We transported this cutie patootie on May 25, 2019. Sport is 6.5 yr old blind Pointer and belonged to a huge hunting preserve in NC. He suffered an infection, which caused him to lose sight in one eye then the other. His owner was going to just euthanize him but an employee convinced him to let him find a home for Sport. Although he has never lived inside, Sport loves people, and craves attention. Sport is Heartworm negative.
Sport was an absolute doll during our 1 hour ride.
He loved to cuddle!
I am thrilled we were lucky enough to spend some time with this sweet soul!
The “chocolate” chips are actually unsweetened carob chips, which are safe for dogs. These PUPcakes seem to be an immediate favorite with our pack. Our pups were begging for samples before the cupcakes were even out of the oven! After the PUPcakes cooled completely, a taste-test by our 4-legged Head Chef proved that these tasty treats are Cello-approved!
2 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
3/4 cup organic peanut butter
***Be sure the peanut butter you choose does not contain xylitol, which can be toxic to dogs
3/4 cup unsweetened organic applesauce
1/3 cup organic honey
3 organic eggs
3/4 cup unsweetened carob chips
Preheat oven to 400° F
Put the whole wheat flour in a bowl and set aside
Place peanut butter in a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave for about 10-15 seconds
Combine the peanut butter, applesauce, and honey. Stir well.
In a small bowl, whisk the eggs.
Add the whisked eggs to the peanut butter mixture and stir well.
Slowly begin to add the flour, mixing to combine after each added portion
Add the carob chips and stir
Use a 2-Tablespoon sized cookie scooper to fill mini muffin liners.
Place the filled liners into a 24-cup mini muffin pan
if you don’t have mini cupcake liners, you can spray each muffin pan cup with an organic non-stick cooking spray before scooping in the dough to each cup
Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the centers of each PUPcake comes out clean.
Let PUPcakes cool on a wire rack in the pan for about 10-15 minutes
Remove PUPcakes from pan and continue to cool completely on a wire rack
Refrigerate or freeze
PUPcakes will last about 3 weeks in the refrigerator, or approximately 6 months in the freezer
If freezing, be sure to thaw PUPcakes before serving
“When someone has cancer, the whole family, and everyone that loves them does too.” ~Terri Clark
When we first found out about Margarita’s diagnosis, there was no question or hesitation for us to put all other things on hold if needed, and fight right alongside Rita in her biggest battle. We vowed to do anything we could to help our 4-legged family member survive, as long as her medical advocates deemed the actions appropriate to continue to improve Rita’s quality of life. We are extremely fortunate to have an amazing medical team behind Rita, whom we trust wholeheartedly. Our family has been understanding, encouraging, and sympathetic. Additionally, thanks to dog sports and social media, we are beyond blessed to have a large network of extended family and friends who have not only been equally supportive, but also have been invaluable resources.
That doesn’t mean we haven’t come across those who do not understand, or cannot relate to our efforts or our bond with our 4-legged family member. I’ve been asked by people who don’t know our family well: “You’re getting chemo for your…DOG?!?!”… “Is it really worth it?” … In keeping the tone of Margarita’s documented journey positive, I won’t even go there – just consider yourself extremely lucky if you are like us and have friends and family who support your efforts to help your fur-child fight such a serious disease. At the same time, be prepared as a PAWrent to be criticized or questioned by those who “don’t get it,” and think your 4-legged child is “just a dog.”
JUST A DOG
From time to time, people tell me, “lighten up, it’s just a dog,” or “that’s a lot of money for just a dog.” They don’t understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for “just a dog.”
Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog.” Many hours have passed and my only company was “just a dog,” but I did not once feel slighted.
Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a dog,” and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of “just a dog” gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.
If you, too, think it’s “just a dog,” then you will probably understand phrases like “just a friend,” “just a sunrise,” or “just a promise.”
“Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure and unbridled joy.
“Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience that makes me a better person.
Because of “just a dog,” I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future. So for me and folks like me, it’s not “just a dog” but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.
I hope that someday they can understand that it’s not “just a dog,” but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “just a woman.” So the next time you hear the phrase “just a dog,” just smile–because they “just don’t understand.”
If you cross paths with those who don’t quite understand the love you have for your fur-child, you may start to doubt yourself – or may wind up feeling alone and helpless. In addition to the possibility of unsupportive friends and family, you could have financial constraints or other situations that may make chemotherapy difficult or impossible. Remember: NO ONE FIGHTS ALONE! There is support in each area that you can find elsewhere to assist you in your part of the battle to save your pup. First and foremost, ask your veterinarian and/or oncologist if they can suggest any helpful and reputable emotional and/or financial support groups. I’m sure there are others out there if you search, but below are some options for emotional, informational and financial support that I found either through a friend’s suggestion, or a quick Google Search.
Emotional or Informational Support:
Put out a post on social media
You will be surprised at how many others have been through cancer with their pup, and can provide some very helpful tips and information
Also recommended to our by a friend of ours whose dog also battled cancer
Join a Facebook support group such as the examples below or search for groups on Facebook specific to your dog’s needs:
Note: Not all Support Groups have the same goal. Some groups provide support and comfort, and others are focus on the technical side of handling canine cancer. You may want to consider joining more than one group to explore which ones suit your needs best.
This is a privately run nonprofit started in memory of the founder’s dogs. This foundation has helped animals in a variety of ways: from spay/neuter programs, to getting dogs on death row out of high-kill shelters, to providing emergency medical care to animals whose owners have fallen on hard times.
There are many rescue groups and associations that support specific dog breeds. Reach out to your local breed clubs for information on local, state and national groups involved in dog breed-specific veterinary care assistance programs. Examples include groups like CorgiAid, Special Needs Dobermans, LabMed, Pit Bull Rescue Central.
Financially assists pet owners and Good Samaritans who have an animal with a good prognosis for a healthy life, but are at a financial loss.
Week 9 Recap
The week following Oncology Visit #9 was a good one! Rita experienced some mild diarrhea on day two after her treatment, but one Metronidazole did the trick, and she had normal bowl movements the rest of the week leading up to oncology visit #10.
If you have been following along with us for a while, you are probably tired of hearing me say how blessed we are to have found ourselves involved in GSP Rescue of NJ , Pointer Rescue, Org , and DockDogs – and our ever-growing extended family that came about because of those groups. I am blown away with the continued friendship, support, motivational messages, prayers, gifts, and gestures from these wonderful people.
This week, one of our extended-family members who attends daily mass lit a candle for Rita and prayed to St. Rita of Cascia on the St. Rita’s Feast Day this week (May 22).
Another one of our extended-family members sent us two of the “No One Fights Alone” Lymphoma bracelets from the Delmarva DockDogs Canine Cancer fund raiser she orchestrated in the name of our Sweet Reet at the last Delmarva DockDogs event. This amazing woman had no idea that my “theme” this week was going to be No One Fights Alone!
This week Margarita’s passed her physical exam with flying colors, and her CBC was normal (aside form the mild anemia that is continuously monitored). Margarita’s chemotherapy this week is an oral medication that is administered by us at home.
This Week’s Treatment:
Give 2 tablets by mouth on 5/22, and 5/23 and 1 tablet by mouth on 5/24
Do not split/crush tablets
This drug can cause some irritation to the bladder (called sterile hemorrhagic cystitis). This week we will have to monitor Rita for straining during urination, urinating small amounts frequently, incontinence, or blood in her urine.
You beat cancer by the way you live, why you live, and the manner in which you live.” ~ Stuart Scott
Week 8 Recap
Overall, Margarita has been a complete trooper though her chemo treatments. In fact, I was beginning to think that we were on Easy Street. No complications…halfway through the 16 week protocol …we got this, right?! But then Sunday night rolled around, and I began to think otherwise.
Last week, Rita had her “off-week” which means she only had to visit the oncology office to get blood work. We assumed this would be one of her best weeks, as it had been when she had her last “off-week.” However, this was not the case. On Mother’s Day evening (May 12), we noticed a drastic change in Margarita’s overall spirits, appetite, and energy level. She had no interest in coming out of her crate, in eating – or anything for that matter. She would not leave her crate, and if she did, she would only go as far as the dog bed next to her crate. Sunday night she didn’t eat her dinner, would not get up to go outside, and would not sleep in bed with us.
I must admit, all my positive-thinking strategies went out the window, I slipped into immediate panic-mode, and thought the worst: The chemo is not working, the cancer is spreading, she’s not going to make it….
Monday morning she was still exhibiting the same symptoms. She had her weekly oncology appointment scheduled for the next day, Tuesday, but we were afraid to wait that long. We took Rita to her primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell, Monday evening. Blood work was drawn and resulted in some less-than-desirable levels. Her CBC revealed a very low neutrophil count (~600-700) and more concerning, showed that Rita’s body was producing premature red blood cells. We learned that this could mean several things:
her anemia could have worsened
she has infection
her body could be rejecting the chemo, or
there could be a bone marrow issue.
As long as her symptoms did not worsen, Dr. Campbell said it would be safe to wait for our oncology appointment the next day.
Margarita remained lethargic and uninterested in food Monday night into Tuesday morning. Needless to say I was very anxious to get to the oncology appointment Tuesday afternoon. Although I felt like I prepared myself at the onset of Rita’s diagnosis by planning for the worst while hoping for the best, I was anything BUT prepared to see our Sweet Reet feeling so awful.
Oncology Visit # 9: May 14, 2019
I had texted my mom a picture of Rita before leaving for the oncology visit, and let her know about Rita’s decline. My 6 year old nephew, James, (who is also one of Rita’s biggest fans!) was at my mom’s house at the time, and had asked how Rita was doing. My mom told him that she wasn’t feeling very well at the moment, and James took it upon himself to stop what he was doing and pray for our Sweet Reet.
Brian left work early to meet us at VSEC. Dr. Risbon reviewed Rita’s CBC from yesterday, and suspected that Rita had a late neutrophil nadir. (A late what?!) We learned that instead of Rita’s white blood cell count dropping at the usual 7-day mark after her Adriamycin treatment, it dropped later (around the 10-day mark) leading to her side effects of lethargy and decreased appetite. Dr. Risbon also explained that the premature blood cell production was most likely Rita’s body responding to her increased anemia (common in dogs without spleens going through chemo). PHEW! As soon as I saw that Dr. Risbon was not bothered by this setback, my state of panic lessened.
Dr. Risbon did some additional blood work upon our arrival to VSEC. Rita’s neutrophils were already at 4400 which was a good sign. Margarita was also gobbling down every treat the oncology nurse was offering – also a great sign! Dr. Risbon explained that the drop (and the rise) in Rita’s CBC results could happen pretty quickly, and Rita had already rebounded from the drop. Since Rita has not had a fever and her counts were improving, Dr. Risbon held off on administering antibiotics. Dr. Risbon decided it was best to postpone this week’s chemo treatment for another couple of days, so we rescheduled treatment for later in the week. Dr. Risbon also dispensed Cerenia for Rita to take over the next 4 days to help Rita maintain a healthy appetite.
Cerenia (24 mg (each)
Give 2 tablets by mouth once a day (every 24 hours) for nausea
What we experienced this week taught me that setbacks are not only OK, but something to be celebrated. Why the heck would we celebrate a setback?? Setbacks are unpleasant, but are a blessing in disguise . They are wake up calls to remind us not to get too comfortable or too confident. Setbacks force us to stop, regroup, question, and most importantly learn. Analyzing and digesting setbacks is only going to make us more knowledgeable – and knowledge is power…the power needed to help our girl take an even BIGGER bite out of Lymphoma, and to turn her setbacks in to COMEbacks!
It’s normal to be upset when you see a loved one feeling so badly, and I am the first to admit that I am THE Queen of Panic. It’s easy to lose focus and freak-out, thinking about the worst case scenario. I realize now how important it is to stay grounded – that even though there will be road blocks we encounter along the way, it is imperative that we focus MORE on the faith we have in the superior medical team of Dr. Campbell and Dr. Risbon and the amazing strength and resilience of our Sweet Reet… and less on the fears that cancer so easily implants in our minds.
Setbacks are nothing but a teaching tool to make you stronger…This was a very slight delay – a temporary detour…and no where near the defeat I had thought we were facing…. no matter how big the setbacks may be, we will figure it out, because losing is NOT an option.
Nice try, Cancer. Our game isn’t over yet – and Margarita is still kicking your BUTT!!
Oncology Visit #9, Take 2: May 16, 2019
Back to VSEC we go! …This time with Rita feeling much better. Rita was completely back to herself: eating normally, playing in the yard, and the sparkle was back in those sweet eyes!
Rita was in much better spirits, and was very excited to see her favorite oncology nurse, Sherri, who always carries treats for Sweet Reet!
Margarita’s physical examination was normal, and she even gained a little bit of weight! A new CBC taken at this visit was acceptable for continued chemotherapy.
This Week’s Treatment
This week Margarita received Vincristine intravenously.
We will have to watch the site for any inflammation, oozing, or discharge.
This Week’s TreatS
It’s only fair that when you have two oncology visits in one week, you get TWO cheat-days!
After Rita’s initial weekly oncology visit on May 14th, we stopped at Sonic Drive-In !
Rita had been eating the treats from her oncology nurse at VSEC, so we ordered her a plain hot dog in hopes that her appetite was continuing to increase.
Hot dog for the win! We were thrilled that she was eating again!
Keeping with our Drive-In treat theme, following oncology visit #2 on May 16, Rita and I stopped at Weber’s Root Beer , a “true” drive-in where you pull up, put your lights on for service, and a server brings out your order on a 1950’s metal tray that hooks to your window!
Weber’s has been around since 1951!
Rita’s order was a pork roll and cheese sandwich (or Taylor Ham for you North Jersey folk!) and fries…and I ordered a root beer for my self!
YUM! Lip-smackin’ good!
Taking a bite out of her first pork roll sandwich:
Margarita decided she was not in the mood for the fries, and was most interested in the pork roll itself, so I pulled pieces of the meat out of the sandwich for her to enjoy.
Thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.
You might be wondering what the difference is between a typical French toast recipe, and a dog-friendly French toast recipe. The difference is very minimal – but EXTREMELY important. Most French toast recipes call for nutmeg. Nutmeg is a huge NO-NO on your pup’s ingredient list due to a compound in the nutmeg called Myristicin , which can cause seizures in dogs.
Dog-Safe French Toast
1 organic egg
2 organic egg whites
1/2 cup organic milk ***
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon organic ground cinnamon
4 slices organic bread
non-fat butter flavored cooking spray
***Some dogs do not do well with milk. We used regular milk, but if your dog does not do well with regular milk, you can experiment with almond milk, coconut milk, or goat’s milk.
Whisk egg and egg whites.
Add milk, vanilla and cinnamon, then whisk again.
Coat your skillet with non-fat cooking spray and set stove to medium-low heat.
Generously dip the bread into the egg mixture, turning the slice to coat it thoroughly.
Cook the bread slices in the hot skillet, turning until both sides are lightly browned.
Most people top their French Toast with butter and/or syrup. Hold off on those not-so-healthy toppers for your pup. Instead, choose strawberries and/or bananas to add some sweetness, or drizzle a small amount of organic honey on top.
The Snuggle is real! Being a mother doesn’t mean being related to someone by blood. It means loving someone unconditionally and with all of your heart
To all the dog moms out there who traded beauty sleep for dark circles, salon cuts for ponytails, long showers for quick clean-ups, late night parties for late night potty walks, sleeping-in for early morning face-licking-wake-ups, pedicures for PAWdicures, and designer bags for poop bags … Happy Mother’s Day! 🐾
Margarita had a slightly rough time this past week, but she did get to spend some time outside enjoying the softness of our newly sodded yard.
The side effects of chemo usually show up 3-5 days after the treatment day. Although we started her on anti-nausea medication on the day of her treatment as a preventative, by Sunday Margarita was very lethargic and was not interested at all in food. This continued for about 3 days. However, she slowly began to find food enjoyable again, and ate well the rest of the week.
Oncology Visit # 8
This was Rita’s “off” week for treatments, which meant she only needed to get blood work and a physical exam done to make sure she was healthy enough to continue treatment. Her CBC showed no abnormalities, and her nurse noted that Rita was a good girl during her visit!
This Week’s Treat:
This week we stopped at Arby’s ! Margarita enjoyed a few bites of a roast beef and cheese slider.
She also had a curly fry for the first time!
“Chase” Away Canine Cancer
Chase away Canine Cancer is a division of the National Canine Cancer Foundation, and is an organization that is near and dear to our hearts. Chase was a female black Labrador Retriever, who was an Elite division dock diving competitor. Her PAWrent, Cera Reusser, discovered a lump under Chase’s chin while petting her. The lump turned out to be metastasized cancer, which spread from nasal carcinoma. Unfortunately, even after the best possible care from her oncologist , Chase lost her battle to cancer, and passed away three months shy of her seventh birthday. Chase’s steadfast devotion to her family and her courage throughout her battle earned her the title of hero.
Cera became Chase’s Hero
Driven by the loss of her beloved Chase, and determined to find a cure for this devastating disease, Cera Reusser committed herself to being a hero for Chase, and set out on a mission to do all she could to help others in this difficult battle. Through fundraising and the start of Chase Away Canine Cancer, Cera’s efforts in conjunction with hundreds of volunteers and donations from across the USA & Canada have made a huge difference in the fight against canine cancer.
Chase Away Canine Cancer posts resources for people who have fur-kids battling cancer. Click HERE to view the current posts.
Chase Away Canine Cancer also has a volunteer-run online store , which carries products such as the personalized reversible bandana Rita is wearing in this post. Profits from the K9 Trading Company’s sale of Chase Away Canine Cancer merchandise go directly toward the Chase Away Canine Cancer Organization. A portion of all other merchandise on the site also goes to Chase Away Canine Cancer.
How can you be YOUR dog’s hero?
Take a few minutes to do a body check each month.
Choose a monthly date (Chase away Canine Cancer suggests the 14th since this was Chase’s birthday) and do a body check on this date each month. The National Canine Cancer Foundation has graphics you can print out or save to help guide you through your monthly checks:
Be sure to schedule and attend your dog’s routine veterinary appointments.
Follow up with an additional exam outside of your routine appointments if you observe something suspicious
Keep notes on any growths or abnormal behavioral observations
This will help you track important information about your dog’s health, and also will be helpful if you need to share notes to your veterinarian or a specialist on quick notice
As you may have read in our very first post about how we found Margarita’s Lymphoma, we did not discover any lumps. Sometimes cancer does not show itself in the form of visible lumps bumps. So what do you look for? The National Canine Cancer Foundation lists these top 10 early warning signs of Cancer:
Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
Sores that do not heal
loss of appetite
bleeding or discharge from any body opening
difficulty eating or swallowing
hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
persistent lameness or stiffness
difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecation
Thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.
“Being negative only makes a difficult journey more difficult” …But finding the energy and strength to have and keep a positive attitude after hearing Margarita’s diagnosis was almost impossible for me. However, after some deep soul-searching, I realized that being negative would get Rita nowhere, and do her (or me) no good. Negativity and gloominess is not gong to cure her cancer. Spending whatever time we have with her crying and being sad isn’t going to make the rest of her life enjoyable either. Thinking positively not only helps my mind stay strong – but more importantly that positive energy transfers to Rita, who needs it most!
I am a firm believer in “everything happens for a reason” …the people you cross paths with, the dogs in your life, and the situations you find yourself in. Sometimes I can’t always figure out what that reason is right away – and sometimes I may never know the reason. Most times, I am ok with that. I am convinced all experiences in our lives – good AND bad – teach us a lesson, and allow us to grow. But when I feel that a loved one has been dealt a bad hand, I find myself asking, “WHY does this have to happen?!” I wonder if sometimes we ARE the lesson – – the experience that helps someone else digest a negative circumstance, cope with their emotions, and find the positive in an unfortunate situation. All that being said, it is not easy by any means for me to live by what I write here. Watching Margarita’s strength, resilience, and positivity as she left her “past life” behind and started anew with our family – and now her Lymphoma journey – has really taught me valuable lessons, and made a profound impact on my attitude and mindset.
Lessons Learned from Margarita:
Don’t dwell on the past.
Margarita was neglected and abused in her past life before being found as a stray. Rita didn’t fixate on her past, or hold a grudge toward humans. Instead, she embraced her new life, and returned the love to us two-fold. I realized that fixating on the past – her diagnosis of Lymphoma – and what may or may not happen was doing no one any good. It was easy to hold a grudge, wondering why something like cancer would happen to such a sweet soul, but Rita has taught me it’s time to leave the past behind, and focus forward…focus on the positive.
Use an unfortunate experience to help others
Margarita didn’t let her past neglect and abuse dictate how she treats humans. Despite how humans let her down in the past, she found a way to trust, and has been spreading happiness everywhere she goes . As a therapy dog, she brought joy and inspiration into the lives of many humans in need. “You may be given a cactus, but you don’t have to sit on it.” Rita opened my eyes to find a positive – to discover a way to “turn things around” not only for myself – but for others. My hope is that sharing Rita’s journey through this blog will help other PAWrents get themselves and their fur-kid through a difficult diagnosis, or an unpleasant experience.
Don’t let anyone or anything slow you down or break your spirit
With the right attitude, anything is possible! Margarita has not let her chemo treatments get her down! She hasn’t let cancer stop her from living life to the fullest. Rita has been kicking cancer’s butt and taking names! Yes, she’s had some tough days after chemo, but she has not stopped doing the things she loves. After her diagnosis, I found myself feeling sorry for her and for our family – thinking Margarita would no longer be able to do agility, or volunteer as a therapy dog – that we would not be able to camp, travel, or do the things we loved doing as a pack. Margarita’s “Bring it on!” attitude through chemo has been inspiring. As I watch her continue to live life to the fullest, I realized with a positive outlook, nothing can stop you! Margarita encouraged me to be hopeful in continuing the things we love to do, and to start planning some new adventures for Rita and our family.
This is Margarita just a few hours after a chemo treatment enjoying her time playing in the yard:
I think all humans can learn from our fur-kids. Dogs take joy in even the smallest things. They are thankful for each meal they are given, and throw a party every time they see their friends and family members – even if it had only been 5 minutes.
Humans should be strive to live each day like a dog!
Week 6 Recap
Margarita had ANOTHER wonderful week! Rita had absolutely no symptoms or side effects, and enjoyed her time outside.
We were supposed to camp in Maryland this past weekend to attend a dock diving competition hosted by Delmarva DockDogs. However, on our Easter camping trip, we discovered several leaks coming from our RV’s hot water heater and dishwasher. After some investigation, it turned out that the dealer who winterized the camper did not do the job correctly. Luckily, this meant they were going to foot the bill, but this still meant we had to cancel our plans. This became even more upsetting to us when we saw what our Delmarva DockDogs family had done for our Sweet Reet!
We always mention how lucky we are to have an extended family because of our pups … Well, here’s just one of many examples of just how wonderful these individuals are. These are some of our best friends – our Delmarva DockDogs family members – raising money for canine cancer in the name of Margarita. What a thoughtful, generous, and amazing gesture.
Margarita has an army backing her. What a truly blessed gal she is to have so many people, and so much positive energy behind her in her biggest fight!
Oncology Visit # 7
This visit was the last treatment of Round 2, which officially puts Margarita at the half-way mark on her CHOP based chemotherapy treatments! She will have blood work only next week – and then begin Round 3 of the 4 cycles of treatments the following week.
Rita’s oncologist, Dr. Risbon, said the CBC recheck results were normal, and that she was happy with Rita’s physical exam as well. There were no abnormalities, and Rita’s weight has remained stable.
Margarita perked RIGHT up when she realized it was treat-time!
Margarita enjoyed a little bit of a grilled cheese, and a couple of french fries.
Did you know Shake Shack has a couple of special treats on their menu just for dogs?! They have a “Bag O’ Bones,” which is a bag of 5 ShackBurger dog biscuits made by NYC’s Bocce’s Bakery , and a “Pooch-ini,” which is a ShackBurger dog biscuit in vanilla custard.
Rita loved her dessert!
Thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.