvis) that I had my eye on but we also adopted his sister, a black lab mix (whom we named Nosey).

From day one, Nosey lived up to her name. As we put them in a shopping cart, Elvis promptly laid down and took a nap but Nosey placed her paws on the edge of the cart and made sure that she was aware of everything as we passed by. Thru the years she has lived up to her name of Nosey. We often times remark that she is more nosey than any cat ever thought about being. We took both pups thru obedience school and Nosey graduated second in her class-having only received “marks off” her score because instead of focusing on my husband, she was being “nosey”. The one good thing that came out of those classes wasn’t the obedience training but the advice our obedience trainer gave us. She instilled in us the habit of checking our dogs weekly for any changes in the dog’s body. Little did we know that following that advice would actually make a significant impact on Nosey’s life.

On Christmas Eve 2006, we notice a pea-sized lump on Nosey’s neck. Knowing that the lump was new, we watched it closely over the next couple of days until the vet’s office would open again from the holidays. We were preparing for the worst because the lump seemed to grow every day. We were able to get her in fairly quickly and our worst fears were confirmed – lymphosarcoma. She began chemo with the Madison-Wisconsin protocol on December 2006. After 16 treatments over a span of about 27 weeks, she was declared in remission. Throughout that treatment regimen she never did complain, in fact she soon became the vet clinic’s star patient. Each week she would have blood drawn from her neck and then the next day have her chemo. Through it all we learned to treat every day as a gift. This was especially true when other dogs we knew passed away (who had been diagnosed after Nosey) and yet Nosey seemed to exhibit amazing results from the treatments. The vet referred to her as the poster child for chemo.

Then in March of 2008, at her 6 month post-treatment followup visit, the vet noticed a swelling in the glands. Blood tests revealed that the cancer was back and in April she started a 2nd Madison-Wisconsin protocol regimen. Early 2008 the oncology clinic had purchased new equipment to do the blood testing in their own lab and so Nosey was able to get her blood tested and the chemo done on the same day with just a brief wait. After a few visits, she had the routine down pat and would actually walk right over to the scales to be weighed. After she was weighed she’d jump up on the treatment table and just sit by and wait for the technician to come over and draw blood. Almost as if to say – “here I am – let’s get started”. By the middle of summer, she had an ever growing fan club not only with the folks at our regular vet but also with the oncology clinic. She was such a good patient that the new technicians would occasionally trim her toenails while they administered the chemo. Unfortunately towards the end of the treatment, the vet noticed that some of her internal organs were starting to show the effects of chemo and they had to switch some of the “tried and true” medicines to other medicines.

She finished the 2nd regimen treatment at the end of November 2008. Went back at the end of December and received a clean bill of health. Dr Lucroy said that the following month would be the critical period. If she could make it until the end of January without the cancer coming back then he’d consider her in remission and she would not have to come back for 3 months. Unfortunately on January 3, 2009 we noticed the lymph glands were swollen. This came as such a shock so soon after her last oncologist visit. Because she has received her lifetime recommended dosages for the medicines used in the Madison-Wisconsin protocol, she has started taking chemo treatments again and the vet says if these medicines don’t work, they have other families of medicines they can try.

In true lab fashion, she loves everyone and has a way of making everyone around her feel special. She will even smile at her “friends”. The vet technicians vie for her attention and brag that Nosey smiled for them. Throughout her whole ordeal she still seems to be the sweet loving girl we’ve known and loved. Every day with her is a gift. Because her cancer was diagnosed early (thanks to our weekly doggie “self” exams) and her age (5 years) at diagnosis, she has responded very well to chemo.

We take her every where we go to make the most of the limited time we have together with her and as such she has developed a “Diva” personality this summer. It’s almost as if she tells our other 2 dogs – “I’m the adult” – “I’m supposed to go with Mom & Dad”. The other 2 will stand idly by when we are leaving and wait patiently for their treat. Nosey on the other hand, will refuse to take the treat until she knows for sure that she is going with us. Nosey has been my husband’s constant companion for the last 2 years and we cannot begin to imagine the void in our life when the cancer finally wins. But for now, we encourage all our friends, family and acquaintances to remember – every day is a gift. How you use that gift is up to you. Use it wisely!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Linga by Erich Trapp

Linga (known to her closest friends as “Tingles”) was, we like to think, a present from her father. Some time before she showed up on our doorstep, we had been feeding a mangy stray we named Hairy (because he wasn’t – hairy that is). He came and went as he pleased but after every meal he’d always bring us treasures he’d find on his journeys – once it was a doll’s head, another time a brand new sneaker, occasionally the daily paper from across the street – always interesting things a dog might find on his travels. In time, with lots of good food (and subsequently lots of presents left on our doorstep), Hairy’s hair finally did grow out, and it was a beautiful coat of yellow-red, soft, with a bit of a wave to it. He really was a handsome boy. Yet, as mysteriously as he had appeared, one day Hairy simply disappeared, never to be seen again.

It was some time after that, maybe a year or so, that we heard a dog calling in the neighborhood. It was a mournful call and it bothered everyone in the family, person and dog alike, but search as we might, we couldn’t find the source. However, one day, a beautiful yellow-red dog showed up on our doorstep, looking a great deal like Hairy! Could this be his daughter? We have always liked to think so – our last, and most special gift from Hairy. And, when Linga showed up, we never again heard the plaintive call of the dog we could never find.

She immediately took to all the other dogs in our home, and everyone, dog and person alike, loved her. Everyone was drawn to her. There was something very sweet about her nature -- she was a beauty, inside and out. We called her our “Wild Child” because, among her interesting habits she loved to bury herself in our sandbox. The previous owners of our house had built a huge sandbox (about 10’x12’) for their boys and all our dogs loved to dig in it. However, Linga had a special passion for the sand (perhaps because she was almost the same color), and she would lie on her side in the box and literally bury herself, covering herself and becoming virtually invisible.

She also had other wild ways about her, like burying her food “for later” and bringing us baby bunnies, nests and all, totally unharmed, in her gentle mouth. Of course, I’d then have to go and figure out where in our fields the nest had come from and return the bunnies to their mother. This was a seasonal delight to Linga, and with each new batch of bunnies, she’d bring them through the door for us to “enjoy.” Surprisingly, the bunnies all survived, and I always managed to find them a place she wouldn’t disturb again. Our mother bunnies were very patient.

Another favorite activity of Linga’s was what we used to call “I must possess you!” Linga would insist on getting right in your lap or right in your face until she was the undivided center of your total and complete attention. This isn’t particularly unusual, as many dogs employ this tactic, but Linga was especially talented in possessing people and wouldn’t take no for an answer.

She had many other endearing qualities, the best of which was enjoying a good cuddle after flopping down on me, her entire body covering mine. No one enjoyed being hugged as much as she and I miss our snuggle-fests.

Linga had several health challenges in her life, including a life-long battle with Pannus, an immune disease of the eyes. Perhaps it was this compromised immune system that eventually led to her leukemia. We had gone to the vet for a routine geriatric exam, thinking we’d get a clean bill of health. We left with a death sentence. Her white blood cell count was literally off the chart, and the vet gave her only weeks to live. Having seen what chemo did to several human friends, I opted not to take that route, but the vet held out one hope – a supplement called Transfer Factor. I started her on it immediately and, much to our surprise and joy, she responded so well that her blood work returned to normal within two months. She remained on the supplement for the rest of her life. Through supplements and a complete change in diet (she ate better than we did), she maintained her good health for almost three more years.

Linga lived with us for 13 wonderful years and filled our lives with more love than one can imagine. I have had many dogs in my life, and loved them all dearly, but I have to admit, Linga was truly one of a kind -- my sweet little red-haired girl. Thanks, Hairy, for the best gift ever! We will always love you, Tingles.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


My girl "Holly" passed away last November 15th, 2007. Holly died after a brief battle with an agressive form of cannine cancer. She was only 7 years old.

Holly came to me as a stray when she was 6 to 8 weeks old. She litterally followed me home on Jan 8th, 2000. It was a Saturday and I headed to work around 8am, she was about 1/2 mile down the road, all alone and chasing every car that passed. I drove on by as it's not unusual to see dogs alone out in the county, but she was still there that afternoon when I returned from work and she chased me all the way back to the house. When I opened the door, she raced past me into the house and ran from room to room, then back out the door.

My other dogs immediately fell in love with her and welcomed her into the family. She found herself her own forever home. She chose us when she was just a little 6 to 8 week old fur ball.

Holly was a great lover of life in the country and loved to run the pasture and swim in the pond. She was smart as could be, and even took care of house breaking herself.

Holly first showed signs of ill health about 6 months before she died, but I did not recognize them. When the first major sign revealed itself it was too late. The vet took off a leg and Holly never missed a step, even escaping house confinement to run the pasture and take a dip in the pond 3 days after the surgery. I just couldn't keep my good dog down and she never complained.

The amputation only bought us an extra 2 months, the cancer spread too fast for treatment and on November 14th I came home from work to find her crying with pain. the next morning the Vet gave her the only relief available.

I will always remember Holly with her free spirit and fun loving ways. she will be forever missed.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Cinnamon & Ephram


We rescued Cinnamon on June 10, 1994. She was found wandering the streets of Maplewood, NJ by a local rescue group. They told us that her fur was all matted and she looked a mess. When they brought her to the groomer, they said that she sat so nicely and was so calm about it all. That was Cinnamon. She was the most mellow, laid back dog I've ever known. The only real issue was that she suffered from separation anxiety for most of her life with us. We can only assume that she was abandoned, so I certainly understood her fear of it happening again. The vet estimated her age to be about two.

When we brought her home for the first time, she flopped down on the floor, rolled over and exposed her tummy. I would think that most rescued dogs don't do this right off the bat, but Cinnamon was so grateful and so trusting from the start. She always let me groom her without a fight, even nail clipping!

She never knew how to play with toys and I couldn't get her to show any interest. Whenever I gave her a new toy, I usually found it buried under one of the couch cushions! Cinnamon never met a meal she didn't like! Her favorite seemed to be garbage, and she was very creative in figuring out how to get to the garbage no matter where we stowed it. I even put a latch on the cabinet door to prevent her from getting into it, but one day I came home to find the drawer above the cabinet had been pulled out and my silverware was scattered all over the kitchen floor. Plus she broke the panel off the drawer and it had to be glued back on! ok...she actually never got to the garbage, so the latch thing worked, but at that point, she trained us to take the garbage out nightly!

We had discovered a new dog park not far from where we were living, so we decided to take Cinnamon there to see if she would like it. When we stepped through the fence, Cinnamon sat there for a moment taking it all in. She was beside herself! She probably thought that a place like this only existed in her dreams, yet here it was in real life! The look on her face was priceless! Five minutes later, she was completely hooked on dog parks! When we moved about an hour south, I found another dog park in the area. That was definitely Cinnamon's favorite thing to do. She became the unofficial mediator, barking at dogs that were playing too rough, trying to break it up! She literally shrieked when she knew we were going to the park and I picked up her leash.

During her time with us, we adopted three other dogs (not at the same time). Cori was our first cardigan welsh corgi who we adopted when she was 10. Cinnamon & Cori tolerated each other's presence, but they never really interacted all that much. We fell in love with the cardigan corgi when we met one at Cinnamon's obedience class. Cori passed at age 14. We then brought in another cardi named Cody. Cody was an 8 year old retired show dog. Cinnamon seemed to warm up to Cody a little more, but, unfortunately, 8 months later, Cody died from liver disease. I was having a really hard time with losing these dogs and was reticent about bringing another into the house, but in March 2005, Ephram came into our lives.

Ephram's breeder, who lives in Indiana, was going to be traveling to North Carolina to evaluate a litter, and since North Carolina was closer than Indiana, we made arrangements to meet her there to pick up Ephram. We brought Cinnamon along, because after all, she had to approve! Cinnamon seemed to give her approval, and was having fun running around with all the cardi pups in the backyard. But something happened that day that was very unusual for Cinnamon. She had an accident in the house. I was very apologetic, but was told not to worry about it, since there were plenty of accidents with all the puppies in the house.

When we returned to NJ, Cinnamon had a few more accidents at home. She kept being treated for UTI's, but finally, in December 2005, we did an ultrasound and found out that there was an inoperable tumor on her bladder. Our goal was to keep her comfortable and to make sure her quality of life was good. She had always been a couch potato, so hanging out at home and being the couch potato that she was, was just fine with her. I still brought her to the dog park when I could, and if you saw her running around there, you would never know she was sick. Ephram was the only dog that was able to get a rise out of her. He was relentless in trying to get her to play or chase him, and he was successful quite a few times! I think that because of Ephram, Cinnamon lived longer than if he wasn't with us. At one point, it almost seemed like Cinnamon was passing the torch to him, knowing that she had to go soon, and giving her approval for Ephram to take over her responsibilities.

Cinnamon was starting to have other problems associated with the tumor. It was getting larger and pressing on her bladder, that she felt like she constantly had to go. We had to get up many
times during the night to let her out. She still enjoyed her park visits almost up to the last day, but on March 18, 2006, she had trouble getting up and refused to eat. When Cinnamon wouldn't eat, you knew there was a problem. We knew then that it was her time and we called the vet to make the arrangements. My husband and I were with her to the end, and when it was over, I flung myself over her and in tears, said that I couldn't do this anymore. I was so heartbroken, losing a dog a year (first Cori, then Cody a year later, and then Cinnamon a year after that) that I didn't want to go through it again. A few weeks later, me, my husband and Ephram were on our way to Indiana to pick up one of Ephram's sisters!

Cinnamon was with us for 12 of her 14 years and not counting some little bits of destruction on her part, she was a beautiful, wonderful companion and we miss her dearly.


Ephram was the most sweetest, shyest, handsome momma's boy! He was born on 7/9/04 and came into our lives on 3/5/05 at 8 months old. As it is, cardigan welsh corgis aren't that common, but Ephram really had some unusual things about him. The first thing one would notice was the cowlick on the top of his head that looked like a mowhawk! Then there were his eyes. One blue and one brown with a blue speck! So, he wasn't show quality, but we were never interested in that. He was very shy (cardigans tend to be kind of reserved) and when he went to his first obedience class, he tried hiding under the chair! Of course, I wouldn't have any of that! Not only did he pass the course, but he received a special ribbon from the trainer as most improved!

Ephram enjoyed playing ball and frisbee and was really relentless when it came to both activities. He learned very quickly to bring the item back to me and as long as I threw it, he would bring it back! He'd do it for hours if I was willing (I wasn't!) He also enjoyed stuffed toys and was very rough on them. I wish someone would make an indestructable dog toy!

He constantly tried to get Cinnamon to play, and every so often, she would chase him. She was so good with him. He'd climb all over her and she would calmly let him. Eventually, Ephram got introduced to the dog park. He wasn't as crazy about it as Cinnamon was at first, but, eventually, he started having fun in spite of himself! He was more comfortable though around other dogs than people other than his family. He was afraid when we brought him to Petsmart or places like that, but I kept trying to get him accustomed to those situations.

In May 2006, he developed conjunctivitis and was limping a bit. He was treated at the vet, but while the limp seemed to be better, his eye problems seemed to be getting worse. We ended up taking him to a veterinary opthalmologist. Eventually, with several different medicines, the eyes got better. He did limp occasionally, but we thought he might have hurt himself jumping for the frisbee or running at the dog park. In January 2007, he developed a cough. My vet thought it might be kennel cough, so he gave him medicine for that, but when the cough persisted, he took an x-ray. It was revealed that there were masses on his lungs. My vet had never seen anything like that in such a young dog, so he referred us to a specialized animal hospital. We did not want him to be cut open, so they first tried a needle biopsy, then a true-cut biopsy to get a bigger piece of tissue. The internist there was fairly sure it was cancer, but the pathology showed that it might be pulmonary lymphomatoid granulomatosis, which is treatable. So the plan was for him to get 4 rounds of chemotherapy followed by another x-ray to see if the masses had shrunk. Unfortunately, some of the masses had gotten larger and they informed us that there was nothing else they could do. Since he was so young, I wanted to give holistic medicine a shot as a last resort. I found a holistic vet and Ephram was treated there for several weeks, but again, the masses had gotten larger. Between my local vet, the specialized hospital and the holistic vet, you'd probably faint if you knew what we spent, but if Ephram could have been saved, it would have been worth every penny. We never did find out what kind of cancer it was. Primary lung cancer in such a young dog is extremely rare, so it most likely started elsewhere and spread to his lungs. With the limping he had on occasion, I suspect it could have been an osteosarcoma, but we will never know.

As with Cinnamon, we wanted to keep him comfortable with a good quality of life for as long as possible. We now had his sister, Kayla, who joined the family shortly after Cinnamon's passing. Ephram & Kayla enjoyed each other's company and played with each other for hours on end. As with Cinnamon, you would never know he was sick if you were watching him play. I decided that I was going to continue taking him to the park and doing things with him that he enjoyed like ball and frisbee and whatever else he wanted to do. On May 9, 2007, two months shy of his 3rd birthday, I brought Ephram & Kayla to the dog park. At this particular park, there are 2 separate areas; one for small dogs and one for large dogs. We were in the large dog area where the pups were hanging out with some of their friends. They often enjoyed running the fence between the large and small areas chasing the dogs behind that fence. Both Ephram & Kayla started chasing some of the small dogs on the other side of the fence when Ephram just collapsed and died. The park attendant helped me with getting him to the car. I had to drop Kayla at home and then brought Ephram to the vet to send him for cremation. I have Cori's, Cody's, Cinnamon's & Ephram's ashes along with some of their favorite toys and other personal objects on a shelf in my bedroom. I guess it's almost like a shrine, but it gives me comfort. Afterwards, I felt so guilty for bringing him to the park, but someone said to me that Ephram gave us a gift that day. Had it not happened the way it did, he would have ultimately gotten worse and it would most likely have gotten to the point where we would have to make that dreadful decision. It took a long time for me to realize it, but what that person said was right. Not only did he give us a gift, he went doing something he loved!

Not a day goes by that I don't think of all my pups. Their photos are by my computer so I see them everyday and I can only hope that they all found each other somewhere over the rainbow bridge and are happily romping there, healthy and without pain.

I know this was a long post and thank you for reading this far! I want to conclude by saying how in awe I am of Luke. I am so grateful for his massive undertaking and have been following his journey from almost the beginning. I pray for his, Hudson and Murphy's safety and I offer my humble abode to them should their journey take them into New Jersey.

Friday, January 2, 2009


As I grew up, I always knew that I wanted a German Shepherd Dog. I even believed that I would name him (it would be a boy) 'Codi'. There was something about GSD's loyalty and their beauty that drew me in. Once I was married, I already had two dogs, a Shiba Inu amd a Jack Russell. The desire of having a German Shepherd never wavered.

In September of 1996, I learned that there was GSD male pup at a local pound. Against my husband's advice, I made an appointment to meet the puppy. My husband was concerned because we already had two dogs and he wanted to be a Police K9 Officer. He thought four dogs would be too much. I had to meet the pup, though. There was something driving me to go.

At the pound, the Animal Control Officer brought this long legged GSD boy out of his run. He had the floppiest ears and the goofiest attitude. He wasn't afraid of anything and started licking me instantly. His whole body wiggled when he wagged his tail. I knew this was my boy. There was something about him that made my heart happy. I shelled out a whopping $5.00 for him, signed the paperwork saying I would have him neutered and away we went.

Over the next few days, I made all my vet appointments (who later determined the pup was about 4 months old) and set about naming him. My husband did not like the name Codi. It wasn't "tough enough" for a GSD. So, we tried many names on him. I kept coming back to Codi and he seemed to respond to the name better than all of the others. Codi it was.

Over the next years, Codi and I bonded stronger than any of the other dogs in the family. My husband became a K9 officer and we added dog #4 to our pack. Codi remained as goofy as ever. Anytime I had to go in the car on an errand, Codi would come with me. I always felt safe with him around. He would patiently wait in the car watching diligently for my return. Those ears never stood up, though, and he forever looked like a puppy.

Of course, he was not above getting into doggie trouble with his K9 brother, Jag. They both once ate 20lbs of Italian cookies within the space of 5 minutes. Nothing was left but a bunch of crumbs all over the kitchen floor. Codi also learned how to open the doors in the house and break out of any crate imaginable without disturbing anything. We would come home and find him sitting outside of the crate and the crate in perfect condition. There were also occasions when he would run off of our property and I would frantically search for him until he would sheepishly come home.

In 2002 I took Codi away from his pack. My husband and I split up and I had no choice but to leave the other dogs behind. I rented a house on a lake and Codi was in pure heaven. There were plenty of swimming days and tons of squirrels to chase. I watched him change from goofy to protector. It seemed as if he realized he was in charge of the protection in the household. His ears even stood up at six years old! I have a severe abhorrence of spiders and mice. I happened to live in a cottage that had almost every species of spiders imaginable and tons of mice. Whenever I would call across the house, "Codi, spider!" Codi would come running, look around the room until he located the offender, eat it, and then look up at me with the happiest "I saved you, Mommy!" look on his face. There were also times that I would come home from work to find a dead mouse laying on the kitchen floor and Codi sitting by it wagging his tail. I would tell him, "Get the mouse" he would pick it up by the tail and when I commanded him to bring it outside and leave it, he would deposit it in the leaves and then come back for his loving. He was always so proud of himself! My boy had the brightest light in his intelligent eyes that I had ever seen in a dog. The best days we had at the cottage were the ones when we would sit on the edge of our dock and watch the boats go by.

Well, the door opening also continued. One night, while I was working the midnight shift, my neighbors called to say that Codi was sitting at the bottom of the stairs to my cottage and barking non-stop. When they checked on him, they found him staring up the stairs to the parking area (we lived at the bottom of a 42 step staircase) and the door to the cottage wide open. When I went home to lock the house back up, I found tooth marks in the dead bolt. Apparently, dead bolts weren't even a deterrent for him! He even, accidentally, locked the dog sitter out of the house when he was trying to get out of the house again!

Codi's separation anxiety really started to blossom the older he became. After we moved to an apartment, he crushed the doorknob to the outside door, I am sure in an attempt to open it. One day he even pulled all of the molding off from around the door. When my boyfriend (now husband) tried to pull the rest of the molding off to fix it, he couldn't even pry it without tools! Codi was extremely strong! Once we moved in with my boyfriend, we attempted to keep Codi in a crate. (We were afraid he would break through a wall length window in our foyer trying to locate me.) We tried every crate imaginable, even the supposed "gorilla tough" indestructible types. Nothing could keep Codi in. He would give us a look like, "Are you kidding me?" and you could see his wheels turning on how to get out. When we returned, Codi had the wires mangled and would always be on the outside of the crate. He chewed on so many crates that his teeth were starting to wear down to nubs. A repairman once asked my husband if we owned a grizzly bear! Trust me, I tried every calming solution out there, including, meds, which I hated and immediately took him off of, on to natural remedies and pheromone sprays. Finally, we were able to contain him by building him a wooden pen in part of the basement. It's not to say that he didn't try to get out, but he was never able to figure out how to do it exactly!

Codi was never overly sick a day in his life. Around 10 years old he started having some hip problems, but nothing too severe. I didn't know which season he liked better, summer or winter. Summer days were spent lazing in the grass and chasing balls and winters were spent playing in the snow and chasing snowballs. He would bark relentlessly at us until we would throw the biggest chunk of snow at him. He loved it.

In December of 2007, I noticed Codi wasn't really acting like himself. My husband kept telling me Codi was fine, but I felt something deep down was wrong. He would lay on the floor with his head between his paws and look up at me with pleading eyes. Codi never laid in this position, but I did not take him to the vet. After all, what would I tell them, Codi was laying down differently and was looking at me funny? Now, I wish I had listened to my instincts.

In January, the coughing stated. Codi also started ignoring his food, which I knew was a total sign of something being wrong. He never skipped a meal. Off to the vet we went. My vet thought he had a cold and prescribed him some antibiotics. His glands were slightly swollen and the cough was starting to turn into a wheeze. We did an x-ray on him to see if there was something going on. The vet only saw that his trachea was slightly raised up and his heart looked a little funny on one side. She wasn't really concerned though, because his heart was normal size. She wanted to have the surgeon check Codi before we tried an MRI on him. She thought that Codi may have to have a minor surgery to fix his trachea. On February 18th, I brought Codi to see the surgeon. I had started to notice that the glands in Codi's neck were starting to swell. Once the surgeon checked the glands in Codi's neck and the rest of his body, he stood up white as a ghost and declared that every gland in Codi's body was enlarged. I knew by his face that it could be cancer. The surgeon aspirated a neck gland and my stoic boy never even moved a muscle.

During the next couple of days as I waited for a definitive answer, I tried to wrap my mind around the possibility of my strong boy having cancer. I researched everything I could and everything on the internet was pointing towards a very short life expectancy. A nine month time frame was the longest I found. I couldn't put Codi through chemo at his age as he was 11 years old. Two days after the visit to the surgeon, my main vet called with the diagnosis, Codi had lymphoma. She gave him 1-3 months to live. I was shocked and broken hearted. This couldn't be happening! Within a week, I brought Codi to a holistic vet, hoping upon hope that we would have a miracle. The treatments started to work for about two weeks. I had to go away for two weeks, which included nonrefundable vacation and another week of training for work. I was never so torn in my life. I left Codi in the very capable hands of first, my parents for the vacation, and second my husband for the week of training. The reports while I was away were not encouraging. He was having good days and then he would have a really bad day. It was now mid March. A month after Codi's initial diagnosis.

When I came home, Codi had a great day and I was so hopeful. We had an 11 month old puppy at this time. The three of us set out into the back yard to have fun in the snow. I built them a snowman and Codi and the pup had fun jumping on it and tearing it down. Codi even wanted me to throw the snowballs at him, which I gladly obliged him. That was the last good day he had. Over the next couple of days, Codi would only get up to go outside. I was feeding him chicken broth and rice, but even that wouldn't hold his interest. One night, he was having a horrible time breathing. I still couldn't bring myself to face the truth. I was waiting for a miracle. Codi was pretty despondent and wouldn't even respond when I called his name. I asked him to give me a sign. He was the only one who could give me permission to do the unthinkable. Immediately, he reached out both his front paws, grabbed my hand and pulled it to his chest. I had my answer. Codi was asking me to let him go.

On March 25, 2008, my husband and I said goodbye to Codi. He was two months away from turning 12 years old. I love this dog more than I ever thought it would be possible to love a dog. He was like a child to me. We have another puppy now, but the house is still empty of my big boy's presence. I miss him every day and look for signs that he is still around. Sometimes, when I am having a really bad day, he sends me the signs. I don't think I will ever stop missing him and I know that some day, I will see him again. Until then, I have memories of the greatest dog I have ever known. I love you, Codi.

Thursday, January 1, 2009


Brock was at our local high-kill shelter and he was even more at risk, not only being a Rottweiler, but he'd been adopted then rejected because he had heartworms. I initially went to get a female Rottweiler puppy that I knew could be adoptable, but she was fortunate to find someone before I got to her. I hadn't paid attention to the crazy dog trying to grab the water gushing under his feet from the area being sprayed; I was talking to another rescue volunteer with my fingers loosely through the wire door of his run. Suddenly, I felt my fingers being slurped, not licked, just thoroughly washed! I looked around and there was this gorgeous, big handsome boy. After noticing the rejection on his card, and that he was only two years old, I adopted him. He became Brock when he walked into my house and looked around, then headed straight for me. I called him Brock and he gave me a big lean and a head butt. Heartworm treatment went well and we discovered he has genetically bad knees, he's bow legged. I didn't care; he had the most intelligent face and looked so happy.......he was home.

I've been fortunate with Brock. Most of the Rottweilers I've rescued usually have bad hips: dysplasia, or bone problems: spondylosis, but I've never had to deal with cancer. I noticed, after about six months with us, that Brock had a growth on his face and one on his right front leg. I had them removed, sent to a lab and tested. The one on his face turned out to be a melanoma, but the one on his leg was a cancerous sarcoma. Both were successfully excised and we could only make sure they didn't return.

Brock is still cancer free after six years; I continue to check for any foreign growths or lumps, but nothing has come up and we remain vigilant. Brock has become my confidant, faithful companion and is very attentive. He was diagnosed with spondylosis just a few months ago; hopefully, he'll be with us for a few more years before it gets any worse. He's my big teddy bear and my heart. I'm glad he found me that day!