A Veterinary Hospital Shares the Inspirational Story of Woodstock
By Kara Holden, LVT
In light of May being cancer awareness month, I would like to share with everyone one of our most beloved patient’s life story. Woodstock is a 7 year old Boxer that has had an amazing journey beginning as a rescued dog previously labeled a ‘fear biter.’ In his new home, he mastered agility, and even became a movie star! Most recently our friend Woodstock was diagnosed with lymphoma, and is currently undergoing treatment. His fight to stay with his family is a daily routine. Woodstock’s parents, Kari and Bill were kind enough to share with us his inspiring story.
Woodstock’s Story as told by his incredible owner:
Woodstock rescued us on 8/8/08. He was about maybe 1yr old when we got him. The boxer rescue thinks he never had a home; he was most likely born on the streets. He was extremely malnourished, had a severe case of demodex mange and did not have a minute to spare at the Humane Society due to the fact he was labeled a “fear biter”. Thank God for the amazing people at Legacy Boxer Rescue (LBR) who rushed to the Humane Society to assess him. With just a little tenderness and understanding, LBR said they learned he was “just scared”, and not vicious at all.
Our sweet boy filled our home with joy the minute he walked in. Professionals who have seen him feel he is most likely a Boxer/English Bull Dog mix. Two very high maintenance breeds as far as health issues go. That didn’t stop us for a minute, once someone meets Woodstock and lets him warm up….they are in love and so is he, he loves all humans, especially the little ones.
Woodstock and I started training for Agility Competition at Lucky Dog Training here in Keller when he was about 4. He learned the equipment quickly and enjoyed the socialization part of the agility circuit. We never trained to be all stars, we trained for fun and to get exercise….but as you can see in some of the pictures, he LOVED being on the course.
From the shelter to a movie set: Woodstock plays “Stevey” the furry friend of character “Jonah” (played by Jay Huguley) in the soon to be released movie “Sunny in The Dark”. Rescue dogs can do AMAZING things. During the shooting of the film, Woodstock continually impressed his co-stars. The Director, Courtney Ware, commented that Woody was “epic” and “amazing” on film. We couldn’t agree more. A favorite quote about this film comes from Jay Huguley – “For me the story is about isolation and loneliness. No matter how far we retreat from the world, we are not alone.”
How fitting for a scared, lonely shelter dog that knew nothing other than to retreat as far into his run as possible and growl at the people trying to help him to be given a team of rescuers willing to save him for no other reason than because it’s the right thing to do.
In March of 2015 we brought Woodstock in to see Dr. Loter for what we thought was a cold. Being a boxer/bulldog he has always sounded a little congested, but he seemed to be a little more congested than normal. Woodstock had had “colds” in the past so we really didn’t think much of this trip to the doctor. Dr. Loter took an xray and from that xray she had suspicions something wasn’t right. We are so grateful for her thoroughness and concerns. At the request of Dr. Loter, the next day, Thursday, I called and made an appointment with Dr. Pickens at Veterinary Specialist in Grapevine. I called Dr. Loter’s office to let them know I had an appointment that following Monday, that was the soonest we could get in. About 20 minutes after hanging up the phone with Dr. Loter’s office I received a call from Dr. Pickens and she asked me “How soon can you be here?”. My heart sunk, I knew at that point things were not good. I went home immediately and picked up Woodstock and went to see Dr. Pickens. Preliminary test showed Woodstock had Lymphoma Cancer. He had an 8.9×8.7 cm “mass/tumor cranial to his heart”…what the heck did that mean? It meant this “large” tumor was sitting on my sweet boys heart. I knew zero about Lymphoma. That particular moment when she said Lymphoma Cancer my mind raced….and as she spoke to me about this type of cancer I was thinking, we can beat this, we’ve beat cancer before….but then as she explained how aggressive Lymphoma is I slowly began to realize this was way worse than mast cell tumors and there was a strong possibility my sweet Woodstock, the movie star, the agility champ, the gentle sweet boy I love with all my heart may not live too much longer. Pretty much everything she said was a foreign language to me. I know I looked at her and nodded my head as if I got it all….but all I got was “If we don’t do anything we are looking at 2-4 weeks”. That still resonates in my head. 2-4 Weeks? That doesn’t even give me time for this all to sink in and understand.
I went home, too distraught to go back to work that day. I cried the whole way home, called my mom…yes, at age 54 with a loving, kind husband, I still want to call my mom when life hits me hard. My husband got home later and we talked….we both knew we had to do something no matter what.
Dr. Pickens sent Woodstock’s biopsy off for more testing. We wanted to learn what we were dealing with. Was it “Type B” or “Type T”?. Results came back that Saturday and just ask Dr. Pickens had suspected, Woodstock had Type T….the worst…the most aggressive Lymphoma. More crying of course, I couldn’t breathe I cried so hard. We went back to see Dr. Loter and get her opinion…what would she do? She was so compassionate and kind….I know her heart was broke too. She helps us sort through everything….asked just the right questions and gave us information to help us process the decision.
We decided Chemo is the best shot we have.
Dr. Pickens typically does Chemo on Fridays, but felt Woodstock needed to start sooner than later, so he had his first treatment the following Tuesday. So he was diagnosed on a Thursday and had his first Chemo 5 days later. She recommended we do the “CHOP” protocol. This protocol involves 3 drugs and 20 total chemo sessions. Woodstock would have a Chemo treatment every Friday for 4 weeks, then he would get 1 week break. His first treatment was IV with Vincristine. He was sedated and did very well. The 2nd treatment he goes in, they do blood work and check his heart and overall health. He was well enough for round two. This week was with pills taken orally for 4 days in a row…he got 1 pill in the AM, no sedation and no side effects! He was doing great. The 3rd week was IV with Vincristine again. This time he needed no sedation!! He has gotten so comfortable with his “Chemo buddies” he trusts them 100% and is calm enough through the process to not need sedation. Way to go Woodstock! Again, he does really well, we see very little side effects the following week. 4th Week, he went in like we always do, but I got a call about 9:30….my heart jump out of my chest. They never call this early, I was certain something went wrong. They warned me about this 4th drug, Adriamyacin….I read about it and all I read was “this isn’t a Mickey Mouse drug”. I was almost crying before I even picked up the call. Fortunately it was Dr. Pickens, the first words she said “Woodstock is doing great, he is good”…..what a relief! She decided to hold off 1 week because his white blood cell count was right on the border of being acceptable to move forward with a treatment. She said since he was progressing so well, there was no concern about postponing 1 week. Had we moved forward we took the risk of him becoming very ill. Neither of us wished that for him.
So we waited a week, and Woodstock returned the following Friday for his 4th treatment with the “big” drug. I was so scared and nervous when I dropped him off. They said due to the seriousness of this drug he would need to be sedated…which I was fine with, but just adds extra stress for me because I always worry about the sedation side of things. Typically they call about 11am to tell me he is done…but that day 11…12…1.. rolled around and no call. I was on pins and needles and broke down and called them. They were so kind and understanding….gave me a report on him that he was doing well and he just finished his treatment and was resting. Whew…what a relief. I picked him up about 2:30 and brought him to work with me so I could keep an eye on him. Poor baby was so high for the rest of day…but no vomiting thank goodness. The following Tuesday after the “big drug” he started to have very bloody diarrhea. I became very concerned, didn’t think this was supposed to happen. I called an emergency hospital and then Dr. Loter’s office. After speaking to both, I felt a little better because everything pointed in the direction that this was not “uncommon”. We followed up the next morning with Dr. Pickens and she let us know it should resolve within 18-24 hours with some medicine we were provided at the start of his treatment. He recovered nicely and that really has been the only “bad” day through all of this so far.
He got a week off and returned for his 5th treatment. I was much more relaxed this time as we had been through it before and I knew what to expect. At my request, Dr. Pickens took an ultrasound of his chest as I wanted to see what the mass/tumor was doing after 4 treatments. When I picked him up from his 5th treatment, Joel (Woodstock’s Chemo buddy who is with him the whole day) informed me that Dr. Pickens was unable to see any mass, in other words it was not detectable!!! This doesn’t mean its “gone”, but it does mean the Chemo is obviously working on the “Type T” that typically won’t respond to Chemo. We could not be more grateful for all those involved in his care. We will continue with all 20 treatments because it is Lymphoma Type T, but we are also very hopeful for a full remission at this stage.