Same Warrior, Different Journey

Those of you who have been following along for a while know that Margarita was diagnosed with Stage 4 Lymphoma in 2019, and is officially a survivor. Throughout Margarita’s Lymphoma Journey, she periodically had elevated liver values. Through the guidance of her medical team, we were able to get these levels under control by adjusting her prednisone dosage. As a part of Margarita’s oncology check-ups, our primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell at Old York Veterinary Hospital, suggested that we continue with regularly scheduled bloodwork to keep an eye on those liver values. More recently, those levels skyrocketed and Rita also had lost weight. Margarita’s prednisone dose was increased and an earlier-than-usual re-check of her bloodwork was scheduled. Despite an increase in both her prednisone dose and daily food intake, she continued to lose weight, her liver values more than doubled, and she just didn’t look or seem herself. She also began to display some incontinence – which we assumed was from the increased prednisone.  

Margarita also gets routine abdominal ultrasounds as a part of her Lymphoma check-ups. Although her last ultrasound showed a few small nodules on her liver, the findings were consistent with age-related liver appearance and thought to be unremarkable.  Margarita was not due for another ultrasound, but with the recent observations and blood test results, Dr. Campbell advised us to do a an early re-check. 

On June 3, 2021 Margarita had an abdominal ultrasound at Blue Pearl Pet Hospital. During this procedure Margarita’s radiologist, Dr. MacLeod, discovered that one of the small nodules on her liver suddenly developed into mass that was 3 cm in diameter. Dr. MacLeod also saw that Rita’s bile looked thicker than normal. A non-invasive needle biopsy of the liver mass was taken, as was a needle aspirate of her bile and her urine. 

On Friday, June 4 we spoke to Margarita’s internal medicine specialist, Dr. Peter Chapman, as well as her Primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell. 

  • During the initial cytology report, the cells of the liver mass were observed to be consistent with those of well differentiated carcinoma. This is not lymphoma- nor is it related in any way. In fact, there is absolutely no evidence of lymphoma. Brian and I are not yet uncertain if we will send this sample out to pathology for further testing, as Margarita’s other symptoms are consistent with what was noted in the cytology report.
  • The bile sample showed significant bacteria in Rita’s gallbladder, so the sample is being sent out for further testing in order to give a better direction on what type of antibiotic would be beneficial to treat the infection- we should know the results by sometime this coming week
  • There was no evidence of bacteria or white cells in her urine sample. We know that frequent urination and incontinence is common with higher doses of prednisone, but we did have this sample sent out for further testing to confirm to ensure Rita is not also dealing with a urinary tract infection- we should know the results by sometime this coming week as well

The hepatocellular carcinoma discovered in the liver biopsy does not respond well to chemotherapy. Additionally, due to the liver’s function, this type of cancer is also very rarely primary (in other words, cancer cells are most likely in multiple areas at this point). In a perfect world, the prime choice would be to remove the mass on Margarita’s liver and also remove her gallbladder. So which path do we take on this new journey?   As much of a gut-punch this new diagnosis is after Margarita surviving stage 4 Lymphoma, we also have to set aside our immediate desire to fix these issues and instead do what’s best for Margarita.  In addition to chronic hepatitis and intestinal disease, Rita also now has significant Dilated Cardiomyopathy (induced by her prior chemotherapy). There is a high possibility that she would not survive the surgeries needed. After a long discussion with our primary veterinarian who we trust wholeheartedly as Rita’s advocate, we have decided it is in Margarita’s best interest to forgo any type of invasive surgeries, and instead “treat the treatable.” Many of you who have travelled a similar journey with a fur-kid and have been faced with this same situation yourselves, know this was an EXTREMELY difficult decision. We are not giving up on her by any means. We will wait for the results of the bile and urine cultures and treat any findings as best we can with medication. Margarita will also have regular abdominal ultrasounds to keep a close eye on changes in the current mass on her liver and/or any new questionable developments. 

I definitely was not ready for this news and immediately was overcome by a rush of disbelief, anger, sadness and fear. I truly believe that positivity is powerful, so although managing the above emotions is not an easy task, I will be certain to shift my focus to gratitude to ensure Rita is in the best atmosphere possible. I cannot forget that in March of 2019, as Margarita began her chemotherapy to treat her lymphoma, we were told that she may not survive even a couple of months due to her significant liver and intestinal diseases. Instead, Margarita kicked (stage 4!!) Lymphoma’s butt and is a SURVIVOR. I am thankful to have been blessed with over 2 additional years with her that I thought I wouldn’t have.  Margarita has beaten the odds before, and I will remain hopeful that she will once again somehow find a way to take a bite out of cancer.  At the same time, Brian and I will respect Margarita’s wishes when this amazing warrior “tells” us she is tired of fighting her battles. Until then, I will enjoy and be thankful for each and every additional minute I am blessed to spend with this 4-legged angel. 

I hope that you will join me in walking beside Señorita Margarita on this difficult path, and continue to send positive thoughts and healing prayers throughout her journey. As always, thank you ALL for your love and support for Sweet Reet.

Bacon-Cheddar Biscuits

These treats were made to help us celebrate Hooch’s 7th birthday!

Ingredients:

  • 5-6 strips of thick cut uncured bacon cooked extra-crispy and crushed into bits
  • 1/2 cup organic shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cups organic milled oatmeal (plus some additional to dust rolling area)
    • you can use rolled oats and process in a blender or food processor to make milled oats
  • 2 large organic eggs

Directions:

  • preheat oven to 350℉
  • line a cookie tray with parchment paper
  • In a medium bowl, combine bacon, cheese, and oatmeal
  • add the eggs to the dry mixture – dough will be a bit sticky
  • dust cutting board or counter with milled oatmeal to prevent the dough from sticking
  • roll dough out until about 1/4 inch thick. Use cookie cutter of choice to cut shapes
  • bake cookies on a cookie tray lined with parchment paper for 20-25 minutes (larger or thicker treats will need more time)
  • Remove treats from oven and let cool completely on a wire rack. Allow to cool in oven for extra crispy treats

Apple Cheddar PUP-cakes

Ingredients

  • Organic coconut oil non-stick cooking spray
    • improves skin and coat, improves digestion, and can reduce allergic reactions
  • 1 1/2 cups organic whole wheat flour
    • provides fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals
  • 1/4 cup organic old-fashioned rolled oats
    • vitamin B and linoleic acid, which help to keep a dog’s skin healthy
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • helps muffins to rise
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • helps muffins to rise
  • 1/2 cup organic unsweetened applesauce
    • fiber and vitamin C
  • 1/4 cup organic extra virgin olive oil 
    • Helps prevent and lessen the effects of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, helps manage weight, promotes. healthy skin and coat, boosts immune system
  • 2 tablespoons organic wild and raw honey
    • helps with allergies, healthy skin, digestion, and more
  • 2 large organic eggs
    • Packed with protein and many essential amino and fatty acids and vitamins which can all provide many health benefits such as improved skin/coat and stronger teeth and bones.
  • 1 cup grated organic Granny Smith apple (cored and peeled…you may prefer to leave the skin on)
    • Provide vitamin A, vitamin C and fiber. ******Always be sure to remove the core and the seeds
  • 1 cup shredded organic sharp cheddar cheese
    • Contains protein, calcium, vitamin A, essential fatty acids, and B-complex vitamins

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Spray a 24-cup mini muffin tin with non-stick coconut spray
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together whole wheat flour, rolled oats, baking powder, and baking soda.
  4. In a small bowl, whisk together applesauce, extra-virgin olive oil, honey, and eggs.
  5. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir just until evenly mixed.
  6. Gently fold in the grated apple and shredded cheddar cheese.
  7. Spoon the batter into the cups of the prepared muffin tin, putting an even amount in all 24 cups.
  8. Bake at 350°F for 18-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  9. Remove muffins from tin and let them cool completely on a wire rack before serving to your pup.

REETired

It is with mixed emotions that I announce Margarita’s early retirement from Therapy Dog work. It has been decided that it is not in Margarita’s best health interest for her to receive vaccinations. Recently, her rabies titer test revealed she no longer has immunity and would require a rabies booster. Her Therapy Dog registration can not be renewed without a rabies vaccination.

Although I am saddened that she cannot carry on with official Therapy Dog visits, I’m thrilled that she can to continue to be actively involved in our online math lessons with my students for the remainder of this school year. 

In the last 4 years, Sweet Reet has formed a bond with so many individuals. In hospital and retirement home settings, she provided much comfort to the elderly. Within the school setting, she has improved students’ success socially, emotionally and cognitively. I am absolutely honored to have been a small part in the huge role she has played in making a remarkable difference in the lives of countless people of all ages. 

Some highlights from Margarita’s four years of Therapy Dog work:

  • initiated the therapy dog program in the Shamong Township School District as the district’s first Therapy Dog
  • featured in the Burlington County Times newspaper Not once …but twice!
  • participated on campus at Rowan College’s Mental Health Week event, while she helped enlighten students and staff on the positive benefits therapy dogs provide for students with depression and anxiety
  • attended YMCA Camp Ockanickon with sixth graders 
  • appeared on Action news 
  • had her very own district-approved Google Classroom
  • featured in “School Leader” – the official publication of the NJ School Boards Association 
  • participated in a 2021 Burlington County, NJ Board of Education Director’s Meeting explaining the benefits of a Therapy Dog Program in a school setting and how she was able to engage students during remote learning (Click HERE to see her slideshow)

Of all the adventures our dogs have taken me on, this — 𝘣𝘺 𝘧𝘢𝘳 — has been the most rewarding of all. I am beyond grateful to have witnessed the significant and lasting impressions Rita has made in the lives of those she visited – both in person and virtually.

In her retirement, we will attempt to accomplish the last two items of her lymphoma Adventure List. Beyond that, you’ll find her lounging on the dock, GLAMping, and visiting outdoor wineries and breweries. 

#REETired 

Shamong Township Therapy Dog Photos from Pre-Covid In-person Teaching:

Coloring pages made from photos of Rita with students:

Remote Teaching with Rita:

Virtual School Spirit Days

Shamong Township School District Staff Yearbook Photo:

Rita’s Virtual Classroom:

P̶o̶u̶n̶d̶ Hound Cake

I made this pound hound cake for Margarita’s 2 Years in Remission celebration!

Ingredients:

  • 1 3/4 cup organic whole wheat flour
    • good source of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and plant-based nutrients including Vitamin B9 (folate), Vitamin E, copper, iron, manganese and selenium, also high in fiber and carbohydrates.
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened organic carob powder
    • great source of fiber and pectin, helping to eliminate toxins, improves digestion
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup organic extra virgin olive oil
    • healthy coat, improved skin, immunity booster, can improve cardiovascular, joint, & digestive health
  • 1 cup organic honey
    • antimicrobial and anti-fungal properties, reduces inflammation, soothes irritated throats from kennel cough, and can help with allergies
  • 4 organic large egg whites
    • packed with protein, rich in essential amino and fatty acids, full of vitamins – including A and B12, folate, iron, selenium, and riboflavin all which aid in improved skin and coat health as well as stronger teeth and bones
  • 1 cup organic non-fat Greek yogurt
    • high in protein, good source of calcium, full of probiotics (good for digestive system)
  • 1tsp organic pure vanilla extract
  • organic non-stick cooking spray (I used organic coconut oil spray)

Directions:

  • preheat oven to 350 ℉
  • spray pan 8 or 9 inch round or Bundt pan (I used the cancer ribbon pan since I made this cake for Rita’s 2-Years-in-Remission celebration) with organic non-stick cooking spray (I like to use coconut oil spray) and dust with flour
  • In a small bowl, stir together the flour, carob powder, and baking powder.
  • In a large bowl, mix oil and honey using an electric mixer
  • Add egg whites, one at a time, continuing to mix
  • Add the yogurt and vanilla and mix until combined thoroughly
  • Slowly add the dry ingredients a little at a time, mixing until smooth
  • Spread the batter evenly in your cake pan
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes – or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean
  • Remove from pan and cool to room temperature before serving to your pup

Should last up to 3 days in an air-tight container. You can also freeze up to 2 months (but please thaw before you serve to your pup)

2 Years in Remission: Gratitude is the Best Attitude

“Through the eyes of gratitude, everything is a miracle” ~Mary Davis

Two years ago Rita was diagnosed with stage 4 sub-stage A Large B-cell lymphoma. If left untreated, she was given 1-2 months to live. Two years ago on this day, Rita began the CHOP-based chemo protocol. Her oncologist said with this treatment Rita would hopefully survive 12-18 months. However, with her existing intestinal and liver diseases, it was uncertain she would even make it through her 16-week chemo plan.

Chemo produces remission in 80-90% of dogs, with the remission period typically lasting 6-9 months. Healthy dogs that do well typically have an average survival time of 12-14 months. Dogs that have underlying health issues (as Rita did) or have involvement of organs other than the lymph nodes (as Rita did) generally have shorter survival times. Despite the fact that Rita’s other health intestinal and liver diseases gave her a lesser chance than most, Rita not only made it through her chemo treatments, but she also defied the odds and reached every remission milestone following her CHOP protocol that research said she most likely wouldn’t: 6 months, 12 months, 18 months…and today…TWO YEARS!

Margarita at 2 years in remission from Stage 4 Lymphoma. The lime green balloons are for lymphoma awareness, and the 2 pink balloons represent Rita’s remission years. The scar under her right eye is from a growth that was removed.

I made a cake for Rita’s 2-Year-Remission Celebration! Click HERE for the recipe.


“The more you recognize and express gratitude for the things you have, the more things you will have to express gratitude for.” ~ Zig Ziglar

Through this unplanned journey, the most important lesson I learned was that gratitude is the best attitude. An attitude of gratitude forces you to focus on the bigger picture. It turns chaotic worrisome thoughts into calm, orderly actions. Even on days that may seem awful, find the silver lining and give thanks for what IS going right that day.

It is normal to be sad and grieve when you receive a cancer diagnosis for your fur-kid. However, keep in mind that YOU are the most important part of your dog’s journey. Negativity does nothing for your emotional or mental well being, and it certainly doesn’t help your dog. Dogs are intuitive – they sense your mood before you even realize how you are feeling or acting. Your mindset can be your best friend’s …well … “best friend”… or their worst enemy. Keeping positive and being grateful will help your pup feel happy and secure. For a pack animal, that security is key for their happiness and overall well-being.

But HOW do you bring gratitude into your attitude…especially during a time like this?

  1. Journal your gratitude. Although my initial intention was to celebrate Margarita during her journey, this section of the blog has essentially also been my Gratitude Journal. Documenting the special treats, gifts, and activities that Rita enjoyed along her journey helped me realize that the little things mean A LOT, and I should be grateful that I had the opportunity see Rita delight in all the positivity. Keeping a journal (blog) helped me to focus on the good – the positive. I love that I am able to revisit Margarita’s Journey and relive the happy memories of the new experiences and adventures that came about along the way.
  2. Celebrate your gratitude. Be thankful for the small things… even the the most minuscule things. Everyone likes a big win, right? But if you don’t slow down and acknowledge the little achievements, you will quickly lose focus. This type of journey isn’t only about the end goal, but what you make of it for you and your pup along the way. Ideally, chemo will help put your dog into remission for as long as possible. However, the reality is you truly don’t know how long you’ll have with your fur-kid. Take the time to find fun things for you and your pup to do together. Watching your best friend have fun will be a gratifying experience. Remember that your pup doesn’t KNOW they have cancer…instead they happily continue on, living life in the moment despite the fact they may not feel 100%. Take note of that and celebrate…every…little…thing.
  3. Express your gratitude. …Not only to your dog (yes – your dog – – after all, they are a precious gift in life!) – but to all those who walk alongside you and your pup during the journey. Your dog’s veterinarian, oncologist, veterinarian technicians and nurses, family, friends….Thank them!!! It costs $0.00 and only a few seconds to show your appreciation…and there are many ways to say thank you. Say it in person, or send a text/email/private message/card, give a small gift… whatever way you choose – SHOW them your gratitude! Tell them how much you appreciate what they have done for the well-being of you and your best friend. Then – pay it forward… uplift, inspire, and help someone else in need. You don’t have to go crazy or spend any money – just a simple message could be exactly what someone needs as they set out on a similar journey with their pup. A simple act of kindness can make someone’s day, and even change their entire outlook. I can’t tell you enough how much Margarita’s Journey – something thought to be so awful – brought so much positivity and love into my life, thanks to others’ support, prayers, and kindness. I was overwhelmed with an outpour of generosity, and thoughtful gestures from friends, family – and even strangers. I hope that I can pay it forward to as many people as PAWsible.

Have you thanked your pup yet?!


The Past 6 Months

Primary Veterinarian

12/24/2020: Margarita visited Dr. Campbell at Old York Veterinary Hospital for her routine annual exam. Blood work showed elevated liver values. A recheck of blood work was scheduled.

Abdominal Ultrasound Check-up

1/7/2021: Abdominal Ultrasound with Dr. Sandy MacLeod at Blue Pearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital

Over all, Margarita’s abdominal ultrasound showed mild liver enlargement with a few small faint nodules consistent with benign vacuolar change and nodular hyperplasia. There were no additional abnormalities in the abdomen. Dr. MacLeod recommended a recheck with Rita’s Internal Medicine team to discuss the increased liver enzymes on her recent lab work, and a 6 month recheck abdominal ultrasound to monitor for recurrence of lymphoma.

  • Liver: Mildly enlarged, few small faint hypo-echoic nodules in the left liver lobes measuring 5mm-2cm, similar to previous exams.
  • Gallbladder and Biliary Tree: No abnormalities identified.
  • Spleen: Absent.
  • Kidneys: No abnormalities identified.
  • Adrenal Glands: No abnormalities identified.
  • Urinary Bladder: No abnormalities identified.
  • Stomach: No abnormalities identified.
  • Intestines: No abnormalities identified.
  • Colon: No abnormalities identified.
  • Pancreas: No abnormalities identified.
  • Peritoneum: No abnormalities identified.
  • Mesentery: No abnormalities identified.
  • Lymph Nodes:No abnormalities identified.

Primary Veterinarian blood work re-check

1/28/21: Dr. Campbell did blood work to recheck Rita’s liver values. Results displayed that the values increased even more. An abdominal ultrasound was scheduled.

Cardiology Check-up

February 2, 2021: Margarita’s cardiologist, Dr. Bossbaly, did a routine echocardiogram and reported that her heart showed improvement! Her chemo-induced Dilated Cardiomyopathy is stable on her current medication. Margarita does not have to have another echocardiogram until January 2022! Dr. Bossbaly also confirmed that Margarita was healthy enough to undergo her liver biopsy.

Laparoscopic Liver Biopsy and Facial Growth

By the time we made the liver biopsy appointment with Dr. Chapman at Blue Pearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital (formerly VSEC), a strange growth appeared under Rita’s right eye, and grew at a rapid pace. Luckily Dr. Chapman was able to have Dr. Lauren Deahl, one of Blue Pearl’s surgeons, remove and biopsy her facial growth during her laparoscopic liver biopsy.

The findings of biopsies showed no evidence of Lymphoma in the liver, and only benign tissue in the facial growth! To say I was grateful was an understatement.

Margarita with Internal Medicine Specialist, Dr. Peter Chapman, and Internal Medicine Veterinary Technician, Carina Rosario-Fleishman at Blue Pearl Specialty and Emergency Pet Hospital after her biopsy procedures

Birthday Celebration!

Margarita celebrated her 11th Birthday this month as well! Each day with Rita is a blessing, but being able to observe a big milestone such as this is was a definitely a reason to be grateful! I hold on to the faith and hope that Margarita will continue to beat the odds and celebrate many more birthdays.

Brian and I have strictly followed Covid Quarantine restrictions and social distancing guidelines, so we weren’t able to do too much this past 6 months. However, as Covid restrictions continue to be lifted, and it is deemed safe to do so, I intend to work toward the completion of Margarita’s Adventure List (she only has two adventures left to complete her list)!

Thank you to ALL of Margarita’s medical staff, our family, friends (old and new) and followers…Rita could not have achieved this without each and every one of you! Stay safe and healthy – – and remember … Be grateful for every day you are gifted with the love of your pup!

Stuffed Peppers

Ingredients

  • 3 organic bell peppers, tops and cores/seeds removed
    • rich in vitamins A, E, B6, and lutein and are great sources of vitamin C and beta-carotene, which are antioxidants which promote a healthy immune system
  • 1 pound organic lean ground beef, fully cooked/browned in skillet
    • Rich in essential amino acids, minerals and vitamins
  • 3 cups organic quinoa, cooked according to directions on package
    • great source of antioxidants. Quinoa also contains B-vitamins such as riboflavin and folate and minerals such as magnesium and iron
  • fresh organic parsley
    • rich in vitamins A, C, and K: Supports the immune system, promotes good vision, maintains healthy blood clotting, promotes liver health and has anti-inflammatory properties
  • organic shredded low fat cheese
    • contains protein, calcium, vitamin A, essential fatty acids, and B-complex vitamins

Directions

  • preheat oven to 450 ℉
  • mix cooked ground beef and cooked quinoa together
  • spoon mixture equally into peppers
  • top with shredded cheese
  • bake until peppers are tender
  • sprinkle with parsley

Blackberry Chicken Millet Squares

Ingredients

  • 1 boneless, skinless organic chicken breast, boiled (***save broth from boiling)
    • Good source of Omega 6 fatty acids which are good for the skin and coat, essential amino acids and glucosamine for healthy bones
  • 1/4 cup fresh organic blackberries
    • Loaded with antioxidants to fight free radicals, and also have plenty of fiber and vitamins
  • 2 1/2 cups organic millet flour
    • Healthy carbohydrate high in phosphorus, B-vitamins, and iron. Phosphorus is essential for healthy bones, and iron maintains energy levels and overall health
  • 1 Tablespoon organic extra virgin coconut oil
    • MCTs in coconut oil can aid in digestion and improve brain energy and mental function
  • 1 teaspoon organic ground turmeric
    • Antioxidant that boosts the immune system
  • 2 cups of chicken broth from the boiled chicken above
    • Using the broth created from the water you boiled the chicken in is safer for dogs because unlike store-bought chicken broth it will be free of unhealthy and harmful ingredients such as salt, onion, and other additives

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350℉
  • line cookie sheet with parchment paper
  • Place all ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth
  • Pour mixture onto the parchment paper and using a spatula, smooth mixture until it is about 1/4 inch thick
  • Bake for 15 minutes, then remove cookie sheet. At this point the mixture should be formed enough to cut. Using a pizza cutter, cut into squares
  • Return cookie sheet to oven and cook another 15-25 minutes (depending on how crunchy your pup likes his/her treats
  • Turn off oven and let squares sit inside oven until the oven completely cools (or remove and set squares on a cooling rack for less-crunchy treats)

Treats should last about 2 weeks in a container in the refrigerator, or you can freeze them (Ours never last that long before they are all gone!)

🦴BONE appetit! 🐾

11 Years Old

Today is Señorita Margarita’s 11th(-ish) birthday… We chose this day to mark her birthday because it also marks the date 5 years ago when we met “Penelope/Penny” and brought her home as a foster.

Big Poppa cooked an amazing bacon, sausage, egg, and pancake breakfast for Sweet Reet.

For her birthday dinner, we did a little something different this year… a dog-friendly charcuterie board (or maybe we should call it a charCHEWterie board…??… or BARKuterie board?!?) All items included on the board are foods that are safe for dogs (in moderation of course).

Homemade peanut butter PUPcakes with cream cheese frosting was her birthday dessert!

CharCHEWterie Board

A dog-friendly Charcuterie board! …So many healthy dog-friendly foods to CHEWS from, but here’s what was on our pups’ board:

  • Apples
    • excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, calcium, and phosphorus
  • Apple sauce
    • excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, calcium, and phosphorus
  • Bananas
    • packed with potassium and vitamin C, and they’re also a good source of vitamin B6, manganese, biotin, and copper
  • Bell pepper
    • rich in vitamins A, E, B6, and lutein and are great sources of vitamin C and beta-carotene
  • Blueberries
    • contain antioxidants, fiber and vitamins C and K. These nutrients support the immune system and contribute to overall health
  • Broccoli
    • vitamin K, calcium, and potassium
  • Carrots
    • excellent source of vitamin A, potassium, and fiber, among other vitamins
  • Celery
    • excellent source of fiber; vitamins A, C, and K; folate; potassium; and manganese
  • Cheese (low fat)
    • contains protein, calcium, vitamin A, essential fatty acids, and B-complex vitamins
  • Cheese Crackers
    • definitely an “only in moderation” selection, as this is not a healthy treat, but Rita loves an occasional cheese cracker, so we couldn’t resist!
  • Clementines
    • full of nutrients, potassium, and some fiber
  • Cranberries
    • improve your dog’s bladder health, reduce tartar and plaque buildup, fight bacteria, and help prevent cancer
  • Egg
    • packed with protein and rich in many essential amino and fatty acids, vitamins including A and B12, as well as folate, iron, selenium, and riboflavin. Eggs provide nutrients which help improve skin and coat health as well as stronger teeth and bones.
  • Kiwi
    • contain fiber, vitamin C, and potassium, flavonoids and carotenoids. They protect against cancer, help cell rejuvenation, and strengthen the immune system
  • Pears
    • high in copper, vitamins C and K, and fiber
  • Peas
    • high in vitamins A, B, C, and K, and are a good source of protein and dietary fiber. They’re also rich in essential nutrients like folate, thiamin, and manganese
  • Pumpkin purée
    • Aids in digestion and is rich in a host of essential vitamins and minerals
  • Spinach
    • contains vitamins A, B, C, and K, iron, antioxidants, and beta-carotene
  • Strawberries
    • full of fiber and vitamin C
  • Yogurt
    • high in protein, and a good source of calcium which keeps your pup’s bones healthy. It is also full of probiotics which are great for your dog’s digestive system

This was Margarita’s treat for her 11th Birthday

***Consult your dog’s veterinarian before trying new foods. Be mindful of any potential food allergies, and always feed any food in moderation.

Upper Aetna’s Schuss Jägermeister

In the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic, we saw an email come through from GSP Rescue of NJ about a young German Shorthaired Pointer (GSP) named Jäger who needed a foster immediately. Jäger was an owner-surrender because his family could no longer take care of him with his special needs. Unfortunately Jäger suffers from seizures due to Epilepsy. Another volunteer offered to take him in as a foster. Unfortunately, a few days after being in his foster home, Jäger had a major altercation with one of the resident dogs. The foster family wanted him transferred out of their home, as they were not equipped to do crate-and-rotate. Brian and I could not let a dog with epilepsy end up in a boarding facility with no monitoring at night. On August 2, 2020 Jäger was dropped off at our home and he began his adoption journey as our foster dog.

Although a couple of people showed interest in adopting Jäger, they were either out of state (GSP Rescue of NJ only adopts to New York and New Jersey), not willing to do crate-and-rotate, or were not experienced with Epilepsy.

He was very happy here, and we couldn’t deny our love for him. Four months later, on Christmas Day 2020, we officially adopted Jäger! We are very excited to see what adventures this pup will create for us! Welcome to the family, buddy!

Scooby Doo 5K

ZOINKS! Looks like we’ve got another mystery on our hands! …Not to worry though – Margarita is on the case! Only one problem… the Mystery Machine was out of commission, so we had to “take a run at it!”

Margarita enjoyed some Scooby Snacks and Scooby themed toys before completing the Scooby-Doo Family and Pet Run/Walk . 

A percentage of our mystery-solving fee was donated to St. Jude Children’s Hospital .

America Runs 5k

🇺🇸America Runs…Even at a Distance.

Margarita completed the virtual America Runs 5K.

A portion of our race fee was donated back to local communities by supporting COVID-19 recovery efforts through The Gannett Foundation. All funds raised were donated across the United States in the hopes of achieving 1 million dollars raised for COVID-19 recovery efforts.

I no longer watch the timer, and don’t pause the race apps (I use Runkeeper and WoofTrax at the same time) for potty breaks, water breaks, or photo ops.. instead, these days the longer our walks are, the better – and I enjoy every second of every one of our 5Ks!

With Hope, the Odds Don’t Matter: 18 Months in Remission

18 months ago Rita was diagnosed with stage 4 sub-stage A Large B-cell Lymphoma. If left untreated, she was given 1-2 months to live.

In March 2019, Rita began the CHOP-based chemo protocol. With her intestinal and liver diseases, it was uncertain she could even make it through her chemo plan. Her oncologist said with this treatment Rita would survive 12-18 months.

Despite the fact that her other health issues gave her a lesser chance than most, Rita made it through her chemo, and also reached every remission milestone that research said she most likely wouldn’t: 6 months, 12 months, and today…18 months!

We hold on to the faith and hope that she will not only continue to beat the odds and join the small percentage of dogs with Stage IVa Lymphoma who live 2 years, but that she also will defy “the norm” of her cancer prognosis even further!

Puppy Rescue Mission 5K

While the military does not condone befriending animals, dogs and cats alike tend to find their way into the hearts of many, many soldiers stationed in Afghanistan. Rita participated in the Puppy Rescue Mission virtual 5k, which benefited The Puppy Rescue Mission (TPRM).

TPRM assists with requests, logistics, administration and fund-raising for the adopted stray dogs of war, rescued by and bonded with soldiers. This may include vet care, supplies, transport and related issues. TPRM works with or through other organizations that help our soldiers bring their companion animals home from war.

Shanahan Strides

Margarita’s longest challenge yet… 63 miles! Margarita participated in Bishop Shanahan High School ’s “Shanahan Strides” event.

Each mile represents a Bishop Shanahan graduating class. All proceeds were used to provide immediate relief for students who are in need of tuition assistance.

Back to School Streaker

Señorita Margarita proved she is truly Teacher’s Pet as she completed the Back to School Streaker Challenge hosted by Run The Edge .

She walked at least a mile every day in August – for a total of 41.22 miles… what a streak!

September is Back-to-School month for us, but this year, September is also a major milestone for our family.

In March 2019, Margarita was diagnosed with Large B Cell Lymphoma…Stage 4 Substage A. She was a very complex case considering she already had a compromised system due to advanced intestinal and liver disease. We opted to have her go through chemotherapy. Had we not opted for the chemo, we were told Rita had only 1-2 months to live. If she could survive a full round of CHOP-based chemotherapy, Margarita was given 12-18 months to live. (The CHOP-based protocol produces an average disease-free interval {remission} of 9 months, a median survival rate of 12 months, and a 20-25% survival to 2 years). With more roadblocks than most patients prior to even starting chemo, this angel with fur beat most of the odds already by completing a full round of chemo, reaching the remission time of 6 months, 1-year, and now in September….18 months!

We are beyond grateful for every day with this little lady. Margarita will be working towards completing some charity-based virtual 5K’s this fall.

The Dog Days of Summer 2020 (August)

As Covid and The Dog Days of Summer continue, if we can’t dock dive together, we will 5K together (in spirit) …to raise money for animals in need!

The Liver Killers joined forces with a few other dock diving teams to participate in a 3-part Dog Days of Summer virtual 5k series (click HERE to see June’s installment and click HERE to see July’s installment) hosted by j&a racing and presented by Banfield Pet Hospital .

During the August installment of this series, Margarita and I walked Freedom Park to cover our 3.1 miles.

There are 3 medals: June (Retrievers), July (Bulldogs), August (Rescue dogs) that when fitted together form a dog bone!

A portion of our registration fee each month is donated to the Virginia Beach SPCA , who believes that the animal-human bond creates healthier, happier, more connected communities. VBSPCA delivers their compassion by providing pet adoption and sheltering, low-cost public veterinary clinic services, humane education programs, wildlife triage and canine pet training.

❤️🐾Here’s to hoping that every dog finds their forever running/walking partner! 🐶🏃🏼‍♀️

Whiskey Run

National Dog Day is a very special day for us at Cello’s Corner as it is also the 2nd anniversary of Whiskey’s Gotcha Day! We adopted little Wish the Fish from Pointer Rescue, Organization during our 2018 visit to Canada for a dock diving event. This weekend would have been our annual trip back to Canada. This year we cannot make that trip because of Covid

In honor of Whiskey’s Gotcha Day, we did a Whiskey Run 5K together. We walked the 3.1 miles in 2 parts because of Whiskey’s bad shoulder.

It may be the slowest 5K in history, but we had a blast and enjoyed every second!

A portion of our race fee was donated to the Nikolas Ritschel Foundation .

Day of the Dog 5K

Margarita celebrated National Dog Day with her cousin, James, by completing a 5K together!

15% of their registration fee for Day of the Dog 5k was donated to Freedom Service Dogs , who rescue dogs and custom-train them for veterans with PTS, and for people with disabilities like autism, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, and spinal cord injuries.

The Scavenger’s Hunt🦝

This may be the most fun I’ve ever had doing while exercising!

This event challenged us to collect points for the distance we walked every day in the month of August. The farther you walked (or ran), the more points you earned. We walked a total of 69.9 miles together for the month…But that wasn’t all! Each weekend in August, The Troubled Raccoon sent out the challenges for the following week and we had until midnight on Sunday to complete them!

A portion of each registration was donated to the Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center to support its mission to save and protect Long Island’s native wildlife.

Week 1

Week 2