I am a Rottweiler with a mild personality. When I was a puppy my mother (Echo) and I lived in a house with a fenced yeard. I got out a couple of times but she closed my escape hatch. I was a people lover and I always jumped up and barked whenever I saw someone walk by. I was too little to jump over the fence. BIG mistake, the mail person sprayed me in the face with mace through the fence, not once but twice. They stopped mail delivery to our whole block and I made the new as a scourge of the Postal Department. Of course nothing was mentioned on the news about me being sprayed with mace while I was behind a fence in my own yard. Mom had ot add an extension to the top of the fence on one side of the yard to eliminate a gap caused by the neighbor’s gate.
Echo and I moved in with Grandma and I still barked every time I saw a Mail Person. Unless I was in the back yard I was not allowed out of the house except on a leash. The Mailmen wouldn’t walk anywhere near me even if I had my leash on. Grandma told one of them that it was safe to talk by when I was in back but he said that he knew all about me. The Postal Department used the news footage as a training film. The funny part is that I didn’t even acknowledge the mailmen if I wasn’t in the house or I was told to “leave it”
I graduated from the Academy of Canine Behavior and was so well behaved that I got to go to work with my Mom sometimes. She worked at Hiawatha Community Center and loved to play with the children at Day Camp and even went to an overnight party with the children. You can have a lot of fun with 20 or more children ranging from age 6 – 9.
Since I am so people oriented I always managed to get into mischief when left home alone. I loved Auntie Cheryl’s left shoe (no matter how many par I got, I only ate the left one). I showed her that I could even open sliding door to the closet and reach to the top tier of her shoe caddie.
One day I managed to get the kitchen door open and eat four loaves of freshly baked cranberry bread sitting on cooling racks before Grandma got home. There isn’t much I don’t like to eat, cat food, chocolate covered coffee beans and even Advil! That ended up being a nightmare and I had to go get my stomach pumped. I loved to play soccer in our big back yard but would usually be sent in the house after a very short playtime as I was such a ball hog. I liked to play fetch if someone was throwing sticks into Puget Sound. That came to an end when they banned dogs from the beach and the water.
Life was great until May of 2002. I started limping on my right front leg, they thought that it was arthritis. When I didn’t improve I had x-rays in late June and in August. The August x-rays showed signs of cancer and I as referred to Veterinary Oncology Services. I was examined on September 3, 2002 by Dr. Meleo, she was quite sure that I had bone cancer but could not be positive until the tumor was analyzed. The tumor almost always spreads to the lungs prior to diagnosis, but early on, the microscopic lung tumors cannot be seen on an x-ray. She explained that the best course of action was amputation to alleviate pain produced by the tumor and to eliminate the spread to either side of the body. Life expectancy following a surgery is limited. On average 5 months after surgery and about 10% chance up to 1 year. Chemotherapy following surgery can slow growth of lung tumors and improve life expectancy.
AMPUTATION: I had my leg amputated on October 11, 2002. It took only a coupe of days to discover that I had to shift my left front leg toward the center of my chest in order to walk. I needed some help getting around for the first couple of days. By the 3rd day Mom and Grandma had a hard time keeping me from jumping on my favorite couch. Of course Grandpa had to snitch and tell them that I had already jumped up on the 26″ antique bed while I was left in his care. I wasn’t supposed to do any jumping until after my stitches were out. Needless to say they didn’t leave me alone with him again until they were removed. By the second week I could walk around the back yard and then I learned how to negotiate two stairs. By the third week I could walk about 2 blocks with a couple of rest steps.
DIAGNOSIS: No evidence of tumors spreading to my lungs!
TREATMENT: Chemotherapy, Mom and Grandma elected to use Doxorubicin as liver damage is not one of the side effects. Mom and Grandma figured I probably already had a compromised liver and kidneys by getting into chocolate and Advil. It is also administered on an outpatient basis so I would go every two weeks for 5 treatments. I had my first one on October 28th, 2002 and I didn’t suffer anything greater than being tired for a day or two. I had my last treatment on December 23rd, 2002… MERRY CHRISTMAS. Now all I need to do is build up my strength so that I can walk further, have blood tests and chest x-rays every three months. I have no problem getting down stairs and jumping in to the car. I love to go out with Grandma. The end of March I am having a hard time walking. I get tired quickly and tend to rest a lot. The end of April I am having a hard time walking. At times my back feet cross so it is hard to move. X-ray shows arthritis.
FIRST VISIT TO WELLSPRINGS: May 20th, 2003 I met Sheila and liked her but was not thrilled to be going into the pool. She just sat down on the step, coaxed me into her lap, massaged a bit and even had me swim with help. Sheila had me wrapped around her finger in no time. I think I am in love. May 27th was my second visit. I passed out on Sheila on her, my pulse rate dropped and she, Mom and Grandma made an emergency trip to Sheila’s vet. They put me on oxygen until I was stable and then transferred me to Animal Emergency & Referral Center in Lynwood to be monitored overnight. Grandma called at 7 AM the next morning just to check on me. The doctors could not find anything wrong with my heart and said I was doing great for a three legged dog. Sheila had not worked me very hard so they still don’t know what happened. Grandma made an appointment for me to have my heart tested just to make sure. Everything was fine and I even fell asleep during the test. After the third visit all Grandma and Mom had to say was, “are you ready to got see Sheila?” I was out the door as soon as I heard the question. I got to go once a week and Sheila was teaching Mom and Grandma to work with me in the water so we could do self swim.
NEW PROBLEM: In June I was still having trouble walking and sometimes had to be carried out to the car. I got a Hartman’s Hip Helper Sheila recommended that supports the front and back. The swim therapy is fine but I am limping on my front leg and I have swelling in my paw. Back to the vet on July 16th for more x-rays. Looks like I now have arthritis in my wrist so my exercise will be limited to only swimming. August 1st I got my non skit booties so that my feet won’t slip on the hardwood floors and I won’t scrape my paws at going down stairs. Now my shoulder, front leg and paw are very swollen and my only relief is when I am in the pool. The time Sheila spends with me nearly reduces all my swelling. August 19th, the swelling is worse and I am experience some pain so back for x-rays of my shoulder, leg and lungs. Can’t tell from x-ray of shoulder if the swelling is just muscle or tumor. More worrisome is the lung x-ray. It does not look good so it will be examined by an oncology specialist. I had my last swim with Sheila on August 30th and was able to do self swim with Mom and Grandma on September 3rd. The cancer has spread to my lungs and I am in a lot of pain. The only time I am comfortable is when I am in the pool. Saturday September 6th I died in my Grandma’s arms at 2:50am. She called my mom and they took me to Emerald City Emergency Clinic so I could be cremated. I am now out of pain and at peace, my ashes are in the garden under my favorite tree besides my friend Lady Lowrider.
THANK YOU SHEILA: You helped me beat the odds. I lived more than a year after diagnosis. I appreciate being included in the article in the Seattle PI and the Evening Magazine segment about Sheila Wells and WellSprings, such a great memento for Mom and Grandma. I hope that you know how much I grew to love you. You not only helped extend my life you added quality and made it worth living. Thank you for your loving, gentle care and your compassion for Grandma and Mom. Quinn and Drew, thank you for sharing your Mom with all of us! She is definitely a very special person.
Love and many doggie kisses,
WELLSPRINGS: We cannot say enough good things about Sheila Wells. We wish we had known about her services sooner as I’m sure that Bruiser would have had a better quality of life after his amputation and chemo. If we could have started him on swim and massage therapy sooner he could have been in better physical condition before his surgery and may have recovered his mobility sooner. We know that you not only made him more comfortable, but added a great deal of joy to his last months. You are very special blessing Bruiser brought into our lives and we have truly benefited from your kindness and friendship, a friendship that we hope will continue.
Our love to You, Quinn, and Drew
Dot & Echo Balliett