I just got this heart warming note from one of my clients and wanted to share it with everyone who may have lost hope for one of their beloved canine companions diagnosed with a terminal illness like cancer. Harley’s Story, Hi! My name is Harley (short for Harley Dawson Tug Hampton the first). I am a Dogue de Bordeaux (French mastiff). I was born AUGUST 3rd, 2005 and my journey starts there. I’m not sure where I was born or who my real parents are. All I know is that one day 2 ladies came and took me home from the pet store. I was 8 weeks old and 18 pounds. I had this giant head that was so heavy for my body to hold up for long periods of time. Despite my looks my new mommies loved me. In addition my feline and canine companions learned to tolerate my endless drool and ungraceful mobility. Over time I grew into an incredibly handsome dog. However, I never did outgrow the drooling or clumsiness.
I attended puppy school so that I could learn to listen to my mommies. I did quite well for the most part. My best friend was a Yorkshire terrier – wasn’t that bizarre to watch. I actually am 1 class away from being a “therapy dog”. Both of my mommies are nurses, and as a puppy I would go visit the residents in the nursing home they worked at. I used to love the smiles I would bring to their faces just by being there. I also loved the scratches I would get and the occasional biscuit. Face it, it was an easy job and mastiffs are rather lazy so I loved it! Give a paw here or there, sit, down, speak – what dog in his right mind wouldn’t.
I moved to a new home when I was around 1 ½ years old. The place must have been made for a big lug like me. I had so much room to get around that for a second I forgot how clumsy I really was. My mommies got really busy working so I started staying home a lot more. On the rare occasion I would get to go visit at my moms job I always found myself looking in one room for one little lady. I would go to her bed and put my head on it – she would get a bright smile on her face and give me a big kiss and scratch. The last time I was there I couldn’t find her. Guess she had to go away and very soon I will go away too.
I’m just over 3 ½ years old now. I know exactly what to do to get love and affection from my mommies. I still have 2 mommies and I have a really good friend now two. I couldn’t ask for more. Everyone is always so impressed by my size and good behavior. My mommies love to show me off. Strangers are always commenting on my “good disposition” People are so easy to please – I sit, I speak, and I give paw, and I lay down when asked. The smiles and rewards are endless when I listen.
About a month ago I went for a walk and started not feeling so good. I was thirsty all the time. I could never get enough to drink. Then I started to urinate in my kennel at night – I couldn’t hold it. After about a week my mom noticed that I was wetting my bed and that all I wanted to do was drink water. I didn’t even want to do the tricks I always did to get attention. I went to a new vet because my mom had to use care credit. He looked me over quickly, checked my urine and told mom that I had a prostate infection and long term antibiotics would fix me right up. Mom put her trust and faith into the vet’s diagnosis and thought I would be fine – but I wasn’t. Two weeks went by and I was still so thirsty all the time. I was still wetting my bed too. My mom called the vet and he reassured her to continue the antibiotics and I would be fine – but I wasn’t. I started to eat slow compared to my normal rapid inhalation of food, and I was tired all the time. I couldn’t run and play like I always did with my brother and sister outside. Finally, my mommies lost faith in my initial diagnosis, and one week ago today they took to me to the emergency pet clinic to have me looked at. I spent hours there – urine samples, blood test, and x-rays.
The end result was devastating to my mommies. I will never forget the tears they cried. I may be just a dog, but, I, like all other pets am very connected to my owners. I was diagnosed with mediastinal lymphosarcoma (cancer in my chest cavity). The doctors told my mommies that this big malignant tumor was making my calcium go way up, and that was why I was always thirsty and urinating. They said without immediate hospitalization and outrageously priced tests and treatment I may live a week or so. My mommies don’t have 8-10 thousand dollars to spend, let alone spend it with no guarantee of quality long term survival. In addition, they work with “sick” people and they would never want me to be unhappy or in pain to spare themselves of grief of losing me.
My mommies decided the ultimate goal was my comfort. I was sent home with a prednisone taper to control inflammation and subcutaneous fluids to put under my skin, to control the calcium, and prevent kidney and heart failure. The final comment by the physician was that I would probably die from suffocation. He said my chest cavity will fill with fluid, and my heart and lungs won’t be able to move. In addition, he said not to start any prednisone unless my mommies were sure they did not want to treat me aggressively with biopsies and chemotherapy. That ride home from the clinic was the saddest ride in my life.
The next day my mom called the care clinic vet to cancel my appointment for a follow –up and explained the terminal diagnosis I was given. A couple of hours later she received a call from a vet at the facility that worked with chemotherapy that was cost effective. After hours on the phone my mommies decided to proceed with a biopsy and an echo-cardiogram to see if my heart was strong enough to withstand treatment. That Tuesday I was dropped off at the clinic. I had my biopsy and some fluids. My mom had expressed concern that I was walking funny and stumbling some. The vet said it was the calcium level and wanted me to stay with them for 2 days in a cage all alone at night with an IV of fluid. Gratefully, my mommies said absolutely not. They wanted me home so they could love me. Home I came.
I wouldn’t eat and I could barely walk by nightfall. My mommies and friend frantically called where I had been to release my x-rays and labs immediately to the long time family vet for assessment. Unfortunately, nobody would cooperate. Wednesday morning my one mommy stayed home with me. Lucky for me, I couldn’t walk, I could just lay there – freezing cold, exhausted, and saddened by the tears being shed over me. My other mommy rushed home from work to be by my side. On her way she called Dr. Carol (the long time family vet) and told her that it was time for me to go to puppy heaven. Dr. Carol immediately called my other mommy and told her to give me prednisone stat. After 2 hours, I still was not able to get up. We spent that time saying our goodbyes. My mommy called Dr. Carol and said they would carry me to the car and bring me to her so I could go to sleep. They told Dr. Carol that I yelped when they tried to move me. She made them give me more prednisone. About 15 minutes later it was time to go – all of a sudden I stood up, walked to the car and got in. I could feel the joy in everyone’s heart’s as I walked, but at the same time I could feel the overwhelming sadness in anticipation of my final ride that would lead me to the end of my journey in life. We all knew that I was going to puppy heaven – that I was being called to watch over all the other animals on this planet.
As the truck drove down the road, I began to feel warm again. I could hear my mommies saying “let Dr. Carol decide”. Little did everyone know that my fate was entirely up to me. I was going to tell Dr. Carol if my journey was complete or not. When we got there, I got out of the truck and lay down in the grass. Dr. Carol examined me and confirmed my terminal diagnosis. She then said she would honor my mommy’s wishes, but she did not feel my journey was quite over yet. I was warm, I was alert, and I could walk. Dr. Carol listened to me – I’m not quite finished down here yet. I want to have more time with the people I love. She gave me 2 shots and sent me home on an entirely holistic, all natural therapy regimes including subcutaneous fluids, paaws vitamins and some holistic pills. She gave us a recipe for an anti-cancer diet also. She explained that I may live an hour or a may live a week, but assured everyone that the time I did stay here on earth would be quality unselfish time. I got in the truck and we all happily drove home.
Today is Monday – I’m still here and I’m living life happily and pain free.
Hi! I’m Sandy (one of Harley’s mommies). I think Harley pretty much summed up his journey with a few exceptions. For example he initially didn’t like his anti-cancer diet – but once we believed in it and got over the “ewe that’s gross” – he loves it. Harley is truly a miracle sent from up above combined with the effort put forth by Dr. Carol. She has been brutally honest from the start, but has upheld to her firmest belief which is “love your dog”. Twenty-four hours after seeing Dr. Carol, Harley walks, eats, sleeps and plays like he used to. Sometimes we as pet owners take for granted the little things that in the end mean the most. Harley brought tears to my eyes on Thursday when for the first time in over a month he “woofed” me when I said tell me. I smile every time he does his total body wag for me. Dr. Carol saw him on Friday and he gave her paw on command. The look on her face was priceless. How many dogs can make their vet cry?
In conclusion, we realize that Harley has very little time left with us and we are okay with that. However, what is important is that he is home with us being a dog and being loved. He is being cared for by the people that love him the most. He is where he belongs. He is not stuffed in a kennel all alone or with strangers hooked up to an IV. For now, Harley is still eating, playing and happy. It’s hard to believe he’s still sick. We are grateful for every extra quality day we share together. Ultimately, the outcome will be the same –he will die and it will be sometime in the near future. The difference is that Dr. Carol has given us the gift of quality time with him.