In May of 2022, FETCH a Cure provided a grant of $5,000 towards surgery for Nashville, a 7-year-old pitbull mix from Aylett, Virginia. Following his splenectomy, Nash began chemotherapy and bravely fought lymphoma for many months, ultimately succumbing to the disease right before Christmas. His family shared the following tribute to Nash and explained how he put them in the right place at the right time to welcome a new member to their family.
“One afternoon in December 2020, my husband Phillip came home with a sheepish look on his face and a dog by his side. ‘He was standing in the road and I told him to jump in the truck if he wanted a better life,’ Phillip told me. We took him in and after not being able to find any identification or owners, we had a new dog. He had wonky ears and started playing like a puppy from the moment he came into the house. We named him Nashville.
It was clear Nashville had never been in a house. He skated on our hardwood floors, jumped when our fireplace came on, and investigated every little thing with great curiosity. He learned our routine and would guide us to our next step each day. Nashville never needed a leash in the yard because he would always stay right next to us. He mowed the grass with Phillip – followed him up and down each stripe of our 5 acre lot. He would come in with green paws and a big smile. Nashville watched everything we did – if we coughed or sneezed, he would check in on us. If we did something out of the ordinary, he would want to know why. When Phillip worked in the yard or fixed equipment, Nashville would watch him and walk with him everywhere.
It was more than loyalty. It was more than curiosity. Nash was engaged. He paid attention. He absorbed everything. He took in everything and radiated joy. The first time he caught a ball that was tossed to him, he ran up to us to show us how proud he was. When he was able to run with our other dogs and keep up for the first time, he ran up to us to make sure we saw him. Every time we moved, he jumped up from whatever he was doing – ready to join us in where we were going. He was always aware, always paying attention, and always putting us first. He trusted our opinion and he trusted us with his life.
When we found him, it was clear he had been neglected and abused. He wouldn’t look us in the eye for weeks. He would jump at loud noises. And his legs had been broken at some point and never set properly. He had heartworms and Lyme disease. The vet told us on his first visit that if we didn’t treat the heartworms, he would only have a few months because they were so advanced. So, we started on a slow heartworm protocol and started treating the Lyme. After his heartworm protocol, we needed to wait about 6 months before we could get him neutered.
In spring of 2022, we had a vet appointment to check on his heartworms with the intention of then scheduling him to get neutered. A few days leading up to that appointment, he had stopped eating. I started hand feeding him which was the only way to get him to take a few bites. He lost a lot of weight very quickly and we knew something wasn’t right.
We were not expecting the vet to tell us that Nash had cancer – lymphoma which originated in his spleen. We were not expecting to hear his cancer was terminal. We were not expecting to hear that with chemo and surgery, he may have a year – maybe. It felt wrong. It felt unfair. It felt unreal. How could this loving, loyal, and trusting best friend have only a few more months? When did he get a break – a chance for a long, healthy life? Why, why, why?
Phillip and I decided that as long as Nashville tried and fought, we would try and fight. As long as he wasn’t suffering, we would continue to do chemo. We would take our lead from Nash.
We started on chemo right away. Nashville seemed fairly unphased by the treatment. We knew Nash needed surgery and had a long chemo journey ahead of him. We reached out to FETCH a Cure and told them Nash’s story. It was with great relief and joy when we received the CIC email informing us of the grant Nash would be getting! Now, we knew he could get his spleen removed and we could start saving for chemo. He had a chance – a chance at living the rest of his life with as much health and happiness as possible. He was a completely different dog after his spleen was removed. He was the most playful and vivacious right after his splenectomy. It made us realize just how much pain his spleen had been causing him.
Because of FETCH a Cure’s grant, we got 7 more months with Nashville. He grew closer to us during this time. He reached out for comfort and affection on the really bad chemo days. He continued to mow the lawn with Phillip and never left Phillip’s side. The staff at The Oncology Service said Nashville was unusual – he never needed to be muzzled for treatment, he never pulled away, and he was always engaged. He wanted to know what the techs were doing. He watched the doctors. He paid attention.
Over his last months, we took Nashville on several adventures: to the beach, downtown Richmond, out for dinner, out to see Christmas lights, etc. We tried to fit in a lifetime of memories in what little time we had left. He was always up for anything. He really just wanted to be with us and involved in what we were doing. The chemo started taking a toll and in September, we found out his cancer, which had been shrinking, was back…and back with a vengeance. We tried chemo drug after chemo drug. One after another, they stopped working. Nash declined. We could tell his abdomen was in pain. He grew more tired. He wouldn’t jump up right away to follow us.
Cancer had started to take a toll on him.
In mid-December, Nashville stopped eating. He lost the ability to walk up and down stairs. Eventually, he lost the ability to walk altogether. We took him into VRCC on December 15th. They told us his belly was full of blood and we had maybe 24 hours left. His breathing had changed, partially from the cancer and partially because his lymph nodes were so big, they were obstructing his airway.
VRCC was able to get him stable enough to come home the night of the 15th. We wanted him to come home one last time. We wanted Wilma, Stella, and Petey to have time with him. And we wanted his last night to be with us. We were not able to keep him all night and we had to bring him back to VRCC around 3 am. Nashville loved piano music. He would sit and stare while I clunked around on my childhood piano. In the parking lot, before we went in, I played him one of his favorite songs and he just smiled and wagged his tail slowly.
Nashville crossed the rainbow bridge early on Friday morning with a smile on his face and wrapped in our arms. We know his health, his extended life, and his fight was because of FETCH a Cure’s generosity and willingness to join in the fight against cancer with us. Thank you for joining our journey. Thank you for supporting Nashville.
The day Nashville went to VRCC, I was driving my parents to the airport. They were in town to celebrate the holidays with us. A few minutes after leaving home, my dad turned to me and said, “Stacey, there is a dog in a ditch right there.” It was in the mid-30’s and raining. I couldn’t stop but I promised my dad Phillip and I would check on the dog after we visited Nash.
A few hours later, we went back and the dog was still there. Cold. Scared. And unable to move. Phillip picked it up and put it in the truck. Off to VRCC we went. After an exam, we were told this dog was most likely hit by a car. She had two broken (really, I would say shattered) femurs, Lyme disease, heartworms, and ehrlichia. The vet’s assumption was that she had been on her own for a while. We contacted Animal Care and Control for our county since she had no collar or chip. We were told we could either pay for her reconstructive surgery or they would probably have to euthanize an otherwise healthy dog because there was no one to take over her health.
Phillip and I looked at each other and said, “We did not rescue this dog to then euthanize her. We’ll pay for the surgery and see if anyone claims her.”
The vet, who was also treating Nashville in his last 24 hours, called us and told us she appreciated our situation. She decided to contribute a certain amount of her own money to this new dog’s legs’ surgery. What she didn’t know was that we had an account for Nashville’s chemo which we continually gave to since his diagnosis in May. With the vet’s contribution, the amount of the new dog’s surgery was exactly the amount we had left for Nashville. We felt like Nash was telling us, “You took care of me so well, now take care of her.” Funny enough, the new dog, whom we named Memphis in honor of Nashville, has a previously broken ankle which makes one of her front paws stick out a little – which reminded us of Nashville, too.
The cascade effect of FETCH a Cure is clear – they gave Nash life and now we are able to give Memphis a chance at a long, healthy life. Thank you for all you do for pets and their humans. Thank you for checking in over the course of the cancer journey and providing support after losing a pet. Thank you for the constant care you give. It changes families.”
While cancer is slightly less common in small dogs, all dogs are at risk of developing cancer in their lifetime. Fortunately, FETCH a Cure’s Companions in Crisis program provides hope and options to families facing a cancer diagnosis with their cat or dog. On average, we fund 20 to 40 percent of the cost of lifesaving cancer treatments for pets like Ginny and Rugby, the two Dachshunds featured below, who both received CIC grants to make their cancer treatment possible.
“In the beginning of 2021, our sixteen-year-old Dachshund passed away from a combination of cancer and late-stage Cushing’s disease. She had been my family’s dog all through high school and, when my mom was going to have to give her up when her housing situation changed, we took her in and moved cross-country with her. We have taken in two other rescue dogs over the years, and Choxie (our old girl) was far and away the alpha. When she passed, we expected one of our other two to step up and claim the role. However, several months went by and the dogs just kind of languished and stopped being excited about most things. I don’t know what the mourning process is like for dogs, but I am very confident that is what we were witnessing. My wife and I decided to put in applications at several rescues around the area, not knowing what we would find or if we would be ready to adopt when the time came.
In April of 2021, Ginny came onto our radar through a contact at the Mary Ann Morris Animal Society. We figured that we would never be able to find a Dachshund mix up for adoption, let alone a purebred. We applied, and out of dozens or applicants, our crazy three dog house was chosen. We attached almost immediately at our first visit and we took her home that same night. She has all of the personality that Dachshunds are known for, but with an extra dose of sweetness and affection. We loved her from when we first met and couldn’t imagine our family without her.
Ginny has had severe medical complications since we adopted her. She has had a persistent wheeze and cough that seems to worsen with heavy pollen exposure, but never completely goes away. Our original vet in Fairfax requested an X-ray and echocardiogram on her after hearing a murmur, and used that data to determine that she had an enlarged heart and didn’t have long to live. We got a second opinion from our current vet, and he re-examined the imaging and determined that her problems were entirely lung-based. We had her lungs sampled and cultured and they came back clean from any foreign infection-causing body. Her last round of images were the first to show a distinct tumor in the lung, but she has had respiratory difficulties for as long as we have had her.
All in all, in our time of ownership, we have spent somewhere north of $2500 out-of-pocket for Ginny’s imaging, diagnostics, and medication. Going through all of that just to find out she has cancer is unbelievably devastating. We know she has so much more life to live and love to give.”
UPDATE from December 30, 2022
“My family and I want to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for supporting our dachshund, Ginny, during her cancer treatments. I cannot put into words how thankful we are for your generosity and kindness. Unfortunately, Ginny passed away on 12/19/2022. We miss her terribly and are absolutely devastated. However, we are so thankful that she was happy and comfortable until the end. Even though the cancer treatments did not give her as much additional time as we would have wanted with her (we would have only really been satisfied with forever!), we are confident the treatments gave her a little more time with our family and, most importantly, helped keep her comfortable and energetic in the last few months of her life. Thank you for that precious gift.
I wanted to share a little more about Ginny and how special she was for those that don’t know. We adopted Ginny in April of 2021 from the Mary Ann Morris Animal Society. We immediately knew that we had “won the lottery” because we had adopted (in the words of her oncologist) the world’s happiest, sweetest dachshund. She had a bad cough since the first day we met her, however, we believed it was either kennel cough or bad allergies. Ginny was treated with a few rounds of antibiotics and allergy meds. When her cough didn’t go away after the antibiotics, we had more advanced testing done. We soon found out that she had a moderately advanced heart murmur and we began working with a veterinary cardiologist. Additional x-rays and diagnostics revealed that Ginny also had chronic lung inflammation. In light of this, we also began working with an internal medicine veterinary specialist to manage the lung issues. By the end of 2021 / early 2022, after many many medical appointments, procedures, diagnostics, and different medications, we had finally got to a place where we (and her doctors) felt that Ginny’s heart and lung issues were under control and being medically managed as effectively as possible. Through all of this, Ginny was an absolute trooper and charmed every single vet and tech she met. Everywhere we went, everyone always raved to us about how beautiful and sweet-spirited she was.
In the early fall of 2022 we noticed a small lump developing on Ginny’s chest. We immediately took her in for evaluation but the tests were inconclusive. Her veterinary team was hesitant to remove it surgically due to her history of a weak heart and lungs. Over the next few weeks, the lump grew rapidly and it became more evident that it was likely cancer. We made plans to have it removed surgically in October ’22, but by the time we arrived for the surgery, x-rays showed that it would be impossible to operate because the tumors had spread to her lungs and were so invasive that they were inoperable. We were absolutely devastated, but were hopeful that she might be a good candidate for chemotherapy. That is where you all came in! Your donations helped us be able to proceed with several rounds of chemotherapy, which Ginny responded very well too. I am 100% confident that the chemotherapy helped Ginny have a better quality of life in her last few months of life. Although she was responding well to the chemo, which did keep the tumors from growing, her lungs were much weaker before she developed cancer than the average dog, making her more vulnerable to complications. On Sunday 12/18 she was a happy dog – chasing my toddlers around the house and even was able to go with to a Christmas light display (which she thoroughly enjoyed!). However, she took a sudden turn on Monday 12/19 and her lungs began to fail. She was rushed to the emergency vet and put on oxygen, but her lungs were so weak at that point that we were told she had become totally oxygen dependent and probably wouldn’t survive more than a few minutes once taken off. We kept her on oxygen for a few hours while we considered her options and explored if anything else could be done for her, but ultimately we were convinced by the competent veterinary staff that the best thing we could do was let her go before she suffered further. Ginny peacefully crossed the ‘rainbow bridge’ with our whole family, including her canine siblings, with her and holding her close.
Although we are saddened by the fact that we only got to have Ginny in our family for a mere 20 months – and that she was plagued with so many medical issues during that whole period – we will forever be grateful that we got to know and love her. She was an absolute angel! Ginny was full of spunk, energy, enthusiasm for life (and snacks), affectionate, loyal, and incredibly courageous – everything you could ask for in a dog. As you can likely tell, managing her medical issues over the two years became very expensive and, although it was our joy and honor to be able to do it for her, it did become a strain on our budget at times. Thank you so much for your generosity. It allowed us to make sure she had the very best care until the end of life.
We don’t know much about Ginny’s life before she came to be in our family, but I would like to think some of the best months of her life (despite her many medical conditions) were the ones she shared with us. Some highlights:
* Visiting the beach (Ocean City) in May 21
* Going on numerous hikes and adventures around the DMV
* Endless hours of snuggling with her pet siblings and her babies (i.e. our two toddlers)
* Being the absolute best “nanny dog” anytime us or our kids were ill
* Running in the sprinklers with the neighborhood kids in the summers
* Visiting North Carolina and hiking the trails in November 21
* Being an expert at stealing snacks from everyone in the family
* Celebrating every holiday and special occasion with lots of treats and themed attire
* Visiting Tennessee and hiking the Smoky Mountains in November 22
* Riding in the stroller (or the dog sling) with the babies when she got too tired on long walks or hikes (I think she especially loved that the other two dogs didn’t get to do this)
* Snuggling up by our feet every day while we worked from home
* Sleeping on our laps and looking out the window during lots of long car rides and adventures
And the list goes on and on! If you have made it this far, thank you! I could write all day about how special Ginny was to our family, but instead, I’ll leave you with a few pictures that show just a glimpse of how special she was to us. We will always have a Ginny shaped hole in our hearts and we will never forget her. Thank you again for supporting our family during this difficult time and allowing Ginny the opportunity to face cancer with dignity and support.”
“Rugby has been my best bud for 12 years now; he was born right here in Virginia. My mother had Dachshunds and Rugby came from one of the litters. I was in Alabama at the time, and I knew he was mine the minute I saw him. He looked like a weird little guinea pig. So I returned to Virginia to pick him up. He made the trip back to Alabama with me by plane, and he wouldn’t stop crying unless I was holding him.
After all this time, I still won’t go anywhere without him. He has gone to 8 different states, swam in the gulf, loves a good ball, and becomes quick friends with anyone that will throw it for him.
In May of 2021 Rubgy went in to his regular vet for a routine visit, and we decided on getting his teeth cleaned, but he had a slight heart murmur, so before that they requested we do an ultrasound. Instead of coming home with sparkling teeth, Ruby came home with news of prostate cancer.
We immediately reached out to Dr. Stewart at the Regional Veterinary Referral Center. Rugby started chemo less than a month later. He did great, they saw a little improvement, but for the most part it stayed steady and he handled it like a champ. Once the rounds were finished, he switched to Chlorambucil and Piroxicam and remained on that and was doing good for several months before August 2022.
Ruby wasn’t feeling good, he wasn’t eating, had puss coming from his bladder and things just weren’t going well. We took him to the emergency vet because everywhere else was full and couldn’t see him. They informed us that his prostate seemed enlarged and was pushing again his bowels and kidney. Dr. Stewart suggested radiation, but it wasn’t in my budget so we started him on IV chemo again. He seemed to be doing better, but three visits in the imaging showed the prostate was larger, not smaller, despite what we were feeling. He still seems steady, but Dr. Stewart recommends radiation or taking him off the chemo.”
FETCH is honored to be able to help both Ginny and Rugby receive the lifesaving treatment they need so they can spend more quality time with their loving families.
FETCH a Cure’s Companions in Crisis program provides hope and options to families facing a cancer diagnosis with their cat or dog. On average, we fund 20 to 40 percent of lifesaving pet cancer treatments so pets like Kaylee can have a second chance at additional, quality time with the people that love them most. We’re so grateful to be part of Kaylee’s journey to overcome cancer through the Companions in Crisis program. Read more about this resilient pup below:
“Kaylee was brought to Virginia from Texas by her previous owner and then surrendered due to military deployment. Kaylee was immediately taken to Friends of Homeless Animals (FOHA), a no-kill animal shelter on acres of land.
After losing my last dog, Kobie, on October 13, 2012, at the age of 10, I wasn’t thinking about getting another dog because I couldn’t bear the loss of another pet, and I was entering a master’s program and needed to focus on school. The house was empty, and I fell into a deep depression. I started searching out rescue dogs and I went to FOHA’s website and found a few dogs I wanted to meet. Kaylee was the last dog on my list and when I entered the building, every dog was barking and jumping up except Kaylee. I took her for a walk, and she was so sweet and walked without pulling. I knew then I wanted to be her mom. I adopted Kaylee from FOHA on May 25, 2013. She was the bright light in my life that I needed.
These eight years with Kaylee have gone by fast and I treasure every single day with her. Every person who meets her says she is so sweet. In the last few years Kaylee has slowed down with shoulder injuries, lameness in her legs, panting often even in the cool house, and coughing and gagging. On July 5, 2022, Kaylee had a seizure. After several tests and scans, Kaylee was diagnosed with a 10 cm mass in her liver that was bleeding into her abdomen, making her extremely weak, which caused the seizure. The mass was removed and surprisingly was benign. Scans also showed a 3 cm mass in her lungs, a 3 cm mass on her adrenal gland, and a 2.17 cm mass in her right pituitary gland. The lung mass is cancer.
Of course, I am devastated beyond belief that my sweet girl has so much wrong with her. She doesn’t deserve this. No dog deserves the diseases they get. As animal lovers, I know you understand what I am going through. I am praying I get a few more years with my precious, sweet girl.”
To donate directly to Kaylee’s upcoming surgery, click HERE.
Each November, we launch a bone cancer awareness and fundraising campaign called Holiday Bone Treats. This campaign highlights osteosarcoma, which accounts for approximately 5% of all canine tumors, but is by far the most common bone tumor found in dogs. It is a malignant tumor of the bone and can develop in any bone, but most often occurs in bones bordering the shoulder, wrist and knee.
The “rein-dog” displays are perched at the reception area of local businesses to encourage conversation and educate the public about the warning signs of pet cancer, specifically osteosarcoma. The rein-dogs are adorned with festive antlers and bells to celebrate the holiday season, but they also have bags of locally-donated dog treats featuring the face of a Companions in Crisis recipient who was treated for osteosarcoma.
This year’s featured CIC grant recipient is named Madden. Earlier this year Madden’s mom reached out to FETCH after noticing her 11-year-old St. Bernard mix was limping. Madden has been her constant companion since she found him as a puppy in West Virginia. She writes, “When we got into the house, three tri-color fluff balls were active and happy. One small black and white pup was in the corner sulking. He was under fed and had a gash on his face from where his mother was trying to push him out of the litter. The three other pups were accounted for; I knew the little black and white guy would be mine. I took him home and to the vet that day. We have been inseparable ever since.”
After receiving the news that Madden has osteosarcoma, his caregiver reached out to FETCH a Cure and applied for a Companions in Crisis grant, which was awarded shortly thereafter. To stop the osteosarcoma from spreading, Madden’s back leg was amputated. He has since made a full recovery. His mom is happy to report that Madden is back in action, living his life to the fullest with “squirrels to chase and bones to eat.”