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FL - 2015

My name is Susan and I am the proud pet parent of three (3) kids with paws.  My kids are Leah, a 9-year-old, spayed/female lab/husky mix, Maggie (a/k/a “Waggie Maggie”), my 13-year-old, spayed/female senior rescue who I rescued 2 years ago when asked to foster, rehabilitate and rehome, and Amelia, my 5-year-old, spayed/female tuxedo cat. 

I adopted Leah from the Humane Society of Broward County in Florida right after I let my senior baby boy, Chaucer, go to the Rainbow Bridge.  Despite having my 3 cats who I loved dearly, I still felt as though I didn’t know what to do next. I didn’t know how to live my life without Chaucer.  How would I wake up in the morning without 55 lbs of dog spinning on the bed so happy that I just woke up and washing my face with kisses?  What would I do on weekends now without Chaucer to take for a ride in the car to the dog park?  How would I see my friends from the dog park?  How would I eat dinner, feed the cats, take a shower, bring in groceries … how would I live without him?  Everyone grieves differently and I learned that the only way I felt I would survive my grieving process was to adopt a dog and save another life.  I immediately went to the Humane Society of Broward County (“HSBC”).  Chaucer and I did the Annual Walk For The Animals every year to raise funds for HSBC and he loved it so I felt he would approve. 

My plan was to adopt an adult dog.  I was 47, single with a full-time job and just wasn’t sure I was in a place in my life that was conducive to puppy-raising, but then there was 

who would be Leah!  Leah was only 8 weeks old and 13lbs of shy, scared lab/husky mix puppy that was picked up by animal control when she was spotted running by herself and terrified.  Leah had a “stray hold” on her and technically was to be held for 3 full days before they would spay her in the event someone claimed her.  Even though I had my 3 cats,  Emily, Athena and Hannah, I needed Leah.  I could not sleep or eat, I could not even go to the bank drive-through because Chaucer always came with me.  I went to the Humane Society every day to spend time with Leah and bond with her.  I begged them to spay her a day early so I could take her home.  I told them there was nothing she would ever do that would have me let her go, re-home her, return her (except to participate in the fundraiser, “Walk For The Animals”).  She was my girl and she would know nothing but love for the rest of her life.  If I was not physically at the Humane Society, I was calling asking if anyone claimed her.  Then on Saturday, February 17, 2007, I went to visit with Leah (I had not yet named her) and was advised that I couldn’t see her; she was in surgery being spayed!  I was told, “Since we haven’t received one inquiry about her, and you have convinced us that you will be her forever mom, we have spayed her today and you can come for your baby tomorrow morning”.  They opened at 9:00 a.m., I was there at 8:30 a.m., Sunday morning, February 18, 2007, waiting at the door.  I brought Leah home that morning, introduced her to her new sisters, and began this new chapter of life.  I felt Chaucer’s approval from the minute Leah put her little paws down on the floor, and asked him to guide her a little bit from above. 

Leah and I have been through a lot together, as most do of us with our kids with paws.  Over time it was time to let her feline sisters go to the Rainbow Bridge.  There was not a close bond between Leah and her feline sisters but I felt she still knew she was not an “only child” so when I had to let her last sister travel to the Rainbow Bridge, I thought it best to adopt a kitten. I went back to HSBC and spent time with about 10 different kittens to find the one with the self-confidence and playfulness that I thought would be a good match for the then 4-year-old Leah.   That perfect kitten came to be Amelia, 8 weeks old of little bittie kittie, and she was a little pistol!  Full of confidence and playfulness and just right for Leah.  Leah and Amelia bonded instantly as is evidenced by pictures of Leah and Amelia playing and/or sleeping together. 

Now, I have been a Family law paralegal for the past 14 years, and at one time that provided me with a comfortable income.  After 2008 and the recession hit, that all changed.  My income went on a steady decline starting about 2012, when I in fact lost my job as result of the firm I was working with dissolved.  That was a very difficult time and although I always have been involved in animal advocacy, I became very involved in volunteering with our county shelter and our rescue groups really to re-gain a sense of purpose.  I needed the animals as much as they needed me.  As every pet parent knows, insuring proper health care of your pet can be expensive.  Although I never again earned the same income as I had prior to the recession and have struggled financially, I managed to insure my kids with paws had all of their needs met and then some, that is until recently.  

About six months ago I felt a lump on the lower portion of Leah’s right rear leg.  I wasn’t overly concerned at the time because it was movable, it was not attached to anything and having familiarity with benign fatty tumors developing in dogs as they get older, I decided I would just watch it for any changes. 

About mid-October I was walking Leah and she appeared to be lame on her right rear leg.  Leah jumps on and off the bed many times during the day to look out the window so I thought she could have landed badly.   I gave her one of Maggie’s anti-inflammatory meds (they require the same dosage of just about everything!) and watched to see if she improved.  Leah did improve but then she would start limping again for what seemed like no reason, and additionally, there were times where her leg around the area of the growth would feel very hot.  My gut told me this was not just a fatty tumor, fatty tumors don’t change in how they behave from day to day and this lump did.  The day after Thanksgiving, I called my veterinarian’s office and asked if they had any openings.  I brought Leah in that day.  The veterinarian aspirated the lump, examined it and advised that Leah had a mast cell tumor that required surgical excision and gave me an estimate for the surgery.   My heart sank.  There was no way I could afford this surgery that I knew my baby girl needed or this tumor could grow and the cancer could spread.  I did the only thing I could think of, I went on my computer and googled, “Financial help for veterinary medical expenses”.  There were several that came up, but the only one that replied was The Brown Dog Foundation.  A computer generated request to complete a preliminary application came up and I completed same.  Within 12 hours I was notified that Leah was “pre-qualified” and I was to proceed to Step 2, which involved providing financial disclosure, personal history of me with my kids with paws.  Within a very short time period, as obviously those involved in the decision-making know there is somewhat of an urgency, I was notified that I was approved to be gifted with a grant to cover Leah’s surgery expenses.  I hugged my baby girl, my purpose, my heart, and hugged and kissed her like crazy.

Leah had her surgery on Monday, December 21, 2015 and came through with flying colors.  Pathology results revealed that it was a Grade II, tumor, there were a very few cancer cells remaining and I opted for a combination of clinical treatment with diphenhydramine to combat any histamines, and holistic and Leah is happy, healthy and active, has no issue with the affected leg. 

I am forever grateful to The Brown Dog Foundation and as I have said, I look forward to the opportunity to work with them in whatever capacity they feel I may be helpful regarding fundraising so they can help more pet parents like me and save the lives of more fur babies.  The Brown Dog Foundation made life-saving surgery possible for my baby and I cannot thank them enough!

Susan – Leah’s Mom