Month 7 Remission Recap / 4 Month Post-Chemo Check Up / 8 Months in Remission

Month 7 of Remission

Margarita had an exciting and busy month. She traveled all the way to Iowa on an 11-day trip to cheer on her brothers and sisters at the DockDogs World Championship.

Rita also checked-off another one of her adventure list items! We took Margarita to The Library II for a specially-selected cut of filet mignon! Click HERE to see her special-cut steak!

We also did our part to participate in National Canine Lymphoma Awareness Day, by publishing a post to help others understand this disease and to learn how to check your dog for signs of cancer.

4 Month Check-Up with the Cardiologist

Back in July 2019, Margarita was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomiopathy, thought to be caused by Doxorubicon (Adriamycin) toxicity. Rita’s heart was enlarged, and she had a grade 3 heart murmur with ventricular premature contractions. On November 5, 2019 Margarita saw her cardiologist, Dr. Bossbaly for her 4-month re-check.

Rita waited patiently for Dr. Bossbaly:

Who’s that pretty girl staring back at me!?

Dr. Bossbaly did a a recheck EKG and echocardiogram. Rita’s heart murmur was graded as a 2 out of 6. The murmur was described as a wispy band shaped holosystolic murmur at the left apex, and audible only faintly on the right. Her heart rate was 118 bpm and regular, and her lungs were also clear. Additionally, there was also no arrhythmia recorded at this time on a long-recorded EKG as well as during the entire echocardiogram.

This means that Margarita’s heart disease is it stable on the current medication. Even though Margarita’s heart showed improvement, Dr. Bossbaly wants her to continue with her current medication and supplements until we have the next scheduled cardiology appointment in 6-8 months. Margarita’s current medication and supplement schedule will remain as follows:

  • Pimobendan: 5mg eery 12 hours
  • L-Carnitine: 1 gram twice daily with food
  • Taurine 500mg twice daily with food
  • Coenzyme Q10: 30 mg once daily
  • CAS Options: 1 tablet twice daily

With the indication of Margarita’s marked improvement last month, I must admit that I neglected to continue monitoring her sleeping respiratory rate (SRR), thinking it wouldn’t be necessary considering she was making such great improvements. I was incorrect. Dr. Bossbally instructed me to resume tracking Rita’s SSR. Dr. Bossbaly explained that even when improvement is noted, taking Margarita’s SSR is extremely important for anticipating fluid shifts and the onset of congestive heart failure. For those of you wondering why it is important to monitor your pup’s sleeping respiratory rate and how to count/track it, here is the information I was given:

  • Why monitoring your Pup’s respiratory rate is extremely important:
    • The sleeping respiratory rate is a subtle and sensitive indicator of changes in your fur-kid’s condition.
    • Increases in the sleeping respiratory rate may indicate the development of heart failure in your pup.
    • Your doctor will want to know if your pup’s sleeping respiratory rate goes above 30, or if there seems to be an upward trend (a steady increase in rates heading towards 30) . The point is to catch the change in the sleeping respiratory rate before it reaches 40 or 50 and could become an emergency situation.
    • Is important to note that he small increase in this sleeping respiratory rate may not be accompanied by any other changes such as an increased effort to breeze, excessive panting, coughing, or restlessness. These are important to note but it is likely that once you see the signs, the sleeping respiratory rate will already be elevated.
  • Why count the sleeping respiratory rate?
    • If your pup has been diagnosed with heart disease, it is unfortunately a progressive disease in most cases. Monitoring it on a regular basis will help avoid a health crisis; It will help avoid an emergency visit to your veterinarian, hospitalization for multiple days, and the sudden increase in financial responsibility occurring with emergency hospitalization.
    • Tracking sleeping respiratory rates every now and then is not ideal, as this number can change overnight. Additionally, just “watching” or “eyeballing” is not accurate enough.
      • **EXAMPLE: Say your pup’s sleeping respiratory rate is 24 (in 15 seconds you count 6 breaths). Now let’s say that your dogs sleeping respiratory rate increases to 32 (in 15 seconds you counted 8 breaths). The difference between the two instances is only a breaths per minute – a hard thing to notice if you’re not actually tracking the breaths. Additionally, 32 is an elevated and abnormal sleeping respiratory rate.
  • How to count the respiratory rate:
    • Count the respiratory rate by watching your dogs chest go up and down (each “up” and “down” equals one breath cycle). Use a clock or a watch with a second hand, count the number of full breaths in 15 seconds, and multiply that by 4 to get the respiratory rate for one minute. Log these results on a computer, in a journal, on your calendar, or on a note in your phone.
    • ***NOTE: We have found it easier to download a sleeping respiratory rate app. The app will help you keep count of the breaths, and also save the results and display them in a graph that you can email or share with your pup’s doctors. The two most helpful apps we have found are:
      • Cardalis: This app is free and will help you to measure your dog’s respiratory rate, record it as a graph. This results graph can be e-mailed to your dog’s doctors. Cardalis is best if you have only one fur-kid with heart disease, as it only allows for tracking of one dog/cat.
      • Maolife: This app is also free, and allows you to track the respiratory rates of multiple dogs/cats. Results are recorded in a graph. The Maolife app also allows multiple people to manage the same fur-kid. Additionally, this app has the capability to share your recorded results with others.

Lastly, I discussed the possible removal and biopsy of Rita’s mammary mass with Dr. Bossbaly. Doctor Bossbaly explained that Rita is still at a higher risk. If it becomes necessary for the mass to be removed and biopsied, Dr. Bossbaly’s suggestion is to have it done at VSEC were a board-certified anesthesiologist can monitor the protocol that Dr. Bossbaly recommends. If we would rather have the mass removed by our primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell, the procedure can be sent over to Dr. Campbell for her to decide if she is comfortable doing the surgery along with the recommended protocol.

Monthly Check Up with Oncologist

On November 15 Margarita had a visit with her oncologist, Dr. Risbon. Rita’s physical examination was normal, and there was no evidence to suggest recurrence of lymphoma. Dr. Risbon could not hear a heart murmur today, and reported that Rita’s heart rhythm is normal. Dr. Risbon also evaluated Rita’s mammary mass and said she thought the thickened tissue portion appears to feel smaller. However, the small mass (approximately 3-5 mm) seems unchanged from previously. Dr. Risbon shared that she is pleased with Margarita’s progress, and feels as though she is doing well in maintaining her remission.

Patiently waiting for Dr. Risbon

First Day Back “on the Job” since Lymphoma Diagnosis

Margarita made a very short surprise-visit with me at my school and made some students extremely happy!

We kept the visit with the kids to only 30 minutes. The visit was perfect and did not exhaust Rita.

Margarita overseeing the students’ “Math Fact War” game
Margarita overseeing the students’ “Math Fact War” game
Margarita snoozed while the students completed their online Math assignment.
This student was so happy Rita decided to use her as a “pillow” during her nap.

Monthly Check Up with Primary Veterinarian

On November 22 Margarita visited with our primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell for her monthly post-oncology appointment. Dr. Campbell said she was very pleased with the improvement in Margarita’s heart murmur, as well as her Lymphoma remission. While the original mammary mass was being checked, Dr. Campbell found a second tumor on a different gland.

Mammary tumors are extremely common in female dogs – especially those who were spayed later in life. Spaying a female after the first or second heat cycle significantly reduces the risk of the dogs developing a mammary tumor. Since Margarita was not spayed until we took her in as a foster at age 6-ish, we knew mammary issues were a possible issue. If you are reading this and are immediately thinking, “Why is the vet not aspirating the mass to look at the cells?”… then you are not alone. I immediately asked Dr. Campbell if we could aspirate the original mass when it was discovered. Dr. Campbell explained that unfortunately a fine needle aspiration of the mass usually has a very low diagnostic value when it comes to discerning between malignant or benign tumors. Unfortunately, the only way to diagnose a mammary tumor as benign or malignant is to surgically remove them and send the mass out for a biopsy.

The good news is that Dr. Campbell explained that approximately 50% of mammary tumors are benign. My immediate response was, “What if the masses are malignant?” Dr. Campbell informed me that even if the masses are removed and found to be malignant, there is no proven effectiveness of chemotherapy for the treatment of malignant mammary tumors in dogs. If deemed necessary, the tumors would be removed and the biopsy would tell us a more detailed story of what treatment (if any) would be needed.

I have many other questions about these tumors – such as the prognosis if they are found to be malignant. I know the best prognosis is directly associated with early detection. I decided it was best to not ask any other questions until I “have” to, and to do my best to remain positive that Margarita will be lucky enough to be included in the “50% benign” grouping. In the meantime, I am focusing on the many good days we have celebrated with Margarita, and extremely thankful that I have Dr. Campbell as such a patient and informative teacher during this process.

Margarita will continue to see Dr. Campbell on a monthly basis so that both Margarita’s oncologist and Dr. Campbell can keep a close watch on the mammary masses in order to determine the best plan for Margarita moving forward.

This Month’s Treat

Margarita enjoyed a few bites of a grilled cheese from Panera Bread!

Epilepsy Awareness Month

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month for both people and dogs. This life-long condition has no cure and is extremely unpredictable, which is why it is important to continue to educate, spread awareness, and support continued research.

Most dogs will show signs epilepsy between the ages of 1-3. It is nearly impossible to know exactly when a dog might have a seizure.

Seeing a dog have a seizure can be very unsettling. The dog may fall over, become stiff, convulse, drool, and become vocal. Dogs may lose control of their bladder and/or bowels and sometimes will also vomit.

Seizure recovery can vary from dog to dog. Some may recover very quickly, and others could take 24 hours or more. After a seizure the dog may be disoriented, pace back and forth, or exhibit extreme thirst.

Epilepsy is a diagnosis of exclusion. Your veterinarian will first need to rule out that your dog doesn’t have a different disease or condition that causes the seizures. The doctor may do blood tests, x-rays, an MRI, and/or a spinal tap. Once the veterinarian rules out the other possible diagnoses, they can conclude that a dog has epilepsy.

Want to learn more? Here are a few informative links:

http://pethealthnetwork.com/dog-health/dog-diseases-conditions-a-z/canine-epilepsy

http://www.canine-epilepsy.net/basics/basics_index.html

#Paws4Purple

EpilepsyAwarenessMonth #purpleforporter #caninepilepsyawareness #pawsforpurple

National Canine Lymphoma Awareness Day

November 7th is National Canine Lymphoma Awareness Day. This day is meant to educate and create awareness about this disease.

Margarita at 7.5 months in remission

💖
Lymphoma is one of the most common cancers in dogs. Any breed of dog, at any age, can get lymphoma. Although lymphoma can attack any organ in the body, it most commonly presents itself in the organs of the immune system such as the lymph nodes, spleen, and bone marrow.

💖
The cause of lymphoma is not well understood. However, it is believed that there are environmental contributors to lymphoma such as chemicals and pollutants.
💖
National Canine Lymphoma Awareness Day reminds PAWrents to stay vigilant and to check your fur-kids regularly.

💖
Be their eyes. Be there ears. Be their voice. Be their HERO. Chase Away K9 Cancer provides great resources on how and when to check your pup for possible signs of cancer. 

✔️ #10 Eat a Fancy Steak from Our Area’s Best Steakhouse ; The Library II, Voorhees , NJ

Margarita checked off another Adventure List item!

Everyone red meat-eater has their favorite steakhouse, right? Well, Brian’s preferred high-end steakhouse is a a place called The Library II . Now I don’t eat meat at all, but I must say, this place is one of my favorites too… for their famous (and huge!) all-you-can-eat salad bar!

The Library II has been in business since 1942. This restaurant has long been a New Jersey landmark and neighborhood favorite with its distinctive “library” atmosphere and unique serving style. They are well-known for their steaks, surf-and-turf, and salad bar.

Photo credit: yelp.com

The Library II has won awards from the Courier Posts‘s Best of South Jersey, Philadelphia Magazine‘s Best of Philly, South Jersey Magazine Best of the Best, and also boasts a rating by Zagat.

When ordering here, you meet your chef at the kitchen window, where he/she will help you select the perfect cut of steak, or your choice of lobster tail.

Not a meat or seafood eater? No problem! The Library has one of the largest salad bars I have ever seen…and best of all: The salad bar is “all you can eat!” Beyond the “normal” salad bar items, the Library II salad bar has an extensive assortment of fruits, vegetables, artisan breads, and gourmet cheeses!

Margarita’s filet mignon:

Margarita enjoyed her fancy steak!

2019 DockDogs World Championship: Dubuque, Iowa

Our 5th year attending the DockDogs World Championship was fun and exciting! We want to congratulate all competitors for the accomplishment of making it to Worlds, and for the amazing performances of all your dogs! It was quite amazing to see world records being broken in person! We also would like to applaud all those who made finals! It was an honor to share the dock with you all!

First and foremost, we are beyond grateful that our pack had no health issues or injuries throughout the competition. We had an absolute blast playing with our pups and spending time with friends – both old and new. Four straight 8-hour long competition days was a lot to ask of our pups, and we are extremely proud of both their endurance and performance. Above all, our hearts are filled with joy to have seen our pups have fun all week long doing what they love best.

Limoncello

We could not have been more excited to see this little Dock Diving Diva back up on the dock! After a forced medical retirement, Limoncello kicked heart-disease-butt and was cleared to compete again. She did an amazing job during her competitions!

Hooch

Brian and I could not be more proud…Hooch is the 2019 #1 ranked German Shorthaired Pointer!

We did not make it to the Gala since were were worried about leaving Porter at night. I regret not being able to be there in person to accept Hooch’s award, but after the year our pack had, just being at the World Championship was a blessing. Hooch’s achievement of the #1 ranking is an awesome bonus! Hooch, you are an amazing little dude…it has been my honor to be on the dock with you. I love you, buddy!

For those of you who don’t know Hooch very well, he started out as a pup scared of the water, then branded his signature “Hoochie Hop” ….and then quickly evolved into a pretty impressive jumper, earning DockDogs Most Improved Dog his first year if competition, as well as the #1 GSP 3 times now. Below is the link to the video of his progression from not jumping at all to soaring over 24 feet at 1 year old!

(Sound on)
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=ozKP80iglCU

Lager

Lager had an impressive showing, and was very close to making finals this year!

Margarita

We very much appreciate all those who took the time to stop and say hello to Margarita while she was out-and-about since she was under the impression that it was her job to greet EVERYone in the competition arena!

Whiskey

Whiskey may not have gotten wet at the World Championship, but she sure won over the crowd with her shenanigans on the dock!

Porter

A HUGE heartfelt thank you to all those who stopped to say hello to Porter, asking how he was doing, and to those who kept an extra eye on him in Dog Town while we were on the competition floor. 

3 Month Post-Chemo Checkup

Margarita had her monthly checkup at her primary veterinarian as well as with her oncologist…and I’m happy to report that’s there’s not much to report!

Primary Veterinarian Visit

On 10/16 Rita saw Dr. Campbell, her primary veterinarian at Old York Veterinary Hospital for her monthly check up. I reported our observations of increased energy and appetite. Dr. Campbell listened to Rita’s heart and said that she could not detect a murmur! We are very anxious to get to the cardiologist next month to see what the echocardiogram reveals. Dr. Campbell examined the mammary mass and said that she said that she did not feel as though it has changed from the last visit.  I was very pleased with this checkup!

Oncology Visit

On 10/18 Margarita saw Dr. Risbon, her oncologist at Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center (VSEC).  Dr. Risbon listened to Rita’s heart. Like Dr. Campbell, said that she did not hear a murmur and reported that Rita’s heart rhythm is normal! Dr. Risbon also agreed that the mammary mass did not feel as though it has changed from the last visit. Dr. Risbon shared that she is very pleased with Rita’s progress and that she is doing well as she enters her 7th month in remission. Wait… SEVEN months??? I was confused. I explained that Rita had finished her last chemotherapy treatment in July, so my understanding is that October would only make 3 months in remission. Dr. Risbon explained that they count remission months from the date of diagnosis (Rita’s Lymphoma diagnosis date was March 13, 2013) when chemo is started immediately and no signs of reoccurrence are present…so this month, Rita is considered to be in her 7th month of remission!! I also learned that Dr. Risbon will be leaving VSEC as of December 6, 2019. She and her husband are having another child, so she will be relocating to a hospital near her home in order to be in closer proximity to her family. Although I very much respect that decision to relocate and am very happy for Dr. Risbon and her family, we are disappointed that we will not be able to continue Rita’s Lymphoma follow-up care with her. Brian and I will have to make a decision to travel close to 2 hours a month to continue to see Dr. Risbon, or to find another oncologist to continue following Margarita’s case. We will be discussing our decision together along with our primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell.

This Month’s Treat

This month Margarita enjoyed a treat from Smashburger after her oncology appointment.

She had a cheeseburger topped with a fried egg!

Margarita also enjoyed some crispy Brussels sprouts!

Margarita will see both Dr. Campbell and Dr. Risbon again next month.

2nd Month in Remission Recap, and 2-Month Oncology Re-Check

Month 2 of remission was a great one for Sweet Reet! She has been even more spunky and energetic, and playful than ever! We are celebrating every single day with this angel, as we know she is one of the lucky ones to have taken a bite out of cancer. Even though Rita’s Lymphoma is no longer observable and is no longer causing symptoms, we know there can still be millions of cells remaining in her body that cannot be detected at this time. The cells can keep growing and eventually the cancer may again be able to be detected, which would be considered a relapse. With a focus on Margarita’s wellness…good nutrition, supplements, exercise, and happiness…we are remaining positive and hopeful that Margarita took a big enough bite out of Lymphoma to enjoy many more years of happiness!

After our last update, Wayback Burgers saw our post, and was so touched that we chose their establishment as Rita’s celebration meal, they contacted me and sent Margarita a huge package of goodies!

Check out the video below to see what toy she pulled out of the box first!

We were blown-away at this extremely generous gesture, and can’t wait to return to Wayback Burger to use the included gift certificate to get Margarita another treat!

Month 2 Oncology Recheck

On September 10th, Margarita saw her oncologist, Dr. Risbon. Rita’s physical examination was normal and there is no evidence to suggest recurrence of lymphoma at this time. Doctor’ Risbon can hear you very faint murmur on Margarita’s left side when using a stethoscope. I informed Dr. Risbon that I am trying to obtain an appointment sooner that the scheduled November date with Dr. Bossbaly, the cardiologist. Dr. Risbon agreed that Margarita’s heart seems to improved so much that she is hopeful for a confirmation from the cardiologist that the heart has healed itself to some degree.

Dr. Risbon also examined Rita’s mammary mass. She can still feel the small mass (3-5 mm) in association with the nipple which she feels is unchanged from previously. The mass will continue to be monitored for changes/growth. Only if there are changes to the mass will surgery be considered, pending an approval for anesthesia from Dr. Bossbaly.

Dr. Risbon also recommended holding off on vaccines at this time in order to avoid any unnecessary immune system stimulation as this could risk causing a relapse. She said that flea/tick medication and heartworm preventative is fine for continued use.

Month 2 Primary Veterinarian Recheck

Margarita also saw our primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell, for her monthly check-up on September 19th. The last few days leading up to this appointment I felt as though Rita’s mammary mass had changed a bit. When I checked it the day before her visit, there was what appeared to be a cut on her nipple, and the tissue of the mass seemed to feel different and a bit larger. Dr. Campbell examined it, and agreed. Upon further examination, Rita’s nipple is now excreting a bloody discharge, which is not a good sign. Dr. Campbell said that if Rita had not just been through chemotherapy, she would choose to remove the mass immediately. However, Margarita’s case is very complex. The decision was to continue to watch the mass over the next month and reexamine it in October as long as there are no major changes. The hope is to wait until November when Margarita will see her cardiologist. At that time Margarita’s heart disease will be reassessed, and we will know if she is cleared to handle anesthesia or not. Of course if there happens to be remarkable changes in the mammary gland mass in the meantime, this course of action may have to be altered.

The good news is that aside from the mammary gland mass, Dr. Campbell said Rita’s heart sounds great, and her respiratory rate is normal!

Post 2-Month Check-Up Treat

This month, Margarita enjoyed a treat from Five Guys!

She had a bacon cheese dog, and fries!

As always, thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.

Bok Bar: Philadelphia, PA

BOK to School!

What a cool place to spend a Sunday-Funday during Back-to-School season!

Bok Bar is located on the rooftop of a closed technical high school. The rooftop bar is dog friendly on Sundays after 2pm.

It was neat walking through the hallway of the school to get to the elevator which led to the rooftop!

The bathrooms were left just as they were when the high school was open!

Margarita enjoyed snoozing on the rooftop!

Check out the views!

Cherry Street Pier: Philadelphia, PA

Margarita visited the Cherry Street Pier!

Cherry Street Pier is a dog-friendly, “mixed-use” public space within a century-old pier on the Delaware River in Philadelphia, PA.

Cherry Street Pier was originally built in 1919 as a shipping pier . You can still see the original railroad tracks, and steel trussed roof.

There is an open-air garden under the Pier’s historic steel trussed roof. Here you will find concessions sold out of historic train cars! There is also many beautiful views of the Delaware River.

We took a break down by the river and enjoyed a beverage.

Margarita snoozed along the Delaware River just beyond the Benjamin Franklin Bridge.

✔️ #1. 🥪Taste-test a famous Philly Cheesesteak from the two Most Famous Philadelphia Steak Joints / Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks: Philadelphia, PA

One of the most yummy (and fun!) Adventure List Items check off!

Margarita visited the 2 iconic rival Philadelphia cheesesteak joints, Pat’s King of Steaks and Geno’s Steaks !

Pat’s King of Steaks
Geno’s Steaks
Know how to order before getting to the window! Will it be WIT or WIT-OUT?

Rita performed her very own “Pat’s vs. Geno’s” taste test.

Click on the video below to see which famous Philadelphia cheesesteak joint she thinks is the best!

Limoncello Models for Subaru

Not to be outdone by her brother, Hooch, who modeled for Subaru of America, Inc. last year, Limoncello also scored a modeling gig with Subaru of America ! She is now featured on the website, and will be seen in dealership brochures and on dealership posters this fall! You can see her on the Subaru website by clicking the link below. Then scroll down to the accessories and navigate to: Featured>Seat cover>Click right arrow to next pick of Cello! ✨🚙💛

https://www.subaru.com/build-your-own/2020/LEG/LAD/STANDARD.html?fbclid=IwAR2CynJLRQMUiGaobLrVmDqs4MGtuaYPSsN5fMID6W2UYKaeVno5bDjuNnc

1st Month in Remission Recap, and 1 Month Oncology Re-Check

First Month in Remission

I am extremely happy to report that his past month has been everything we could hope for. Margarita regained her appetite, strength and desire to run and play in the yard. Her hair has filled in nicely, and her “piggy pink” pigment is returning.

Brian and I are overwhelmed with gratitude as love and support from family and friends continues to fill our hearts. I received this most thoughtful gift box from a very a special friend.

  • 🐽Pig toy because I always say Rita has a piggy nose
  • 🍸Margarita toy
  • 💎 crystal guardian angel charm
  • ⛺️Yappy camper magnet for our RV
  • 🍪bags of yummy treats
  • 🧦 GSP socks for me
  • 📖 🦖T-Rex handbook since I always say Whiskey is a cross between a T-Rex / Velociraptor!

Since out last post, Margarita also received this amazing gift basket from the office manager at VSEC who is one of the sweetest gals we have met!

We also had the pleasure of spending time with friends at a dock diving event who passed on a very personal and special gift. The weekend that Margarita ended up in the emergency room we were supposed to attend at dock diving competition. We of course had to instead stay home that weekend. Friends of ours had brought a gift for us that weekend. This past week while we attended a competition at Hog Dog Productions, we met up with our friends who gave us this very meaningful gift.

This couple got a set of these glasses because they also had a dog who had cancer, who sadly passed. We are beyond honored to have been gifted this glass, and plan to make many toasts to Margarita during her journey. The man who makes these beer glasses has a Golden Retriever named Indiana Jones, who unfortunately was diagnosed with osteosarcoma just days after his seventh birthday. You can view Indy’s Facebook page by clicking HERE where Indy’s dad shares his beloved pup’s story of cancer.

1 Month Recheck

On August 8th, Margarita saw her oncologist, Dr. Risbon for her 1 month re-check. Her physical examination was normal and we are extremely grateful that there was no evidence to suggest recurrence of the lymphoma. However, the abnormal tissue felt during her emergency room visit now has developed what seems to be an additional mass of about 5mm.

Although this was not at all what I wanted to hear, I knew that Margarita would be predisposed to mammary tumors because she was not spayed until after 6 years of age when she came to us as a GSP Rescue of NJ foster dog. Dr. Risbon explained that mammary tumors have a 50% chance of being benign and a 50% of being malignant. Ideally, the mammary gland should be removed and submitted for biopsy. In many cases, even if the tumor is found to be malignant, Dr. Risbon explained the recommendation is for surgery alone (no chemo). The prognosis is 2-3 years if the tumor is found to be malignant. Due to the Dilated Cardiomyopathy brought on by the chemotherapy drugs, if surgery is to be performed, Margarita would need clearance from her cardiologist, Dr. Bossbaly. Margarita will see our primary veterinarian next week where we will discuss whether or not surgery is an option, or if we will continue to monitor the mass each month.

I am not going to loose faith, or diminish our hope for Margarita to have many more years ahead to enjoy life as she deserves after what she endured prior to her adoption. She has survived through more situations and illnesses than most dogs are able to endure. Even through her toughest times, she has met each challenge with such grace and courage. Even if what is thought to be a mass turns out to be malignant, we are confident that Margarita will once again be victorious.

Margarita will see Dr. Risbon again next month for a recheck.

1 Month Re-check with Rita’s Primary Veterinarian

On August 14, Margarita saw our primary veterinarian, Dr. Helen Campbell at Old York Veterinary Hospital. I am thrilled to report that the murmur discovered along with the Dilated Cardiomyopathy during week 15 of her chemotherapy plan sounds to Dr. Campbell like it has significantly improved to the point of not being heard with a stethoscope! This originally was thought to be permanent damage, so we are overjoyed to hear this news! This is also great news in the event the mammary mass is removed. We have put a call in to Margarita’s cardiologist, Dr. Bossbaly, at VSEC to see if we can get a sooner appointment than the original 4-month check up scheduled with Dr. Bossbaly in November in hopes to verify her improvement and hopefully reduce or stop her heart medication, Pimobendan. We have to keep a close eye on the mammary mass. If we do not see any changes in the mass in the meantime, Margarita will see Dr. Campbell again next month for a re-check.

Post 1-Month-Check-Up Treat

Margarita stopped at Wayback Burger !

She enjoyed bites of a bacon cheeseburger and tater-tots!

Tom’s Cove Park: Chincoteague, VA

Tom’s Cove Park, located on Chincoteague Island, Virginia, overlooks Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island National Seashore Park.

This was our first time camping in Chincoteague. We enjoyed the views, and the dogs very much enjoyed bird-watching all weekend!

Margarita LOVED being on the pier and watching the boats and birds!

Margarita and her main-man, Mr. Spock, did some bird watching together on the pier!

Camping in Virginia also allowed Porter to add a state to his “States Visited Map!”

We stayed on site P65 with a great view of the water (light pink sites closest to the waterfront sites).

Sunrise views from our campsite:

Hooch at our campsite:

Limoncello enjoyed “hunting” golf carts down all weekend from our campsite!

We found out that Porter loves riding in a golf cart!

Whiskey enjoyed people-watching from the camper.

Whiskey:

Lager wanted SO badly to jump in the water:

What a fun, relaxing weekend we had!

Hog Dog Daze 2019

With Cello cleared for coming out of retirement, we decided we should celebrate by finding the nearest dock diving competition and letting Cello have some fun with what she loves best. So many of our friends came out to the event in Cello’s honor…it was such an amazing weekend!

Ultimate Air Dogs runs their events a bit differently than DockDogs, and also has some different games for the dogs to play.

Limoncello

Cello came out of retirement in full force! She jumped over 20 feet to earn herself a spot in finals!

Splashes:

  • 19’6″
  • 19’8″
  • 19’6″
  • 21’1″

Chase It:

  • 8.45 seconds

Finals:

  • 22’0″ 3rd Place

Hooch

Splashes:

  • 23’2″
  • 21’9″
  • 22’4″

Finals:

  • 23’11” 2nd Place

Lager

Splashes:

  • 19’9″
  • 20’1″
  • 18’1″20’2″

Chase It:

  • 7.12 seconds

Margarita

Margarita enjoyed napping in the shade, and playing with her stuffed toys on the camper. 

Whiskey

Whiskey earned her self a personal best of 8’7” , made Finals, and actually jumped off the dock (instead of timing-out) for the first time in Finals!

Splashes:

  • 7’0″
  • 6’8″
  • 7’9″
  • 8’7″ ***New Personal Best!

Finals:

  • 6’7″ 3rd Place

Porter

Porter enjoyed walking the perimeter of the facility and meeting a bunch of new people. 

✔️ #4. Visit a Distillery🍸: Train Wreck Distillery; Mount Holly, NJ

Train Wreck Distillery checked-off Adventure List item #4!

Train Wreck Distillery is New Jersey’s first legal craft distillery since prohibition!

The distillery is located in the historic Mount Holly train station.

Train Wreck welcomes dogs both at the outdoor seating area as well as inside the distillery.

We purchased a bottle for our home bar before leaving.

Primary Veterinarian Check-Up

Margarita’s had her first “post chemo” check-up with Dr. Campbell, our primary veterinarian on July 24, 2019.  Dr. Campbell listened to Margarita’s heart with a stethoscope.  Those of you who have been following along know that she had a grade 3 murmur at the end of her chemo treatments.  However, today it was classified as a grade 2!

Margarita has been on a daily regimen of 10mg of Pimobendan, Salmon oil, 1 packet of Fortiflora, 2 CAS Options tablets, 30mg Coenzyme Q10, 3,000mg Taurine, 2,000mg L-Carnetine.

Margarita has been cleared to spend more time outside, run at her own will in the yard, take some longer leisurely walks, and to swim more regularly! We are overwhelmed with happiness and gratitude today! She will see Dr. Campbell again in 3 weeks, and her cardiologist again in 4 months.

16 Months into the DCM Diagnosis

It has been 16 months since Limoncello was diagnosed with DCM, and 11 months since she has been on a kibble that includes an appropriate source of protein, goods grains, and is free of legumes. As scheduled at her last check-up with Dr. Bossbaly, Limoncello had a cardiology exam and echocardiogram on July 23, 2019.

As Limoncello was getting her echocardiogram, I waited in Dr. Bossbaly’s exam room praying she would return with news that Cello’s DCM had not worsened. When Dr. Bossbaly entered the room with a big smile, exclaiming, “YAY!” I was completely caught off guard, and confused! My nervous response was, “What do you mean?… Her DCM stayed the same and didn’t worsen…RIGHT?” What came out of Dr. Bossbaly’s mouth next made my own heart skip a beat… “Limoncello’s heart has completely corrected itself from DCM,” she said. “NO WAY!?” Was all I could manage to get out before I burst into tears of joy.

Dr. Bossbaly explained that Limoncello’s heart was back to normal both in size AND function. Cello did still have a murmur, but it downgraded from a 3 out of 6 to a 2 out of 6. Dr. Bossbaly lifted all exercise restrictions, and approved of Limoncello coming out of her dock diving retirement to compete again! After speaking with our primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell, she agreed as well. HALLELUJAH!

We understand that we have been blessed with the fact that Limoncello’s heart has healed to the point of normal size and function. Unfortunately, not many dogs have been this lucky. Limoncello is a prime example of a dog diagnosed with DCM directly related to Taurine deficiency. We are beyond grateful that Limoncello made a complete turnaround with the implementation of a dietary change and proper supportive supplements.

Many people have asked us what food we suggest they switch their dogs to in order to get their pups off of a grain-free diet. Our suggestion is the same for everyone. All dogs are unique – and all dogs have different nutritional needs, just like humans. Take into consideration your dog’s health issues, daily activities, do some research on dog food companies, and consult the doctors you trust the most before making a decision on food. Keep in mind that not all dogs do well on all foods. It may take a bit of experimenting before you settle on appropriate food and supplement choices for your pup.

K9 Fun Zone 3rd Annual Wild Card Double Header; Caledonia, Ontario, Canada

We’ve had a rough start to the season between Porter’s seizures and Margarita’s Lymphoma and complications that followed.  We weren’t even sure we were able to attend this event until the morning we were supposed to be leaving for our road trip.  In fact, it wasn’t until about noon on July 3rd that I finished up with Margarita’s last oncology appointment and got the “ok” from her oncologist, Dr. Risbon, to travel to Canada with her.  We didn’t preregister for the competition, knowing we may not even be able to attend.  A lot of the jumps were marked as “full” but we know that each venue usually holds about 5 slots for people to sign up on the spot.  With all of this in mind, we set still out on our way to Canada late in the afternoon of July 3rd.  Boy, are we glad we did!

 

Limoncello

Limoncello enjoyed being a part of The B.A.A.A.R.K Foundation charity ball drop and having a girls GLAMping weekend with Margarita lounging in the air-conditioned camper.

Hooch

Hooch had the second longest jump of the competition! This was also his first time competing in a national event as an Iron Dog. His performance should earn him an automatic World Championship invite in Elite Division Big Air, Nitro Division Speed Retrieve, and Gladiator Division Iron Dog!!

Big Air:

23’7″                      1st Place Elite Division

23’9″                      1st Place Elite Division

Big Air PRO Finals:                     

22’0″

Pic Credit: Nancy Miller

Extreme Vertical:

6’2″

Speed Retrieve:

6.564 seconds         1st Place Nitro Division

Iron Dog:

2973.62 points       1st Place Gladiator Division

Lager

Lager had an absolute blast this weekend getting to play his favorite game of Dueling Dogs, and participating in The B.A.A.A.R.K Foundation charity ball drop! His performance this weekend should land him an automatic World Championship invite in Turbo Division Speed Retrieve and Titan Division Iron Dog.

Big Air:

19’11”

20’5″                              3rd Place Masters Division

19’2″

20’4″                              1st Place Masters Division

Extreme Vertical:

5’10”

Speed Retrieve:

7.304 seconds                1st Place Turbo Division

Iron Dog:

2876.3 points                   3rd Place Titan Division

Dueling Dogs:

Lager made it to the first round of finals, but unfortunately was bumped out in the last round.  He LOVES this game!

Margarita

What a weekend this little Diva had…Margarita enjoyed Donuts, a banana split, a convertible ride, a Canada Goose stuffed toy, and other gifts from our Canadian DockDogs family!

Whiskey

Wish-The-Fish came out in FULL force and she increased her jumping distance with each leap into the pool, earning a 2nd or 3rd Place medal for every jump and a new PB of 8’3”! We are hopeful her average Big Air score will earn her a World Champion invitation in the Novice Division, but we will have to wait and see if the Invite Fairy pays her a visit!

Big Air:

3’5″           2nd Place Novice Division

7’5″           3rd Place Novice Division

8’3″           2nd Place Novice Division

7’0″           2nd Place Novice Division

Porter

Po-Po had a great time walking the facility grounds and also enjoyed an amazing massage from Marti at Pawz Therapy !

Liver Killer Bling:

River Forest Park: Weedsport, NY

We did a quick over-night stay at River Forest Park in Weedsport, NY on our way up to Canada for the 3rd Annual K9 Fun Zone Wild Card Double Header.

Whiskey checked out the Seneca River before we departed.

W.I.N.

Week 15 Recap and Oncology Visit #16

“You can’t get back what you’ve lost.

What’s Important Now is what it is that you still have.”  ~Jimbei

Week 15 Recap

As of last week, Margarita is officially done her CHOP chemotherapy treatments.  Unlike many other unfortunate dogs, Margarita made it completely through her entire round of chemo,  and we’re taking that as a WIN.  However, as with many other warriors, she did not end this battle without acquiring some battle wounds. Some of this damage is temporary…Margarita’s hair on her face and belly should begin to grow back, and the dark pigment on her nose and muzzle should eventually fade to reveal her signature pink-piggy-nose …But a cardiology evaluation revealed a devastating battle wound that will scar her permanently.

July 1, 2019

After a heart murmur was discovered during Margarita’s Emergency Room visit, we scheduled a Cardiologist appointment with Dr. Bossbaly at VSEC.  Dr. Bossbaly is the cardiologist Limoncello sees as well.  During that appointment, we received some shattering news.  Margarita, like our Limoncello, was diagnosed with Dilated Cardiomyopathy.  However,  Margarita’s case is much more severe.  She also has a grade 3 heart murmur (the blood is not flowing properly through her heart, particularly the mitral and tricuspid valves) as well as a significant cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat in the form of ventricular premature contractions).

So what does this all mean for our Sweet Reet? Below is the information conveyed to us by Dr. Bossbaly:

Dilated cardiomyopathy (DCM)  is a disease where the heart muscle becomes a weak and has difficulty pumping blood out of the heart throughout the body. Because of this weakening, the heart chambers become enlarged, one or more heart valves may leak, and signs of congestive heart failure (fluid in the lungs) may develop. The cause of dilated cardiomyopathy is not known; however, given the prevalence of this disease in certain breeds there is a suspected genetic basis for this condition. Occasionally, DCM-like heart muscle dysfunction develops secondary to identifiable causes such as toxins or an infection. More recently, it has also been thought to be connected to grain-free diets due to the fact that legumes in grain-free kibble block the body’s taurine absorption.  In Margarita’s case, it is believed the DCM is caused by the toxic effects of the chemotherapy drug, Adriamycin.

Early in the disease process there may be no clinical signs detectable, which is why this was not discovered in Margarita earlier. As the disease progresses, a heart murmur or other abnormal heart sounds and or irregular heart rhythm can be detected upon physical examination, as when the ER doctor heard Margarita’s murmur during her ER visit. The presence of heart muscle may weaken and her ventricular arrhythmias may result in weakness or lethargy, exercise intolerance, or fainting episodes for Margarita. I am finding this hard to type, but Margarita is also at risk for sudden death. As the heart’s pumping ability worsens, the heart enlarges and pressure builds up within the heart. When the heart is unable to compensate for the disease further, fluid may accumulate in the lungs, in the chest cavity, or in the abdomen. These are signs of congestive heart failure. The presence of fluid in these areas can cause difficulty breathing or coughing, so we will have to monitor Margarita for those symptoms.

The prognosis with dilated cardiomyopathy is guarded. Despite medical therapy, this disease will continue to progress with further weakening of the heart muscle. Margarita is at risk of developing congestive heart failure and is unfortunately at risk for worsening of the ventricular arrhythmias. Periodic echocardiograms and a halter monitor (if warranted) will help keep an eye out for disease progression and can dictate changes in medications which can help Margarita continue to have a good quality of life. Often, with the discontinuation of the chemotherapy, the heart may partially recover.

Dr. Bossbaly placed Margarita on a daily dose of Pimobendan. This is a medication used in Dobermans with dilated cardiomyopathy. This medication improves the strength and efficiency of the heart and dilates blood vessels to promote blood-flow out to the body. Side effects are very rare, although it is possible that Margarita could have some G.I. upset.  It is not known if Pimobendan helps with toxicity-induced cases of DCM, however Margarita’s heart is significantly enlarged and the contractility is severely compromised, so we are hopeful that this medication will help our Sweet Reet’s heart get strong again. Margarita also has major activity restrictions. She is not allowed to run freely, and should not be put in any situation where she is upset.

Like Limoncello, Margarita’s sleeping respiratory rate (SSR) will have to be monitored on a daily basis for the rest of her life. The sleeping respiratory rate is a subtle indicator of changes in Margarita’s condition; increasing trend may suggest the development of congestive heart failure. Normal sleeping respiratory rate should be less than 30 breaths a minute, so we will be tracking her SSR along with Cello’s using the app, Cardalis. Unfortunately, this app only allows for tracking one patient, so we have to chart the results ourselves. We will be in search for another app that allows for easier tracking of multiple patients, if possible, and welcome any recommendations our family, friends, and followers may have. Increases in respiratory rate and effort while sleeping will be reported to both Rita’s primary veterinarian (Dr. Campbell) as well as her cardiologist (Dr. Bossbaly) immediately.

Margarita will return to VSEC to be re-evaluated by Dr. Bossbaly in 4 months, and will also have an exam scheduled with     our primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell, in approximately two weeks.

We wholeheartedly do not regret our decision to get chemotherapy for Margarita, as it did help her WIN this round against Lymphoma.  Had we not chosen that path, Lymphoma would have taken Margarita from us months ago, as Lymphoma patients generally only survive 1-3 months when left untreated.  Considering the rough life Margarita unfortunately was forced to live prior to us knowing her, we were confident that she deserved a second chance at living a (longer) happy life. All that being said, the news of Rita’s severe cardiac disease on the last week of her chemotherapy plan sure felt like a punch in the gut.

We understand that just because Margarita is done with chemo doesn’t mean she is done with Lymphoma, as 90% of dogs with this disease will relapse.  We are remaining optimistic about her cardiac issue and focusing on being grateful for the WIN that others have not been so fortunate to celebrate – the WIN of our little warrior taking a big bite out of Lymphoma, and making it to the end of her chemotherapy treatments.  As we celebrate that WIN, however, we will also focus on the W.I.N. This “end” is really just the beginning of a new chapter.  What’s Important Now is that we remain positive and help Margarita become healthy and strong so that she can combat her heart disease. What’s Important Now is celebrating each and every day that we are blessed to still have her in our lives.

We will also start planning some of those escapades on that Adventure List of hers!

This Week’s Treatment

Week 16:  The Final Week of the CHOP Protocol

Hey, Lymphoma…Guess What …You LOSE!

No chemo this week (YAY!), as Margarita completed all of the CHOP treatment plan.  Instead of chemotherapy drugs, Margarita had an abdominal ultrasound, blood test, and physical exam.  I also had the opportunity to sit down with Dr. Risbon and discuss the plan for long-term monitoring.

Abdominal Ultrasound

No abnormalities were found during Rita’s ultrasound.

Blood work

Margarita’s white blood cell count was a bit low, so she was placed on an antibiotic as a preventative.

Physical Exam

Rita’s physical exam was good.  Her mammary gland still feels like there is abnormal tissue present, so this will have to be closely monitored.

Discussion with Dr. Risbon

Dr. Risbon explained that Margarita is a special case, which is very concerning.  Lymphoma usually resurfaces in 90% of patients in the same manor it did before chemo.  However, now that Rita’s spleen is removed, it is not known how or where the Lymphoma will show itself. We will have to be very observant, and vigilant in regular check-ups at Rita’s veterinarian as well as Rita’s oncologist.  She will be seen once a month by the oncologist for the next year, and more frequently by her primary veterinarian.  Even with Rita’s current heart issue, there are treatment options if relapse occurs, if she is deemed healthy enough at the time to receive those treatments.

Dr. Risbon said that preventative medications (flea/tick/heart worm) are fine to continue, but it is recommended to hold off on vaccinations in order to reduce unnecessary stimulation of the immune system.

This Week’s Treat

WINner WINner, chicken dinner! After Rita’s WIN in her first battle with Lymphoma, she sampled the Big Chicken Deluxe sandwich (minus the lettuce and tomato) at Checkers !

I will continue to post updates with any visits to the veterinarian, cardiologist, or oncologist.

As always, thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.

Life Has Many Choices…Choose Hope (Last Chemo Treatment!!!)

Week 14 Recap and Oncology Visit #15

“Once you choose hope anything is possible.” ~ Christopher Reeve

Have Only Positive Expectations.” I have never had a fur-kid with canine lymphoma before, and although Margarita is the one going through THE toughest battle, it certainly was a challenge for me as well.  This rollercoaster-of-a-time has included “lows” of gut-wrenching fear, as well as many “highs” of extensive hope. I realized that especially for Margarita’s sake – if I wanted her to have THE best chance at taking a bite out of cancer and making it though all 16 weeks of the chemotherapy plan, I had no choice but to choose hope over despair, focus on positivity, and start believing something good will come of this unfortunate situation. But HOW was I going to Have Only Positive Expectations as my beloved fur-child is battling her way through Lymphoma? Here’s how hope helped me:

  • Finding the courage to put my trust in Rita’s medical team and the science behind chemotherapy promoted my hope for a favorable outcome.
  • Maintaining hope encouraged me to not take one single second of any day for granted, and celebrate the little things every day, creating happy memories to look back on in the future.
  • Finding hope in the desire to make sure Rita still did the things she loves (when she was feeling up to it of course) fostered productive thoughts for her life-after-chemo.
  • Talking with others who have canine cancer survivors built-up my hope and boosted my capability to have constructive notions about Rita’s destiny.
  • Having hope that each day would be better than the one before and that each sunrise would bring Rita closer to taking a huge bite out of cancer cultivated promising beliefs. 
  • Planning future adventures for Rita provided me with hope and encouraged me to have feelings of optimistic possibilities.
  • MOST importantly, hope fueled my positive attitude, which ultimately helped Rita feel protected during a difficult, confusing and insecure time for her.  

Lastly, I hope that sharing both human and canine experiences, the information and resources I found to be beneficial, and the strategies that helped me stay positive will assist someone else in walking their pup through a difficult journey.

I have not been strong – or positive – or even hopeful – every moment during these past 15 weeks.  I have never cried so much and so hard as I have in the last few months. Yet the number of times I smiled overpowered my tears thanks to the support, generosity, and continuous acts of kindness from the wonderful people in my life – some I have known for a long time, and others I have met more recently through our fur-kids.  It’s absolutely amazing to me how dogs bring people together, strengthen family bonds, and create new friendships.

This week I received several more very special gifts from friendships forged by Cello’s Corner.

The first was from a friend whose dog was also diagnosed with cancer. We have been corresponding regularly about our experiences, supporting each other through this difficult process.  It just so happened that this gal’s pup is being treated at the facility where we have been taking Hooch to use the underwater treadmill.  At Hooch’s last appointment, there was a gift bag waiting for me…Within the note, our friend included, “Your attitude towards these challenging times is very Zen!” …and in the beautiful gift bag was an adorable ceramic pup in the half-lotus pose.

This pup even looks like our Sweet Reet!

This half-lotus-posed-pup will surely help me maintain serenity in our home as we move forward to life-after-chemo with Margarita.

The second wonderful surprise this week was from my friend who made Margarita’s Lymphoma Awareness collar.   I have even been lucky enough to meet this gal and her wonderful pups in person as they began their obsession with dock diving at the end of last year’s season!  This friend sent personalized decals that she made herself for Brian and I to put on our vehicles!

How amazing are these?!?!

 

I love one of the statements written in the card:  “The Reet Fleet needed to be outfitted to indicate that there is a warrior on board.”  I can’t wait to apply these awesome decals to the windows of our cars and RV!

A third gift was planned to be given by friends at the dock diving event we missed this passed weekend. Because we could not make the event due to the medical issues that arose this week, these friends messaged us with the photo below and told us that they would be saving this glass for us for the next time we are all together. We met this couple at a DockDogs competition, and sadly, they had a fur-child with cancer as well. This amazing couple has checked in constantly with us to see how Margarita is doing, and how Brian and I are holding up. Their support and prayers have contributed a great deal to our entire family’s well-being.

The man who makes these beer glasses has a Golden Retriever named Indiana Jones, who unfortunately was diagnosed with osteosarcoma just days after his seventh birthday. You can view Indy’s Facebook page by clicking HERE where Indy’s dad shares his beloved pup’s story of cancer.

I am so appreciative for these gifts – but even more grateful for the friendships!  These wonderful surprises surely lifted my spirits during one of my toughest weeks.

Week 14 Recap

If you follow us on Instagram or Facebook, you already know that Margarita had a trip to the Emergency Room last Saturday.  Last week Margarita had her oncology appointment and chemotherapy on Wednesday, June 19.  By Thursday morning, she was not looking like herself.  She would not eat her breakfast, and became continuously more lethargic as the day progressed.  When she was outside, she was trying to eat grass to induce her own vomiting, and she did not eat her dinner.  Luckily, she was still drinking little bits of water throughout the day.  Friday  – same thing – she would not eat, and didn’t have an interest in getting up from her bed.  I called VSEC to notify them of what was going on, and the Emergency Room nurse told me to bring Rita in on Saturday morning if she was still not improving.  Brian and I were supposed to attend a dock diving competition Saturday and Sunday at a somewhat local event about an hour from our home.  However, when we woke up Saturday morning, Margarita appeared even more lethargic and again was not interested in food.  I also noticed a lumpy area near one of her mammary glands.  I texted a friend to have the event administrators scratch us from the competition, and I headed out to the Emergency Room at VSEC with Margarita.

Saturday, June 22

Upon arrival to VSEC, Margarita’s vitals and CBC were normal.  This was a great sign, but she was barely moving and was shivering.  I held her on the floor for a bit, and then one of the front desk staff members brought us a big fluffy blanket for Rita to use as a bed, and another blanket to cover her for warmth.

The nipple where the mammary lump was began leaking fluid, and a newly developed heart murmur was heard.  Subcutaneous fluids were given for dehydration, and Dr. Frankel, The ER doctor on staff, called Margarita’s oncologist (Dr. Risbon) to let her know what was going on.  Both Dr. Risbon and Dr. Frankel thought it was best that Margarita stay the night in the ER for IV fluids and observation.  Although it was very difficult to leave her at the hospital, I knew she was in the best hands possible.  As I held Margarita and cried, Dr. Frankel said how sweet Margarita was and that he understands how unfair it is that she has to go through this.   He assured me he would care for her as if she was his own, and shared that he has a Pointer-mix at home.  It was a very long, emotional day filled with many tears, but Dr. Frankel and all of the staff at VSEC that day were so kind and comforting – I cannot thank them all enough.

Brian called to check on Margarita after a few hours of me leaving her, and the ER nurse reported that she was resting comfortably, and even ate a few pieces of chicken. We were thrilled with this news!

Sunday, June 23

The nurse Saturday evening told Brian that we could call Sunday morning after 9 or 10 am to check on Rita.  Of course we called at 8am ..HAHA! The doctor luckily had already evaluated Margarita.  The doctor reported that Rita was more alert and had again ate some chicken, so she was comfortable sending Rita home as long as we were going to monitor her the rest of the day.

When I arrived at VSEC, the ER nurse reviewed Margarita’s discharge papers.  We were to monitor her for progressive lethargy, lack of appetite, vomiting, or diarrhea.  If those symptoms persist, we would have to contact our primary vet or VSEC for further advice and supportive care for Margarita.

After I arrived back home with Margarita, she again had no interest in eating for us Sunday afternoon and evening.  She did seem in better spirits, and enjoyed some Sunday porch sittin’.

Monday, June 24

Still no appetite.  We called our primary vet, Dr. Campbell at Old York Veterinary Hospital.  It was suggested that we bring Rita in to see her.  Dr. Campbell did a physical exam and took some chest x-rays. Dr. Campbell noted that she did in fact now hear a heart murmur, and it was a significant change.  Dr. Campbell also told me that she felt some extremely firm stool in Rita’s bowel. Dr. Campbell called VSEC to leave a message for Dr. Risbon, and to see if we could get an appointment with the cardiologist at VSEC to evaluate Rita’s sudden onset of a heart murmur. Dr. Campbell also instructed me to give Rita lots of fluids and walk her often throughout the rest of the day to see if we could get her bowels moving.

A cardiology nurse from VSEC called me in the afternoon to let me know they could fit Rita in on July 3rd.  This worked out well since she also has an ultrasound appointment and blood work both scheduled that same day as her projected 16th oncology appointment.  If all goes well, July 3rd would also complete the CHOP plan for Rita.

Rita did drink water – and even drank some homemade chicken broth.  I walked her, and although she had some difficulty, she had a bowel movement.  I offered her liquids throughout the day and walked her again in the early evening, at which point she had another bowel movement.  She had some trouble, but was able to pass some very firm stool.

I bought some chicken, a few beef bones, and some goat’s milk.  Margarita did drink the goat’s milk, so I was thrilled.  I cooked the chicken and soup bones in two separate slow cookers for experimenting with Rita’s appetite tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 25

Rita ate a few pieces of the slow-cooker chicken, but was more interested in the broth.  She did also eat a few pieces of the bone marrow, but was not interested in the bone broth.  I continued to offer chicken, bone marrow, both broths, and goat’s milk throughout the day.  She was not able to have a bowel movement during the day.

Wednesday, June 26:  Oncology Visit #15

Margarita’s CBC was normal.  Dr. Risbon was able to hear the heart murmur, and suggested that we move forward with an echocardiogram next week.  Dr. Risbon also felt the irregular tissue on Margarita’s right 5th mammary gland.  She said that it did not feel like a mass, but more like thickened tissue, and it was not producing a discharge today.  Dr. Risbon explained that a needle aspirate is not sensitive enough to distinguish the difference.  She would recommend finishing the course of the antibiotics that were administered at our ER visit the is past weekend.  We could consider having the tissue removed and/or biopsied in the near future.  Margarita is scheduled to have an ultrasound, echocardiogram, and blood test next week.  Her echocardiogram appointment was moved up to Monday morning so that Dr. Risbon and Dr. Campbell will have all the information needed to formulate a plan for long-term monitoring.

This Week’s Treatment (LAST ONE!!!)

Considering the week Margarita had, I was surprised that Dr. Risbon suggested moving forward with this week’s treatment.  I had mixed emotions about moving forward …While I was so relieved that Rita was blessed enough to have made it through the entire round of chemotherapy that some dogs are not as lucky to complete, I was extremely nervous wondering if Rita’s body had become too exhausted to take another treatment.  Because of the newly discovered heart murmur, the additional symptoms Margarita had exhibited, and the fact that the drug she was supposed to receive today (Adriamycin) can cause toxicity on the heart, Dr. Risbon substituted a different drug (Mitoxantrone) which has less potential to affect the heart, but is still very effective against lymphoma.  The other benefit of Mitoxantrone is that there is less chance of GI side effects.  Dr. Risbon also dispensed Cerenia and Metronidazole for us to have on hand in the event Margarita displays signs of nausea or diarrhea.

This Week’s Treat

This week we stopped at Applebee’s.  I bought Margarita a corn dog, mozzarella sticks, and mac-n-cheese.

She wasn’t very interested in any of the food this week, as she was still feeling a bit nauseous, so I packaged them up in hopes of her enjoying these treats later.

I had also planned on doing something special to celebrate Rita making it through the complete round of chemotherapy, but because she was not feeling well, we have postponed that celebration until we observe that she is feeling up to PAWtying.

Margarita also now has an Adventure List!  I am not setting a time-frame in which to complete the list, I am just going to enjoy working our way through these escapades as the opportunities arise.  Hopefully I will also be able to find some friends who can help Margarita check-off these adventures!

 

As always, thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.

 

 

 

Margarita Featured in BluePearl’s Newsletter

Margarita’s Lymphoma case and how it was “accidentally” discovered was very unique.  BluePearl, owner of VSEC, contacted me to see if they could feature Margarita in their newsletter, and of course, we said yes.  Below is the story published by BluePearl:

 

Last January, the Beadlings woke up to what would later lead them to a life-changing discovery: Margarita’s canine lymphoma.

LEVITTOWN, Pa. – On the night of January 7, Jenny and Brian Beadling were suddenly woken up by their beloved English Pointer, Margarita (Rita). Rita was pacing anxiously around the bedroom, urinating uncontrollably, and refused to eat. Worried by this unusual behavior, Jenny called their veterinarian the next morning and made an appointment for that evening.

Dr. Helen E. Campbell, veterinarian and owner of Old York Veterinary Hospital, examined Rita and ordered an ultrasound and bloodwork. Results showed that Rita had a 2.5 cm splenic mass and was anemic. Realizing that the symptoms may be caused by something more, Dr. Campbell referred Jenny and Brian to Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center (VSEC) in Levittown, Pa.

After consulting with a radiologist and an internal medicine specialist at VSEC, Jenny and Brian met with VSEC veterinary surgeon, Dr. Jennifer MacLeod. Dr. MacLeod reviewed the case and recommended that Rita undergo exploratory surgery to remove her spleen, and have a biopsy of her liver and intestines.

“Unlike children, pets can’t tell you where it hurts, or how they’re feeling, so that makes our job as parents and the veterinarian’s job very difficult,” explained Jenny. “In Rita’s case, we had to rely solely on observed behavior and diagnostic testing. Although Brian and I were worried about the procedures, we were hopeful that the results would bring us closer to a diagnoses.”

To Jenny and Brian’s disappointment, malignant cells were found in Rita’s spleen and on March 13, she was diagnosed with Diffuse Large B Cell Lymphoma. At this time, Rita was also diagnosed with chronic hepatitis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).

“Brian and I were in disbelief when we were informed of her diagnosis,” Jenny noted. “But we knew that she was in really good hands. Not only did Rita’s medical team take time to answer all of our questions, but with each response, we felt more confident, empowered, and mentally prepared to assist our fur-child in fighting the most difficult battle of her life.”

To improve Rita’s overall health and make her better equipped to handle cancer treatment, Dr. Campbell prescribed her steroids and put her on a specific diet aimed to treat canine IBD.

Once Rita was ready to begin cancer treatment, the Beadling’s were again referred to see a specialist at VSEC. This time it was oncologist, Dr. Rebecca Risbon. Dr. Risbon explained Rita’s diagnoses of Stage IV/A Lymphoma and recommended chemotherapy.

“The duration of the treatment depended on the type of cancer, the extent of the disease, and how responsive Rita would be to the treatment,” said Dr. Risbon. “Working closely with Jenny’s veterinarian, we determined the best plan for Rita, which, in addition to the chemotherapy, included additional exams and tests such as blood work and ultrasounds to monitor her overall health and cancer status,” Dr. Risbon explained. “Any changes in Rita’s eating, drinking, or elimination habits, signs of illness, or changes in behavior are relayed from Jenny to her veterinarian, and then onto myself. It’s a necessary partnership that leads to better patient care and outcomes.”

Today, Rita is on her final weeks of chemotherapy. As a reward after her weekly appointments, Jenny treats Rita to a “cheat day,” which has included licks of a Rita’s peanut butter milkshake, bites of a Taco Bell cheesy roll up, and nibbles of a Wendy’s cheese burger.

By working collaboratively, Dr. Campbell and VSEC specialists got to the root of Rita’s unusual symptoms, and developed a customized treatment plan that they hope will extend Rita and the Beadling’s time together.

“Brian and I are grateful to have had such an amazing medical team to educate and guide us through this difficult process,” Jenny expressed. “As Margarita approaches the home-stretch of her chemotherapy plan, we are hopeful that her future will not only bring us many more occasions to spoil our fury kid, but also open up opportunities for her as a registered Therapy Dog to comfort and inspire others experiencing similar challenges.”

Be a Warrior, Not a Worrier

Week 13 Recap and Oncology Visit #14

“Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles. It empties today of its strength.” ~Corrie Ten Boom

Margarita has been the ultimate Warrior.  Both her primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell,  as well as her oncologist, Dr. Risbon, have told me that Margarita is doing much better than some dogs do when going through chemo.  Not only do some dogs have many more or worse side effects, but some dogs unfortunately aren’t even able to complete the 16-week plan for different reasons.  I am in awe of Sweet Reet’s strength and resilience, and she has inspired me to transform my worrier tendencies into Warrior energy these past 13 weeks.

As her PAWrent, it was extremely difficult at times over the last 13 weeks to clear my mind of distress, transform that negative energy into the positive strength needed to make clear decisions, and to physically and emotionally assist Margarita in her most important battle.  Keeping a calm, upbeat demeanor was important to me, knowing the vibes I emitted would undoubtedly transfer to Margarita.  A positive attitude and a calm, gentle peaceful voice made her feel happy and secure.  Like all dogs, Margarita is extremely sensitive to silent communication as well – so it was just as important for me to keep my mood and body language optimistic, despite the anxiety and heartache that I felt.

However, the mind is a treacherous battlefield, and if I was not careful…if I let my guard down jus a little…the Warrior in me disintegrated into a worrier instantaneously. So what have I done to help train my heart and mind to be a Warrior like Sweet Reet?  Call me crazy – but I watched Rita – closely.  Despite not feeling well 100% of the time, I saw Rita still take joy in small things.  Undeterred by the side effects of chemo, she still woke up with her tail wagging and happy to be alive.  Her bravery and endurance truly inspired me to start each day anew with an optimistic mind and happy heart, no matter what transpired the day before.  How do you like that? SHE was the one going through battle, yet she was helping ME all along…A true example of a Warrior.

Week 13 Recap

The week following her treatment day was great.  Margarita did not have any reactions to the Vincristine, and was feeling well enough to enjoy a trip to Maine with us.  The hair from her splenectomy surgery area has not grown back yet – which we kind of expected. But more recently, Margarita has had a bit of hair loss in her face, and some pigment discoloration in her muzzle.  Below are not the best of pictures, but I tried to show a “before'” (left side) and “current” (right side) for comparison.

We first noticed that her nose, the skin around her eyes and lips, and her muzzle were all turning darker:

Then we noticed hair loss on her face…

…and on her muzzle:

Definitely some noticeable changes – but still one of the prettiest gals we know!

Oncology Visit 14

Margarita’s CBC revealed a very mild drop in her white blood cell count, but the levels were still acceptable for continued therapy. Her physical examination was normal, and her weight was stable.  Dr. Risbon said that after the chemotherapy is completed, Margarita’s hair should fill back in, and she should regain the original pink coloring in her muzzle.

This Week’s Treatment

Dr. Risbon changed the treatment for today.  Rita was supposed to have Cyclophosphamide today.  However, the last time Rita had Cyclophosphamide, she displayed was suspected to be  sterile hemorrhagic cystitis , a side effect with this drug seen in about 10% of dogs.  To be sure this didn’t happen again, the Cyclophosphamide was substituted with Chlorambucil .

This Week’s Treat

This week’s treat was extra special.  Margarita surprised her 2-legged cousin, James on his last day of school!

First car in the Parent Pick-Up Line!

Margarita was patiently waiting for James.

James was happy and surprised to see Rita when he opened his door!

Rita’s Grammy drove us all to get a treat.

We went to Evergreen Dairy Bar . This well-known restaurant and ice cream stand opened in 1949 and is a popular spot for locals, as well as road-trippers passing by on their way to or from the Jersey Shore.

James and Margarita enjoyed a hot dog for lunch.  As you can see, Rita thinks her lunch is lip-smackin’-good!

Diggin’-In!

After lunch, James and Margarita also enjoyed a delicious ice cream treat!

As always, thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.

 

Seacoast DockDogs Hosts “Hops and Hounds” at Raitt Homestead Farm Museum; Eliot, Maine

This was our first time competing at this event.  We were super-excited since we were able to camp on the Raitt Homestead Farm Museum for the entire weekend!

Limoncello:  Team Coach

In between yelling at the boys and after the competition, Cello had a chance to jump off the dock and swim in the pool. In our eyes, she won 1st Place for prettiest girl on the dock this weekend.

Hooch

Hooooooooooooch had a great weekend! He is brand new to competing in Speed Retrieve and Iron Dog AND to learning the Chase Method during Big Air … and he rocked the dock in all 3 areas, despite the mistakes his Mama made, and with him being a beginner in all three “new” games! We have a lot to work on as a team, but I am so proud of this little guy!!

Big Air:

20’3″

22’0″

Finals:

21’2″    🥉3rd Place Elite Division Big Air Finals

Extreme Vertical:

6’0″     🥉3rd Place Top Gun Division

Speed Retrieve:

6.690 seconds 🏅New Personal Best score!

Iron Dog:

2939.05 points    🥈2nd Place Gladiator Division 
🥉Out of all the competitors this weekend, Hooch won 3 Place Overall in the Iron Dog competition!

Lager

Lager started off the weekend in a little bit of a slump, and was hesitating a bit on the dock. He pulled it together by the end of the competition though!

Big Air:

17’6″

17’8″      2nd Place Senior Division

19’10”    1st Place Senior Division

Finals:

20’1″     🥇1st Place Senior Division Big Air Finals

Speed Retrieve:

7.310 seconds    🥉3rd Place Turbo Division Speed Retrieve

The announcer at this event was a Massachusettes Law Enforcement Officer, and he “coined” Lager! The history of “coining” began in the ancient Roman army, where coins were presented as rewards.  The U.S. tradition goes back to the 1960’s.  A member of hte 11th SFG over-stamped old coins with a new emblem.  The 10th SFG was the fist to mint a custom coin and remained the only Army unit with its own coin until the 1980’s.  Originally the coins were given to recognized outstanding achievements. They are now used to build unit morale and cohesion. During the Vietnam Era, the “challenge-response” was added to the tradition. A soldier can be “challenged” to show his or her unit coin. Those that cannot have to “buy a round.”

 

Margarita:  Team Cheerleader

Sweet Reet took a break from cheering on the team and caught up on some beauty rest this weekend in preparation to kick some Lymphoma butt this week!!! 💪🏼.

Whiskey

Despite the brand new toys Mom bought for this competition, Wish the Fish decided she would rather be a Land Shark this weekend, and timed-out in her jumps.

 

Porter:  Team Manager

Porter had a great day of napping and taking walks around the farm on Saturday.

However, even though his meds have just been increased, the second night on the farm around 10pm he had another series of seizures. Luckily, his emergency injection of Midazolam brought him out of the seizures and he did not have to go to the ER. It had been 20 days since his last episode.

Overall, we had a great trip to Maine and enjoyed this competition!

New York City North / Newburgh KOA Holiday: Plattekill, NY

This campground was our stop-over on the way up to the Hops and Hounds competition in Maine.

We stayed on site 145.  This site was awesome!

It was a pull-through site and had a deluxe patio and private campfire/sitting area.

This campground had so much to offer – they even had a wine store with a tasting room featuring local NY wines!  You can check out their other amenities HERE.

Believe: Let Your Faith Be BIGGER Than Your Fear

Week 12 Recap, and Oncology Visit #13

Believe…Accept what is, let go of what was, have faith in what will be.

As Margarita moves into her last 3 weeks of the CHOP plan, I must admit I let fear start to creep in.  What if when the treatments stop the cancer comes back? If the Lymphoma does come back, how long do we have left with Sweet Reet?  I realize that negative feelings like fear and anxiety are normal emotions when dealing with a loved one who has cancer, but living with the uncertainty will not be easy.  Eliminating these limiting thoughts will be extremely important in the upcoming weeks.  Believing in my faith and Rita’s medical team will put myself in the best position to not only make it through this difficult time myself, but also to ensure that Rita is in the best spirits possible. The power of belief is an amazing thing. Countless stories describe how believing has helped people accomplish goals that others have considered impossible. It would be foolish for me to believe that every story ends happily, no matter how much faith and belief is exercised. However… I am going to choose to believe that Margarita still has many happy chapters to add to her story.

Week 12 Recap

Margarita had another great week, other than her putting her paw down about her special diet for her intestinal disease.  Rita decided that she had enough of her special diet and would not eat.  At first we thought she was experiencing nausea as a side effect of her treatments, but we quickly realized that was not the case when we offered her other options and she gobbled them down!  Originally we were going to wait-her-out until she ate her special diet, but after speaking with our primary vet, Dr. Campbell as well as Rita’s oncologist, Dr. Risbon, they agreed that it was best for Rita to eat what she wanted to eat rather than miss an meals during this important time of her treatment schedule.

This week, Margarita received an incredibly thoughtful gift. A past Pointer Rescue, Org adopter had this beautiful piece of artwork made just for Margarita!

This Week’s Treatment:

Margarita ‘s physical exam showed no abnormalities, and her CBC was acceptable for continued therapy.

Next week she is due for cyclophosphamide.  Since this is the drug that is suspected to have caused the side effects at the last dosing, Dr. Risbon will be changing Rita’s chemo drug in order to avoid further irritation to her bladder.

This Week’s Treat:

This week Rita visited Taco Bell! She had a few bites of their Cheesy Roll Up !

As always, thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.

 

 

Lila

On June 9, 2019 we had the pleasure of transporting sweet Lila for Pointer Rescue, Org to help her get to her foster home in Vermont.

Lila is a 3 year old Pointer who was found near a plantation in Georgia. She is very timid in new situations and afraid of loud noises. She is good with calm dogs, but does not appreciate hyper dogs. Lila is heart worm negative.

Lila was super sweet and had an adorable spot on the top of her head!

Lila fell fast asleep and used her stuffed monkey as a pillow!

To find out more about Lila or other adoptable PRO Pointers, please visit pointerrescue.org for adoption information to fill out an application. PRO is always looking for foster homes or transport volunteers too!

Welcome to your new life, Lila!

Happy, Alive, and Built to Survive

Week 11 Recap, and Oncology Visit #12

“A positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances instead of your circumstances having power over you.”

Week 11 Recap

We don’t have much to report this week other than Margarita had a good week so far and is officially moving into her last 3-week round of chemotherapy!

The sky last night was pink for Sweet Reet!

Oncology Visit #12

This week was Rita’s “off-week,” where she just had to visit the oncology office for blood work.  Her test results revealed no abnormalities, and another CBC will be repeated prior to her treatment next week.

This Week’s Treat 

Brian and I took Rita to Rita’s Italian Ice !

Rita waited patiently in the truck as her Pop was in line ordering her a yummy treat.

Margarita enjoyed some licks of a peanut butter milkshake!

YUMMY !!!!!!!!!

***REMEMBER***

Early detection is paramount. Stay informed, remain observant, pet your dog often to check for abnormalities, and take your pup to your family veterinarian regularly. If you are not sure how to check your pup for the more obvious cancer signs, click HERE for a comprehensive guide. Please also remember to take into consideration any other observations that may be out of the ordinary such as:

  • abnormal swellings that continue to grow
  • sores that do not heal despite antibiotics by mouth or an ointment applied topically
  • weight-loss that cannot be explained by a weight-loss diet
  • loss of appetite
  • difficulty eating and/or swallowing
  • bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  • offensive odors
  • reluctance to exercise or loss of stamina
  • persistent lameness or stiffness
  • difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecating

 

As always, thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.

Keystone DockDogs at SteelStacks: Bethlehem, PA

First dock diving competition of 2019” and “Porter’s first attendance at competition ever” was on June 1st and 2nd, 2019.   SteelStacks is by far one our most favorite venues!

Limoncello

Cello enjoyed giving the boys “pointers” and “pointing” out all their mistakes throughout the weekend.

Hooch

Hoooooooooch entered his first competition as an Iron Dog! He won 3rd Place overall in the Gladiator Division!!! He also did Speed Retrieve for the first time and earned a score of 6.783 seconds! (I couldn’t believe it!!) He also qualified for Elite Division Big Air Finals and placed 4th overall.

Big Air: 

20’6″

22’9″

Extreme Vertical:

5’10”   1st Place Cadet Division

Speed Retrieve:

6.783 seconds

Iron Dog:

2930.12  3rd Place Gladiator Division

Lager

Lager had an amazing weekend winning First Place overall in Iron Dog in the Warrior Division. He also won Second Place Overall in Speed Retrieve in the Express Division!

Big Air: 

20’0″

20’10”

Extreme Vertical:

5’6″     3rd Place Cadet Division

Speed Retrieve:

8.092 seconds  2nd Place Express Division

Iron Dog:

2797.1  First Place Warrior Division

Margarita

Sweet Reet enjoyed napping in the fresh air, visiting with her favorite police horses, and receiving attention and love from all the competitors.

Whiskey

Wish the Fish barely plopped into the pool on Saturday, but it was enough to qualify for Finals for her first time ever!! However, Whiskey decided today was not a good day to dock dive, and she refused to jump in finals, earning 5th Place overall in the Novice Division!!

Big Air:

4’5″

Porter

Po Po was so well behaved this weekend! He enjoyed watching all the commotion and took some long naps each day. He