It’s hard to believe that almost three years have gone by already since Thunder was diagnosed with lymphoma. I remember so many details of that moment: how my weight was shifted to my left leg, the color of my shoes, the feel of Thunder’s broad head under my hand, his eyes. I remember his trusting eyes so well. Odd, though, I don’t recall much of what was said, just the sound of a voice breaking the news that I’d already guessed. I got through that moment, but never away from it.

If you’ve had Goldens for very long, or dogs for very long, you know that moment, because you’ve been there. And if you haven’t been there yet, you will be. Sixty to seventy percent of Goldens die of cancer; forty-five percent of all dogs die of cancer. In fact, some of you are hearing the news that your dog has cancer today, and some will hear the news tomorrow, or next week. Right now, that’s almost a given if you own multiple dogs.

After Thunder was diagnosed, I searched for answers, the same as everyone else does. How do I help him? Why did this happen? How do I protect my other dogs? I have to admit that my first reaction was centered on MY dogs – I did not immediately see the bigger picture. But what I finally realized was that to help my own dogs, I needed to become part of the bigger picture. The only way to improve the future for my dogs, was to become part of the solution by participating in research to help all dogs.

And I discovered very quickly that helping other dogs, helping my breed, gave meaning to that moment. If I had to lose Thunder, what better legacy could he leave behind, than to be part of a more hopeful future?

I wrote a public letter then, hoping to help recruit others who wanted to do more than just grieve for their impending loss. And so many who read the plea responded. Their willingness to reach out in the midst of their sorrow, really made a difference in a lymphoma study that was in progress at that time. And I’m sure that every owner who participated would affirm that they are grateful they had that opportunity.

Thunder passed away about 2 years ago. The disease got him – but in one small way, he struck a blow against the disease too. That remains a source of comfort.

So here we are, nearly three years later, and I’m writing another letter. There is a new canine cancer study that needs our support and participation. This one is for Goldens, Rottweilers, and Mastiffs who have been diagnosed with lymphoma or osteosarcoma. Other breeds may be included with prior approval of the researchers. Owners and their vet will need to submit biopsy samples, a blood sample, a pedigree, signed consent forms, and agree to acceptable chemotherapy treatment. Blood samples will also be needed from 2 unaffected first degree relatives (parents, siblings, offspring).

Now here’s the part that is sometimes a problem: the biopsy sample must be prepared in a very specific way, using a solution supplied by the researchers. Therefore, the researchers must be contacted at least a day or two PRIOR to the surgery. In addition, the dog must not have started treatment such as chemotherapy or prednisone before the biopsy.

We who love our dogs, the scientists trying to help us, and of course, the dogs themselves – need your help. We’re all in this together, and together we can make a difference.

If you are faced with that numbing moment when you hear or suspect a diagnosis of lymphoma or osteosarcoma, and your dog fits the study requirements, please contact me. I know it takes courage to look beyond that moment, while you are in the midst of it. But I also know that these affected dogs who participate in research, leave behind a legacy that will be one of your greatest comforts.

If your dog does not meet the requirements for this study, and you would like to find one that is suitable, I will try to help. Even if you just have questions, I will try to help. Like I said, we’re all in this together.


Rhonda Hovan  


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