This dog belonged to a good friend and was under my care for the last 9 years. He was devoted to his master, Ken Baker, who is legally blind. In my 40 plus years as a small town veterinarian, this dog is one of the most special.
His story follows:
Thaddeus, a 65 lb., yellow Labrador was born in January 2006, in Michigan. He graduated from the Leader Dogs for the Blind in Rochester, Michigan, in July 2007. Thaddeus met his new owner and best friend, Ken Baker in his new home at Pleasant Hill, Mo., in August 2007.
Ken’s new found friend gave him incredible freedom to move around town on his own. Ken and Thad quickly became a very familiar sight on the streets. The local coffee shop welcomed Thad as he accompanied Ken for his daily coffee.
When Ken was hospitalized for knee surgery, Thad went to the hospital to be with his master. From funerals to hospitals, Thad guided Ken with great care and professionalism. For the next 7 years, Ken and Thad were inseparable.
Ken is one of those people who does not show emotion very easily. In 2011 Thad developed some renal symptoms that were not easily explained. During the ensuing diagnostics I determined that Thad’s problems were related to the chemicals being used to deal with an ant problem. During that time I realized how big a part of Ken’s life Thad had become.
On May 27, 2014, Ken brought Thad to our clinic for lameness in his Right Front Leg. My heart sank as I realized we were dealing with a bone tumor in the radius. I sent radiographs and labwork to the University of Missouri Veterinary College Small Animal Oncology Department.
June 10th saw Ken and Thad at the Veterinary College where Dr. Carolyn Henry accepted them into a drug trial to treat osteosarcoma. Thad did well for awhile then the tumor started to grow again. In July it was determined that Thad needed to have the leg removed and undergo chemotherapy. We performed the surgery and four chemotherapy treatments.
Thad and Ken enjoyed almost four more months with Thad being pain free, eating well, gaining weight, and acting like his old self.
In November Thad started having difficultly breathing and became very weak. X-rays of his lungs revealed the cancer had spread, creating a large metastatic lesion. Despite intensive steroid therapy on December 3, 2014, Thad was euthanized in Ken’s family room with his “human” family in attendance.
Thaddeus’s life is a wonderful example of the human-animal bond and the huge role that service dogs play in the life of a needy person. Thad allowed Ken the ability to move about freely wherever he needed to go. His family was very supportive of his needs but Thad gave Ken an ability which those of us who are sighted may not fully appreciate. In addition to being a wonderful guide dog, Thad was Ken’s best friend. Thad and Ken were at their very best when together, either navigating a walk around town or just sitting at home. Thad is truly missed by Ken and all the rest of us!
Dr. Ebert and Staff, Pleasant Hill Animal Clinic
816 540 3545
601 N. Highway 7, Pleasant Hill, Mo., 64080
Leave a donation to help the foundation in honor of Thaddeus.
See how your donation can help.