Mamushka! A Story of Survival

One of the amazing things about the animals in Guatemala is that there is an endless supply of faces which could make wonderful posters.   For so many of them, all you have to do is look into their eyes and know that they’re all about love, yet carry the scars of harsh life in the streets.   Mamushka is definitely one such dog.

However, this particular Guatemalan chucho (mutt) has a very special story.   Mamushka has not only managed to live a well organized and respected life on the streets.   But she is also a cancer victim who is now very close to a full recovery.

Mamushka still recovering 9-Jun-09
Mamushka still recovering 9-Jun-09

We’ve known Mamushka for quite some time now.   In fact, a lot of the locals know Mamushka.   She is one of those homeless dogs who has been accepted as just another member of the community.

Her home base is on a very busy street, but she spends much of her time within a safe public area.    She likes to situate herself between a walk-up licuado stand and Centro de Salud, which is the local Health Department.   There’s a small playground for little kids in there too, which Mamushka likes to watch from her regular perch.

Mamushka's home at Centro de Salud
Mamushka's home at Centro de Salud

One day in December of last year, Mamushka showed up with an immense cancerous tumor.   Always very elusive for clinic roundups, Mamushka was still feral.   It was clear that she had contracted CVT cancer from too many encounters with feral male dogs.

The first thing we did was discuss a treatment plan for Mamushka with Dr. Miguel.   After that we had to catch her and bring her in for closer diagnosis.   If she had any kind of chance of surviving then we’d have to begin chemo treatments using Vincristine, of which we discovered there was a sudden shortage in Guatemala.

After a series of calls and correspondence with many different animal welfare efforts, a donation of the vital medicine was made by Dr. Jim Bader, a US vet and friend.   Also after an informal call for financial help, many wonderful people both here and in other countries contributed to Mamushka’s treatments.

In between all the efforts to acquire the Vincristine, we still had the small problem of convincing Mamushka that it was ok for us to take her in to see Dr. Miguel.    She’s shy, fast, and street-smart resourceful at working her way through what seems like impossible exits.   But she did;  several times and with varying numbers of helpers.   It came to where she would slide away whenever she even got a glimpse of our pickup.

We then resorted to drugs.    With the help of the family who owns the licuado stand, we managed to slip heavy knock out drops into her food.   But she wouldn’t go down.   We’d show up 20 minutes after she’d finished eating,   she’d see us,  and then take off staggering up the street and into traffic like a drunk on the run.   This was very frightening for everyone!

Finally, one day it happened. Maybe it was the drugs, or maybe it was her degrading health.   But in a moment of weakness Selaine was able to grab her.   As if by a miracle, Yanna happened to be coming up the street in her VW beetle.   Carrying Mamushka in her arms,  Selaine jumped into the beetle and Yanna drove them off to Dr. Miguel’s.

As seen in this unpleasant photo, Mamushka’s tumor had become very large and was badly oozing.

First look at Mamushka's tumor
First look at Mamushka's tumor

But the good news was that Dr. Miguel believed that Mamushka could be saved through the chemo treatment plan, which began immediately.

Because of her condition and circumstances, it was determined that Dr. Miguel would board Mamushka until her treatments were complete and she was healthy enough to be released.

Unfortunately, Mamushka’s digestive system did not take well to the Vincristine.   Her treatments had to be cut way back and adjusted to something which she could better handle.   Mamushka was transferred from Dr. Miguel’s to the home of Selaine and Harold for the continuation of her chemo treatments.

We are very happy to report that after several long months, Mamushka’s tumor has greatly reduced in size.   She is expected to only require 2 more weeks of the chemo, be sterilized in about 3 weeks, and then be released shortly afterwards to the community that loves and misses her!

If she could talk, we know that this very sweet homeless dog would personally thank all of the kind people who contributed to her survival of a life-threatening disease.

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