Saturday, November 5, 2011

Puppy Up! and be Brave

Human or canine, friend or oneself, the word cancer stops us
all in our tracks. Like time itself, it
cannot be swayed, only held at bay until the last sand or medical option slips
through your hands and you are left with nothing but memories.

I met Luke, Ginger, Hudson & Murphy (and Ginger’s Pete
& Buddy) two months before cancer entered my world in the summer of 2009.

I knew the moment I saw the sore on his front leg but I
would not utter the word until our family vet confirmed that Brave, our 14 year
old Dalmatian, had cancer. I also knew
before the confirmation what my options were and that I would not subject Brave
to extensive medical treatments. He had
struggled with arthritis for years, and at 14 he had, had a wonderfully long
life. We would make him comfortable and
treat him as gingerly as possible. Dr.
B. removed most of the tumor on Brave’s leg.
During the next 8 months we watched his strength weaken, his arthritis worsen,
his muscle mass disappear and his mind begin to fail him.

Still he greeted each new day as a gift. Head held high,
tail wagging, enjoying those walks that became shorter and shorter. Each time he stumbled from weakness and
failing hindquarters, he pulled himself up.
He was brave. We knew he was
slowly leaving us but if he knew it, he never showed us his fear—only love. Brave was given rest shortly after the new
year. As I stood beside him I tried to
be as brave as he had been, for him and my mother who had cared so patiently
for him during the past 8 months of his life.
I failed & the tears flowed.

He was named after my father’s favorite baseball team--his
full name--Smith’s Spotted Brave. But I
never imagined that his name would come to exemplify how our companion animals
face a cancer diagnosis. Much in the
same way as Luke’s “Puppy Up!” battle cry embodies the spirit of a fighter,
Brave taught me to hold my head high, smile and be thankful for each day we

I’ve watched close friends struggle with their own battles against
cancer since Luke’s journey ended in June 2010.
None winning, only holding the inevitable at bay. I’ve cried along with
owners, said countless prayers and held the phone as the heart-wrenching news
was discovered, only be able to offer “I am here & I love you.” My heart
has grieved for Pete, Buddy and Murphy as if they were my own. And most recently, Go-Go.

I believe what Luke began as a walk across country with 2
dogs, becoming 2 Dogs 2000 Miles and now the 2 Million Dogs Foundation will
succeed in helping to find the reasons our beloved pets and family members
develop cancer. And a cure. I support the work they do because I know the
sinking feeling of a cancer diagnosis. I know how it feels to watch friends
struggle with their own diagnosis, canine or human—to pray that their prayers
be answered that day & not my own.

Cancer will call for me again, I’m certain. The odds are too great for it not to. I have
4 large breed dogs, and the research tells me 1 will die of cancer. Which one?
Cancer should know we will fight until there is no fight left. We will hold it at bay as long as humanely
possible. We will Puppy Up! and be

On the eve of the second annual Puppy Up! Walks across the
nation, I want to thank Luke, Ginger, Erich and the 2 Million Dogs Foundation as
well as the city PUPS Leaders and all the volunteers who make these events
possible. Enjoy tomorrow and Puppy Up!
For more information about the Puppy Up! Walks, Canine Cancer or Comparative Oncology please visit

Sheila Rinks is the editor of Finding Fuzzybutt Four, producer of the Raising Indiana podcast and shares her home with her husband, 4 Great Pyrenees and 2 very well-fed kitties.

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