Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sermons in Stone by Luke Robinson

Sunday, June 19, 2011
republished from the 2 dogs 2000 miles blog

And this our life,
exempt from public haunt,

Finds tongues in trees,
books in running brooks,

Sermons in stones
and good in everything.

I love this passage from Will Shakespeare’s As You Like It and for this Father’s Day, I couldn’t find one more appropriate. It speaks to the fascination and beauty found in the simple wonderment of nature. It’s reminiscent of my father who first taught me that and as a dad myself, it’s a lesson my own boys, Hudson and Murphy, always keep me mindful of.

Life is a messy thing but there’s no finer, more effective therapy for it than a good piece of wood in your hand, the path beneath your feet, and your sons at your side.

This Father’s Day for me is a bittersweet celebration. It was one year ago today we walked the final mile into Boston but it’s also Murphy’s last day. Tomorrow he will be given eternal rest.

A few weeks back Murphy’s left eye ruptured and I made the decision to have it surgically removed rather than euthanizing him then. He was still willful, eating healthfully, and in true Murphy tradition, full of piss and vinegar.

It was a controversial decision and one which tore me up internally. I suspected the rupture probably meant the tumor had breached the orbit, a suspicion that was confirmed by the vet during surgery. At most I hoped for a couple of months together and if we were lucky, a few more than that.

Since the surgery, we have seen a deterioration of mobility in his right hind leg which can only mean motor cortex involvement - that the cancer has finally spread to his brain. And though he has had some really good days this week in Eureka Springs and yesterday at 3 Dog Bakery, I know what comes next and that I cannot allow to happen to my boy.

I have no doubt now the decision I made to extricate his eye was medically unsound but it was not an inhumane one. I don’t write this because I feel a need to justify it to anyone. I absolutely don’t give a goddamn what people think about the choices I have made on behalf of Murphy.

I am writing about it because to me this is what being a father means. It means having to make extremely hard decisions often in the absence of any certainty and always in the face of adversity.

A father’s love is the grit and iron will that cannot be ground down even at the end. It’s looking into the eyes of your dying son and finally admitting, “I can’t save you.”

To all of the fathers who have had to say that and to the ones who thankfully haven’t – this is our day.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Thunder’s Tale by Mark Bucklad

Hi, my name’s Thunder. I am a long hair miniature dachshund and I am a cancer survivor since October, 2008, when I was diagnosed with lymphoma, just a month after my third birthday. Some present, huh? I will never be cured, but I am getting treatment and am currently in remission. This is not my story. This is the story of two of my brothers.

The first is Butch. I met him when I was very young. He was not. He showed me a lot of great stuff that my human’s couldn’t. Butch came to live with me when one of his parents had to move to an Assisted Living Facility and the other to a Hospice facility. Butch was diagnosed with a malignant melanoma in his throat, a day after I was diagnosed with my lymphoma. He had a difficult time; first with eating, then afterwards drinking. He stood bravely when his prognosis was poor. He went to the Rainbow Bridge to be with his real dad. I’m sure they missed each other. I miss him every day. He was my big buddy. I used to drive him nuts.

I’d now like to introduce you to my next big brother, Laddie. My parents were looking to adopt another before Butch and I were diagnosed and had Laddie lined up. He was looking for a new home because his dad passed away. I found out that not many people want senior dogs. I don’t know why, they’ve been great to me. Laddie used to pull me into his thick coat to keep me warm when I was not feeling well. Chemotherapy takes a lot out of you. Sadly, I was too sick myself to recognize that he was also not feeling well. My parents thought something was not quite right though. Treatment was started, but it was too far progressed. I only got to know him for 7 weeks as he too crossed the rainbow bridge 3 weeks after being diagnosed with cancer of the spleen. I miss him every day, too.

My treatments continue to this day and I hope that my good days continue to outnumber my not so good day. Oh yeah, since my mom is a breast cancer survivor, I wear a Breast Cancer awareness collar to support her.

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.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hendrix by Sarah Doyi

I have loved and been loved by many dogs, but, even from the Bridge, Hendrix is my heart and soul and forever dog. His mother was a Border collie mix stray in rural east Tennessee and I suspect his father was somebody’s hunting dog who loved loving more than hunting! Hendrix found us shortly before my mother was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer and I’ve always believed he was Heaven sent to help me through that terrible journey and the rest of life’s challenges and joy.

Through the Tennessee mountains, we explored trails, cool streams, brilliant autumn leaves and Hendrix always reminded me to stop and sniff the … well, whatever. On one snowy winter day, we spotted several does on a hill behind the Prince of the Forest. We all stood still watching each other. Hendrix took a step. Prince took a step. I gave thanks for the command, “leave it” and so we did! Another encounter turned out not so well as Hendrix, who was quite afraid of turtles, but not snakes, was nailed on the leg by a copperhead. We were blessed with a huge yard and we spent afternoons together in the wooded patch and with Hendrix’s “project” of excavation of an old wall in search of chipmunks.

We spent rainy afternoons together as well. I am a great fan of books by Dean Koontz and when I told Hendrix we were going to “read some Koontz,” Hendrix would leap onto the bed next to me and lay on top of one of my hands. I would read with one hand under his warm furry belly and the book propped against my knees.

Hendrix always loved his food (or anyone else’s) to the point it was almost a joke, but he began to go through the garbage when I was not at home. I couldn’t keep his water dish filled as he would drink it all so quickly and he seemed to be panting around the clock even in cold weather. The vet diagnosed Hendrix as having cognitive dysfunction and sent us home with a prescription for xanax. It took two doses of xanax for me to realize that it was the cause of extreme “garbaging.” The second time, Hendrix tore through our pantry, somehow able to reach food he had never been able to reach before, including a pound and a half of chocolate. The chocolate included some York mints, which not only helped by taking up chocolate space, but made the hurl produced at the vet clinic smell “minty fresh,” as the grateful vet remarked. Realizing that the situation was getting worse, I asked the vet for a referral to a specialist. Our local vet helped and referred us to a specialist in Knoxville.

Hendrix’s appointment with the specialist was scheduled for the same day as my divorce. Dr. S spent 2 ½ hours with us and, though she was unable to do the correct blood test as Hendrix had “garbaged” in the attorney’s office while we were in court, concluded that Hendrix did not have cognitive dysfunction, but probably Cushing’s disease and suggested my local vet perform the tests for that. Canine Cushing’s disease is a pituitary cancer and can be a tumor either on the adrenal gland (which is operable) or on the pituitary gland (non-operable). Hendrix’s tumor was on the pituitary gland. As I read more about Cushing’s disease, I realized Hendrix had several other symptoms typical of “cushpups.” In addition to the extreme drinking and panting, his coat had thinned to the point that, in what had been a lush plumed tail, I could see the outline of the tail bone. His face had a skeletal appearance and he had a pot belly. Hendrix had begun to fall quite frequently and I realized this was due to the wasted muscles in his hind legs, also a Cushing’s symptom. Hendrix had been gorging because the adrenal glands were working over-time and he was ravenous.

After consultation with Dr. S, the local vet prescribed Lysodren. For us, it was indeed a wonder drug. Virtually all Hendrix’s symptoms disappeared and his coat returned as lush as ever. Our daily walks, in addition to bringing us such pleasure, helped build back Hendrix’s hip and hind leg muscles. Lysodren is a hideously expensive drug, and I am blessed that I was able to squeeze out the money for it.

As Hendrix and I learned to live with his cancer, we received a call from the supervisor of elementary education in our county. She asked if we would be interested in becoming a therapy dog team and reading with school children. I’d always wanted to do that, but it was one of those things I never quite got around to. Obviously time was now precious, and Hendrix and I took on the challenge. When Hendrix passed his Therapy Dog International evaluation, my heart almost burst with a sense of triumph both for passing our test and for doing it as a small victory over the cancer. Hendrix spent the next few months of the school year reading with second graders in three elementary schools. I was a public school teacher for over 15 years, but the experience of reading with Hendrix and the children was in so many ways the high point of my experiences in education. At one school, Hendrix read with four little boys with a variety of reading abilities. Hendrix knew instinctively which boys needed him more and the more difficulty one of his boys had reading, the closer Hendrix lay. In one of his other schools, his little girl was speech, vision, and motor impaired and reading with Hendrix allowed her to feel so, so special.

Toward the end of the school year, I noticed Hendrix was coughing from time to time. I took him to the vet, but the vet didn’t find anything amiss. Once the school year ended, the cough seemed to come more frequently and then Hendrix, who had loved his food so dearly, seemed to have less of an appetite. He also began to fall again. We took a walk with corgi friends of his and that afternoon Hendrix seemed like his old self again. He even had a moment of mischief, disappearing, and then circling back to join us from behind! He was worse again the next day, however, and a return visit to the vet revealed that Hendrix had blood clots in his lungs. He went to the vet clinic during the day for IV heparin, but I was allowed to take him home at night after being taught to give the heparin. He seemed so sad and, once so stoic through all the Cushing’s test and retests, snapped at the vet tech who was giving him his shot. During the night, Hendrix would shift constantly from side to stomach and was restless. He was unable to get down the stairs without falling. I called the vet and made The Appointment. We were waiting for the vet and a friend of mine came by to say goodbye to Hendrix. Hendrix’s “Uncle James” always had a treat for my boy, and when Uncle James appeared, Hendrix leaped off the bed and sat before James to get his treat. I canceled the appointment, but the next day Hendrix just seemed worse and tired and at night so uncomfortable, so I called and scheduled the vet visit again.

Hendrix passed to the Bridge from my arms in the yard he loved so well, the warm sunshine and the lilac June blossoms paving his way. Though Hendrix will always be my soul, I have adopted two dogs since then, Hope, a deaf, arthritic senior girl and a young houndador, Sabbath, who is continuing the reading program my Hendrix began and, so, as they say in my tradition, Hendrix’s memory is indeed for a blessing.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rori by Jennifer O’Connell

I will never forget that sound you make:
For it is ingrained in my heart as the sound of happiness.

You crawled into my lap,
90 pounds of
with a heartbeat to match -
a reminder of the beauty of life.
We were told you had 3 days
3 days before that heartbeat stopped.
It has been 54
And still counting…
Your life is a miracle,
A testament to the power of love.

There are some things that will never fade
The mark on the wall from
Golden hair against it after a swim
The same golden hair that decorates
Every item of black I own.
A lake in the Adirondacks
A hike in snowy woods in the dead of winter
The expressiveness of your eyebrows
The way your body fits so perfectly
To warm my feet on a frosty morning

But above all,
My heart will keep your
A gentle reminder
To appreciate every
H e a r t b e a t
To render others happy
And to live passionately




Monday, July 19, 2010

Sam by Cindy Eilenberger

I believe it is best to say that Sam found me. One day when I came home from work, I found Sam in my spare bedroom whimpering from injuries he had received from another dog. Sam, at that time, was not my dog. But, he had found my doggie door and let himself in.

Sam was not a stranger to me. He had roamed my neighborhood for awhile since his true owners had put him out on the streets to survive on his own. Other neighbors and I would feed and water him to keep him going. But, on that particular day he needed help and chose me to be the one to nurse him back to health.

I scooped him up and took him to a vet. He was ripped up pretty bad down his back and hind quarters. One of his ears was ripped, one eye was swollen shut, and he was bloody everywhere. But, he let the vet do what had to be done without a sound. I honestly didn’t think he would survive. I gave him water through a syringe because he was too weak to lift his head. The tough guy made it though and has been my buddy ever since.

I failed to mention that Sam is a Siberian Husky and at the time we lived in Georgia. Not the best climate for this breed. But, fortunately for us, a wonderful man came into our lives and moved us to Connecticut. Sam now had a daddy and found he was in his element in the snow and colder temps. When it snowed we would laugh while Sam made his Sam angels. He will plop down in the snow and twist back and forth in it making his own special formation.

One of Sam's wonderful qualities is his love for everyone. Kids have always been his favorite though. He loves nothing better than a group of kids who want to pet on him and take him for a walk. He'd follow them to the ends of the earth I think. I think kids sense his gentleness too because they seem to be drawn right to him.

In June 2010, Sam was diagnosed with Lymphosarcoma. Because they said that it had spread to his spleen, stomach, and bones we opted to not do extensive treatment. Instead, we are trying to make him comfortable and enjoy the last days we have with him.

I can see him getting weaker and I know his time will come faster than I’ll ever be ready for. Sam is 11 years old and has been such a good boy. I wish I could nurse him back to health the same way I did all those years ago. But this time I will only be able to give him his final rest. He will pass from my arms to God’s where he will no longer have pain and can run like he so much loved to do. I’ve asked God to make sure he has lots of snow too so he can continue to make his Sam angels. I know I’ll see him again one day. Just as Sam found me in the beginning, I have no doubt that he will find me again.

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

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