I wanted to share the following story about my faithful companion. I became aware of you and your efforts today and I can't thank you enough for what you are doing for canine cancer. It is a passion for me and Malcolm's story has touched me deeply. I hope my story will inspire you and your efforts! Thank you!!!
My golden retriever is nine years old now. March 13, 2009 was his second anniversary as a cancer survivor.
In January 2007, I came home from work one evening and was sitting in my computer chair. My dog, sitting facing me, was still excited that I was finally home. As he was panting with his mouth open, I noticed a lump between his cheek and his jaw on the inside of his mouth. I called my husband to the room since I had never noticed this before. Upon getting a second opinion from my husband, we made an appointment to see our vet that weekend. Our vet said the lump needed to be removed and biopsied. Following the outpatient surgery, he said further steps would have to be taken if the area grew back. We watched and waited. The report on the biopsied area came back "inconclusive." Bonham Lance, "Bon" as we call him, returned for his check up after a few weeks and the vet confirmed that the lump was growing again.
Our veterinarian referred us to the Virginia-Maryland Regional College of Veterinary Medicine at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Virginia. I started talking with my friends and family that had experienced treatment with their pets at that facility. Based on their experiences, I prepared to spend several hours meeting with experts that could hopefully diagnose and cure my beloved pet. A young student named "Maggie" seemed very compassionate as she examined Bon. Then a young man examined him and didn't hesitate to tell us that Bon would be staying with them. He would have surgery the following day to remove his lower jaw. They told us that they would try to leave his left canine tooth if possible. I wasn't prepared to hear that we would be leaving him and that surgery would be performed so soon. My emotions got the best of me in that stark examining room and the tears continued to flow as I drove back home without my dear dog.
Once I got home, I began to research canine mouth cancer online. I saw some photographs that showed dogs with their tongue dangling out of the side of their mouth. I also read that they would drool and slobber as a result of this operation. I am thankful that I prepared myself for the cosmetic changes that could occur as a result of this operation.
As I sat nervously at my desk the next day, Maggie called frequently to give me updates on his surgery and his recovery progress. I just kept telling myself that "he is young and strong and he will be okay." Maggie finally revealed that they had to remove his canine tooth in order to get enough of a margin on each side to assure that the cancer had been completely removed.
Bon continued to make great strides with his recovery and we were actually able to pick him up a few days earlier than expected. It took about two weeks before we received the official results of his surgery, but we finally learned that all of the cancer had been successfully removed.
The next few months were learning experiences for all of us. He wore a "lampshade" as we called it, but it was actually an "E-collar" to prevent him from scratching his mouth while it continued to heal.
When he was a puppy, we had struggled to find a food that he liked. He had a sensitive stomach and sensitive skin and we settled on a special dry food that seemed to agree with him.
Throughout the first seven years of his life, he had never really had a big appetite like most dogs. Changes followed his operation. The Blacksburg vet hospital sent us home with canned food and instructed us to make the food into small balls for him to eat. It was very discouraging at first as he struggled to learn how to chew and manipulate this new food in his mouth. His mouth would go one way and his tongue would go another. It reminded me of a young child eating solid food for the first time. It was not a neat process. He didn't seem to have any desire for water and we worried about dehydration. After consulting with the vet, they instructed us to put chicken broth in the water to create a stronger desire for him to drink. We were also told that he was actually getting a sufficient amount of water from the canned food and that he may not drink as much as when he was eating dry food. We eventually weaned him off of the chicken broth and now he drinks regularly and has the best appetite that he has ever had in his life.
I found myself always looking for easier ways for him to eat. I purchased a kitchen gadget used for making melon balls and I use this to scoop his food into edible meatballs from the can. I also discovered a large plastic, elevated feeder with two wide bowls. Not only has this made it easier for him to eat, it has made it easier for me to clean.
We had been living in Roanoke, Virginia during this time. A week after Bon's surgery, my husband found out that we would be relocating to Richmond with his job. My first thought was that we would be forced to leave our wonderful vet. We moved to Richmond in June 2007 and I spent the first few weeks in our new city visiting dozens of veterinary facilities throughout the area to find the perfect place that could accommodate our dog for boarding and care. I am happy to report that we have been very pleased with our final decision.
Last year on one of our daily walks following his surgery, a lady yelled at us to see if our dog would like a drink from her water hose. While we had quickly adapted to his dangling tongue, it was apparent that others, like our neighbor, thought he looked extremely thirsty.
Most recently while we sat in the waiting room at the veterinary office, one man commented to his wife that our dog had the longest tongue that he had ever seen. We never stop to elaborate on why our dog has a long tongue as we have come to overlook this characteristic that makes him look a bit different than other dogs.
We will celebrate his tenth birthday in November and hope to have our wonderful companion around for many more years to come!