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Pumpkin – Ancient but Beautiful – Getting Cutting Edge Cancer Treatment. This is a great story.


by Eva Saks on 07/09/11

To some, courage is a thousand men landing on a distant beach. To others, courage is a mother. To me, courage is a small brown dog soldiering on despite every obstacle known to dog and man.
Pumpkin is bravery personified. I pulled this dauntless 14-year old Sheltie from LA’s East Valley kill shelter on June 11th. A stray, he was practically dead: couldn’t walk, couldn’t eat, mouth literally rotting off. All of 14 pounds, he was truly among the wretched of the earth.
Since then, he has endured two massive surgeries and two emergency hospitalizations. After almost dying — twice — over the Fourth of July holiday, he finally came home this week feeling better. He can walk and even trot; he is eating like a horse and holding his own in company. But Pumpkin’s story has yet another twist. A biopsy taken last Thursday came back positive. Pumpkin has cancer.
It seems almost too cruel to bear. But nothing can get Pumpkin down. He is enjoying life to the fullest. Certainly he feels better than he has in years. His infected mouth is healing, his arthritis is almost gone (through Prednisone and Liquid 5000 super-strength glucosamine/chondroitin), he has a companionable pack and an adoring dog-ma. (Me.) He savors our yard and our garden, peeing daily on his favorite rosebush. The name of this rose is “Dream Come True.”
Due to his age and fragility, Pumpkin is not a candidate for the full-on chemo protocol for this cancer, a protocol known as CHOP. But he is getting the “P” of this acronym — Prednisone — and more miraculous still, he is going to get a custom-made treatment provided by a scientist of infinite generosity. I learned of this scientist’s pioneering work when I wrote about canine cancer for the American Kennel Club’s magazine, the AKC Gazette; I wrote to him as soon as I got Pumpkin’s diagnosis. Astoundingly, this scientist is providing Pumpkin a cutting-edge immunotherapy treatment, gratis. Whether it will have any effect or not is anyone’s guess. Nonetheless it is a tribute to the human spirit that this man is trying to help Pumpkin.
So Pumpkin’s vet in LA has already harvested cells from Pumpkin’s lymph nodes, and these cells have been Fedexed from California to Florida, where a lab is trying to grow them into a “cancer vaccine” for Pumpkin.
It is a wondrous thing. I hope it will help Pumpkin. I know it will help other dogs. Perhaps it will even help people someday: mammalian cancers are all quite similar, so much so that human cancer research is performed preliminarily on dogs.
The best that God and Man can offer is being provided to Pumpkin. And I have implemented my own program, too. I want to give Pumpkin something to live for. So today I took Pumpkin to a doggie birthday party at Kriser’s, a local pet boutique. Kriser’s has such a fete every month, for dogs born that month. As we don’t know when Pumpkin’s birthday is, I elected to make it July 7th so he could  celebrate and be celebrated today.  After all, who knows where he will be a month from now?
And Pumpkin had the time of his life. Out of deference to his vulnerable condition, I didn’t let him touch other pups…but otherwise, he did it all. He LOVED the car ride, going into the store, the cool marble floors, the aisles of aromatic dog treats. He got his picture taken by a pro and got petted by the store manager. He watched the groomers at work through a glass window. He even got to go behind the cash register!
As the hero says in WATCH ON THE RHINE, “Those who want to live have the best chance to live.” Pumpkin wants to live.
Long live Pumpkin.

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