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Guinness and Andy: Inseparable in wanderlust and service!
We choose our dogs for a variety of reasons: for companionship, for service, to love and be loved back unconditionally. There is often a very special bond between an individual and their dog, and the relationship between Andy and his nine-year old German Shepherd Dog Guinness is quite extraordinary.
Andy is a retired firefighter and lives alone in Delaware. He occasionally suffers from narcolepsy seizures, and their onset is unpredictable. Medications do help, but need to be taken right before the seizures strike in order to be effective. This is where Guinness plays a key role in keeping Andy safe. Guinness is a trained service dog, able to detect Andy’s oncoming seizures about five minutes in advance of their occurrence. Guinness warns Andy by grabbing his wrist, and Andy is therefore able to take his medication and safely relax until the episode is past.
This alone would be a remarkable “service dog” story, but there is so much more.
Andy acquired Guinness as a pup, and nurtured him over time to be not only his service dog, but to be a therapy dog in the service of others. Certified through the Paws for People program, Guinness and Andy have brought comfort and smiles to many patients and families throughout numerous Delaware, Pennsylvania & New Jersey healthcare facilities. Additionally, the pair are extremely fond of traveling, and have visited 47 of the 48 contiguous states. Andy records their travels in detailed blogs, and on Facebook and Twitter. These travels have included landmarks ranging from Alcatraz to the Empire State Building, and numerous spots in between.
Guinness and Andy (Christiana Care Health System photo)
However, this special relationship has endured some challenges, requiring Guinness and Andy to help each other through disease and physical afflictions.
Guinness was diagnosed with lymphoma (a cancer of lymphocytes, which are small white blood cells that play a role in the body’s immune response) in January of 2013. Guinness’s primary veterinarian, Dr. Stacey Creasey, detected swollen lymph nodes during a routine check-up. Dr. Creasey received confirming lab results and consultant support from a veterinary oncologist. As Andy said at the time, “This diagnosis was pretty devastating to me because I didn’t want to lose my wonderful dog.” A first course of chemotherapy achieved remission for five months. After that, new swelling was detected in the lymph nodes, and Dr. Creasey recommended that Andy take Guinness to see Dr. Craig Clifford of the Oncology Service at HOPE Veterinary Specialists, as Dr. Clifford is involved in several ongoing clinical trials with new chemotherapeutics for dogs. The second course of chemo was successful, and thankfully Guinness has been in remission since April 2014.
Guinness with Dr. Craig Clifford
Soon, it was Andy’s turn to have a brush with cancer, and it would be Guinness staying by his side. One of the facilities where Andy and Guinness have been a Paws for People fixture in visiting patients and staff is the Helen F. Graham Cancer Center in Delaware, part of the Christiana Care network. As Andy says, “when cancer patients found out that Guinness also received chemo, they loved him even more.”
When Andy was due for routine lung cancer screening in October 2014 (due to his history of smoking and exposure during his career as a firefighter) it was natural for his physician to recommend the lung cancer screening program at Christiana Care. As you might expect, Guinness was right there with Andy:
The screening detected localized cancer in one of Andy’s lungs; caught early, surgery in December was completely successful. Andy considers that the “stars aligned” for him to receive specialized care where he and Guinness have been among the caregivers.
The inseparable pair resumed their visits to hospital patients and also enjoyed travel across various parts of the US, again chronicled in Andy’s blog and on social media. But back home in May of 2015, Guinness “got gimpy” according to Andy while trying to chase down a rabbit in a muddy part of a field. A trial of anti-inflammatory drugs did not sufficiently help Guinness recover, and Guinness was referred to the Orthopedic Service at HOPE Veterinary Specialists. It was Andy’s turn to once again help Guinness.
After running a series of radiographs and diagnostic tests, Dr. Lauren May confirmed that Guinness had experienced a cranial cruciate ligament (CCL) rupture in his stifle (knee). Surgery was recommended, and Andy agreed.
Guinness underwent a tibial plateau leveling osteotomy (TPLO) on July 16. TPLO removes (but does not replace) damaged portions of the ligament. To provide a stable joint environment, the tibia is cut so it can have a newly-angled surface that properly interfaces with the femur. The bone is secured in place with a surgical plate and screws.
Recovery typically takes 8 to 12 weeks and is aided by physical and laser therapy to help regain full weight-bearing and functionality.
Radiographs of Guinness’s stifle on Sept. 30
At his most recent follow-up exam at HOPE Veterinary Specialists on September 30, Guinness was healing and walking very well. Andy commented on Guinness that “He is a tough old boy.” Since Andy’s own September 18th check-up showed that he also remains cancer-free, it’s certain that if Guinness could speak, he would say the same about Andy!