Friday, February 25, 2011 • 9News • Dave Delozier and Lori Obert
DENVER - As seen on 9News - The photos tell the story of a dog named Jake and the lessons about life he taught people. Like a lot of pets, Jake filled a very important place in the life of his owner, Mike Blake. That is why it was so difficult when Jake was diagnosed with cancer in the spring of 2009.
Veterinarians initially didn't Jake much of a chance. "I think it was two to four months was really what we were told," says Blake.
Looking for options that might exist to save his friend, Blake contacted the CSU Animal Cancer Center in Fort Collins. They determined that Jake would qualify for a clinical trial. He was enrolled in the liposomal clodronate study.
While vets at CSU worked to save Jake's life, Mike was trying to figure out how to make the most of it.
"The idea is just kind of, 'hey, how am I going to make today count?'" says Blake.
To do that he created a website dedicated to the adventures he tried to take Jake on everyday. The website, www.thatsoftdog.blogspot.com, displays the photos Mike took of Jake each day. He came up with a bucket-list of places he wanted to go with Jake. You see photos of Jake on the 20-yard line of Invesco Field at Mile High and in front of the big blue stallion statue at Denver International Airport.
"I've taken thousands of pictures of him in the last several months," says Blake.
The idea was to make the most of each day. There are photos that make you laugh, like the one in which Jake is dressed up like Superman. There are also photos of Jake posing at center court at the Pepsi Center with Nuggets mascot, Rocky.
While Mike and Jake were making the most of each day, time passed. Before they knew it, that two to four month prognosis was in their rearview mirror. Over time, something else changed - the racquetball sized tumor on Jake's right leg went away. Without surgery, the liposomal clodronate reduced the tumor to nothing.
Jake became something of a poster child for animal cancer research. At a fundraiser fashion show for animal cancer research, Jake's story was shared with an audience. It was a chance for a dog to strut the catwalk to the delight of the crowd.
And all the while, as each month passed, there were more photos on the blog site. There were lots of photos of Jake at city parks in Denver and images of him in front of public art projects, like the two giant alien statues along Speer Boulevard.
"I've taken 12,520 photos of him," say Blake.
In the end though, the journey ended with one final photo. This past January, the cancer came back. On a snowy winter day, Mike took Jake to another city park. That last photo shows Jake looking out across a snow-covered field.
"This picture may be far short of the best one, but it is the very last one I ever took of him, so that instantly makes it one of my favorites," says Blake.
The care Jake received at the CSU Animal Cancer Research Center bought Jake almost two quality years of life. He lived many months longer than his initial prognosis. In those months, he and Mike went to a lot of places and did a lot of things they otherwise wouldn't. In the end, the experience taught Mike the importance of living life to the fullest each day.
"It's really not at all about what we missed or what we didn't complete. I have no regrets at all. We packed as much as we could have for him into a pretty short and amazing life for him," says Blake.