“Layla’s Life: A Story of DOGged Devotion” is a book project that will tell the extraordinary story of Layla Belle, a 5-year-old chocolate Lab who some veterinarians thought would never live to adulthood. Her story illustrates the power of determination and the value of true friendship.
I adopted Layla from what turned out to be a puppy mill in 2009 when she was just 6 weeks old. Because of irresponsible breeding, she has battled serious medical conditions her entire life. Her severe allergies and gastrointestinal tract issues began almost immediately. She was a sick puppy, visiting the veterinarian at least once a week and spending several nights there on an IV when she would get very ill. Dog food and treats made her sick. She hated to be petted because of her skin condition. Her fur was falling out. This was not what I envisioned when I dreamed about my first puppy. My heart ached for her, and I felt helpless, even though I was doing everything I knew to do in an effort to help her feel better.
She underwent numerous tests and procedures and, by 6 months old, had stumped her veterinarians, who were forced to perform exploratory surgery to try to diagnose her worsening illnesses. But their findings were inconclusive. Before she was 1 year old, one specialist gently told me that we were running out of options and that I soon would need to consider putting her down. But I was determined to keep fighting as long as she had a reasonable quality of life. And, little by little, we figured things out. We finally found the right combination of diet, medication, supplements, shampoos, conditioners, sprays, and wipes. By the time she was a year and a half old, she started getting better. Slowly, she won that battle.
Through all of her ailments, Layla has always shown an amazing enthusiasm for life. In many ways, she is a typical Lab. She is curious, adventurous, and at times mischievous. She is quite social and loves to play with other dogs – especially Labs. She is smart, learning commands easily and finishing at the top of her class in puppy school. She is a great traveler and loves to take vacations, especially to the beach. She loves chewing her toys, going for walks, and swimming. And she will chase a ball until she drops. In other ways, she couldn’t be less Lab-like. She has always been independent and doesn’t mind being alone, sometimes even preferring it. It takes time to earn her trust, love, and affection. And she is not overly concerned with pleasing any human, preferring that we aim to please her instead. But that’s my pal Layla, and I wouldn’t have her any other way.
Her next big fight came in 2011, when she was 2 years old and had her first brush with cancer. This time, the tumor behind her left ear appeared to be isolated and was surgically removed. Two years later, she wasn’t so lucky. In November 2013, at age 4, Layla was diagnosed with histiocytic sarcoma, a rare and very aggressive cancer, and she is once again fighting for her life. The cancer has attacked her liver, spleen, and lymph nodes and recently moved into her bone marrow. She had her spleen and most of a liver lobe surgically removed in December, started chemotherapy, and has had frequent blood transfusions. So far, she is hanging on valiantly; most days, you wouldn't even know she is sick. I am proud of Layla’s ability to bounce back from all that life has thrown at her, and I have learned a lot about life and love from my relationship with her. I don't know how much longer I will have my furry friend, but I appreciate each day with her.
Layla’s recent diagnosis has been scary and brought back those feelings of helplessness. So I knew I needed to do something positive. I decided to write “Layla’s Life” to share her remarkable journey and also to inspire and educate others. This book is about Layla’s medical battles, but it is also about her life despite those battles. It is a story about love, true friendship, and unwavering determination. And it is also about the larger realities of Layla’s illnesses, informing readers about the increasing prevalence of canine cancer, allergies, and other ailments in today’s pets; what we know about these maladies, where they come from, and how to treat them; and how research in veterinary science can be used to help our furry friends and humans, too.
I need your help
I am a university professor, author of two published nonfiction books, and a former journalist of nearly 10 years. I am ready to write Layla’s story, but I need your help. Money raised through this campaign will primarily go toward research expenses, including travel to interview the specialists involved in Layla’s care, as well as other veterinary experts, and access to scholarly research in the areas of veterinary oncology, internal medicine, and dermatology. A portion of the money raised also will go toward editing and marketing expenses as I seek a mass market publisher.
Daily video updates
"Daily Layla" videos will be posted each day of the campaign to give you glimpses into Layla's daily life. Watch her eating meals, taking pills, playing fetch, going to the vet, and more! These short, fun videos will be posted on the updates page and the book website: www.laylaslifebook.com.
Risks and challenges
A book is an ambitious project, and completing it is a challenge in itself. Mostly, it will require money and time. The money raised from this campaign will allow me to complete needed research. And I have set aside several months for full-time writing: Because I am a professor with teaching duties only during the regular school year, I can complete the project during the summer. I have published two other books and know what it takes to complete a project like this. Perhaps my greatest obstacle is finding the right publisher. I have worked with a large academic publisher and a small, regional publisher before, but I plan to seek a large, mass market publisher for this book. My previous experience will help, and I have friends and colleagues with more experience in that area who can provide guidance.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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