We don’t know Oreo’s early history in Romania but it is almost certain he was a
street dog during, at least, some period of his young life and he managed to end
up in the local high kill Pound. Fortunately for him, he was rescued from certain
death by Crina who rescues hundreds of street dogs as well as those from the
most horrendous puppy farms.

Once safe in Crina’s rescue kennels, probably because of his gentle nature, he was
bullied and used to spend a lot of his time as high up as he could, out of reach of
his tormentors. No doubt, it was because of an incident there, shortly before his
departure to the UK, that his ear became damaged but, with so many dogs to care for, understandably, it went un-noticed.

Sue and Dave, who collected Oreo from the kennels on 2nd May 2015, were first
time fosterers for IRR and what a baptism of fire it would turn out to be for them.
On arriving home, Sue spotted a problem with Oreo's ear. He stank to high heaven
and he was also covered in an unknown green substance so, within an hour or
two of arriving in Hertfordshire, Oreo was already making the first of what was
going to turn out to be many visits to the vet.

Not long afterwards, Oreo became poorly and needed to go to the vets yet again.
Tests showed he had
fox mange, giardia and infected anal glands but, as before, Oreo
responded quickly to treatment, all became calm on the bowel front and he was soon
back to his very happy self again.

A couple of weeks on, just as Oreo had found a wonderful forever home, he took
another turn for the worse. This time, for a couple of days, Oreo had been
clearing his throat and seemed to lack energy although he was still happy and
waggy tailed. Not thinking there was cause for concern, it was only to be on the safe
side that Sue took him to see the vet and, on examination, there seemed to be
an obstruction in his throat. The vet became increasingly concerned about
him and we began to worry.

On 29th May, Oreo went in for an exploratory operation and it was found his
tonsils were extremely enlarged and inflamed, for which he had antibiotics and
anti-inflammatories. Unfortunately, they also found a tumour so a biopsy was done.
The prognosis was not good. We were all devastated and praying for a miracle for
him. His condition was, apparently, more common in much older urban dogs and
one of the causes has been attributed to pollution, which made terrifying
sense for an ex street dog.

Oreo's oral squamous cell carcinoma is extremely aggressive and we were told
treatment can only ever be palliative. The fact that it was in his tonsils indicated
that it was already probably quite widespread. There were treatment options
available including radiotherapy and/or chemo but pain management was a very
important aspect of the treatment as the condition is very uncomfortable.  Things
could be done to prolong life but there was no magic cure. The prognosis was
not at all good. Apparently, these aggressive tumours just suddenly appear. If the cancer
is caught soon enough, there is just a chance the tumour will not have metastised
and treatment may be more effective but, by now, we were all fearing the worse.
It just didn’t seem fair. This was such a horrible thing to happen to a really lovely dog
but, despite all his problems, Oreo remained cheerful and sweet natured and looked really well.

On Wednesday 3rd June, we received the news we had been dreading. Oreo was
terminally ill. It seemed there was only one option. We feared the tumour, if left
alone, could burst and Oreo could die horribly and possibly in pain. Chemo treatment
would be terribly expensive so could we justify it as it would only buy him a little time
with there being no cure? Sue and Dave were due to go on holiday so undergoing
treatment would have meant moving him to another fosterer but would moving
Oreo have upset him further? Nobody knew what to do. It was a really awful
dilemma which gave everyone sleepless nights.

We all talked and talked about Oreo possibly moving on to another fosterer but we
felt sure the sheer stress of that could probably kill him anyway. Things seemed to
be balanced totally on a knife edge. We wondered if, like many terminally ill people,
Oreo was just rallying before finally letting go.
After much discussion and many tears,
we really felt, in Oreo’s best interests, it would be better to say “goodbye” whilst he
was still relatively happy and before he deteriorated further but we reckoned
without Oreo’s amazing fosterers

Sue and Dave wanted to give him a little more time so they volunteered to
postpone their imminent holiday. They decided to give Oreo a few last days of
doing exactly as he pleased, Sue would monitor him carefully and, when the time
came, they promised they would be with him to the very end. We were all convinced
that end would come sooner rather than later but Oreo would be on his
anti-inflammatories /painkillers so we knew he would be comfortable.

We knew he would be happy and that he would be pain free. Sue was confident she
could make sure his last few days were as good as they could be so
we trusted her
and Dave to do what was best for him and we left the decisions in their very capable hands.

Oreo must have instinctively known he had been given a reprieve as, that night, he
wanted to play ball so Sue let him. He then stole her yoghurt and it made her
laugh out loud.
He hadn’t lost his love of food, for sure. That morning, he had
been desperate to play with another dog when they were out on a walk but Sue
hadn't let him in case he overexerted himself and suffered for it later.
 She vowed “Tomorrow, if he wants to play, then he can”.

It was decided he would have as much food as he wanted (he really does love
his tummy) and extra treats but Sue was going to keep a very close eye on the
weather and, if the heat started to distress him in any way, then she would
know it was time. Sue reported on Oreo almost daily throughout the month of
June. Unbelievably, what we thought might be just a couple of days
turned into a whole month.

In July, Oreo was continuing to enjoy his life so much that we decided to try
him on a low dose of chemotherapy in the hope that the side effects would be
minimal and we could buy him more time. Sue picked up the tablets which
were his chemo ones + steroids + liver protector medicine.   The treatment was
to start on Monday 22nd July with a blood test the following Monday. We were all
hoping Oreo would be able to tolerate any side effects.

We needn’t have worried as Oreo breezed through it all. He had the odd day here
and there where he was subdued but, on the whole, he remained very
cheerful and always hungry!

A lot had happened to Oreo in the 6 months since he first set paws on British soil
in late April and, all things considered, he was doing amazingly well. He always looked
so happy and well. It was very hard to believe he was classed as terminally ill and
there were times when we almost queried the diagnosis but Sue had seen the Xrays
with her own eyes and there was no doubt that he had an enormous,
horrid growth on his tonsils.            

The only side effects from the Chemo and steroids seemed to be peeing for England
and having an even bigger appetite than normal but, otherwise, he did really well.
Although much of his life seemed to be spent at the vets, through it all, he was
really friendly and very brave.

He owes his life to his wonderful forever fosterers and we can never thank them
enough. As if he were their own, they made sure he got the best of everything,
which is exactly what we all wanted for him. They did the most fantastic job
and seemed to take everything in their stride  despite the emotional rollercoaster
they were on. They really are very special people.

Oreo was having a much better quality of life than many dogs, loving his walks,
his cuddles, his play with both humans and other dogs and, of course, his grub. 
Life couldn’t have been fuller or more interesting for him. The weather had even
been kind to him as, with it not generally being too hot, he hadn’t been struggling
with his breathing and, when it was hotter, he went away on a boating holiday,
chilling with Sue and Dave. How good was that?

It wasn’t until late September that Sue again became a bit concerned. For a few
days, Oreo had been sleeping a lot and his intermittent cough and breathlessness
had returned. To crown it all, there were drops of blood coming from his penis.
It was thought, at first, that it may be a recurring infection due to the
chemo wiping out his resistance.

Unfortunately, it was bad news again. It was another unrelated cancer which
meant removing two difficult to get at polyps from his penile sheath and following
that with a different type of chemotherapy. However, there was also good news
because the scan revealed his bladder, prostate and kidneys were all clear and,
even better, there was no evidence of cancer in the throat and tonsils so,
all in all, it was marvellous news!!!!!!!!!!!!

It was in December that Oreo had the first of his treatments with Vincristine and,
thankfully, the dire side effects, of which we were warned, never happened and, as
always, our brave boy sailed happily through it all. On 27th January, Sue and Oreo
set off for the vets for his last chemo. They were on tenterhooks as his blood count
wasn’t quite as it should be but the oncology specialists at the veterinary hospital said
it was still ok to go ahead.

Soon afterwards, Oreo was given the all clear and he was given a “Well Dog Certificate”
by his vet which meant he was finally fit to go to a forever home. Naturally, it had
to be nothing but the best for our special boy and so it was that, in April, Oreo
met his forever mum, Caroline and his lovely new doggy friend, Buddy and it
was love at first sight all round.

Things got even better for him when his Mum adopted Ruby, an Irish IRR girl who
had suffered terrible abuse in her young life. They are now best friends who play and
play all day and Buddy looks on approvingly.

 Oreo’s story is a real rags to riches one. He is looking fantastic and so handsome
too. If people didn’t know, who would believe there had ever been a problem at all?
The best thing is that Oreo never realised he was poorly so he just carried on
breezing through every action packed day of his life in his lovely happy way.

Seeing him now, we at IRR know we did the right thing for him by taking a chance
and giving him the possibility of having a long, happy, healthy life. We are so pleased
we chose to go down the Chemo route as it just goes to show that small miracles
can happen and we hope, maybe, learning about Oreo's happiness and joie de vivre
may give others in the same situation a little bit of hope for their dogs too

2017 Irish Retriever Rescue