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It was in early June 2000 when my wife gave Nacho his customary hug around the neck. She felt a couple of small lumps on either side of his throat in the lymph node areas. She had me feel them to confirm and they were definitely there. Nacho was our five-year-old, 120 lb. German Shepherd/Great Dane/Chow mix who we adopted at the Humane Society.

"Nach" never got sick and didn't look ill then, but the lumps were a concern. A call was made to make sure his vet was in the next day and an appointment was set.

We described what we felt to Dr. Mark Malo as he also felt the lumps. The look on his face was serious and he told us that this was "typically not good." He told us what we dreaded...lymphoma. Upon hearing this, the blood work and other lab tests were sent off and upon coming back a few days later cancer was confirmed.

"Dr. Mark" referred us to All Care in Fountain Valley where there were oncologists and other specialized services. We chose to do the chemo with the hopes that the possible two years that could be gained would come true for "The Big Guy."

The weekly treatment took its toll, causing some lethargy and loss of appetite, but "Nach" was still loving, always accepting his hugs and rubdowns... and of course the dog bones too.

Upon completing the treatment, Nacho was cleared and was in remission. Remission lasted for approximately 30 days. The cancer had returned. Now what?

We turned to "Dr. Mark" and voiced our concerns and questions. His thoughts really echoed our own...what quality of life would "Nach" have and for how long? Chemo is pure poison and we decided to let the cancer run its course and love Nacho every day we had together.

His health quickly deteriorated. His appetite was gone...he was eating some baby foods but not much else. He slept most of the day on his Chillo-bed which kept him cool. He would get up to go outside and do a quick "business" trip and then come in to lay on his bed once again. The last week he was with us his legs began swelling with all the fluids his lymph glands couldn't handle anymore and his breathing became labored.

It was Friday, November 17, 2000 that we had to make that last trip to the vet. As we slowly walked with Nacho to the door, I was holding his collar to guide him. He looked up at me and as our eyes met, I felt that he was telling me "it's ok." We spent a long time, but never long enough, hugging, holding and talking to our "big guy" before we gave the nod to Mark.

I didn't want to give that nod, but I didn't wish to prolong the agony. Nacho's last few moments were spent with a group hug until he was still.

Nacho is forever in our hearts and thoughts.

Fountain Valley, CA

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