Written by: Kelly J. Diehl, Morris Animal Foundation
Although he doesn’t realize it, Tristan is a very lucky dog. Tristan was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, an aggressive type of bone cancer, in June 2014. Even with treatment, most dogs die within a year of diagnosis.
But Tristan is still going strong more than 16 months later and his owner, Gail McCensky, has made it her mission to give Tristan an adventure-filled life. One of Tristan’s favorite activities is a monthly lunch club for him and his “lady friends.”
“The hostess will hide in a room when Tristan gets there, and his job is to find her,” said Gail. “He loves this game of hide and seek. Then we all sit down for lunch.”
When dogs are diagnosed with osteosarcoma, the primary tumor is usually treated with a combination of amputation followed by chemotherapy. But bone tumors spread quickly, in addition to being painful, and by the time they are discovered the tumors have usually metastasized. Even with treatment, most dogs live less than a year.
After some soul searching, Gail and her husband decided to proceed with both amputation and chemotherapy followed by extensive rehabilitation. Gail is a human anesthesiologist, so she understood the medical parts of the procedure, but she also had to consider what was best for Tristan. So far, he was beat the odds.
Gail attributes Tristan’s survival, in part, to his open, loving and happy personality. He has many people pulling for him, and this group of friends also provides Gail with much-needed emotional support. Gail also has found an outlet through Morris Animal Foundation, which is one of the leading organizations funding canine cancer research worldwide.
Gail found Morris Animal Foundation through the Orvis Cover Dog Photo Contest. Orvis has been a long-time supporter of the foundation, and the Orvis Cover Dog Photo contest is one of the many ways Orvis helps the foundation raise funds for canine cancer research.
Gail and Tristan collected donations from their many admirers, and made a generous donation through the contest that will help the foundation support more research focused on canine cancer.
For now, Gail and Tristan are taking it one day at a time. To other dog owners facing a cancer diagnosis, Gail has some advice straight from the heart.
“Choose the course that optimizes a pain-free and high quality of life,” said Gail. “Steel yourself for difficult times and accept the fact your dog is not crying about his fate as you are. Love them like there may be no tomorrow. Treasure and be thankful for each tomorrow that comes along and know they are happy loving the life they share with you.”
Morris Animal Foundation is thankful for the many generous donors who have shared our passion for animal health. We especially want to thank Orvis, for their years of support for canine cancer research. To learn more about canine cancer and other dog diseases, visit Morris Animal Foundation.
Kelly J. Diehl, DVM, MS Dipl. ACVIM (SAIM), CVJ is a science writer and researcher for Morris Animal Foundation.