A beautiful Vizsla who will soon celebrate her 12thbirthday, Bella was the first purebred Tamara Wecker ever had. “I was the girl who brought home strays and rescues,” she laughs. But her then-husband had always loved and had them, and when Tamara’s dog passed away at age 15, “we went and picked her out.”
She was 8 or 9 weeks old, and “looked like a lil orange marshmallow,” Tamara smiles. “We’ve had lots and lots of bonding time.”
After divorcing in 2007, “It was just the two of us for quite some time,” says Tamara. “We did have people renting over the years, which Bella, being so social, absolutely loved.” So social, that often when they went to the dog park, “Bella would give a quick hello to the dogs, then go to the nearest group of humans and find someone to lean on. She loves everyone.”
“Even now she has a lot of energy,” says Tamara, adding that she has slowed down a little, as she’s becoming an older lady. “We don’t really do dog parks anymore, but we do long walks, and she absolutely loves going to the beach.”
“She’s pretty flexible . . . she just likes to get out, meet people, and she has several walking routes she has to check”, Tamara laughs. “You’ve gotta check the day’s pee-mail!”
While healthy, “Bella was always a lumpy girl. She was probably pretty average, but with her short, fine coat I could really see the lumps.”
Tamara was vigilant about having any new lump checked, “And I was often told, ‘this is nothing’ — almost like I was a nuisance.”
When Bella was 10, two lumps showed up “overnight” on the backs of her legs. “What was strange . . . first the location, but they were perfectly even. I thought this is not normal — something’s wrong.”
The family vet diagnosed Bella with lymphoma a few days before Memorial Day. They explained that it could be treated, but not cured.
“Something came over me that . . . nope, it’s not her time yet,” says Tamara. “I asked Bella what she wanted me to do in this. I got the feeling she was not done.”
Her vet recommended Bella go to Cascade Veterinary Referral Center, saying “the doctors are just amazing — if anyone can help you with this, they can.”
Treatment began with steroids, and then six months of chemotherapy.
“She did much better than I imagined,” says Tamara. “I had to get past the difference between what humans go through. The doctor explained that Bella’s chemotherapy regimen was a tiny fraction of what is given humans, and that dogs don’t usually suffer significant side effects.
Bella did experience some, including stomach upset, sensitivity to touch, and bouts of being more tired than usual. However, once treatment started, “she was in remission almost right away.”
“At 10 she was still like a puppy, she had so much energy!” says Tamara. But during treatment, Tamara says there were times that, “instead of walking the usual few miles, she’d just stop, turn around, and say, ‘not today.’ She’s a total rock star . . . I wish I were more like my dog.”
After the prescribed six months of chemo and steroids, Bella was placed on metronomic therapy, which Tamara explains is a tiny dose of chemo from which she saw no side effects. “CVRC gave me the option, although it still isn’t widely used . . . it was mostly prophylactic, but it seemed like a good idea after everything she’d been through.”
Tamara says this has been an ongoing learning experience, adding that now, as Bella moves into her senior years, she’s learning even more. What does she look forward to in the years ahead?
“I hope its years,” she replies. “One thing Cascade really gave me is that what’s happening right now is how it’s supposed to be. She’s going into her old age and the issues that go along with that. I’m just thankful we had the opportunity to get to this part.”
“We’ve had a lot of great time together,” Tamara says. “Even during treatment she was still my Bella.”
Some days, when buried in a book or watching a movie, Tamara finds herself suddenly drawn out. “I’ll stop what I’m doing and make time to just sit with her and be in the moment. We communicate so well after all we’ve been through. I just try to be a good listener.”
Postscript: While the above seemed the end of Tamara’s telling of Bella’s story so far, she added the following, which readers may enjoy.
“I’m a few blocks away from Cascade . . . I didn’t even really understand the resource that was there.
“I can’t even get Bella to leave. She LOVES them! She adores them. I practically have to drag her out of there.”
“I can’t imagine having gone through this with anyone else. They made me feel like everything was going to be okay. I’ll do anything that helps gets that out there.”
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