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Mark Ehlers | all galleries >> The Life and Times of Zoomer > Zoomer: Our Greyhound cancer survivor
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Zoomer: Our Greyhound cancer survivor

Zoomer was born on January 18th, 2000. I first saw him when he was 8 weeks old,
and adopted him one week later. He has been with me thru some of the most difficult
years of my life. In late summer of 2008, just 6 months after getting married,
he began having problems running on his right rear leg. At first I thought
he had just injured a muscle or connective tissue from slipping while running.
But after he didn't show signs of recovery, on October 20, 2008 we went to see
the vet. An x-ray confirmed what I had quietly feared: bone cancer.

As I write this on November 10th, Zoomer's pain has been helped by the medications,
but each day it gets more challenging to get him to take them. There have been a
couple nights when he can hardly sleep, and I pet and comfort him, and lay beside him
for a while until he falls asleep. Linda, my wife, never having been a dog person,
has fallen in love with Zoomer. Unfortunately, she is now experiencing the most difficult
part of dog ownership. She has been a blessing to both me and Zoomer though, displaying
a natural love for him that amazes me everyday of my life. Her devotion to keep him as
comfortable as possible and make him feel loved, is an inspiration and encouragement during
this very difficult time. May God bless you, Sweetheart, for adapting to this difficult role
so nobly and so passionately. And may God bless you for being the woman whom I am humbled and
honored to share in this marriage with. I know that God loves me dearly...after all, he gave me you.

Here you will see pictures I've taken over the years that show Zoomer in all phases of his life.
I will continue to add new ones that I will be taking as long as the Lord allows us
to care for this beautiful creation of His.

11/14/08 : Zoomer had lung x-rays taken this morning, and they showed no cancer.
Osteosarcoma often metastisizes into the lungs if given enough time. We have the ray of hope
we had been praying for! He is now scheduled for an operation on Monday morning to amputate
the cancerous leg. Please pray for him that the surgery goes well.

11/17/08: It was a challenging operation. Zoomer's blood pressure had dropped dangerlously
low at one point, but the doctor and his team proceeded with the necessary requirement to
keep him alive. It seems that the cancer had pretty much disolved the bone and internal
bleeding had begun. It was clear that the operation had to be performed today, or the
alternative would have been necessary.

The hardest part is over, and now Zoomer will rest for about three days in the hospital.
If everything goes well, he should come home on Wednesday evening, and where he will
continue his recuperation. Then in a couple more weeks, we will begin chemo treatments.

Thanks to everyone for all your thoughts and prayers. They really meant a lot. Bless you.
I will continue to add updates concerning Zoomer's progress.

11/18/08, 6:15 pm: Just got back from the vet clinic to visit Zoomer.
He hasn't eaten all day, but I'm not surprized. Greyhounds in general,
are not the food inhalers that many other breeds are. Then when you add
the vulnerability factor, they become even more tentative when it comes
to eating. To animals, the act of eating itself, even when healthy,
is a vulnerable position to put yourself in. Many animals, even wild ones,
will not begin to eat their prey until they feel safe or can transfer the
prey to a safer, more private location. Linda will be bringing fresh
chicken breasts in for him tomorrow morning, and that should help.

As far as the recovery goes, he seems to be doing fine. The right side
of his hind quarters is completly shaved. His right rear leg was completly
removed, from the hip socket and all the way down. The sutures look good.
They cover a rather large area. Man, that was quite a job. He was up and
outside a few times today, and I took him out once while we were there tonight.
Because he hadn't been using the bad leg for nearly a month already,
he is able to get up and down with just one rear leg. But it's not like
it's that easy. Greyhounds have a narrow and tall body, so their lateral
stability is compromised even more so after such an operation than most other breeds.

I got there first, and he was happy to see me. My wife arrived a few minutes later,
and he gave her a tail waggin' too. We left him with his favorite stuffie,
his teddy bear. If all goes well, we will be bringing him home tomorrow night
after I get off work. I'm probably going to take my last couple days of vacation
I have left for this year for Thursday and Friday.

It's weird, coming home and not having Zoomer barking and jumping
up to greet me. And tonight, every little creak in the house makes me
think that Zoomer is getting up from the other room to check out what
I'm up to, or just to be with me.

11/20/08: We picked Zoomer (Captain Z) up from the clinic yesterday afternoon.
He was SOOOOOOOOOOOO happy to see us. He apparently refused any pain killers yesterday,
so we got to see his FULL joy when we walked in. I did administer a dose of tramadol
last night though, and it allowed him to sleep better.

It's funny though, because during the week or two leading up to the surgery,
that he was always run down from either the pain or the morphine. We hadn't seen
him really HAPPY through that period, and it was very tough on both me and my wife.
But last night is the first time I've seen him happy in weeks, about 90% I would say.
It's like we have our old friend back.

I want to say "thank you" from the bottom of my heart, for all the kind thoughts and
prayers sent this way.

11/25/08: It's been a week since Zoomer had his cancerous leg amputated
and his recovery is coming along pretty well. Next Monday, he will begin
a series of four chemo treatments at three weeks apart, to combat any
residual cancer that might still be lurking around inside his body.

12/1/08: Well, Zoomer made it through his first chemo treatment okay.
He's been such a good boy though all this. I've always thought that he would be
a real beast if he would even require a lot of "personal" handling.
But the doctor has said that Zoomer's been very cooperative through all the
procedures and hasn't required anything to calm him down.

We picked him up just a couple hours ago, and he was SOOOO happy to see us.
He has a little bed sore that must be a result of him laying on his good side
for so long, but other than that things are going about as well as they could.
Right now, my main focus is to make sure he eats enough. He's lost almost 10#
since before the surgery (that's including the amputated leg). He's always been
a finicky eater, so to get him to put on weight isn't easy. He did a eat a bowl
of turkey and cottage cheese when we came home though, and a couple freeze-dried
chicken strips.

12/11/08: Zoomer's recovery is coming along well. He is getting some of his weight
back as his appetite has returned. He even went out for a romp in the snow
the other day, as he fetched sticks that I threw out for him. His old playful
personality has returned. It's clear that he loves life again! And we are blessed
to have our "new" boy back!

12/13/08: Today was a real milestone for Zoomer. For the first time in possibly
5 years, he has gone to a Greyhound Meet & Greet. We had made plans to meet my
old friend, Kathleen there, also hoping to meet her female grey, Molly Crackers.

Well, when my wife Linda, Zoomer, and I walked through the doors of the pet store,
we were immediately greeted with shouts of "Hi, Zoomer!". We were all overwhelmed
with the unexpected greeting! The thing is, Kathleen is the only one who has ever met
Zoomer, so to hear this kind of welcome was a blessing that I cannot begin to describe.

Over the next hour, we all gathered in the area of the store set aside for the
Meet & Greet, meeting greyhounds AND their humans. We had a total of 8 greys there
at one time, and they were all so well behaved (the humans too!). Treats were given
out (not to the humans) as we all got to know each other. In the nearly 9 years
I have had Zoomer, he hasnever been around this many greys before at one time.
And personally, I was amazed at how well these pups behaved when grouped in such a
confined area.

So let me just say to all who attended todays Meet & Greet, Linda, Zoomer, and I were
especially blessed to have had this special time with you all. The past few months
have been a challenging time for us, seeing our boy through the cancer and the amputation.
Please consider him in your prayers, as he still has 3 more chemo treatments to get through.

Bless you all, hug your hounds, and have a very merry Christmas.

1/18/2009: Zoomer turns 9 years old today!

3/13/2009: I know it's been a while since I've posted here.
Everything has been going well with Zoomer. He made it through all
of his chemotherapy treatments and is thriving like a new pup.
I get him out for regular walks and even some short runs.

4/26/2009: I write this on a warm spring day, when tulips are beginning
to bloom in our front yard, and the promise of new life is coming to
fruition in many ways. Our beloved greyhound Zoomer is enjoying the
warm breezes and smells on our walks. He and I often play "fetch the stick"
in our front yard. I can't help to feel that this past year's battle has
changed him, as if he knows he has been given a second chance in life.
Or maybe it has changed me, and I've just learned to more fully appreciate
this precious friend of ours. It is such a joy to see the delight he shows
in playing outside, and the childlike joy he continues to experience even
in this 9th year of his life, the year that almost didn't happen.

The miracle year.

6/24/2009: Zoomer has been doing rather well through the spring and now
as we enter a new summer. He has had many days lying around in the front
yard with my wife and me. He has enjoyed chasing squirrels up the trees,
even hoping on the one rear leg as he would "tree" the squirrel. And
when my wife or I have to go somewhere, he gets excited and barks as
passionately as he has ever done, rebelling that the "pack" is breaking up.
In short, his zest for life has been present every day since his surgery,
and has caused our house to be filled with much laughter and joy.

But over the past couple days, we have also noticed a sort of stiffness
in his rear leg and/or body. He has been panting a lot lately. And even
though the weather has been hot, it seems he has even panted in the
coolness of our air-conditioned house. Last night he was restless about
2:00 AM and needed to go outisde, even though he had been out just a couple
hours earlier. It seems he was uncomfortable.

This afternoon, my wife called me at work and said that he was hanging
a lot of problems getting up and laying down, as if he couldn't decide
which was more comfortable. She was able to give him a pain pill.
And when he tried to lay down, he would cry and give up. I came home
a little while later. It seems his back is a bit twisted. I'm not sure
if it's injured, or if he's twisting it to compensate for some other pain cancer.

He just ate two raw beef patties, a full day's amount of food for him.
That's good. This has been the main part of his diet ever since his
surgery. Now he is sleeping on his bed in the office with me. We have an
appointment tomorrow afternoon at the vet. I'm taking the day off work.

Zoomer has been through so much this past year. He is a cancer survivor.
It is now just over 7 months since the day he had his cancerous leg
amputated to save his life. I always knew that the cancer could come back.
The doctor had told us that it could be months, or it could be years.
When my wife talked with the vet today over the phone, she said it could be
something very serious, like cancer, or it could be something as simple
as a pulled muscle.

I know that we will have to let go of him someday. But we are hoping that
this miracle dog can be with us for at least a couple more years yet.

If you are reading this, please pray for Zoomer. We are.

6/26/09: Well, it seems the lung x-rays and blood test came up negative
for cancer. So far, so good. The vet said that the source of pain must
be localized, and could be anything from arthritis to a nerve problem
from the amputated leg that is just now showing up. I guess it might be
hard to nail down the source of pain right now. With Zoomer's rear body
being required to work in an asymmetrical fashion, it's being stressed
in ways that can be difficult to know what's all going on inside.
He said there is the possibility of cancer in the other rear leg,
but for now he seems to feel that is less likely. Our regular vet
is on vacation right now, and we'll talk about a leg x-ray when he returns.

Zoomer's pain addressed will be a mixture of three meds: morphine,
Rimadyl, and Gabapentin. Zoomer got an injection of Rimadyl yesterday,
and it seems that might have helped some. Today we had a few short,
easy walks in the yard. Later, we sat together on a blanket under a
shade tree, and barked at a couple dogs walking by (okay, I actually
didn't do any of the barking myself). All in all, it seems Zoomer is
feeling a bit better today, so all those prayers must be helping.

8/19/09: Zoomer's condition has stabilized over the past couple weeks.
We have taken him completely off the morphine and we never even started
the Gabapentin. For now, I usually give him one Rimdadyl every 24-hours,
and that seems to keep him pretty comfortable and happy. One change we've
had to make is to just be more aware of how much physical stress we allow
him to have. His walks are short, usually only around the yard, but they are
regular. An old greyhound-owner friend of mine, who has known Zoomer almost
since day-one, is a canine massage therapist. She was kind enough to come
over one evening to instruct us how do give Zoomer massages.

We're in a new stage of Zoomer's life. In one year, he's gone from a spry,
very agile speed-machine, to a 3-legged, elderly cancer-survivor. But it's
obvious that he still loves life, and blesses us with his little smile every
time we come walking through that door after a long, hard day at work.

He's not ready to give up, and neither are we.

6/30/2010: This afternoon at approximately 5:30 pm, we said good-bye to our friend, our defender, our resident comic, Zoomer (aka: Captain Z, Z-man, Crow Dog, Zoomer-boomer, Boomer Boy, and many others).

Earlier in the afternnon, I had spent a couple hours with him on the front lawn, reading and feeding him some of my wife's delicious lemon-butter chicken. I spilt a half-package of Lorna Doone shortbread cookies with him. Then I gave him a nice rub-down with a warm, wet towel. While lying on his favorite spot, the warm sun slowly dried his still very thick and beautifully sleek coat. I shot a roll of Kodachrome 64 with my Leica MP and the 50/1.4 Summilux.

When the time came to put him to sleep, we had planned on putting Zoomer's huge bolster bed out of the front lawn, along with some blankets and some of his favorite stuffed toys. But I didn't want him to be outside if he was uncomfortable with it, as lately he had been just wanting to go out just long enough to do his duty and then come back inside to lie down. But two times before the vet arrived, as the three of us sat in the front room, Zoomer made it clear that he wanted to remain outside. And so we did.

The day was perfect: Beautiful sunny skies, with a gentle north-east breeze. The birds were singing as they flew in and out of our trees around our little camp. It couldn't have been a more perfect day, and it was clear that Zoomer wanted to be right there in the middle of all this beauty.

Finally, the time came. As the injection was given, my wife sang a song to him that she has sung many times over the past year to comfort him. Then she said she wanted my voice to be the final one that he would hear. So I repeated the words several times as we petted him gently together: "Good boy, good Zoomer. I love you". And slowly, and ever so gently, Zoomer began to fall into the deep sleep.

It is now 9:20 pm as I write this. My wife and I have just returned form eating supper out with my mom. A couple friends have already dropped off sympathy cards and flowers. As we walk through the door, we enter a very quiet house, but one that is filled with many precious memories of our very special friend we were blessed to have in our lives for too short of a time.

Zoomer "Captain Z" Ehlers - January 18, 2000 - June 30, 2010
"May you rest in peace, my special friend, until we meet again someday."

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Terry Alexander29-Nov-2011 14:52
Mark, so sorry to hear that Zoomer lost his battle with cancer. My thoughts are with you both and with Zoomer as he runs free at the bridge.

Terry Alexander21-Nov-2011 16:03
So sorry to read this Mark. We have lost many fur kids over the years and a true dog lover can understand the love and happiness they bring and the pain of losing them. Obviously tis message is long after the fact but my thoughts are with you both. I am sure Zoomer is running free of pain at the bridge.

Terry Alexander21-Nov-2011 16:00
So sorry to read this Mark. We have lost many fur kids over the years and a true dog lover can understand the love and happiness they bring and the pain of losing them. Obviously tis message is long after the fact but my thoughts are with you both. I am sure Zoomer is running free of pain at the bridge.

Louise K 07-Dec-2010 00:21
So sorry. I am at this moment losing my beautiful Jaycee. 10 years old.It is a fear of coming home and not having her run around so excited to see me. I live by myself and this will be a difficult time. She has given me so much joy and happiness as yours did. They are amazing. I hope this finds you doing well and remembering all the fun and wonderful time you had with her. My thoughts and prayers are with you.
Yiannis Pavlis12-Aug-2009 03:20
This is really sad...I hope everything will be fine for that beautiful dog..