Early in January, Amanda Fanean wrote an e-mail to BarkPost, telling us about her beloved dog Reilly, who was dying of cancer. “I needed someone else to know that Reilly exists,” Amanda wrote “and just how special she will always be to us.” We were touched by Amanda’s passion and candor and thought we would help her spread the word. BarkPost is honored to share Reilly’s story, in Amanda’s own words:
Jon and I have three rescues as home. An Alaskan Husky named Chloe, a beagle named Ray, and Reilly. Reilly is really special. She has overcome incredible odds since she showed up on my doorstep and continues to be the most unassuming and loving creature I have ever encountered.
In the beginning of July, after a month of testing Reilly for different allergies and autoimmune skin disorders, we received the “worst case scenario” phone call. At the age of 5, Reilly was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer called cutaneous lymphosarcoma. It has an extremely low survival rate, between 3-6 months. We greeted each battle with courage, perseverance and enthusiasm. Reilly even passed the six-month mark in the beginning of January. Unfortunately, we will lose the war in the next 2 weeks.
Reilly showed up on my doorstep in 2009, on St. Patty’s Day, in the middle of a terrible thunderstorm. I was sitting on my second floor porch with Chloe, who adopted me a year earlier, and watching the storm when I heard this quiet, but persistent, scratching. I didn’t think much of it, but Chloe knew better. We went to our front porch entrance, and there Reilly was…tiny, filthy and greeting us like long lost friends. We loved her instantly.
From that day forward Reilly was part of the pack. Reilly changed Chloe. Chloe was found in a box on the side of major highway. Her mother was dead and tied to the guardrail with her pups in a small box next to her. Chloe spent the first 9 months of her life in a 5x10ft crate that she shared with her siblings. She couldn’t hold her head above her shoulder blades, was not potty trained, and scared of e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. The day I took Chloe home her rehabilitation began. I’d love to say that I transformed her, but I didn’t, Reilly did. Suddenly, Chloe turned into the Alpha she was always meant to be. Her coat improved, her instincts were fine tuned, and she had real purpose. Chloe held her head high and trained Reilly with very little work on my part. [Later, when I adopted Ray,] Chloe taught him structure and discipline, but it was Reilly who taught him love.
Shortly after we found Reilly, she attracted Parvo and landed in critical care. The vet held her for two weeks and told me there wasn’t much more they could do. I had the option of putting her down or letting her die at home. And home we went. Chloe was protective of Reilly before, but now she was the head nurse that overlooked her treatment. Reilly nestled right in Chloe’s belly and there was no adjustment without Chloe’s consent. Miraculously, Reilly lived. I have no other explanation other than Chloe’s care, and Reilly’s own will to please.
Reilly is so grateful and selfless. When the cancer began to eat her paws, we moved to booties, which Reilly could not be more proud to wear. You can’t help but be happy when you are around her. If you are sad, she’ll bring you a toy for comfort. We’ve had many a chat since her diagnosis and she always looks at me with an equally age-old wisdom and childlike innocence as if to say, “It’s ok, Mom. I know! Take this ball, it will make you feel better.”
Our final days together will consist of being outside as much as possible, vanilla ice cream comes, steak dinners, bones bones bones, cheeeeese, car rides, squeaky toys, Sinatra on the loud speaker while we cook (did I mention it’s her favorite?)“camping out,” which is when we pull couch cushions, and blow up mattresses into the living room to watch movies all night ( and by all night…I mean we’re all snoring by 10 pm). Reilly loves snow (we saw some tonight!), swimming, lightening bugs, high fives, and fetch, but above all, Reilly loves people.
Reilly is all that is good, and all that I wish I could be as a person. I am a better person because of her. She is so grateful and selfless. I would consider myself lucky to be able to carry on with just a fraction of her unassuming quality, devotion, and optimism. Although the anxiety of the clock is at the forefront, I know that she will always live inside me and that I will spend my life trying to be more like her. I can not thank her enough for the love than she has shown, the love that I have learned, and the love I hope to carry on. She is, and always will be one of my most beautiful adventures.
Sadly, Reilly passed away on January 14th. Amanda wrote me in an email:
It was an amazingly peaceful experience and there’s reassurance she’s in a better place; it was a long 6 months which I wouldn’t trade for anything and she left us while maintaining some of her dignity.
I learned that when you have multiple dogs, you can’t remove a dogs memories all at once. You have to let them linger and take things away slowly, the bowl, the toys, little by little–to help them cope. Chloe mostly sits at the front door looking for Reilly out the window and then looking at me. That’s a real shot in the heart because my initial reaction was to just scrub the cancer out of everything. I know that will eventually pass, she will move on as we all will.
I was talking to Jon the other night and had a funny thought, you know, the only thing “harder” than having three dogs is not having three dogs anymore.
Amanda wanted to take the opportunity to thank some people who helped her through this experience: Dr. Christy Carothers, Dr. Holly Roberts, Dr. Jennifer Arculus and all of the VCA Newark staff. Her parents, co-workers, friends, “Auntie Jess” Vandegrift, and of course, Jon. “They will never know how far their simple kindnesses would stretch.”