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Saturday
Feb052011

The Loss of a Forever Friend


 Two days ago, I lost my best friend in the world to Canine Cancer. I had not given cancer a lot of thought, knew only one or two dogs that had died from it. Our Dock Dogs club supports Chase Away K9 Cancer, and I have purchased a tee shirt and supported the raffles. Now do I understand the significance of research and the pain of losing a family member to such a dreaded disease.

Buddy came to us nearly 10 years ago, emaciated and found in a field. Vet's said he was 24 hours from death. My husband and I went to see him, and of course adopted him on the spot. We got him into a good vet with long time friend Dr. Kayla Peterson, DVM. My husband went out and got all the ingredients for a recipe called Satin Balls to help him put on weight quickly....and he did. He was never a small puppy, at 6 months he was the size of many adults.

He was a middle of the road GWP, had that happy go lucky attitude. He was always the one to meet and greet...he made everyone that knew him smile. He was more like a kid to us than a dog, rightly or wrongly we felt that way. What's not to love about a middle of the road GWP that never had any problems with all of the dogs coming and going. He was never crazy about puppies, but as they matured...he was accepting.

Buddy was a special boy, he was the dog that went through a ton of obedience, and when we were asked to do anything in the community such as work with kids with anger issues at the mental health center...he was "the man." He was the neighborhood dog, that children ran out their front doors to say hi to, everyone always said how beautiful he was...but think it was more his aura they were referring to.
He put up with strangers ruffing up his ears to say Hi....even though I held my breath, all he did was slime them or give them kisses.
He even posed for our Christmas Card this year...Baldwin laughed at him.


The days and years went by, and this big boy grew older. He had been healthy his entire life....and when we were off for Christmas we noticed what seemed to be a stroke. Of course it was the day after Christmas, and vets closed....we watched carefully. By the next day....he was his old self, counter surfing for boiled eggs and helping himself. Little did we know what that episode was...he was beginning to bleed internally from a massive tumor on his spleen. The rebound was from his body absorbing the blood flowing into his abdomen. We had two more very good days.


On Thursday, our day began as usual...Dad got up first, let he and Holly outside. Buddy was racing through the yard on patrol for pesky squirrels, or an offending possum that may have come into the yard during the night....maybe those yapping min pins next door would be out for him to race the fence with. He had his breakfast, and took his place at Dad's side next to Holly for the morning petting and talk. Dad always told him he was such a good puppy dog.

Dad had errands to run by lunch time...and Buddy went into his giant sized crate on his dog bed to take a late morning nap...so we thought. Truth was, the tumor was not only seeping but about to rupture. I noticed he was not himself, and was disoriented. The stumbling was back and breathing was not normal. I called our long time vet letting them know we were having another episode....Dr. Tom Knappenberger said to come in. Getting this big boy to the car was not hard. He saw the leash and was ready for a walk. He fell down the front steps, and it was apparent something was incredibly wrong. He was not getting oxygen to the brain, and by the time we got to our vet...we did EKG, blood panel, his gums were white, and his breathing was so labored...panic was setting in that we were losing him.

Our good vet called emergency and let them know we were on the way...I stopped by to get his Dad, and we made the journey to the emergency room. His Dad put the back window down a bit, as it was 67 degrees, and the old boy sniffed the air by putting his nose up towards the open window. He always loved hanging that big old head out the window....this was a dog that exhumed pure joy at all times. We got to emergency, and he could no longer walk, head slumped off the back seat onto the floor....His Dad and I met the hospital staff in the parking lot with a stretcher. It took 4 of us to lift 75 lbs of dead weight and wrap with blankets. He lifted his head slightly. They ran him into the critical care unit and we went to a private waiting room.

Our vet had sent the EKG, xrays, and blood work with us. He had an IV and oxygen immediately administered. Within 30 minutes, a very good vet Dr. Hoh came into the room....Buddy had a huge mass in his abdomen...his spleen had ruptured. It did not compute, then she said the most agonizing word....Cancer.
But he had no symptoms...how can this be? What were our options? Disbelief, agony, helplessness, then the grave prognosis.

Buddy had a silent aggressive cancer, Hemanigosarcoma. Cancer of the blood vessels. Dr.Hoh explained that symptoms come by the time it is too late in most cases. There were no options for us...surgery and extensive chemo may provide some patients 1-3 months. But with Buddy, it had already spread to his heart, and most likely all of the organs now. How long was he sick?
Dr. Hoh said most likely no more than a month....that is how aggressive Hemangiosarcoma is.

Dad was by this time sobbing, and I made the decision with Dr. Hoh's help to let our big boy go...
His Dad was inconsolable, and I asked him to please wait in the car...I wanted our last moments to be peaceful, calm, and it was time for Buddy and I to have that final conversation. Which he agreed would be for the best.

Buddy never left the stretcher...he was wrapped in beautiful hand made blankets. When he was brought to me, his head was up...I remarked he "looked better"...Dr. Hoh explained he had gotten oxygen since being there, and it was temporary. He was coherent...I was so pleased he knew who I was. Our eyes met and he smiled...I began to talk to him, and rub that big old head...he sighed and put his head on his paws.

I had watched the movie "Marley and Me" the night before, and had never watched the ending...that night I did. Was this God's way of preparing me? If so...a big "Thank you" God.

The scene was much the same...different dogs, parents, and words....but much the same message. He relaxed and I spent time rubbing his head and back...when Dr. Hoh left us for a time, she came in and checked on us. He had closed his eyes, and was not gasping for breath. It was calm, quiet, relaxed and he was so very tired....it was time.

Buddy went peacefully, just melted away in my arms. No sobbing from me until I hit the car, and I have been sobbing for two days now. This is not the first dog we have lost...doing rescue for years, we have lost a few...but this was different.

As I said, Buddy and I had ten years together, lots of obedience classes...he learned a "few" things, he was sort of like Marley come to think of it...you couldn't help but love him. Everybody loved him...We have received ecards and letters of support from all over the world since Buddy left us not even a week ago. He has touched so many lives and raised awareness of Hemangiosarcoma. I have received support from so many people sharing their stories of the loss they have experienced regarding this terrible form of cancer. The caring and outreach from so many people has been such a comfort. Thank you for that....

Chase Away K9 Cancer is a 501c3 organization dedicated to finding a cure and treatment for canine cancer. Please see their website, it is inspirational, and I will be taking the time to explore it and hope you all will too. I would like to make this Buddy's Cause...as he would want it this way.

 

 



I am assured the sting will go away in time, getting involved raising money in Buddy's name to help others not suffer the way Buddy did, offer research into treatments so that there is hope will probably be the way healing can take place....as I said, Buddy would have wanted it that way.

Chase away K9 Cancer has donated funds to help and Research Buddy's Cancer...Please see the link below
http://www.chaseawayk9cancer.org/breakthrough-technology.html

Wednesday
Dec152010

A Dog Like Meg

the Importance of Fostering-A Dog like Meg


I recently got an email with photos from one of our adopters on one of our more difficult cases...her name was Meg. I decided to get out her file and go over her notes, on just how bad she was in the beginning. Not bad I should say, but what a challenge she was, and how I fumbled through different ways of handling her to counter these challenges.

The first weeks entries were eye opening. I had forgotten all of Meg's quirks, and my own dismay over her personality. She was a huge girl, around 28" at the shoulders. She had obviously been a kennel dog all her life with little socialization with humans or other dogs.

Meg was dumped into a shelter with what we believe to have been her breeding partner. When another rescue contacted us, it was decided they would take the male and I would take the female. We enlisted help from those wonderful transport people, mostly former adopters of ours to help bring her from the Texas panhandle to Oklahoma City where my son and I would meet them from Kansas City.

When we picked up Meg, she was incredibly thin....shaking, and belly crawling. Rescuers were shocked as we were. Considering she had some huge ticks on her, my first thought was tick borne disease. When we got her to our vet here that was ruled out. It was the extreme lack of socialization and realization she was just a breeder...a money maker. Meg had never had any affection, and we learned early on that a nod when she did something good was enough. When I started to work with Meg, it was a day by day slow progression. I really had to work hard on my frustration level, breathe, meditate...seriously before working with her.

I was so wrong when I thought she was "dumb as rocks"...as later when I observed her opening crate door latches with ease. I thought, "okay girl, if my eyes did not deceive me which I KNOW they didn't, you are capable of so much more than I am getting from you." What could I do to reach this dog that when even patted would maul you with unwanted attention, or ambush me from behind while I sat on my computer wrapping her legs around my neck and licking my head? Oh that used to frustrate me, now it is quite funny to think of it.

I see from the progression of my notes, the big changes came two months into her stay with us. As we are somewhat lucky, being our breed is not overly common we have the capability of taking in a few at a time and doing actual rehab. We are not about numbers, but about working with our dogs to provide our adopters with a pet with some manners, and no surprises. My big requirement is a loose leash walk, some idea of recall, sit and wait.

I have a special son, actually three special sons...but one that does good work with the dogs. He has grown up observing rescue dogs, he reads them, handles them well and the dogs respect him. He was the one person Meg did not pull any punches with. He was much larger than her, and one of our first orders of business was to master the walk with Meg. I will never forget when we "saddled" up the dogs for their pack walk I of course, being the experienced handler wanted Meg. That lasted about one block, when I told Matt..."Hey, you're going to have to trade me the three pups for this one!" Meg was bucking like a horse, and I could feel my back and shoulders taking hits already.

What happened next was nothing short of a miracle. Matt made her go into a sit,(one command I was able to teach her), leaned over her and spoke to her. He pulled the leash short, and Meg was no longer bucking. She fell into a heel, and walked beside him or slightly behind. He said he had laid out the rules, pulled up his energy from the gut and Meg had understood. Meg soon realized the leash was good, sitting calmly was required for the leash to be attached, and waiting at the door required. I remember as time went on how I used to take her alone in the evening, and how wonderful it was to be one with the dog....a team, and the joy of realizing this girl was going to progress into a lovely adoptable pet! Matt was featured in Cesar Millan's Newsletter with Meg last March, as special kids seem to have an intuitive communication with the dogs.


Meg started then to mingle with our other dogs, and she did very well. She started Daycare in the country two times a week, mostly hunting breeds and geared towards their needs. She was changing, before my eyes. We labeled her the Queen Diva Bigness, as she conveyed the Diva attitude in her body language, almost as though she thought she was royalty.



We came to adore Meg as she was with us six months, and so ingrained into our day to day lives. A dog that required so much had not disappointed us, a young man with little confidence other than his handling skills with the rescue dogs felt proud of his hand in making her what she was now. She was finally ready to move into a home.
And that home did come. Meg went to live with the most special couple, one that marveled at her leash skills, obedience, and manners.

As we stay in touch with our adopters and love to hear updates and receive photos, one such email this week announcing Meg had a new sister from Lab rescue prompted this post. As this most unlikely pair sit for a treat, and are the couch Divas together, can we celebrate the rescue, rehab, re-home and rejoice of these tremendous animals. As they teach us so much, and allow us to never give up....to keep trying.






To the right we have a photo of our new Queen Diva Bigness....her name is Emma, and the saga continues!
"Oh Matt???

Sunday
Dec122010

Samuel Jenkins-Finally Home

 

           

            Sam gets scared. A lot. The tongs for the barbecue grill, a power drill, food sizzling in a pan, the freezer door, the basement, something rattling in the back of the car, sudden noises (loud or not so loud), the smoke from a neighbor’s fire, gunfire in the distance, thunder—oh! the thunder.

            Sam’s responses to these things range from mild apprehension—which, to be honest, is kind of adorable: a slight lowering of the head, a few cautious steps backwards as if in slow-motion, nervous glances in the direction of the frightening object—to total freak-outs. As you can imagine, the freak-outs are quite a bit less adorable; in fact, they’re rather heartbreaking. The sound of gunfire sends him sprinting to the back door to get inside the house; he runs and hides under the deck at the smell or sight of smoke; and thunder causes involuntary shaking, which can last for hours.

         Of course, we knew that adopting a rescue dog would come with certain challenges and we understood that, from the dog’s point of view, it can’t be easy to adjust—for a third or fourth or fifth time—to new people, new surroundings, and a new routine. Surely it’s even more difficult for a dog that wasn’t properly socialized as a pup, that experienced some degree of neglect, or that’s been abused. In Sam’s case, the simplest of things can reveal his anxiety, sending my wife and me into a flutter of speculation about the secrets of his traumatic past. Why does he cower at the sight of me with tongs in my hand, but not when my wife is holding them? Was he mistreated by a man? Was he hit with some object? Why does he skitter away, shivering, upon hearing the click of the coffee pot lid? Does it sound to him like the pop of a gun? Why does he shrink from the freezer door? Is it the sound? Or is it fear of what I might be pulling out of that strange compartment? And what’s so scary about the basement anyway? The creaking steps?

          The strange sounds of the mechanicals humming away belo The good news is that after nine months in his new home, many of these fears are gone. A curious sniff of whatever I’m holding and Sam’s okay; he often joins me in the kitchen while I make coffee; and the freezer doesn’t much bother him anymore. And strangely, larger fears sometimes help him overcome smaller ones. For months we tried to coax him into the basement—with verbal encouragement, hot dogs, and at one point, a toy on every step—all to no avail. Then, a few weeks ago thunderstorms arrived and Sam, to our astonishment, rushed down to the basement on his own to find a place to hide. It’s now his preferred safety spot. He’ll even wander down occasionally on his own or with me just to check things out.

            We’ve come to realize that there’s no predicting what will or will not frighten him. He follows the vacuum cleaner around like it’s an old friend. He’s so interested in the riding lawn mower and the neighbor’s tractor that you’ve got to shoo him away just for safety’s sake. On the other hand, when we recently decided to embark upon some agility/frisbee-trick training (did I mention that Sam’s an incredible athlete?), we brought home a hula-hoop and fashioned a low hurdle out of some flimsy PVC pipe. It took days of smearing peanut butter on them just to get him to come within three feet of either. Inscrutable dog!

            But he’s our inscrutable dog and while we’re mustering up all the patience and love we can to help him gain confidence and feel safe experiencing new things—trying hard not to reinforce his fears nor to push him too hard to overcome them—we wouldn’t have him any other way. For every anxious bout or episode of fearfulness, there are a dozen moments of laughter, affection, or fun—a walk, a game of tug, an acrobatic frisbee catch. The truth is, having patience, accepting Sam’s idiosyncrasies and neuroses, and loving him anyway, whether despite or because of them, isn’t all that different from the ways we accommodate and adjust to living with any other family member. We all have our quirks and anxieties. In fact, I suspect Sam isn’t the only RPSM parolee who has “issues.” I wish I had some expert advice for those dealing with dogs similar to Sam. Unfortunately, I’m not sure if we always handle Sam’s issues expertly, although we continue to read, learn, train, and talk with our vet. But there is one thing I’m sure of, one thing that I can say, with tremendous gratitude to all the people who made it possible for Sam to come into our home: the challenges of a rescued pet, frustrating and gut-wrenching though they may be at times, pale in comparison to the rewards of having Sam as part of our lives. He’s certainly lucky that RPSM gave him a second chance at life. But we’re far luckier.

 

 

                                    -- Jeff Insko

 

Thursday
Oct142010

Suzy Goes Home

Suzy was one of the mill girls from a cruelty seizure in SD. Both she and Abby her companion were so terrified neither could walk. Suzy did not walk for the 10 months while awaiting her fate in a makeshift building next to the shelter as the justice system drug on. I hear the barking of over one hundred dogs was deafening. I can only imagine how this efffected our girls that were so sensitive to noise.

By the time we got them, their nails were so long they had curled under making walking difficult. Suzy's muscles had atrophied in her hind end. We knew it would be a long haul to rehabilitation. We documented them frequently, watched in amazement as they started to adjust to a home. At first they were only comfortable running in the yard in the pitch darkness, as this was what they had become accustomed to.

What we didn't expect, was the courage and resilience these girls had within them. Suzy blossomed into the most loving, and trusting dog "here." When friends and former adopters Elaine and Jim approached me with an offer of a forever home, I was concerned Suzy would revert to her fearful self. As she was so comfortable here, I warned them that she could be "extremely shy."

Elaine said, "it's okay....we will be okay." Elaine and Jim had one of our shyest boys that we had in rescue years ago. Wiley had come down with a brain tumor leaving  him unable to function, he had passed on peacefully this past summer.

Elaine and Jim were up for a challenge, and I knew they would be the perfect home. Suzy went home and after two weeks has taken even more steps toward independence. I would never had imagined how her rehoming would have turned out. Suzy still startles on her long daily walks, but it is rare....she doesn't know a stranger that comes to visit, and has multiple doggie friends coming to visit. We are forever grateful to the courage Suzy taught us to find within ourselves even when faced with the impossible. Thanks to Elaine and Jim for taking in this girl that came from the silo in SD to now live in a wonderful lake home in the Northwoods of WI.


Suzy Below with one of her new doggie friends and Dad watching a little football...a definite rags to riches story spiced up with courage and determination.

Monday
Aug092010

Abby and Suzy one month on...

Abby and Suzy came from a Midwest puppy mill that kept dogs in run down buildings, silos with no ventilation, anywhere he could put these poor unsocialized dogs....all 179 of them and 37 were pregnant mothers cowering to the ground when the rescuers came. These were the two worst GWP's that were so psychologically damaged....we have documented them closely on video over the past month...the results of Rehab using our definition and understanding of Cesar's Way is amazing.