Are you ready for cuteness overload? Well grab your hankie for today’s Tripawd Tuesday superstar! You’ll cry and smile and most importantly celebrate the remarkable Kokomo, a two year osteosarcoma survivor and rescue dog warrior! Here’s his beautiful story as told by his mamma Carla.
Two years ago, our world was turned upside down… Kokomo, who had been limping for a couple of weeks, was just diagnosed with osteosarcoma (bone cancer). We were devastated to say the least, in shock and disbelief that this could be happening to our sweet boy who we had just rescued 1.5 years before.
He was born deaf and was found as a stray – filthy, emaciated and dejected in Miami. We had also just lost Sammy less than a year before, and Kaya several months later… how could it be that we were dealt with another dog heartbreak so soon? We were scared, sad, angry, anxious, terrified, unsure… the unspoken question, “Did this mean Kokomo was going to die soon?!?! How much time did we have???”
After days of hazy tears and numbness, I dealt with it the best way I knew how – by doing all the research I could about this disease and learning what our options were. I had never met a tripawd before (three-legged dog)… I didn’t know how they would cope. I found the Tripawds website and started looking at a lot of videos online, and reading many stories similar to ours.
I devoured the book “The Dog Cancer Survival Guide” by Dr. Demian Dressler. Tentative relief came – we were not alone. There was incredible information and support online. We wrapped our heads around the amputation… our deaf boy would soon be a tripawd. Reading the statistics, there was no question in our minds it is what we would do… life expectancy without treatment (amputation and chemotherapy) was only 6 months at most, and the dog would be suffering in severe pain. With amputation and chemotherapy, we were looking at an average of 12 months… bought time. Only 25% were alive 2 years after amputation and chemo, and 20% after 3 years. We had no idea how much time we had with Kokomo, but we were determined to do it all.
Next came figuring out who would do his surgery and chemo… who could we trust with our precious dog’s life??? We had been referred to Coral Springs Animal Hospital, but I was traumatized by my experience there with Kaya. I asked around and did my research, and found Animal Cancer Care Clinic based in Fort Lauderdale. We went for a consult, and immediately felt reassured by the warmth and caring of the staff and vets, especially Dr. Weinstein the surgeon, and Dr. Correa the oncologist. His surgery was scheduled right away, and on this day, 2 years ago, Kokomo lost his right front leg, and the nasty cancer in it.
The weeks following the surgery were challenging and draining to say the least. He needed to be on strict bed-rest/crate restriction to prevent post-operative complications like suture dehiscence and seroma/hematoma formation. It broke my heart to see him in the crate in pain, dazed and confused, so I chose to let him lay and sleep on the bed. His wound was oozing and draining, and I had to lay many towels down so it wouldn’t get on the bed and sheets. My days were spent cleaning and dressing his surgical incision, putting warm compresses on it, helping him walk, lifting him up and down the bed, feeding him, giving him round the clock pain meds, cooking his food, and doing loads and loads of laundry.
Kokomo, who had always been a daddy’s boy, was glued to my side during his recovery. He refused to eat unless I hand fed him, and he would only rest and sleep if I was right next to him. I worried when he was so constipated from the pain meds and didn’t poop for a week. My heart broke when he started having phantom limb pain and would wake up suddenly from sleep with a jolt and panic, as if electric shocks were coursing through his little body. I stopped counting all the teardrops shed, they would have filled an ocean.
Slowly, slowly, he healed and got better. After 2 weeks, we went back to have his sutures removed, and to start IV chemotherapy (Carboplatin). He would undergo 6 treatments spaced 3 weeks apart each time… and after that, we opted to do an additional 6 months of oral chemotherapy (Palladia). Thankfully, Kokomo tolerated chemo very well. He was a little more tired and would have occasional diarrhea, but his cell count remained good, and he had no vomiting.
The entire time, he remained so strong, a true warrior. I marveled at how well he adapted to being a Tripawd, and how happy and carefree he still was. When he would roll around the grass on his back, my eyes would fill with tears of joy and laughter… this was what life was about, treasuring every single moment. My boy and his cancer had taught me very important life lessons… to live in the moment, to live everyday like your last, to love with abandon and to cherish life itself. I was still scared… I had no idea how much time I would have with him, I still don’t. Tomorrow is never promised. If you asked me 2 years ago if I could have imagined that this is where we would be now, I would not have dared to hope it… 25% alive in 2 years… and here we are, so so lucky to be part of that 25%.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring… but I do know that for today, I will love him with every atom of my body, with every fiber of my being. I will push my nose into his scruff and inhale deeply… I will stroke his fur… I will cuddle and hold him tight… I will let him lick me with his stinky breath… I will let him roll around on the grass even after a bath… I will let him ride in the car with the windows rolled down… I will let him be a stubborn bullie and refuse to walk.
I will feed him the best food I can, I will continue to bring him to his vets regularly, I will continue to give him all his medicine, I will continue to clean his ears, cut his nails, brush his teeth and give him a bath. I won’t mind the torn sheets, the ripped up toys, the muddy and sandy paws, the dirty stains, the saliva, the vomit and diarrhea, the dog hair everywhere, the stinky breath, the “dog smell” in my house, the spilled water and dog food and dog treat crumbs on the floor. I will continue to buy him cute shirts and bring him with me everywhere I can…… because I do not know how long we will have.
Until then, I want to cherish every single moment, because they are all gifts… HE is a gift. I am forever changed by having him in my life… Kaya my heart dog and first bull terrier brought me to bull terrier rescue… Kokomo expanded my heart more specifically for dogs with disability and cancer.
THANK YOU GOD for this day, for every single day and every single moment, and most of all THANK YOU for my precious boy. Happy 2 year Ampuversary dear Kokomo… with God’s grace, we will have many more.
From Marley & Me:
“[Kokomo] taught me about living each day with unbridled exuberance and joy, about seizing the moment and following your heart. He taught me to appreciate the simple things… and as he grew old and achy, he taught me about optimism in the face of adversity.”
We Want Your Tripawd Tuesday Story!
Each Tuesday, Tripawd dogs and cats from around the world can enter for a chance to be “Tripawd of the Week.” Just share your Tripawd’s story and you’re entered to win! On every Tuesday of the week, tell us about your three-legged hero. Just follow these easy steps:
- In a short paragraph or two (or longer if you’d like!), describe your three-legged hero’s story.
- Include photos or links to videos already uploaded to YouTube.
- Include a link to your Tripawds Forum topic and/or Tripawds blog, social media handles, etc.
- Email your story and photos to us.
All entries must be received by Saturday at 11:59 pm. One Tripawd story will be selected at random to be featured the following Tuesday.