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Sweet Natasha

To Natasha: You weren't the sunrise,
you weren't the sunset,
you were the Sun.

Gonna miss my little Butterball.

11/26/92 - 02/25/02

Natasha was born in our house on Thanksgiving night in 1992. She is a very sweet dog who is very shy. We call her our little "chubbette" as she was always larger than the other dogs and never misses a meal. Because of her shyness, I have worked with her alot over the years trying to get her to be more social but to no avail. Took her to the All Dogs Gym in Manchester NH, every weekend for over a year and also had a consultation with canine behaviorist. She loves us to pieces, but does not like to go out and prefers to be a couch potato. She also does not like people to look at her or touch her and does her best to avoid them. Natasha's favorite things in life are food, food and more food, lol. She also enjoys pigs ears thrown in every once in awhile.

When Natasha was about 4 years old, she had both her rear hips operated on (femoral head removal) as she had mild hip dysplasia. The operation went well and she did not seem to be in pain anymore when she got up and layed down.

Tasha (never too far from food) and my Mom on vacation at Squam Lake.

In late January of 2000, we found a lump in Natasha's neck. Our vets at the Daniel Webster Animal Hospital in Bedford NH did tests; aspiration did not show any unusual cells. However, they suggested that I have more tests done at either Angell Memorial Hospital in Boston or Tufts Veterinary Clinic in Grafton, MA.

I will be forever indebted to Dr Rooney and Dr Peterson of the Daniel Webster Animal Hospital in Bedford NH for the quick referral and their sensitivity and sharing information with me. I feel I owe Natasha's being here today, thanks to their quick referral. Natasha says "thank you" too!

We choose to go to Tufts and they will do a biopsy next week. Please send some prayers and positive thoughts her way.

2/2/2000 - Biopsy was done on Natasha's liver. Results came back all ok.

02/11/2000 - Biopsy done on the mass in her neck.

02/14/2000 - The surgeon called me today to tell me it was bi-lateral Thyroid Carcinoma. They also detected a mild heart murmur; they said at this point it is not a problem; they will keep a check on it.

02/17/2000 - Meet with the oncologist and doctors. They suggest aggessive radiation to try to debunk the cancer; then possibly surgery and after that, possibly chemo. My family and I have decided that we will do the radiation (16 treatments) and hopefully that will shrink the tumor. Treatments will start in 2 weeks.

03/01/2000 - Good News - tests show negative for Cushings Disease.

03/07/2000 - RADIATION TREATMENTS - Tasha started radiation treatments on 03/6th. She will spend Monday through Friday at Tufts for 3 weeks and we will take her home on the weekends. She will have a treatment each day. She will need to have anethesia each treatment. I will visit her 2 or 3 times a week after work. After 2 days of treatments, Doctor Ruslander said that she is doing "wonderfully well". I will hang on these words - they will keep my spirits high.

03/11/2000 - Tasha has finished her first full week of radiation. Dr Kristal said she has tolerated it very well with no radiation toxicity found. Natasha has had a problem going to the bathroom. She will not go in her crate and does not go when taken outside. She does have a urinary tract infection and will be on antibiotics for a few days. She is doing great - still has a healthy appetite and wants to go outside with the other dogs. They all kissed her when she arrived home. It was very sweet.

03/19/2000 - Tasha just finished her 2nd full week of radiation - only one week left to go. She did not have a good week. She continues to not go to the bathroom. The vet also says she ate very poorly. They believe it is behavorial and not physical. We tried all weekend to find things that she would eat, with limited success. She ate some raw steak and cottage cheese. Thank you to all the wonderful people on the Canine Cancer list, the Endless Love list, the Sibernet list, the Therapy Dogs list and the Canine Liver Disease list for their great suggestions and support. I would especially like to thank my friend, Pat from Aniak Siberians, for all her help and all the info that she sent me and especially her words of encouragement. I will let everyone know how Natasha likes her new diet.

03/26/2000 - Natasha finished her 3rd and final week of radiation. She is doing well. Her throat looks good and I have to put creme on it 3 times a day. She is still on meds for the urinary tract infection and also Prednisone for throat inflamation. She is eating very good now - I am incorporating more natural foods in with their kibble. In 2 weeks, we go back for a check-up and if all is well, we will schedule her surgery for the next week.

04/18/2000 - SURGERY TO REMOVE THE TUMORS - Doctor Berg (surgeon) says Natasha is doing well after her surgery. Says one tumor came out ok but the other side was wrapped around her esophagus and neck muscle. They got out as much of it as they could.

04/19/2000 - 2ND SURGERY to suture open Natasha's windpipe as her larynx was paralized during the first operation (it was explained prior to surgery that this might happen). Transferred the ICU unit. Visited, cried.

04/20/2000 - Dr Berg called this morning and said that Natasha has pneumonia, says that its very bad. She was having difficulty breathing so they put her in an oxygen cage; apparently the oxygen in her blood is only 60 something percent and it should be in the 90's. I know she is in excellent hands.

04/21/2000 - Vets say Tasha is doing a little better. I drove the 150 miles round trip to spend 5 minutes with her. It was worth it. The Vet said it was still bad and they said she had a 50 50 chance of pulling through. The ICU unit at Tufts was overflowing with dog and cat emergencies. Those staff people are such hard workers and you can tell they really care about all the animals. Natasha looks bright and alert, but having a hard time breathing.

04/22/2000 - Went to visit today and was greeted by the vet tech and Tasha in the lobby. They let me take her outside to see her Mom who drove down with me - they were so happy to see each other. I got Tasha to eat a little over a half can of dog food and was able to spend an hour with her. She still looks bright and alert, but breathing sounds labored.

What is this around my neck????

04/24/2000 - Doctor Delaforcade says Natasha is doing a little better today; pneumonia is getting better, no fever. Doctor says that her oxygen level in her blood was in the 40's over the weekend (should be in the 90's). The doctor shared her turkey sandwich with Natasha and she loved it. Visited Natasha and brought her down some turkey, LOL. She looks so much better. The doctor and staff in the ICU unit are doing such a great job with her, especially considering how difficult she can be with strangers. Met with Dr Delaforcade and took pictures of her feeding Natasha.

04/25/2000 - Good news - Doctor Delaforcade says Natasha is doing alot better. Pneumonia is clearing up; she is eating like a horse and when she and the surgeon took Natasha outside, she was trotting all over the place. They say I can take her home tonight. We arrive home at 2100 hrs. All the dogs were happy to see her.

04/26/2000 - Natasha is home and doing good. WE JUST FOUND OUT THAT SHE HAS LOST HER VOICE DUE TO THE SURGERY! We are very sad as she had the cutest howl and woo woo's. Now when she tries to bark, it sounds like she is horse - but she does try! LOL

She is taking antibiotics for the pneumonia and tums to help keep her calcium levels up and also Vitamin D for calcium absorbtion. She is eating ok. Breathing wonderfully. And is bright and alert.

05/03/2000 - Appointment at Tufts. Xrays look better than last week, but still not normal. Neck looks very good from the surgeries. Blood test to check her calcium level showed to be a little high, so we will cut back on the tums again. Doctor Kristal says if xrays look better next week, they will start chemotherapy (cisplatin).

05/15/00 - FIRST CHEMO TREATMENT - Since Xrays were normal and kidney functions are normal, Natasha had her first chemo (cisplatin) treatment and after a few days of nausea and no interest in food, she seems to be back to normal again.

It was a stressful week as we had to make sure she was intaking and outputting water as the cisplatin is very hard on the kidneys and can cause damage if not excreted. She has been so good through everything we have put her through.

On May 24th, CBC results came back good. Calcium was a little low, so we have increased her Vitamin D meds a little. Tasha is still doing fine.

June 1, 2000 - Calcium test came back normal. Tasha is still doing great.

June 5, 2000 - 2nd CHEMO TREATMENT - all went well - it took Natasha a couple days to get back to normal, same as last time. But now she is eating normal and has the same energy level.

June 12, 2000 - Calcium test came back normal. Tasha is still doing fine.

June 26, 2000 - 3RD CHEMO TREATMENT - Brought Tasha in for her treatment. Kidney profile showed high creatine level - could be kidney disease caused by the chemo. So they cancelled her treatment. We will test her again next week to see where it is at and if still high, will discuss meds, etc.
The good news is that Dr Ruslander (oncologist) did not find any signs of reoccurance of the cancer and her chest xrays were normal.

July 23, 2000 - In the past month, Natasha has had several blood tests and all levels have gone back to normal - except her alkaline phosphates and alt levels which have always been high. We did a bile acids test on her last week and thank God, it came back normal. Don't know if we will do anymore chemo with her - still trying to make up our minds on that.

She is doing fine now. Last night we went for a long walk at a State Park with a friend and her dog and Natasha did fine. She is breathing wonderfully and still has a hearty appetite.

August 11, 2000 - Natasha blood test showed calcium a little low and creatinine (kidney levels) a little high. I will wait to hear from Dr K to see how we should proceed. Tasha continues to do well. Has a healthy appetite and always runs to the door to go out or when she smells food, LOL.

August 23, 2000 - Natasha went to Tufts today for her 2 month checkup. The vet says she looks very good; no reoccurrance of the thyroid cancer, lungs and lymph nodes are fine, kidney and calcium levels in the normal range. Her alkaline phosphate level continues to be high (over 1,000). The only meds she is on is a calcium pill every other day.

08/26/00 to 09/01/00 - Just returned from a week's vacation at Squam Lake (where they filmed ON GOLDEN POND). We took Natasha and boarded the other 3 dogs. She had a great time - lots of good treats and walks a couple times a day. She does not like the water, but did get her feet wet a few times to chase after the ducks. She looks great - bright and alert and still a hearty appetite. Took lots of pictures. I thank God everyday that she is here with us.

Howling at the ducks! LOL
You can see the radiation burns on Natasha's neck;
the fur grew back a few months later.

09/13/00 - Blood tests show that calcium and kidney levels are fine. Borderline anemic. No changes in meds, will continue with a calcium pill every other day. Tasha is still doing fine.

10/23/00 - Appointment at Tufts shows no reocurrance of the cancer. However liver levels continue to rise. Natasha has started on meds for possible hypothyroidism and will have an ultra-sound on her liver in early December. Natasha is doing fine - still has hearty appetite and wants to play with me when I come home from work. We all fawn over her and let her know how special she is. We are so grateful she continues to be with us and thank God every day.

12/12/00 - Recheck appointment at Tufts. They did an ultrasound on her neck for the first time; they noted an area and they are not sure if it is scar tissue or a reoccurance. She will go back in 6 weeks for another ultrasound. Kidney and calcium and adrenal checks were all fine. Liver levels are still high (over 4,000). Natasha continues to do fine - still goes outside and runs around a bit with her buddies.

12/25/00 - CHRISTMAS DAY. Had a lovely day and we are so thankful to God that Natasha was here to celebrate with us.

12/29/00 - BILE ACIDS TEST (to test how her liver is functioning) - CAME BACK NORMAL. Natasha continues to do well, seems more energized and alert now that she is on Soloxine for hypothyroidism. We have also been feeding her cottage cheese and flaxseed oil once a day for the past few months - supposed to be good for reducing tumors.

01/22/01 - FOLLOW-UP APPOINTMENT AT TUFTS - all went well; vet feels that the mass noted in her neck is scar tissue from the surgery, not a reoccurrance. What a relief. Thyroid tests came back in the normal range, but will need to repeat them again as I had given her the soloxine before her visit (stupid me!). Also the test for Cushings came back suspicious, but vet feels it may be because Natasha was stressed with all the tests she had that day. So I will schedule another test with my local vet in the upcoming weeks. Natasha is feeling great - today she was the first one out the door to play in the backyard. She still eats good and looks healthy, with the exception of her extra weight. Thank you to everyone for your prayers and well wishes - they are greatly appreciated.

MARCH 19, 2001 - 2 MONTH RE-CHECK AT TUFTS - Continued good news - her vet told us there was no reoccurrance of the cancer, her chest xrays were normal, she was negative for Cushings Disease and all her blood tests were normal (except liver levels, which are always high).

JUNE 4, 2001 - 3 MONTH RE-CHECK AT TUFTS - Natasha is still doing fine. Although she seems to be panting more. Unknown if its weather related. Tests all came back ok with exception of liver levels. A small spot was noted in her chest x-rays - unknown if it is a reoccurance; will take x-rays again in 2 months. Got bad news today - Dr Kristal has graduated and is leaving Tufts the end of June. I wish her the best of luck - she has been a wonderful source of information and very caring. I will miss her.

Do I look happy or what?

JUNE 21, 2001 - CALCIUM TEST and T4 TESTS. Calcium check came back fine (9). T4 levels have also come back fine. Both kinda high in the normal levels so we will be cutting back on the Soloxine to 1/2 tablet twice a day and the calcitrol 1 tablet 2 times a week.

AUGUST 14, 2001 - EMERGENCY VISIT TO THE ANIMAL EMERGENCY CLINIC, BROWN AVENUE, MANCHESTER - Natasha had to go to the emergency clinic this past Tuesday night. She had been eating her supper (Solid Gold dry) and one of our other dogs got too close to her and they got into a fight. This caused her to aspirate her food due to the tieback.

A wonderful vet, Dr Kevin Pascoe, at the clinic was able to suction out 95% of what was in her esphogus and she coughed up the rest. Hopefully nothing went into her lungs. She was able to come home that night with antibiotics. We have made a decision to stop feeding her dry food as it had been suggested this might be down the road for her due to all the surgeries on her throat.

Many many thanks to Dr Pascoe and all the great vet techs at the Manchester Emergency Clinic - they did a wonderful job with Natasha and she is feeling great, once again. We appreciate all you do.


AUGUST 26, 2001 - Another trip to the EMERGENCY CLINIC. Natasha got ahold of Shane's dry food and tried to eat it. She was coughing really bad and retching so we went to the clinic. By the time we got there, she had coughed up everything and appeared to be fine. A very nice Doctor Robinson checked her out and said she looked fine - temp and breathing normal. Did not feel it was necessary to do x-rays. I agree.

AUGUST 28, 2001 - BLOOD TEST TO CHECK HER THYROID AND CALCIUM LEVELS. Thyroid tests came back fine. Calcium was low (7) so we have increased her calcitrol from 2 times a week to 3 times a week.

SEPTEMBER 9, 2001 - Another trip to the MANCHESTER EMERGENCY CLINIC. Natasha had some food caught in her throat again. Lucky for us, Dr Pascoe was working again so he was familiar with her case. After checking her out, he said it did not look too too bad and maybe she could cough it up on her own - not necessary to do anything like before (anethesia and suction). We decided to let her stay there for a few hours so they could observe her and be close to her if she needed assistance. They will be tapping her sides of her body every hour or so to help her cough it up. Thank goodness all went well and I was able to pick her up a few hours later. I was told her temp was 105 when I brought her in. When I picked her up it was 101 and she ran out to my truck to come home. A big thank you to Dr Pascoe and the great workers at the Emergency Clinic for coming to our rescue again.

During September and early October - Natasha has gone to the Emergency Clinic a few more times as she had food caught in her throat and she was unable to cough it up after 5 or 6 hours of trying. She was given something to dry out her membranes as she was choking on the saliva. While at the clinic, she was able to swallow the stuff in her throat and was feeling better.

OCTOBER 10, 2001 - Met with Dr Berg, surgeon at Tufts to see if he had any suggestions on the problems Natasha is having. He feels her eating problems are due to the laryngeal tieback and did not feel there was anything further we could do to help her. Said he could do an exploratory to see what is happening in her throat but did not did not feel that anything would be found. I feel that Natasha has gone though so much at this point, I really don't want to put her through any more discomfort unless it was life saving.

OCTOBER 2001 - We have changed her food protocol. She now eats her dry food but I put it though a blender to break up the nuggets. I give it to her dry and she seems to have less problems than in the past when we wetted it down. We will see how this works out.

NOVEMBER 2001 - Natasha continues to do well. She still has a problem at times eating and coughing, but most of the time she does fine. She is a little fighter! Thank you for caring about her.

DECEMBER 17, 2001 - 3 MONTH CHECKUP AT TUFTS - brought Natasha in for her checkup and Dr Payne found that her temp was 104. She was concerned as for the past 2 days, Natasha had not been eating plus she has been vomiting and she insisted that she stay. Reluctantly, I left Natasha there for for further tests. AM I GLAD I DID!

That night Dr Casale did emergency surgery as a mass was found in her stomach. Turned out to be pieces of carpet - oh my! The surgery went well but then 2 days later, Natasha got pneumonia, plus she was refusing to eat. After 5 days in ICU and in an oxygen cage, Natasha was able to be transferred to a ward. Went to visit her on Christmas Day where she ate several pieces of sandwich steak and seemed so much better. Breathing fine and very alert.

I was able to take her home the day after Christmas. She continues to get a little bit better each day, but her hind leg weakness hinders her from going outside as she can't go up stairs. Several other areas of concern were also found and will need further tests when she is stronger. Xray showed what looks like a fractured rib - even though Natasha shows no sign of pain or discomfort. Also she will need a consultation with another vet at Tufts because she has lipidosis. She will go for a re-check in 2 weeks.

JANUARY 7, 2002 - Aspiration of the lump shows that Natasha has bone cancer of the chest/rib - Oh, my God - can't believe that she survived the thyroid cancer and now has this, a different type of cancer and not related to the thyroid cancer.

JANUARY 23, 2002 - Biopsy done - will get results back on Monday as to what type of cancer it is. Dr Payne says it looks like it has gotten a little bigger than 2 weeks ago. Chest xrays showed a little spot - unknown if its a blood vessel or mets.

JANUARY 27, 2001 - Biopsy results came back as a HIGH GRADE FIBROSARCOMA. I am heartbroken. They can operate and do chemo - but the operation would require removing some of her ribs. Not sure if I want to do that to her. If we decide not to do the surgery/chemo - she would only have a few months with us. What a horrible decision to have to make. Natasha is doing great - you would never know that she was so sick.

FEBRUARY 20, 2002 - Met with Dr Berg at Tufts to discuss possible surgery for Natasha. He explained to me all the pro's and con's of doing surgery. He suggested that if we do decide on the surgery, they will do a cat scan or mri first to see how large the tumor is and if it is operable. Still don't know if we will go ahead with the surgery or not.

FEBRUARY 25, 2002 - NATASHA HAS DONNED HER SILVER HARNESS AND GONE TO THE RAINBOW BRIDGE. Natasha passed away peacefully at home today. She was a brave girl who never whimpered or fussed during any of her procedures or afterwards. She loved going for the long rides to Tufts Veterinary Hospital. I am so thankful for the time we had together. She was my little pumpkin.

MARCH 1, 2002 - Autopsy report shows that the thyroid cancer had spread to Natasha's lungs; her vet believes that she died of a heart attack. He also said the tumor in her chest had eaten a good portion of her ribs. Therefore, surgery would not have been an option.

Natasha fought a good fight and never complained about all that we put her through. We have no doubt we did the right thing about her treatments. We thank God that He gave us 2 wonderful years with her after her initial diagnosis.

I would like to thank all the staff at Tufts Veterinary Hospital and the ICU Unit for all their hard work in treating Natasha, especially helping her survive after her major surgeries and pneumonia on April 18th and April 19th, 2000 and December 17th, 2001.

Special thank you to Dr. Ruslander, Dr. Berg, Dr. Moore, Dr. Krystal, Dr. Delaforcade, Dr. Payne, Dr. Casalle and the entire oncology unit at Tufts. I appreciate your special handling of my precious Natasha.

Also a special thank you to Dr. Rooney and Dr. Peterson and all the staff at the Daniel Webster Animal Hospital. Special thank you for your gentle handling of Natasha. I know she was always treated good by all the staff. I also appreciate you squeezing Natasha in for appointments with little notice and for putting up with my requests for copies of reports, etc.

A sincere thank you to Danielle and the other groomers at GAIL FISHERS ALL DOGS GYM in Manchester, NH, for their special treatment they gave Natasha when she came in for grooming. You are all wonderful!

Here is a poem my friend Tony wrote for Natasha - it conveys exactly how I feel.
Thank you Tony.





NOTE: We were lucky - we took out pet insurance on our dogs after Buddy died in March 1999 - so a good portion of Natasha's astronomical medical bills were paid by the pet insurance company. We are very happy with them. If you would like more info, please contact me.


Good St. Francis, you loved all of God's creatures. To you they were your brothers and sisters. Help us to follow your example of treating every living thing with kindness. St. Francis, patron saint of animals, watch over my pet and keep my companion safe and healthy. Amen.

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