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This is the story of my flat coat retriever dog Darby. She is a living miracle. I want to start out by saying that I believe that it is important to recognize that no matter where you are in life, no matter what you have contributed to creating, no matter what is happening, you are always trying to do the best you can with the understanding, awareness, and knowledge that you have until you can find a better way to handle the situation. Maya Angelou put it like this, “You did then what you knew how to do, and when you knew better, you did better.”

I first exchanged glances with Darby in January of 1997 as she sat by herself behind the bars of the local animal shelter. She had such sad eyes. I reached my hand through the bars to touch her dull black coat and say hello. She greeted me with a quick gentle lick on my hand and then she walked outside and sat in the rain. My heart skipped a beat as my eyes filled with tears thinking that she may have run out of hope of anyone freeing her from the bars that held her in as she awaited her fate. I went home that day without her, only to return the next morning to adopt, and bring her into my home, life and most of all my heart. She was around a year old when we adopted her. Unfortunately coming out of the imprisonment of an animal shelter she had already been vaccinated. There was nothing I could do about that but promise to support her immune system in the coming years instead of suppressing it with needless vaccinations.


Darby, December 2005

Over the following nine years I tried my best to provide Darby with a nontoxic environment. I clean my home with nontoxic natural products. I don’t use toxic flea/tick products on animals because I feel they are the equivalent of applying toxic pesticides to my skin. I try not to let my animals have extended exposure to grass in parks and play areas that are too perfect looking, indicating that toxic herbicides and fertilizers have been applied. Some may think that I use too much caution but I like to think of it as just being aware and making informed choices about the way in which my animals and I live.

It came natural for me to feed Darby a biologically raw food diet. All dogs are carnivores. I would not feed a horse a steak for dinner and I would not throw a flake of alfalfa out for my cat to dine on. Likewise, I would not feed a dog a bowl of cereal which I refer to as killer kibble. These processed fast food pellets, packaged or canned as pet food, are made from unfit for human consumption questionable ingredients. Most people remain blissfully unaware of the ingredients used to make these dangerous fast foods for dogs. Condemned and contaminated meats, as well as artificial flavors, colors and chemical preservatives are used to make fido’s food. I believe that feeding our animals in this way is open invitation for many of the health problems and cancers we see in our animals today.

All pet foods add complex carbohydrates to their formulas in the form of wheat, corn, rice, soy or other grains. Not only are these grains not necessary for a carnivore, they should not be included in a cancer starving diet. Carbohydrates are fuel for cancer, as well as veggies with high amounts of sugar.  A dog can sometimes live many years eating a diet of processed pellets. I must add that there is a difference between a dog who survives verses one who thrives. At this point you may be justifying and defending your choice to purchase and feed processed pet food. There will continue to be debates over real raw foods verses processed killer kibble until the end of time. A simple question to ask your self is which is healthier, processed fast food or fresh unprocessed food? The answer seems clear. If you want to know more about feeding your dog a healthy diet, instead of doing the same thing over and over expecting different results, check out the nutrition page on this web site.

Over the years Darby has dined on a variety of RAW chicken, duck, pheasant, quail, beef, beef heart, tongue, kidney, liver, ox tails, green tripe, venison, ostrich, goat, emu, buffalo, turkey necks, mackerel, and various organ meats and fish. The raw bones from these meats were included as part of her daily diet. Over the years I have added some supplements as needed to her diet, as well as feeding her raw eggs, table scraps and human quality treats and minimal amounts of food processed vegetables. I have always taken the extra step of purchasing antibiotic and hormone free, as well as organic foods for my animals.

In April of 2005 I noticed that one of Darby’s lymph nodes was swollen and that she had a small bump on the lower gum line. A vet visit and biopsy revealed that Darby did indeed have Tcell lymphosarcoma. Along with that news came a four to six month prognosis. I began to seek out alternative canine cancer therapies. I knew that I wanted to support Darby’s last months in a holistic way. Many years before Darby, I had seen the way that cancer had taken the life of my dog Nakita. Even with chemotherapy her life was not extended past her prognosis. She unfortunately had been regularly vaccinated, survived on a nasty diet of processed killer kibble and got regular doses of spot-on flea killers. She passed away well before her time because I blindly made uneducated choices, subjecting her to years of toxins and immune suppressing (unnecessary) vaccinations and fast foods in the form of unhealthy brown pellets better known as kibble. Fortunately I have learned from my mistakes and have implemented better ways of taking care of my animals. In years prior to Darby, the animals that suffered by my uneducated decisions and poor choices did not die in vain but prepared the way for a healthier, holistic lifestyle for the future animals in my care. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results.


April 11, 2005
Biopsy reveals T-cell lymphosarcoma

Eating healthy is one of the best tools in the fight against cancer. Thinking back on what Hippocrates said, “Let food be thy medicine,” I decided to spend the extra money and purchase grass-fed and organic meats as much as possible for her. One hundred percent grass-fed meat is low in bad fats and rich in heart friendly “omega 3” fatty acids and cancer fighting conjugated linoleic acid. Purchasing grass-fed meats instead of meats from factory farms or from animals that are grain fed is the next best step towards inviting health for your canine. Meat from grass-fed animals is much healthier and the conjugated linoleic acid they contain inhibits the development of tumors. Upgrading to pasture-fed meats is said to be able to help a dog in the fight against cancer. Raw food comprises a mass of complex nutrients and textures providing intricate nutritional and medicinal benefits for dogs with or without cancer.

I made sure that Darby had access to fresh fluoride free water. Many years ago I realized that city water has sodium fluoride added to its drinking water. This is ‘metallic.’ It is an inorganic poison with great toxic qualities. Digestion by people or animals does not change it. It accumulates in the system like arsenic and its destructive effects increase as time passes. It is not essential to body, bones or teeth. Calcium fluoride found in natural foods is essential. Pure water is key to good canine and human health.

I began to immerse myself in the plethora of information on alternative canine cancer therapies available on the internet. Some of the supplements that I started Darby on after her diagnosis included Astragulus, Bio CoQ-10, Collaidal Silver, IP6, Vit C, Essiac Tea, Vit E, Noni Berry juice, Lactaferin, Maitake Mushrooms, Spirulina, Salmon oil, Vit E, Transfer Factor, Tumeric and Wheat grass. I had also read about an herb called Artemisin used with great success in many cancer patients, both human and canine. I was thankful to find a Yahoo internet group devoted to canines with cancer and the use of Artemisinin as a cancer treatment. Soon after joining the group and learning more about this herb, I made the decision to stop the other nutritional supplements I had previously chosen because I felt that they may interfere with the use of Artemisinin. Antioxidant supplements are helpful in combinations with most natural cancer treatments, but they may interfere with other treatments such as Artemisinin.

Most importantly I decided that whatever Darby’s outcome is, that I would try my best to support her and I would give myself permission to fail. I realize that Noah’s Ark was built by amateurs and that the Titanic was built by professionals.

The benefits of exercise for the cancer patient are crucial. Cancer grows more rapidly at night in anaerobic conditions. Exercise results in high concentrations of oxygen in the body. It increases circulation allowing immune cells to reach the cancer. Along with vitamin D, exercise is known to put calcium in bones. Sunlight is a natural source of vitamin D. Darby has access to run on acreage every day but I decided to increase her exercise routine by jogging with her daily. I am blessed in the fact that I have a canine hydrotherapy business. Swimming exercise is a powerful intervention improving the emotional and physical health of canines with cancer. Darby swims in the 94 degree swim spa several times a week as part of her anti-cancer exercise protocol. Swimming increases circulation which allows immune cells to reach the cancer. General benefits of exercise include a feeling of well being, a raised pain threshold and increased appetite; all important for the dog with cancer. In addition, an increased excretory process results from regular exercise. Darby at 10 years old started out walking a mile a day and is now is up to running two to five miles a day.  I also take her for several extra walks in the middle of the night when the rest of the world is sleeping. Darby looks forward to her daily walks, jogs, and swims.

I used TTouch on Darby daily and small TTouches on and around her tumor site. I also practice acupressure and used this method on Darby several times each week. In October 2005 Darby started weekly acupuncture treatments with a wonderful Chinese doctor trained in China. Darby seemed to enjoy her appointments. I continued to feed her a raw diet, fresh water (no flouride) and Artemisinin daily for five days on and three days off. On the off days I supported her liver, feeding organic liver and using food processed dandelion leaves, as well as adding fresh ground milk thistle seeds to her food. I included a pre/pro biotic in her food on most days.  I rinsed her bleeding tumor off with a tincture I made up of Calendula, St. John’s Wort, and Burdock root. As her ugly tumor continued to grow and bleed, I applied Burdock root tea bags that had been steeped in hot water on the tumor several times each day.


November 2005
The tumor grew daily

Around November Darby went through a healing crisis. She had a bout with diarrhea. This was the first time she had ever had that in her life and the poor girl couldn’t even make it to the door without having accidents in the house. During this four day period I used Slippery Elm Bark powder to help her as well as adding organic pumpkin to her diet. Slippery Elm Bark is a natural plant product good for inflammation and the digestive tract as well as ulcers, vomiting and diarrhea. Feeling under the weather didn’t change her desire to go for swims and daily walks. The tumor continued to grow daily, and looked worse than ever. Her one lymph node was hard and had changed from the size of a pea to a walnut in the shell. The left side of her face was very swollen also. I could see that she didn’t have as much energy as usual but she still was eager to participate in her exercise program.


November 2005
Swollen face and lymph node

Darby had been my TTouch demo dog for the past couple of years. In November 2005 I was in the midst of a TTouch workshop. She still wanted to come along with me to be my demo dog. The people who saw her were amazed that she was so willing to continue to work and be an active part of the class. She loved the attention that she received and was eager to participate in the demonstrations.

During this same time Darby began to loose her appetite. I was taking pieces of her food and putting it in her mouth and then she would swallow. She looked up at me, with her beautiful big brown eyes and I explained to her that I was not going to give her meds to increase her appetite. I told her I would help her but would not force her to eat her meals. If she didn’t want to eat she could stop. Because she was eating less her energy level was running low. Her swims became supported swimming sessions and her daily runs slowed to walks. But still her tail would wag as she made the most out of each day.

I had a business trip in California I could not cancel. I was so torn inside about leaving her as I felt that she would not be here when I got back. Some well meaning friends encouraged me to choose her time of death and euthanize her as soon as possible. I am so glad I didn’t pay attention to their well meaning suggestions. Others encouraged me that she was probably choosing to transition while I was gone and not in my presence. They encouraged me not to cancel my trip. I made cremation arrangements for her and talked it over with my husband who was supportive of my decision to let her go on her own instead of me choosing the time of her death. I have learned over the years to allow my animals to transition on their own. Our society seems to be so afraid of the death process. Each individual has to make their own choice for their fur children. I have learned how to let my animals leave naturally.

My heart was heavy as I took her for what I thought was her last walk around the lake. I tried not to cry in front of her and I just appreciated each step I took with her that day. I came to the backside of the lake and I took her leash and I held it up to the sky. I prayed out loud saying, “God you are her creator, her real guardian. I thank you for the time you have allowed us to be together and for the love we have shared and today Jesus I give you the end of her leash and give her back to you. I know she won’t need a leash in Heaven, but I, nonetheless am handing her leash to you, as well as the control of her life. Thank-you for the time you have let me have with her.” The next morning I took the brightly colored scarf off Darby’s neck and placed it in my bra next to my heart and said goodbye to her as I was leaving to drive thirteen hours to CA.

I told Darby not to hang on for me, and that I loved her and I was not going to make heroic efforts to extend her life here on earth. I explained to her how long I would be gone and that today was Thursday but on Monday I’d be home and if she wanted to stick around she would have to have something to eat and I would take her for a walk and swim on Monday. I kissed her and said I would see her again. My heart was broken as I walked to the door. It was the longest drive of my life. I wrote poems to her and sang songs to her as I drove along highway 5. Yeah, I was writing love letters to her as I was driving but the road is a straight shot from WA to Ca so it was easy to write and drive. I prayed for her to pass back into God’s hands soon if there was no improvement. I then kept thinking of the verse Romans 4:17 that says call into being those things which do not exist. I applied this scripture to Darby. I called her unhealed body healed. I called her tumor healed. I called her cancer filled body cancer free. I tried to see her tumor gone. I asked God to increase my faith. Faith means believing in the things not yet seen. So I kept driving and praying and affirming in my mind the tumor shrinking.

I called home often to check on her and learned that she was still eager to go for her long walks. I was happy to hear this news and I just continued to drive and pray. Over the next few days my mind and heart continued to be with Darby. I often would place my hand over my heart where her little scarf was positioned. I stood on the scripture and believed that God would not give me more than I could bear. I got a phone call from my husband letting me know that Darby seemed to want a little something to eat on her own. I thanked God, as this was evidence that she was not in the transition process. I would have more time with her if she continued to want to eat.

On Sunday I received more good news that she was not eating much but a little bit more than the day before. I couldn’t wait to get home. I left CA that evening and drove straight through the night to arrive back at my home on Monday morning. Darby was standing at the window with her tail wagging. I was so happy she was still with us. After greeting all of the fur kids I took her out for a walk around the lake. I thanked God for the extra time He had given us to be together. Soon after Thanksgiving, the tumor began to shrink on a daily basis and was completely gone by the end of December as her energy, appetite and health improved dramatically.

In February 06 I decided to take Darby back to Mercy Vet in Mercer Island WA to have her progress and healing documented. Her veterinarian Jacqueline Obando was amazed to see Darby alive and doing so well as her prognosis back in April 2005 was for four to six months. This was Darby’s first vet visit since her diagnosis. Dr. Obando asked me to share Darby’s anti-cancer protocol with her. She commented prayer probably did play a role in Darby’s case. She called Darby’s oncologist explaining her spontaneous healing to her as well as other vets who she wanted to share the story with. She felt that no further tests were necessary and thought this would only upset Darby’s vital force. Dr. Obando concluded that Darby is cancer free.


January 2006
Tumor completely gone

There are so many alternative canine cancer treatments that they could fill a book. I looked for alternatives that hopefully would work for my dog’s specific cancer. I chose therapies that were comfortable and possible for my dog, as well as affordable. I purposed myself to help Darby enjoy a quality of life, with hopes that it would result in life beyond her prognosis. I am a huge believer in using proper nutrition and exercise as the two most basic ways to fight cancer. I believe that along with the Artemisinin, acupressure, acupuncture and other therapies I used that the power of prayer should not be underestimated. There have been a number of scientific, double-blind studies that confirm prayer has power. The power of thought and intention as well as intercessory prayer can have a measurable effect on physical reality.

I decided to share Darby’s story with you because it is important to have hope and faith when your fur child has been diagnosed with cancer. Darby has taught me so much. I have learned to find joy in the moment, instead of always thinking about the next hour, day or week. I have learned to walk more in the present. Darby has taught me to bake a cake or treats for her for no special reason other than that I love her. There is no need to wait for her birthday, celebrate her life today. I have learned to pray and trust on a deeper level.  I have learned to make peace with the natural order of life and death. I have learned to give myself permission to fail. I thank Darby for helping me to learn all these life lessons.

I hope Darby’s story will in some way touch your heart, as well as inspire you to make changes on behalf of your beloved canine companion. It is my sincere hope that you will have a new awareness about needless vaccinations, environmental toxins, flea and tick products, fluoridated water, commercial processed fast pet foods and quick fixes that address a dog’s symptoms instead of the underlying disease. I hope you will be open to holistic and alternative ways to support the health and healing of your dog today, as well as for the sake of future generations of fur kids.

You may be asking yourself why did Darby get cancer in the first place since I try to provide a life for my animals that reduces the risk factors for cancer. I do not have the answer to that question. It is not possible to live in a pollution free, environment. There are many factors that contribute to the increase of cancer in our pets. We should take responsibility and make changes once we become aware of how to reduce the health risks for our canine companions. Darby’s health today may be evidence that her body had the strength to fight this terrible disease. I will continue to do things to support instead of suppress the precious immune system of my beloved animal companions. I hope Darby’s story encourages you to do the same. I send blessings to you in all of your healing endeavors and remember ‘today is a gift’ that is why it is called ‘the present.’

I invite you to look at the health and nutrition and cancer links that are listed on my website. It is impossible to list all of the wonderful alternative methods and therapies available to combat canine cancer. I strongly suggest you subscribe to Whole Dog Journal and read back issues that include stories on cancer starving diets, cancer supplements, herbal treatments, enzyme therapy, acupuncture as well as other non conventional cancer treatments. And most of all I encourage you to think about ways to prevent or at least reduce the risk of canine cancer in the next dog that may come into your life.

If you feel that you or your dog have benefited from the information on this website or would like to add your dogs name to our canines with cancer prayer list we would love to hear from you. Below are a few more links to help you on your journey. Thank-you for taking the time to read Darby’s story

Two hearts that beat as one,
 Tonita and Darby


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