No One Fights Alone

Week 9 Recap and Oncology Visit #10

“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.”

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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.”

~Author Unknown

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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:

  1. 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
  2. Pick up a copy of The Dog Cancer Survival Guide
    • This book was recommended to us by a friend of ours whose dog also battled cancer
  3. A list of suggested reading from Help Your Dog Fight Cancer :
  4. Watch The Dog Cancer Series
    • Also recommended to our by a friend of ours whose dog also battled cancer
  5. Join a Facebook support group such as the examples below or search for groups on Facebook specific to your dog’s needs:

Financial Support 

  1. If you have pet insurance, contact them to see what they will cover
  2. Apply to CareCredit.
  3. Attempt to secure a bank loan.
  4. Contact the organizations below, or search for others:
    • The Magic Bullet Fund
      • Nationwide financial assistance for people who have a dog with cancer but cannot afford treatment costs.
    • The Pet Fund
      • Assists owners in covering medical costs beyond the normal expenses of vaccination, spay and neuter surgeries, food and routine veterinary care.
    • Brown Dog Foundation
      • This organization is dedicated to helping families who find themselves in a temporary financial crisis at the same time their pet requires life-saving treatment or life-sustaining medications.
    • The Onyx and Breezy Foundation
      • This is a privately run nonprofit started in memory of the founder‚Äôs 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.
    • Breed-Specific Support
      • 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.
    • Joshua Louis Animal Care Foundation
      • Assists owners of pets who are in need of cancer treatment.
    • The Mosby Fund
      • Provides financial assistance for dogs in need of critical care.
    • The Riedel & Cody Fund
      • Provides hope, knowledge and funding for owners of companion animals diagnosed with cancer.
    • RedRover Relief
      • Assists animals in crisis through emergency sheltering, disaster relief services, financial assistance and education.
    • Rose’s Fund
      • 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 Рand 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!

 

Oncology Visit #10

On our way to VSEC with some new “bling!”

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:

  • Cyclophosphamide 40mg
    • Give 2 tablets by mouth on 5/22, and 5/23 and 1 tablet by mouth on 5/24
      • Wear gloves
      • 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.

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This Week’s Treat

Margarita was excited to indulge in some grilled chicken nuggets and waffle fries from Chick-fil-A !

Grilled nuggets!!

Waffle fries!

Have a great week, everyone!

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

 

 

Be Your Dog’s Hero: Chase Away Canine Cancer

Week 7 Recap and Oncology Visit #8

Margarita had a slightly rough time this past week, but she did get to spend some time outside enjoying the softness of our newly sodded yard.

The side effects of chemo usually show up 3-5 days after the treatment day.  Although we started her on anti-nausea medication on the day of her treatment as a preventative, by Sunday Margarita was very lethargic and was not interested at all in food. This continued for about 3 days.  However, she slowly began to find food enjoyable again, and ate well the rest of the week.

Oncology Visit # 8

This was Rita’s “off” week for treatments, which meant she only needed to get blood work and a physical exam done to make sure she was healthy enough to continue treatment.¬† Her CBC showed no abnormalities, and her nurse noted that Rita was a good girl during her visit!

This Week’s Treat:

This week we stopped at Arby’s !¬† Margarita enjoyed a few bites of a roast beef and cheese slider.

She also had a curly fry for the first time!

 

“Chase” Away Canine Cancer

Chase away Canine Cancer is a division of the National Canine Cancer Foundation, and is an organization that is near and dear to our hearts. Chase was a female black Labrador Retriever, who was an Elite division dock diving competitor.¬† Her PAWrent, Cera Reusser, discovered a lump under Chase’s chin while petting her. The lump turned out to be metastasized cancer, which spread from nasal carcinoma. Unfortunately, even after the best possible care from her oncologist , Chase lost her battle to cancer, and passed away three months shy of her seventh birthday. Chase’s steadfast devotion to her family and her courage throughout her battle earned her the title of hero.

Cera became Chase’s Hero

Driven by the loss of her beloved Chase, and determined to find a cure for this devastating disease, Cera Reusser committed herself to being a hero for Chase, and set out on a mission to do all she could to help others in this difficult battle.¬† Through fundraising and the start of Chase Away Canine Cancer, Cera’s efforts in conjunction with hundreds of volunteers and donations from across the USA & Canada have made a huge difference in the fight against canine cancer.

Chase Away Canine Cancer posts resources for people who have fur-kids battling cancer.    Click HERE to view the current posts.

Chase Away Canine Cancer also has a volunteer-run online store , which carries products such as the personalized reversible bandana Rita is wearing in this post.¬† Profits from the K9 Trading Company’s sale of Chase Away Canine Cancer merchandise go directly toward the Chase Away Canine Cancer Organization. A portion of all other merchandise on the site also goes to Chase Away Canine Cancer.

How can you be YOUR dog’s hero?

  • Take a few minutes to do a body check each month.
    • Choose a monthly date (Chase away Canine Cancer suggests the 14th since this was Chase’s birthday) and do a body check on this date each month. The National Canine Cancer Foundation has graphics you can print out or save to help guide you through your monthly checks:
  • Be sure to schedule and attend your dog’s routine veterinary appointments.¬†¬†
    • Follow up with an additional exam outside of your routine appointments if you observe something suspicious
  • Keep notes on any growths or abnormal behavioral observations
    • This will help you track important information about your dog’s health, and also will be helpful if you need to share notes to your veterinarian or a specialist on quick notice

As you may have read in our very first post about how we found Margarita’s Lymphoma, we did not discover any lumps. Sometimes cancer does not show itself in the form of visible lumps bumps. So what do you look for?¬† The National Canine Cancer Foundation lists these top 10 early warning signs of Cancer:

  1. Abnormal swellings that persist or continue to grow
  2. Sores that do not heal
  3. weight loss
  4. loss of appetite
  5. bleeding or discharge from any body opening
  6. offensive odor
  7. difficulty eating or swallowing
  8. hesitation to exercise or loss of stamina
  9. persistent lameness or stiffness
  10. difficulty breathing, urinating, or defecation

 

Thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.

 

 

 

 

Too Blessed to be Stressed

Week 4 Recap and Oncology Visit #5

“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!

Thanks, Dave!

Thank you for joining Margarita in her journey to take a bite out Lymphoma.

 

 

Awareness is Power

3rd Treatment Recap and Oncology Visit # 4 

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.

Below are some tips on how to do a canine cancer check on your dog.

 

 

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.

 

Rita’s 2nd Gotcha Day / Rita’s 8-ish Birthday

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.

 

 

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!

 

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!

We love you, Margarita!

Hidden Sands Brewing Company: Egg Harbor Township, NJ

Hidden Sands Brewing Company just opened in 2016, and has a pretty neat story about how they obtain fresh water for their beer.

Hidden Sands Brewing Company dug down to tap the 800 foot deep  fresh water aquifer in the area !

In addition, all Hidden Sands brews are made with quality, locally sourced ingredients.

Getting a closer look at the brewing tanks

Backward Flag Brewing Company: Forked River, NJ

Veteran owned, woman owned, and American crafted!

Backward Flag Brewery has a very cool atmosphere and delicious beer!

Outdoor couch!

 

Atco Brewing Company: Atco, NJ

Atco Brewing Company  brews in small batches and is located in Southern NJ.

You can view their current beer menu by clicking HERE .¬†¬†Here’s our flight:

What’s YOUR superpower ?!?!

Sharpies are provided to write your name on the post!

They even have a “Stowaway Membership” that includes:

  • Invite to stowaway events (4 per year) for early access to experimental stowaway brew/recipes
  • Includes one free flight and a pint at each event
  • Reduced price beer at each event
  • 1 Stowaway Pint Glass
  • 1 Stowaway T-Shirt
  • Reduced renewal rate for subsequent years

Berlin Brewing Company: Berlin, NJ

Another day, another brewery! Sniffing out dog friendly watering holes one beer at a time!

Berlin Brewing Company was founded in 2014.

They have an extremely cool tasting room they call the Pastime Tap Room, as it is filled with baseball memorabilia.

Our flight:

 

Sharpies are provided so you can add your name to the flight stand… can you find ours in both of the pics below?

Good beer and good times!  If you visit around Christmas  Рwe highly suggest the Holly Jolly  Winter Warmer!

Autumn Lake Winery: Williamstown, NJ

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 Рand they LOVE dogs!

 

 

Coda Rossa Winery: Franklinville, NJ

Coda Rossa Winery is named for the Red-Tail Hawks that live in their vineyard.

This winery features both New Jersey and California wines.  We did a tasting here and were very pleased with all the wines we tasted!

Halbrendt Vineyard and Winery: Orrtanna, PA

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!

Adams County Winery: Gettysburg, PA

Adams County Winery is one of the oldest wineries in Pennsylvania, and also was voted Best Winery in Gettysburg.  Best of all, they have free wine tastings every day!

Santa, Mrs. Claus, and a few of their elves even stopped by to visit Margarita and tell her she was on the Nice List!

 

 

Buddy Boy Winery: Gettysburg, PA

 

Buddy Boy Winery has a selection of whites, reds, and specialty wines (check out the names of some of the specialty wines!)

 

Their bartender was pretty cute, too!

Balic’ Winery: Mays Landing, NJ

Balic’ Winery makes over 27 award-winning wines!

Not only did we love their wines (we bought a case!), they had a chocolate fountain – YUM!

Balic’ also had a quite outdoor sitting area:

Best of all, they are dog friendly, and have their own vineyard dog, Mariah , who Margarita quickly made friends with!

We will definitely be adding this winery to our “visit regularly” list!

Cheers!

Hauser Estate Winery: Biglerville, PA

Previously home to acres of apple orchards, Hauser Estate Winery¬†‘s tasting room is located right outside of Gettysburg.¬† Beneath the tasting room is an underground winery production facility.¬† The winery also has¬†a location in downtown Gettysburg on Lincoln Square.

We visited the tasting room, which was situated on a hill, and had a gorgeous view.

We sat on the outside deck, as dogs were not allowed inside.

Their outdoor patio was dog-friendly.

 

We enjoyed the wine and the views here!

Rita Goes to College!

Margarita had her “first day at college” with a great visit at¬†Rowan College at Burlington County¬†meeting students and staff in the Student Success Center for their Mental Health Week event, while she helped enlighten them on the positive benefits therapy dogs provide for students with depression and anxiety!

The event was sponsored by Phi Theta Kappa Chi lota Chapter and RCBC Student Support.

The first full week of October focused on increasing understanding of what mental illness feels like, so others can learn more about the wide range of symptoms experienced by those living with a mental illness.

In addition, the purpose of this week was to also reduce the misunderstanding and stigma associated with mental health conditions.

Pop’s Garage: Asbury Park, NJ

After Margarita was blessed by the Pastor at the Blessing of the Animals, we headed over to see The Stone Pony.¬† We then decided to check out the Asbury Park boardwalk. There are several dog friendly eateries on this boardwalk. We decided to try Pop’s Garage – and were glad we did!

With authentic Mexican cuisine and delicious drinks, how could we pass it up!?!

The staff was very dog friendly and set up a water bowl for Rita.

The food was delicious, and the drinks were amazing! If we are ever back in Asbury Park, we will definitely be visiting Pop’s Garage again!

Blessing of the Animals at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church: Brick, NJ

This summer Margarita was blessed at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Brick, NJ!

All the animals waiting to be blessed:

Margarita waiting in the shade as the Pastor begins the ceremony:

Waiting in line to be blessed:

 

Getting blessed by the Pastor:

All the animal’s PAWrents also received a prayer square:

 

The Stone Pony: Asbury Park, NJ

After was blessed at The Blessing of the Animals, we  headed over to see the famous Stone Pony!

Said to be one of the greatest rock venues on earth, The Stone Pony was a starting point for NJ locals like Bruce Springsteen, Southside Johnny and Steve Van Zandt!

I was born and raised in NJ, and had always wanted to visit – it was awesome to see it in person!

First Baseball Game!

Margarita checked-off another Summer 2017 Bucket List item …¬† We attended a Lakewood Blue Claws game together!

On our way to the game:

Arriving at the Blue Claws  home stadium- First Energy Park:

Rita got her own “wrist” band for the game!

Finding our seats… we had a great view!

Watching the game with Pop:

Keeping cool during the game:

Margarita found a doggie friend, and didn’t want to leave his side!

Margarita enjoyed her first ball field hot dog !

Such a fun time!

First Canoe Ride!

Margarita’s Summer 2017 Bucket List item:¬† Take a ride in a canoe for the first time!

What a beautiful night ~ The sky was as pink as Rita’s life jacket!

We had a beautiful sunset, and a fun night out on our lake!

First Ice Cream Cone!

One of Margarita’s Summer 2017 Bucket List items was to enjoy her first ice cream cone!

We took her to the Sand Stand in Medford, NJ – I think she enjoyed it! Haha!

 

 

Amalthea Cellars Farm Winery: Atco, NJ

Another great New Jersey winery ~ Amalthea Cellars !

Such a cool tasting room! Dog’s aren’t allowed inside – so if you visit with a friend, be sure to have them watch your pooch while you check out the inside of the winery.

We sat outside on the pretty grounds and very much enjoyed ourselves and the wine!

 

Margarita’s First Day of School

Those of you who have been following along know that Rita became a registered Therapy Dog.  My school district decided to start a Therapy Dog program, and Rita was one of the first dogs starting the program!

My students were super-excited! They made welcome signs, and we marked the calendar for her first day of school!

Students created posters and centimeter cube formations to welcome Rita to our class:

Ready for her first day of school with her Paw Patrol backpack!


Rita did very well with the kids, and the students enjoyed having Rita by their side as they practiced multiplication facts.

Rita was quite exhausted after her first day with the students, and napped her way through my Prep period.

Rita’s first day was a success – what a great program this will be for the students!

Paws for Art

On April 2, 2017, Rita attended the Wheaton Arts Paws for Arts to volunteer as a donation dog with her Fiance, the very handsome Mr. Spock, for Pointer Rescue, Org (PRO). All cash that Rita collected was donated directly to PRO.

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The Paws for Arts event partnered with the Cumberland County SPCA  for a free community event that brought pet owners and their dogs on site for a day of art and fun.

Highlights from the event included:

‚Ė† WheatonBarks Dog Show and Parade

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‚Ė† ¬†Several Animal Rescue Groups in attendance

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‚Ė† Obedience Demonstration

‚Ė† Pet Supplies, Treats, Clothing

‚Ė† Dog Activities such as Paw Prints, Bobbing for Tennis Balls, and Pumpkin Pie, Photo ¬† ¬† ¬†Booth

Rita got her paw print done and I was able to pick it up in June, after they fired it in the oven!

‚Ė† Search and Rescue Demonstrations

‚Ė† Agility Course

‚Ė† Animal Themed Glassmaking Demonstrations in the Glass Studio

‚Ė† Pet Themed Kids‚Äô Hands-On Activities

Eclipse Brewing; Merchantville, NJ

Eclipse Brewing is located in Merchantville, NJ in the town’s former EMS building.

I was excited to try this Brewery, as it is located in the town where I attended elementary school! 

The tasting room had a great atmosphere – and had a World, United States, and NJ map where you can pin the location you are from!

Getting Medford Lakes on the map!

The owner is a 27-year homebrewer, and has some very tasty selections!

I liked each of the four beers in my tasting Рand so did Brian.  We stayed for a glass of our favorites.

 

We will definitely be visiting Eclipse again soon!

Rita’s 1st “Gotcha” Day / Rita’s 7th-ish Birthday!

Today is a very special day, as this date marks one year since we met Margarita, and brought her home as “Penelope / Penny,” our GSP Rescue of New Jersey foster dog.¬† Although we didn‚Äôt officially adopt her until April, We picked March 4th – the day we met her – as Rita‚Äôs “Gotcha Day /Bday.” During her initial evaluation last year, it was estimated that Rita was 6 years old, which makes her approximately 7 years¬†old now!
Unfortunately, Rita, found as a stray, had a bit of a rough start to life. She went through some health issues and operations during her first month with us ‚Äď she was underweight, had to have 9 teeth pulled, a lumpectomy, was spayed, had “happy tail” from being in a crate, and treatment for Anaplasmosis. However, Rita was a trooper, and has had quite a healthy and active first year with us!
I promised myself that because Rita didn‚Äôt have great experiences in the first part of her life, I would introduce her to as many good things as possible, finding what activities make her most happy, and continuing to have her participate in those events. During our first year with Rita, she has been on 15 camping trips, and visited 8 new states including, DE, IN, IA, MD, NH, NY, OH, PA, and VA. Rita has even been out of the country (Canada) as well! She has visited 4 wineries, 5 breweries, 3 restaurants/bars, stayed overnight in 2 hotels, and shopped at Cabela‚Äôs and Lowe‚Äôs. Margarita has participated in 5k races, Barn Hunt, Nose Work, Lure Coursing, swim lessons, and agility. Margarita also completed training and is a registered Therapy Dog with The Alliance of Therapy Dogs, and has begun her “official” Therapy Dog visits at assisted living facilities and a local library‚Äôs children‚Äôs reading program. Most recently, Rita and I have earned our registration as a Reading ¬†EducationAssistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) team!
Brian and I were quite content with the size of our pack before meeting Margarita. However, Rita has filled an emptiness that we didn‚Äôt even know our family had. Not only has she been a great playmate for Hooch (who often was excluded by Cello and Lager during their play sessions), she has brought the utmost joy and love to Brian and I, as well as everyone she meets. People stop us continually and ask to meet her everywhere we go. My students at school ‚Äď who have never met her ‚Äď love her and talk about her constantly just from looking at her picture in my classroom. There is definitely something very special about this sweet soul, and we are extremely honored to have her as a family member!
Thank you to all of you who love and support Margarita both in-person, and from afar – we can’t say enough how much we appreciate it!!
Happy Gotcha Day, Se√Īorita Margarita, we love you!!
Link to the public photo album of Rita’s first couple of weeks with us:
Link to the public photo album from Rita’s 1st Gotcha Day/7th-ish Birthday:

Registered R.E.A.D. Team

Not long after Margarita and I passed our test to become a registered Therapy Dog Team with the Alliance of Therapy Dogs, I learned about a great program called R.E.A.D.¬†(Reading Education Assistance Dogs). I decided this would be an excellent opportunity for us, so I began to study for the written test. ¬†One day before Margarita’s 1st Gotcha Day / 7th-ish Birthday, we received the great news that I passed, and we are now officially a registered R.E.A.D. team!

“The mission of the R.E.A.D. program is to improve the literacy skills of children through the assistance of registered therapy teams as “literacy mentors.”

The Reading Education Assistance Dogs (R.E.A.D.) program improves children’s reading and communication skills by employing a powerful method: reading to an animal. But not just any animal. R.E.A.D. companions are registered therapy animals who volunteer with their owner/handlers as a team, going to schools, libraries and many other settings as reading companions for children.

R.E.A.D. is the first and foremost program that utilizes therapy animals to help kids improve their reading and communication skills and also teaches them to love books and reading. It’s been growing around the world since November of 1999 when ITA launched it here in Salt Lake City. More than 3,500 therapy teams have trained and registered with the program and are going strong!

Today, thousands of registered R.E.A.D. teams work throughout the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Italy, Finland, France, Sweden, South Africa, Slovenia, Spain, Netherlands, Norway and beyond. “

~Intermountain Therapy Animals

We are very excited to be a part of this wonderful program!

Rita’s First Shopping Experience at Lowe’s Home Improvement

Rita came along with us to Lowe’s Home Improvement to help pick out our porch floor stain!

Come on, Dad – you are taking too long!

My tail points to English Chestnut… trust me on this one!

Yup – we have everything, Dad! Now let’s go home and play fetch!

Margarita was a great shopper!

*Please note- not all Lowe’s Home Improvement stores are dog friendly. ¬†The company leaves it to the store manager’s decision, so be sure to call ahead if you plan to take your pup along with you to shop in a Lowe’s store.

William Heritage Winery: Mullica Hill, NJ

William Heritage Winery  is family owned and operated, and located in Mullica Hill, NJ.

The outside patio is dog friendly, and the wines are probably some of the best we have tasted in NJ!

Barn Hunt at Tail Wagging Events

Rita and Limoncello have both earned their Rat I title (Instinct level), and both have one qualifying run for their Rat N title (Novice level).

We attended a barn hunt at Tail Wagging Events to see if we could both secure at least another qualifying run in the Novice level.

Unfortunately, neither team was able to do so, but we once again had a great time with our pups!

“Run Free” Virtual 5k

Rita and I ran our first 5K together through a site called Virtual Strides. Virtual Strides provides an opportunity to participate in a¬†virtual race (which can be run or walked!) anytime —¬†anywhere– with whoever your want — and even indoors on a treadmill! ¬†Once you¬†register for one of the virtual races, you can¬†complete the distance any time and anywhere, and upload your finish time to the¬†website. Virtual Strides¬†will mail you a finisher‚Äôs medal after you upload your results, or at the end of the race period, whichever comes first. ¬†The best part is that a portion of the race’s proceeds gets donated to charity!

Rita and I ran the “Run Free” race.

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This race benefited the National Mill Dog Rescue.  National Mill Dog Rescue has pledged to put an end to the puppy mill industry,  and has saved more than 10,000 dogs since 2007.  National Mill Dog Rescue hopes to educate the public to acquire their companion animals through reputable breeders, shelters, and rescue groups.

Once you register, you can download a running bib:file-aug-24-9-41-25-am

Rita did GREAT!  This was the first time I ever ran without music (running with music has been a MUST for me).  I wanted to be sure I could hear everything around us in order to protect Margarita in case there was a loose dog, etc.  I have to say Рtalking to Rita through the run was way more motivational than any music!

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Our finishing time was 40 minutes, 25 seconds. ¬†Not bad considering Margarita decided she’d stop 3 times for potty breaks, TWO of which needed to be bagged-up, if you know what I mean!

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I submitted our results, and a few days later, the race medal arrived in the mail!

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Rita’s first official medal! ¬†She now has a spot of her own, among her siblings, on the “Wall of Fame” in our bar room.

Congratulations, Rita!

 

SUP With Your Pup! Rita Learns How to Balance on a Stand-Up Paddle Board!

SUP with Your Pup!

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Margarita learned how to balance on a paddle board! Why is this such an accomplishment?¬† Due to her past, Rita is extremely fearful of any object that looks like a long stick/pole. She has a severed spleen¬†as a result of blunt-force trauma,¬†so we need to be very careful when¬†handling objects WE take for granted, such as brooms, mops, vacuum cleaner extensions, and since we live on a lake… paddles!

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¬†We started with no paddle… Then introduced the paddle slowly- first just laying it on the board… then moving it around, then gradually picking it up. We got to the point where I could paddle – switching to either side- and she was fine with it. We will continue to work with her on the paddle board …and hopefully we will be able to fully stand up with her on the board sometime soon!

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How Margarita Became a Part of Our Family

The rescue we volunteer for, GSP Rescue of NJ, covers all of New Jersey, parts of New York, and assist other recognized out-of-state GSP rescues in urgent situations. In addition to re-homing GSPs, they also work with owners to help them with any issues they may have with them.  In emergency situations, the rescue will also reach out to help English Pointers.

When an English Pointer rescue could not take a female English Pointer known as “Penelope,” she was on her way to being taken to a shelter when GSP Rescue of NJ offered to help. ¬†Although the GSP Rescue of NJ¬†was willing to help this poor girl who was found as a stray, our foster homes were full, and there was no one available to foster her. ¬†Although we do not usually foster, we decided that we just couldn’t let this skinny pretty girl end up in a kill-shelter. On March 3, 2016, we committed to fostering Penelope so that she could begin her road to recovery.

She was transported to the rescue’s vet, and was examined. ¬†Penelope was completely emaciated, appeared to have had many litters, had a tumor¬†on her neck, tested positive for Anaplasmosis (a tick-borne disease) and severely damaged and rotted teeth. ¬†She also had a cut on her tail and her belly. ¬†While at the vet, she was supposed to have teeth extractions, a lumpectomy, and also be spayed. ¬†The dental work took so long, that not all needed teeth could be pulled, and the lumpectomy and spay could not be performed due to the length of time she was under anesthesia. ¬†She had a total of 6 teeth pulled during her first surgery. ¬†The vet set her up with a future appointment for continuation of dental, her spay, and removal and biopsy of the lump on her neck.

On March 4, 2016, another GSP Rescue of NJ volunteer, Mandy, was nice enough to pick Penelope up from the vet and meet me half way to cut down on my 2 hour drive-time.

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Penelope was a great passenger, and rested calmly for her ride to our home.

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Once home, we introduced her to each of our fur-kids individually on lead by meeting out on the street and taking a short walk together.  After the initial greetings were over, we gave her some time to explore the yard on her own before we settled her down in a crate.

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File Apr 21, 9 12 22 PMIn just the first night and day that we spent with Penelope, we got her to sit for a treat, and sit-stay for a picture.  She did not appear to know basic commands, but was very food-driven and eager to please.  She did wonderfully in her crate, ate well, and slept soundly.

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We introduced her to our cat, Loki, and she seemed to be just fine with him.

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We also introduced her to fellow¬†rescue friends Jen and Grace’s male English Pointer (Penelope LOVED him!) as well as our friends’ two GSP puppies. ¬†She did amazing with all the dogs, and had a very fun-filled, exhausting day!

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Penny had her second surgery scheduled for her lumpectomy, more teeth to be pulled, and her spay a few weeks later on March 29, 2016.  We fell more in love with her as each day passed! Just a few days before her spay, she went into heat, so the vet opted to put off her spay once again. Her lumpectomy and dental surgeries went well.

File Apr 21, 8 41 23 PMHer lumpectomy went well, and the biopsy came back that the lump was benign!

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Thirteen days later, when we got home from Penny’s¬†suture removal, Brian asked me if I wanted ¬†a glass of wine to celebrate. ¬†I asked, “Celebrate what?” ¬†Brian said, “Our newest family member!” After tears of joy, hugs, and celebration, we renamed her Se√Īorita Margarita (Rita for short)!

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Rita’s third surgery was for her spay. ¬†The good news is that her spay procedure went well. At the time of her spay, we opted to have an additional procedure called Gastropexy in order to avoid bloat (a common cause of death in pointers) in the future.

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Thank goodness we opted for that extra procedure, because it was during that part of the surgery that our vet discovered that Rita had lesions on her spleen as well as a separated spleen Рcommonly seen in a dog that has suffered blunt-force trauma from being kicked. Although this was heartbreaking news to hear, it was during this discovery that our vet also noticed a mass on her spleen. Had we not opted for this additional procedure, the mass as well as a part of her past would have gone undetected. An aspiration of the mass did not give enough information to determine a diagnosis, so Rita will have an ultrasound done in May to explore the mass and other organs to determine our course of action. She is recovering nicely from her spay and is being extra-spoiled. However, we ask that you please still keep her in your thoughts, as we do not yet know the complete outcome of the mass on her spleen. Thanks to all of you for your support and kindness through our fostering as well as our foster-failure of this angel!!

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Se√Īorita Margarita: Our First English Pointer

Well, we are proud to admit we are complete failures. ¬†Foster failures that is! Remember Penelope our foster-kid? (If not, click HERE to read her story)¬†Well, she quickly ingrained herself into our hearts and home…and we could not imagine our pack without her! ¬†We have officially adopted her, and her¬†new name is¬†Se√Īorita Margarita (“Rita” for short!)

Welcome to your forever home, Rita! 

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