BY MARCY SHORTUSE - Tank is a gentleman of grand stature, who is currently fostering three kittens and working on his ball-playing at the home of Jacques and Blanche Boudreau, owners of The Loose Caboose restaurant. Found as a stray running down the road near the Wildlife Center of Venice in deplorable shape, the black Labrador mix is now part of the Boudreau family.
He is fighting for his life, though, and fading quickly. He has what is known as a trigeminal nerve-sheath tumor, which is slowly growing and pressing up against his skull. It began on the outside of his head before entering inside, and now that it is inside his head is becoming misshapen. The only hope Tank has right now is at a veterinary teaching hospital in Gainesville, where he would undergo radiation and other aggressive treatments.
Blanche and Jacques are wondering what to do next. They have already spent thousands of dollars on a spinal tap, MRIs, X-rays and other diagnostic tests to find out what is wrong and are now looking at another $6,000 for the treatment in Gainesville. Plans that had been made for their summer (the restaurant closed today until later in the fall) are being put on hold as they figure out what to sell, where to turn, or how exactly to proceed to get Tank the help that he needs.
“None of our babies are just a dog, or just a cat,” Blanche said. “True animal lovers understand that it’s hardly different than a human child. His life was so hard until we met him, we need to do everything we can to make sure he remains as part of our family for as long as possible.”
When Tank was found abandoned on the road near the wildlife center, he was bleached red from the sun and had callouses the likes of which the vet had never seen.
“He was covered with what looked to be mange, but was really a flea allergy,” Blanche said. “He had callouses because he had been kept in a tiny space on concrete in full sun, so he really couldn’t even lay down. He is terrified of storms from being kept out in them. When I first saw him, he had his head down and was hiding behind the legs of another volunteer there.”
Blanche, who works with a Lab rescue program, got the go-ahead to foster him after extensive veterinary visits for his exposure issues, as well as for small tumors. He was also heartworm positive.
But he got better with time and love. They tried to adopt him out but there were no takers. Black dogs are usually the last to be adopted for some reason, and Tank’s luck was no better than any other.
Now, though, he lives surrounded by love. He wears a thundershirt when it storms, has medication for severely inclement weather, and Jacques and Blanche even alter their schedules for one of them to be home if they know a storm is rolling in. His heartworm has been treated and his skin allergies kept at bay.
He also has plenty of pleasant distraction from his human and animal family members to keep him from worrying too much. He is currently in charge of three foster kittens and guards them fiercely.
Trigeminal nerve-sheath tumors are rare in dogs. The earlier the diagnosis and the more aggressive the treatment, the better the chance for survival. If the tumor is left untreated, Tank might live another year but his head is already starting to deform and must obviously cause discomfort.
While the doctor in Gainesville is looking over Tank’s records, Blanche and Jacques are reaching out to the community to see if anyone else has any suggestions or has dealt with this problem with their pet before. It is, after all, not a question of if Tank will be treated, but how and how soon.
“When we take a furbaby into our lives, we make a lifelong commitment,” Blanche said.
You can reach Blanche at The Loose Caboose until Tuesday, Sept. 3 at 964-0440 or on Blanche’s cell at (941) 421-2805 if you have any thoughts or suggestions about Tank.
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