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Juno’s story so far...
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Pennsylvania


Member Since:
4 July 2023
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20 September 2023 - 11:00 am
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A bit about Juno (aka June) herself:

June is a 37lb (34lb post-amp), 9yr 8mo hound mix. Re: hound mix - she could actually be a purebred Mountain Cur (she looks like one right down to the bobtail and was picked up in an area that has a higher concentration of this breed), or she could be some mix of whippet / boxer / beagle / pittie / whatever. She’s quite handsome and distinctive looking so we just call her “The type specimen of her kind”.

Juno in the early days enjoying her crinkle goat toyImage Enlarger

She came to us at 1.5yrs old (approx.) from a nearby organization of fosters who draw their animals from high-kill shelters in the surrounding area. June was selected to foster because she was fearful and didn’t “show” well in the stressful kennel environment where she’d been brought in as a stray. She was very nervous when we met but something in her spoke to us. (You know the feeling, right? Sure you do. :))

She was tough and a lot of work in those early years - alternately very shut down or keyed-up and anxious. It took a year and a half of patient, steady work to house train her and eventually warm her to guests and new people. She was hand-shy, avoided our gaze, and yelped at sudden movements. 

The first trick we ever taught her was to simply look us in the eye. She’s now ace at this and has a deeply soul-staring gaze that she uses shamelessly on anyone. Our vet says she could score millions for pets in need: cue Sarah McLachlan soundtrack. She also has a more intense stare she employs to communicate that she has an immediate need and requires your services as her accomplice.

Juno looking adoringly upImage Enlarger

Within short order we discovered that the key to her heart and confidence is training. If she has a job, she lights up like a lightbulb, her whole countenance changes and she becomes a bold dog who knows what she’s about in the world. Over the years we’ve just kept giving her stuff to learn and she’s become very operant and loves to try out different responses in new situations and has a true sense of control and agency in her own life. It’s really beautiful to watch.

The other thing we’ve learned about her is that “curiosity always wins.” If we can encourage her curiosity (“What is that?”) in almost any situation, it all goes way better - because in the end her fear isn’t a match for her desire to learn.

Her diagnosis with osteosarcoma:

She came in from the backyard with a limp on a Saturday and as she’d had a soft tissue injury the previous year (from which she fully recovered) I assumed this might be something similar. I would just need to lessen her activity for a while and probably get her to the vet for some pain meds. However, the next day I was flying out of town to help my disabled mom for about a week, and was sending her to board with a family that has raised and worked with dogs all their lives. I alerted them to her condition and since theirs is a really low-key atmosphere with no stairs we all assumed a rest with them would do her good while I was away.

However, by Wednesday she was still limping and starting to lose her appetite. By Thursday she’d stopped eating her favorite treats (cream cheese kong, Dentalife chews), which we’d never seen happen before. I flew back Friday, picked her up and took her straight to the ER. That’s where we got the shock diagnosis of osteosarcoma.

Juno in the yard with a handmade fabric rope toyImage Enlarger

Big decisions in context:

It was a blow, and there have been lots of tears and the full rollercoaster you might expect. Fortunately, the hospital ER was able to refer us to their in-house surgery and oncology departments to follow up, confirm diagnosis, and learn our options. The ER doc had already given us some great pain meds and a high-level overview of the standard of care for osteosarcoma, as well as telling us the disease was aggressive and should be acted upon quickly if we decided to treat it. 

The ER vet also kindly told us that if we simply wanted to take her home and love on her with some palliative care, or have the leg amputated for quality of life, and/or consider further treatment with chemo, etc., all these options were valid and may be exactly the right choice for her and us. She said they would accept and support any of them as needed. 

She also said she had a number of dogs at home and given their respective personalities she would treat the same diagnosis differently in each one. She said they ranged in personality from seeing a trip to the vet as the best thing ever, to, at the other extreme, being so nervous and retiring that it would be traumatizing to make many visits at all. She said only we would know what our dog would be up for and what would be best for her and ourselves and our logistics and/or finances. I was really taken aback at her openness, and felt heartened to carefully consider what would be best for Juno and us.

Juno laying in the yard for belly rubsImage Enlarger

In the lead up to the surgery and oncology consults we spent as much time as we could taking gentle walks and sitting outside with her in the yard (her happy place) as she basked and sniffed and we tried to prevent her from doing anything to cause a pathologic fracture (re: bunnies and passing dogs). I also had a book by the Tufts veterinary faculty called Good Old Dog that gave us a lot of good food for thought to skim and process ahead of our big decisions.

Support:

Perhaps most valuably, we’ve also had the moral support of the woman who boards Juno (from whom I picked her up before heading to the ER) as she has a tripawd of her own (via limb deformity at birth). She encouraged us to imagine the possibilities of June's life as a tripawd, made us aware of Tripawds.com, and even recommended her dog’s rehab specialist.

We’ve felt fortunate to have tripped headlong into so much support both closeby and here online, and to have had the opportunity to give June some great care.

Timeline and treatment plan:

Juno (9.5yr, 37lb hound mix - 34lb post amp) was diagnosed with osteosarcoma during a visit to the ER for a limp and loss of appetite on 6/16/23. She had her leg amputated on 6/29/23 and started her first of six rounds of chemotherapy on 7/17/23. So far we’re planning to do chest x-rays on the first, third, and the last treatments. She’ll also have CBC blood draws in between each chemo treatment to keep track of her white blood cell counts. Of course, if anything changes we’ll course correct accordingly.

Updates:

8/17/23 - She’s on the waitlist for the Yale EGFR/HER2 Vaccine Study to be administered at a nearby clinic.

8/29/23 - She had a clean chest x-ray ahead of her third chemo treatment.

9/26/23 - She’ll be going in on this day for her intro appointment to see if she’s eligible for the Yale vaccine and if so, will get the first of two doses on the same day. Send her your good vibes! ❤️

Natalie & Juno (aka June)

The Rainbow Bridge



Member Since:
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20 September 2023 - 10:03 pm
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Natalie I waited all day to read this, because I knew it was going to be a great story, and it IS! Thank you for taking so much time and putting so much love and thought into sharing your experience with Juno, and all that has made her such an incredible rescue story. I feel like I know both of you so much better now, and it's a real treat to have you here in our community.

Every dog finds the right people at the right time. Juno clearly knows who will help her make the most of life, no matter what it throws her way. I'm sorry you are dealing with cancer, but super glad you found us and decided to become part of this family.

Please thank your boarding friend for referring you to us. And I love all the teaching links you shared, thank you. sp_hearticon2sp_hearticon2sp_hearticon2

Pennsylvania


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21 September 2023 - 2:40 pm
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Awww - you’re so kind. And thanks for taking such care and space to read our girl’s story. We do love her so. 

It’s been a true pleasure to be here - such a remarkably bright corner of the web somehow in spite of (because of?) the difficulties we all face together.

Every dog finds the right people at the right time. Juno clearly knows who will help her make the most of life, no matter what it throws her way.

This honestly choked me up a bit. There’s always this sense of wanting to do right by this little furry personality that life entrusts you with. Isn’t there? Just making choice by choice and suffusing each with as much love as we can.

***

I also realized I should add this part of the visual story...

Amputation:

 

How it started

Juno in the yard days after amputation surgery wearing a child’s t-shirt to which her wound drain reservoir is clippedImage Enlarger

This is Juno in the yard for a potty break just 5 days after amputation surgery. She was pretty drugged up at this point but healing well. The balloon-shaped object with tubing is her Jackson-Pratt wound drain which we emptied regularly. It prevented a seroma from forming and was removed after the first week of recovery.

 

How it’s going...

And here’s June just under three months after amputation surgery doing one of her favorite things - streaking around at top speed in a grassy field. This was just a few days ago and she’s undergoing chemo now, yet still up to 90% of her original speed. She’s alway’s been so lithe and muscly that we call her our beefy cheesecake.

What you don’t see in between these two snapshots is all the things our certified rehab specialist has taught us to do with her. June started out wobbling and bobbling and is once again a little powerhouse. To that end, we now have a small canine finess gym hidden away behind the couches in our living room which we pull out twice a day to put June through her paces. The work is challenging, but she absolutely loves it and will come get us if we delay getting started. She’s a busy girl who loves to work! 🏋🏽‍♀️

Natalie & Juno (aka June)

The Rainbow Bridge



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21 September 2023 - 11:59 pm
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Paw shucks, being here to learn about dogs like Juno and people like you is what restores our faith in humanity every single day. It's our pleasure and honor to be part of your journey.

LOVE that video of Juno! Thank you for sharing the amputation photo too. May I put that in our photo gallery? Those JP drains are not an easy thing to cope with, you guys got it down.

At some point we'd love to see Juno doing her workouts! It's hard to video a dog doing them but boy I'll bet she aces all of them like the beefy cheesecake rock star she is. 

Hugs to all of you! (((Hugs))))

Pennsylvania


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22 September 2023 - 2:12 pm
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@jerry - yes, please feel free to use the photo! We have others of her immediately post-amp, so please dm me if there are any types of pics you’d find particularly helpful (closer shot of her with the drain / incision, etc.) I can upload them and give you links. Looking back on those pics I am reminded of her characteristic “trazadone face” as we’ve come to call it.

Re: The JP drain - We had to drain it and measure the contents with a syringe to track the level of daily fluid buildup. If at the end of the first week the buildup had suffienciently slowed they would take it out - which they did. One serious benefit to the drain was the very quantifiable sense of how important it was to keep her activity levels low. It was also what convinced us to used the trazadone she’d been prescribed to keep our otherwise very busy girl resting. We could really see how much more fluid built up when she was a bit too active versus the days where she slept and only moved around for potty breaks etc.

We didn’t know we’d be getting a drain (they may have mentioned it, but in our overwhelmed haze we missed that part) so when they trained us on it when we arrived to pick her up it was a bit of a surprise. One huge drawback I could imagine is if a single pet parent has a vasovagel reaction to blood (aka you faint), like my partner does, maintaining the drain might be really difficult or impossible. Fortunately for us, I could do it and it wasn’t really that big a deal. In retrospect it feels like an important thing for vets to talk about with pet owners - but in lieu of that, for pet owners to know and ask about in advance. We tried to lighten the mood around the drain generally by referring to it as her personal Kool-Aid supply. 😜😂

The only other thing to say about the drain was that the tubing did get caught on things occasionally (yowch!), and we had to be ginger around it when we picked her up.

***

Rehab Workout Bonus! Today we visited our Certified Canine Rehab Therapist (CCRT) with June to learn the next round of at-home exercises and the CCRT was so impressed and excited by her skills that she asked to video Juno’s workout as a demo for the canine fitness classes she teaches. Go Tripawd Power - schooling those quadpawds in how it's done!!! 🐾+1❗

We took videos too and will post them here shortly. We’ll also try to get some videos at home so you can see what Juno's home setup/process looks like.

(((Hugs))) to you and your crew too!

Natalie & Juno (aka June)

Pennsylvania


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24 September 2023 - 2:31 pm
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June had her latest visit on Friday to her amazing Certified Canine Rehab Therapist (CCRT) who also does general canine fitness instruction (CCFT). Up until now Juno’s done only individual skills like these for example:

She’s a little rough in the videos above because this is only her fourth time in two months in the rehab space, and as you know, a skill needs to be trained in many spaces before a dog can generalize it to most new spaces. At home she has a lot more finesse because that’s where we practice them daily.

Below she’s doing something genuinely new - these are sequences of skills she knows but now all strung together (harder than it sounds). The idea is to do the course one direction, pausing at intervals to practice certain things on each piece of equipment before moving on. As you can see she gets excited to move on to the next thing she sees in front of her, so our work at home will be to slow her down and work each set of skills across the course. Once she knows all that, then we can pick up the pace again! 

Personally, I’d rather have her excited and racing ahead and have to slow her down. In the beginning she was afraid of the Fitbone (very very shady object!!) and the balance board (heckin’ tippy!), so the idea that she now races to get to them is a win in my book.

At home we don’t have all this equipment - we have what our rehab therapist identified as her “desert island” set of canine fitness equipment (i.e., if you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring x number of things…), but we can accomplish any tasks she sets for June with just those few pieces of equipment. I’ll list them (and her affordable DIY suggestions) when I post the home workouts.

I should mention that June’s exercises are specific to her needs - your dog may have different strengths or weaknesses. Juno came into rehab with really even weight distribution across all three paws (a plus), a nice gait with good hind leg extension (yay!), and good limb awareness (awesome!), so I don’t really know what exercises would be needed if those had been issues. Mainly her tasks are centered around building balance and core strength.

After the first consult, we came back two more times at three week intervals to learn new skills to work on with her, and then again this past week after an interval of five weeks. Now, unless something specific comes up we’re on a schedule of every two months for a check-in and to learn new skills. The follow up visits are $50, so it seems like a good value for money to keep her fit and prevent injury. Really, at this point she’s passed beyond rehab into doing fitness exercises that our CCRT/FT does with her canine athlete and working dog clients - which is pretty cool. Go Tripawd Athletes! 💥

And all the skills she learns show up in really cool ways in daily life - she’s now so strong and confident on three legs!

The huge part for us is that she genuinely loves this stuff. She looks forward to it and loves working and having a job, and gets super thrilled when we start pulling equipment out from behind the couches. She’ll even come get us if we’re behind schedule starting her two sessions. Let me tell you - those intense brown eyes are relentless!

Natalie & Juno (aka June)

New England
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24 September 2023 - 3:23 pm
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Look at Juno go! She's doing awesome! 

I didn't realize she was missing part of her tail, too. Do you know what happened to it? 

Pennsylvania


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24 September 2023 - 5:54 pm
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Yeah - we’re so proud of her. She’s such a sport! 😊

Re: her tail - We’re not sure. She was picked up as a stray at 1.5yrs old (approx.) and so her history is unknown. Our first vet thought it might be the natural length because of that kink at the end - she said kinks like that often occur in utero.

Also, if she’s a Mountain Cur (I may yet have her tested to see) it could be natural, as around 50% of them have natural bobtails.

Though your question reminds me that we can now find the answer to her tail mystery. Her tail was included in the X-rays that first detected her hind leg tumor, and I’ve been meaning to ask the vet to look at it and tell me if it’s natural or docked. An X-ray was truly the only way we would ever know, and now we have our chance!

Juno standing at attention in the backyard with her bobtail extended behind herImage Enlarger

Natalie & Juno (aka June)

The Rainbow Bridge



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24 September 2023 - 6:33 pm
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That's really cool you can look at those x-rays to find out. We will be waiting to find out the real story behind her adorable tail!

New England
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25 September 2023 - 4:12 am
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Oh, interesting! The kink is what made me think it was an injury. 

Pennsylvania


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26 September 2023 - 2:11 pm
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@mischief - I totally assumed the same thing at her first vet appointment until her vet suggested the in utero thing.

@jerry - I’ll need to ask at her next bloodwork check!

 

Today was a big day for the June as she officially became a “Dog of Science.” We’ve been calling her “Candidate Dog of Science” since she joined the Yale vaccine waitlist. But today, after a battery of tests, she was approved and received her first dose. Woot! 💉

I was reminded as she did of the privilege to even have a clinic in our area that offers it. The tech said they’d had people drive to Western PA from as far as Nova Scotia and New Haven, CT (the home of Yale itself) to get the vaccine for their pups.

Juno’s not much for the car and travel, so truly the only way it would happen for her is if it was offered here closeby, and rather astonishingly it was.

For her part, June was a bit spaced out on Trazadone (we give it to her when she gets chest x-rays) but was primarily invested in the experience of the doggo-level windows in the clinic where it was administered. We call windows “doggo TV” and let's just say, these for her were like getting hotel cable when all you have at home is network channels.

Image Enlarger

Image Enlarger
 

 

As we’ve now had so many opportunities to give June great care, recently I’ve been finding myself thinking about a pet - a ferret named Timiah (tim-my-uh) - that I had to give up when I was younger because he needed treatment for a wound that wouldn’t heal. I couldn’t afford it and couldn’t imagine putting him down.

He had a beautiful, well socialized, witty temperament - a real charmer. A specialized ferret rescue I worked through matched him almost instantly with a family with three kids who loved him dearly and gave him all the care he needed. They kept in touch sending photos and offering visits, and I’ve remained grateful to them ever since. It was a tough but good choice at the time.

These days with June - even amid the rollercoaster periods - I find myself continually astonished and gratified to finally give her the kind of care I would have wanted to give Timiah. I suppose for me it feels a bit like redemption, and it never grows old to see her thriving day after day - weeks and months past that initial diagnosis in the ER, even as I know no number of days or quality of life has ever been guaranteed.

It’s absolute icing to be able to not only give her the standard of care for osteo, but also to be able to enroll her in the Yale EGFR/HER2 Vaccine Study, do rehab, and be part of this wonderful, supportive community. No matter the outcome, I’m glad that this time, I had the chance to try. It’s meant so much.sp_hearticon2

Natalie & Juno (aka June)

New England
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26 September 2023 - 3:42 pm
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What a fantastic update! Congrats to Juno on becoming a Dog of Science! 

I remember when Jerry first posted about the Yale vaccine that there weren't locations near Yale to get it! It's also odd to me that Yale developed a vaccine for dogs when they don't have a vet school. I'm curious how it came about. 

Pennsylvania


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26 September 2023 - 5:27 pm
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@mischief - Maybe we’s start calling her Juno, DOS as her new honorary title. She already has a long fictitious academic title that we gave her, so this is a new honorific we can add. We say that her primary research area is a longitudinal study in relaxation (esp. in odd locations or positions.) 

Yeah, that is a really odd bummer for folks up there! 😝

The work is actually out of the Yale Medical School and the researchers are primarily aimed at advances in human cancer treatment - which can benefit our dogs along the way! The vaccine is a work of translational medicine which works to translate findings across different disciplines into human medical advances. In this case it’s using trials in veterinary medicine to not only improve the cancer outcomes for dogs, but to also to potentially lead to improvements in human cancer treatment.

Specifically, for the Yale vaccine study (read the Translational Oncology paper here), there are certain human cancers that have poor outcomes where the tumors have a mutation that over expresses something called Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor (EGFR) and Human Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor 2 (HER2) and dogs share these overexpressions in common with humans for some of their cancer tumors. So this vaccine targets that overexpression. It’s possible that success in dogs with this vaccine could lead to advances in humans who, like dogs, experience certain cancers which are both aggressive and hard to treat (like osteo).

But not all dogs' and not all humans’ tumors have this overexpressive mutation (EGFR/HER2) which is why the Yale vaccine doesn’t always work, or work as well in every dog and so part of the trial is also understanding who benefits and who doesn’t, and why.

And as you once said, “And there, I wrote a book.” 😜

Natalie & Juno (aka June)

The Rainbow Bridge



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27 September 2023 - 10:34 am
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Woohoo! Juno has joined the inspawrational ranks of superstar science dogs on three legs who have joined us here! Dogs like Shilo and Dexter who entered groundbreaking HER2 immunotherapy studies way back, and led the way for more developments like the Yale Vaccine. YAY! 

Her vet clinic design is PAWESOME!! I've never seen doggie windows like that, how super cool. Looks like they are following the Fear Free model of clinic design?

Natalie you have such a way with words! Your story about Timiah was really touching, thank you for sharing that experience. His legacy lives on in all that you are able to do for Juno now. What a beautiful gift to her from Timiah. 

Translational medicine / comparative oncology has been making huge advances in the last several years. We first discussed it with CSU's One Cure team in 2016, and it's made huge strides since. Here's a great video about it. Also see "Why You Should Care About Comparative Oncology Research" for an early discussion about why it's so important to fund this research.

Thanks for sharing this awesome experience, and explaining the Yale study so well. 

Livermore, CA




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27 September 2023 - 10:42 am
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Juno is AWESOME!  Rocking rehab and now a DOS!

I'm not sure those windows would work for us... Callie would be barking, barking, barking!

I first heard of Comparative Oncology way back in 2009 when I met a Tripawd named Caira Sue, she and her people were part of the original Nor Cal Tripawd Party Pack. Her pic is in the rotating banner, she is the one jumping for the ball.  Caria Sue was doing a type of inhalation chemo that was being developed to treat Children.  She did great with that but unfortunately developed HO and passed in January 2010.

 

Karen and the Spirit Pug Girls and Boy

Tri-pug Maggie survived a 4.5 year mast cell cancer battle only to be lost to oral melanoma.

1999 to 2010

 

              Maggie's Story                  Amputation and Chemo

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