The fight that reached a million . . . one dollar at a time

Oh, the stories — heartbreaking and full of sorrow, tender and full of hope, serendipitous and full of love.

Since founding Chase Away K9 Cancer in 2006, Cera Reusser has heard countless stories from across the country.  All with a common thread — the love of dogs who have fought or been lost to cancer of one form or another.  And all with this goal: to put an end to the dreaded disease that steals the lives of too many dogs — one in every three affected.   

Six years ago, this writer shared the story of Reusser and her dog Chase, a beautiful champion whose life was taken too soon.  The grief, anger, and ultimately the passion for this dog fueled Reusser to establish Chase Away K9 Cancer, a grassroots effort to fight cancer . . . one dollar at a time.

At events Reusser attended with her dogs, dollars were collected by pups wearing vests displaying this mission. Moving through the crowd, Smokey, another of Reusser’s dogs, would give a kiss for dollars tucked into his vest.

With time the cause got legs, spurring hundreds of events across the nation, from small happenings like bake sales and raffles to large-scale competitive canine events.

“If people can think it, they can do it.” Reusser says.

Today Chase Away K9 Cancer is a division of the National Canine Cancer Foundation (NCCF), still collecting donations one dollar at a time, still true to its roots. As it was at the start, every penny goes directly to NCCF, supporting canine cancer studies and research grants. 

Reusser still tears up when speaking of Chase. But her girl lives on through the foundation her memory started, as well as through Reusser’s current trio of black Labs — Rikki, Chase’s first-born daughter, is now 11. Elsie May, Chase’s granddaughter, will turn eight in a couple weeks. Olie, Chase’s great-grandson is nearing age three.

All three, who Reusser refers to as R-E-O, can be seen locally at dock diving, AKC and agility events, even 11-year-old, Rikki.  “It’s not about the titles or ribbons,” says Reusser, “It’s about dogs having fun and raising K9 cancer awareness.”

That awareness is a huge part of what Chase Away K9 Cancer is about. One campaign, for example, called Check Your Dog Day, asks owners to take a few minutes once a month to give their dogs special attention — doing a thorough head-to-tail, nose-to-toes examination, checking all over and noting any new or strange lumps or bumps and following up with the veterinarian if something looks, feels or just seems not right.

Early detection is key in successful treatment and prognosis of canine cancer.

Promoting the campaign through social media and at events, Reusser receives many notes from people who discovered a lump, had it checked, and found it was cancerous, but that after removal the dog will live.

“It is so gratifying to see the message being shared and getting out there and working,” says Reusser, who always exclaims aloud upon reading these notes: “Hey…Chasey, we saved one!”

Yes. One. One dollar at a time. For the love of dogs.

~ Epilogue ~

Nine years after the heartbreak of losing Chase, and forming Chase Away K9 Cancer, Reusser’s organization reached the milestone of one million dollars in donations. 

Recently, Sniff Dog Hotel hosted a Halloween party, matching all donations to Chase Away K9 Cancer. The evening brought in more than $2,000.


Vonnie Harris is a freelance writer, and operator of Pet Stop Pit Stop pet sitting services in SW Washington. She resides in Vancouver with Jessie (a yellow Lab), Pedro & Lorali (parrots), three chickens, and memories of Jake, her heart dog who recently passed on. Vonnie is “the face of Spot” at many Portland-area pet-related events, and the voice of Spot in social media outlets.

The latest from the front lines of canine cancer

The ASPCA guesstimates there are 70-80 million dogs in American households, and according to the National Canine Cancer Foundation, one in three of them will be affected by cancer during their lifetimes — a staggering number. 

“We’re seeing it so much more than we did 20 years ago,” says Dr. Juliana Cyman, a radiation oncologist at Portland Veterinary Oncology Center. “Partly because our pets are living longer, and with any species the longer you live the more predisposed you are to develop some forms of cancers. We have so many treatments for diseases that once meant a death sentence for dogs, and we also have better diagnoses.”  

In decades past, MRIs and CT scans simply weren’t available in veterinary medicine, so dog owners were often unable to discover why their dog was having seizures or losing weight. “Now there’s more awareness of cancer by vets and what they should be looking for,” says Cyman. 

Dr. Kim Freeman, a medical oncologist at Veterinary Cancer and Surgery Specialists, says while canine cancer is on the rise, veterinarians are doing a better job of diagnosing it. “The more we diagnose it the better we’re going to get at treating it,” she says.  “In human medicine, a lot of cancer therapies are becoming more personalized and targeted, and that eventually will evolve into what’s happening in veterinary medicine as well.” 

Advances in treatment 

Treatments for canine cancer now include surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation therapy, all modalities that are very similar to those available to people. Cutting-edge immunotherapies are also being developed, along with advances in alternative treatments and nutrition, Cyman says. “But the advances that have been made in surgery and radiation therapy and chemotherapy over the last 20 years are quite stunning.” 

Dr. Freeman’s clinic, which offers surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and hospice care, is participating in a national study of monoclonal antibody therapy for a form of lymphoma. The immunotherapy helps the body create a specific protein that can help the immune system recognize its targets. “That antibody recognizes that target on the cell and it helps the body’s immune system destroy those cells,” says Freeman. “You’re basically priming the body to heal itself, hopefully better than it can with chemotherapy alone, and potentially instead of using chemotherapy.” 

Heather Macfarlane, a dog and cat nutritionist at Balanced By Nature, believes that highly-processed diets contribute to the occurrence of cancer.  “Highly-processed diets lead to chronic inflammation in the body,” she says. “Processed dog food (kibble) is way too high in Omega 6, promoting inflammation and cancer. I believe that a lot of canine diseases are caused by chronic inflammation. Chronic inflammation in the body encourages cancer, and highly-processed pet foods are inflammatory by nature.” 

A pet nutrition professional can help develop a diet for optimal health, both before cancer takes hold and during therapy. Most veterinarians will agree that good nutrition helps with cancer recovery.  

“A tailored diet takes into account everything about a specific animal and his or her specific needs,” says McFarlane. “Depending on what kind of cancer, and anything else going on with the dog, specific proteins, organs, veggies, herbs and perhaps fruit go into the recipe just for that dog. I believe optimal nutrition is paramount when preventing or treating any disease — for people and pets!”  

Damaged genes 

In addition to living longer, some dog breeds are simply more prone to cancer. Breeds such as Retrievers are proportionally more likely to experience cancer. “Typically, dogs that are over 70 pounds are more predisposed to getting bone cancer,” says Cyman.  

Dogs are also exposed to known carcinogens more often than you might think. “We know there are certain chemicals that can increase the risk of cancer,” Cyman says, such as garden products and second-hand smoke. “In most instances, a dog’s life is spent in their home and yard, so cancer can be caused by exposure to what chemicals you’re using.”  

The best preventive measures? Dr. Freeman says it’s keeping pets on a well-balanced diet, making sure they get regular exercise, and avoiding carcinogens. Beyond that, genetics play the biggest role. “Sometimes it’s just bad genes,” she says. “But you do everything you can to lower the risk.” 

Early diagnosis is key 

Cyman says the most common mistake she encounters is when clients spot a soft, squishy, mobile lump on their dog and assume it’s a fatty tumor. “Fatty tumors are by far the most common type of lumps and bumps that dogs get,” she says. “So if you guess fatty tumor you’ll be right way more often than wrong, but a lot of mast cell tumors and soft tissue sarcomas mimic fatty tumors.”  

In the event a soft lump is found, Cyman recommends a biopsy, and measuring and mapping them. “Put it on a picture map so you know that one has been checked before and it’s growing slowly,” she says. “Having that done is really important.” 

Bladder cancer can mimic chronic urinary tract infections. Other symptoms to know include single-sided nasal discharge or bleeding. “Nasal discharge often responds to antibiotics,” says Cyman, “but if it’s single-sided it’s more likely to be unusual and we see that in patients that later develop nasal cancer.”  

Lameness can be a sign of bone cancer, especially in large- and giant-breed dogs. “Dogs are usually running and jumping, so certainly sprains and strains are common,” says Cyman, “but for breeds that are predisposed, getting early diagnosis with radiographs is important. People notice lameness and that’s often how sarcomas start out.”  

Just as with people, it’s important to make a habit of routinely observing your dog’s body and behavior, watching for any unusual changes. “With most dogs, their days are kind of similar, so if all of a sudden you’re noticing that your pet is acting out of sorts that can be a clue that something’s awry,” says Cyman.  

Resources

Veterinary Cancer & Surgery Specialists
Dr. Kim Freeman, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology)
503-343-9857
10400 SE Main St., Milwaukie
vcsspdx.com

Portland Veterinary Oncology Center
Dr. Juliana Cyman, DVM, DACVR (Radiation Oncology)
13655 SW Jenkins Rd., Beaverton
503-644-6581
portvetonc.com

National Canine Cancer Foundation

Heather Macfarlane, PNC
Balanced By Nature, Nutrition Counseling for Dogs and Cats


Vanessa Salvia’s love for animals began as a  child, when stray kittens just seemed to follow her home. She now lives on a sheep farm outside of Eugene, Oregon, with a llama named Linda, a dog, a cat, two horses, a rabbit, two kids and a patient husband.

 

 

Parker Pup walks for cancer awareness

Parker Pup, the tireless advocate for canine cancer awareness, will participate in the Morris Animal Foundation’s Unite to Fight Virtual Pet Cancer Walk June 22.  Parker will don his cancer vest and walk alongside his “little brother” Reser in Portland, and encourages friends locally and across the country to do the same.  

The annual fundraising campaign asks participants to pledge to take their dog(s) for a walk on June 22 as a way to honor dogs and cats who have endured cancer, and join the effort to support cancer research through the Morris Animal Foundation. While this isn’t an organized walk with a designated location, Parker encourages his many Facebook followers to join him in spirit, and Portlanders are invited to walk with Parker by sending him a private message on his Facebook page.  Learn more at MorrisAnimalFoundation.org or ParkerPup.com.

Something about that blonde . . .

There’s something about a sweet-spirited, flirtatious, good-looking blonde.  And for the one you’re about to meet, these descriptors barely begin to cover his traits and accomplishments.  Don’t be surprised if you fall in love with him . . .  everyone does, and for good reason. 

He is a talented actor, but wholly unaffected by his fame.  In fact he speaks to his fans daily — over 200,000 of them follow him on Facebook.  He’s been featured in magazines, and has starred in music videos, on television and on stage.  He is also famous for his fierce dedication to eradicating cancer in both humans and animals. 

You might call him an over-Retriever, and go right ahead — he is Parker Pup, and his list of fantastic traits also includes easygoing.  Call him what you like, just be sure to call him for dinner! 

The blonde butterball joined the McFarling family six and half years ago, including two-legged parents, mom (Chris), dad (Dan) and daughter Jenn, and four-legged sister Goldens, Daisy (3), and Sophie (13).  

Named for the former OSU stadium where Dan went to school, Parker’s people created a website to celebrate the life and puppy antics of their adorable new boy.  Photos and videos flowed, showing the little tyke discovering toys, cats, children, the great outdoors, mugging for the camera in sweet and funny outfits, rough-housing with his sister, and executing his increasing repertoire of tricks.  Stealing our hearts with each passing month, and eventually year, Parker Pup grew up right before our eyes.   

The family loved the little guy and took him everywhere — work, church, festivals and gatherings.  A quick study, he sailed through puppy preschool and began obedience, agility and other training, passing the Canine Good Citizenship test at just 11 months of age.  Seemingly destined for great things, about Parker’s ultimate success, Jenn says, “It just happened . . . and we just went with it.” 

Incredibly cute photos and videos continued coming, of Parker and his sister Daisy celebrating birthdays and holidays, showing off Parker’s skills and adventures.  Just for fun, he was entered in a contest.  He won, was increasingly featured on dog-related websites, and his image even appeared on the big screen in Times Square.  Soon he was getting professional gigs in print ads, TV commercials and music videos. 

One big break came as a fluke.  A photo of Parker sent to StuffonMyMutt.com was picked up and printed by Vanity Fair alongside a column on — you guessed it — “Cuteness” in the December 2009 issue.  The McFarlings had no idea until they received a call from a friend living in France.  Jenn says she got the call one evening after celebrating her birthday with friends.  “I was ready for bed, in my pajamas, and ended up racing to the store to find a copy.”  

The smile says it all:  Parker Pup loves his work

The smile says it all:  Parker Pup loves his work

His mellow temperament led Parker to animal assisted therapy work, with Dan as a natural partner. Working for the State of Oregon in the early ‘80s, Dan’s responsibilities included overseeing the rules governing health care facilities.  A firm believer in the power of pet therapy, one of his earliest acts was implementing rules to allow pets in nursing homes.  “Those same standards, which allow resident pets and pet therapy, are in effect today,” he is proud to point out. 

Parker spreads love and hope while visiting schools, libraries and hospitals.  A regular visitor at Doernbecher Children's Hospital and Oregon Health Sciences University, he not only soothes fearful  patients and families affected by cancer, but also alleviates stress of staff members.  When providing animal assisted therapy, or AAT, Parker provides more than a healing touch and warm cuddles.  As a performer with many tricks, he is able to break through fear, generate smiles where there were none, and laughter where it is vital.  While patients and staff thrive in his presence, Parker gets his due as well — he loves his work. 

“It’s easy to tell that Parker enjoys the visits,” says Dan.  “As he approaches one of his regular haunts, his enthusiasm is clear.  His ears perk up, his tail wags enthusiastically, and his pace quickens.  His posture tells me he is one happy fella approaching his therapy work!”  (Click here for more on Dan's experiences with Parker's therapy work).

In his work to eradicate cancer and heighten awareness, Parker participates in cancer walks on the West Coast as an advocate for the Morris Animal Foundation (MAF), a four-star charity dedicated to funding studies to advance veterinary medicine.  In existence for more than 60 years, the foundation is currently leading a global campaign to cure canine cancer in 10-20 years, while providing more effective treatments in the meantime.  Parker fundraises throughout the year for MAF, as well as the American Cancer Society, and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.  He raised over $10,000 last year for organizations working to find a cure. 

Parker’s connection to cancer started before he was born.  In 2006, Dan was diagnosed with an aggressive strain.  He is now cancer-free, but when faced with something like that, “You do a lot of bargaining,” Jenn says.  “I promised I would someday give back and do whatever I could to help.”   

Last year, cancer struck the family again, taking the McFarling’s beloved Daisy at just 9 years old, fueling Parker to gather over 2,100 names for a vest he wore at a cancer walk in the fall, bearing names of people and animals who were fighting or had lost their battle with the deadly disease. 

Parker and Betty White were fast friends

Parker and Betty White were fast friends

Parker’s love and therapy also shows up in many unexpected places.  In October, the MAF celebrated its 65th anniversary with a Gala of Hope that included honoring longtime supporter and advocate Betty White.  Parker Pup was on the guest list.  Jenn says, “It was quite an honor as he was the only invited dog.” Laughing, she adds, “He actually received a real invitation!” 

Jenn says meeting Betty White was pretty great, saying it’s easy to tell she has a huge heart for dogs.  “When Parker walked into the room, the whole world stopped for Betty.  She stopped mid-conversation and got the biggest smile on her face.” 

Recently, Parker played Sandy in a production of Annie in Forest Grove.  His role of endearing mutt expanded as he provided comfort to the cast, crew and parents of two little girls killed in a hit and run.  One had been cast as an orphan in the show.    

Another recent happening:  Parker has been nominated in the Therapy Dog category of the American Humane Association’s Hero Dog Awards.  It’s perfectly fitting — a hero in his family’s eyes and in the lives he touches — the awards celebrate the powerful relationship between people and dogs, recognizing exceptional canines doing extraordinary things.  Online voting narrows the field to three semi-finalists in eight categories, who are judged by a celebrity panel.  A unique black-tie affair televised on the Hallmark Channel celebrates the heroes on both ends of the leash.  (Go Parker!) 

So, what does this remarkable, busy boy do in his off-time?  “He is totally obsessed with balls,” says Jenn.  “If no one will throw one for him, he’ll make up his own games and entertain himself for hours batting at a ball or sleeping with one in his mouth.” 

These days, new 6-month-old little brother Reser (named for OSU stadium’s name today) also keeps him occupied.  

Hoping Reser might follow in his big brother’s paw-steps, Reser’s first step was enrolling in MAF’s Canine Lifetime Health Study.  One in two dogs of all breeds will get cancer; and one in four will die from it.  For Golden Retrievers, the risk is higher, with 60% dying from the disease.  MAF’s groundbreaking study is following 3,000 Goldens over their lifetimes to gain insights into preventing cancer, helping determine risk factors for canine diseases, and improving the health of future generations. 

Other than that, the family says with Reser they’re flying by the seat of their pants.  “He’s his own dog and pretty spunky, whereas Parker was mellow,”  Jenn says.  “He’ll have a job, we’re just not sure what that is yet.” 

If Parker is any inspiration, then wonderful things will happen. 

For more Parker Pup, go to ParkerPup.com and follow him at Facebook.com/ParkerPup

To read more about the Morris Animal Foundation, visit MorrisAnimalFoundation.org.  


Vonnie Harris is a freelance writer, and operator of Pet Stop Pit Stop pet sitting services in SW Washington.  She resides in Vancouver with Jessie (a yellow Lab), Pedro & Lorali (parrots), three chickens, and memories of Jake, her heart dog who recently passed on. Vonnie is “the face of Spot” at many Portland-area pet-related events, and the voice of Spot in social media outlets.

Life and times of Artie

Artie

Artie

We love this story from Central Bark Doggy Daycare and Boarding - Portland, Oregon. You go, Artie! You're is an inspiration giving hope to many  

The life and times of Artie Jelline:
From 1/7/02 to 4/28/11: Born, made people happy, played ball, traveled the country by RV, founded and became CEO of Central Bark, brought mom and dad together, met my brother Remy, played more ball, lived large.
4/29/11: Diagnosed with stage 5 Lymphoma. Given 3-6 weeks to live without treatment, or 50% chance of making 6-8 months with treatment.
4/30/11: Met with Dr. Kim Freeman, started 6 month chemotherapy protocol with tennis ball in mouth. Never complained.
4/29/13: Suck it cancer! 2 years of remission, still chasin' balls, still making people happy, still living LARGE.
Thank you Kim, for saving our wonderful puppy. You are our hero!
And so begins the third consecutive "Summer of Artie."

If you have a cancer survivor story, we'd love to share it with fans!  Post on our Facebook page or email vonnie@spotmagazine.net.

Shutterbug takes on canine cancer

bailey_julieclegg.jpg

As a daily respite from the computer, Seattle photographer Julie Clegg began taking pictures of dogs for her blog.  Soon after, she decided to use her website to promote canine cancer awareness, photographing dogs she met on her travels, sharing info about canine cancer (and its prevalence), and providing tips on how to check for cancer in their pups.  Her project, Dog A Day for Canine Cancer, also raises funds for the Chase Away K9 Cancer Fund and a scholarship for veterinary clinics working on cancer-related treatments.  To learn more or get involved, visit BaileyAndBanjo.com.

42 Rules to Fight Canine Cancer

42 Rules to Fight Canine Cancer

by Aimee Quemuel

Aimee Quemuel wrote this book to pool the collective knowledge of dog owners and provide hope.  The book is full of stories of dogs with cancer that lived well beyond their prognoses with the help of holistic and/or conventional treatments.  The author’s own beloved Golden Retriever, Cody, lived past his “few day” prognosis to 519 days and passed away at 12 years, 7 months, a ripe old age for a large dog.

Goodness and sadness in the face of cancer

Cancer — the one word that evokes fear and universal anxiety. The one word no one is ever fully prepared to hear. This dreaded disease affects too many humans and pets alike. And when it comes to our beloved animals, it’s the one diagnosis that alarming statistics show account for nearly half of all disease-related pet deaths.

Blog report: Great destinations online

2 Dogs 2,000 Miles

People used to keep diaries. Then they journaled. Now we blog. When it comes to pet blogs, many feature stories that are funny, educational, and chock-full of pictures. Spot’s Blog Report will bring you pet blogs that piqued our interest and we believe you’ll enjoy.

Chase Away K9 Cancer - a hero’s tale

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.