Pheona and I have been together for over 10 years, since Pheo was only 5 or 6 weeks old. I have known her since she was born though. I used to visit her even before she was weaned. We met at one of my lowest points in life; I was homeless, suffering from severe PTSD symptoms and I struggled each day to find a reason to live. Pheona coming into my life gave me the reason I needed. After being homeless for another year in 2008 I was blessed to get into supportive housing and some treatment for my trauma. A couple years later I was doing so well I went back to school, something I had always wanted to do, but didn’t feel capable of doing it alone. Pheona was with me every step of the way, including during my graduation from City College recently. She is such a gentle and loving dog that she was the class pet in every class I had at CCSF. Even people who are afraid of dogs were in love with her by the end of a semester, just from her gentle presence. At 10 years old she is also still very playful and active. (The emergency vet guessed she was only 6 years old!) She loves to play and just be a dog sometimes. I have never had to worry about her wandering off; she can’t stand for me to be out of her sight. (We both have a bit of separation anxiety where each other is concerned!) For 10 years Pheona has been my constant companion, and my Service Dog for over 5 of those years. We go everywhere together and she helps me navigate life successfully. My life didn’t magically get better when she came into my life, but with her by my side I couldn’t give up. Things would go up and down like anyone’s life. She helps me keep my head above water, emotionally, when things are rough though. Up until a month ago things had been going well again. Unfortunately, this upswing has been intercepted by a humongous downer of life recently. On July 2, 2014 our whole world fell apart. We took her to the vet for digestion problems. But, they wanted to talk about something more important they said: the big C- cancer. The cancer, specifically a mast cell tumor, is aggressive and in a really bad place to operate. We had first noticed the lump last October and took her in to our old vet to have it checked out. The vet that day said it was a perianal cyst, stuck a needle in it and said that since nothing drained out of the hole he made that it was nothing to worry about. We were relieved but tried to keep an eye on it. That was easier said than done though, due to the lump’s location. Surgery is the first treatment option for mast cell tumors, but the location of this tumor makes thing very complicated. The first vet said surgery wasn’t an option but when I went to the VCA hospital they said aggressive surgery is needed, ASAP. Unfortunately, to get all of the cancer cells they need to amputate her tail and remove a part of her rectum. That should cure it though! I am physically disabled and unable to work. My SSI payments aren’t even enough to pay my rent, let alone to cover any part of this treatment. (My husband’s disability payments cover my rent for me.) We have spent almost $1000, literally every penny we had, already on the vet bills, and she hasn’t gotten any actual treatment yet. I was starting to feel hopeless; I didn’t see how I was going to be able to make sure that my girl had all of the things that she needs. She has been there for me, every moment of the past 10 years. Now that she needs me, I want to give her the care she deserves. I feel like a failure. Since the oncologist suggested surgery I have been fundraising like a mad person. I have to make this happen for her. None of this would be possible if it wasn’t for the kindness of others.
We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
— Julie, Steve, and Pheona
I just wanted to take a few minutes to let everyone know that Pheona had her surgery last Saturday and is healing well. There was a major setback during the week, her foot became infected. We are pretty sure the injury happened the day before surgery, the vet believes she stepped on something that stabbed completely though her right rear foot. She didn’t show any sign that it was injured until Monday morning, she wouldn’t put any weight on it. After 2 visits to the vet ER over 4 days they finally were able to figure out what was causing the swelling and clean the infection out for her (first visit they diagnosed it as a bee sting or spider bite). She went in this morning for a foot recheck and they said it was healing well. She is very obviously feeling much better, she is eating and drinking again and can walk on the foot now.
Her tail amputation went well, by Monday morning her foot was much more painful to her than her tail. She still has a bit of a nub that we have seen wiggle once so far. The swelling around the area has gone down quite a bit but she sure looks funny right now. She has 5 different areas on her body that are shaved, one spot is a huge square around her tail! We have to put the ecollar on her at night when we are sleeping but during the day she does a great job of leaving her stitches alone. We have to watch that she isn’t licking her foot more than her backside right now.
While we were at the ER the second time Dr. Kidd stopped in to give us the test results from the tumor and the great news is it wasn’t cancer after all! They don’t know why it showed the purple granules under a microscope like a mast cell tumor but what she had was a perianal edema (or something like that, I didn’t hear much after “it wasn’t cancer” LoL). He said it would have needed to come off anyway so the surgery wasn’t for “nothing” but this means cancer can’t “return” because it wasn’t there to start with!! I am so relieved. I am also relieved that this whole ordeal seems to be finally winding down. Since the tumor wasn’t a mast cell after all they were able to start taking her off the meds she was taking for it, as well. They were really dragging her down and making her act very agitated. She is starting to act like her old self again, but still subdued by pain meds a little. We go back in 2 weeks to have her stitches removed and that should be the end of it. Yay!!
I can not thank you and your agencies enough for all that you have done to help Pheona and I during this time. We wouldn’t have had any choices or the joy of knowing it wasn’t cancer without all of you. She has a lot of life ahead of her yet! Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts.
— Julie and Pheona