Chase Away K9 Cancer - a hero’s tale

Cera&Chase.jpg

Dogs’ lives shine too briefly. It is unfair, heart-wrenching and unfortunately inevitable. For those of us whose furry “kids” are our constant, we struggle to accept that our lives with our dogs will end this way. Harder still is accepting when a beloved companion is lost way before it should’ve been time. Losing a dog in his/her prime is just WRONG, says Cera (“Sear-uh”) Reusser, who is still ticked off three years later.

This the story of Cera and Chase. A hero’s tale.

Reusser met Chase, a beautiful black Lab, when she was four days old. “She had my heart from the minute I saw her,” she says.

Reusser visited Chase every weekend until she could come home. Already in her household was the much-loved Smokey, also a black Lab. Smokey was a challenging puppy, but he taught Cera a great deal about training.

“Chasey made everything easy; she wanted to please me,” says Reusser. “She would look at me with those longing eyes asking, ‘Mom, I did good, huh?’ And I would say, ‘Yes, little girl, you did well.’” Their connection was remarkable.

Chase was a very active puppy. It was apparent that she was driven and needed ‘jobs.’ Together, Reusser and Chase accomplished great things. The pair earned the designation of AKC Master Hunter, attained Elite Jumper status with Dock Dogs, and won the NW Challenge Championship in 2005. Dock Dogs and NW Challenge X-treme Air Dogs promote competitions in which dogs compete for longest jump, highest jump, and other titles. Chase was 53 lbs. of solid muscle and became a career jumper in record time. “She jumped like a kangaroo; I knew she would be perfect,” says Reusser.

In 2006 Chase was the epitome of health, strength and vivacity. She was in her prime. She and Reusser had just spent a weekend competing at Dock Dogs where Chase had jumped 25 feet, her personal best, when Reusser discovered a lump under her chin. Blood work was done the next day. The veterinarian told Reusser that Chase was the healthiest dog he’d ever seen but that the lump was a concern. Tests were ordered, and two days later Reusser received the devastating news that Chase had nasal carcinoma, and that it had metastasized into her brain. That evening, Reusser pitched a tent in the backyard and stayed up all night with Chase, loving her, telling her they would fight this thing. Reusser says she told herself, “This is my kid, my strong little girl; we are not going to lose this battle.”

Chase fought as best she could through one round of chemotherapy. In Reusser’s words, her blood work “went to hell in a hand basket within days.” She says, “I didn’t want her to suffer” she says “and I didn’t want her staying here for me.”

Chase was gone within days of the diagnosis, three month’s shy of her 7th birthday. Grief-stricken, Reusser says she was “madder than hell.” Nasal carcinoma is not real common. No one could say what caused it. It seemed there were no answers.

One in three dogs under age 10 get cancer. After age 10 it’s one in two. “People said it was just a bad luck of the draw,” says Reusser. “I was not going to accept that.”

Days after Chase died; Reusser received an invitation for her and Chase to attend the Dock Dogs Nationals. Chase had been in the top 12, and “she was by all means going to go,” says Reusser emphatically. She designed some t-shirts with the American flag in the background to honor Chase. “Being there was the most amazing thing to see,” she says. “Friends and pretty much every handler on the dock were wearing the shirts.” She adds, “Chase touched everyone; she stood out and made people want to root for her.”

Fueled by her anger and unfailing devotion to her courageous hero, plus desperately wanting answers, Reusser founded Chase Away K9 Cancer, a grass-roots organization to fight the thing that took Chase’s life. All proceeds go to the American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine (ACVIM) Foundation, directly supporting canine cancer studies. It’s been three years, and to date, $219,000 has been raised, with three grants already funded.

“The veterinary world receives so little money but do so much more with what they do receive,” says Reusser. “They are there to find answers and fight these terrible diseases for the animals, not to be recognized or famous.”

Now when Reusser attends dock-diving events, she and 13-year-old Smokey work for the cause while Rikki and Elsie May, Chase’s pup and grandpup, compete. With tremendous support from the Dock Dogs organization and community, most of the money is raised one dollar at a time. Handlers and event volunteers walk dogs wearing donation vests with pockets into which people tuck money. Chase Away K9 Cancer booths draw lines of people donating for the love of their best friends. “All the money comes from the heart,” says Reusser. “For the love of their Chase, pure and innocent.” At the recent Dock Dogs competition at Clark County Fair the group raised nearly $1,600 — one dollar at a time, one kiss at a time.

Chase & Reusser’s story has inspired others across the country to join in the quest for a cure. “Chase introduced me to so many awesome people,” says Reusser. “I’m still meeting amazing people because of her.” She feels Chase is in heaven, guiding her. “Chase will meet someone else’s dog and say, ‘Your mom has got to talk to my mom.’

“I believe that someday we’ll beat it,” says Reusser. “There are several who have fought and lost and several who have fought and won. I am fighting for every single dog out there.”

Chase, Reusser and the Chase Away K9 Cancer Foundation were honored Sept. 12 at the 3rd Annual Paws for Cures event Anaheim, CA. All proceeds of the benefit supports the ACVIM Foundation. Reusser says she’s flattered to be honored but that “I’m doing it for Chase. It’s a very helpless feeling to not be able to help your ‘kid,’ she says. “Chase was pure enjoyment and I will never able to repay her for all she gave me.”

Out of great loss came the Chase Away K9 Cancer Foundation, an organization working to provide new hope and promise.

“Chase was the spark that started the flame,” says Reusser. “I brought the kindling and friends are bringing the lumber. . . Look what Chasey started — You did good little girl; you did really good.”

To learn more, donate or join the fight, go to chaseawayk9cancer.org or acvimfoundation.org.

Update

on 2009-09-29 21:55 by Spot Magazine

UPDATE: The AKC Canine Health foundation has announced funding for two ACORN grants expected to improve therapies to treat canine lymphomas. Lymphoma is the most common cancer in dogs. Typically, animal treatment protocols are not based on scientific research; rather, information from human studies are extrapolated to veterinary medicine. Veterinarians often determine what protocol to use based on their and their colleagues’ past experiences. The studies that have been funded will look to generate scientific evidence on how the drugs of current standards of care actually affect lymphoma cells, providing evidence-based recommendations for canine lymphoma treatments. AKCCHF