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.


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.

46 Responses to “In the Face of Challenges, Be a Dog”

  1. Cora Tamura says:

    Haha, great post. I loved your post. Continue posting!

  2. Laurel says:

    Just checking in, dear friend, to see how Amber girl is doing. Am thinking lots about you all and sending hugs and love.

    • Thanks, Laurel. She is a little more painful today just because it was time to remove the pain patch and she really doesn’t want to settle down and rest. (Like owner, like dog.) So she had a laser treatment and we upped her pain meds just a little today.

  3. Mike Golebiewski says:

    although this story is heartbreaking, it is a story of triump…. i have had airedales my whole life.. no doubt your baby will make it…. PLEASE post more pics as i am waiting and wanting to watch to see her… my wife and i both have had cancer, lost two of our baby dales within 1 month of each other (that was rough)…… we have two now and they both are not only a treat for us but an inspiration….. best of luck Mike

    • Hi Mike,
      Please check out the pictures I just posted today. We are very encouraged. I am so sorry to hear about your baby dales. That must have been so hard! You and your wife take care. Cancer is affecting too many of us–whether we have feet or paws!
      Blessings to you!

  4. barb says:

    sorry to hear–but she should do well for quite a while yet 3 legs don’t seem to bother them as much as it bothers. i have had airedales for over 30 years and still have 2. have had to survive many trials with them but they all lived 12-almost 16 years. dogs are the greatest and airedales the finest of these.
    never mind the “good thoughts”— we will be praying!!!!!!

  5. Suzanne Iorio says:

    Sending healing angels to sweet Amber.

  6. Nancy Kimmel says:

    Nancy, Dave, Sadie and Trooper send “Golden” love, and wet kisses to your darling Amber! I can’t wait to see her, and I know she is going to be racing around the house with Krissy soon.

  7. Lori Nelson says:

    Hi! I do not have a website, but I love your book, and have 2 dales, and a beagle. My last Dale I adopoted was from being a bad foster mom. (We just had to keep him!) Keep us posted on how Amber is doing! Sending her lots and lots of airezen!!

  8. Maya Smets says:

    I hope to read very soon the healing has started dear Amber! I wish you and your family lots of strenght and I’m sending you many hugs and healing energy. You’ll make it, sweet girl! <3<3<3

  9. Molly, Taffy, Monty and Winnie says:

    We are sending Amber loads of airzen for a speedy recovery and hope she adjusts very quickly.

  10. Beth Goldstein says:

    Amber shows great spirit and integrity in a situation that could of put many of us human’s down. It says a lot for her and the humans who support her daily.

    • Beth, Thanks for sharing this comment. I think it is only fair that we behave with as much strength and unconditional love as our canine family members. Hugs to you!

  11. Nikki says:

    She will do just fine. I am glad she came out of the surgery Ok and that she has had the good fortune to have her “People” love her enough to do this for her. Give her a hug for me….

    • Nikki, We will deliver your hugs, those of others and our own when we pick her up later today. Only people who love dogs know why the sacrifices that we make for them are small in comparison to what they give to us!

  12. carolyn & mosby says:

    wishing Amber many wonderful days ahead

  13. Tessa Hopkins says:

    Wishing Amber and family everything of the best. We were not so lucky with our baby it turned out to be osteosarcoma of the ribs. xxx Wishing you lots of happy hours chasing squirrels in the future.

    • Tessa, We are so sorry to hear that your cancer diagnosis was not so encouraging. Osteosarcoma is a nasty disease and is becoming far too common. Hold onto all the happy memories that you have had with your special friend. XO

  14. Katrina says:

    Amber & & my hounds are sending you the best of wishes & love..take care sweetheart. We are thinking of you..,xx

  15. Hi Amber! Your story was pointed out to me by a friend who has Airdales. My name is Darcy and I am a Deerhound in the UK. Back in October 2007 I walked across the living room and my leg broke. X-rays that day revealed that I too had a bone tumour but in my case, it *was* the dreaded Osteosarcoma. Mum and Dads choice was the same as your humans – euthanasia or amputation. They too opted for amputation (as my lungs were clear, like yours). Your humans know the statisticss for Osteo (UK stats show that it WILL have spread in 98% of cases before the humans are even aware that their dog has got it) but with Chondrosarcoma, UK stats show that the spread rate is wayyyyyyyyyyyyy lower at 20%. Take heart Amber and humans. This week I celebrated 51 months since my diagnosis and amputation (and subsequent chemo). I’m glad your surgery is over and done with and that you are now on the way to recovery. That pawly leg of yours was just a spare. You’ll do fine with 3, just like me! Find me on FB if you would like to chat further or your humans can contact my humans via our website contact form

    *nose pokes from one survivor to another*

  16. Sally Leach says:

    BIG Hugs to all from P, Q, R, S & T (Peter Pan, Quincy, Rupert, Sally & Tyndall! )

  17. Beth Granger says:

    I had a “tripod” german shephard due to a car accident. She did just fine after a short period of adjustment. I hope the same will be true for Amber. :)

    • Beth, Thanks for sharing this story about your German Shephard. Many others have also shared their stories of their incredible tripods. I have no reason to doubt that Amber will adapt.

  18. Sue Shannon says:

    I have been a fan / friend of yours for years now, and I can’t believe I’m reading this. It sounds like you have made very thoughtful and intelligent decisions regarding Amber’s care. Knowing how very strong that Airedale spirit is, I have no doubt that she will surprise you with her resilience and adaptability. Sending hugs from WI, and our pack of 3 ‘dales, 1 Welshie and 1 Border Terrier.
    ~Sue Shannon

    • Dear Sue,

      Your kind words have truly touched me. Thank you for sending your love and support. I love Wisconsin!

      Many blessings to all of your family (two- and four-legged)!


  19. Wyatt says:

    Kisses and hugs to Amber and her people. Airedales have such a zest for life and seldom show pain. We cross our paws and say our prayers for Amber tonight. Get well soon missy, there are holes to dig and squirrels to chase!

    Wyatt, Stanzie, Paul and Sue

    • Wyatt, Stanzie, Paul & Sue, Thanks for keeping your paws crossed and sending your prayers. I really think it is helping! I am sure Amber will be back to her old tricks in no time!

  20. Jamie Leib says:

    Sending big hugs to you both. I am glad to hear your sweet Amber is out of surgery. Keep us posted!

  21. Linda Webb says:

    I am so touched by your story and hope that Amber is doing and continues to do very well with her recent surgery. I, too, have an Airedale so I found your story to be especially moving. Grif is 13 years old and my heart goes out to you reading that you had to make several very difficult choices. I hope I can find the strength and find the right answers if I have similar challenges. Grif is like family, so I know how difficult that can be. I am hoping all good things to Amber and to you and your family. They are like family and we love them just as much! God bless!

    • Thank you for your kind words, Linda. Yes, our dogs are as much a part of our families as our children (and are often less exasperating). After all, our dogs never look at us and say, “Mom, you are so embarrassing!” They just love us no matter what. And even though we know we won’t have them forever, we just need to enjoy the time we do have. Grif sounds like a lucky dog to have you!

  22. Terry says:

    Please keep us posted Max and Robin. Amber has a tough journey ahead, but she’s definitely got the right spirit for it!!

  23. Sheri Karmiol says:

    The Karmiol pack sends healing wishes and lots of healing Zen to Amber. Our Hobbes, who will be 7 in 5 weeks, had a cancerous tumor removed from his foot 2 weeks ago. Thus far we aren’t facing amputation, but if it comes to that Amber is our role model. You go girl!!

  24. We are sending white light and healing AireZen to Amber & her family. AireHugs from Auntie Sidney & NosePokes from Queen Rose and Duke the DoxieDale