by AnnaRae Wood
On December 21, 2012, I got my very own puppy. After years of asking for one, my parents said I could get a puppy and it would be my responsibility to take care of it. Kingsley was my very first dog. A beautiful, pure-bred, well-bred Golden Retriever puppy. While I grew up with family dogs my entire life, Kingsley was mine. When we first got him, I slept on the couch downstairs to be near his crate while potty training him. I would feed him and exercise him, play with him, and snuggle with him. I was in love!
When it was time for me to go back to school after winter break, I couldn’t spend every waking hour with him. We had to adjust. We had mornings before school and evenings after I came home from school and dance practice. Summer breaks and winter breaks were great because I could spend more of my time with him. Before I knew it, I had graduated high school and was headed off to college.
The day I left for college, with my bags and car packed, I cried. I didn’t cry because I was leaving my parents or because I would miss home. I cried because I would miss Kingsley and I knew he did understand why I was leaving. When I left for college one of my greatest fears was that something would happen to him, and I wouldn’t be able to get home in time.
The first time I came home from college was for fall break, which was roughly about two months later. Kingsley was not happy with me. He refused to greet me when I arrived home. I was so upset that he wouldn’t say hello to me. After about an hour, he finally decided that he was no longer mad at me for leaving and we snuggled the remainder of the evening. Time passed too quickly. My short break was over, and I had to go back to school, leaving Kingsley all over again. The good news is that Kingsley must have realized that I would eventually return because he always ran to greet me happily and in his normal way after that first return home. Our reunions became joyous celebrations!
When COVID hit, the world changed. Nobody knew how long restrictions would last. However, for me, there was a bright side. I moved back home for six months and was able to spend a lot of time with my boy, Kingsley. We went on daily walks and even to the dog park to play fetch (while socially distancing). I would tan on the back patio while Kingsley would lounge in his personal kiddie pool beside me. Wherever I walked into the house, he followed. He was my shadow. Leaving him to go back to school was difficult. While I knew Kingsley now understood I would return, I once again had that awful feeling that if something happened to him, I would not be able to be with him in his time of need.
Fast forward another year. I finished my undergrad degree and decided to continue my education and pursue a master’s degree, meaning I would still be away at school. I looked forward to the time when I would be able to set up a permanent home for myself and Kingsley. Unfortunately, on October 7, 2021, I received a call from my parents late in the evening hours. The news was not good. I just knew that one of my greatest fears since leaving home for school was about to come true.
My parents had been out for the evening. When they got home, Callie (our other family dog) greeted them, but no Kingsley. This was odd so they started looking for him and eventually found him at the foot of a set of stairs. He tried to get up but could not. My parents did not know if he fell down the stairs or what was wrong with him. They immediately began contacting emergency vet centers to get help. My mom told me later that he weakly opened his eyes briefly and looked at her sadly as she gently stroked him, but that was it. Unknown to my parents, Kingsley had been bleeding out while they were gone. He was so weak that he could not even lift his head. His gums were white. He could not move his limbs, and he had to be taken to the vet on a gurney.
After getting him to an emergency vet center, my parents let me know that he had internal bleeding likely caused by an advanced case of cancer. It was strange because my dad told me that just days before he was running around, chasing tennis balls like usual without any hint of pain. The treating Kingsley told my parents that exploratory surgery was an option to confirm what was happening. It was our understanding that Kingsley might be able to. Live a short time longer, but most likely with a diminished quality of life. As a family, we made the difficult decision to put him to sleep so that he could be pain-free. He would have been 9 years old the following month. All of us were devastated and feel the impact of that decision, even today.
Since Kingsley was a Golden Retriever, I knew there was a strong likelihood he would develop some kind of cancer during his lifetime. In the few months following his passing, I found myself wondering why vets were not able to pick up on his illness during regular check-ups. Then I realized that cancer screening was not a part of his routine vet visits. If a test like Oncotect had been available, I one hundred percent would have had Kingsley screened for cancer. With screening and early treatment, Kingsley might still be here playing and snuggling with me today.
I, like so many other pet owners, have not been informed sufficiently or have been unable to purchase cancer screening for our dogs. However, now that Oncotect is becoming available at such affordable costs, I and others will be able to have our beloved dogs screened regularly for cancer and get them early treated as needed. I definitely plan to include Oncotect in the health plans of my future dogs.