Amber Teaches Us about our own Resiliency and Adaptability

January 20th, 2012 by Robin Reynolds

As reported Amber’s surgery went very well, but we didn’t realize the full extent of its success until we went to pick her up last night from the animal hospital. Charging through the doors, Amber came sprinting towards us on all 3’s, grinning broadly with her tail wagging furiously.

YAY!!! I’m outta here!

The hospital technician ran along beside her, trying to support her with a towel, but she quickly showed us that she didn’t need it.

What are we hanging around here for, Dad? I’m ready to boogie!!

She hadn’t eaten much at the hospital, but the moment she got home, she headed straight for the cupboard that houses her treats and demanded her Greenie. Then she ate, not one, but TWO portions of chicken and brown rice and went outside and pooped. I know this may be more information that you wanted to know, but if you knew the amount of anxiety that existed in my household about how she would be able to handle this, you would know why this was something to celebrate!

Today marks the first anniversary of my mother’s passing and it was just the beginning of many losses that we endured during the past year. When Amber’s cancer was first diagnosed, I wondered: What lesson are we supposed to learn from this? Now I am thinking that perhaps, Amber’s strength of spirit is meant to remind us of our own resilience and adaptability. In the face of change that is compounded by grief, hurt, and disappointment, we humans may wonder how we will get through it all. But Amber shows us that with love and faith, all things are possible. Thanks, Amber, for reminding us who we are with your amazing attitude and incredible courage. As Max and I wrote in Life to the Max, “…be grateful for every teacher who leads you—even if it’s the one at the end of the leash!”

Speaking of gratitude, I want to shout out to our vet, Dr. Tracy Wight and the amazing staff of McClintock Animal Care Center for their continued caring concern, faithful follow up and patient hand- holding. Also we want to thank Dr. Christopher Monarski, Dr. Miller, Donna, Jordan and all the other technicians and staff of VCA Animal Referral and Emergency Center of Arizona who calmly answered all our questions and soothed our fears during this anxious time. If you are in the East Valley in Phoenix, Arizona, you will not find better veterinary professionals.

Stay tuned for more news next week after we meet the oncologist!

In the Face of Challenges, Be a Dog

January 18th, 2012 by Robin Reynolds

I had been annoyed with her. I had come back from our Thanksgiving trip with a sinus infection and I had gotten behind. I wasn’t feeling much in the holiday spirit anyway, but Amber was in it from the moment I entered the house with shopping bags. She would greet me at the door and thrust her whole head in the bag to make sure I wasn’t trying to slip something good past her.

But the night I was wrapping presents was the worst. Even though I had locked our bedroom door, she knew how to thrust her nose against the door just right, so she could pop the lock. In she rushed, running through my wrapping papers…

Amber gets into the holiday spirit!

…pulling ribbons out of my container…

What a sneaky little devil!

…and standing on her back legs to strain to see what toys I had hid for her high in my closet.

Then on Christmas morning, she had been the first one up, trying to push through the barricades we were forced to erect each year to keep her from sneaking her stocking too early.

“Gimme!”

You just had to enjoy the holidays with Amber around.

Those of us who have Airedales in our families know how stalwart these dogs can be and with so much zest for life, how could we have been prepared–just one week after getting a clean bill health from her routine health check-up–that we would receive devastating news?

I had been noticing that Amber was getting up a little slower, but she had knee surgery when she was a puppy and we all thought maybe she was getting a little arthritis. After all, she is almost 11. Then came the day when she and Krissy were doing their usual rough-housing when she came up lame. I took her back to our vet who checked for Valley Fever, but then referred us to us a specialty hospital. Still, I thought it was an orthopedic issue, so I was shocked when the specialist there told me he suspected cancer. A few days later, the bone biopsy revealed chrondrosarcoma—a small piece of good news in the face of the more aggressive osteosarcoma that was originally suspected.

It is hard to step away from your emotions when challenges like these involve your family members. But instead of reproaching yourself for things you might have done differently, you have to be a dog and stay in the moment. You can’t look back and you can’t look too far forward. You have to deal with what’s in front of you right now and only this, nothing more. When we did this, it is very clear to us that Amber is not ready to leave us. Her heart is strong and her lungs are clear. She is always looking forward and her resilience inspires us. The time that we’ve had to deal with this has been short and given her age on paper, decisions have not been easy. But considering her spirit, that bone and cartilage cancer is very painful, and that her bone is at high risk to fracture, we chose to have Amber’s leg amputated today. We ask our friends and fans to send healing thoughts to Amber and to watch our blog for updates. I will be posting about Amber’s journey as a tripod and cancer survivor–because I believe she won’t just survive, she will thrive. I know this because today I am not just a dog; I’m an Airedale!

P.S. Amber is out of surgery and doing very well.