Help Your Dog
Fight Cancer

What Every Caretaker
Should Know about
Canine Cancer

Laurie Kaplan
Ms. Kaplan found her Siberian Husky at the pound, or maybe he found her. Perhaps it was those icy, blue, Frank Sinatra eyes. She named him Bullet because he liked to run off.

She also referred to him as "Bullet Growly Bear," because he growled, and looked like a bear, which proves that we dog-owners can get pretty silly about our pets.

After he tore up the basement, she put him outside with his own house but, because of the cold nights, she gave him a heated water bowl ("During the winter, a dog's tongue can tear on frozen-over water.")

She also put in a baby monitor.

There were many 2 a.m. calls and subsequent "deskunking baths." So in honor of the stinkers from the woods out there, she installed a chain-link fence, giving Bullet a 50 x 50 playground.

But all was not well. Bullet developed deformed joints and had anthroscopic surgery at seven years of age. At nine, he was diagnosed with lymphoma.

This was followed by seventy-five weeks of chemo. Bullet finally died at thirteen of congestive heart failure.

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Help Your Dog Fight Cancer is primarily concerned with the diagnosis of dog cancer, the medicines available (28 in number), the possible treatment plans (the "protocols,") the outcomes ... and general advice for caring for very sick dogs. It is also a touching tale of a woman's love for an obviously memorable pet, to the point that she had to petition the FDA to permit a British pharmacist to send her "pimobendan," a special cardiac medicine for canines.

There are some odd details here. One is that when Bullet became incontinent, Ms. Kaplan managed to find some "doggie-diapers." But she decided not to use them, because "it would require pulling Bullet's tail through a fairly small hole." She did use regular diapers, but because Bullet wasn't able to clean himself, he developed "a urinary tract infection with bloody urine." At one point when he stopped breathing, she resorted to "mouth-to-nose resuscitation."

God knows, dogs are a boon for us lonely humans. I remember with more than a little fondness "Doggie" (I apologize for the name; blame it on the kids) who I picked up on a beach and who remained my steadfast friend for twelve years. Then there was Pantouflas, a shaggy Chihuahua who thought he was the match for the Huskies of the world until one literally broke his neck. And there is the memory of a pup off the streets, an innocent one, who died in my arms because I had not gotten around to giving him his first shots.

Still, we must in these and in all things practice what one could think of as a Zen balance. For the last half of his life, Bullet was bedeviled (as most of us over a certain age) by the American fondness for what might be termed overcare.

Long after he should have been permitted to go to his happy hunting ground, he suffered from an overdose of pet specialists, shots, pills and chemicals that made his final days as bad as those of some of our parents who, live on and on, even though their bodies, if they were given the choice, would have checked out years before. We --- and our medical system --- want them to stay. They want out.

Most of all, let us not forget our own kind. Ms. Kaplin doesn't tell us how much she spent on Bullet's health-care in his last years, but we can guess that with what she spent, an honorable international foundation could have provided a whole new world for some poor child in Kenya, India, Brazil, Pakistan, or Mexico.

--- Pamela Wylie
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