Thursday, March 27, 2008

2 dogs, 2,000 miles

If you've ever lost an animal to cancer, this is something you'll want to read about. I discovered this website after I got a friend request through Flickr from a man named Luke Robinson who'd lost his Great Pyrenees Malcolm to metastatic bone cancer. As I had posted many pictures of Jack on my Flickr page and wrote about the devastation of cancer to his sweet face, he found me and let me know about his cause. Luke is walking from Austin to Boston with his 2 other Pyrenees Hudson and Murphy to help raise money and awareness for canine cancer research. There's many cancer foundations working to find cures, but he wants everyone to find out what's causing it to prevent it from happening to begin with. To quote part of his site, :

"The funds raised from the walk will finance the first ever nationwide epidemiological canine cancer study which will be managed by our partner, the Animal Cancer Foundation. Scientists have discovered that the vast majority of cancers found in pets are the same types in humans, which make the dog an ideal model for research. Not only will pets benefit from this study but people, too.There is another reason, too. By using dogs with pre-existing cancer for studies, it reduces our dependency on lab animals."

I added my sweet Jack to his memorial wall so that people will know how heartbreaking it is to watch an innocent pet and family member go through all this. There are so many on the wall and we need to stop it's growth. Luke's cause is noble, heartwarming, inspiring and an exemplary display of compassion. For those who don't know, I lost Jack, my border collie/black lab mix in Sept. of 2007 to squamous cell carcinoma which is a type of skin cancer. It started as a small growth on his lip which went away and then reappeared. It went away again with antibiotics, only to return months later and grow out of hand. Since it had gone away with medicine before, we tried again..several different kinds and it didn't work, it only grew larger. We had a biopsy done and got the results back way too late. The cancer was very aggressive and what started as a small bump on his inner lip soon took over his entire upper lip, soft pallate and was moving down his throat..all in a month's time. By the end, he was almost unrecognizable as his face was swollen and he went blind because of it. He could barely breathe and could no longer eat hard food. The easiest way to describe the growth is that it was red, cauliflower like, raised and ulcerated. If he'd bump it even slightly, it would bleed.

We kept hoping that the biopsy would find something like a fungal infection that could be cured, but it just wasn't to be. We found out on a Thursday that it was cancer and had him put to sleep the next morning. He was miserable. We spent his last night in the floor with him scratching him behind the ears like he likes and rubbing his belly until he fell asleep. Several times he quit breathing and I had to move him to a position where it was easier to get air. The last few hours of his life were spent outside on a beautiful sunny September morning rolling in the grass. We got to hear his bark one last time as the vet pulled into our driveway. He laid in the grass for a belly rub and thumped his tail in happiness for all the attention and then moments later, he was gone.

Sometimes I think I'll never recover from the devastation and unfairness of it all, but all I can do is live my life the best way I know how and use what Jack taught me. He taught me that sometimes, a hug is all you need to feel better. He taught me that no matter what, a good back scratch always feels good and is always needed. He taught me that you don't have to say anything to be there for someone...your presence is enough. He also taught me the meaning of unconditional love and the importance of listening. He was a great listener and gave me the most knowing looks. Of all my dogs, his presence brought me the most comfort and I will always miss him. I think of him daily.

I don't think I could bear to watch another of my animals go through something like this and that's why I think it's so great that Luke is doing something like this for all our furry family members. Please check out his website and consider making a
contribution to his cause and help discover why so many animals are getting cancer.