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A Remarkable Tale

Willow the fox red Labrador resting her head on her paw
Willow the Wonderdog

As I’m sitting typing we’ve just had a thunderstorm. And the subject of this post is now lying fast asleep, without a worry in the world. It wasn’t like that an hour ago – she was a quivering wreck at the sound of the thunder.

So who is this? Allow me to introduce Willow, who I frequently call Willow the Wonderdog. Why? Well here’s her story – and it’s about her battle with cancer. Why am I writing this? Because someone may have just had that diagnosis for their dog and will be thinking – that’s it, the end. And for us, it has been anything but.

The Diagnosis

Just before her 4th birthday I noticed a patch of dry skin on her leg. Left it a day or two, but wasn’t happy about it. That 6th sense we have told me it was something to be a bit concerned about. We have a great vet, who looked at it, and wanted her in to remove it. Well that didn’t happen to plan. She went in for her op. The pre-op checks identified it was a Mast Cell Tumour. After a visit to the vet hospital in Edinburgh we decided to admit her there and get the tumour removed.

Another couple of years passed and all was fine. Except it wasn’t. I found it – this time it wasn’t a patch of seemingly dry skin, it was a lump. So, into the vet to get that lump removed. If you haven’t had a dog with cancer you may not realise that they remove a large margin of skin and tissue along with the tumour – to try to reduce the risk of it coming back. Now, she really did look as if she’d been in the wars – the large muscle in her leg looked about half its normal size.

Willow the fox red labrador face
Willow the wonderdog

Really hard decision

All went fine, until one day she had a fit. Then a couple of months later, another fit. And then I found it again – another lump near her scar site. Into the vet, then a referral down to Edinburgh. And then the heartbreaking decision – we would amputate the leg in the hope of getting rid of the cancer one final time.

And this is the start of Willow becoming Willow the Wonderdog.

She got back on her feet really quickly. Kept eyeing the settee she normally lies on – but we couldn’t let her up as she still had a drain in. As she got better we noticed something. A completely different dog. Here she was, happy with life, and taking life full on. A few months of chemo and then we found it, another tiny little skin “thing”. She went in to have it removed, and also had a 3 month check. The scan was our worst nightmare. The “thing” was another Mast Cell Tumour, and the scan revealed it had spread to her spleen and lungs. So that was her off her diet and we made the decision, no more surgery or chemo, and we were going to let her enjoy the last days/weeks/months of her life.

That was over 2 years ago.

The valiant explorer

Now? She has several walks a day, one being a really long walk. On that walk, don’t ask her to take the path round the woods. Oh no, that’s mega tame. She has to go “off road”. In fact, the rougher the better. Even worse (for us) , the more up-hill the better – you see, she doesn’t hop sedately up-hill. Oh no, that’s for wimps (us). She runs up hill, then waits (impatiently) at the top for us to eventually catch her up.

And explore….. Every day it seems to be just a slightly different route. And if we try to cut it short? Forget it, it’s her walk, and she’s going to make the most of it.

Oh yes, I also forgot about the swimming. Yep, swims every day – provided she can find water. And when she can’t – well, any patch of mud will do. If you want to see a typical Walk with Willow you can check out our YouTube videos.

She was never like this before her amputation. Then, she was lethargic and couldn’t be bothered. Now, complete opposite. And I better go, she wants yet another walk.

Willow the fox red Labrador lying in front of the shed
Willow at the shed


This original blog was written on 3 June 2017. Willow continued her adventures for another few years. Sadly, we had to say goodbye to her at the start of December 2020, at the grand old age of 13 years and 6 months. She lived every day to the full.

This blog was originally published on:

3 June 2017

and subsequently modified on:  

27 January 2024