Ella is a Border Collie Mix who started life in rural South Carolina. She was in a hoarding situation and ended up in a shelter.  She had her puppies there, and the puppies were pulled into rescue, but she was not.  Another Momma dog in the same shelter also had puppies and she was pulled into rescue, but her 3 week old puppies were not.  So Ella nursed that second set of puppies too.  She was the consummate nurturer. A herding dog rescue pulled her in the fall of 2015.  She was heartworm positive and very thin.

Meanwhile, I was in Raleigh battling some nasty health problems.  I had wanted a dog for years. But my health was too unpredictable, I was in and out of work 13 times in 11 years, and I finally retired in 2012. 3 years later after things settled down a bit, I started looking for a dog.  I loved Border Collies didn’t want a full blooded one as I live in the city and can’t run anymore. Not long after, my friend called and said “I’ve found your dog”. I drove to Richmond and met Ella for the first time and brought her home the next day.  Ella was an anxious girl, scared of the back door, the courtyard, the garage, and all of the noises of the city.  She did not appear to have known a leash before and would “pancake” on the leash.  We walked miles and miles every day working on her leash behavior and getting her accustomed to city noises.  Several months later, she was an entirely different dog.  She became the therapy dog to most of Downtown Raleigh with her gentle and sweet approach to homeless people, seniors at the senior center, and everyone else she met.  She also helped a friend recover from a very serious concussion and always seems to know exactly what to do when someone is hurting or sick.

Ella has been the sweetest and most loyal companion for me.  She seems to intuitively understand when I’m not doing so well and will just be lazy with me. We spend many hours walking all over Downtown Raleigh. We go to the beach often, clearly a new experience for her when I first got her, and she revels in all of the sights and sounds and smells there.  Except the ocean, which she continues to have a tenuous relationship with. My girl is not a water dog.

Last summer, Ella’s groomer noted a soft fluid filled lump on her butt.  Her vet said it was a cyst.  It grew.  A few months later the vet again said it was a cyst.  I took Ella to another vet as cyst or not, it was going to need some surgical intervention.  It was not a cyst.  It was an anal sac carcinoma, and it was very large. After an extensive workup, I was very surprised to learn that it was stage 1. That was exceptionally good news, but I spent a couple of days walking around with Ella crying as I didn’t know how to help my dog.  And the barrier was financial.  I had no job, and a limited income.  I started a fundraising campaign and also sought help from a couple of other sources.  One of them was the Zeus Oncology Foundation, discovered on Instagram.  They approved a generous grant to support her post op radiation therapy at the NCSU Vet School.

Ella’s post op radiation course was every day, M to F, for a month. It all went very well until it didn’t, and Ella was hospitalized for 8 days at the NCSU vet hospital at the end of her course due to severe skin side effects and colitis.  The day after she was discharged to home, it was clear to me that she was back. She’s now off of all medications, is walking 5 or 6 miles a day with her me again, and is the happy, goofy, sweet, gentle girl she has always been.

In the end it took a village to help my sweet girl.  Cancer care is not cheap.  And Ella’s care was nearly 18,000 dollars after it was all said and done. But with a stage 1 cancer, and a prognosis to have years of happy healthy life with me, I had to give her this chance. I’m so very grateful to the Zeus Oncology Fund for it’s support. I could not have helped my sweet girl otherwise.

This photo is at the beach, Ella is staring at the setting sun. She’s very content and calm and we don’t even use a leash down there as she is always at my side.  Thank you for letting me have some more years with her.

-Leslie F., 2020