Dylan’s Story

For the past 14 years, I’ve been carrying on a love affair right under my husband Steve’s nose. The amazing thing is, he understands my needs for this other male in my life, and even enjoys his company, too. Steve is serious, analytical, and work driven. My boyfriend is fun loving, unpredictable and always ready for a good time. This love affair isn’t a threat to my marriage, and often times, Steve participates in our adventures. As you have probably guessed, this “lovefest” is of the canine variety, my 14-year-old golden retriever, Dylan.

At seven weeks, this little yellow bundle of joy arrived in my arms, and promptly affixed his seal with a gigantic kiss across my face. From that point on, I was hooked. Over the years, Dylan and I enjoyed an array of fun activities. From competition obedience (his favorite), and agility (he never overcame his fear of the teeter), to our daily hikes in the woods, and swimming at the lake, Dylan does everything 110%. He’s been there when our children left for college, to Steve’s job where extensive and lengthy travel is the norm, to the death of both my parents. He’s given
his all to me. That’s why, when at the age of 12, he developed a sore on his nose that just wouldn’t heal, I had to help my best friend when he really depended on me.

After a few months of trying different medications and nothing helping, we were referred to Dr. Rachel Reiman, a veterinary oncologist at Animal Emergency Center in Glendale, WI. More rounds of tests, x-rays and CT scans reveled our biggest fear: Dylan had squamous cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer. The good news was that the cancer was contained to only the outer portion of his nose, and hadn’t yet invaded his nasal cavity. He was scheduled for laser surgery the following week at a different clinic. (At the time AEC did not have this capability.) Things looked great for four months, but then his nose took on a whole different appearance. So it was back to the vet who performed the laser surgery. The news was not good. He stated that there was nothing else that could be done, the cancer was too invasive, and that we were to “just enjoy whatever time we had left.”

Dylan’s regular vet, by the way, agreed with his opinion. Well, after 2 days of crying and looking at this dog who still had such a zest for life, we decided to call Dr. Reiman again. She
was more than willing to take another look and see if there was anything else we could do. After looking at all the options, the only viable one was to administer several rounds of chemotherapy. It was to be delivered over 4-6 sessions, spaced three weeks apart. Certainly cost was a factor, but Steve said we had to give it a shot. Chemotherapy on a dog is much less intrusive that it is on humans. Dylan didn’t lose his hair, and apart from feeling a little nauseated and sleepy for a few days after each session, he sailed through each treatment with grace and dignity. With each one, we saw improvement in the appearance of his nose, and more importantly, the possibility of light at the end of the tunnel.

It’s now been almost two years since that little innocent sore on his nose first appeared, and Dylan remains in great health. He’s slowed down and has decided it’s time to stop and smell the roses, instead of plowing through them, but hey, at fourteen, he’s entitled to that.

Side note: One in four dogs will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their lives. The scary thing is that young dogs, as young as two and three, are now being affected by this insidious  cluster of diseases. Dylan has been chosen as the national “spokesdog” for Ovris’ catalog cancer campaign. They have teamed up with The Morris Animal Foundation and Eukanuba in raising funds for research into finding a cure for our beloved companions. You can see a picture of my old guy and more importantly, contribute to the campaign at www.orvis.com/caninecancer, so that this disease can be wiped out in our dogs’ lifetime.

Sue and Dylan from www.orvis.com/caninecancer
Sue Loucks is a dog trainer in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin.
She is a Master Third Way Trainer, a Certified Pet Dog Trainer and a Certified Dog Behavior Consultant.