In keeping with the desire to post about the dogs I've bred, today's blog is about another one of my 'babies'. But only him because he deserves a special mention for the most adventures had in his short life. Some people may know who Mungo is but if you don't I will endeavour to enlighten and introduce a pretty cool cat into your lives. He was born, as they all were, in my house and raised with 11 other siblings. Then he left to spend the rest of his life with Daniela, Kevin, Sean and Sara. He was especially lucky because Daniela is a vet and Mungo would spend the rest of his life wanting for nothing - not only medically, but also in every other way possible.
When Mungo was two years old I got an email from Daniela telling me that their family was leaving for a year to drive to Latin America. They were going to drive from Calgary to the southern tip of South America and it was going to be quite an adventure. And Mungo was going too. He had all his things packed and everything was planned - he even got his own blog for people to follow along with his adventures of travelling through all those countries. I don't think Mungo cared about the travel; he, just like every other Ridgeback I know, just wanted to be with his family and if that took him through countless countries, then that was fine with him.
They travelled down through the USA, crossed over to Mexico, through Central America, and into South America and I'm sure they saw and experienced things that no one of them will ever forget. Through it all, for an entire year, Mungo was there. I often hear from Daniela that Mungo is a goofball and has boundless energy which he uses for finding naughty things to do . This means he's very active and I can imagine that more than once on his trip through Latin America he was getting on everyone's nerves with his need to go for a run - not always possible on the road!
Once the family returned to the Great White North they had a little extra time and decided to travel across Canada. One of their stops was to visit me here in Nova Scotia and it was a pleasure to see them all again. Mungo looked marvelous, he greeted his brothers and Leeloo with gay abandon and there were some hilarious hi jinks that will stick in my mind for a long time. I saw first hand what Daniela is refers to as Mungo's humour.
Things carry on, as they do, and the family settled back into life in Calgary, Mungo was treated to a new buddy to play with, Sargon, in early 2011, and Daniela opened her own practice in Marda Loop called the Canine Companion Clinic, just a few blocks away from where Mungo was born.
As a breeder you don't always hear what's going on in the lives of the people you sell a puppy to unless you prompt them and often I assume no news is good news, but in the summer of 2012 Daniela contacted me to let me know about Mungo. It wasn't good.
Mungo had been playing with Sargon as rough as they generally do, yelped and came up lame in his left hind leg. Initially the thought was that he'd torn his cruciate ligament, a fairly common injury for an active large breed dog. That would have been good news compared to what Mungo was actually diagnosed with. Osteosarcoma.
For those unfamiliar, that is bone cancer. One of the more serious cancers anyone, dog or human, can get. You can clearly see there is a problem with his bone in this xray - something to do with a whole chunk missing from the top of his tibia. You can imagine that this would cause him a lot of pain. At the time the family decided that because he is such an active dog they would attempt to save the leg, instead of amputating, and so a course of chemotherapy and radiation was established, along with physiotherapy to rebuild the bone lost from the cancer. Dogs handle raditation and chemo better than people, and he was doing quite well for several months.
In case you're wondering, own an Invictus puppy, or have a dog related to an Invictus bred dog, this instance of bone cancer is unlikely to be genetic. Daniela, who is a vet herself, does not believe this to be a heritable cancer, we both believe it's just crappy luck. I know of no instance, in any Ridgeback in fact, of bone cancer, much less in the lines I've used to produce my dogs. It can be inherited in some breeds and especially in some lines of certain breeds, but not mine. I certainly would not ever knowingly have produced puppies who might have had the possibilty of developing such a devastating illness.
Still, Mungo definitely had cancer and treatment, although making progress, was not yielding the results Daniela wanted to see. Mungo's quality of life was in question - he wouldn't use the leg on a regular basis, although new xrays showed increased bone growth, and he appeared to be in pain. The leg was wasting away with muscle mass and strength not being regained at an acceptable rate. Always the question of quality of life hangs in the air. For animals especially, quality of life prevails over quantity - people tend to choose life, no matter the pain or discomfort, simply through fear of death - but animals do not have that kind of foresight, life for them is always now.
With his leg wasting away, and the belief that the cancer was under control, the incredibly difficult decision to remove Mungo's left hind leg was made. Daniela employed the skills of an expert veterinarian, and good friend, to do the amputation. She tells me the decision to remove his leg involved a lot of tears and logic - Mungo was in pain and to have a leg that is useless and causes pain over no leg and no pain just made sense for his quality of life.
I'll be honest, when I saw the photos of Mungo without his hind leg, I couldn't help but cry at the sight. My brain can't seem to reconcile with the image of his missing limb ... it's just ... gone. However, the price of one leg, to save his life, seems small in the long view. He recovered very quickly from the surgery, hopping along just hours later and seeming to accept the new Mungo with relative ease. A dog's natural optimism certainly helps in these kind of cases. Added to which, Mungo has always had a great temperament and that will go a long way toward helping him cope with the drastic change in his body.
It's only been 2 weeks since the amputation and Mungo is making steady progress as a three legged dog. It is a small blessing that the bone with cancer was a hind leg, it is much easier for a dog, especially a large one, to adjust when it is a hind leg affected rather than a front one. He is being taken for daily walks and seems to be enjoying life although he recently did a number on his incision which will require more 'cone time' as a result.
At first glance, if you didn't know he was missing a leg, you wouldn't be able to tell until you saw him move or looked a little more closely. Since he spent a lot of time not using the bad leg for the last few months, the adjustment to three legs, as far as locomotion is concerned, is likely not that difficult for him. I'm sure balance and speed will increase with time and he was even off lead playing a bit with Sargon and enjoying being out in the world
I have repeatedly expressed my heartfelt sorrow to Daniela over the circumstances with Mungo - I can't help but feel responsible in some strange way. He is only 5 years old, barely halfway through a natural life, and my intent is always to sell a puppy to people with the promise of at least a decade. Mungo's life isn't over, that is true, but he's not out of the woods, and likely never will be. The fear of a cancer regrowth will be ever present, this is especially true with bone cancer, and these days every moment with Mungo is a gift.
Daniela put it best when she said she believes things like this happen for a reason. She doesn't blame or assign responsibility to me as Mungo's breeder, she thinks that these are the things that teach us. Her children have learned compassion and about life, she feels this experience will make her a better veterinarian, and no matter how the balance of Mungo's life plays out, his comfort will always be at the forefront of concern. Daniela is straightforward and honest about Mungo's treatment and future - there is hope there but also caution. She writes about this amazing dog on her own blog which was created to document their travels to South America and is now dedicated to it's namesake and his new adventure as a cancer patient - if you have time and want to travel with Mungo and join the fight against this terrible disease, head over to Mungo Eats LA and hope and pray with me and Mungo's family for many years of three legged adventures.