Home » 🇺🇸Lager's Journey Through Oral Papillary Squamous Cell Carcinoma » Be Smart Enough to Know When You Need Help, and Brave Enough to Ask For It

Be Smart Enough to Know When You Need Help, and Brave Enough to Ask For It

People laugh when we tell them we drive hours away from our home “just to have our dogs jump in a pool.”  DockDogs has been so much more than a competitive sport to us and our pack.  This organization has blessed us with an extended family consisting of THE most amazing people and pups that you will EVER meet.  Although there are countless reasons we are grateful to be a part of this community, The B.A.A.R.K Foundation is among the top.

We were able to save Lager’s life and obtain some financial relief because of the The B.A.A.R.K. Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization run by volunteers of the DockDogs community.  The Foundation promotes community spirit, compassion and support of the DockDogs family by playing a leading role in making grants that enable and strengthen the DockDogs community when members have fallen on hard times. This foundation was truly a life-saver for us and for one of our 4-legged family members. Below is an account of our family’s story that we agreed to share with The B.A.A.R.K. Foundation for them to post publicly on their website.

“Asking for help is never a sign of weakness. It’s one of the bravest things you can do. And it can save your life.” (Or in our case, our dog’s life)

― Lily Collins, Unfiltered: No Shame, No Regrets, Just Me

Photo Credit: Precise Image Creations

Lager is a retired Contracted Working Dog under the State Department (War Zone name: Nayt), having served 18 months in Iraq as an Explosives Detection Canine at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. We adopted Lager at the age of three in 2015 when he returned to the United States.

At the time of the situation, Lager had been competing in DockDogs for about 7 years. We were driving in our camper on the way home from a World Championship qualifier Labor Day weekend 2022. It was then that I noticed a rather large mass in Lager’s mouth, located behind his lower left canine tooth.  Upon our return home, Lager had surgery to remove the mass and obtain a biopsy.   Pathology reports showed not only was the mass malignant, but the type of cancer that was detected tends to be extremely locally invasive.

Lager saw an oncologist and went through a day of testing including an abdominal ultrasound, x-rays, needle biopsies, and bloodwork to be sure that the cancer had not spread to other areas his body. Luckily, there had been no sign of metastasis. He then saw an oral surgeon who informed us that Lager would need a rostral mandibulectomy (a large portion of his lower jaw had to be removed to obtain clean margins from this locally invasive mass).

Although Lager was 10 years old at the time of his diagnosis, he surely does not act like a senior-aged dog.  We joke that he is the real-life Tigger as he bounces around and is happy and excited about every little thing. He had so much life left to live and is one of the most motivated dogs we have known.  Although the thought of a mandibulectomy was terrifying, we knew in our hearts that he would not let anything hold him back from enjoying life, so getting him healthy again was a must.

Photo Credit: KJ Photograpy

Even though our 5 competitors had received multiple World Championship Invitations that we had already accepted and paid for, we canceled our trip to the World Championship knowing we would need the extra time and finances to appropriately care for Lager. We canceled any upcoming camping trips we had planned and opted out of Holiday gift exchanges with friends and family…but unfortunately that wasn’t enough to get us through.

We have been members of the DockDogs community for about 9 years.  We have donated to the B.A.A.R.K. Foundation and were very familiar with the assistance the foundation has provided to fellow competitors. However, considering we have always carried insurance for our dogs and consistently had positive experiences with reimbursements, we never imagined having the need to reach out to  B.A.A.R.K. for help.  2022 turned out to be a very tough year for us financially.  When Lager’s medical bills totaled over $12,000 we were shocked, but at the same time confident, thinking we could rely on our insurance to provide an 80-90% reimbursement as we have received in the past.  However, Lager’s insurance only covered a miniscule amount of the total.  We were not financially prepared to be responsible for such a large bill and were completely distraught.

We began researching other insurance companies and reluctantly reached out to Tina from the B.A.A.R.K Foundation and explained our situation. I say reluctantly because we had never been in this type of situation before, and even knowing it was our last resort, we felt embarrassed to ask for help.  In the past we had been fortunate to have been the ones donating and providing help to others in charity organizations. I am so thankful that we decided to contact B.A.A.R.K. Brian and I were brought to tears by how kind, compassionate, and understanding Tina was during our conversation, as the call was not an easy thing for us to do. 

Brian and I are forever grateful to The B.A.A.R.K. Foundation and the DockDogs community for their support during such a difficult time in our lives. We plan to pay it forward through spreading the word about the foundation, offering donations in the future when we are able and encouraging all members of the DockDogs community to give to B.A.A.R.K. in whatever capacity you can. If you cannot donate to the foundation, please consider volunteering in other ways or helping to collect donations at competitions.  You just never know when you or a fellow community member will need assistance with medical expenses.

Thank you B.A.A.R.K. and our DockDogs family – this is truly THE best community.  We are proud to be members and grateful that our dogs have connected us to the most amazing group of people anyone could ever wish to have in their lives.

Lager’s new profile post-surgery

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

~The Liver Killers: Jenny and Brian Beadling and our 8-pack of Pointers

Click HERE to see our story posted on the B.A.A.R.K Foundation’s website.

A Note About Pet Insurance

When asked to share my advice in getting insurance for your dog, my answer is always “absolutely insure your dog if you can afford to do so.” However, even BETTER advice is to make sure to do your research and talk to others with experience in insured fur-kids when considering companies.

We had insurance policies with a particular company who changed hands and in turn, changed their coverage and their quality. They dropped coverage of teeth cleaning and their plan put a (smaller than I expected) cap on each individual diagnosis. When Lager was diagnosed with oral cancer, it became glaringly apparent that we should have changed insurance companies long ago when found ourselves left with a huge bill we were not prepared to pay. I blame myself for not being on top of things enough to realize that our insurance coverage was inadequate before it was too late. We have since been working on switching insurance policies for the dogs who don’t have a laundry-list of pre-existing conditions.

This post is not meant as a sounding board to bash insurance companies. It is meant to highlight and commend The B.A.A.R.K. Foundation as well as a plea for others to protect themselves and their fur-kids as best as possible by researching, speaking with others, fully understanding insurance policies before committing, and knowing when it’s ok to ask for help.

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