I have some new exciting news. As you all know we are always trying to find an new edge in the battle against canine cancer. And Hemangiosarcoma (HSA) is one of those cancers we would like to get a better handle on since it seems to end up being diagnosed too late to save the dog. In fact, we are so keen on finding out how to deal with HSA that we have actually initiated our own research project on HSA with G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D. This is very exciting for the NCCF because this type of research on HSA has never been tried. Let me tell you how it all came about by first talking about a dog name Batman.
Batman was the first dog to undergo a breakthrough experimental treatment for brain cancer, led by doctors, G. Elizabeth Pluhar, D.V.M., Ph.D., and John Ohlfest, Ph.D. They developed a combination treatment plan for dogs with glioma, a very aggressive and relatively common form of brain cancer. First they removed the tumor surgically. Then, in some cases, they use local gene therapy to attract immune cells to destroy remaining tumor cells, and finally they created a personalized anti-cancer vaccine made from the dog’s own cancer cells to prevent tumor recurrence.
I personally love the thought of taking a cancer that was killing a dog and turning it into a personalized vaccine to kill the cancer!
Dr. Pluhar, a surgeon at the Veterinary Medical Center, and Dr. Ohlfest, head of the neurosurgery gene therapy program at the Masonic Cancer Center, gave Batman his initial treatment in August 2008. Batman led a normal life unaffected by his tumor until his death from cardiac failure in February 2010, there was no tumor recurrence. According to the Dean of the College, Trevor Ames, DVM, MS, “the far-reaching implications of this promising new treatment are almost difficult to fathom; not only could these treatments lead to a cure for brain and other systemic cancers in dogs, but because dogs and humans share many physiological traits, dogs could also be the missing link in the cure for brain cancer in humans.”
Then something interesting happened. Almost one year ago, Davis Hawn’s then 8-year-old yellow lab, Booster, was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in his nasal sinus. Booster was given three weeks to live. Hawn did not want to accept the death sentence and began searching the country for a cure. His search led him to doctors in Florida who removed Booster’s tumor and gave him chemo. An online search then led him to Dr. Elizabeth Pluhar from the University of Minnesota’s canine brain tumor clinical program. Davis asked her to help his dog, but Dr. Pluhar had never made a vaccine for this type of cancer before. But Davis was not going to take no for an answer so she did agree to try. She shipped the vaccine off and ten months later Booster is cancer free.
Then after Davis contacted the NCCF to tell us about how well the vaccine works, we contacted Dr. Pluhar to ask if she would be willing to try the same research that was successful with brain cancer and skin cancer, and use the same protocol to try dealing with splenic HSA. The NCCF’s thinking is that with all these other cancers, the similarities were that the cancer had to be removed and a vaccine needed to be created from the cancer cells. With splenic HSA, one of the more common forms of HSA, the spleen is typically removed so we felt that Dr. Pluhar’s research could possibly work. With that in mind, we asked her if she could try and apply her protocol on splenic HSA. After doing some initial research she agreed to do the study based on reaching certain goals before going on to the next level.
First, she needs to insure that we can culture the cancer cells in the lab,
Second, she needs to insure that the tumor vaccines stimulate immune cells to attack tumor cells. If she can achieve these two steps she can go on to treat the HSA cancer. We could not be happier and are guardedly optimistic over this research project.
The cost for this project will be $55,500. I hope you are all as excited as we are about this research and will help fund the project. If you want to help with funding this new innovative NCCF’s initiated project please CLICK HERE or got to this link
The word “cancer” stirs up many emotions: fear, anxiety, depression, and loss of hope. Pet parents especially feel this because their pets cannot speak to them about how they are feeling or what they are thinking. ACF knows that pet parents need the best possible information to make decisions with regard to their pet’s treatment options. If you are here because your pet has just received a cancer diagnosis, you are NOT alone. ACF staff members are available to answer basic questions and provide referrals to support agencies.
MYTH-BUSTERS FOR PET PARENTS
MYTH: Cancer is a death sentence. – FALSE
Depending upon the type of cancer diagnosed, new therapies have increased both survival time and pet quality of life
Take information you learn on the internet with a grain of salt. Statistics compare groups in the aggregate. Just as with cancer in people, every pet is an individual.
Consult a board certified veterinary oncologist in your area for the latest treatment options
Find one near you by searching the Veterinary Cancer Society website (www.vetcancersociety.org, or by phoning us: 877-448-3223)
Don’t be afraid to seek out second opinions for your pet; you have choices!
Gather all information you can before making your decision; there are no “right” answers, but there are INFORMED decisions
MYTH: Pets suffer similar side-effects to people from chemotherapy – FALSE
Veterinary oncologists use milder protocols to enhance quality and length of life
95% of pet patients are treated as outpatients and clinic visits typically last under one hour
Pets do NOT lose their fur from chemotherapy (pets with hair may experience hair loss)
Because of less toxic protocols, pets are unlikely to experience nausea. New medications are used in those cases to prevent reactions.
MYTH: Treatment of pet cancer is so expensive; I won’t be able to afford it – BOTH TRUE AND FALSE
Pet cancer treatment is costly due to the expense of drugs, diagnostic tests and equipment, etc. just as in medical care for people
Many pet insurers have plans that cover pet cancer treatment, so if you have insurance read your policy carefully
If funds are an issue, ask your veterinary oncologist about less costly treatment plans that may sustain your pet and about available clinical trials, which are often funded and free of charge to enrolled pets.
Remember just like you, veterinary professionals love pets, understand financial questions, and want to present all treatment options possible to help your pet thrive. Don’t be afraid to ask!
Many philanthropic organizations exist to help pet owners pay for treatment. Although “Animal Cancer Foundation” does NOT pay for treatment, call us at 877-448-3223 and we will guide you through a list of those that do.
MYTH: Cancer prevention for pets doesn’t exist – FALSE
Obesity is a risk factor for cancer, give pets exercise and healthy food and treats
Just as in people, early detection is a key factor in survival. Make annual veterinary appointments; know the warning signs!
Some lawn pesticides have been shown to have a link to bladder cancer in certain breeds of dogs, so avoid exposing your pets
TGEN Researchers looks to canines to advance treatment of cancer
Keith and Marna McLendon thought their 9-year-old Scottish terrier, Molly, had a mere bladder infection.
But after a visit to the veterinarian and an ultrasound exam, the McLendons learned Molly had a tumor.
“We were actually surprised at the diagnosis of her first ultrasound,” said Marna McLendon, a Scottsdale resident. “We were just thinking that somehow everything would be fine. So, it hit hard.”
(Photo by Alexa Salari/Cronkite News)
The scottie’s owners take her for chemotherapy treatment every three weeks at Arizona Veterinary Oncology in Scottsdale.
Despite undergoing nearly 10 months of chemo, Molly hasn’t lost her energy – or even her fur.
“Chemotherapy for people is an incredibly tough thing. There’s a lot of side effects, the challenges with it are very difficult,” said Dr. Rachel Venable, veterinary oncologist and Molly’s primary doctor. “But in dogs, they actually do extremely well. We see minimal side effects. Most the time, you would never know a dog was on chemotherapy.”
That’s just one reason doctors are looking to canines to advance cancer treatment for humans.
Researchers at the nonprofit Translational Genomics Research Institute in downtown Phoenix are growing their knowledge of canine cancers. They’re building a database of DNA samples from canines to compare the genetic makeup of healthy dogs to dogs with cancer. They hope this will lead to more targeted treatment options and potential cures.
Cancer a “major problem” for pet owners
One out of every three dogs is affected by cancer and of those, more than half of them will die from the disease, according to the National Canine Cancer Foundation.
That rate is alarming for many pet owners, considering there are more than 70 million pet dogs in the U.S., according to the American Pet Products Association.
“There’s no question that it’s a major problem for pet owners, and it’s certainly a major problem for dogs,” said Jeffrey Trent, president and research director at TGen.
Venable said she has seen the number of dogs with cancer grow over the past decade.
“People are taking better care of their animals than they used to back in the day,” she said. “And also, they’re living with us now inside. So, they’re living to be older. … The older you get, the chances of getting cancer just gets that much higher. Same with people.”
And treating cancer isn’t cheap. Treatments can include chemotherapy, surgery and radiation – with costs ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars, Venable said.
TGen officials want to lower the rate of dogs with cancer. The institute has been collecting genetic information on dogs with cancer since 2010.
Researchers are using liquid biopsies to collect DNA samples via blood, saliva and urine. Those samples are analyzed through Illumina technology, an advanced genomic sequencing system.
This system allows researchers to input samples into the sequencer, which spits out data relaying the genetic landscape of a dog – essentially its blueprint.
“Using the lens of genetics to zero in on what changes are present in a cancer of lymphoma, bladder cancer, melanoma, allows us to target the treatment to a specific genetic change,” Trent said.
Liquid biopsies allow researchers to gather DNA samples without surgery. This lessens the risk for dogs, minimizes costs and allows TGen researchers to analyze information on a more continuous basis.
“It’s the holy grail of being able to work on targeted treatments,” Trent said.
Why look to dogs to advance treatment for humans?
“Dogs and humans have a great degree of genetic similarity that enables us to transfer knowledge across species,” said William Hendricks, an assistant professor at TGen specializing in canine cancer studies. “So, if we find a particular mutation in a canine cancer, that mutation often occurs in a very similar position in a human genome.”
With or without fur, cancer is a genetic disease.
“It’s a disease of broken genes in both humans and dogs,” Hendricks said. “This same genetic foundation exists for cancer. … The cancer tends to look similar under the microscope. They look similar under the genomic sequencer, and they tend to behave the same ways when they’re treated in the clinic.”
Aside from similar genetic landscapes, dogs share our physical environment.
For example, Trent said dogs that get lung cancer don’t smoke, but they may live with an owner who does.
It’s this combination of genetic and environmental similarities that provides doctors a unique way of comparing canine cancers to human cancers.
“Dogs, they’re a great model not only because they get similar cancers as we do, but they also live with us,” Venable said. “So, they share the same environment, the same exposures, sometimes the same foods. And so in that way, they’re a great model.”
The shorter lifespan of dogs also allows researchers to capture more data in a quicker time frame compared to studying humans over a period of several decades.
Researchers suggest more clinical trials for canines
A group of scientists recently published a review in “Science Translational Medicine” that suggests dogs with cancer be integrated into clinical trials to test new drug therapeutics.
This suggestion partly stems from the idea behind the Human Genome Project, said Trent, who contributed to the review.
National and international partners completed the 10-year and nearly $3 billion genome project in 2003. It sequenced and mapped the genes of humans to more clearly understand their genetic makeup.
Since that time, “more than 30,000 human cancers have been genomically profiled, (whereas) genomic sequence data have been published for fewer than 50 canine cancers,” according to the review.
Trent said researchers have focused on humans, which has led to the lag in data for dogs.
“There’s nearly 800 cancer treatments that are moving towards clinical trial for treatment in human patients and really, what we also wonder is whether some of those new drugs, those new targeted opportunities to treat cancer, could be helpful for our canine patients as well,” Trent said.
The group suggested veterinary schools help conduct canine cancer studies. Universities tend to have more staffing capable of observing and analyzing patients for a longer period of time.
Some Valley groups already have formed collaborations.
Venable said Arizona Veterinary Oncology recently partnered its oncology services with Midwestern University in Glendale. Venable sees about 30 to 45 canine patients every week.
She also said the practice is actively seeking clinical trials to advance the treatment of cancer.
Researchers stress safety in studies
For both TGen and Arizona Veterinary Oncology, they said ensuring the safety and humaneness of studies and clinical trials is of utmost importance.
“This is an area that really does have a lot of advocates on both sides – those that want to protect animals and those that want the best for them and those that want to get new cancer treatment for patients,” Trent said.
Trent said pets can’t make decisions for themselves, so they have to work hard to ensure they conduct studies with oversight and compassion.
“It’s an exciting blend of the ethical, legal, social implications of the work we do and an important one as well,” he said.
Molly’s owner said she is open to canine clinical trials. Her terrier’s tumor has shrunk. However, Molly’s doctor said they cannot surgically remove it because of its location.
Venable classifies Molly’s chemo treatment as more of a “maintenance therapy” that shrinks the tumor and prevents it from spreading to other parts of the body.
“One thing that really surprises owners is how their dog can feel kind of sick from their disease and then we start treating them with chemotherapy, especially lymphoma, and they notice how they start feeling better,” Venable said. “They have more energy. They are eating better, and it’s actually happening on chemotherapy, which would be the opposite of what you would expect.”
The type and length of cancer treatments for dogs varies, but Venable said most forms of treatment last about a year, with either one or two visits per month.
At the end of the day, however, chemo treatment gives patients like Molly what many humans are also trying to find: more time to live life.
Molly’s owners are making sure she spends her remaining time living life to the fullest.
“We started just focusing on quality of life,” Marna McLendon said. “We were just going to make the best of every day. If that meant we’re going to go on rides, we’re going to go on overnights. … We’re going to make sure she was feeling good every day that she could.”
A DOG from Torfaen who was recognised by the Guinness Book of Records for his talent of recycling plastic bottles has died.
Tubby the Labrador, from Pontnewydd, was included in the 2011 edition for the most bottles recycled by a dog – 26,000 of them.
Tubby (picture: Guinness World Records)
He would pick up at least six discarded bottles on his twice daily walks, crushing them in his mouth and taking them for recycling to owner Sandra Gilmore.
A Guinness World Records spokesman said: “We’re sad to hear the news about Tubby, it was a pleasure to have him feature in the book. His love for recycling was inspiring to many children and adults alike. It was a unique record and we are honoured to have been able to verify his achievement in the community.”
Mrs Gilmore, 59, estimated Tubby collected over 50,000 bottles over his lifetime before he passed away with cancer.
When Tubby was first featured in the Argus in 2009 his story went viral and was picked up by news outlets throughout the world, including in Brazil.
He was invited onto BBC One’s One Show, on Channel 5 and was presented with a bone on ITV.
And he was also recognised by Torfaen council, who presented him with a civic award.
Mrs Gilmore said: “We were so devastated to lose Tubby – he meant so much to us and the local community and he had friends all over the world.
“He didn’t let it all go to his head though as he was always the keenest, greenest recycling canine around with the smallest carbon paw print ever. He had real nose for plastic bottles ever since he was a puppy.
“He would dig them out from anywhere and go under bushes and even into water to fetch them. He was such a lovely dog and we miss him so, so much. Our memories with him will last a lifetime but whenever we do feel sad that he’s gone we start smiling again when glancing over at his certificate from the Guinness Book of Records.”
Torfaen council’s waste and recycling manager Cynon Edwards also paid tribute.
He said: “We are devastated to hear of the loss of Tubby.
“He was a remarkable dog and did a great job sniffing out rubbish to recycle, and helping to improve the environment for everyone in Torfaen.”
This news channel’s top story was the heartwarming reuniting of a one-eyed chihuahua visiting his dying owner in the hospital. Could the bond between animals and humans be the next advancement in healthcare? It seems more and more hospitals are adopting policies which allow pets to visit their owners in the hospital.
This man’s wish was to see his best friend Bubba again, and the hospital made an exception so he could meet with his little doggy. The video mentions that at the moment the man saw his dog, he started crying and his emotional well being greatly improved from then on.
The man had been suffering because he missed being able to spend time with his dog. The dog too, had grown a strong attachment to his owner and had stopped eating. The hospital staff was crying when they saw how happy both the dog and the elderly man were by being able to just spend time together.
Photo: Taro the Shiba Inu
Sometimes it is the simple things that can help the most. Both humans and animals have feelings, it’s undeniable. Feelings do play a major part in the overall health and well being of all us.
It seems that there is a trend in hospitals starting to allow pet visitation. Another Canadian hospital is also allowing it. Could this be a turning point for health care? The mind body connection is being more recognized in the healing process as playing a major role and perhaps dogs are just one way nature can help us heal.
The bond between animals and humans is very strong and can make a difference.
Watch the video, and as you look at the touching picture of this tiny dog and his owner, think about your own life. Wouldn’t you want to be able to see all your loved ones if you didn’t know how much time you had left? The hospital staff at this place was willing to bend the rules and grant this man his last wish, wouldn’t it be great if this could be the case for everyone?
Most hospitals still don’t allow pets, but we believe the tides are turning. As these videos about pets in hospitals have been gaining so much traction online, we see many people want this to become the norm. Viral content is now changing public policies because the issues are able to spread all over the world much faster.
If you believe this could truly help people and dogs, don’t forget to share this.
Change is hard but together we can make it happen! This little dog meant the world to his owner and we all know how close we are to our pets. Aren’t you glad this man got to see his dog one last time?
This hospital staff clearly truly cared about their patient and were willing to be open minded about how to help him. Hopefully more hospitals will consider making a pet visitation policy for cases like this.
Life with Elliott never has a dull moment, as the 1-pound Maltese is often seen running around barking and enjoying his favorite activity – shredding paper.
But while Elliott is a ball of energy, the 2-year-old dog has struggled to survive his entire life, and was recently diagnosed with kidney failure and given about six months to live.
“He is operating on about 20 percent kidney function right,” Elliott’s owner, Cheryl Garcia, said. “His glucose level is 21. The vet said dead dogs have had better numbers.”
Cheryl Garcia holds Elliott the dog, who is battling kidney failure.(Photo: Molly Corfman/The News-Messenger)
Veterinarians who have treated Elliott have no explanation for how he has survived. Twice a month, Elliott has blood drawn by veterinarian Laurie Hirt at Paw Patch Veterinarian Services in Clyde. Even the simple task of drawing blood can be dangerous for the such a small animal.
“I don’t know any statistics, but I know his condition is rare,” Hirt said. “His kidneys failed over a year ago. We take him off medicine because it makes him nauseous, and then he gets better.”
Garcia has taken care of Elliott since the dog was 10 days old, after a breeder brought him to the animal sanctuary. Elliott was in dire shape, born with a hole in his skull, fluid on the brain and deformed legs.
Cheryl Garcia holds Elliott the dog, who is battling kidney failure. (Photo: Molly Corfman/The News-Messenger)
“He was given 24 hours to live but kept fighting. He looked like Squidward (a SpongeBob SquarePants cartoon character). His legs were pointed backwards; he looked like a seal. I had to use splints to redirect his legs,” Garcia said.
Although his diagnosis was grim, Garcia said Elliott had a will to live and fought through his medical condition.
With the recent diagnosis of kidney failure, the odds are against Elliott making it to his third birthday in November. But as Garcia points out, Elliott is not an ordinary dog.
“He was supposed to be a blob of a dog, according to MedVet (Medical and Cancer Center) in Columbus,” said Garcia. “He wasn’t supposed to respond to his name, and was expected to just soil himself all the time.”
But Elliott got better and has continued fighting, proving all medical science wrong.
“He loves to play and get dirty. He is attracted to gross slimy things,” said Garcia.
Although Elliott is in good spirits now, Garcia said the financial burden of caring for him continues to grow.
“Each time we take him to MedVet in Columbus, it’s at least $1,000. We spend $52 a month on his prescription food,” said Garcia. “The bills are endless.”
Along with his special diet, Elliott enjoys drinking noodle water, which helps flush out his kidneys.
“He can’t digest protein and when he was growing up he basically survived on puppy pudding — a recipe of milk, sugar, vanilla and salt,” said Garcia. “He eats a lot. I am trying to get him up to weighing 2 pounds, but he just can’t get there.”
In order to ease the financial burden of Elliott’s medical costs, Another Chance Sanctuary will host a “Pins for Paws” event from 6 to 8 p.m. Friday at Plaza Lanes in Fremont.
Money raised from the bowling fundraiser and other charity events throughout the year will help pay for Elliott’s medical expenses.
Chris Berger, a volunteer at Another Chance Animal Sanctuary in Clyde, said Elliott has dumbfounded everyone who has ever met him, leading her to believe there is a reason why Elliott is alive.
“That dog has a purpose,” Berger said. “When he has been sick a couple of times vets in Columbus told us to put him down. And then he comes out of it.”
“We had a family call us telling us a loved one was going to commit suicide and wanted to know if he could meet Elliott. Once he saw Elliott and everything he has overcome, the man did not want to harm himself,” Garcia said.
Being Elliott does have its advantages, as the tiny Maltese has built quite a following on social media with his official Facebook page, Life With Friends of Elliott.
“He has people from Denmark, Germany, England and all over the country following his page. People have driven from Indiana and Montana just to meet him,” Garcia said. “I get some touching private messages that make me want to cry.”
Elliott has been blessed to live as long as he has, Garcia said. He’s a medical miracle every day he is alive.
Despite the latest grim diagnosis, Garcia said Elliott is out to prove science wrong.
“A lot of tears have been shed, but nobody sugarcoats his condition. He has survived on love and care. He has been cared for since the day he was born,” said Garcia.
Newswise – “Everything ended.” That’s how Valeria Martinez describes her feelings the day she learned that her beloved Rottweiler, Cujo, had cancer.
A bump on Cujo’s leg was diagnosed as osteosarcoma, the same type of bone cancer that killed Canadian icon Terry Fox.
Martinez came to the University of Guelph’s Ontario Veterinary College (OVC) for help. At OVC’s Mona Campbell Centre for Animal Cancer, she learned Cujo could receive treatment and take part in a new research collaboration intended to improve the quality of life for both dogs and people.
Valeria Martinez (right) with her dog, Cujo, and Prof. Paul Woods, Prof. Brigitte Brisson and Vicky Sabine from the Ontario Veterinary College. Image: University of Guelph
“We have more light now,” says Martinez, who lives in Barrie, Ont. “This gives us more options and more opportunity.”
“Osteosarcoma bone cancer is a common cancer in dogs, and common in teenagers like Terry Fox. Our goal is to improve the dogs’ quality and quantity of life while living with cancer.”
Dogs, especially large breeds, develop osteosarcoma 10 times as often as humans; OVC’s Animal Cancer Centre sees up to three new osteosarcoma cases each week.
“We’re not sure why it’s so common in large dogs,” Woods says.
Despite aggressive treatments such as limb amputation and chemotherapy, most dogs still die from metastatic disease, which usually appears in the lungs.
“Similar to what happened with Terry Fox, the cancer comes back in people and in dogs,” Woods says.
Rapamycin has been used in kidney transplant patients as an immunosuppressant, and, more recently, it’s being utilized as an anti-tumour agent, Woods says. Rapamycin inhibits a cellular pathway that is a critical regulator of cell growth, proliferation, metabolism and survival, he says.
“We are looking to see if rapamycin slows down or even prevents the metastases of osteosarcoma from coming back.”
The clinical trial will compare dogs receiving standard of care treatment alone (amputation and chemotherapy) with dogs receiving standard of care along with rapamycin.
Some of the costs for staging, surgery, chemotherapy and rapamycin are covered for dogs involved in the research trial.
As one of the dogs selected to receive standard of care therapy, Cujo has undergone surgery and is now receiving chemotherapy. Cujo will have regular physical exams and chest radiographs to monitor his health. Martinez will bring him to Guelph initially every three weeks for chemotherapy.
At first, she hesitated over the idea of surgery to remove her dog’s affected limb. “I thought: ‘How can he walk with three legs?’”
But Cujo was walking a week after the amputation. “He has no more pain, he can do everything.”
Woods says Terry Fox’s story resonates with many dog owners.
Diagnosed with osteogenic sarcoma in 1977, Fox covered more than 5,000 kilometres in 1980 in his intended cross-Canada run to raise money and awareness for cancer research. He died in 1981 at age 22 after raising more than $24 million.
“Owners think to themselves ‘Terry Fox ran across Canada with this cancer. My dog can have a leg amputated, and still run across the yard with this cancer and have a good quality of life,’” Woods said.
It also gives people a sense of hope and purpose, he added.
“Since osteosarcoma looks and acts so similar in people and dogs – aggressive, highly metastatic disease— if we find better ways to treat dogs, it may help treat people as well.”
That’s comforting for Martinez and, she believes, for Cujo. “It’s good for learning and good for others for the future. If I had to do it again, I would do it.”
No one who really loves a dog wants to part with him. Sadly, dogs don’t live as long as we do, and the majority of them don’t die in their sleep.
Three of my four German Shepherds had to be put to sleep. Each experience was agonizing. I clearly remember crying and screaming, and then staggering out of the vet’s office that first time and throwing up in the bushes. I didn’t get out of bed for three days.
But I have learned valuable lessons each time. Here are five ways you can give your beloved canine the best death possible.
1. Choose the time, if possible, and don’t wait too long
I had a friend years ago who let her dog live, in my opinion, too long. Like many Shepherds, his back end wore out before the rest of him. It was obvious he was in pain in his last year. In his last months, he dragged his legs behind him and was constantly soiling himself. He often smelled strongly of urine and feces.
I took Pasha to see the Easter Bunny when she was 8 years old. Even at that age, I wasn’t thinking of the day she would have to leave me. (Photo by Kat Merrill)
I tried to convince her more than once that it was time to let him go. Seeing this proud Shepherd struck down and brought low in his last months broke my heart. Dogs give us their best every single day that they’re alive. And they deserve our best every day, but especially when the end comes. No one wants to part with a dog too early, but please don’t wait too long.
2. Choose the right location
It used to be that you had one choice: Take your dogs to the vet and have them put to sleep. Vets will now make house and other location calls so that your dog may leave this earth in a location of your choosing. This could be in his bed in your living room or a field in which she loves to run. If you don’t want your dog to die at the vet’s office, make sure you discuss this option with your vet in advance.
3. Stay with your dog!
I just don’t understand those people who drop a dog off at the vet to have her put to sleep or don’t go into the room with the dog. I knew a guy who turned his dog in as a stray so they would put the dog down and he wouldn’t have to be involved. Horrible. If you could be with any loved one at his end, you probably would. Many people agonize over not being there when a loved one dies, and it haunts them afterward. Why would you not be with your dog? In her last moments, your dog should be comforted by the person she loved best, not left with strangers.
This is one of my favorite pictures of Pasha, who died when she was 9 1/2 years old. (Photo by Kat Merrill)
4. Make it as easy as possible
I was gutted the morning I woke to find my first Shepherd, Pasha, who I raised from 6 1/2 weeks old to 9 1/2 years, in crisis. Although her hips and back had started to be trouble for her, she was healthy and had regular check-ups. However, a tumor that had never showed itself burst, rupturing her spleen, and she was bleeding internally. The vet said, “You’ll have to put her down. She likely wouldn’t survive the surgery, and if that’s cancer, it has already metastasized.”
I was in shock for a few minutes. And while they had her in the back giving her fluids, I took a moment to go outside and just bawl. Then I suddenly had this clear thought: “These next moments are not about me. They are about her. I can curl up and die later. I owe her the best I can give her right now. And that means comforting her and giving her as peaceful a death as possible.”
5. Make it as good as it can be
When I realized I had to part with Pasha and decided the situation wasn’t about me, I did what I could to make it better for her. I sent a friend to a nearby convenience store for honey-roasted peanuts, which Pasha loved but didn’t get very often, and a HUGE chocolate bar. We all know dogs love chocolate but that it’s not OK for them, right? Well, I figured since she was dying anyway, she might as well have it.
When I learned Ellie had cancer and that her time was getting short, I had a professional photographer take pictures of us. (Photo by Greg Farrar)
And the beautiful girl who didn’t eat her breakfast or her biscuits at home that morning wolfed down those peanuts and that chocolate so fast that I almost wavered at that point about my decision, temporarily thinking it meant she’d be OK. After the chocolate, though, she sighed and leaned into me, almost like she was saying thanks and that she was ready to go. I held her while the vet gave her the shot, singing her puppy song to her and telling her how much I loved her. I held her until she started to go cold. And I didn’t cry or scream or act like a crazy person until I knew she was gone.
My second Shepherd, Ellie, was a serious food hound. (OK, that’s probably most Shepherds.) When she blew out a knee at nearly 15 years of age, she had to be put to sleep. She had been battling cancer, and winning, for more than a year, but her back and hips were failing fast, so the now incredibly painful knee was literally the last straw.
Knowing how she felt about food and treats, my vet mixed her up a giant bowl of dry and canned food, and while she was wolfing it down with me holding her head and the bowl, he put the sedative in her back leg. She nodded off in the dish, and I smile to this day thinking about how she likely approved. Might as well go doing something you love, no?
Although its official name is Territorio de Zaguates (the Land of Stray Dogs), the four-legged residents of this no-kill shelter in Costa Rica probably think of it more as El Cielo des Perros (Dog Heaven) – or at least the next best thing to a forever home.
A sanctuary in Costa Rica is home to more than 900 stray dogs. (Facebook)
About 800 dogs rescued from the streets live on the ranch in Alajuela until they are adopted. The nonprofit shelter was founded eight years ago by the husband-and-wife team of Alvaro Saumet and Lya Battle to promote animal welfare and respect. It is funded by donations and run by volunteers.
Many of the dogs are allowed to roam freely on the property for part of the day in an effort to improve their health and adoptability. There’s also an indoor area with beds and bathing facilities.
Years before an Arizona shelter started dropping breed labels to make dogs more adoptable, Territorio found another solution. It came up with a unique breed name for every mixed-breed dog as unique as the dog itself: Alaskan Collie Fluffyterrier and Fire-tailed Border Cocker, for example. In 2013, these names helped boost adoption rates a whopping 1,400 percent.
Visitors are welcome to take a hike with the dogs and, hopefully, find a perfect match.
“If you wish to adopt, you can schedule a walking hike on their property, and if any of them choose you, you will be allowed to adopt them,” wrote Andrew George in a Facebook post March 24 about Territorio de Zaguates that has gotten a lot of media attention.
A Place for Dogs That No One Wanted (Facebook)
Both Saumet and Battle are longtime animal lovers. Saumet grew up with dogs, while Battle was more attracted to “unloved pets,” she said in an email. “I loved snakes, spiders, lizards, frogs – you name it!”
Battle said she grew up assuming that everyone loved dogs, and believed the many dogs she saw on the street were on their way to or from their homes. But as she got older, reality set in — and broke her heart.
After she and Saumet married and moved into a house with a yard, they adopted a couple of puppies from one of the only animal shelters in Costa Rica at the time. “A horrible, high-kill shelter that still stands,” Battle said. “Leaving that place that day, with our little pups in our arms, knowing that the ones we hadn’t chosen would probably die soon, killed me.”
Battle started taking in dogs that seemed to need help, nursing them back to health and having them spayed or neutered. “It was not a very common practice at the time,” she said. “I decided there had to be a place other than the street for those wonderful dogs that for some reason no one wanted.”
All of the dogs are available for adoption. (Facebook)
Oso, the dog who inspired Territorio, was the fourth or fifth stray Battle took in. “He was oddly beautiful,” she said. “Yellow with a white mask like a Husky, curled tail and little ears.” She noticed his tear ducts protruded, so she took him to a veterinarian, who performed a simple operation to fix them.
As Oso recovered, Battle posted flyers of the lost dog and took him out for walks, hoping he’d find his way home, but no such luck. He was adopted – and returned — seven times.
“Alvaro and I decided to stop trying to find him a home and just keep him,” Battle said. “And that is when I realized that Oso had been lucky. He was a lovely dog but had no market value. Did this mean that he or any of the ‘unpopular’ dogs deserve to be out on the street? Or even euthanized only because society could not see their redeeming qualities?”
That’s when the couple decided to start Territorio de Zaguates, “a place they could call home even if they should never find ther own,” as Battle described it.
Since then, “Many dogs have left their paw prints in our hearts,” Battle said. “Old ones who made recoveries and hung around long after everyone had lost hope. Vicious ones that became teddy bears. Or dogs with social needs who proved undefeatable.”
Running the Shelter Isn’t Easy, But Always Worth It
While Territorio is paradise for dogs, running it has not been easy for Battle and Saumet.
“We have struggled daily against naysayers, haters, near-sighted government officials and ministries, terrible shortages and daily challenges of our own,” Battle said, adding that it has always been worth it.
“If a couple of ordinary people like us were able to do this for so long with no help from the authorities, without anything but their own jobs, their dwindling assets and a lot of stubborn determination and love, then big government budgets in other countries could do the same,” she said. “But shelters are not the solution — they are the reflection of our crumbling society. If we want to solve the problem, we have to stop buying from backyard breeders and demand our governments assign a portion of taxes to spaying and neutering all dogs and cats.”
Battle and Saumet have achieved a lot over the past eight years. They’ve been successful in creating awareness about the problem of dog overpopulation in Costa Rica. They have helped minimize the stigma attached to strays and educated people about the importance of spaying and neutering. “But most of all we have been able to offer whoever is interested a different option to the word ‘shelter,’” Battle said.
“In Territorio, every dog has a name, a second chance and everything we can manage to provide for them. The only thing we refuse to give them is an expiration date.”
For more information about this heaven on earth for stray dogs and how you can help, visit the Territorio de Zaguates website.
A local K-9 officer is undergoing an experimental clinical trial program to treat his lymphoma after being diagnosed last month.
K9 “Nero” is a 6-year old Belgian Malinois who has served with partner Deputy Marc Nye at the Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office for four years.
Ottawa County Sheriff's Office K-9 Nero has been diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma and is undergoing a clinical treatment at The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center. Nero has been partners with Deputy Marc Nye for the last four years. (Photo: Photo courtesy of Deputy Marc Nye)
After a recent training session, Deputy Nye said he noticed a lump on Nero’s throat. He was taken to the Oak Harbor Veterinary Hospital, where he was diagnosed with B-cell lymphoma, with a life expectancy prognosis of one to two years.
But the duo is getting a bit of help, hoping an experimental clinical trial through The Ohio State University can help put Nero into remission.
Once a week, Nero and Deputy Nye travel to Columbus for treatment at The Ohio State University Veterinary Medical Center.
Nero’s treatment uses experimental drugs through a clinical trial program, which is advanced beyond normal chemotherapy.
Because he meets requirements of the program, all testing, evaluations and treatment are free, Ottawa County Sheriff Steve Levorchick said.
On Monday, the pair had a checkup at the OSU veterinary medical center and Deputy Nye said Nero was responding well to treatment so far.
“His lymph nodes are approximately 20 percent smaller. It’s a sign that he’s responding to the medication, but there’s still a long road ahead of us,” Nye said, posting on the public Facebook page for Nero, “K9 Nero – Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office.”
The average lifespan for a dog with B cell lymphoma is about 12 months, he said.
According to the National Canine Cancer Foundation, lymphoma is one of the most common tumors found in dogs.
While it usually originates in lymphoid tissues, like the lymph nodes, spleen, and bone marrow, lymphoma can arise in any tissue in the body.
They are continuing with their lives as normal until Nero’s health declines. Deputy Nye and K-9 Nero continue to work their normal shift, except one day each week when they travel to Columbus for treatment.
“I am trying to stay positive, but I also have to be realistic,” Nye said. “It’s been very difficult on me but the positive comments coming in from around the world are comforting and greatly appreciated.”
People interested in keeping up-to-date on Nero’s treatment can follow the sheriff’s office Facebook page for him, at www.facebook.com/K9nero