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!
They have competed in a multitude of costume contests as a pair, always homemade costumes, of course! Here they are dressed as Rocky & Bullwinkle, and at another costume contest dressed as Lifeguard and Little Swimmer!
They've taken road trips up and down the East Coast, to the Mid West and to Cape Cod (Florida, Georgia, South and North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and probably even more). They've visited the ocean, run in fields, camped on the beach, ran beside Katy and me at the Badass Dash (we came in 6th and 7th place!), eaten ice cream, burgers & hot dogs, celebrated 10 years of birthdays with Darwin-face-shaped pancakes, attended retrieving competitions (Darwin learned to retrieve by watching and playing with Candy!), run wild at the dog park, received their AKC CGC Titles on the same day, and have met thousands of people over the course of their travels.
Darwin is Candy's best friend. He's part of our family. He's sweet, energetic, incredibly smart, playful, quick and despite his whining when he isn't getting attention - he is patient. He even received recognition during his puppy kindergarten class for holding the longest Stay in the class.
While we knew that we wouldn't have forever with him, we never expected this news. It feels like he's too young. We are feeling so heartbroken, lost and distraught. We are asking so many questions of the universe and of God. This just isn't fair.
We have limited time with him now.
It's hard for us to see him struggle to walk. The sparkle in his eyes only shows momentarily. We are checking some things off of his bucket list and hoping that we can come to terms with making the hardest, most selfless decision of our lives yet.
We ask for prayers. His family needs comforting. We need comforting. It's so hard for us to write this.
We ask for you to share his GoFundMe page, and contribute to it if you feel called to. His family is strained with the crazy emotions of this moment in their lives, and to feel the financial weight hanging over their heads after they have said goodbye just breaks my heart. Please help if you can.
We ask for your patience, as we are putting him above all else at the moment.
Sending this with so much sadness and breaking hearts. Our tears just won't stop falling.
Jen, Chris & Candy on behalf of my sister Katy, Darwin's Mom.
Visit his GoFundMe page HERE
Consider sharing this link to your social media pages:
We will be making a donation to Darwin's family in our business name. Though we aren't asking you to make a purchase (this message is in no way self-serving), know that a portion of our online sales will go toward his medical bills and end of life care costs. We will also add an option to donate directly to his family via our website. Look for "DARWIN DONATION" as one of the first items in our online store. This will allow you to select from a preset amount to donate without his family losing a portion of the funds to GoFundMe. Thank you, again, for all of the love you've shown Darwin over the years.