|Gibson and his tennis ball collection|
This is Gibson. He will be 10 years old in March. Gibson is not only my best friend, but he is also my inspiration. His whole life he has struggled with medical issues, yet he has never let that hold him back!
I found Gibson at the Menominee Animal Shelter in June of 2004 when he was around three months old. Someone had found him and his sister in a ditch in Wallace, MI. He was completely covered in ticks, yet his sister did not have any ticks on him. As a result, they named him Brave Heart and they named his sister Sissy. They said that they imagined that he had protected his sister while they were out on their own. :-) Sissy found a home and I took Brave Heart to my house. I changed his name to Gibson.
|Gibson and big brother, Ripley|
Even as a young puppy, Gibson had health issues. He had a tendency to eat everything. I don't mean food, but blankets, buttons, cat toys, money, pretty much anything he could get his mouth on. Initially, I thought it was just the normal puppy thing. When he was 7 months old, he got very ill. He stopped eating eating, could not keep even water in him and was extremely lethargic. I brought him to the vet and he had emergency surgery. Some of the things that he ate, had gotten stuck in his intestine and he needed surgery to remove them. The veterinarian actually told me to say good bye to him, at that time. They did not know if he would make it through the surgery. Gibson was a trooper and pulled right through. His incision did take a longer time to heal than normal, but it healed and all was good.
After eating more and more things and doing lots and lots of tests, they did find out that he had a problem with his digestive system. Whenever he ate, the food would go into his stomach, but would not move into his intestine for a very long time. It eventually did move on, but it could take several hours and in the meantime, his stomach would just churn and churn. This is why he would eat anything he could find. He was put on stomach drugs to help fix it and I quickly learned to keep peroxide and Milk of Magnesia on hand at all times. I also learned that it was better to feed him as much food as he wanted because it was better to have a fat dog than a dog needing surgery to remove the things he ate.
|Gibson and Ripley enjoying a swim|
Gibson grew up and was a happy and active boy. He is obviously part lab, but who knows what else is in him. I suspect that he has some kind of herding dog in him, because he has always made collections of things. When I would go to work, I would come home to a grouping of toys or pillows or shoes or whatever sitting in a circle on the living room floor. His favorite things in the world are tennis balls and he is obsessed with them. It is not unusual for him to have three balls in his mouth at any given time. When he wants me to go outside with him to play ball, he will line up every ball he can find right next to the door. His love of tennis balls also caused problems. When he was four years old, he was running around and playing ball and managed to tear his ACL. He had to undergo surgery again to fix the ACL. The surgery itself went well and having his back leg in a full cast did not slow him down at all. But again, he had problems healing. He started limping again a few months after the surgery and they had to go back in. He was having a reaction to the sutures. Again, he handled the surgery well, but did not heal well. So, by this time he was on stomach drugs everyday. And now he was on drugs for the arthritis. Even when he was in lots of pain, he still was always happy and ready to play! He eventually did end up injuring his other knee, but we choose not to put him through the surgery again. Especially, since he has his healing issues.
|Gibson with Ripley and Sydney|
Throughout this time, Gibson also had occasional allergy problems. He would get ear infections and chew on his feet. He also ended up getting weird skin issues, where he would be super greasy and flaky one week and the next week his skin would be dry and flaky. He would get these weird looking sores on him that were apparently very comfortable and itchy. He also sometimes would get muscles spasms in his back. With the combination of everything, the veterinarians pretty much knew that he has some type of auto-immune disorder. That explains all the issues, but makes it very hard to actually treat. They pretty much treated whatever symptom was happening at any given time and not the disorder itself. No matter how bad he felt, he always had a happy face on and was ready to play ball.
In January of 2011, he started having bladder issues. He needed to go outside constantly and would strain to go. I thought it was going to be a simple bladder infection. However, after lots of testing and trying different drugs, they found out that he has bladder cancer. There is no cure for canine bladder cancer. Untreated, he probably would've lived a week or so. Gibson has never given up on me, so I knew I could not give up on him. We started him on oral chemo. Unfortunately, it was not helping. I did a ton of research and found a few drug studies where they had tried alternative drugs to treat the bladder cancer. I talked with the vet and we decided that we had nothing to lose. He actually did pretty well on it for over a year. The drugs were hard on him and he needed to be on other drugs to combat the side effects, but he was still alive and was happy. Then the drugs stopped working...I again went back to doing research and found another trial study. It involved using chemotherapy that is normally used to treat lymphomas. I knew that there was a very strong chance that it would not work, but remarkably, it has worked! He continues to get chemo treatments every three weeks. The tumor is still there, but is not causing issues. He has been fighting this incurable cancer for three years now. He is absolutely amazing!!
|Even though he is not feeling well in this picture, he is still ready to play ball in the snow!|
Lately, he has been having issues with his back legs and has been coughing a lot, so he is on antibiotics, in addition to all his other drugs. It kind of scares me because I know that every day I have with him is a blessing. I'm always scared that the cancer has spread. I know that his fight will end at some point, but I will never be ready for that day. But as long as he is happy, I will do whatever it takes to make his life the best that I can make it. He is a true fighter, never gives up, and is always happy for me. He is my hero!
Gibson's big brother, Ripley, lost his fight to splenic cancer in March of 2010. Ripley's sister, Sydney, also lost her battle to bone cancer in June of 2012. Please check out Sydney's webpage to learn more about her fight with Fibrosarcoma here.
If you want to help fund further research to help other dogs fighting canine cancer, please consider donating to the Morris Animal Foundation.