Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Oscar Baby, by Cindy Wilson

I lost Oscar Baby to cancer on September 3, 2007.

I have fostered and raised many dogs over the past 35 years, and Oscar was, and still is, my favorite. He was a miniature dachshund that we started to foster when he was about 7. His former owner didn’t want him, and surrendered him to a rescue operation. After a month or so, we drove him to Delaware to meet a potential adoptive family – when they heard he was 7, they rejected him as too old, without even giving him a chance! I was secretly happy, because Oscar fit in to our family so well. He came home with me, I paid the adoption fee to make it “legal,” and the rest was history!

Oscar lived to play ball, and loved his stuffed and squeaky toys. He had a fiery, energetic personality so typical of a dachshund. He once won second place at an animal rescue talent show by playing ball. (Oscar was beat by a goat that could walk on his hind legs – go figure!) He won a squeaky toy which didn't leave his mouth for hours.

In late 2006, he started to get what we thought were nosebleeds – they usually occurred at night when we were sleeping. After several tests, our veterinarian diagnosed him with a cancerous nasal tumor which was inoperable. It was devastating news, but we did what we had to do - ensure that he had the best medical care, a healthy environment and oodles of love, attention and toys as always.

Oscar lived an active life until the Labor Day weekend of 2007. He wasn't hungry and slept most of the day. We took him to the vet, who was able to get fluids in to his little body, but he deteriorated quickly. The actual cause of his death was a tumor partially blocking his intestine; he died after spending less than a day in the hospital. Oscar was 14 when he died.

I don't believe that animal lovers are ever ready to see their "fur babies" pass on. Oscar Baby was a dog who seemed to be able to read my mind; he is missed very much, to say the least. He is still with us. I occasionally will get a “ghostly” nudge on my leg where his nose used to tap me.

With Oscar's passing, he allowed us to have room for another dog in need. Gertie, an 11 year old terrier mix, was adopted in February 2008. She was blind, undernourished, abandoned and so heavily matted that the local SPCA didn't know what she was. Gertie has had two surgeries and several mammary tumors removed.

My husband and I will continue to rescue older/special needs dogs for as long as we can. We are thankful for Luke, Hudson & Murphy and everyone who supports finding a cause for this devastating disease.

Puppy up!

Cindy & Don Wilson
Mechanicsburg, PA

Monday, April 19, 2010

Rudy, by Christine Birhanzl

If I had to choose three words to describe Rudy they would be: loyal, best friend (I know that is 2), and gentle.

Rudy was at the Humane Society at the age of 6 months and was scheduled to be euthanized the next day. I fell in love with him, took him home and he has been by my side since. He has traveled across country with me and put up with me being a foster home for many dogs. At one point, I had 10 puppies that were abandoned that I fostered. He was always loving and gentle to any of the animals I brought home.

He was diagnosed with a cancer originating in glandular tissue (Adenocarcinoma) 3 years ago and I know that his time is limited. It is difficult to think of my life without my buddy in it. I am so grateful that the dear Lord has given me the opportunity to have Rudy in my life. Each day is a gift with him.

I am sure it is hard for some to understand how a person can learn from an animal, but I have learned from Rudy. There is a quote by Anatole France that reads; “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” My soul has been dancing since I held that little 6 month old, mange covered puppy in my arms at the Humane Society many years ago.

(Pictured is Rudy with his mom, Christine, and Rudy getting a healing massage from his friend Pickles.)

4/21/10 Update on Rudy -- Today is chemo day - Chemotherapy in the form of Lysodren. Treatment is best viewed as a means to improve quality of life, rather than increase lifespan. Rudy gets chemo twice a week.Fortunately it comes in pill form. His loyalty to me amazes me.


Had a scare with Rudy the past few days. He started limping and holding his right paw up. I thought it might be his nails. Rudy has always had fast growing nails. Rudy has NEVER let me cut his nails; believe me I have tried. I have bought the best nail clippers made for dogs and he still refuses. It got to the point where all I needed to do was walk to the drawer where I kept the clippers and he would start shaking. Maybe Rudy has me trained better than I realize. Could he have learned ... start shaking and mom will feel sorry for me and let me alone? He went to the vet yesterday, had his nails cut and still limps. The doc said that he could not see anything wrong with the paw. Needless to say the past few days have been emotional for me. I try to live in the day and be thankful for all of the time I have with Rudy, but my fear of losing him seems to overwhelm me.

I have always wondered if our furry friends go to heaven. I believe they do. I try to hold on to the fact that when Rudy does leave this life and goes to heaven he will meet me again one day.

I read Luke's message to Murphy today on his blog. I sat there and cried. The love we have for our buddies. I think about all of the sadness in the world and I feel a bit selfish feeling this sad about Rudy's cancer.

Well, he is looking at me now and letting me know he wants out or food.

My boy is growing tired. He stays by my side to this day. I thank God every day for Rudy.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ralph, by KC Tate

Ralph was brought into our clinic in 1998 by a school teacher who'd found him on the children's playground. She thought he was injured since he walked with a slight limp and was slow moving. With his short little legs and from the looks of his pads, he'd been going for a long while. Once the teacher found out he was heartworm positive, she decided she didn't want him and consigned him to the pound. All of us at the clinic had fallen in love with this funny looking dog and a couple of girls decided his name should be Ralph.

When I found out he was pound bound, I told the Doc I wanted him. He had a heart murmur, but after heartworm treatment, the murmur went away. Doc estimated him to be between 2 and 4 years old. I brought him home during his heartworm treatment and discovered I had a wanderer on my hands. The first week, Ralph took off and I thought I wouldn't see him again; he had a bad case of wanderlust, plus he hadn't been neutered. A couple of days later, he came back, limping and exhausted. A couple of weeks later, he got out again and left. By the fourth day, I had given him up for gone when on a Sunday morning I was reading the paper and heard whining. Checking on my dogs, I couldn't find the source. Once I heard it again, I checked out front and there stood Ralph, whining and wanting in!

He managed to survive heartworm treatment and was immediately neutered. He decided this was a pretty good place and stuck around after that. He was also now getting regular walks - on leash!

As time passed, Ralph took to leaving if the chance arose, but would return within a half hour. I followed him one day in my car and discovered that this dog was taking himself around the block! He didn't go anywhere else but around the block. It became a joke: Ralph wanted to walk and if the opportunity presented itself, he walked himself around the block. We'd laugh and assure the neighbors he would be back.

I got on the Internet one day to see if I could figure out what breed he might be and found a dog that looked nearly identical; it was a Petit Basset Griffon Vendeen. Although the PBGV does not have front legs that point two different directions, there may have been a bit of basset hound in him and he did bay, but he definitely had the attitude of a PBGV: stubborn, independent and a sharp sense of smell.

In 2008, Ralph developed ulcers in his eyes and we visited an opthalmic specialist who was able to age him by looking at the back of his eyes with a scope. He said Ralph was 14 years old, so the vet had been close. By 2009, Ralph began developing calcium overgrowths in his scapular area (the top part of his front legs) and huge knots started developing, first on his right leg, then his left; he began to limp and was in some pain. He went on a regimen of pain pills and Glycoflex, but continued to putter right along.

Soon, he started losing his sight, then his hearing. In December, 2009, Ralph quit eating, which was not at all normal. On January 4, 2010, I had to put my good friend to rest; a necropsy revealed liver cancer, which had not shown up in previous blood work. It just came on within a couple of months and within a couple of weeks, he was gone.

Ralph was to have been an adoptable dog and many people were interested in him, but I discovered early on that he did not play well with others; he liked to chase balls, but wouldn't give them back and would try to bite you if you tried to take it. I was never able to work that out of him, so he stayed with me. An amusing note: It did not dawn on me that my neighbor's name was Ralph and now I had a dog named Ralph! I went out into the backyard one day and called for Ralph. Out of nowhere came a response – my neighbor was outside next door and thought I had called him!

Ralph also had a fetish for car interiors. I was bringing him back from the vet one afternoon when I stopped by my doctor's office. The secretary had heard Ralph's story and was delighted he was with me and went outside to see him. She came back in laughing, telling me he was so cute, especially the way he was gnawing on my door panel just like "he was eating an ear of corn". I didn't think it was real funny when I saw what he had done to the car door panel. Ralph definitely was a character and there will never be another like him.

He was truly something else and will forever be missed.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Tobey, by Sherri Murray

Tobey was a rescue puppy from F.A.C.E.S. (Friends Assisting Canines with Essential Services) located in West Springfield, MA. FACES had rescued his mom, who was a purebred Dalmatian and she gave birth to a litter of 12 puppies! Tobey appeared to be a Dalmatian/black lab mix. He was all black with a white spotted chest. We adopted him on October 24, 1998.

On Easter of 2008, Tobey had a seizure and we rushed him to Shoreline Emergency Vet Clinic in Shelton, CT – wonderful people over there – and he was diagnosed with heart cancer. He had a large tumor wrapped around his heart. His heart cavity would fill with fluid/blood and keep his heart from being able to beat. They drained the fluid, kept him for a couple of days and explained our options for Tobey. We could let him continue on until the fluid filled up again and they would have to drain the fluid again when he would have another seizure or we could do surgery and have a little hole opened in the pericardial sac, which would allow the fluid to escape on its own. Either way, this was a terminal situation, but the surgery could give Tobey another year, which we felt was a long time for a puppy life.

Unfortunately, right before the surgery, they discovered his cancer was the fast growing kind (heart cancer tumors can either be fast growing or slow growing) and the surgery wouldn't give us as much time as we thought. We did go through with the surgery for Tobey and really wished we hadn't. I slept on a mattress on the floor with him for two weeks and he never really healed.

It was very difficult for him and heart wrenching for us knowing there was nothing else we could do for him. Tobey passed away in the early hours of July 2, 2008 just a month shy of his 10th birthday.

Tobey's time-line was:

* a sign: Tobey's walks were not at the same pace a year prior to his diagnosis. He seemed to have slowed down and we didn't know why. We assumed he was just getting a little older.
* seizure episode on Easter 2008 (end of March)
* diagnosed with heart cancer
* another seizure at the end of April
* surgery was done on April 29, 2008
* month of May was a long struggle with minimal improvement for Tobey
* June 1st he had another major episode and we thought we would have to let him go. We talked with his cardiologist and opted on waiting a little bit and he did rebound some.
* there were other minor episodes that left Tobey basically listless
* July 1, 2008 he had a major seizure and lost all mobility. A few hours later, he again had a seizure and we were just waiting for my husband to get home from out of town so we could all take him to the vet together. During this waiting period, Tobey was comfortable and not in pain or we would have taken him directly to the vet. At 3:30 AM, July 2, 2008, we said our final goodbye to Tobey.

Shoreline Emergency Vet was wonderful. From the moment we walked in the door to every doctor we spoke with – and there were many – everyone was kind, sensitive and very professional. We have no doubt that we got the best care we could have given our situation. This clinic did have an oncologist and cardiologist for animals. A place that you may want to add to your list of contacts:

VCA Shoreline Veterinary Referral & Emergency Center
895 Bridgeport Ave
Shelton, CT 06484
tel: 203-929-8600
fax: 203-944-9754

Well, this is the history of Tobey Murray. I did speak briefly with Luke at the library the day he was in Newtown, CT and he seemed surprised that my dog had died from heart cancer, so this is why I wanted to include Tobey's history to add to your canine cancer stories.

(Pictured is Tobey couch-lounging and sun-bathing, and with his friend Amber.)

Tuesday, April 13, 2010


My journey with Sassy began on January 2, 2007, when a compassionate Ohio animal shelter worker put out a desperate email plea to save a bonded pair of Maltese girls. They were approximately eight years old, in poor physical condition and toothless from neglect, and one had a mammary tumor. Destined for the euthanasia room, instead they were rescued and transported to me in Milwaukee for a second chance at life.

The sight of them trembling and clinging together in their transport crate was heartbreaking. But nothing in all my years of dog rescue prepared me for the sight of Sassy’s tumor: it was the size of a tangerine and dragged the ground!

Although I had surgery appointments for both girls the following day, Sassy had already gone into heat. Given her age and fragile condition, my veterinarian didn’t want to spay her while she was in heat, and didn’t want to put her through two surgeries either. So we waited eight agonizing weeks, me worrying and her hauling around this awkward, uncomfortable tumor.

I scheduled Lexie’s spay with Sassy’s surgeries so they could recover together since they were so bonded, but I needn’t have. Lexie recovered quickly and was rapidly ready to resume her new life while Sassy would require around-the-clock post-op care. She was on heavy pain medication, bruised and stitched from her collarbone to her privates, with multiple drain tubes. When you take a 2-1/2 lb tumor out of the chest of a barely 7-lb dog, it looks pretty horrifying. She would have a slow and painstaking recovery, and needed to be kept away from even her sister to avoid injury and infection. I carried her around in a laundry basket to try to give her stimulation and keep her spirits up, but even so she became very depressed. 2-1/2 months in isolation is an awfully long time. But thankfully the tumor, which was very nearly her death sentence at the overcrowded Ohio shelter, turned out to be benign and Sassy was finally free to enjoy her new life.

Having been separated for so long, however, the sisters had grown apart. But even so, they still shared many similarities.

Both were beautiful purebred Maltese, weighing around 7 pounds.

Both won my heart and subsequently the heart of my fiancé; and in the summer of 2008 both moved with me to Maryland to our new lives with a new last name. Both had been given elegant first names (Cassandra and Alexandra) which were never used.

Both share likes (baby food chicken stix, barking at cats, soft beds strategically placed in the afternoon sun) and dislikes (the evil bath mommy, hair bows, cameras).

And heartbreakingly, as we learned just a few days ago, both now share a devastating diagnosis: malignant cancer.

My husband John and I are no strangers to cancer. Lexie was diagnosed with metastatic mammary cancer last year and underwent two tumor removal surgeries in 2009. She is now nine months past her original prognosis of six months to live. While we are very grateful we are also painfully aware the disease is lurking in her tiny body, ready to strike at any time. This is the agonizing reality we live with on a daily basis.

While Lexie’s cancer battle occupied our thoughts and prayers, Sassy on the other hand was quite literally “fat and sassy,” a toothless biter with plenty of attitude! Not even Luke and the Boys were spared from her “gum and run” attacks; in fact, she enjoyed Luke’s visits so much that she would lurk outside the guest room waiting for another opportunity to give him a love bite!

We had no indication whatsoever that Sassy was sick. In fact, during her recent annual exam she got a clean bill of health. But our blissful ignorance came to an abrupt end two weeks ago when her “sassitude” and her appetite disappeared. Our wonderful vet squeezed us in on a busy Friday night. We truly didn’t know what could so suddenly be so wrong but we certainly didn’t expect what we saw on the x-rays, a diagnosis which was later confirmed by the internal medicine specialist. Sassy had carcinoma … malignant lung cancer.

While we struggle with the quality of life issue … aggressive treatment vs. palliative care … we know that these are the bittersweet days, between diagnosis and the inevitable, and that there is no way to know how many of them we will have. What we do know is that time is not on Sassy’s side as we continue to pray for a miracle cure for this horrible disease.

In honor of her “sassitude” that we hope to see again, we have chosen as Sassy’s fight slogan: CANCER SUCKS: BITE BACK!

Cassandra "Sassy" Eckert
Jan 2, 1999 ---- Apr 18, 2010

Our beautiful and spirited Sassy, diagnosed with lung cancer a mere nine days ago, lost her brief battle with the disease today. She left this world just as she lived in it: on her own terms. The Rainbow Bridge will be infinitely richer (and definitely more interesting) with her bright and relentless spirit.

Author Unknown

When tomorrow starts without me,
And I'm not there to see;
The sun will rise and find your eyes
All filled with tears for me.
I wish so much you wouldn't cry
The way you did today,
Remembering how I'd lay my head
In your lap that special way.
I know how much you love me,
As much as I love you,
And each time that you think of me,
I know you'll miss me too.

But when tomorrow starts without me,
Please try to understand,
That an angel came and called my name
And petted me with her hand.
She said my place was ready,
In Heaven far above,
And that I'd have to leave behind
All those I dearly love.
But, as I turned to heel away,
A tear fell from my eye,
For all my life I never thought
That I would have to die.

I had so much to live for,
So many sits and downs to do,
It seemed almost impossible,
That I was leaving you.
I thought about our lives together,
I know you must be sad,
I thought of all the love we shared,
And all the fun we had.
Remember how I'd nudge your hand,
And poke you with my nose?
The frisbee I would gladly chase,
The bad guy, I'd "bark and hold".

If I could relive yesterday,
Just even for awhile,
I'd wag my tail and kiss you,
Just so I could see you smile.
But, then I fully realized,
That this could never be;
For emptiness and memories
Will take the place of me.
And when I thought of treats and toys,
I might miss come tomorrow,
I thought of you and when I did,
My dog-heart filled with sorrow.

But then I walked through Heaven's gate,
And felt so much at home;
As God looked down and smiled at me,
From His beautiful golden throne.

He said, "This is eternity,
And now we welcome you,
Today your life on earth is past,
But here it starts anew.
I promise no tomorrow,
But today will always last;
For you see, each days's the same day,
There's no longing for the past.
Now you have been so faithful,
So trusting, loyal and true;
Though there were times you did things,
You knew you shouldn't do.
But good dogs are forgiven,
And now at last you're free;
So won't you sit here by my side,
And wait right here with me?"

So when tomorrow starts without me,
Don't think we're far apart.
For every time you think of me,
I'm right there, in your heart.

And you are forever in ours
John, Bekye, Lexie, HollyRose and your "love bite" fan club