We hosted a little gal named Anna for 1 day and 1 night as she made a pitstop here on her way from Georgia to her her foster home in PA!
Anna was found as a stray along a back road in Georgia which is unfortunately known as a “popular” road for people dumping dogs. She had just recently had puppies and had pyometra – which if left untreated could have taken her life. She is lucky she was found in time. A good samaritan found her, took her in, and paid to have her pyometra and spay completed.
She loved the lake and even took a swim!
She is a beautiful girl who is full of spunk!
We wish Anna the best in her foster home and pray that she finds her forever family soon! Welcome to your new life, Anna!
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.
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.
No abnormalities were found during Rita’s ultrasound.
Margarita’s white blood cell count was a bit low, so she was placed on an antibiotic as a preventative.
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.
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.”
“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!
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.
This was our first time competing at this event. We were super-excited since we were able to camp on the RaittHomestead 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.
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!!
21’2″ 🥉3rd Place Elite Division Big Air Finals
6’0″ 🥉3rd Place Top Gun Division
6.690 seconds 🏅New Personal Best score!
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 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!
17’8″ 2nd Place Senior Division
19’10” 1st Place Senior Division
20’1″ 🥇1st Place Senior Division Big Air Finals
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!!! 💪🏼.
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!
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!
“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.
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!
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
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.
“There will be roadblocks, but we will overcome them.” ~ DJ Khaled
Cancer tried to take another bite out of Reet this week, but she bit back! The dogs were outside enjoying the beautiful weather this past Memorial Day Weekend on Saturday evening. Margarita was laying in the grass when she suddenly popped up and nervously began to pace, pant, and spin. It quickly became apparent that she was straining to urinate. We knew the drug used in her last chemo treatment (Cyclophosphamide) causes sterile hemorrhagic cystitis in approximately 10% of the dogs. Symptoms include straining during urination, urinating small amounts frequently, incontinence, or blood in her urine. She had this same treatment during week 2 of her chemotherapy, and did not have any complications. However, what we were observing was exactly what we were cautioned to look our for. We followed the protocol and called VSEC to share our observations, and their suggestion was to bring her in to the emergency room for evaluation.
On the way to the ER
While Rita was at VSEC, they performed the following:
Nice try, cancer – but this was just a hiccup, and won’t hold Margarita back in her progress. I had prepared my self each week for Rita’s chemo treatments by reviewing the side effects for each week’s drugs with Rita’s oncologist, Dr. Risbon. Each week I show up with a notebook and pen ask what side effects to expect, in what time frame we should see symptoms, and what to do if Rita begins to feel poorly. I also often refer back to the “What to Expect” list I was given during our first oncology appointment. This keeps my mind from racing and reduces my anxiety if I happen to see something out of the ordinary.
More Ways to Help Your Fur-Kid Take a Bite Out of Cancer:
Chemotherapy kills the cancer, but also is extremely harsh on the body. During chemo – especially during the “hiccups” that may arise – we wanted to be sure Margarita’s body was as equipped as could be to fight these little “side battles” if needed. After speaking with others who have been through chemotherapy with their fur-kid, Rita’s primary veterinarian, and her oncologist, we chose a special diet and specific supplements to best prepare Rita’s body for it’s best defense against the chemotherapy and possible side effects.
There are many articles that suggest certain diets for canine cancer patients (most are carbohydrate-free / sugar-free diets). However, Margarita is a unique, complex case, and therefore is on a special prescription diet due to her intestinal disease. Other than her weekly “cheat day” after her chemo appointment, we stick to her special diet as close as possible. Every dog’s nutritional needs before, during , and after cancer and through chemotherapy are unique, and should be discussed in detail with your primary vet as well as your pup’s oncologist.
We chose to add supplements to Margarita’s diet to help strengthen, support, and balance her immune system. Just like the main diet, supplements should be discussed with your primary vet and your dog’s oncologist as to which ones are appropriate for your pup’s individual needs and diagnosis. Also be sure to ask your oncologist about a schedule of administering these supplements, as some antioxidants and ingredients will decrease the effectiveness of the chemo if given too close before or after your fur-kid’s treatment day. Here are the supplements we chose for Margarita:
A powerful blend of four functional mushrooms: Maitake, Reishi, Shiitake, and Turkey Tail, combined with antioxidants to provide extra strength immune support. Formulated to support and balance the immune system to promote overall health and well-being for pets, especially during times of stress
Holistic product, it will provide your dog with the full range of vitamins, minerals, enzymes, amino acids, and essential omega fatty acids which promotes optimal overall health and well-being
Natural form bee pollen
Known to help reduce side effects of chemotherapy
Be sure to choose unprocessed
Beneficial bacteria that can exhibit anticancer properties.
Margarita also has an intestinal disease so the safe and effective strain of beneficial bacteria in a probiotic promotes and restores normal intestinal microflora for her.
Oncology Visit # 11
Margarita’s physical exam was normal, and her blood work displayed appropriate levels to continue chemotherapy. Rita’s oncologist, Dr. Risbon, suggested that we continue the Rymadyl and Oxybutynin Chloride until next week’s visit to help with her bladder issues. Dr. Risbon was not overly concerned about Rita’s elevated ALT value.
During this week’s treatment, Margarita received Adriamycin intravenously.
We are to monitor the site for any inflammation, oozing, or discharge.
Side effects of this treatment may cause nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and/or diarrhea.
As a preventative, we were sent home with:
Cerenia 24 mg
To be given (2 tablets) once a day for 5 days to prevent nausea/vomiting
Metronidazole 250 mg
To be given (1 tablet twice a day) at the first sign of loose stool/diarrhea
We transported this cutie patootie on May 25, 2019. Sport is 6.5 yr old blind Pointer and belonged to a huge hunting preserve in NC. He suffered an infection, which caused him to lose sight in one eye then the other. His owner was going to just euthanize him but an employee convinced him to let him find a home for Sport. Although he has never lived inside, Sport loves people, and craves attention. Sport is Heartworm negative.
Sport was an absolute doll during our 1 hour ride.
He loved to cuddle!
I am thrilled we were lucky enough to spend some time with this sweet soul!
“When someone has cancer, the whole family, and everyone that loves them does too.” ~Terri Clark
When we first found out about Margarita’s diagnosis, there was no question or hesitation for us to put all other things on hold if needed, and fight right alongside Rita in her biggest battle. We vowed to do anything we could to help our 4-legged family member survive, as long as her medical advocates deemed the actions appropriate to continue to improve Rita’s quality of life. We are extremely fortunate to have an amazing medical team behind Rita, whom we trust wholeheartedly. Our family has been understanding, encouraging, and sympathetic. Additionally, thanks to dog sports and social media, we are beyond blessed to have a large network of extended family and friends who have not only been equally supportive, but also have been invaluable resources.
That doesn’t mean we haven’t come across those who do not understand, or cannot relate to our efforts or our bond with our 4-legged family member. I’ve been asked by people who don’t know our family well: “You’re getting chemo for your…DOG?!?!”… “Is it really worth it?” … In keeping the tone of Margarita’s documented journey positive, I won’t even go there – just consider yourself extremely lucky if you are like us and have friends and family who support your efforts to help your fur-child fight such a serious disease. At the same time, be prepared as a PAWrent to be criticized or questioned by those who “don’t get it,” and think your 4-legged child is “just a dog.”
JUST A DOG
From time to time, people tell me, “lighten up, it’s just a dog,” or “that’s a lot of money for just a dog.” They don’t understand the distance traveled, the time spent, or the costs involved for “just a dog.”
Some of my proudest moments have come about with “just a dog.” Many hours have passed and my only company was “just a dog,” but I did not once feel slighted.
Some of my saddest moments have been brought about by “just a dog,” and in those days of darkness, the gentle touch of “just a dog” gave me comfort and reason to overcome the day.
If you, too, think it’s “just a dog,” then you will probably understand phrases like “just a friend,” “just a sunrise,” or “just a promise.”
“Just a dog” brings into my life the very essence of friendship, trust, and pure and unbridled joy.
“Just a dog” brings out the compassion and patience that makes me a better person.
Because of “just a dog,” I will rise early, take long walks and look longingly to the future. So for me and folks like me, it’s not “just a dog” but an embodiment of all the hopes and dreams of the future, the fond memories of the past, and the pure joy of the moment.
I hope that someday they can understand that it’s not “just a dog,” but the thing that gives me humanity and keeps me from being “just a woman.” So the next time you hear the phrase “just a dog,” just smile–because they “just don’t understand.”
If you cross paths with those who don’t quite understand the love you have for your fur-child, you may start to doubt yourself – or may wind up feeling alone and helpless. In addition to the possibility of unsupportive friends and family, you could have financial constraints or other situations that may make chemotherapy difficult or impossible. Remember: NO ONE FIGHTS ALONE! There is support in each area that you can find elsewhere to assist you in your part of the battle to save your pup. First and foremost, ask your veterinarian and/or oncologist if they can suggest any helpful and reputable emotional and/or financial support groups. I’m sure there are others out there if you search, but below are some options for emotional, informational and financial support that I found either through a friend’s suggestion, or a quick Google Search.
Emotional or Informational Support:
Put out a post on social media
You will be surprised at how many others have been through cancer with their pup, and can provide some very helpful tips and information
Also recommended to our by a friend of ours whose dog also battled cancer
Join a Facebook support group such as the examples below or search for groups on Facebook specific to your dog’s needs:
Note: Not all Support Groups have the same goal. Some groups provide support and comfort, and others are focus on the technical side of handling canine cancer. You may want to consider joining more than one group to explore which ones suit your needs best.
This is a privately run nonprofit started in memory of the founder’s dogs. This foundation has helped animals in a variety of ways: from spay/neuter programs, to getting dogs on death row out of high-kill shelters, to providing emergency medical care to animals whose owners have fallen on hard times.
There are many rescue groups and associations that support specific dog breeds. Reach out to your local breed clubs for information on local, state and national groups involved in dog breed-specific veterinary care assistance programs. Examples include groups like CorgiAid, Special Needs Dobermans, LabMed, Pit Bull Rescue Central.
Financially assists pet owners and Good Samaritans who have an animal with a good prognosis for a healthy life, but are at a financial loss.
Week 9 Recap
The week following Oncology Visit #9 was a good one! Rita experienced some mild diarrhea on day two after her treatment, but one Metronidazole did the trick, and she had normal bowl movements the rest of the week leading up to oncology visit #10.
If you have been following along with us for a while, you are probably tired of hearing me say how blessed we are to have found ourselves involved in GSP Rescue of NJ , Pointer Rescue, Org , and DockDogs – and our ever-growing extended family that came about because of those groups. I am blown away with the continued friendship, support, motivational messages, prayers, gifts, and gestures from these wonderful people.
This week, one of our extended-family members who attends daily mass lit a candle for Rita and prayed to St. Rita of Cascia on the St. Rita’s Feast Day this week (May 22).
Another one of our extended-family members sent us two of the “No One Fights Alone” Lymphoma bracelets from the Delmarva DockDogs Canine Cancer fund raiser she orchestrated in the name of our Sweet Reet at the last Delmarva DockDogs event. This amazing woman had no idea that my “theme” this week was going to be No One Fights Alone!
This week Margarita’s passed her physical exam with flying colors, and her CBC was normal (aside form the mild anemia that is continuously monitored). Margarita’s chemotherapy this week is an oral medication that is administered by us at home.
This Week’s Treatment:
Give 2 tablets by mouth on 5/22, and 5/23 and 1 tablet by mouth on 5/24
Do not split/crush tablets
This drug can cause some irritation to the bladder (called sterile hemorrhagic cystitis). This week we will have to monitor Rita for straining during urination, urinating small amounts frequently, incontinence, or blood in her urine.
“And though she be but little, she is fierce.” ~Shakespeare
Week 5 Recap
They say God gives the toughest battles to his strongest soldiers. Our little Margarita is the sweetest soul, but she truly has proven to be a fierce little warrior! I am certain her strength and resilience is fueled by the daily encouragement and prayers received from family and friends, as well as the amazing medical care and advice from her oncologist, Dr. Risbon, and her primary veterinarian, Dr. Campbell. Margarita’s amazing support team is also what lessens our fear as her PAWrents, and provides us with the positive energy, strength, and courage needed to assist her through this challenging journey. Our dogs are very sensitive to our mindset and moods. Knowledge is power, and a positive attitude leads to positive outcomes…the more knowledgeable and positive we are, the better we can assist Margarita to continue to be a fierce warrior in her battle.
I must admit – this is easier said than done. I don’t think my mind and heart will ever be completely cleared of the emotional upset of Rita’s cancer diagnosis, but I have vowed to make a conscious effort to shift my worry of what could go wrong – to focusing on what a what could go right. Attempting to clear my mind of upset and worry is no easy feat – but it does allow my brain to make more room for learning how I can help Margarita, rather than obsessing on the “what-if’s.” A good friend of ours, whose dog also has been through a cancer journey, suggested I read The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. This book has inspired me to write Rita’s Journey into the blog, and to plan the fun weekly “chemo day” experiences for Margarita. Watching her enjoy those pleasant activities and treats helps maintain my positive outlook as well. We would quickly lose direction on our path without our amazing team of friends, family, and doctors walking beside us through this journey.
This past week Margarita has been eating well, active, and in great spirits. She had an amazing week!
During last week’s oncology visit, Margarita was cleared to go on our Easter camping trip. We originally had a vacation planned that would have led us about 4 hours away from home. Considering this was the first camping trip since Margarita began chemo, we were a little nervous. Instead of canceling the trip completely, we booked a last-minute reservation at a campground about 45 minutes from us. This way, we could still enjoy camping, but also remain in driving range of both Margarita’s primary vet at Old York Veterinary Hospital, as well as her oncologist at VSEC.
Walking around the campground and taking in the views:
…And of course – napping in the RV!
Oncology Visit #6
Arriving at VSEC
This visit is Week #2 of the “3-weeks-on, 1-week-off” 16 week CHOP protocol.
Margarita is always such a good girl in the waiting room!
Waiting for the oncology nurse
The oncology nurse took Margarita back to first be examined by her oncologist, Dr. Risbon.
Waiting for Dr. Risbon
When Dr. Risbon returned to our room, she told me that she did a physical exam and blood test. Dr. Risbon reported that there were no abnormalities with Margarita’s physical examination, and noted that Margarita even gained some weight back! Her CBC revealed a normal white cell count, and in addition, her anemia has also improved!
Week 6’s Treatment:
Cyclophosphamide 40 mg
2 tabs by mouth 4/24 and 4/25, then 1 tab by mouth on 4/26
Administered at home
Wear gloves when administering. Do not split/crush tablets
Today Margarita was sent home with Cyclophosphamide – an oral medication that we will administer ourselves over the next couple of days. This drug is known to cause irritation to the bladder (called sterile hemorrhagic cystitis) in 10% of the patients receiving it. We will have to monitor for Rita straining during urination, urinating small amounts frequently, incontinence, or blood in her urine. If any of those side effects occur or any additional concerns arise, we are to call VSEC for further instruction from Dr. Risbon. If you remember from her Week 2 Recap, Margarita has a good week following her Cyclophosphamide, so we are hopeful the upcoming days will also be uneventful for her in regard to side-effects.
This Week’s Treat:
Since I am on Spring Break this week, I made a very-early appointment so that we could enjoy the rest of the day doing something fun. Considering that it was still so early when we finished Margarita’s appointment, I decided that a breakfast treat would be the best choice for us!
Margarita enjoyed part of a bacon/egg/cheese Wake-Up Wrap.
And who doesn’t like a little something sweet at breakfast?! Margarita also enjoyed a piece of an Old Fashioned donut!
I was inspired to incorporate a “Special Treat Day” on days Margarita has oncology visits after reading The Dog Cancer Survival Guide. The author suggests a “Cheat Day” because it is new and unexpected, which helps your dog’s mind stay optimistic and stimulated. I like to include these fun trips on Margarita’s treatment days so she continues to associate car rides with positive and enjoyable experiences.
Life is not always a walk-in-the-park …so always take one when you have the opportunity!
The weather was absolutely amazing, and we had the rest of the day to enjoy it, so we visited Tomlinson Park – a nearby recreation area that I must drive past about 4 or more times a week – but never had bothered to explore. I’m sure glad we stopped – You can’t see the whole park from the road, and I had no idea the park was this beautiful!
It’s a shame that someone installed an electrical outlet over top of the “N!”
The walking path followed along a beautiful stream.
“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” ~John Muir
Keep up, Mom!
Taking in the beautiful pathways
The best surprise of all was the lake at the far end of the park!
We stopped at one of Margarita’s favorite places: Pride Paws!
Pride Paws is a retail pet store located in the heart of historic Downtown Medford. Pride Paws provides job training and transitional employment experience to individuals with developmental disabilities who could not independently succeed in a traditional work environment. The participants in this program greet customers, track inventory, create a bi-weekly schedule, prepare payroll, make dog and cat related items such as blankets, toys and note cards…and (Margarita’s favorite reason for stopping in!!) ….bake their famous dog treats right in the store!
Margarita not only loves the treats here, but she adores the participants of the program, and all of the attention and love they give her during our visits. One of the Pride Paws employees noticed that Margarita’s underbelly had been recently shaved, and asked what happened. I explained that she had surgery, and is undergoing chemotherapy treatments. I also told them that after each oncology appointment, I choose somewhere special to go, and today’s pick was Pride Paws to purchase a bag of their famous homemade treats! They were so happy we decided to stop in, that they gave Margarita an additional bag of treats for free!
We hope that upcoming days bring Margarita another amazing week!
Thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.
Print credit: Ginger Oliphant. Purchasable on her Etsy account.
“Count your blessings, not your problems.” ~ Roy T. Bennett
Week 4 Recap
We have so many blessings in our lives, but our problems tend to cloud our eyes and our heart to all of the special people and moments we have to celebrate. Even during life’s most difficult times, we need to make sure we focus on the blessings in our life and celebrate every day.
We are blessed to have a loving, supportive, and understanding family, and a large network of amazing friends and extended family… all who support us in our wild adventures and our passion for 4-legged children.
This week we are grateful for a particular family member who was able to bless Margarita. Reverend George Deutsch (pronounced “DOYTCH”) is my soon-to-be 90 year old dog-loving great uncle. He is still saying mass and doing confessions! I called him when Rita was having an awful week and asked if he would be willing to bless our Sweet Reet. Not only did he say yes, he insisted on driving an hour to meet us after he finished confessions last Saturday! Of course he also brought his beloved dog, Lady, with him! Lady and Rita were fast friends!
Rita loved Uncle George!
Uncle George blessing Rita:
Blessed with Holy Water:
We are also thankful this week to the special people we have met because of our dogs. Some we see often, others we have never even met in person. It amazes me how many truly wonderful people there are in this world, and it fills my heart with peace, joy, and hope to know that they not only support us, they also truly love our fur-kids as family too. The messages, advice, and prayers we have received is what energizes us to press on, and stay strong to help Rita through her journey. We have also received very thoughtful gifts for Margarita. It was because of Margarita that we began volunteering for Pointer Rescue, Org ,where we met Jackie, also a PRO volunteer.This week, Jackie sent Margarita a hand-made quilt to help comfort her during her treatments!
We have our pack to thank for our extended family members, and we are truly blessed to have every one of them in our lives.
Health-wise Margarita had a GREAT week. She was in good sprits, ate well, and was more active than we’ve seen her in quite some time! She did, of course, make sure she still set some time aside for porch-sittin’ with Limoncello.
Oncology Visit #5
This week Margarita was scheduled at VSEC to have an an ultrasound and more blood work to make sure she was able to handle the next treatment.
We received the awesome news that Margarita’s ultrasound looked normal! We were also very happy to hear that she had rebounded from that super-low white blood cell count she had last week! This meant she was also cleared to receive her next treatment.
Today Margarita received Vincristine intravenously. Her oncology nurse said she was an absolute angel, and her oncologist, Dr. Risbon, said she is pleased with her progress so far! We have to monitor the sight for any inflammation, oozing, or discharge, but there are no restrictions for Rita, which means we can go on our annual Easter camping trip this coming weekend(YAY!!).
Last oncology visit we discussed adding supplements into Margarita’s diet. After further discussion with Dr. Risbon about Margarita’s unique case, we are going to just stick with probiotics for now to help with Rita’s intestinal disease. Dr. Risbon informed us that the other supplements we were going to add need to be carefully thought-out and planned around any Adriamycin treatments, as they are abundant in antioxidants. Wait – Since when are antioxidants a bad thing, right??! Our thoughts exactly. As we researched the answer to this and spoke to our primary Veterinarian, Dr. Campbell, we learned that when healthy cells are oxidized, it is a bad thing…which is why antioxidants are so good for you. BUT…oxidizing cancer cells destroys them…so that’s a good thing…a bit confusing at first! If you provide cancer cells that are in the process of being oxidized (destroyed) through the chemotherapy drug Adriamycin, with something that stops the oxidation process, the cancer cells get stronger again and continue to harm the body. We will continue to discuss our options outside of chemotherapy that can help Margarita with both Dr. Risbon and Dr. Campbell, and will be prepared to adjust our plan if advised.
Margarita is lucky to now have TWO home-made quilts to snuggle with on the way home after her visit.
She took a well-deserved nap on the way home!
This week’s treat
Margarita had to fast for her ultrasound, so I took her to two places to make up for the “absolute torture” she had to endure before her appointment.
First, we stopped at Philly Pretzel Factory where Rita enjoyed (part of) a pretzel dog. We saved the rest for another time so we didn’t “over do” it.
Next, we stopped at K-9 Kakes , a bakery just for dogs!
Dave the Baker greeted Margarita with some samples.
Margrarita had fun shopping and telling Dave the Baker which treats she wanted!
All the treats at this bakery are made on the premises by Dave the Baker, and decorated by his daughter. Ingredients are all-natural and preservative-free, the coloring/dye is all natural, and the icing is made with sugar free yogurt!
Thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.
Week Three’s treatment went just as Rita’s oncologist, Dr. Risbon, said it might – rough. Not at first though. The first couple of days Margarita ate well and was in good spirits.
At our last visit (Wednesday, April 3), Dr. Risbon warned that Margarita may have the worst week ahead of her in regard to her treatments so far. She noted that the side effects of nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, and/or diarrhea could begin in about three to five days after her treatment. Right on cue, three days later – on Friday, Margarita was visibly not feeling well, and not interested in food. We tried all of our normal “tricks”… canned dog food, cream cheese, Spam, rotisserie chicken, cheese, eggs, bread, bacon, sausage… but she wasn’t interested.
By Saturday morning, Margarita was moving very slowly. She had some diarrhea and had mucus in her stool. We called our veterinarian, Dr. Campbell, on Saturday morning to give her an update. She let us know that she could call in an appetite stimulant if she continued not to eat. She also told us to try parmesan cheese sprinkled on the food. Dr. Campbell’s concern was making sure Margarita got back on schedule with eating her prescription diet so that her little system could absorb proteins correctly and assist in the healing process.
Luckily, by Saturday night Rita began to eat a little bit of rotisserie chicken – but nothing else. With a little coaxing (and some parmesan cheese), Rita did eat some of her prescription food. Dr. Campbell called us on Sunday afternoon (I’m telling you – “they don’t make ’em” like her anymore!!) to check on Rita, who had been enjoying some Sunday Morning porch-sittin’, and some afternoon sunbathing.
Monday was a decent day where Margarita ate some food, but still appeared to not be feeling well.
Oncology Visit #4
This week’s visit consisted of meeting with the Oncology nurse, and getting blood work drawn.
Margarita’s CBC revealed a significant neutropenia (the presence of abnormally few white blood cells in the blood, leading to increased susceptibility to infection). In order to prevent infection, Rita was started on an antibiotic:
SMZ-TMP: 480mg tablets.
1.5 tablets to be given once a day until finished
Another CBC will be repeated prior to any further chemotherapy treatments. Margarita is scheduled for a CBC and Ultrasound next week, followed by an appointment with our Oncologist, Dr. Risbon, for continued chemotherapy as long as next week’s test results are acceptable.
This week’s yummy treat was a vanilla soft-serve ice cream cone!
After Margarita enjoyed a few licks, I removed the ice cream and let her enjoy the cone.
Awareness is Power
The greater your awareness, the greater your power.
Awareness is also the greatest agent for change. One in every three dogs will get cancer… One… In…three! Now THAT’s something that needs to change. The more PAWrents know about the facts and preventative measures, the better we will be able to protect our fur-kids and decrease their odds of getting cancer.
Did you know that Lymphoma is the most common blood cancer seen in dogs?
Be your dog’s eyes: Do a cancer check on your dog at least once a month. Lumps and bumps can often be easily seen. But sometimes – like in Margarita’s case – being on the lookout for unusual behaviors and reporting them to your veterinarian is just as important for an early diagnosis and better outcome for your fur-child.
Be your dog’s ears and voice: Speak up and share anything you can about a cancer that has directly affected your fur-kid. Get people talking – LISTEN AND LEARN! The more stories that are shared, the more educated we become about cancer. This will result in more awareness raised, more research, and a greater opportunity for us all to take a bite out of canine cancer.
Thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.
I am not a fan of bridges – especially narrow ones (yikes!).
However, I do my best to put my fear aside so that I don’t miss out on the beautiful scenery of the Thousand Islandsarea on either side of the bridge. The view is gorgeous, and you get to see many of the privately owned islands while crossing the bridge.
The past few years we had taken a few extra days off for this trip, so we are usually the first ones there! We love how close our camper is to the pool!
This was also the first trip in our new camper!
We upgraded to a bigger camper with double slides so we could have more room !
Limoncello: Team Coach
Limoncello enjoyed lounging in the camper with Margarita. Coaching Hooch and Lager is a “ruff” job – so Cello relieved some stress by getting a massage from our friend, Marti, at Pawz Therapy.
23’3″ 1st Place Elite Division
24’1″ 1st Place Elite Division
23’3″ 1st Place Elite Division
Big Air Pro Division Finals: 22’6
Extreme Vertical All-in-One Final Format
This probably was the most exciting Extreme Vertical for Hooch and Jenny as a team! Hooch matched his personal best, grabbed the bumper at 6’6″ and in the end earned 3rd Place Top Gun Division – but not before Hooch had to go into a “jump-off” with 2 other dogs who were in a 3-way tie with him!
20’9″ 2nd Place Master Division
18’6″ 2nd Place Senior Division
19’2″ 1st Place Senior Division
19’8″ 1st Place Senior Division
Extreme Vertical All-in-One Final Format
Speed Retrieve All-in-One Final Format
7.037seconds 1st Place Turbo Division
Iron Dog All-in-One Final Format
2920.34 3rd Place Gladiator Division
Margarita: Team Cheerleader
Margarita made sure to get her beauty rest in the camper with Limoncello in between cheering-on her siblings during the competition. She also enjoyed a massage with Marti!
Whiskey (Wish): First Ever DockDogs Competition AND Adoption Day!
Whiskey was still our foster dog, Wish at the time of this trip. However, she had begun jumping into the lake at home, so I figured, why not try her up on the dock?!?!
We had been calling her “Wish the Fish,” so I bought Whiskey very own “fish wubba” for the dock.
I registered her under the name “WISHkey,” as a guest Liver Killer team member, and hoped for the best! Whiskey not only jumped into the pool, but earned herself a DockDogs World Championship invitation!
7’0″ Second Place Novice Division
6’3″ Second Place Novice Division
We had fallen in love with Whiskey long before this trip, but had been fighting the urge to adopt her. We decided while on this trip we would no longer fight that fight, and called Pointer Rescue, Organization to let them know we would like to adopt her. Welcome home, Tennessee Whiskey!
Liver Killer Bling
We had been known for our American Flag team canopy for quite some time now. Unfortunately, at this event, a huge wind gust came along and mangled it! We have been searching for another one ever since.
This was also not a very good “maiden voyage” in our new camper. It had rained very hard the last day of this competition, and the ground became extremely muddy. We sank – A LOT – and had to get towed out.
Luckily there was no damage done to the camper and we made it safely home!
Happy 2nd Gotcha Day/ 8-ish Birthday to our Sweet Reet!
Rita partied like a rock star as she enjoyed a Starbucks puppuccino…
Margarita ran a Flex It Pink 5k to benefit less-fortunate dogs. Flext It Pink is a company run by two moms who are passionate about fitness and living a healthy lifestyle. They began the company in 2013 to support, encourage, educate and empower other women in their healthy lifestyle and fitness journey. The Run for Rescues 5k benefited the Have a Heart Humane Society , whose mission is to rescue abandoned, abused and injured animals, provide low cost vaccinations and spay/neuter programs, educate the greater Tehachapi community (in CA) about responsible pet ownership, and partner with local organizations to develop and share resources for animal welfare.
Run like there’s a treat at the finish line!
Love is a 4-legged word!
Love our bling from this run!
This run benefited Have A Heart Humane Society
Margarita also did some birthday shopping at Pride Paws . Pride Paws’ mission is to provide job training and transitional employment experience to individuals with developmental disabilities who could not independently succeed in a traditional work environment.
Mom also made some pretty yummy bday meals and treats!
Breakfast: Bone-shaped sausage, dog house-shaped egg omelet, blueberries, and Pride Paws homemade treats
Dinner: Salmon, green beans, sweet potatoes, and apples
Red velvet cupcakes with pink icing (made from organic vegetable-based food coloring)
Making pink doggie ice cream with with pink icing (made from organic vegetable-based food coloring)
Pink doggie ice cream!
Serving Rita her pink cup cake and pink ice cream
Bday yard zoomies:
In the past year, Rita has graduated from obedience class, earned her Therapy Dog registration through Alliance of Therapy Dogs, was named the first District Therapy Dog for my school district, and had mastered all necessary obstacles in order to compete in an Agility trial. We can’t wait to see what adventures are awaiting Rita over the next year!
She is a 3 year old English Pointer who was found as a stray in GA, and ended up in a kill-shelter where she had limited time. Then a nice volunteer from Pointer Rescue, Organizationoffered to foster her!
We are happy to have been able to be a part of her freedom-ride up the East Coast to help get her to her foster home in NY!
While we were doing a wine tasting at Coda Rossa Winery , our host suggested that after our tasting we try a new winery that was right down the street.
We took the suggestion – and were so glad we did!
This family-run winery is set on beautiful grounds where you can take your dog for walks on the trails. Autumn Lake Winery is so new, that their tasting room is not built yet, but they have a temporary tasting room set up in a greenhouse.
The family is so nice, and their wines are very tasty! Oh – and they LOVE dogs!
Halbrendt Vineyard is a small winery owned by a husband and wife who built their winery while both holding full-time jobs at Penn State University Fruit Research & Extension Center. We very much enjoyed the wines here, and the tasting room is dog-friendly!