Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Yoshi, by Connie McCabe

In August, 2003, five-year-old Yoshi came into Golden Rescue when his family's house burned down and they could not take care of him. He also had a very nasty-looking, ulcerated grade 2 mast cell tumor on his flank which needed surgery and possible chemotherapy. We fostered him for Rescue A Golden of Arizona and immediately fell in love with the big blond guy. After his surgery, it was determined that the margins were not clean, so he had to undergo 8 chemo treatments over a period of 16 weeks. He did well at first, but about midway through the treatment, he developed a staph infection which put him into serious trouble. His white cell count was very low and fever very high. Yoshi had to spend three days in intensive care and we really worried he might not survive. He pulled through, but then developed a reaction to the ampicillin too. We decided that if Yoshi lived, he would stay with us forever. He did overcome the infection and the allergic reaction and continued with the chemo.

Yoshi did well, aside from frequent allergic reactions and lots of lipomas, until June, 2008. Then he developed a lump on his neck that I asked his vet to check while he was in for a grooming. The groomer found another on his inside thigh. Sure enough, both were grade 2 mast cell tumors and Yoshi had to undergo another surgery to remove them. The neck wound wasn't too bad, but the inner thigh incision was very painful. They were unable to close it properly, as the skin was so tight there. Any walking caused him terrible rubbing and it took a long time to heal. He cried a lot and it just broke our hearts to hear it.

Then, just a month later, when he was getting a check-up from his oncologist, she found two more masses, one on his groin, and another on his inner thigh near the previous one. She performed the third surgery to remove them and put him on a prednisone course of therapy. It would take these wounds a long time to heal too.

But in September, he somehow managed to break a premolar at the gum line that needed to be cut out. So this was his third surgery in just three months and fourth surgery since we had him. But he was a real trooper for this one, and was playing with his Kong within a few days.

All was good until this past May of 2010. I noticed a small lump on his muzzle, similar to many I had seen on other dogs. But this was Yoshi, and so we had to check it out. Sure enough, another grade 2 mast cell. He had his fifth surgery for that, a pretty easy one that time.

Only a few weeks later I noticed a large lump on his leg at the carpal joint. This time it turned out to be a nerve sheath tumor, not a mast cell. This was to be the sixth surgery, and the fifth for cancer. And this was the hardest of all. The oncologist was not able to get clean margins. She did not want to do radiation on him as he was 12 years old and that would have been pretty rough on him. Chemo was not a good option for him either, she thought, as he had problems with it before. So she opted to use a bloodroot therapy on the site.

This was a treatment she had used many times on this kind of cancer with great success. The bloodroot salve eats away the cancer cells that are not accessible by surgery. He did fine for the surgery, but the bloodroot slave treatment is very painful. We had to change the dressing daily for 6 weeks and every day was worse. The salve kept eating away more and more of the tissue until one day we could see tendons. And then the next day the tendons were gone! Then we could see bone. I can't describe how horrible we felt to see our boy suffer the way he did. Once the tendons were destroyed, the joint just hung loose, and he was still in a great deal of pain. His oncologist was very worried, as were we, that he might not regain stability in that joint once the healing began. She had no idea how involved the tumor had been and had not foreseen this amount of destruction in his tissue. We discussed having to put in a plate afterwards so he could use the leg again. She bought him a brace to help him start to walk on that leg.

Then two months later, in late July, the tissue destruction stopped and the healing began. It was amazing how quickly the healthy tissue began to fill in. Yoshi gradually began putting some weight on the leg, more every day. And the bandage changes were less often and less painful. By August, he was feeling good, although the joint was still not stable. But by mid-September, the tissue filled in and held the joint together, even without the tendons. There is very little flexibility, and he has a pronounced limp, but Yoshi can walk and we feel that he is now pain-free, a truly wonderful thing for him. There will be no more hikes or parade walks, but we are grateful that he has a functioning leg and won't need any more surgery to make it stable. Through it all, even when in so much pain, this guy has managed to enjoy his toys and meals and belly-rubs and keep a positive outlook, even when we feared the worst.

In between all of these surgeries and treatments, Yoshi has managed to win a lot of photo contests, some with his best friend Zoie, another rescued Golden. Even though she has not had to deal with cancer, she has had her own problems with diabetes. She was blind when she came into Rescue in 2005. She had surgery to remove the cataracts and has been able to see very well until recently. It has been determined that she now has retinal deterioration, which is incurable, and will once again be blind. But we don't worry too much. She handled the blindness well before, and will once again.

Yoshi and Zoie love to pose for Halloween photos, and I have attached a few. The photo of him laughing appears on the cover of the Mutts Shelter Stories book, and was also one of the top 10 finalists in the Humane Society Spay Day contest. That particular photo embodies everything that is Yoshi – his wonderful happy attitude! The other photos were various finalist and winners in lots of other contests, including the Dog Page A Day Calendar. That photo, which is Yoshi in his suit and Zoie dressed up in her finest, was also a Hallmark contest finalist.

Yoshi continues to improve. He has just returned from a camping trip with us to Flagstaff and did very well. He will never jump logs again or go for long hikes, but he can sure enjoy short walks in the woods and chewing on the big sticks he finds. Thank you for the opportunity to share the story of this big beautiful guy.


Anonymous said...

I LOVE this dog. What a wonderful face. Best wishes Yoshi!


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