Smiles for Miles: 16 Months in Remission

“A smile will go the mile, while a frown will take you down.” ~ Anthony Liccione

This July we have smiles …literally for miles… 32.68 to be exact! Once we got the go-ahead from Margarita’s medical team a few months back, I have been slowly increasing her activity level while continually checking in with the doctors to make sure Margarita is exercising at a safe level. Margarita now walks on any good-weather / safe-temperature days. Some of these miles also involved participation in 5K events that benefit different non-profit organizations to help others in need. I don’t focus on recording a fast time on our walks – in fact – I make it a point to let Margarita set the pace, and to let her enjoy every second of the walk, sniffing whatever she pleases. We take water breaks, take selfies, and most of all, take our time – something I am grateful to still have with this angel. Our walks have already created some pretty amazing adventures…and yes, I truly smile every mile! I am looking forward to logging more miles and memories with Rita in August!

Cardiology Check Up

Margarita saw her cardiologist, Dr. Bossbaly, at VSEC on July 29th for her scheduled echocardiogram and bloodwork recheck for her chemotherapy-induced Dilated Cardiomyopathy. Dr. Bossbally reported that she was able to detect a 2/6 whispy band shaped holosystolic murmur at the left apex. This is a great improvement from her original diagnosis. Margarita’s heart rate was 118 BPM and regular. Her lungs are also still clear, and she is breathing normally.

Margarita’s bloodwork did show some elevated liver enzyme levels once again, as she has had in the past.

Overall, Dr. Bossbaly said that Margarita’s heart disease is stable on her current medications, and added that there was no arrhythmia recorded during the entire echocardiogram. Dr. Bossbaly wants us to continue Margarita’s heart medication. She would also like us to continue tracking Margarita’s sleep respiratory rate (SRR). This is extremely important in anticipating fluid shifts and onset of congestive heart failure. Dr. Bossbaly added that she would like Margarita to be on her cardiac medication for the rest of her life in order to maintain her progress. Margarita will have another cardiology re-check in 6 to 8 months.

Monthly Check-Up with Primary Veterinarian

Margarita’s primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell, at Old York Veterinary Hospital also examined Rita on July 29th. She was pleased with Margarita’s overall health and her cardiology report. Dr. Campbell also did a full exam, and checked Rita’s mammary tumors, which have had no significant changes. Margarita does not have any signs of a Lymphoma recurrence at this time. However, Dr. Campbell was not happy with the elevated liver enzymes, and would like to re-test Rita’s levels in 3 months.

Adventure List

Margarita also checked-off another adventure list item and enjoyed a picnic with her 2-legged cousin, James! Click HERE to see the full picnic post.

This Month’s Treat

Margarita enjoyed Classic Bantam Bagels from Starbucks!

Summer SoleMate 5K

Margarita completed the Summer SoleMate Sunshine Chaser Fun Run hosted by Flex It Pink .

Margarita walked at Strawbridge Lake Park. This 70 acre park was built as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal initiatives and the Works Progress Administration efforts from 1931-1941.  The lake was built by employing local residents during the Great Depression and by securing donations of parcels of land.  The Strawbridge Family donated the largest parcel thereby the name, Strawbridge Lake.

Through our entry fee, a donation was made to Love Water Org . This is a 501c3 organization that exists to provide access to clean water in order to restore health and create opportunity in developing communities.

This medal of Rita’s is my new favorite!

Information about Strawbridge Lake Park obtained from

Follicular Dysplasia

When Limoncello was 3 years old, she was diagnosed with follicular dysplasia. Follicular dysplasia is a condition caused by an abnormality in the hair follicle. In Cello’s case, she was diagnosed with a non-coat-color-linked follicular dysplasia that is due to actual fracture of the hair. It typically manifests as hair loss that may or may not progresses over a dog’s lifetime. We have learned that follicular dysplasia is presumed to be genetic.

Limoncello, age 3, with Follicular Dysplasia (top view)

Limoncello displayed hair loss that was progressively worsening. After we ruled out other possibilities (such as demodectic mange) with our primary veterinarian, we took Limoncello to Dr. Spiegel, a dermatologist at VSEC.

Dr. Speigel did a skin biopsy in order to obtain a definitive diagnosis. Dr. Spiegel informed us that along with follicular dysplasia, hair loss, scaling/flaking of the skin, and secondary skin infections would be likely throughout Limoncello’s life.

Limoncello with Follicular Dysplasia (Side View)

Unfortunately, there is not a cure for this disease, and in some dogs, it can spiral out of control if the condition is not closely monitored. However, so far, we have been able to manage Limoncello’s condition even though she continues to have flare-ups of hair loss, as well as skin infections.

Limoncello after treatment with no visible signs of the follicular dysplasia (top View)

Under the direction of Limoncello’s dermatologist and our primary veterinarian, we have treated her scaling skin and secondary infections with supplements, shampoos, topical antimicrobials, and antibiotics when necessary. We also can only pet, brush, and dry Limoncello in the direction of hair growth to minimize fracturing her hair.

Limoncello after treatment with no visible signs of the follicular dysplasia (side View)

We have used the following off-and-on when needed with Limoncello:

Before and Afters

We’d love to hear what helped your pup’s follicular dysplasia. Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions for others dealing with the same disease.

💩Poop Happens! 5K

💩 Happens (especially in 2020)… just 🧻roll 🧻with it!

💩 Happens! But when it does… 👏🏻pick👏🏻it👏🏻up👏🏻people!!

Margarita completed the Poop Happens 5k hosted by Virtual Run Events .

15% of our team’s registration was donated to OpenBiome , a nonprofit stool bank, expanding safe access to fecal transplants and accelerating research on the human microbiome.

Margarita walked this 5K in 2 parts in close vicinity to our house because of the extreme heat wave we had in our area.

4 paws, 2 feet, 1 team
Poop Happens!

Acupuncture: Getting Straight to the Point

Acupuncture, an ancient Chinese practice of inserting thin sterile needles into specific points in the body, has been known to be effective in treating dogs with epilepsy. After numerous unsuccessful drug trials, we decided to give acupuncture a try for Porter, along with supportive Chinese herbs. In July of 2020, we were referred to Dr. Karen Collins, VMD.

I despise needles and will pass out if I need to have blood taken, so I was extremely nervous to try acupuncture with Porter. A phone call with Dr. Collins’ nurse set my mind at ease. I learned that there is no pain when the needles are placed in the dog’s skin, and that most dogs will even become very relaxed during the session.

Porter’s First Acupuncture Treatment

During the initial visit, Dr. Collins reviewed Porter’s history, performed a physical examination and a discussed Porter’s individual needs. She created an individualized treatment plan which included acupuncture, Tui-Na and Chinese herbs. Porter also had his first acupuncture treatment.

Herbal Medicine

Porter’s plan included incorporating:

  • Di Tan Tang
  • Tian Ma Bai Zhu

In addition to the above Chinese herbs, Porter also began taking Neurotrophin PMG supplement. Neurotrophin PMG helps to support healthy central nervous system function. We did not discontinue or alter his traditional anti-seizure drugs during this time.

Dr. Collins also provided me with the following information about Chinese herbal medicine:

Chinese herbal medicine uses herbal formulas, which are groups of herbs that work together synergistically. Many of the herbal formulas have been in use for hundreds and even thousands of years. The many constituents in the herbal formula are present in small amounts, but work together. Side effects are possible, but happen uncommonly, especially when the herbal formulas
are prescribed by a trained herbalist. If adverse events occur, they are generally very mild and limited to gastrointestinal upset. I tend to start all herbal medicines at a low dose and slowly increase the dose and this avoids almost all GI problems. Herbal formulas work physiologically, not pharmacologically. The appropriate herbal formula is chosen based on a
Chinese medical diagnosis. We now also have large amounts of information about the biochemistry of the individual herbs and formulas and their mechanisms of action. Depending on the formula, it may increase blood flow to particular tissues or organs, have anti-inflammatory effects, help resolve chronic inflammation, relieve pain, slow and prevent degenerative processes, support digestion, normalize smooth muscle contraction, act as an immune modulator, have anti-microbial effects, and/or control cancer growth. When herbal medicines are used to help treat patients with cancer, the herbal medicines act through many possible mechanisms and most individual herbs act in several places in the cascade of events that allows cancer cells to thrive. Herbal medicines can be integrated into a western medical protocol or used on their own.

Therapeutic Massage

Tui-Na (Chinese healing massage) was also introduced and the following directions were given:

For this particular massage, use gentle touch. Think of yourself as only touching your pet’s fur and skin. This is not a deep tissue massage.

Use your pointer finger on their midline (spine), thumb and middle finger on either side.

Start at the top of their head at the little smart bump.

Slide your hand from the top of their head, down their back, to the base of their tail. Allow your pointer finger to follow the midline or spine, your thumb and middle finger on either side.

Repeat 5 or 10 times.

Then, continue down the back of one or both hind legs. Work on the leg that is easier to reach.

Find the back of their knee (stifle) and massage right where the knee bends.

From there, you will find their ankle. There is a fleshy area located between a bone and a tendon. Massage that area above the ankle (hock) with your pointer finger on one side and your thumb on the other side, gently.

For the last leg point, you will simply slide down and rub up against the large pad.

Porter is not the typical case for sure. He has trialed many things that have been reported to help dogs with epilepsy. Almost everything we have tried has not made a difference for out boy. Although we learned so much from Dr. Collins, the acupuncture was not beneficial in reducing Porter’s seizure frequency or severity, so we stopped treatment in October of 2020.

Recommended Books

Chinese medicine had many benefits for illnesses and ailments of all kinds. Want to learn more? Below are two great books recommended by Dr. Collins that I very much enjoyed:

Note: This post contains affiliate links. I will receive a commission if you click a link and then make a purchase.

Run for the Dogs 5K

Run for the Dogs was hosted by RunSignup .

During this 5K, our miles were completed (earlier this week before the heat wave hit) at Island Beach State Park in Berkeley Township / Ocean County, NJ… one of the few remaining undeveloped barrier beaches on the north Atlantic coast. It’s one of my favorite places in NJ!

Margarita also loves it here as there are many birds for her to point, and one of the only places where she will go in the water on her own!

For this 5K, a donation was made and split evenly among the following organizations:

The Earth has music for those who listen.
A dose of vitamin sea does the body good!

The Dog Days of Summer 2020 (July)

Margarita was on the move again, completing the July leg of the Dog Days of Summer 5K hosted by j&a racing !

Rita with June and July’s medals (The 3 medals will form a bone!)

This 5K took us on the trails of Camp Ockanickon.

A percentage of our race fee was donated to Virginia Beach SPCA , whose mission is to create a more humane and responsible community by eliminating animal suffering while increasing human compassion.

Here’s hoping every dog finds their forever running/walking partner! 


Margarita was Featured by J&A Racing!

I Run 4 Rescues 5K

Margarita completed the I Run for Rescues 5K, hosted by I Run 4 Movement. Margarita and I walked this 5K during our stay at Normandy Farms Campground.

Part of the proceeds from this race are being donated to Best Friends Animal Society who’s mission is to end the killing of dogs and cats in shelters. 

Happy camper at Normandy Farms Campground!

Splash Down at Splashes-N-Wags: Bennington, VT

The pups visited Vermont for the first time and competed at the Splashes -N-Wags facility in Bennington, VT. It wasn’t their best showing, but after being cooped up with the Covid-19 quarantine, we were thrilled to see our friends (at a safe distance) and have fun with our pups! We were also happy to be able to camp onsite!


  • Big Air
    • 18’7″
  • Extreme Vertical
    • 4’6″
  • Speed Retrieve
    • 8.375 seconds
  • Iron Dog
    • 2619.13 points


  • Big Air
    • 20’10”
    • 20’9″
    • 21’6″
    • Semi-Pro Finals: 20’8″
  • Extreme Vertical
    • 5’8″
  • Speed Retrieve
    • 6.696 seconds
  • Iron Dog
    • 2906.85 points


  • Big Air
    • 18’4″
    • 18’8″
    • 19’1″
  • Extreme Vertical
    • 5’8″
  • Speed Retrieve
    • 6.786 seconds
  • Iron Dog
    • 2872.53 Points / 2nd Place Overall Titan Division


Margarita enjoyed taking walks around the facility and afternoon naps in the camper!


  • Big Air
    • 5’9″
    • 7’8″
    • 7’0″
    • 4’7″
    • 4’8″
YES! She jumped!!!!!!


Porter enjoyed snoozing in the shade under the team canopy.

Dock Diving a little differently with Covid-19 restrictions in place

I Run for the Dogs 4th of July 5k

Margarita crushed another 5k!

“I Run for the Dogs 4th of July 5k” was Hosted by RunSignup .

A portion of our race fee was donated to 25 awesome Animal Shelters across the country that support adoption services, education in our community, and the health and well being of animals! ✌🏼❤️🐾 🇺🇸

We headed out for our 5K but it got too hot too quickly. I decided it was best to stop and do this one in 2 segments to be safe for Sweet Reet. It worked out because our race swag showed up before our second segment photos!

We hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable 4th of July!

Brown’s Brewing Company: North Hoosick, NY

Margarita and Porter visited Brown’s Brewing Company‘s tap room in North Hoosick, NY!

Only the outdoor seating area was open due to Covid-19 restrictions. Porter and Margarita enjoyed the shady area.
Outdoor seating area
Margarita had one too many bowls of water … haha!