It was one of those calls that did not have a happy ending. Todd and the rest of the firefighters never know what they will find when they arrive on a scene, and this one was their worst nightmare. In spite of their most valiant efforts, lives had been lost. Those that had survived would never be the same. Their bodies would carry the devastating reminders for the rest of their lives.
Wearily, the crew returned to the fire station. Waiting for them was Jack, Todd’s black standard poodle, his tail wagging a mile a minute. But the team sat in silence, wondering, as always, if there was something else they could have done, should have done.
A highly intuitive and intelligent dog, Jack knew that his friends needed help. He jumped onto the laps of as many of the men as possible. Kisses and doggie hugs all around for these unsung heroes. The men reached out to Jack, folding their arms over his body, smiling gratefully.
Jack’s been providing this kind of love to his firefighting family since he was a puppy. Now 10, the men and women firefighters count on him for support. Jack gives them a way to ease their anguish when calls like this one go badly. But Jack also gives them a reason to laugh. Goofy and gregarious, the firefighters embrace Jack’s incredibly loving and soothing nature as the gift it is.
Jack’s personality is so rich and strong, the families of both Todd and Linda, Todd’s wife, are completely enamored with him. “Each person has their own special relationship with Jack,” Linda told us. Todd’s father used to be scared to death of large dogs. As a child, he was attacked by a German Shepherd. Jack decided that attitude had to go. And it did. Now Jack lays in his lap, looking for lap love, and Todd’s dad loves it!
Jack might be the world’s greatest love bug, but he’s also a ton of fun. When Linda’s sister, Julie, visited she played hide and seek with him, Jack’s favorite game. Jack loves a good puzzle and she hid his favorite toy behind the couch.
He looked and looked. Behind the chair? No. Under the chair? No. He kept searching and searching. Finally, Julie said, “He hasn’t looked behind the couch.” Jack’s ears perked up and he immediately went behind the couch and found his toy. Linda shook her head. “I told you that you can’t talk when you’re playing with him. He understands what you say!”
When Durango got two feet of snow, Jack was out in it, of course, because snow is just another opportunity to have fun. With clumps and clumps of snowballs on his under belly, Linda told him, “Go get in the tub.” When Linda peeled out of her snow gear, she found Jack in the bath tub, waiting for her to clean him up.
Life was always one grand adventure after another!
But on a Spring day in May, Linda noticed that Jack had difficulty getting into the car. Jack had recently hiked a 14,000 feet peak, so Linda chalked it up to a pulled muscle. The vet took x-rays and placed him on pain meds, but his health continued to decline.
It became difficult for him to poop and he began to drink more and more water. When Jack ran down the hill on their property to drink water from a pond, he could not walk back up. Linda picked up the 60-pound dog and carried him back to the house.
Something was really wrong.
A relentless cancer, anal sac adeno carcinoma is not common in poodles or in male dogs. Worse, this disease is so aggressive that the tiny little tumor in Jack’s lung could grow at lighting speed. If the couple had not gotten him to the vet when they did, Jack would likely have been dead in a month. Todd and Linda were devastated. They asked themselves, “Why didn’t we see the symptoms sooner?”
But the truth is, nature doesn’t allow it. Mother Nature built in a safety system to protect animals from appearing vulnerable to predators. That’s why our pets are so adept at hiding illness until the symptoms become advanced.
The couple took a collective deep breath. Earlier in the year, Todd had been off from work for six months, recuperating from herniated disc back surgery. Six months is a long time to live on one income.
Now back at work, financially they had a lot of catching up to do. But for Todd and Linda, it was never a matter of, “Do we treat Jack?” It was, “How fast can we treat him?”
Anal sac adeno carcinoma does not have a good prognosis. Of course, Todd and Linda didn’t want to delay getting Jack the treatment he needed. With the closest oncologist four hours away in Santa Fe, New Mexico, the couple had to make adjustments to their work schedules.
Fortunately, Jack’s reputation preceded him. The station firefighters worked with Todd so that he and Linda could take their dog for treatment. But nobody really believed Jack could beat the disease. Julie, Linda’s sister, was so distraught, she drove four hours to say her goodbyes. Both sets of parents also came to say goodbye to the dog they loved so much.
Jack’s first oncology visit with Dr. Kelley was six hours long! She wanted to make sure the disease had not spread to other organs besides his lung. Thankfully, it hadn’t. Then she did an IV chemo treatment to cover the metastasis in his blood, and a direct chemo injection into Jack’s anus.
Dr. Kelley told them, “I know it’s hard but don’t act sad around Jack. He is very sensitive to your moods. He’s way more worried about you than you thinking anything is wrong with him.” They agreed this was best. What they didn’t know was how to pay for Jack’s treatment.
As with humans , cancer treatment for animals is not cheap. Dr. Kelley recommended The Mosby Foundation as a potential source of financial help. So Linda contacted us right away. She spent most of a morning talking with our staff about Jack and the devastating diagnosis. As she told us later, “It brings me to tears to think about the support that we received from The Mosby Foundation and from Dr. Kelley. You sometimes feel you’re all alone, but it’s not true.”
One of the options facing the couple was surgery on Jack’s lung to remove the tumor. Because that is an extremely painful procedure with a lengthy recovery time, Todd and Linda decided not to put Jack through that.
“We decided we wanted Jack to be with the people he loves and to have a good quality of life. We knew if Dr. Kelley couldn’t help him, we would have to let him go.”
For two months, the trio made weekly visits to see Dr. Kelley. The results were nothing short of amazing. After Jack’s first treatment, his mobility started coming back. With his second treatment, the tumor in his lung had shrunk by a quarter of its original size. Todd and Linda were thrilled.
The happy, goofy, loving dog they adored came back to them. By August, Jack’s visits were reduced to once a month. By Christmastime, it was reduced to every three months. Jack now gets oral chemotherapy at home.
“He’s doing great!” Linda said enthusiastically. When Linda told the good doctor that their original dream was to have a “healthy 14-16 year-old ancient poodle,” her response was, “I don’t know why you can’t still think that way.”
That’s optimism! To keep Jack’s immune system strong, his routine has totally changed. He’s on a lot of multi-vitamins and supplements. Also, his diet is high in protein with absolutely no sugar, because cancer loves sugar.
“We are so grateful for The Mosby Foundation’s help,” Linda said. “Jack is such an amazing gift. I’m so happy that we can continue to share him with others.” We’re thrilled that Jack is now back to the happy, loving dog he once was. Chasing chipmunks in the snow, anyone?
“My life wouldn’t be the same without him,” Linda said. “Jack’s just a big bunch of love.” Now that big bunch of love is back, working his magic on a world that needs him so much.