The Goodest Girl – A Story of How Nuka Changed Our Lives

It’s not fair. Why can’t our pets live as long as we do? We know she was “older”, but nobody expected her to leave us so soon. My family has been dealing with a range of emotions; sadness to anger, guilt to grief.

Why did she have to die? She was only 11….Why cancer? Instead of dwelling on the horrible reality that is, I want to take a minute to talk about the goodest girl ever…Nuka.

Nuka’s Beginnings

Should We Get Another Dog?

After Roc’s death in 2016, my husband was hesitant to get another dog because of the cost and the care that comes with adding members to the family. 6 months went by, and my kids and I started perusing the shelter pages for adoptable dogs.

None stood out.

Don’t get me wrong, Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas can make great pets (well, maybe not Chihuahuas…just kidding!), but those breeds just don’t fit our family. We are more of a fluffy, but not crazy group; laid back and quiet, yet ready for fun when needed.

Malamutes Are Us

Roc taught us so much about the Alaskan Malamute breed and he showed how Malamutes are very family oriented, laid back, super fluffy (double coat, anyone?), and just our speed. I decided at that time that if we were going to adopt a dog, this dog had to be the fluffiest, cutest, adult Malamute who was good with little kids, cats, and noise.

So, where do you find a very specific Malamute in Phoenix, AZ? You don’t.

I started looking at animal rescues throughout Arizona, but still only saw Pit Bulls and Chihuahuas who were in need of a loving home. I then turned to Alaskan Malamute breeders seeking information regarding any mommas or papas being retired soon. Summit Alaskan Malamutes stood out to me regarding how they cared for their dogs and why they were specifically Malamute breeders.

Summit Alaskan Malamutes

The owner of Summit Alaskan Malamutes, Lisa, listened to my story of how we lost Roc 6 months prior and we found Malamutes are our breed…however, we have certain criteria of what we are looking for.

  1. We don’t want puppies
  2. We need a dog that loves little kids
  3. The dog must be cat friendly

This is a difficult checklist to mark off as northern breeds tend to have a high prey drive, so “cat-friendly” is highly unlikely.

I was told she did not have any soon to be retired dogs; however, she would let me know if something came up or if someone else needed to rehome their pet. Within a week or so, I received an email from Lisa stating she was looking to retire one of her females. Birthing puppies was too hard for the momma and Lisa was looking for a comfortable retirement home for her.

She stated this dog was super sweet, loves kids, was raised with cats since she was around 16 months old. The only quirk she had was she was super skittish of men. Once I heard good with kids and cat….I was sold! (We can figure out the men thing a little later.)

We set up a date to drive up to Lisa’s house to meet this sweet girl, Nuka. My husband kept reminding me that it was only a meet and greet; we weren’t going to bring her home on that date. I politely nodded, while crossing my fingers behind my back.

Love at First Sight!

December 31, 2016, we packed the family into the Explorer and drove about 2 hours north. The kids and I could not contain our excitement, and if I am honest, I think my husband was looking forward to meeting Nuka as well. We pull up to the house and are greeted by Nuka, Chris, and Summit in their respective dog runs.

Oh my, what beautiful dogs!

We chatted with Lisa and her husband, Mike, about who we were and what we were looking for in a dog (more of a confirmation of the communication through email). Lisa brought Nuka in the house and it was love at first sight for my oldest. Nuka and Joshua connected immediately.

I think at that moment my husband knew Nuka was coming home with us. She is now family.

The New Pampered Life of the Goodest Girl

The Beginnings

We brought Nuka home New Year’s Eve and she began her new life (retirement) with a boisterous, loving family. Due to Nuka’s fear of men, my husband would make himself as “small” and “soft” for her sake. It’s quite the undertaking for my 6’1″ man! The progress was slow; however, she let him pet her as long as he was lying on the floor.

My oldest did not leave her side for the rest of that weekend. They snuggled on the couch together, played in the backyard, and even fell asleep close to each other. It’s true what they say about a boy and his dog…best friends forever!

The two littles (my younger two) wanted to hang out with Nuka as well, but they could be a little overwhelming at first due to their high activity and noise levels. Nuka soon became accustomed to their craziness and accepted she was part of the family.

Nuka’s personality began to blossom as time went by. She became more comfortable with our family, friends, and neighbor kids. Her excitement to be with her people showed in her zoomies and when she would try to catch her tail. In typical malamute fashion, she was stubborn when she either wanted something or if she didn’t want to do something.

 

A New Nuka

In March 2017, I received a text from Lisa stating she needed to retire Beckham (my favorite red malamute I met when we met Nuka) and asked if we would still be interested in giving him a home. I said, “Absolutely!”, so in mid-March, Beckham became a part of our family as well…

And, I still cannot believe how Nuka completely broke out of her shell. At this point, she would actively seek out my husband for affection. She loved being the center of attention when we walked to the boys’ school. She would even goad Beckham into play and chase him around the yard.

She became a much more relaxed dog who knew she was the queen of the house.

Food Thief

Nuka also really liked food; almost any food. If food was accessible and you weren’t looking, she would sneak it off of your plate. Your yummy dinner would be gone! She has stolen many food items including: raw carne asada, raw chicken, turkey, chocolate chip cookies, cupcakes, bread…and all of Beckham’s food.

If it was forbidden, she was going to try to steal it.

Taking walks with Nuka was always amusing. Her little fluffy butt and Corgi sized legs made her look like she was royalty walking down the street. She was too good to meet other dogs, but she loved the adoration humans bestowed upon her. It was extremely important to her that she walk beside Beckham and pee on anything Beckham marked first. We laughed every time we were out with her.

As time went by, we noticed Nuka started to slow down, but her sassy little attitude never let up.

An Aging Nuka

Nuka was 5 years old when she became part of our family. Typically, large breed dogs live to be around 12years old; however, I had hope that she would see the ripe old age of 17 (like Roc). Knowing she was spayed later in life, we were aware there was a higher chance of cancer in her future.

We watched Nuka slow down around 9-10 years old; however, she never indicated anything was wrong other than some mild arthritis and a couple fatty tumors. Even the mammary tumor that was aspirated and showed no signs of cancer, didn’t keep her sassy attitude from coming out.

In her last years, she continued to be a food hog, the queen of the house, and the play instigator. She never let Beckham beat her in a wrestling match and she didn’t miss an opportunity for some loves. Nuka was so spoiled we even picked her up to put her on our bed!

Aging Sucks

In March 2022, we noticed the mammary tumor on her belly was growing exponentially fast and another tumor was growing on the left side of her neck. I contacted our vet to set up an appointment to remove the masses.

When the vet saw how large the mass was, the first word out of her mouth was “Fk!”. At that point, I knew it wasn’t good and there might be a possibility of cancer.

The surgery went well and the vet removed both masses, the one on her belly being 2.5lbs. We were informed both had clean margins, but we could test the mass to see if it is cancer. Due to the cost and the fact Nuka was older, we opted out of the test.

Nuka’s spryness came back with a vengeance. She was as sassy as the day we brought Beckham home…and she let us know it! Everything looked great. Nuka was feeling great…

It’s Not Fair

April 2022, we noticed another little nodule on the right side of her neck and at the base of her skull. She started coughing like she had something in her throat. The food hog stopped taking doggy donuts and carrots.

We attributed the behavior to getting older; however, we were being proactive regarding the masses on her neck. Unfortunately, with the veterinarian shortage and our clinic only having 1 doctor on staff (due to a permanent medical leave), the only appointment would be 2 weeks out.

The first weekend in May 2022, I noticed Nuka’s breathing was more labored. She was hacking more, and she could not get comfortable in any position. I called the vet’s office to see if there were any cancellations where we could slip in, and the appointment was made for the next Thursday.

A Vet’s Visit, Finally!

I called on Wednesday because Nuka’s breathing became worse and was able to get her in. The doctor noticed the mass on her neck had abscessed and she had a fever. She wasn’t sure if the mass was due to a puncture wound or if it was another mass like one she removed in March.

Antibiotics and pain medication on board, I took Nuka home. Even in pain, Nuka was stubborn! I could not get the pain medication down her throat and she had stopped eating some of her food.

On Friday morning, I called the vet’s office again, because I could see Nuka was in a good amount of pain and she started to stretch her neck out to breathe. They asked me to email a video of her breathing. Even after sending the video, they said I could bring her in for an observation.

I rushed Nuka to the vet’s office and gave them all the details of what I was seeing. That afternoon, I received a call, stating she was breathing fine and I could pick her up.

When I picked her up, I could tell she was still not breathing ok. The vet staff told me that the antibiotics had not had time to work and that we should just watch her over the weekend. It didn’t make sense, but I trusted their judgment at that time.

Friday evening, I told my husband that Nuka was not ok. She can’t breathe. She won’t eat. It is obvious she is in pain. I can’t let her continue to be in this condition over the weekend.

That night, I slept downstairs with her to monitor her.

Rushed to Emergency

Saturday, May 7, 2022, I rushed Nuka to the emergency vet’s office. Her condition deteriorated overnight, and I needed to fix it. The vet tech rushed her back to X-Ray and the doctor examined her. The moment the doctor walked into the room without Nuka, I knew the news was not going to be positive.

According to the X-Ray, Nuka had a large mass on 1 lung, and a ton of masses on both lungs. She was not getting any oxygen into her lungs and the doctor said the blood test showed she was anemic. This could mean that blood was filling her lungs as well.

All we could do is look at quality of life. Due to her age and the fact her lungs were covered in masses, the only humane option was to euthanize her that morning.

I started to cry, but I also knew the doctor was right. It would be unfair of me to keep her alive with the amount of pain she was in. I called my husband to bring Beckham and my oldest to say goodbye.

It’s not fair…I’m not ready to let her go.

We were able to spend quality time with her and tell her how much we love her. We told her she was amazing and that we were going to miss her terribly. It wasn’t fair that we didn’t have enough time with her, but we were honored she shared her life with us.

We told her she was the goodest girl and nobody else can take her place.


Conclusion

No words can express the utter grief we feel. It doesn’t feel right not seeing her big Malamute smile when I walk in the door. It feels weird not calling her name and her running over for some love. I hate not seeing her and Beckham running around the loft and tackling each other. I don’t have my food vacuum cleaner anymore…

Even through the pain, I know Nuka is in a better place. She is able to breathe and run pain free with the others over the rainbow bridge.

One day, I will see her again, and I will be able to tell her that she is still the goodest girl.

Goodest Girl

Keep Your Dog Healthy Through Middle/ Senior Age

I am super excited to introduce you to a guest blogger, Mark, who loves dogs (and all pets) just as much as we all do! He has taken time out of his busy schedule to write about how to keep your dog healthy through middle/senior age. Want more information regarding dogs? Check out his site: ourdogsworld101.com or his Facebook page. It is definitely worth the read!

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How to Keep Your Dog Healthy Through Middle/Senior AgeHow to Keep Your Dog Healthy Through Middle/Senior Age

Dogs experience age-related problems and challenges as they get older. Usually, a dog is considered senior when it reaches seven years of age. Thinking about such changes begs the question, how to keep your dog healthy through middle/ senior age.

Consider taking these amazing steps to improve their health. By doing your part to keep your senior dog healthy, you will allow them to give you many years of companionship. Follow these tips and your middle-aged/ senior dog’s health will be assured.

Dog Food, Dog Bowl, Dog Kibble, Dry Dog Food, PawsHealthy Food and Nutrition

Diet is a very important point that contributes to the overall health of your fur buddy. For senior dogs, the nutritional requirements usually change and evolve. All middle age/ senior dogs have specific nutritional needs based on breed, age, weather, metabolism, and activity level.

The middle-aged/ senior dogs are prone to many health issues including arthritis, weight gain, cognitive issues, and appetite loss. Their diet greatly affects the quality of their life. These health problems can be affected or improved by the daily diet you feed.

Healthy seniors need more protein to maintain muscle mass. Many middle/ senior dogs need more protein, fibre, or other nutrients to ensure their bodies are well taken care of. You should give middle age/ senior dogs a diet that is tailored to meet their needs. You can consult your vet to select the best diet for your middle-aged/ senior dog’s specific needs.

Regular Vet VisitsMedicine, Veterinary, Equipment, Ear Examination, Dog

You should take your middle-aged/ senior dogs for regular check-ups at the vet’s office. Regular vet visits give your vet the chance to evaluate the overall health of your senior dog. You will also get the chance to discuss any unusual behavior your senior dog is displaying. Your vet will identify irregularities in case your fur buddy has any issues.

The vet will assess the general health of your middle-aged/ senior dog. These vet examinations can detect problems in older dogs before they become life-threatening. Regular vet visits improve the chances of a longer and healthier life for your dog.

Pill, Gel Capsule, Medicine, Health, Cure, DrugIntroduce Dietary Supplements When Appropriate

If your senior dog is not getting a complete and balanced diet, it may develop dietary issues. You can introduce supplements into your dog’s diet. Dietary supplements will not take the place of a healthy diet but will be an additional support to a healthy life.

You can give joint supplements to help keep your dog’s joints from hurting. Also, omega-3 fatty acids help with brain, skin and joint health.

Be cautious about giving human supplements to pets. Your senior dogs need dietary supplements if they’re suffering from arthritis, hip dysplasia, neurological problems, or poor coat conditions. Your vet can also assess whether your middle-aged/ senior dog needs a supplement or not.

A Comfy Place to LiveDog, Pet, Bed, Animal, Border Collie, Sleep, Cute

Arthritis and hip and elbow dysplasia are common issue for older dogs. These dogs deserve a comfy place to relax and sleep. A quality orthopedic dog bed can ease their arthritic joints while helping them stay cozy and comfortable. These beds are designed to provide extra support to your dog’s joints and bones.

You must provide a warm, comfy, and quiet place for relaxing and sleeping. Choose a low-traffic area in your house for your senior dog to relax and sleep. During winters, provide them cozy blankets to keep them warm. Also, keep their space clean and free of germs.

Dog Bath, Resigned, Wet, Soapy, Grooming, AnimalRegular Grooming

Regular grooming and careful weekly examinations are essential for your aging dog’s overall well being. Regular grooming can help you to spot bumps, lumps, wounds, and potential health problems on your senior dog’s skin.

Grooming also helps to remove any loose fur due to shedding, dirt, debris, or ticks and fleas. You should arm yourself with the right grooming tools for your senior dog. Make grooming a positive experience for your senior dog, filled with praises and rewards.

Regular Exercise and Mental Stimulation Strength, Dog, Golden Retriever, Strong, Exercise

Senior dogs should be given regular exercise and mental stimulation to avoid health issues. Regular physical activities will strengthen your aging dog’s muscles, enhance circulation and improve their heart and brain function. Always choose a physical activity that is appropriate for your dog’s age and stamina.

Mental stimulation also plays a big role in keeping your dog healthy. Try to provide ample opportunities for mental challenges to keep your dog young at heart and prevent boredom.

Pit Bull, Senior Dog, Senior, Portrait, Dog, MuttMaintain a Healthy Weight

Maintaining your senior dog’s weight is one of the easiest ways to increase his life expectancy. Healthy weight is a major factor that contributes to your dog’s overall well-being.

Obesity in senior dogs increases the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, difficulty breathing, skin problems, and other conditions. It can shorten your dog’s life expectancy and decrease their quality of life.

Sudden weight loss in a senior dog is also a source for concern. Hyperthyroidism, diabetes and kidney disease are common causes of weight loss in senior dogs.

What are Physical Signs of Aging in Dogs?Dog, Pet, Old, Old Age, Elderly, Gray

Dogs show a variety of signs of aging besides a graying muzzle. Some hallmarks of aging in dogs include:

    1. Slowing down or difficulty getting around
    2. Increased barking
    3. Cloudy eyes or difficulty seeing
    4. Stiffness
    5. Awful breath due to gum disease or tooth decay
    6. Weight fluctuation

It’s important to note that physical signs of aging might look different in dog breeds.

Quick note: Contrary to the popular belief, dogs do not age at a rate of 7 human years for each dog year.

What problems are more common in senior dogs?

It’s easy to spot the outward signs of aging in dogs. Here are a few common health problems in senior dogs:

    • Hearing loss causing varying degrees of deafness
    • Vision loss due to tissue degeneration in the eyes
    • Joint problems
    • Dementia/Cognitive Dysfunction: When dogs lose cognitive function as they age
    • Cancer: It accounts for almost half of the deaths of dogs over 10 years of age
    • Heart disease
    • Kidney problems
    • Obesity
    • Gastrointestinal issues

Aging should not be painful for your furry companion. For your senior dog’s health-related questions, always consult your veterinarian. They can make the best recommendations for your dog.

Final Thoughts

Just like us, age is not a disease for dogs. Although senior dogs may develop age-related problems, good care allows them to live healthy lives in their senior years.

Remember, when you bring home a furry companion, you are committing to a long-term relationship. As a loving dog parent, these tips will help your middle-aged/ senior dog to stay healthy.

You can’t make your senior dog live forever, but you can help your furry pal live the healthiest life possible. A healthy senior dog can save you from a lot of stress and vet visits. All you need is to make some effort to support a healthy life for your senior dog.

Cloning Your Pet?

I came across an article recently regarding a family in Phoenix, AZ who cloned their Golden Doodle so they could have her identical twin after she passed away. There was another recent article written about the first cloned cat passing away. I read these articles and began thinking… This brings up a really interesting ethical question. Is cloning your pet a good idea?

History of Cloning Pets

Cloning is not a new idea. In 1885, German scientist Hans Adolf Eduard Driesch was able to create twin salamanders by splitting a single embryo into two separate viable embryos. British biologist John Gurdon cloned frogs in 1958 from the skin cells of adult frogs, and then in 1996, the world-famous, Dolly, the sheep was born at the Roslin Institute in Scotland.

Since then, cloning has become more mainstream…or normal all over the world. ViaGen Pets has been cloning horses for over 17 years and started cloning cats, dogs, pigs, sheep, and goats in 2015.

According to Copernicus Science Centre in Warsaw, this is a list of animals cloned since Dolly:

  • 1998 – the first cloned mouse (it was called Cumulina);
  • 2000 – the first cloned rhesus monkey;
  • 2000 – the first cloned pig (or even five pigs);
  • 2001 – a buffalo and a cow cloned;
  • 2001 – a cat cloned (it was called CopyCat);
  • 2002 – Konrad Hochedlinger and Rudolf Jaenisch clone mice from T lymphocytes;
  • March–April 2003 – a rabbit is cloned in France and Southern Korea;
  • May 2003 – a mule is cloned. It was achieved by the companies Idaho Gem and Utah Pioneer;
  • 2003 – a deer (Dewey), a horse (Prometea) and a rat (Ralph) cloned;
  • 2004 – fruit flies cloned;
  • 2004– a group of Korean scientists under the direction of Woo Suk Hwang announces an alleged cloning of a human embryo. The information proves to be a fraud;
  • April 2005 – an Afghan hound (Snuppy) cloned;
  • 2007 – a wolf cloned; South Korean scientists obtained two female wolves (Snuwolf and Snuwolffy);
  • 2008 – a Labrador dog cloned;
  • 2009 the first animal from an extinct species cloned: Pyrenean ibex
  • 2009 – a camel female

How Does Cloning Work?

Livescience.com states, “Cloning is the process of taking genetic information from one living thing and creating identical copies of it. The copied material is called a clone. Geneticists have cloned cells, tissues, genes and entire animals. ”

There are three types of cloning:

  1. Gene or DNA cloning: Gene cloning takes DNA from the organism, adds an enzyme to break the bonds between the building blocks of the DNA, and snips the strands into gene-sized pieces. Bits of DNA in bacteria are added with the gene and put into living bacteria. Here they will grow into colonies to be studied. Once a colony of interest is found, the bacteria can be made propagate millions more plasmids (DNA in bacteria). This can be useful for investigating the gene’s characteristic or to study the gene’s function.
  2. Reproductive cloning: Reproductive cloning is where any mature cell, other than a reproductive cell, is extracted and transferred into an egg cell that has had it’s DNA removed. The egg is then moved quickly into the reproductive process and inserted into the female’s uterus from the same species.
  3. Therapeutic cloning: Therapeutic cloning is similar to reproductive cloning in that a cell is take from an animal’s skin and transferred to a donor egg cell. The egg is chemically induced creating embryonic stem cells. These cells can then be harvested and used to treat diseases.

Reproductive cloning is what is used in the pet cloning process. A genetic preservation kit will be sent to the pet owner and the pet owner will need to obtain a skin biopsy from their veterinarian. The sample will be sent back to the cloning company like ViaGen Pet, where it will be stored until the pet owner is ready to begin the clone process. Cells can even be extracted from pets who have passed away as long as cells are refrigerated up to 5 days postpartum.

When the pet owner is ready to clone their beloved pet, the cells will be implanted into a donor animal oocyte and after the egg and cell become a viable embryo, it is implanted into the uterus. The embryo will go through the same gestation period as one being born naturally. The interesting fact is the donor does not need to be of the same breed as the cloned pet.

Once the cloned pet is born, it will remain with the donor until he/she is weaned.

What is the Cost to Clone?

Cloning your pet is not cheap. If a pet owner is forward thinking and obtains a cell sample while their original pet is young, the cost can be around $1600 for the test and $150 a year for storage. In addition to this cost, the pet owner has to consider what the veterinarian will charge for the skin biopsy. Once the pet owner is ready to start the cloning process, it can cost upwards $35,000 for a cat, $50,000 for a dog, and $85,000 for a horse.

 

 

Ethical Debate on Cloning

I remember when the news of Dolly, the sheep, came out in 1996. Everyone had an opinion. “Is this where we are heading with humans, too?” “Is it actually the same sheep?” “Will it move into our food sources as well?”

Let’s break down some pros and cons of pet cloning.

Pros:

  • the possibility of producing healthier/quality pets
  • the pet is technically a “twin” of the pet that has passed away and may have the same traits.
  • the pet owner may be able to keep the memory of their pet alive

Cons:

  • the cost of cloning
  • there will still be differences between the deceased pet and it’s clone.
  • there are unknowns when it comes to the health of cloned clones. (my head goes to the movie “Multiplicity”)
  • the expectation the pet owner has may be missed…(i.e. the clone is nothing like it’s twin, health issues, shorter life span)

My Final Thoughts

The idea of cloning has been controversial for a long time. When something new is cloned or has had some sort of genetic modification, people are going to debate the ethical value of what is being done. My thoughts regarding cloning a pet is…don’t do it.

Here’s why:

Each pet is unique. They all bring different elements into our lives with their personalities and antics. To clone your favorite pet means you do not get to experience the joy another natural pet can bring to your life. In addition, you should not expect your next pet to be like the pet you lost. When you go through the cloning process, your mindset will be more likely to consider the new pet as identical or very similar to your old pet. This is not fair to the new pet coming into your home.

The shelters are at full capacity with pets that need a home. Instead of spending money to clone your favorite fur baby, take a chance on one who really needs a home. If you prefer purebreds, talk to an ethical breeder who can help you find the right match for your family…

Don’t go into debt to bring your fur baby “back to life”. The cost is astronomical and there is no guarantee that the cloning process will work. Instead of spending money to create a clone; help preserve life by donating to a local shelter or organization that you are passionate about. Your money will be better spent helping the community.

I believe every pet is special and deserves your 100% attention. Once they pass over the rainbow bridge, allow the grieving process to take place, appreciate their virtues and the wonderful life they shared with you…and allow yourself to open your heart to a new family member who deserves your love. They may be a little more quirky, maybe a little more frustrating, but I bet you will find them to be an amazing fit into your family.

What are your thoughts on the idea of cloning your pet? Are you for it or against it and why?  Let me know your thoughts below.

 

 

Sources used regarding cloning:

http://www.kopernik.org.pl/en/special-projects/archiwum-projektow/projekt-genesis/krotka-historia-klonowania/

https://www.americanveterinarian.com/journals/amvet/2018/november2018/pet-cloning-where-we-are-today

ViaGen Pets | America’s Pet Cloning Experts

https://www.livescience.com/58079-cloning-facts.html