Three years ago was the hardest day. A few days prior we made the hard, but the most beneficial life-changing decision to have Applesauce’s leg amputated. After her diagnosis of osteosarcoma in February 2017, the talk of amputation was off the table. She was a big girl – 85-90# and had hip dysplasia. Her right hip was the worst of the two and if we removed the left leg, this hip would bear the brunt of her weight. It was not an option.
Fast forward to April – after several successful tumor injections, the tumor was dissolving, but so was the healthy tissue in her leg and the leg became necrotic. We were bandaging the leg with potty pads, hand towels, and wrapping it with tape and it was still seeping through. The stench alone was enough to make us all sick. It was obvious she did not feel good, didn’t want to eat. It hurt to move. I knew we couldn’t continue this and in my mind, the end was near.
During a visit to the vet to have the bandage changed, Dr. Novy wanted to do another round of X-rays. They came out clean – there was no sign of metastasis in her chest. Bloodwork revealed her liver and kidneys were healthy and functioning. What, if anything could we do?
“What if we do remove her leg?” was the immediate question that came out of my mouth. In my desperation to find a way to save her life, I was willing to sacrifice her leg. I was quickly mentally preparing for a new reality but I was willing to do whatever was needed. We made the decision to remove the leg.
April 25, 2017 she had her surgery. It was successful. I visited her that afternoon and evening and she was still pretty groggy but she knew I was there.
The next morning they had her outside in the sun and I sat with her and brushed her. They told me we could bring her home later that day. I was relieved and scared to death. But my love for this dog overrode any fear or apprehension of what our future would entail.
Bringing her home that night was like someone had watered a flower that had thirsted for days. She bloomed. Her appetite was back, her spirit was back, the light in her eyes was back. It would be a journey from here on out – and I navigated the waters as best I could – but she had another 18 months of living her best life – and I will cherish this journey for the rest of my life. I miss my girl so badly and my heart has a permanent chunk removed, but I do not regret doing anything and everything I could for my girl.
Osteosarcoma is NOT a death sentence. It is a horrific, scary diagnosis, however, do your research and talk to everyone and ask all the questions. Advocate for your baby.
I’d give anything to still have her here with me – but she lived her best life – and she lived a life within her age range for her breed. She will live on in my heart forever and I will do my best to use her story to help others move forward.
Applesauce went on to participate in CLEAR (Canine Cancer Education and Research’s www.clearcaninecancer.com) documentary “My Friend Standing Strong” which focuses on canine osteosarcoma research.
I miss my girl so much it’s hard to breathe some days, but I know her journey was not for naught and she’s out there being a guardian angel and allowing me to share her journey and our experience.
Applesauce my monkey girl – my saucers – love and miss you 24/7.
Where does one start to describe Applesauce and all she meant to me and so many others? Applesauce is and will forever be my heart dog. She taught me so much about strength, resilience, and tenacity if the face of adversity. She is a true warrior.
My golden girl was born 2/22/07 to friends of ours and asked if we wanted a puppy. My first response was no – no more dogs – we have 3 cats. However, due to the relationship with our friends, and who the heck can resist a little golden puppy, she came home in April 2007 and I was hooked.
In 2016 I had plans for her to become a therapy dog and we began her additional training. She passed her CGC, but shortly after that, she was diagnosed with an extreme case of glaucoma and lost all sight in her left eye. Months of medication, drops and finally ablation of the eye, I had hopes of resuming our training.
However on February 1st, 2017, I noticed she was limping more than just “cold weather, bad hips” status. I found a lump on the inside of her back left leg. I took her to the vet thinking maybe she’d been bitten by something – I had no idea the shock my world would take that day. After the exam and x-rays, she was diagnosed with osteosarcoma and with not knowing our treatment path, but because we knew time was limited, it was time to do some research and make some quick decisions.
A week later, we saw the oncologist and while waiting for the doctor in the exam room, I noticed a dark spot underneath her tongue about the size of a big blueberry. I questioned it because although she had freckles and spots on her nose and gums, this would have been something I’d have known about. The doctor looked at it and her face went white and she said, “This is a whole new game now.”
It was a malignant melanoma under her tongue – now coupled with the osteosarcoma and the clock was ticking. I went back and consulted with her primary vet and discussed our options. The oncologist had given us their plan of treatment and the vet gave us his thoughts. The prognosis was anywhere from 4-6 months maybe 9-12 if we amputated, did chemo & radiation. Because of her age (she was just turning 10), and the financial factor, we chose to do tumor injections with her primary vet. It was his proprietary formula and I trusted him explicitly. Applesauce was a favorite of his as well. Amputation was not really an option we wanted to consider due to her weak hips.
After two months and a couple of rounds of the injections, the melanoma was gone. Her leg, however, took a hit because while the injection was killing the tumor as we wanted, it also started eating the healthy tissue and her leg went necrotic. A visit back to her vet discussing options – X-rays and blood work all came back clear and healthy so we decided our only option was to remove the leg. We made the appointment, she had the surgery and literally the following day she was like a flower that had finally been watered. She was perky, her appetite was back, and even some of the grey on her face subsided. She did not let the loss of the leg stop her. By the following weekend, she was getting around the backyard on her own.
The next few months were spent healing and building strength back up. We got her a life jacket and she was able to resume her favorite past time of swimming – we knew that would be key to help building up muscles in her hips, other leg and back. We began hydrotherapy, acupuncture and cold laser treatments every two weeks. She was thriving and her disability was never an issue. Vet visits and X-rays every few months remained clean and always positive results. She met her year anniversary of diagnosis with flying colors and no signs of slowing down – as with the amputation anniversary. Swimming was a constant activity, short walks, car rides, visiting family, she was living her best life and was a genuinely happy girl.
Fast forward to October 2018 – I noticed she was losing weight rather rapidly, which was unusual. She was a big girl 85-90# and liked her treats. As she continued losing weight throughout the month, I noticed she was slowing down much more than she ever had. By the 3rd week of October, I found a mass on her gums. The vet wanted to do a biopsy, but her holistic vet wanted to make sure we did X-rays first, so we did. The worst phone call of my life was the vet telling me her lungs were now full of tumors. There was nothing left to do but keep her comfortable. We continued with another treatment of acupuncture, but we could tell she was really tired and losing her energy. We switched to hospice environment and just loved on her and fed her tasty treats and her favorite Frosty Paw treats.
The first two weeks of November, I rarely left the house. The 2nd week, she had lost so much stamina and muscle. I used her double harness on her constantly to take her out and help her get around to ease the burden on her weakened body. She would have a few good days and then a few bad days and another good day. Mornings were rough, but she usually rebounded by the afternoon.
Friday, November 16th she really never rebounded. She didn’t want treats – no chicken, no lunch meat, no frosty treats. I spent that night on the floor in the living room with her. She was agitated and restless and coughing. Her eyes were dull. I knew I had to make a decision.
I spent some quiet, quality time with her the next morning, washed her face, and sang our version of “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” and just loved on her. I told her how much I loved her. She briefly put her paw on my arm.
I made the hardest phone call of my life to Lap of Love around 7:50 am. My heart was breaking. I sat back down with her, loved on her and talked to her and told her it was okay – she could go. I didn’t want her to suffer anymore. We sat there for a few minutes together just her and me. She then coughed – a little longer than usual – time stood still and she simply rolled over in my lap and was gone. She left this world on her terms at approximately 8:10 am – just minutes after my phone call. My heart stopped. My best friend, my heart dog, my unconditional baby girl. My heart permanently broken.
Almost a year later, there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t miss her, think of her, talk to her, love her. I’ve been reliving that past month this year – every day posting a picture either from last year or some favorite memories that pop up. I dread the 17th. It will mark a year that I’ve not had my girl physically by my side. I’ve had animals all my life, but not one has meant what this girl has. My life will never be the same and I am forever changed having this angel in my life – how I got so lucky with her is a gift I will never question, but always cherish. Her legacy will continue. My saucy girl – I will see you again I’m certain. <3
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