On July 18th, Darwin, the little dog sitting on Candy's back on our logo, turned 10. Just two days later, he was rushed to the emergency department at Penn Vet, where he spent the night, underwent tests and bloodwork and an MRI, and then visited with a neurologist.
He was having difficulty walking and steadying himself and acting disoriented.
Over the last few months, his mom (my sister, Katy) had been bringing him to several different veterinarians in the area because he started crying when he would jump (meaning no more piggybacking, no more jumping up onto the bed, or into our arms, and no more tricks), he started rejecting his favorite foods, and he lost interest in playing with his toys and his kitty-sister, Eleanor.
Vet after vet prescribed pain meds and anti-inflammatories. They speculated everything from pulled muscles to arthritis to disc disease. The last vet she visited before the emergency room visit referred her to see a neurologist at Penn Vet, but the appointment wasn't until the second week of August. This all happened so quickly and the second week of August is still so far away. Our fears were that he would continue to decline to the point where he could not be helped. He was losing weight quickly. At optimal weight he's only about 15 pounds. He's down to 12 right now. That is why Katy brought him to the emergency room. There simply wasn't enough time to wait.
What the last vet thought was a disc disease is actually a cancerous tumor that is pressing on his aorta. Darwin was diagnosed with paraganglioma on July 21st. This is a cancer that spreads aggressively. He has a mass growing quickly, pressing on his spinal cord, which is causing him to lose the ability to walk. The tumor is also pressing on his kidneys, causing pressure on his aorta, and could cause a blood clot resulting in a seizure, heart attach or stroke at any moment. It has metastasized to his liver and lungs. This is a terminal diagnosis.
We organized a GoFundMe page to help my sister, Katy and her family have less stress during this terrible time. Initially, we were told that the disc disease was treatable via pain management, and we hoped to raise money for this treatment and physical therapy - but unfortunately, this isn’t what has been causing his health issues.
We are no longer raising money to pay for treatment, but instead to cover the large bill from his emergency visit ($5000+) and sadly, also now to help cover the cost of his end of life care. Our hearts are completely broken. The vet told us that no time is soon enough when it comes to this type of tumor. We are struggling to accept this diagnosis and the recommended course of action.
While we don't often reach out with sad news, we knew that this is something that would be of importance to many of you. Darwin has gained fans all around the world, and because of this we felt it best to share this with you directly.
As of now, we have him on pain management. Katy is spending all the days with him, making sure he gets to do his favorite things. Last night, we were able to bring Candy to visit him. It was so hard watching Candy want to play, and seeing Darwin lay there. He snapped at her a couple of times because she scared him, and then finally she settled down after taking all of his toys out of his basket and she laid down beside him.
Here's a picture of Katy with Darwin and Candy from last night. I know Candy's aware that something is wrong.
Darwin and Candy grew up together. Candy wasn't even a year old when Darwin moved in as a small, scrawny puppy. For Candy's first Christmas, Katy went to buy a gift for her from her local pet store, and she ended up falling in love with this little rescue dog who came all the way to NYC from a kill shelter in Sacramento, CA. The picture below is the moment he came into our home. It hurts us so much to go through these images.
They have learned SO MANY tricks together, that's how Piggyback was invented!