Riley's Story

Riley, a golden retriever, sitting among yellow mums.

He was lovingly called "Riley-putz". His given name was Riley of Retriever Run. He was born on January 21, 2003, on a farm near Byron, MN, to Scarlet and Digger. Riley spent his first six years enjoying farm life. He was an indoor dog, but spent plenty of time talking with the coyotes and discovering all the treasures a dairy farm has to offer.

Then his human, Samantha, met a boy. Soon after, Riley suddenly found himself to be a dog-about- town, living just blocks from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester. In fact, one of his favorite "rest-stops" during walks was in the statuary park in front of Mother Moes, William Worrall, and Will & Charlie. Riley enjoyed four years in Rochester, becoming a registered therapy dog, first through TDI, then through Pet Partners (Delta). He brought joy and comfort to many patients, family members, and staff at St. Mary's Hospital. When at home, Riley liked to lie around, mostly, as he had hypothyroidism and had always been a bit more of an Eeyore than a Tigger. He did, however, enjoy tug-of-rope, fetch the goose, scratches, car rides, baths (particularly being done with the bath), his veterinarian, and off-leash walks at Essex Park and Mayowood Trail.

In early February of 2013, his humans noticed that he had a limp. His hometown veterinarian didn't know what it was, but was concerned and felt a lump on his bicep. Riley's humans brought him to the University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center (VMC). After undergoing an ultrasound guided fine- needle biopsy it was found that Riley had a histiosarcoma. A week later, Riley and his humans returned to the VMC prepared for a CT scan and probable right front leg amputation. Riley was scared but willing to undergo the procedure to be free of pain.

Unfortunately, the CT showed metastatic histiosarcoma. Riley woke up from anesthesia not missing a limb, but missing a spleen. The large histiosarcoma found in his spleen was the most imminent threat to his life, so his humans opted to continue with a splenectomy. Riley came through this procedure like a champ thanks to the amazing work of Dr. Erin Corbin and colleagues at the VMC. After two weeks, Riley had a follow-up appointment with Dr. Mike Henson at the VMC. Riley had gotten to know Dr. Henson earlier the past year during a scare with a melanoma on his eyelid. Fortunately that scare ended well. Unlike this situation. Dr. Henson talked for a long time with Riley's humans and everyone came to agreement on a plan: Keep Riley comfortable by keeping his pain, discomfort, and anorexia under control. Though the options of chemotherapy, radiation, and a clinical trial were presented, Riley had already been through a lot, and just didn't have it in him to endure more.

Unfortunately, on the morning of Saturday, March 9, Riley woke his owners up with vomiting. Riley lost about 500mL of blood through emesis and didn't have the strength to get up off the bathroom floor. His humans brought him to his hometown vet, where Riley got some fluids, famotidine IV, sucralfate PO, and seemed to perk up a bit. Riley's human Mom watched him closely that night and the next day while his human Dad worked an overnight shift and slept the next day. Unfortunately, around three in the afternoon, Riley's human Mom had to wake his human Dad because Riley wasn't doing well. Lethargic and weak, Riley had to be carried out to go pee. Riley could barely stand. Riley's human parents then brought him in to his hometown vet, Dr. Bjornson, who gave him a little more fluid and ran some blood tests, but didn't know what more to do. Riley's parents had to make the terrible decision to euthanize him. With his human parents, their friend, his amazing vet and her awesome assistant all present, Riley went to be where all the unconditionally-loving, incredible, unforgettable, one-of-a-kind dogs go. We will miss you always, Riley. We were so blessed to have you for ten wonderful years.

And, Dr. Henson, Dr. Corbin, and all the staff at VMC, THANK YOU. You made a difficult experience the best it could be.

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