Sunday, June 6, 2010

Katie's Story by Donna Hakala   

Katie was my once in a lifetime dog. The fourth pup in my first litter of Aussies, born 10/11/1998 at 5:55 PM weighing 1 pound. As I watched the pups grow and develop their personalities, I knew she was special and that she would be staying.

Katie loved working with me in training classes and being with her human and canine friends. She hated the Obedience ring, but did earn her ASCA and AKC CD titles. She loved freestyle and rally obedience as well as the conformation ring. Tracking was her favorite. I thought we would have so much more time together to do this sport together, but that wasn't going to happen.

On Nov 13, 2008 my world changed forever. Upon collecting a urine sample from Katie, I almost dropped it. It was the color of cranberry juice. She was acting fine, eating, playing and had no fever. We went to see Dr. Clayton at V.A.C.C. He ran blood tests, took x-rays and set up an ultrasound for later in the afternoon. Her urine had so much blood in it that it had to be sent to an outside lab. Everything seemed normal except for a very small shadow that was partially hidden by her rib cage. She was put on Clavamox for 10 days with a follow-up set up with her regular vet, Dr. Burns. I was terrified because Katie's Dad had passed away 3 months earlier at age 12 from cancer, and that dreadful disease was rearing its ugly head in many Aussies lately.

At her next visit, she was again fine, her vitals were normal, but her urine was continually either pink or red. A complete urinalysis and culture were sent out to a different lab. She was put on Zeniquin for 10 days. On Dec 12 more bloodwork was done.

On December 20, I feared something terrible was happening to Katie. She looked dreadful, wouldn't eat and had a high fever. Dr. Burns did more x-rays, including her lungs. These films showed 3 shadows in one lung. Dr. Burns wanted a specialist to look at them for a second opinion, but my heart sunk, I knew this was very bad. Katie was given 50 mg. of Tramadol twice a day for pain. On Monday the 22nd I got the call — yes, as we feared, it was cancer.

We talked about what to expect and what to watch for. We both agreed that Katie's comfort and quality of life was the most important thing. We added Pepcid AC and Doxy, the latter some think may slow the progress of cancer in dogs. We didn't talk about a time frame, but others I spoke to who had similar experiences thought a few weeks or maybe 2 months, because of the amount of blood in her urine and the lung tumors.

I told Katie that I wouldn't let her go without a fight and I would do whatever I could to keep her happy, but when the time came, she had to let me know and I would let her go.

She was comfortable and happy. Eating well, playing, lots of wiggle-butt, woo-wooing,
and going for walks with the other girls.

Her canine family included her Mom (Maggie), half-sister (Willow) and her favorite — Willow's daughter (Dancer).

The morning of December 31 Katie had a high fever, vomited and looked awful. Dr Burns gave her fluids and a shot of Cerenia and the Doxy was stopped. I was to give her fluids for the day, then a bland diet and cerenia tablets for 2 days. It was a blizzard outside, so we snuggled on the couch and Katie rested. The next day the only food she would eat was buttered noodles, something she would continue to eat if she wasn't feeling well.

By our appointment on January 3 she was eating well again — cooked steak and EVO red bites kibble. To stay on top of things we decided to bring Katie in every 3 to 4 weeks, unless there was a problem.

Mornings weren't a good time for her appetite, so I started playing ball in the house with her before I left for work. This seemed to help and she usually was eating as I left. She had the living room to herself, with cozy beds, the couch covered with a fleece blanket, steak, kibble, treats, and fresh water.

After work she greeted me with lots of chatter and wiggle butt. We would walk through the back woods and cranberry bog every afternoon. I would bring kibble and cooked steak, which she usually finished as we walked for an hour or so. When I had my dinner, she usually got a good portion of it...if it came from my plate it must be good!! Her energy level and weight were good and she still slept on the bed at night. I made her use portable steps to get up on the bed, which from her expression she thought was for old dogs.

On January 20 more x-rays were taken. To our surprise the tumors hadn't multiplied and had only grown slightly. We added Standard Process Canine Hepatic Support. But the blood in her urine was a big concern for many reasons, mainly because of bacteria growth, so her urine was checked every few weeks. All was well — she was playing ball, interacting with her canine family as well as her new friends and supporters that we had met while walking in different spots to keep her happy.

On April 25 she started to lose some interest in food. Tests showed bacteria in her urine, so we started her on 100mg of Zeniquin. Her bloodwork showed that we could start her on a low dose of prednisone to help her appetite. X-rays showed the tumor in her belly area had grown, but those in her lungs were the same size as before.

Again Katie bounced back and was doing well. Friday July 31 she got a great report and we made a new appointment for 3 weeks.

That weekend she didn't eat well and refused to go for her walks, but she still played ball and followed me everywhere. On Monday August 3 she didn't look right so I took her to see Dr. Burns. Her gums were pale and bloodwork showed her red blood count had dropped. He gave her an injection of Epogen, which we hoped would give us more time. We would know within 48 hours. She was fussy about her food, but ate some and drank water and broth. She still wanted to play ball and slept on the bed.

Wednesday August 5 she jumped in the car, greeted the staff at V.A.C.C. with chatter and wiggle-butt. After we went into the exam room, she looked at the cookie jar as usual, but when I gave her one she spit it out and lay down at my feet. I was shocked. I had no idea that this was it. Katie had had enough. Dr. Burns walked in and was just as upset as I was. We hadn't discussed this yet. She had defied the odds and given us such hope.

I could take her home and bring her back later; he could come to our home, or go to a special place — whatever I wanted.

Katie always loved Dr Burns and the whole staff. It was time to let her go. It was the kindest thing I could do for her, and I had promised her. I don't know how she got to the office that day. She had almost no blood pressure and her blood was like water and a pale pink. Katie had given me one last gift; she had gotten us both to a safe place where we would both be taken care of. She passed away peacefully in my arms.

The whole house was in mourning — Katie had always taken care of all of us; what would we do without her?

It has been 10 months and I still can't believe my beautiful girl is gone.

On February 6, 2010, Maggie passed away and joined Katie at The Rainbow Bridge. She was 15 years old. Dancer and Willow stay close to me. How can they understand where their family has gone?

Katie loved life and lived every minute of it. I hope she knew how much she was loved and adored. I feel her everywhere and know that we will meet again.

Katie 10/11/1998--8/5/2009

Can you help this beautiful girl?

Natalie Bartizek is trying to help this adorable dog get a home. Natalie met Luke a few times and was at the Purple People Bridge outing with Luke. In fact, it is her photograph of him that has been used many times with big bridge in background.

She has rescued a sheltie/husky mix named Sox from some awful living conditions. She took her to vet today and she is on meds for ear infections and has a lump on her thigh/hip area. This has been diagnosed as Mast Cell tumor grade 1. She is friendly and sweet. She had bad fleas and has been treated as well for that and is currently staying with Natalie and her two Berners.

The Berner club is trying to find Sox a permanent foster home or permanent home asap. So far we have had no luck getting her into a breed rescue. We will not send her to the pound; it is our desire to help her find a wonderful home.

She has very good chance to be cancer free after tumor removal. She is guessed to be about three years old. She weighs 35 lbs. I have photos attached.

contact info for SOX:

Natalie Bartizek