We (my now-husband and I) noticed something wrong in October 2006. The vet thought it was probably arthritis—Ellie was almost 10 after all—and sent us home with a bottle of carprofen. When the pills stopped working after a few days, we scheduled x-rays.
That’s when we got the devastating news. Osteosarcoma.
It’s one thing to know osteosarcoma is the leading cause of death in greyhounds. It’s another thing to know it will cause the death of your greyhound. The next few days were a blur. Crying. Meeting with specialists. Calling friends and family, “Ellie is dying!” And the guilt, oh, the guilt. All the signs she gave us, which we chalked up to her age. Truth is, it’s hard play when there’s a tumor at the head of your femur, jamming into your hip socket.
But guilt doesn’t change the decision we needed to make. Euthanasia. Amputation. Pain management. How to treat your dog’s cancer is deeply personal. You have to consider what you can emotionally and financially handle. What your dog can emotionally and physically handle. I looked into Ellie’s big brown eyes and saw that she wanted the pain to stop. But she wasn’t ready to go.
She had three good legs, a clear chest x-ray, and lots of life left. So, on November 6, 2006, little Ellie’s lost her left hind leg.
The dog community showered us with more love and support than I could have imagined. And I knew, after Ellie recovered, I’d pay it forward.
That same year, Cera Reusser got devastating news of her own. Her dock diving champion, Chase, was also diagnosed with cancer—nasal carcinoma—and was gone before her first chemotherapy treatment. To cope with this loss, Cera set her sights on a cure for this devastating disease. And founded Chase Away K9 Cancer. This grassroots campaign, under the National Canine Cancer Foundation, has so far raised $1.3 million and funded 17 research grants.
Though we live 3,000 miles apart, it was only a matter of time before my and Cera’s paths would cross. Maybe because of the catchy nonprofit name. Or the Stephen Huneck-designed custom logo. Or maybe it was our shared passion. It was probably a combination of all three. Regardless, I needed to bring Chase Away K9 Cancer to Vermont. Because my husband and I have runners, not dock-divers, I took a different approach. In 2011, I organized the first-ever Chase Away 5K.
Experts told me to expect about 50 runners that first year. We had almost 100. And the event keeps growing. It means so much to our repeat runners. To those who include their dogs’ names on the back of the event tee (which lists “We’re Running For…”). Who share with me their stories—and photos!—at fundraising events, before the run, and after. Who use the Chase Away 5K to build their own support network.
Everyone wants to feel like part of the solution. Chase Away K9 Cancer gives them that chance.