“Wag the Tail”: on love, hope, and beating the odds

This is the second in a series of occasional guest posts that we will feature on topics of interest written by veterinary and pet professionals – some are our clients, some are not.  The only “requirement” is having something to say or share that would be of interest to readers who love animals.  Every now and then we need to leave behind the difficult and emotional topic of paying for veterinary care, and just reflect on the power and significance of the human-animal bond. 

The strength of that bond is evident in the relationship that Dr. Ryan Llera has with his senior dog, Charlie, who has been battling lymphoma.  Dr. Llera writes about this journey on his own blog, and was kind enough to share some of the story with us here at VetBilling.com.  Dr. Llera is a lyrical writer with great sensitivity and empathy.  I will never forget the first blog post of his that I ever read: “A Week With Cancer,” also written from the point of view of Charlie.  Ever since then I’ve been a fan of Dr. Llera’s, and I’ve enjoyed following his blog and Facebook posts.  I was thrilled when he sent me this most recent installment of Charlie’s story.


Wag the Tail

By Dr. Ryan Llera

Hey, it’s Charlie.  I’ve taken over Dad’s blog again to tell you something important.  Actually, grand-Dad
told Ryan (aka Dad) something about “wagging the tail,” and between the two of us, we think we’ve figured it out.
But since I’m so personable and such a great story teller, Dad is letting me share it with you.  Oh wait — Dad
says he’s going to help me tell it to make sure we all understand, just in case I get confused or distracted.


Charlie, Christmas 2013

It all started a few weeks ago. After my second chemo treatment, strange things began happening
including seizures, and I was also having some collapse-type episodes. One night, I remember Dad telling
me it was okay to “go,” so I knew my illness was wearing on him.  I also didn’t want to eat, which is so
unlike me.  It was some pretty scary stuff!  A few weeks later after the fourth chemo treatment, I
couldn’t walk.  I never had my next scheduled chemo treatment but I heard Mom and Dad talking about
The Big Sleep. It was just before a weekend, so they wanted to spend some time with me and spoil me
rotten. I wagged my tail and in return got lots of hugs and lots of food that I shouldn’t normally eat.

4th chemo - Copy

Dr. Llera and Charlie: Charlie’s 4th chemo treatment

As that weekend went on, I started getting stronger and getting back to being able to walk!  I felt like
that guy in the movie “Rocky” as he’s running on the steps and everyone is cheering for him.  Dad was
so happy – he told me there was no more chemo! This was good because I hated the weekly needle
pokes and feeling sick. On the other hand, I got some to take some steroids – I didn’t get the “rage” and I
sure didn’t pack on a lot of muscle, but they did make me feel better. I wagged my tail.

Then I had an accident in the house…I blame it on the drugs!  And so did Dad.  He didn’t get mad.  He
actually hugged me and took me outside.  (If only I had known this trick earlier in life…I could have
gotten away with a lot more!)  The gentleness I’ve experienced only makes me want to do better and to
keep on trucking.  I’m not quite ready to stop watching over my family.  Yep, my tail is still wagging.

A few weeks have gone by now.  Steroids made me happy and with everything I did, Dad seemed happier
too, so much so that if he had a tail, he’d probably be wagging it!  Instead, I figured smiles, hugs, and belly
rubs are the same expression.  We pets are very perceptive and emotional; can’t you see it in our eyes
and feel it in our slobbery kisses?  When our families are happy, we feel good.  When our families are
stressed, we also feel anxious.  We feed off of emotions (and cookies!)

It’s Dr. Llera (aka Ryan and Dad) writing now, so I’ll wrap this up for the both of us…

Charlie CharleeBear treats

Charlie, lost in his bag of Charlee Bear treats

Charlie….hey bud, we’re not done yet. Oh there he goes…Charlie has lost himself in the bag of Charlee
Bear treats again! What Charlie & I have learned through this is that when times are tough, you should
try to see the silver lining that is there and try to keep a positive mental attitude.  In any alarming situation
with your pets, there is always hope.  It may be the hope that everything will turn out alright. Or it may be
the hope that you try your best and that they don’t suffer.  The important thing to remember is to stay strong,
give your pet all the love you can, and know that in the end, everything will work out.

So what are you waiting for? Go “wag that tail”!

Dr. Ryan Llera is a small animal veterinarian living & working in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, where he has been an associate vet at the Kingston Veterinary Clinic since 2012. He is a 2006 graduate of the University of Illinois College of Veterinary Medicine. Though originally from Florida, he married a Canadian (who is also a vet!) and made the trek up north. He & his wife, Jennifer, share their home with 3 cats, 2 dogs, and 2 horses. 

Charlie, of this blog post, is their beloved 15 year old Border Collie/Jindo mix who was a former blood donor at Ryan’s vet school. Charlie previously survived a scare with a splenic mass. He is credited with initially introducing Ryan & Jennifer and was the inspiration for Ryan starting his blog. You can find more of Ryan’s blogs at www.drryanllera.com or see what else he is up to on Facebook or Twitter @DrRyanLleraDVM.

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Dr. Ryan Llera and his wife, Jennifer, along with Charlie and their Springer Spaniel, Taylor

Charlie Llera

Charlie, with his great smile

Please note:  Neither Dr. Ryan Llera or Kingston Veterinary Clinic are affiliated with VetBilling.com in any way.  The original post written for us by Dr. Llera is not an endorsement of the services provided by our company.  His blog post represents our commitment to providing our community with quality, original content that focuses on a variety of animal-related topics.

The mission of VetBilling.com is to reduce the frequency of economic euthanasia and shelter surrender, and to improve financial access to veterinary services, by providing veterinary clinics with more flexible payment options to offer their clients.