Gunny, Greylock Glen’s Camellia SH CD RN NAVHDA UT P1, is my perfect dog. My husband and I, with help from more people than we can count, trained her for everything she has done. She has spent the last 12 years trying to understand what we want and to do everything she can to make us happy. We have tried to be very conscientious with Gunny’s health care. She received thorough examinations with her annual vaccinations and was treated for every problem that came up. Our veterinarian loves her almost as much as we do and she loves him back because he gives her lots of treats to offset those nasty shots. Last spring, we took Gunny to the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital (the place that saved Westminster winner Stump) for what we thought was going to be a routine geriatric exam. What can I say … the vets at A&M love Gunny, too. They were so proud of her conditioning. She’s fit and strong for her age. Her health looked great until they saw the ultrasound of her abdomen. There, they found a large mass. A week later, surgery removed the softball-sized tumor and pathology identified it as a type of cancer called a gastrointestinal stromal tumor. Gunny recovered very quickly from the surgery. I had thought that she was slowing down because of her age but it turns out it was because of the tumor. She felt sooo much better without it. The bad news was that the surgeons could not get all the little tumors that had fallen off the large one and implanted into her omentum (abdominal lining – I’m learning so many big words through all of this). There was no sign that it had spread to any other organs, but they were not hopeful. Let’s see. So far, this has been three trips home crying my eyes out plus the one after the surgery when I was just slightly hopeful. One of the most important parts of this has been the continuous conversation between the A&M vets, my vet and me. Colorado State University Vet School has arguably the best veterinary oncology program in the nation and they have a telephonic second-opinion service. With the diagnostic information from A&M, they have been very helpful in explaining things and confirming treatments. This cancer is the same as one that humans can get and the medicine to treat it is the same, so my doctor and family members in the medical field have been very informative also. Since Gunny cannot talk, I must do it for her. The more I know about her condition, the more I can assist Gunny with her treatment. The end of May, the A&M vets and I decided to start her on an experimental chemo. Dog chemo is not like human chemo. The drugs are the same but the reactions to them are not. With few exceptions, dogs don’t lose their coats like humans lose hair. They rarely have the intestinal upsets that humans do, either. But the chemo did make Gunny feel “punk” and very heat intolerant. Good thing we have air conditioning, because this record hot summer would have done her in, even without the chemo. The next trip to A&M in early July showed that this first chemo had no effect on the tumors left behind. Some had grown and there were new ones not seen before, including something on her liver. Time to try a different chemo. And another drive home with limited vision. Early August brought good news! The new chemo is working! No new tumors, none have grown, some have shrunken, and the liver spot disappeared. I had made monthly trips to A&M since that first exam in April. This time I could wait 2 months! The A&M vets stated that she showed partial remission. Finally, I was able to call friends with good news instead of hearing their condolences. She did have a slight problem with regularity, but when I e-mailed the Activia yogurt people, they did not want to hear about it. Yes, Gunny took the Activia challenge and it worked. The end of September was more good news. Gunny is now officially in remission. The A&M oncology resident said we needed to start making plans to take her off the chemo in 6-12 months. I did get a second opinion from Colorado State Vet School who disagreed with stopping the chemo, but we’re making plans a year out! The way she is feeling and her reaction to the chemo even makes me optimistic that she’ll go out hunting this winter. Our hunting season starts the middle of December (woodcocks), so we started tuning up both our dogs in early November. We went to a preserve near our home to put them on quail. It seems that Gunny has an attitude. She knows how to hunt (duh!) and doesn’t need to be told what to do. If we don’t like it, what are we going to do – shave her belly? That only happens every time A&M checks her out. Actually, other than breaking on the shot for every bird whether she pointed it or not, she’s doing pretty well. We had a good 30 – 45 minute long session followed by another 30 minutes after about an hour’s rest (for me). She pointed 4 and retrieved 7 birds – our other dog was not happy. But, look out woodcocks! For some reason, the week before each appointment at A&M, I start getting a bad feeling. This time is going to be the time I’m told nothing else can be done and start saying my goodbyes. Every time, I’ve been wrong. November was no different. My appointment was with the head of the oncology department who said that Gunny now has an “unremarkable abdomen”. There are no tumors and she has no side effects from the chemo medicine. The next checkup is in 3 more months. That’s almost 2 years in dog time! When the tumor was initially diagnosed, the vets said she would only last about 6 months without surgery. With only the surgery, she might have 2-3 months more and Gunny would not have a good quality of life for a large part of that. The chemo has made a great difference. A&M has found literature on a dog with the same cancer, in worse shape than Gunny was in, that was put on the same chemo and had a good life for 4 more years. At 13 years old now, I don’t expect that much time, but going out and playing fetch with her every morning is a gift I am truly grateful for.