We have had canine cancer touch our lives twice in our lives since we began sharing the journey with Greyhounds. One theory is that Greyhounds get cancer more often because they’re less prone to some other genetic diseases that do other breeds in, but whatever the reason, we know we’ve been lucky to only have had to deal with it a few times. The first time was with Treat, our first Greyhound. She was so full of life and spirit, I thought she’d live to be really old. Then, just a month or so past her tenth birthday, we learned she had a spinal tumor. We only had five weeks together after that. It wasn’t nearly enough time and I wish that we’d had more money to put towards the fight, but honestly, I’m no sorry that we didn’t put her through surgery. I’ve never talked to anyone who had spinal surgery on their Greyhound and had it go well. She left us with the dignity she deserved even if it was much sooner than we were ready for. We also had two trips to the cancer rodeo with Blueberry. The first time was neurofibrosarcoma, a knot that looked like a mosquito bite that popped up on her head in literally a matter of hours. Mr. Taleteller was home for lunch and she looked fine. When I got home after work three hours later, there was a knot on her head. All night, I kept looking at her, thinking it looked bigger and it worried me. We took her to the vet the next day and our fears were confirmed. Within a week she was in for surgery to have the tumor taken off her head and she never did have a recurrence. That type of cancer, I learned, rarely migrates. It often reappears in the same place where it started because it’s a thready type of tumor and difficult to completely remove. Other Greyhound owners who’d been through it with their dogs told me that often the dog passes away due to old age or other complications before the cancer ever returns.
Our last experience with it was last June when we took Blueberry in for a suspicious limp. In my heart, I had a certain level of dread and I was right. They sedated her to take x-rays and look at her leg. The bone looked like Swiss cheese and it was already starting to stress fracture. Even though she had to be in an incredible amount of pain, she’d been playing coy with the vet while we were in the exam room. Her other leg had always been a little shaky, and I just could not put a thirteen and a half year old Greyhound through amputation surgery. We could have bought a few more months with her, but it would have been more for us than for her. We asked them to put her to sleep before she recovered from the anesthesia. My biggest fear was that if we took her home, she would fall and shatter the leg, and that was not what I wanted for her at the end or for us. The truth is, there wasn’t going to be a good outcome no matter what we did, but that didn’t make the decision any easier. Almost a year later I can’t write about it without crying. When we went through the neurofibrosarcoma with her, we contacted Dr. Guillermo Cuoto who was running the OSU Greyhound Health and Wellness Program. He studied all kinds of cancer in Greyhounds, and best of all, their treatment was free. Thanks to his research, Greyhounds are living much longer post cancer diagnosis in a lot of situations. It’s also bringing us much closer to finding a cure for canine cancer. When he left OSU last year, many people were very upset and disappointed.
The good news is that it was recently announced that he is now running the Greyhound Health Initiative. This means that his work to improve Greyhound health and wellness will continue and people will be able to continue getting help for their Greyhounds during a time that is extremely difficult. He has a way of explaining things in terms that anyone can understand and I believe he will continue to consult with local vets in the cancer treatment of Greyhounds. I know that it made me feel much better when we were dealing with Blueberry’s first cancer scare that he was willing to answer my questions and talk with my veterinarian about treatment for her. They are working on the finishing touches for their not-for-profit status.
I cannot begin to tell you how happy I was to hear this news. I’m sure I’m not the only person in the Greyhound community who did a little happy dance when I read about it. It brings us closer to the dream that one day, nobody will have to grieve over a loved one who has cancer. I know that if I’m able, I will participate in some way with the fundraisers that are sure to start happening for this wonderful group. It’s good news for Greyhound owners for sure, but I think it will lead to good news for all dog owners eventually, and possibly even beyond that. It’s definitely a time to celebrate. We are joining in the Give Cancer the Paw blog hop today, hosted by Peggy’s Pet Place and Pooch Smooches. If you have a story about cancer that you’d like to share in the hop, please, join in and link up. Hopefully, one day cancer will just be an ugly memory for everyone.