Monty Update – March 6

Last Thursday, my vet called to discuss the dental specialist veterinarian she had recommended and finally spoke with about Monty.  She informed me that the specialist wants to do surgery as soon as possible to try to eradicate the cancer and avoid issue with Monty’s jaw in the future.  It seems the main concern is that due to the cancer’s location (close to the middle joint of his lower jaw bone) that when the tumor comes back, it could break his jaw by messing with the joint.   The surgery, from our initial conversation, sounds like it would involve taking some of Monty’s jaw bone and surrounding tissue to take out the entire area the tumor was in in the hopes to completely remove it.  There may be some “wiring” involved as well, but I was assured his canine teeth should be able to remain.  .

On Monday, we had our appointment with Colorado State University’s Animal Cancer Center.  I was nervous going into the appointment, mainly because I was worried they would either contradict what my normal vet and the dental specialist recommended OR that they would want to do the surgery themselves and I would have to choose who would be doing the procedure.  Honestly, in all of this, my greatest fear is that I will make a poor choice for Monty.  This road is not clear cut, it’s not “to achieve A, do B” and I’m truly terrified I will make a bad decision and it will affect Monty’s quality of life or length of life.

We arrived at 10am for our appointment and met with the vet, and then the oncology surgeon to discuss Monty and their recommendations.  The CSU team is very optimistic we can get Monty to total remission, and have his length and quality of life not altered in any way once the tumor is completely removed.  They would like to do a CT scan to get a better idea of where the tumor remains, and then use those images to plan out the second surgery that they agree needs to be done.  This surgeon believes Monty will most likely have to lose his bottom canines to ensure we have removed the entire area of the cancer cells.  We won’t know for sure, though, until his CT scan.  The scan is scheduled for this Wednesday (March 8) and Monty will have to spend the day at the hospital, and they will have to put him under.  I believe, after talking with both vets, that I will go with CSU’s surgery team for this second surgery.  Send positive vibes, as I always hate when they are knocked out…

I also reached out to my vet from back home in Wisconsin, as she is a specialist of sorts for alternative medicine options.  I truly want to make sure I am doing everything I can at home to assist Monty in his battle with his cancer.  I’m all for combining modern medicine with alternative medicine.  So, we shall see if she recommends any supplements or diet changes or anything else to support his immune system and help Monty heal.

Please keep Monty in your thoughts/prayers/send him your positive energy/good juju as we move ahead towards our goal of remission!

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Fur in Fashion

Don’t worry!  I am not going to share any photos of the grotesque practices of how fur is obtained, because it is absolutely horrifying and disgusting.  Below is just a photo of a farm with the animals still alive at the time; before they are killed and skinned to become an ornament to an outfit or a coat.

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Honestly, it still shocks me that the fur industry exists.  The only reason I felt compelled to speak about it is a friend and colleague recently posted on social media that she was planning on buying a fox fur stole.  I was shocked and beyond disappointed to see someone of my generation think that fur is a fashionable thing.

It isn’t.  And neither is fake fur (it usually isn’t fake, anyways), leather, feathers, or anything else that requires something to die for you to acquire it.  Plus, one item does not equal  one death.  It means many.  According to the Compassionate Clothing Coalition, eighteen red foxes are killed to make one fox fur coat while fifty-five minks are killed to make one mink fur coat.

That is not acceptable.  The millions of animals in fur farms, whose entire life is living in cages until they are electrocuted, killed, and skinned, is depressing and unnecessary.  Please join me in making the life choice to never buy or support any products that require an animal to die for it to exist.  Also, consider avoiding the fake versions as well, since the fake versions could very well be real without you knowing it AND the fake versions still promote the concept of fur in fashion as “cool”.

Let’s make animal products uncool and work towards getting fur (and all other animal products) out of the fashion industry, out of the norm, and make it taboo to wear the skin of dead animals.

Monty Update – February 2017

It’s been two weeks since Monty’s surgery, and one week since learning his biopsy came back that he has cancer.  Monty went in for his surgery follow-up yesterday and his mouth is healing up nicely!  The new tissue looked weird to me, so I was paranoid the tumor had already grown back but it’s just a normal new tissue growth process.  (Whew)  The only problem right now is Monty wants to play like normal, but his mouth is still healing so we are having to get creative to replace his usual games of fetch and chew toys.6c823e4e-7f00-0001-73e2-3d2b860a0bad

I heard back from the CSU Animal Cancer Center – we are off the wait list and have an appointment:  March 6.  I am excited to talk with their specialists and start to move forward with a plan.  My regular vet is also reaching out to her colleagues to find a dental specialist who may be open to taking Monty on (if and when he’ll need a more invasive surgery that could include his jaw bone).

Due to where the tumor was/will be when it comes back (next to his mandibular symphysis), the surgery will be more involved than normal.  The mandible is comprised of two halves joined together on the midline at the mandibular symphysis, which is a fibrocartilaginous joint aka his bottom jaw is actually two bones that come together at the front of his mouth (note the gap shown in this random, not Monty’s mouth xray – if it was Monty, those six little teeth would all be gone!).  So surgery needs to be very careful in this area since it’s not just regular bone and involves a joint.

For now, we are just focusing on healing from the initial surgery and I am doing whatever research I can to prepare for our next steps.  Monty is feeling great (currently barking at a squirrel who dares to be in the back yard) and ready to get his toys back, and also super pumped that we have some snow on the ground again.  We’ll update again after our CSU appointment on Monday, March 6!

Snow Dog on Thursday morning

Monty, the Snow Dog on Thursday morning – no, he won’t come back inside just yet. 🙂

Acanthomatous Ameloblastoma

Those two nearly impossible to pronounce words are the name of the cancer my dog, Monty, was diagnosed with this week.

Last Thursday (on February 9), I took Monty to the vet for a light dental procedure to remove a chipped tooth and to have the vet look at a bump that had shown up a few days prior between two of Monty’s front teeth.  The consult before his dental was jarring, as I learned from my vet that she was concerned the bump was a cancerous mass.  We agreed to fully anesthetize Monty so she could take x-rays of his jaw bones, and fully remove the mass.  His surgery went well, with the vet removing all four of Monty’s front teeth (he just wanted to be like his toothless sister!).  The x-rays showed no sign of cancer and the mass was sent in to be tested.  I learned this Thursday (February 16) that it had come back positive.

From what I can find on acanthomatous ameloblastoma, it seems that if one had to get mouth cancer, this is the one to get.  This type of tumor does not metastasize (spread to other areas), but will attack the bone and teeth in the mouth.  The good news is, according to University of Pennsylvania’s vet school, “The prognosis is generally excellent with complete surgical removal.”  Early detection is also important, and I believe we succeeded in that as the tumor was only about the size of a small pea.

The cause of this cancer is unknown, however “it is thought to be seen more in male large breed dogs (like German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers) and dogs that are of middle to old age (over five years old).”  Monty falls under both of those categories in this case, being 10 years old and a border collie mix with shepherd definitely part of the mix).

Chemo cannot battle it, but radiation does work.  The research I have done shows that the first step is to surgically remove the tumor (we have done that), and then possible radiation treatments to push for remission.  From what I can see, remission is possible and if achieved, life expectancy should not be altered.

Our regular vet is on a wait and see pattern for when the tumor returns (she stated it won’t be an if, but a when) so we can determine how aggressive the cancer truly is.  I also am on the waiting list for a consult with CSU’s canine cancer center to see if further surgery and/or radiation are the path to take to achieve remission, as well as am waiting for a referral to a canine dental specialist (in case Monty needs to have some of his jaw bone removed in this process).   The CSU appointment should be in early to mid March.

I will use this platform to keep record of our journey and battle.  Right now, Monty’s quality of life is 100% and that is what I am focusing on now that I’ve had time to react/process/cry like an idiot.  We will continue to research this condition and it’s treatments, and visit with doctors to ensure we can keep that quality of life as high as possible for as long as possible.  And we will continue our morning games of fetch (once his mouth is healed, of course), our evening walks, our bedtime snuggles, and our weekend adventures.

With Love,

~Jenna & Monty

Monty

Happy 10 Year Anniversary, Monty!

10 years ago, a 22 year old who had less than $500 to her name and had moved back in with her parents after graduating college adopted an under-socialized, emaciated border collie puppy who had scabies.  It was the beginning of the greatest relationship I have ever had.  Together, Montague “The Moose” Riedi and I have lived in three states, traveled over 10,000 miles, hiked/walked countless miles… Monty has supported me through dozens of breakups, snuggled up through several surgery recoveries and many illnesses, celebrated new jobs, and has shared endless adventures from a road trip to the pacific ocean to exploring new trails.

I have shared almost a third of my life with this amazing, energetic, quirky dog.  Thanks for being my pup, Sir Monty, and here’s to many more years to come!

Wildlife and Your Pets

Earlier this month, I received the terrifying news that both of my parent’s dogs (a chihuahua terrier mix, Gizmo, and a cavalier king charles spaniel, Penny) were attacked by a coyote in the front yard of my parent’s house.   Luckily, they are both okay and recovering from their bite wounds on their heads and necks, but it definitely could have ended much worse.  It’s a reminder that while our pets did at one point live in the wild, they are now domesticated and rely on us to help them survive.

In day to day life, we often forget the real dangers of wildlife for our pets.  From attacks from predators, like the coyote, to diseases that wildlife can spread (rabies, scabies, and everything in between), to the ever annoying skunk or porcupine attacks, nature is not always a fan of your pet.

Be aware and be safe when outside with your furry pals.  Being on leash during walks ensures you know where they are at all times.  Never let your pets outside without you being there with them.  Even in a fenced yard at your own house, a coyote can jump that fence, or a smaller animal can come through a crack or hole in the fence.  And, please, never let your pets be an “indoor-outdoor” or flat out “outdoor only” pet.  There are too many dangers beyond just predators that will lead to your fur baby not having the lifespan he should have.

Be safe out there!

Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender

The surrender department at any shelter is always an emotional place.  People from all walks of life are there to hand over their ownership of their pet(s), and it is never a happy occasion.  Unfortunately, the mindset of most pet owners is that their first resort when facing a challenge or obstacle in keeping their pet is to take them to the shelter to surrender.  In reality, this should be the last resort.  Helping owners keep their pets, and helping educate the public that surrendering to the shelter should be a last resort is an important program for every rescue and shelter to have.

There are many shelters and rescue groups that do some or all of these programs to help keep animals from entering the shelter system through owner surrender.  My personal favorite through my work and volunteer experience that has really impressed me is Austin Pets Alive’s PASS (Positive Alternatives to Shelter Surrender) Program.  Below I’ve detailed some of the main areas the PASS program covered to help with owner surrender.

The PASS program originally started with a team of volunteers who, with the permission from the city shelter, would set up a table outside the surrender door and start conversations with people coming to surrender.  The conversations were always positive, never accusatory, with the goal of working with the owner on how to best serve them and their animal and keep the pet out of the shelter system if possible.  The program later grew to being overseen by a staff person and had a much larger army of incredible volunteers, and was run mostly through a hotline and an email.

Boarding

Sometimes the reason an owner is looking to surrender their pets is they will be unable to care for them for a limited time.  It may be the owner is having a medical procedure that would make them unable to care for their pet for a few weeks or months, or any other number of reasons the owner cannot care for their pet.

A healthy PASS program will create a database list of boarding facilities in the area that will provide free or discounted boarding, and detail the length of time they are open to providing, along with how many animals they are open to taking on each year.  Volunteers or a designated staff can oversee the management tracking of this database to ensure the relationships stay positive and the pets are well-cared for and returned at the proper time.

In a few rare cases, the owner needs help boarding their pet for more than a few weeks, or even more than a few months.  A prime example is military personnel being deployed for an extended period.  In these instances, having a team of well-trained PASS foster families is a great program to help keep these pets safe and sound until their owner can return from their service.

Food/Litter

Sometimes the issue is something as simple as the owner is having a financial difficulty that is leading them to feel they cannot afford the food and/or litter for their pet for a period of time.  A food bank for owners to access and keep themselves on their feet while also allowing them to keep their pets is vital in any community.

Taking it a step further, partnering with the local food bank and/or meals on wheels programs in the community to ensure all individuals utilizing food services for themselves also have an option at the same time to receive food/litter for their pets is extremely helpful.

Veterinary/Medical

Many times, the pet is facing a medical situation that the owner cannot afford, so they believe the best chance for the pet is to surrender them over and hopefully get the care they need.  Unfortunately, many shelters cannot afford to take these expensive treatments on themselves, and this ends up putting the pet in a precarious position.

The PASS program concept helps the owner fund raise and/or find a veterinarian that will do a discounted service or payment plans.  A healthy PASS program will create a database list that details all the local veterinary clinics, and the deals they are open to providing, along with how many times a year they are open to taking a discounted service on.

Placement Assistance

Sometimes the reality is simply that the owner can no longer keep their pet(s).  Instead of treating them harshly, or judging them for their situation, the best course of action is to offer to work with them in finding a direct placement for the pet.  This skips the middle man of the shelter, keeps the pet safe from the common diseases of shelters as well as free from the stress shelters can cause, and helps the pet find a good fit for their future home as their current owner knows them best.

Assisting with advertising the pet for new owners, vetting potential new owners for the best fit, and paperwork help to ensure everything is legal in the transition process are all ways the PASS program can help an owner re-home their pet.

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A PASS program is vital in every community to allow owners to keep their pets when they are in need of help, and help pets find a new home safely without having to go through a shelter system!