“Koda is just goofy with great big puppy eyes,” Erica said with a laugh. “And he gets distracted easily. There are only two activities that keep him really engaged. One is playing tug of war with his brother; the other is Frisbee.”
Andre, Koda’s brother, is the polar opposite. Erica and Nick, the guardian of these two Rottweiler/German Shepherd mixes, describe him as wide open. While Koda is more reserved and loves attention, Andre is like a big lovable bulldozer.
These two Rottweiler/German Shepherd dogs have been the center of Erica and Nick’s world for five years. Their lives lovingly revolve around them. ‘Sound like anyone you know?
Now living in Georgia, the couple recently found a house to rent. Thrilled to have a yard for their dogs, the two paid the deposit and first month’s rent and moved in.
However, both noticed that Koda kept asking for more attention than usual. He was whiny and needy. Unsure of the cause, they gave Koda lots of love and chalked it up to the stress of the move.
Four days after moving in, Erica discovered a hard knot in the dog’s right arm pit. It felt like it was glued to one spot. The funny thing was Koda didn’t react when she touched it. Erica, on the other hand, felt all kinds of panic.
Upon closer examination, she also noticed that Koda’s rib cage protruded. When he walked, she could see the mass rubbing his arm pit.
Immediately, Erica took Koda to the vet. A manual examination gave only speculative results, but a week of diagnostic testing confirmed the vet’s suspicions. It was chondrosarcoma, a locally aggressive bone cancer. It isn’t painful, which explained why Koda didn’t flinch when Erica touched it, but it is a silent killer. Chondrosarcoma hides itself until its too late to have successful intervention.
Thankfully, Erica had caught the disease fairly early. In that regard, Koda was incredibly lucky. Otherwise, the half size tennis ball mass would have grown and metastasized to his heart and lungs. Koda’s breathing would have been restricted and his heart would eventually find it too hard to pump blood.
Erica tried to take all of this in while her vet explained that Koda’s cartilage was forming a mass from his rib. To eliminate the cancer, he would have to take at least three ribs out during surgery. Then he would have to reconstruct that area with healthy cartilage and muscle.
Koda would be able to live a normal life after surgery, but he would have to be careful with play. That means no more roughhousing with other dogs.
Incredibly, in the time it took to get the diagnostic work completed, the mass had grown substantially. Surgery needed to be performed in the next two weeks. If Erica waited even a month, it could cost her dog his life.
Shock set in. Two weeks? She had two weeks to come up with the money to save her dog’s life? She needed more time, but her vet shook his head. The most she had was two weeks. If she and Nick waited even a month, they would have to evaluate whether surgery was even an option.
As you can imagine, a procedure of this magnitude requires great skill and the price tag was high. Erica didn’t know what to do but she did know one thing. She didn’t want to lose her dog to some monstrous disease. “If I have to go broke saving Koda, then I’m doing it.”
With very little savings, Erica’s strongest ally was her determination to save the dog she loved. She put her shock and grief aside and put a plan into action, actually several plans.
Erica started a GoFundMe page and posted flyers in the dog park where Koda played. She approached local businesses that were known for donating to worthy causes, contacted non-profit groups for help, and she filled out a Care Credit application.
The result of her work was mixed. Most of the non-profit groups said that the case was too urgent and they couldn’t help. The GoFundMe page did produce some money, and local businesses gave a bit, but it was simply not enough. Erica even contacted the Humane Society asking for help. They, too, said the case was too urgent, and could not offer assistance in such a short period of time.
Bottom line, if Koda’s case had not required immediate surgery, Erica could have gotten plenty of help. As it was, she had almost none. Care Credit did come through with a six-month deadline to pay off the surgery to avoid paying a high interest rate.
That idea wasn’t appealing, but Erica decided to take a gamble. “It would give me six months to find more money to pay off the loan without the interest.”
As Erica told us, “Since I found out that Koda had a mass, I have been so overwhelmed with so many feelings and emotions…If it wasn’t for you guys helping me, giving me all the options and support, I don’t know where I would be.”
But Erica wasn’t quite home yet.
Four days before the surgery, she called the vet office to confirm payment arrangements and her payment plan. She was told that there was no payment plan and third party credit card payments could not be accepted.
The receptionist said she would cancel the surgery and re-schedule it later. But Erica had come too far to quit now. She refused to give up. Her dog was going to get this surgery. Period.
Finally, the receptionist agreed to accept The Mosby Foundation’s donation with the balance going on Erica’s Care Credit card.
It was a go and not a minute too soon. The mass had no regard for financial constraints. It had continued its warp speed growth. By the time Koda had his surgery, the surgeon had to remove four of his ribs instead of three. To replace the ribs that were removed, cartilage and muscle were reconstructed to cover that area.
After the surgery, it was difficult to watch Koda because he was in so much pain. The vet initially kept him sedated to keep the pain manageable. Erica took three weeks off from work to care for her dog. Koda’s brother stayed with Erica’s mother to give Koda time to heal.
She and Nick placed a twin mattress on the floor next to the couch. There Koda could lean his body against the couch for support. The couple took shifts to stay with Koda until he got through the worst of it.
As difficult as this surgery was, this big lovable goofball pulled through with flying colors. Now a month later, it’s hard to believe Koda is recovering from bone cancer surgery. While he cannot run yet, he is up and moving around, making steady progress everyday.
The one thing he hasn’t let go of since his surgery is the sad puppy-dog-eyes look. “He’s got that down to a science,” Erica told us.
That’s okay. He deserves it. For a dog that didn’t have a lot of time on his side, he now has all the time in the world.