Bailey is my 10 year old yellow lab and the inspiration for Green Juju.
I met Bailey when she was two weeks old, and I was 19. The last ten years have been an incredible journey together. I think she has raised me more than I have raised her. Every major life decision or change I’ve made has been with Bailey at the very front and center. From using my college degree to start a dog walking business, to moving to a tugboat (she lives for the water), to now creating and making a dog food supplement, it’s all for my little girl.
In November 2013, Bailey was diagnosed with a rare joint tumor, called a Synovial Cell Sarcoma. Up until that point, I had thought of Bailey as invincible and was sure that she would be shoving tennis balls in my face at the old age of 16. This diagnosis was a serious wake up call that led me to re-evaluate her diet and lifestyle, and of course, to not take another day for granted.
There was little research done on Bailey’s rare tumor, and it is notoriously difficult to diagnose – it took 6 weeks of mistaking it for a sprain before the big “C” word was even called into question. What they do know is that this type of tumor doesn’t respond to radiation or chemotherapy, and amputation is the recommended treatment. Without amputation, the “sentence” was about 7 months, and they predicted she wouldn’t be walking after 3-4 months.
Bailey had a really hard time recovering from the biopsy they performed to diagnose the cancer. She was not herself for about three weeks and had a series of ear infections, bladder infections and systemic yeast infections following. This really opened my eyes to her current state of health. She had struggled with allergies, itchy skin and achey joints for years before, but it wasn’t until then that I realized everything was related to a root problem of chronic inflammation.
Based on Bailey’s current state of health, I opted not to go through with the amputation as I didn’t think she was healthy enough to recover from it. I had read about a lot of other tripods who developed a secondary cancer not long after amputation, and I attributed that to the body being so overwhelmed by the surgery that the cancer was able to spread. The Synovial Cell Sarcoma is a locally aggressive, but slow to spread cancer, so it wasn’t crucial to amputate immediately. I opted to treat her holistically through diet and nutrition, acupuncture, Chinese herbs and T-Touch. I worked with a team of excellent holistic vets and therapists who helped Bailey tremendously.
My first intuition was that if she had cancer in one part of her body, her body as a whole was struggling. It wasn’t just one joint, her whole body needed support. My first step was to change her diet from a high quality kibble to a raw diet. Cancer cells feed off of carbohydrates and I didn’t want to give them a chance. Next, I wanted to get some nutrient dense, fresh living foods in her. Nutrition from whole food sources that her body could easily use, just the way nature intended. I strongly believe that life feeds life and we can’t survive off of dead processed foods, neither can our dogs. Based on my own health journey and discovering how much better I felt when drinking fresh green juice and smoothies, I decided I wanted to flood Bailey with nutrition and help her body fight the cancer.
After researching a list of inflammation fighting, anti-oxidant rich, tumor inhibiting, detoxifying, immune boosting vegetables, I consulted with a canine nutritionist, Patti Howard, and Green Juju was born! I loved juicing and grinding the fresh organic vegetables for my dogs and they loved eating them. They were never vegetable eaters before, but I think they knew how good they made them feel, and they couldn’t get enough. The first time I set a bowl down for Bailey she just dunked her face and started slurping it up!
Over the next year, Bailey’s tumor slowly grew and she began putting less weight on her leg and losing muscle mass. The rest of Bailey, however, had never been healthier. Her coat and skin was finally soft and not chronically red, itchy and yeasty – for the first time in several years. She had great energy, her eyes were bright and clear like they hadn’t been since she was a puppy. The vets at her appointments were continually amazed at how well she was doing.
Bailey had so much more life in her, and her leg was just weighing her down. Seeing how much healthier Bailey was, I felt more confident that she would be able to go through amputation. It was a hard decision, but those eyes just told me she was ready. So, we went through a series of vet appointments checking blood work, chest x-rays and CT scans to look for any evidence of cancer spread. After 14 months since diagnosis, everything came back clear! She doubled her “sentence” and was still now showing any detectable signs of cancer spread! The vets all agreed that something I was doing in my crazy holistic cocktail of treatments must have worked.
Bailey had her leg amputated on December 11th. When I picked her up the next day, my tripod came running into the room with a cute little bandage over her stump and was getting around 100% fine. The staff at ACCES said she didn’t even need a sling to go potty right after surgery. What a champ.
The next two weeks post-op were awful. People told me it would be tough, and they were so right. Bailey had a really tough time with the pain meds – she shook from pain if she wasn’t on them, or she shook from anxiety if she was on them. The only way she was happy was if she was laying on top of me on the couch. After a few days of pain pills, when they said we could start weening her off, we switched to Canna Companion which was a much better option for pain management for her.
Just as those two weeks came to an end we went up to Whidbey Island for our Christmas vacation stay. We took Bailey to the dog park there and let her loose and she ran and ran like nothing ever happened. We are now two months post amputation and life is pretty much back to normal. We go on 30-45 minute walks every day and go to play at Discovery Park.
I am so glad that we waited to do the amputation because Bailey was in such better health and bounced back from surgery with no problems. We haven’t had any ear infections or bladder infections, no signs that her immune system is stressed. Just a happy, healthy tripod.
Going forward I will keep Bailey on two of the chinese herbs to help prevent cancer from recurring (in another part of the body, obviously) and continue with the raw diet and Green Juju. My only regret is not knowing the power of real food for dogs when I got Bailey ten years ago, but am so glad I found a way to get her healthy and here to shove a tennis ball in my face for years to come![UPDATE: This month will be two years post diagnosis and ten months post amputation. Bailey is truly doing better than ever. She makes us laugh every day with her puppy energy and carefree attitude. She truly has a new lease on life! She had a chest x-ray just a few weeks ago to confirm that there is still not metastasis to her lungs.]
What is your pup’s Green Juju story? We would love to hear it and share with others so they can help their pups be healthy and happy too! Share in the comments below, or on our facebook page!