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Pollyanna's Blog

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Pollyanna's Blog

My agony that is, Hemangiosarcoma….Part 1

March 18th, 2014 · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

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March 18, 2014

Bonnie and Angel Polly

They say writing is cathartic, so hopefully, “they” are right. I want to start a blog, to write about, and celebrate  my Polly’s journey through life, and subsequent cancer battle, but to do so, I very much need to start at the beginning….which would be my late, beloved black Lab, Maggie.

She came to me as a 7 week old pup, in February of 2000, a few months after my heartbreaking loss of my first true Lab love, a black Lab girl named Duchess. Now, Duchess was a simply wonderful Lab, smart, funny, very protective of our then newborn adopted daughter, and she did everything and went everywhere with us. She also lived to be just short of the age of 16 years old…I was truly blessed to have her in my life, and also knew how very lucky I was, to have had her for such a long time. Her death was one of the hardest things I ever had to experience in my life…the loss of my own, very first dog.

When Maggie came along, I realized how vastly different she was from Duchess. She was stubborn, a little distant, had a bit of a mean streak, but was still lovable and definitely quirky. I always said, she marched to her own tune. Our thought is, that she may have had a little brain damage from her birth; she was the runt, but her mom still had a bit of trouble delivering her… took a little longer than it should, so she may have been a little deprived of oxygen. I called her my little “Jekyll and Hyde” doggy personality. She even snapped at me once or twice when she was young, so I learned to work around and with her moods, and was still able to train her a few basic commands for the most part. Unfortunately, she snapped at my sweet kitty, Autumn, one day in 2005, and in a quick instant, Autumn lost her left eye. She is fine though, and still with me today, at 12 years old.

While working at my veterinarians office, back in 2004, and Maggie was then 4 years old, one day, this beautiful litter of yellow Lab pups came in for a check-up and first vaccines. Needless to say, one of those pups, a little girl, came running full speed, directly to me when I sat on the floor, jumped on my lap with her little paws up on my shoulders kissing all over my face, and would NOT leave me alone! I started to laugh, picked her up and placed her away from me…. she took two steps away, and suddenly turned right back around and was all over me again! My heart had instantly been taken, so I took a chance and asked if any of the pups were still available. I could hardly contain myself when the owner said, “Yes, the one that won’t leave you alone!” Unbelievably, she was the ONLY available pup from a litter of 11 puppies. Ok, honestly, I never considered getting a yellow Lab, blacks were always my preference, but that day on October 5, 2004, one day before my birthday, I brought my Pollyanna home as my “spur-of-the-moment” birthday gift to myself. I knew then, that she would impact my life like no other dog ever would.

My two girls quickly learned to love each other, but several months later, not long after she turned 5 years old, Maggie started to exhibit rather frightening symptoms…they strongly resembled bloat, stretching her body out, groaning and whimpering in pain, gagging, vomiting and trying to vomit, trying to poop with a lot of difficulty and her abdomen was swelling and getting rigid. The first time she had one of these “attacks”, it was 11 at night, so we rushed her to the local vet ER. It was very scary, but by the time we got there, she seemed like the worst had passed. Everything seemed normal again, and the ER vet suggested it was more than likely a gastric upset, but not bloat, thankfully. However these attacks continued for the rest of her life. We adjusted her food several times, had her x-rayed when she suffered another really bad episode with one, but nothing really wrong ever showed up. I just became accustomed to these attacks, but hated having to watch her suffer through them, because they would last anywhere from an hour, to several hours as she got older.

Early in 2010, she started to have a little bit different symptoms. She was still having her regular attacks, but they were lasting longer, and she was also having episodes occasionally, of two and three day periods of hardly being able to get up and move around well…she would get hunched up a bit, and seemed stiff. We just figured with all the snow we were having, and she would play hard in it, (it was February), and that she had just turned 10 years old, she was probably slowing down a bit. She was on Dasuquin regularly, due to a hip injury she suffered as a young dog, but once it healed, it never really bothered her again. I had Rimadyl on hand for her, so just gave that to her when she seemed in pain. After these new periodic episodes were over, she would go back to normal again, as well.

Fast forward a year, late February 2011, my life would change, and not in a good way. My own mom fell very ill and passed away. Getting through that was the hardest thing to happen in my life. We decided to bury her ashes, along with my dad’s ashes (as he had died several years before), with my older sister in northern Pennsylvania, that died many years ago at a young age. We set up the service for Saturday, June 4, 2011. Since I have a very large extended family on my mom’s side, that would allow them time to make arrangements to attend, due to the fact they are spread out all over the country, plus the fact the weather would be much nicer in June. As the time was getting closer to prepare for the journey to send my mom and dad to their final resting place, I could see Maggie was starting to get seriously ill. You know that “feeling” you get, when you KNOW something is terribly wrong. The day before we were to leave for Pennsylvania, we took her in to see one of her vets, semi-emergency, and had a thorough exam. In-house blood work showed a very low red blood cell count…she was bleeding internally and needed an ultrasound within 12 to 24 hours to determine why. I was ready to go off the deep end. We were to leave the next morning for the weekend, and to the emotional service for my parents, and now confronted with this terrible situation. I was very fortunate, though, in the fact that I had a guardian angel in my young neighbor, and close friend, Lainey, that was coming to pet sit for us. She had, over the years, baby sat for our daughter, but was now grown up and had become a registered Veterinary Technician. Lainey was already set up to care for Maggie, Polly, and my 3 cats while we were away, but what she did for me, I will NEVER be able to repay. She told us not to worry, she would take care of Maggie. We left early Friday morning, June 3rd, and I was in tears and sobbing. Lainey set Maggie up for an ultrasound at the clinic she worked for; as it turned out, her clinic had an ultrasound vet come in every other Friday….we got lucky to have it fall on that particular Friday. I got a call from her later in the morning, that Maggie needed immediate emergency surgery if she was to live through the day…her spleen was rupturing. I had told my vet, when we were there a day earlier, that Maggie and Polly were playing in the backyard a few days prior to the vet visit, and they had a nasty collision that Maggie took the full brunt of. It scared me when it happened, because Maggie could not get up right away. I ran to help her, and I was extremely concerned for her. She seemed fine for the rest of the day, that night, and the next few days. We did think at the time, that the impact of that collision, must have been the reason for her severe spleen injury.

My main vet for Maggie, did her spleen-removal surgery in the afternoon on that Friday, and I was almost having anxiety attacks waiting for his call. He has been my trusted vet for over 20 years, and he has never been wrong about anything regarding my pets. When he finally called that night, I thought the floor had dropped out from underneath me…he said she did great through the surgery and was recuperating well, but then said he was sorry, that he strongly suspected she had hemangiosarcoma, which was the reason for her spleen rupture. This is something I was not expecting to hear at all…at the time, I was not very familiar with this type of cancer. I asked what the prognosis was, and he said 1-3 months, due to the fact her spleen had already ruptured, and additionally, this ugly cancer is one of the most aggressive canine cancers. As terrible as this was, and it really did not sink in right away, I got off the phone thinking, I may lose her soon, but at least I get to come home to her and maybe have some quality time with her. She surely would have died that weekend if we hadn’t done anything, so I still got to come home to my girl, if only for a short while. Her biopsy report came back early the next week and the worst was confirmed…hemangiosarcoma.

With the feeling of devastation, although honestly, I did stay in a good bit of denial, my other realization was the fact I owed my Maggie’s life to my God-send Lainey. She not only took Maggie to her clinic an hour away from where we live for her ultra sound, and back to my vet for the emergency surgery, but also stayed with Maggie until they started prepping her for surgery. She went back to the clinic later in the evening to visit with Maggie while she was waking up, and then carefully transferred Maggie to the all night emergency vet ER to spend the weekend where she could be monitored 24/7, till we could pick her up on Sunday. On that emotional Saturday, while saying my final goodbyes to both my mom and dad, I was secure in knowing my Maggie was alive, recuperating, and waiting for us on Sunday. Lainey also visited with Maggie twice on that Saturday, and once on Sunday, knowing we would be getting her later that day. I also had a very good friend that I worked with at my vet clinic that just happened to be working part time at the vet ER that weekend as the surgery technician, and was able to text me several pictures of Maggie while recuperating…that meant the world to me, too.

The belief is, we should always be thankful for the good things in life, no matter how small they seem, and that is a fact. Although I knew Maggie would most likely not be with me for too much longer, things could have gone way different that weekend.

We changed some things regarding her diet, added a fair amount of supplements, and she healed from surgery beautifully. She got a spark back in her eye and in her step, that I had not seen in a very long time. It was short lived, however….about a month after surgery, I started to see a decline. Our time was spent as good as it possibly could be, but 46 days after her surgery, she crashed, and crashed quickly. Once we got her to the vet, her red blood cell count was nearly depleted, and her gums and tongue were as white as white could be…. her liver had ruptured this time. By this time, all she could do was wag her tail, she was even too weak to raise her head. We said goodbye to her outside under a shady tree, on that warm day of July 19, 2011, with my husband, and several of my co-workers that I had been friends with while working at the clinic….they all took turns hugging on her and whispering goodbye, I then held her in my arms, and I was the last one she saw when she closed her eyes for the final time.

I have come to realize, that as hard as losing Polly has been, my heartbreaking story started with Maggie. Although my Maggie was never a Tripawd, it was very necessary to share her story, due to the fact I have still been grieving her loss as well, and to this same, as Alison, a.k.a. mom2shelby would say, vicious, cruel, evil cancer. In hind sight, I will ALWAYS regret not having an ultrasound done much sooner on Maggie, but who really knew? I didn’t, but I certainly do now. I also wondered if these attacks/episodes are what eventually evolved into her cancer…..her vets didn’t think so, but then said they honestly couldn’t say that for certainty, either. I guess we will never know.

I truly think all these cancers are horrible and suck beyond belief, but my only unfortunate experience has been with this despicable cancer, hemangiosarcoma.

A few months later, the absolute most awful thing happened, for reasons that are obvious now….. I remember taking Polly to a vet appointment not long after I lost Maggie, and completely broke down in tears while in the room with Polly and my vet. I said to my vet, “I don’t know what in the hell I will do, if I EVER have to go through this horrible cancer again with another dog, especially Polly”……..

To be continued………



Maggie and Polly had a very special connection, as all these pictures show, but Maggie was especially attached to Polly. These pics were all taken, when Polly was 3 months old up to 6 months old.  The quality of these pics are terrible, but was back in the days of 35 mil… least for me.


maggie_polly2 maggie_polly3 maggie_polly4 maggie_polly5


This pic below, is of Maggie’s best bud back a couple months before I brought Polly home, my sister’s beautiful Shepherd/Lab/Collie mix girl. Her name was Stormy, and she died ironically the same week that Polly was born. The circle of life, I guess…..Stormy also died of a quick killing cancer. Although our vets suspected hemangiosarcoma with her as well, we never had the chance for biopsy…… she  went downhill so quickly, all we could do was help her out of her suffering. She also unbelievably, had the same personality and disposition that Polly had. Loved this dog, and I miss her, too……






The pics below, are a couple of the last ones taken of my Maggie…..the one of her by herself looking up at me while I was taking her pic in our backyard, was when she was feeling pretty great, and right before her decline started after her surgery. The snow pic was our back-to-back blizzards in Feb 2010….boy, did her and Polly have a fabulous time in that!! The two of them in my living room looking up at me is one of my favorite pictures of the both of them together…..just a few months before Maggie got sick.

maggie maggie_polly6 maggie_polly7


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March 18th, 2014 · 1 Comment · Uncategorized

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