I lost my vision in the spring of 1997. I was frightened, angry and didn't want to live a life of not being able to see and enjoy things. I was a nurse and also lost my job because I couldn't perform the duties of a registered nurse. I did not want to live. I became very depressed. I was encouraged to attend a rehabilitation facility that taught visually impaired persons how to adjust and live again. I refused, but one day I fell down a flight of stairs at my home and was hurt very badly. I was home alone and I couldn't even dial a phone to get help. Then I went to Pittsburgh Vision Services where I spent 12 weeks learning to do things a new way. Here I also learned about guide dogs and noticed that people with guide dogs were a lot more independent, safer and could get around much faster. I did lots of research and applied to The Guide Dog Foundation in Smithtown, NY.
Ten months later, I received a call from the school that they had a dog for me. I went to the school, was matched with Lucie and we began training together. Lucie was a lot different than the other dogs in my class. She was very obedient, had impeccable manners, was very focused and not distracted. About a week into training, I was called into the office of the head trainer and the trainer that trained Lucie and then me. They told me that they had to tell me something about my dog. They proceeded to tell me that Lucie was raised in a prison. It was a new program called, Puppies Behind Bars. They went the prison several times to observe and were very impressed with the program and accepted 1 dog to give it a try. They got Lucie in August, 1999. Lucie was the first graduate of the Puppies Behind Bars program. I received many offers for interviews and she and I have been featured in many articles.
I have been a very big support of Puppies Behind Bars. They teach inmates to raised puppies to become potential guide dogs. They have since stopped raising for guide dogs schools and are focusing on raising dogs for explosive detection dogs and assistance dogs for veterans.
Lucie was raised in Bedford Hills Correctional Facility in Bedford Hills, NY. This is a maximum security women's prison. These women did a wonderful job. Lucie was born at Guiding Eyes guide dog school. When she was 6 weeks old she failed 3 tests they give all the puppies and she was discharged from their program. She was given to Puppies Behind Bars with 4 other puppies that failed to start the program. Guiding Eyes felt she would never be a guide dog. They were wrong; with love, nurturing and dedicated teaching, she became a guide dog. She was considered one of the best guide dogs ever. I was told she was extremely intelligent with a remarkable memory. She just had to do something once and she knew it.
Lucie and I did so much together. We traveled to 17 states, many cities, traveled to New York many times to attend Puppies Behind Bars functions and met many, many people. We traveled to the prison where Lucie was raised to meet the women that raised her. A New York TV station even video taped our visit and it was featured on the news. There were many tears that day as those women were very proud that they had a part in making my life easier and much happier. When I got Lucie, people noticed that I was much happier. She gave me a reason to live and do things again. I was totally independent. I just had to tell her where I wanted to go and she got me there.
On April 25, 2006, Lucie did not get up as usual. She laid in her bed, next to my bed. I got up and noticed that something was wrong. She was very weak. My daughter and I immediately took her to our vet. He didn't know what was wrong but noticed that her lymph nodes were very swollen. He aspirated one and sent it to the lab. The next day, he called me with the bad news; diagnosis lymphoma. He had already talked with Dr. Terrance Hamilton in Cleveland. He was considered one of the best oncologists in the field. I chose to take Lucie to him and we did so the next day. Chemotherapy was started on April 27, 2006. She went into remission with the second treatment and did very well. She continued to work and wanted to work. She did have a problem with Vincristine and that drug was discontinued and give another drug and she did fine with that. In September, 2006 Dr. Hamilton left the practice and Lucie's care of transferred to Dr. Nathaniel Myers in Pittsburgh. Chemo was completed on December 6, 2006, which was also her 9th birthday. It was a very happy day and the office celebrated along with us.
Lucie continued to do well and had frequent checkups until June, 2007, when Dr. Myers found, via an ultrasound, several internal lymph nodes that were swollen. This was a good indication that the cancer beast had returned. He did aspirate the lymph nodes and the test results confirmed that she had relapsed. I chose to restart chemo as she did very well before and we anticipated a return to remission. She received 3 treatments with the last being Adriamycin. She became very sick after that treatment with a horrible cough. Our vet, Dr. Bryan Krazel, who is absolutely wonderful, did an xray and Lucie did have some fluid in her lung. He gave her an antibiotic and Lasix. She was a little better. The weekend came and on Sunday morning, July 15, she became much worse and was struggling to breathe. We took her to an emergency facility where tests confirmed she was in congestive heart failure. She was admitted to the hospital, put on continuous oxygen and given mediation to decrease the strain on her heart and the fluid. She was in critical condition. She was discharged the next morning and we had to transport her with oxygen to our vet. We now had bigger problems. She could not have chemo and her heart was now affected by the chemo. We could give her medication to keep her going for a while, but how long was unknown. She was never going to get better. I promised her in the beginning that I would not let her suffer; if we reached a point when her quality of life was affected and she was suffering I would help her. I had to keep that promise to her. I chose to end that suffering. It was the worst day of my life and the most difficult decision that I ever made. She passed away on July 16, 2007, surrounded by her family and the veterinary staff that loved her. She had the most peaceful death that I have ever witnessed.
She helped me each and every day to find my way. I wish I could have helped her. I was so devastated to lose her. I received condolences from all over the world. She was a famous dog that helped so many people; not just me but each inmate in prison that they can do something good. Many have been released and gone on to do great things and Puppies Behind Bars has been successful.
So this is Lucie's story. I miss her terribly and think of her daily. She will be forever in my heart and in my memories.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
I have read that one in four dogs will die of cancer. It appears that the statistics at my house are going to be at least two in four dogs will die of cancer. In December 2008, I had been battling osteosarcoma with my 8 and 1/2 year old American Bulldog, Lily for 17 months. I had also started to worry some that Lily's puppies, Rosie and Britney who were 6 years old, might develop osteosarcoma. The one dog that I wasn't too worried about was my Boston Terrier, Daisy. Daisy was 8 ½ years old and I thought that was young for a small dog. I actually used to joke around with my friends and tell them that Daisy would outlive all of my American Bulldogs because I thought small dogs lived longer. Then, on Valentine's Day of 2009, I learned how wrong I was. That is the day that I lost my beloved Daisy to brain cancer.
Daisy's health problems began when she started having seizures on December 30, 2008. I rushed Daisy around to three different veterinary clinics and she had 7 seizures within a 23-hour period. When I finally got an appointment with a neurologist, Daisy was put on medication and monitored in the I.C.U. for 4 days to make sure she did not have any more seizures. I brought Daisy home, kept her on medication and she acted completely normal. She never behaved like she felt bad and to my knowledge she never had another seizure. Then my heart was broken into a million pieces on Valentine's Day when I woke up and my Daisy, who always slept with me, was not moving. She was gone. Daisy had died in her sleep a few days before I had an MRI scheduled to rule out brain cancer. I knew two other Boston Terriers who had seizures, so I had not been as worried as I should have been. The veterinarians told me that Daisy had died from an astrocytoma and that even if I had done the MRI sooner the outcome would have been the same due to the location and aggressive nature of the tumor. One of the things that I always liked about small dogs is the fact that they are supposed to live longer than large dogs. Before I lost Daisy, I honestly did not know that you could lose a small dog at such a young age.
Boston Terriers have always been my favorite breed and Daisy was absolutely my dream dog. Daisy behaved like a large dog in a small package. She was extremely intelligent, energetic, outgoing, friendly and athletic. She was like the Energizer Bunny – she never stopped. She thought everyone was her friend and she wanted to greet everyone by jumping up and licking them in the face. Daisy (aka CH Bandit's Darling Daisy AX, AXJ, NF to name a few titles) was an AKC Champion and an International Champion in the conformation ring. She also had excellent titles in agility and we were working on her MACH (Master Agility Champion). Daisy was also a model who appeared on a couple of Boston Terrier calendars.
I have always been an animal lover but Daisy is the first dog I owned to have any official obedience, agility or conformation training. She was extremely intelligent and that quality made her a fantastic dog to learn agility and obedience with. She could think a lot faster than I could. I will never forget the first time that I laid eyes on Daisy. I had seen a few agility dogs on television and I had decided that agility would be a cool sport to try. When I met Daisy for the first time, this little four or five-week old puppy was running in circles around her brother who was twice her size. She would run around her brother and then take a flying leap over him. I knew then that I had found my "agility dog." I'm sure that I probably drove the people who owned Daisy at the time crazy, because I would not stop calling them to see if they were going to let me have this puppy. Later on, when I started taking agility classes with Daisy, one of the
instructors would often criticize my technique and tell me what I did wrong. However, it really didn't seem to matter if I made a mistake, because Daisy almost always compensated. The time spent training Daisy for agility created an incredible bond between the two of us. Daisy also performed well in the conformation ring. Some of my Boston Terrier breeder friends might say that there were dogs who matched the Boston Terrier standard better than Daisy. However, Daisy was just a little show-off. She enjoyed being the center of attention and she had attitude.
Daisy's favorite things were eating, agility, stuffed animals and traveling. If Daisy could have had things her way, she would have eaten all of the food I was giving to my three American Bulldogs in addition to her own food. When it came to training, Daisy was highly treat-motivated so she was easy to train. Daisy excelled at agility and she always wanted to be moving. She was not the type of dog who wanted to sit in my lap and be held. Daisy adored stuffed animals and always curled up with one of her stuffed animals when she went to sleep. Her favorites were her stuffed Easter bunny and the lion that roared. She had lots of stuffed animals because almost every time I saw a cute stuffed animal, I would bring another one home.
I love to travel and Daisy was the perfect travel companion. Because of Daisy's small size I was able to take her places I could not take my American Bulldogs. As soon as I pulled my suitcase or her travel bag out of the closet, Daisy would get really excited and start running in circles around the house and up and down the stairs. She knew we were going somewhere. Daisy traveled with me all over Colorado and to places like San Francisco, Sante Fe, Washington, D.C., Annapolis, Las Vegas, Orlando, Houston and Memphis. Daisy was a frequent flier and she especially loved airports. During the almost 9 years that I had Daisy, I only flew somewhere without her one time. Daisy always behaved perfectly at the airport. When I got ready to put my belongings through the x-ray machine at the airport, I would take Daisy out of her bag and she would stand motionless on the table in her perfect little "show-dog" pose. People would often ask me if Daisy had to be sedated to fly and I would tell them “No, she just knows the routine." When we arrived at our destination, I would occasionally let Daisy out of her bag while we were waiting on the luggage to arrive and she would stand right next to me and follow me around just like she did in the agility ring. Daisy also loved hotels. One of her favorite things was jumping back and forth from one bed to another in the hotel room. If we stayed in a really nice hotel, Daisy was so well-behaved that she just seemed to belong there.
Daisy was an incredible little dog who was so active that she seemed to pack 15 or 16 years into the 8 ½ years that we were together. She introduced me to a lot of people that I would never have met otherwise. There was never a dull moment when Daisy was around. I didn't realize that the little dog who tagged along on all of Lily's chemotherapy appointments had cancer also. It just seems especially cruel and ironic to have lost a dog that was as intelligent as Daisy to brain cancer. "Daisy Crazy Baby" I will always love you. I will never forget you.