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Anka, the dog who never lost her smile

Anka1On February 3, 2012, our beautiful Norwegian elkhound Anka succumbed to complications from bladder cancer (transitional cell carcinoma or TCC) just a few weeks shy of her fifteenth birthday.

Anka bravely fought her cancer for over two years. She never lost her smile through the operations, tests and treatments. And she never lost her unique ability to make every adult and child she met feel special.

Anka — or “Ankee” — loved people, especially children. She believed that her mission in life was to bring a little bit of happiness into the lives of everyone she happened to meet during the day. She accomplished this by staring and smiling at any passersby until they finally returned her smile. If they had the good sense to come over and pet her, then Anka would doubly reward them with a vigorous tail wag.

Over the years we never ceased to be amazed by Anka’s powers to cheer up the biggest grumps. She could pick them out in a crowd hundreds of feet away, and somehow, she could compel them to turn toward her and make eye contact.

We always watched in amazement as these people were slowly lifted out of their worrisome thoughts and tuned into Anka’s stare. Their look of surprise would give way to a smile, sometimes only for a brief moment as they continued to walk by. But more often than not, they would break into laughter. Ankee knew then that she had helped to brighten that person’s day and that they would remember their encounter.

Anka2Anka was especially effective in this tactic when we were stopped at traffic lights. So many times we would glance out the corner of our eyes to see the biggest sourpuss melt under “The Ank’s” magic smile.

The world was a happier place when Anka walked in it, and she literally cheered folks from ages one to 100. One time an elderly man — assisted by his children — came over to Ankee as we were walking in the park. He bent over and gave her a pat and then went on his way with the happiest smile. His son told us it was his father’s hundredth birthday.

As we continued along, a year-old baby was wheeled over to us in her carriage. She also gave Ankee a pat and a big smile. Anka returned both greetings with the most vigorous of tail wags. These types of encounters made her so happy.

Anka3One of Anka’s favorite places to visit was the local hospital. She loved to walk around the outside of the building where she could enthusiastically greet wheelchair- and IV-bound patients who were enjoying a few minutes of supervised fresh air. Oh, how she brightened their days and those of their caregivers!

We never realized until after Anka’s passing how special she had made us feel in public.  Every day we see so many sad people going about their lives, and we feel sad that Ankee is not with us to bring a momentary ray of sunshine into their lives. One never knows how a brief smile from Anka may have changed a person’s day or perhaps their entire life.

Anka remained strong and vibrant for two years after her initial diagnosis with TCC. She never lost her love for life or for food. Many were the nights when she would sit atop “her” 100-acre farm and howl for hours with the distant coyotes across the valleys.

On her last night with us, a couple of dozen coyotes ringed the front of our house just beyond the fence and sang the most beautiful song to her. We watched as she lifted her little ears towards them. The coyotes never returned after that night.

anka_lastAnka’s initial tumour was removed surgically. Rather than start chemotherapy, we opted for an immune modulation, Cordyceps (fungus)-based product called “K9 Immunity.” Along with transfer factor, fish oil and a careful diet, there was no indication that the TCC ever metastasized over the subsequent two years.

But a year after the first surgery, the tumour reappeared in the same location and was removed surgically. Anka was then placed on piroxicam (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), but that medication was stopped after six months due to weakening of her renal function.

A few months later, the tumour reappeared in the same location but could not be surgically removed due to her kidney issues. When her urethra became blocked, we drove Anka to New Jersey’s Ridgewood Veterinary Hospital where Dr. Dean Cerf successfully cleared the urethra using ultrasound guided endoscopic laser ablation (UGELAB).

We were most hopeful for our beloved Anka, but the anesthesia proved too much for her compromised kidneys. We did get her home and now she sleeps peacefully on the farm she loved so much.

We have established Anka’s Best Friend Fund in her memory so that she may continue to help others afflicted with TCC. Through the support of research efforts into its prevention, early detection and treatment, we hope that Anka will continue to touch the hearts of all who come to know her through this Fund.

Ankee taught us the real meaning of life. She found wonder and joy in the little things right in her own backyard. She taught us to slow down, live in each moment and appreciate everything around us. No need to travel to far off exotic places – just take a walk with “The Ank”!

Anka was and continues to be our life-support system. She was a true “Dog of Valour.” Thank you Ankee for being our best friend and for taking such good care of us.

We miss you so much.

Love, Anka’s Mom and Dad

One Response to “Anka, the dog who never lost her smile”

  1. Peggy Lee Postnikoff says:

    What a beautiful story.. I am wiping the tears away as I type this.. she reminds me of my Willow.. who will be 10 on April 9th. You were very blessed to have had Anka in your lives as was she to belong to such a great family who did all they could to help her battle the disease.
    I feel that her smile still radiates as a beacon on the Rainbow Bridge…


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