I am submitting this on behalf of Michelle P., a lovely young lady who (in 2006) came to us requesting a puppy to train as her service dog. We interviewed her, took her application and then placed one of our very special, most calm Doodle puppies with her. At that time, we did not have a training program and the Gabby Jack Ranch was just a dream. Michelle received and trained our very first donated service dog puppy, his name is Max.
Max is an F1B Labradoodle and his mother, Bayley, and Father, Chase, are still living with us and are in good health. Max was trained by Michelle with the help of trainers in Arizona and California. Max was quick to learn and loved Michelle from day one. His biggest training challenge was to learn not to dig in his water dish! (Yes, he is a Doodle.)
Michelle quickly became a dear friend to me and to my husband and we are so proud of her and of Max. They inspired us to create a program of service dog donation and training.
On one particularly touching day, my husband (Dave Reynolds) visited Michelle and Max at Michelle’s office. Dave returned and told me that he was very moved as he watched Michelle walking back to her office, down a long hallway, using her dual canes for walking while Max ambled along beside her, carrying her bag, leash dragging on the floor and his tail gently wagging. People called out to Max but he remained steadfast at Michelle’s side, his only recognition of the new friends reflected by a more noticeable wag of his tail. Dave understood then just how special a service dog bond is. It is far more than a working relationship; it is a devotion that exists beyond our ability to express.
On another visit, Dave invited Michelle and her date to dinner; but he was very touched and sad that the discussion was not focused on “what do we want to eat?” but rather, “where do you think we can go without being asked to leave because of Max?” This is a question that no person with disabilities should need to consider. Michelle has become an advocate to help educate businesses and explain their customers needs when they enter with service dogs.
As Michelle says:
“Max means everything to me. I could not function well at work or home without him. He can quite literally pick anything up. He can pull off clothes (socks, pants etcetera). It is not an exaggeration to say when the pain of muscle spasms & spasticity gets really bad; my will to persevere is tied to him. I'm aware that I need to keep going for him; he needs to eat and go out.
“He steadies me when walking. He improves my social life through contact with others, especially if they are afraid to talk to me. There’s really no aspect of my life he doesn't improve.”
A few weeks ago, while at church, Michelle noticed that Max was coughing and had labored breathing; very shortly thereafter that he was in extreme distress. An emergency visit to her vet resulted in an x-ray showing a large mass on Max’s lung. Max was then rushed to a specialist vet where he had emergency MRI and biopsy and they discovered cancer. The tumor was 10 cm and an aggressive form of lung cancer (a bronchoalueolar carcinoma). The oncologist is recommending chemo, but everything Michelle has read says that this type of tumor doesn't respond well to chemo, they claim that targeted radiation after surgery is more effective.
Michelle is confused, heartbroken and seeking second opinions. This battle will be a long and expensive one for Michelle and Max. Michelle does not have much money and has been asking friends and relatives for help. I suggested that she apply to the Doodle Messenger. I told her to read Sully’s story because I felt that she would get a measure of hope from this otherwise dreadful diagnosis for her beloved companion, Max.
Currently, Max is home and recovering from his surgery. The vets say that they were able to get the entire tumor and that they did not find cancer cells in his lymphatic system. They are concerned about microscopic cells that escaped and may be found elsewhere. The vets are suggesting chemotherapy but Michelle has been confused as to whether to use a more targeted method with radiation. There will be treatment in the future for Max and expenses will mount for Michelle. For now, the shock is settling in and Michelle is considering all of Max’s options.
Max is in good spirits, he is eating, drinking and eliminating normally. While choking back tears, Michelle told me, “I just want to help him live.” Thank you for considering help for Michelle and Max. They are truly a remarkable team and love each other very much.
Founder, President and CEO
Gabby Jack Ranch TM
A division of Canine Service Connection, a non-profit corporation
Our Web Page: www.gabbyjackranch.org
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Update - March 24, 2013
I wanted to let you all know that together we have raised over $1000.00 to date to save Max. Keep up the great work. We are counting on you now more than ever (see below).
Max underwent a bunch of tests this week and he continues to do well. His white blood cell count is very low though. The oncologist said it was too low for more chemo this week. So Max is at home again resting comfortably, after receiving antibiotic treatment yesterday hopefully to increase it for next week’s chemo session.
We will continue the antibiotic treatment at home and have been instructed by the oncologist to start monitoring his temperature. It is normal so far and still no side effects.
The incision hasn’t healed yet either, but it’s not infected. A huge miracle given that his white blood cell count is so low. The vet who performed Max’ tumor removal surgery is concerned about Max’ ability to heal, so he reapplied staples to the area to help.
All the treatment this week drained the $401.00 we raised over the last 7 days. Please keep the donations coming since we still need your help.
Personally, I am more than a little discouraged by this setback. However, I have much to be grateful for. Your support and ongoing prayers sustain me. They keep me going and believing that, together, we will win this fight. Max’ health continues to improve and he’s a comfortable, happy dog. Since this started, a little more than six weeks ago, he has gained 9 pounds. The oncologist also continues to tell me, without guarantees, that his prognosis is good.
I could not do this alone and know that I don’t have to.
With continued gratitude.
Update - April 1, 2013
I hope Passover went well and was enjoyed by all. I am sure all your hard work paid off handsomely.
I've done another posting on Max' blog: michelleandmax.wordpress.com and also wanted to share it.
It's Sunday night. Max' white cell count returned to normal this week, so had his second round of chemotherapy on Friday. I had the day off work, so I was able to pick him up a little earlier. The vet's assistant told us that he did well again. He's on a lower dose of chemo due to the effect the chemo drug had on his white cell count earlier.
Unfortunately, the lower dosage doesn't translate into cost savings. But the treatment appears to be working, which is the whole point of doing this. At least the experts think it's working. Only time will tell for sure. And he's had no side effects again so far. I know these are the most important things and believe me, I count these blessings every day.
You are a blessing to me too. Together, we are saving Max and I can't thank you enough for your support. We raised $100 last week. The vet estimates that Max needs seven more treatments at the lower dose so every donation matters now more than ever. Thank you so much.