My Tripawd Cancer Survivor

Chief Tacoma Steps Lightly

Tacoma is a Blue Merle Smooth Collie.  You can't tell it from here, but he's a tall dog, measuring over 30 inches at the shoulder.  Breed standard for collies is 24-28 inches.  He always looked like his legs were too big for him. 

Little did I know that being big for your breed, and being a large breed dog are both risk factors for Oesteosarcoma in dogs. 

In September of 2006, we noticed him limping, favoring his front left leg.  I took him to the Vet, and he told me the bad news - Bone Cancer.

Oesteosarcoma is very aggressive in dogs.  Removing the leg is only a pain management strategy.  I did some reading and research, alot of the data makes it seem kind of grim.  At the time, I thought the best course of action was going to be to watch him and when I saw the pain get to be to much for him (or me), we would put him down.  It broke my heart.

There are once in a lifetime dogs.  Tacoma is one of those dogs.  He has been a loving, easy to train dog, who I am convinced would do anything I wanted him to do, if I can only find the way to tell him.  Rather than an alpha dog, he is the omega dog in our human/canine pack.  The omega dog is the one who initiates play, who is always there when someone is upset.  Tacoma is my "velcro dog," always at my side.

A chance meeting in a restaurant made me rethink my decision.  We met a Vet who recommended we take Tacoma to the small animal hospital at UC Davis.  After much thought, I made an appointment with them and took Tacoma for an evaluation and his first round of chemotherapy. 

While in Davis, I met with Cathy Toft of the Northern California Collie Rescue.  She informed me of certain drugs that collie owners should be aware of, known as the MDR1 mutation.  This mutation is potentially fatal and Tacoma's next round of chemo was going to be one of the drugs on the list.  If you have a collie, or any of the breed derived from collies, you need to have your dog tested.

The collie family tree

Fortunately, Tacoma was among the 20% of collies not effected by this mutation and was able to continue his chemothaerapy.

In all, we had 6 trips from Fresno to UC DavisOther dogs have made even longer trips to get to UC Davis.  I cannot say enough about the level of care we recieved there.

Tacoma finished his chemo in January 2007, and we were told the big test would be in March, 6 months after his amputation.  Tacoma's lungs would be where the cancer would show up when it matastisizes.  In his 6 month x-rays he was clear.  In his 9 month x-rays he was clear.  In his 1 year x-rays he was clear.  We keep crossing our fingers.

 On June 24th, 2008, I had to let him go.  During the last few months, Tacoma had begun to show signs that his luck was running out.  There was a lymph gland under his right leg that had swollen to the size of a hazelnut, and there was a subcutaneous growth midway down his left side.  I knew from x-rays that the cancer had metasthesized and that he had a tumor in his lungs.  His breathing had grown raspy and at times he was laboring to breathe.

We took him to the Vet as a family and all said our goodbyes.  After a sedative, he calmed down and was comfortable.  He went quietly, and was greatly loved by both his family and the staff at the Vet's. 

There will always be a Tacoma shaped hole in my heart.