Miss Nellie (aka. C-Ya Dime Dancer)
It was a cool October day in 2005 when our very first greyhound, Miss Nellie, jumped out of the car, yelped, held up he leg for just a second, and then limped off to the back yard. Thinking she had just sprained or twisted it, I decided to just keep an eye on it. We were new to Greyhounds, so we had no idea what a limp could mean.
The next day my wife, Suzie, and I were watching the dogs running around the back yard (we also had another greyhound and a Boarder Collie – Australian Shepherd mix). Nellie started limping and Suzie commented how she’d seen her doing that off an on for a few days. After getting her up to speed on the incident jumping out of the car, we made an appointment with our vet to have the knee x-rayed the next day. We really thought she’d damaged a tendon and were wondering how a Greyhound, even a retired one, would tolerate knee surgery.
Our vet was not “Greyhound-savvy” and, to be fair, at the time we had no idea one needed special knowledge when dealing with Greyhounds. So when we finally got the x-ray it was… inconclusive. The vet was using traditional film x-rays that were grainy and *may* have shown some “soft tissue involvement”, but the bones looked clean (no breaks, fractures, etc). He did say that if we wanted a 2nd opinion we could contact the vet clinic at Ohio State as they had the best orthopedic surgeons around. We got the earliest appointment a week and a half later.
We had been to OSU and met Dr. Couto the previous year when our vet detected a “class 4 heart murmur”. Dr. Couto said the murmur was typical for a Greyhound but that they had also found a mild degenerative valve issue. He said it was mild enough that we shouldn’t worry about it, that it wouldn’t become life-threatening for many years, with all likelihood that something else would become an issue first.
On Nov. 7th we both took the day off work and drove 2+ hours down to Columbus, OH for our 8AM appointment with Dr. Dyce. When they called us back to an exam room later that day we did not expect to see Dr. Couto again. But both he and Dr. Dyce, along with a vet tech or two were all waiting in the room for us — every one of them had that “concerned” look on their faces that said they had bad news.
Dr. Dyce said it wasn’t a knee injury and turned on the display with the digital x-rays. It was immediately obvious something was wrong. Dr. Couto broke it to us as gently as possible that Nellie actually had osteosarcoma, an aggressive type of bone cancer. We discussed the options for what felt like an eternity. Then we asked for a few minutes to talk about it. We went out to the parking lot and cried for about 20 minutes. We were prepared for a big surgical bill and some recovery time but instead we were looking at the possibility of going home without her.
She was only 7 years old so we promised her, and each other, that we would do everything we could to save her. We opted for amputation plus chemo, as those gave her the best shot at a longer life.
The surgery on Nov. 11th went well and Nellie was back on her feet in no time. She had a lot of post-operative bleeding/bruising and we used a relatively new protocol with Amicar. She was back to running around with the other dogs within a few weeks (probably sooner than she was supposed to, but we didn’t want to deny her any happiness). She tolerated the chemo quite well and rarely missed a meal. She even managed to go for short walks.
We grew more cautiously optimistic with each chemo treatment and checkup when her x-rays came back negative. So it was a crushing blow when we found that the cancer had come back and there were spots in her lungs, just 5 months post-amputation. We let her go in April, 2006 after exhausting all other options.
While that was a devastating time for Suzie and I, we know Miss Nellie forever changed the trajectory of our lives. Because of her we have met so many wonderful people in the Greyhound community, including Dr. Couto, some who have become our closest friends. I can also honestly say that, if not for Miss Nellie, I would not today be the Executive Director of The Greyhound Health Initiative. Little did we know then what lie in store for us when we adopted that sweet angel. She touched our lives like only a dog can do, and changed our lives like only a Greyhound can. We love and miss that sweet little girl.
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