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Being 4-legged is so overrated…

Hello everyone, after reading countless forum posts about people encountering cancer in dogs for the first time, I thought I would share my experience of having two completely different dogs diagnosed with cancer. Granted, they had very different circumstances: one eventually gained her wings and the other is on the road to recovery.

I will start with Bonnie’s story. When we picked out Bonnie (about a year or two old) from the SPCA almost 2 decades ago we were naive about the fact that dogs too can get cancer. She grew attached to my mom (I was only maybe 4 at the time we got her), but she was the first dog I grew up with. Bonnie was a 40lb Australian Cattle dog mix and had a permanent kink in her curled, fluffy tail presumably from the previous owners slamming a door on it (intentional or accidental we have no idea). So the years passed and it wasn’t until she was about 9 years old that my mom noticed she had strange, pea sized lumps in her throat. Apart from that she had no other symptoms. After taking her to the vet, she was diagnosed with lymphoma and we were informed that without treatment she would only have a few months left to live. Like I said earlier, we had no idea dogs could get cancer. My mom decided to go through with chemo since it was the best option and she drove about a half an hour each way, once a week to start the treatments. I was still young and don’t remember everything that happened, but I do remember going with my mom once in a while to Bonnie’s chemo sessions. She was a very good girl, always allowed the technician to prick her for blood samples and do whatever else they did for chemo. It seemed that Bonnie was responding to chemo well and so chemo sessions grew few an far between. Then she was deemed “in remission” after whatever tests they ran showed continual improvement and no sign of spread. Bonnie did lose some of her hair, but she was always such a fluffy dog that it looked like someone de-furred her a bit too much.  It was these months in remission that Bonnie was losing her appetite and became “tired”. My mom went back to the vet and they did a chest x ray and found it had spread to her lungs. At this point there was not much more to do… I remember the last few days with her trying to get her to eat, just eat anything, even junk food (I was probably 12, so what did I know) and just petting her face trying to engrain her image in my mind. My mom took her a few days later and came back only with her collar. I remember crying a little, suddenly more aware of the finality of life since I had never had a family member die. But Bonnie was part of the family, not a human herself, but still part of it regardless. May she continue to rest in peace. Wow am I getting choked up writing this…

So this brings me to my next story about my dog Chloe. I grew up with a cat and cats are great, but you develop a different type of bond with a dog. A dog gets excited when you come home and they stay excited for quite some time. Cats seem to like a minute or two of affection and then go off and do their thing. Thats just how they are. I am not saying one is better than the other, but that they offer different types of affection and interaction or at least that has been my experience growing up with both. Anyway back to Chloe. We rescued her from a Petco adoption where people bring animals they are fostering temporarily for others to adopt.  She seemed to be playful, human friendly and more importantly got along with our other new dog Rocket. So we took her home and I noticed that she had worms. We had to quarantine her to prevent the other animals from getting sick. Mind you when we first got her, it was not my intention that she became my dog. She chose me.  During her few days of quarantine (before getting meds and after she stopped defecating wormlets) it became clear that she wanted me to stay there with her. Whenever she was left alone she would whine. Whenever my dad or brother or even mother would stay there with her, she would continue to whine to no end and try to get out. If I stayed in there with her, she stopped her whining and would lay down to rest. So I decided, being the 14yr old I was that I would stay with our 8 month old puppy in the kitchen area she was blocked in and sleep on a cot. And I did. I decided to tell this story because I have come full circle to her new circumstances. So the years passed, I went to high school, graduated, went on to college, graduated and was looking forward to spending the summer with my dog (since I was unable to take her to college) before heading off to grad school. And that’s when I noticed her back legs did not match.

I have a more detailed story in my blog, but basically after many tests, she was diagnosed with spindle cell sarcoma (soft tissue cancer). Seriously another dog with cancer at the age of 9? However, her tumor was on her back, left “calf” and the type of cancer she had was known to grow slowly. I knew that she had to lose the leg.  More importantly if the cancer hadn’t spread, it would be the only option to fully “cure” her of it. I didn’t want to prolong her condition (luckily she had no symptoms other than aesthetically) just to preserve her leg.  I feel that would have been selfish on my part. Especially since her blood work and physical revealed she is perfectly health, apart from the cancer of course (what a paradox!). Anyway, its been a week since her amputation and I have basically spent every day in the living room and every night in my room with her during her recovery (sound familiar?). The vet told me some wonderful news a couple days ago. Since the aspirate of the lymphnode in the knee was inconclusive about whether the cancer had spread beyond the site of the tumor (pre amp test), he sent in one of her amped knee lymphnodes for a biopsy. They came back negative for cancer! You have no idea how happy I am that I made the right call. Not only did I notice it in time, but now she is her healthy self again.  We have had 4 dogs in my 21 years of life, 2 with cancer (Bonnie and Chloe), 1 had a good fight but didn’t make it, and the other hopefully has another 5-6 years left in her. Luckily this story has a happier ending than Bonnie’s and I hope it continues to be as such.