...by Heidi M.
Our dogs Tank & Tripp are littermates that we adopted when two of our three children were still in high school and they became the "life coaches" that remained with us on our 15 acres in Eastern Idaho when all three children moved literally across the country from Seattle and California to New York. It is amazing how much these "dog brothers" have dictated the rhythm of our lives and how much their presence enriches bike rides, gardening, hours in the home office, and, of course, they possess amazing listening skills.
In October of 2012, Tank, a Chocolate lab-Australian Shepherd mix, began having bloody noses. He had no behavior to indicate anything was wrong with his energy or enjoyment of life - so after taking him to our local vet with the expectation that they would find grass or an organic object, we were stunned to find that Tank had a Sarcoma in his left nostril (apparently fast-growing and malignant.) We were told at the age of 8-years-old many people would elect to let nature take its course - but we could not accept the departure of such a beloved friend - to us and to littermate Tripp who has never been alone. We immediately took Tank to Salt Lake City where a veterinary oncologist told us she believed the relatively small size and location of the sarcoma indicated the mass had a strong chance of responding to radiation. Living in Eastern Idaho, we quickly learned that canine radiation is a very specialized field and something not easily accessible in our part of the country. We were very excited to learn of the amazing reputation of WSU.
In November 2012, Tank and I traveled to Moscow/Pullman and moved in with my newlywed daughter and her husband who were attending University of Idaho for Master’s Degree and Law School. My first impression of WSU’s Veterinary School was one of amazing warmth, compassion and exceptional ability to communicate relatively complex information with patience and a very committed team effort beginning with receptionists at the hospital to Betsy in radiology and Dr. Rebekah Lewis and Dr. Janean Fidel. I was very impressed by the respect shown to Tank and to myself as his options and treatment plan were developed. (I often remarked that "people" doctors could learn much from the Veterinary students about compassion, respect and including the patient’s family in the treatment plan.) Tank essentially underwent daily radiation (except weekends) for approximately a month and aside from minimal mucous membrane issues near the end of his treatment, experienced little or no side effects and lifestyle impacts. (He continued to hike, explore Washington and Idaho parks and ate like a champ.) Meanwhile, Tank’s brother Tripp had to go to my husband’s law office every day where he became an office dog because he was frantic about being alone in our house without Tank.)
By mid-December 2012, Tank and I returned home and he resumed his life with renewed joy. Some people have inquired if the expense was "worth it" and I can say, without hesitation, that I would definitely follow the same treatment path again. We enjoyed a wonderful winter of cross country skiing; welcomed the adoption of a new puppy by our daughter and her husband; planted a huge garden and biked the 15 acres all summer. On August 3, Tank and Tripp attended the wedding of our oldest son and his wife in the same garden our dogs and kids have played in all their lives. As August comes to a close, Tank & Tripp are chasing wild birds and taking frequent swims in a nearby canal blissfully unaware of the daily news or summer wildfires. I believe their reckless abandon in pursuit of fun and frolic has provided us with infinitely more joy and contentment than any monetary investment in healthcare. The journey of Tank’s treatment, across state lines and in phone calls across the country has definitely made our entire family recognize the fleeting and yet wonderful nature of life. We are reminded that there are no guarantees of what the next year (or even month) will bring - but also reminded that treasuring friends - fur-upholstered or human- is a gift. I write this with two brown dogs snoring at my feet and am forever grateful that WSU was able to provide the treatment that made this day and past year possible.