Written by Teresa Koogler, D.V.M.
As a veterinarian, I have had to deliver the diagnosis of cancer too many times, feeling helpless as I relayed details about treatment options and statistics for survival times. And when my husband, Robin, and I were faced with those same decisions, I cannot explain the overwhelming powerlessness we felt, determined to do what we could for our best friend, but being horrified at the prospect of putting her through surgery and chemotherapy only to lose her to this despicable disease.
Kate was the light of our lives — a truly ‘once in a lifetime’ friend. We wanted every day of her life to be happy and fulfilling. She loved to go hiking or playing in the creek, chasing rocks skipped across the water. She was the ‘hood ornament’ on our boat as she chased passing jet skiers, occasionally falling overboard with a smile on her face. As a small animal practitioner, I was fortunate on most days to be able to take her to work with me where she loved to greet her many friends. When the Harley Davidson® bug bit us in 1998, we couldn't bear to leave her behind when we went out riding and no one was more upset than she was. So we bought a trailer to pull behind Robin’s motorcycle so that she could go for a ride and enjoy yet another recreational activity. She would get so excited when Robin pulled the trailer out of the garage and wait with great anticipation as we readied everything for her to be lifted into the top.
Riding behind the two of them on my motorcycle I had the extreme pleasure of being able to see the reactions of everyone who saw them and realized what they had seen. It was incredible how often she got noticed. The smile that she brought to everyone who saw her was priceless. Inevitably a car would pass us on a two-lane road and I'd see the brake lights come on as the car dropped back with everyone in the car looking at her. She was in her glory, smiling and looking at the faces smiling back at her. Even people in their yards would catch a glimpse and do a double take as the smiles spread across their faces. Sometimes as we were riding, I'd see her little head turn around looking to find me for a reassuring gesture to let her know she was doing okay. She was our whole world.
When she was diagnosed with chondrosarcoma, a form of bone cancer of her shoulder blade at the age of 10, the knowledge that she was old for a Rottweiler was of little comfort. We have never regretted the decision to amputate her leg because we knew with all our hearts that she would have wanted every chance to be with us for as long as she could and amputation along with chemotherapy were ways we could assure we did everything we could to fight for her. And with our love and support we knew we could all get through the physical hardships together. She adapted extremely well, learning quickly to walk and run, taking in stride the added effort getting around involved.
Sadly, we lost her on September 16, 2002, just 7 months after the diagnosis. We knew early on that we were blessed by each day we spent with her and we will miss her for the rest of our lives.
Losing my very best friend has given me an indescribable determination to change the future of canine bone cancer. We established The Kate Koogler Canine Cancer Fund, a 501 3C non profit organization, to honor her memory and to raise money for bone related cancer research. It is our sincere hope and genuine goal that by determining why certain breeds and size dogs get bone related cancer, we can help treat and prevent other owners from being faced with similar decisions like amputation before losing the ones they love. Additionally, understanding and managing these cancers in dogs help treat cancer in humans. Comparative oncologists are using naturally occurring cancer in animals to understand environmental risks, examine genetic/familial determinants for predispositions seen in some dog breeds and evaluate novel therapeutic strategies for a variety of cancers in humans.
Kate Koogler Canine Cancer Fund
12742 Creagerstown Road
Thurmont, MD 21788