Sparky the dog and his owner, Sylvia Reed, share both a love of life and a diagnosis of lung cancer. On Tuesday, June 25, The Columbian reported that Sparky and Sylvia Reed were reunited after the little dog had surgery at Washington State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Pullman, Wash.
Reed adopted Sparky and his sister, Buffy, almost six years ago. Reed and her husband, James Coughtry, 78, took Sparky to the veterinarian after they noticed that Sparky had a chronic cough.
Veterinarian Mark Burton, who owns Evergreen Animal Hospital in Vancouver, Wash., first thought that Sparky had bronchitis, but an X-ray later revealed that the little dog had a spot on his lung. Reed received her diagnosis at the same time.
Sparky’s case was unusual, so Burton arranged a surgery at WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital. Burton graduated from their veterinary program 30 years ago and knew that their veterinary clinic was one of the best options for the surgery.
Sparky, a 12-year-old bichon, had a lobe removed from his lung. His owner, Reed, 78, was also diagnosed with cancer six years ago.
“Sparky and I were diagnosed within days of each other,” stated Reed. She has never smoked cigarettes.
Reed’s cancer was in remission until it returned recently; it is now on both of her lungs. Her condition is inoperable.
Fortunately for Sparky, his tumor was benign.
While Dr. Burton knew that WSU was an excellent choice for the little dog to have surgery, the distance between Evergreen Animal Hospital and WSU was a daunting 360 miles.
But Dr. Burton’s veterinary assistant and receptionist, Samantha Bonebrake, volunteered to drive Sparky to his appointment. The duo embarked on the six-hour trip from Vancouver to Pullman on June 17.
Bonebrake stated that Sparky was unsure about the journey at first, but finally relaxed and enjoyed the road trip.
“He looked out the window, watched the rolling hills of wheat fields,” Bonebrake said. “He was mesmerized.”
They arrived in Pullman the day before the surgery, so Bonebrake kept the little dog entertained in the hotel room by watching “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.”
The following day, he had his surgery.
“Lung tumors aren’t uncommon, but most are more severe,” stated WSU veterinarian Kelly Might.
“Sparky was a great patient. He recovered quickly.”
Dr. Might performed Sparky’s surgery and stated that even benign tumors in animals are referred to as cancer.
It took several days for Sparky to recover and Dr. Burton’s daughter, Emily, made the drive to Pullman to pick him up. At age 19, Emily is also training to be a veterinarian. She is currently in the animal science program at WSU.
When Sparky finally returned him, Reed was delighted to be reunited with her friend.
Animal advocates are beginning to become more aware of the occurrence of cancer in their animals. According to the Animal Cancer Foundation, cancer is common among all animals: one in three people, one in four dogs, and one in five cats will develop cancer at some point in their lifetimes
A new veterinary cancer database also looks to connect animals with cancer clinical trials.
Sparky and Sylvia Reed both had lung cancer, which may seem unusual, but dogs contract the same kinds of cancer that humans do. Dogs are particularly important for the Veterinary Cancer Registry because their aging process is accelerated when compared to humans and their treatment can provide valuable information about responses to therapies and how humans might respond to these treatments.
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