A brave therapy dog is defying the odds, returning to her work with children and care home residents two-and-a-half years after being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer which is often fatal. Lily, an eight-year-old Golden Retriever, had completed more than 200 assignments as a Pets As Therapy dog before she was diagnosed with haemangiosarcoma at the age of five in late 2019.
Haemangiosarcoma is a cancer arising from the blood vessels. The prognosis is often poor, with dogs who are diagnosed often given a life expectancy of just weeks or months.
Lily’s worried owner Laura Hamilton took her to Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists, in Winchester, where she underwent investigations and ultimately the surgery team operated to remove the tumour. After she had recovered from surgery, Lily embarked upon an 18-week course of chemotherapy.
Happily, less than two years after her initial diagnosis, a post-treatment scan showed that Lily was in remission. Now, following the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions, she is back carrying out her therapy dog duties as normal.
In her therapy work, Lily spends time with residents at care homes in Southampton and visits local primary schools, where children read books to her in order to build their confidence.
Laura said: “When Lily started back to work, it was a great moment. We haven’t been able to do any visits in such a long time because of the pandemic and Lily’s cancer treatment, and it is so nice to be back visiting care homes and schools.
“It’s clear to see how much Lily’s visits mean to the residents – the expressions on their faces are wonderful to see and they often tell us stories about when they had their own dogs. The schoolchildren look forward to Lily’s visits and she enjoys listening to them reading. The fact that she has defied the odds and celebrated her eighth birthday recently is incredible. She is absolutely amazing.”
Lily has always been a survivor, having been diagnosed with a rare congenital swallowing condition named cricopharyngeal asynchrony at the age of just 17 weeks. The condition, which was also diagnosed by the team at Anderson Moores, means that Lily must be hand-fed all of her meals.
Laura said: “After Lily’s cancer diagnosis, I was determined to do everything I could for her. She has done incredibly well throughout her treatment. She had a rough time, needing 24-hour care every day and a lot of medication.
“Throughout this experience, Lily has been given the most amazing care – from the initial biopsies to her surgery, chemotherapy and monitoring – and she has always brought sunshine to the team at Anderson Moores during her visits. Each birthday, Christmas and day we have with Lily is a miracle to us.”
Proud Laura, who also owns therapy dog Lily’s mother Pilot, has written two books celebrating her youngest canine companion. The first, “Lily: One in a Million, A Miracle of Survival”, tells the story of Lily’s rare swallowing condition, while the second – “The Adventures of Lily and the Little Lost Doggie” – is a children’s book which Laura has illustrated.
David Walker, director at Linnaeus-owned Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists and American, Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons and European Board of Veterinary Specialists European specialist in small animal internal medicine, said the teams who had cared for Lily were delighted to see her back in action as a therapy dog.
He said: “Haemangiosarcoma is an aggressive form of cancer and sadly, the prognosis is often not encouraging. After successful surgery and chemotherapy, it’s heartwarming to see Lily back at work, bringing joy to people as a therapy dog and to her caring owner Laura every day.”
Anderson Moores offers specialist care in anaesthesia and analgesia, cardiology, dentistry, dermatology, diagnostic imaging, emergency and critical care, feline hyperthyroid clinic, internal medicine, neurology, oncology, orthopaedics and soft tissue surgery.
For more information on Anderson Moores Veterinary Specialists, which is part of the Linnaeus Group, visit their website.