The fundraising poster reads Saving Kuma, but it could just as equally be titled Loving Kuma.
Laura Parke and Alex Letkeman love their dog as though she were their flesh-and-blood daughter. They laugh with her, play with her, show her off every chance they get. They even got secondary jobs to ensure their girl didn’t go without.
And when she got sick at six months old, they did whatever they could to make her better – just as most parents would.
Kuma is a one-and-a-half year old Alaskan Malamute, a large, domestic breed dog that looks to be a cross between a wolf and a husky, who has an easy, attention-getting, loves-to-be-pet, child-like temperament.
She also has salivary mucocele, a serious genetic condition that if left untreated could become fatal.
A specialized surgery to correct the condition is $3,000, an expense the young family is struggling to meet.
A fundraising webpage has been set up for Kuma in hopes of raising the funds before further complications arise.
So far, $1,718 has been raised.
Salivary mucocele causes calcium deposits, similar to kidney stones, to build up in the salivary ducts. Over time, the ducts get blocked, which results in saliva building up and collecting in pockets under the tongue.
When the first pocket was discovered, the family veterinarian lanced and drained it. That was the first of Kuma’s surgeries.
The pockets continued to fill; Kuma’s had three surgeries to drain them. In April, a large grapefruit-sized blockage was found in her neck.
“It was full of saliva,” says Parke. When one of her ducts got blocked and burst due to the pressure, “it forced the problem down into her neck.”
Kuma was put on the operating table yet again where the lump was drained for five days. But not even 12 hours after the wound closed, the lump started filling again.
Kuma’s vet could do no more.
A specialist in Langley told them their best option would be to remove all of Kuma’s lower salivary glands, leaving her with just a couple near her ears. The surgery is $3,000.
Parke and Letkeman have already spent $2,600 on the four prior surgeries; their funds are fast diminishing.
Right around the same time Kuma’s last lump was discovered, Parke was diagnosed with tendonitis in her right elbow. As a result, she was off work for close to two months and is only now on a back-to-work program where she’s only able to work four hours maximum a day, which amounts to approximately 15-20 hours a week; not enough to afford Kuma’s surgery.
Without surgery, the lump will continue to grow and the risk for infection is high.
Kuma is already suffering.
“When she lays on her back, which is her favourite way to sleep, the lump compresses her airways and she gurgles and chokes because of the pressure,” says Parke.
“If we left the lump alone, it would become too large, it would affect her mobility, eating and drinking … I don’t want her to suffer.”
Some have chided the couple for getting an animal without having a bank account large enough to manage medical emergencies. Parke, however, said they were prepared. They had done extensive research in what it would take to care for a dog and what kind of dog would be perfect for their lifestyle. And they got secondary jobs to afford a doggy daycare so Kuma wouldn’t be alone and wouldn’t have to be kept in a crate for eight hours a day.
(The daycare is now donating Kuma’s bill to her surgery fund.)
When asked about the possibility of having to put Kuma down if the condition worsens, Parkes face grew visibly pained.
“I don’t even want to think about that. She has become such a part of our family and is so attached to us, and we’re so attached to her.
“She’s only a year and a half, she still has a long life ahead of her.”
For more information and updates on Kuma, or to donate via paypal, visit her website at www.helpkuma.webs.com.
Donation sites have also been set up at Posh Paws City Kennel on Broadway, and Scruffy Tail Pet Food and Supplies on Promontory.