May 14, 2020 – Oso did everything with his family, from snowshoe trips in the mountains to supervising the building of his family’s home. But his real passion was tending to the sheep and protectively looking after the chickens. His guardian instincts were strong, and he took to his job like a pro.
Oso was a great, big, lovable Great Pyrenees who meant the world to Kellie Dunn and her partner Gary. While in Spanish Oso means bear, Kellie said his name could also mean Oh So Cute and Oh So Gentle. He was the gentle giant of the household.
Losing him to cancer was one of the hardest days of Kellie and Gary’s lives.
A diagnosis of bone cancer
“We first noticed a limp on Oso,” said Kellie. “At first, I didn’t think much of it as it seemed to resolve itself. But then it reappeared. There was also a lump that we discovered. The symptoms sort of came and went, but over the course of one particular weekend both symptoms seemed to have progressed significantly, so we were anxious to get Oso to our veterinarian first thing Monday morning.”
A trip to the veterinarian revealed that Oso had osteosarcoma, the most prevalent bone cancer in dogs. And, worse yet, the cancer had caused a bone to break and had already metastasized, spreading throughout Oso’s body. Heartbreakingly, it was too late for treatment. Kellie took Oso home to spend what remaining time he had left spoiling and loving him. Losing Oso at just 8 years old was just too soon. Kellie and Gary were devastated.
“We didn’t know much about bone cancer before this incident and we weren’t prepared,” said Kellie. “We didn’t even know what signs to look for. For our Oso, osteosarcoma was a quick and silent killer. He didn’t show any overt signs of discomfort until the very end because he was always incredibly stoic. I just wish we could have had more time with him.”
Deciding to make a difference in cancer research
In complete despair, and to make sense of everything that had happened, Kellie later reached out to her veterinarian to find out the best place to support cancer research. Her veterinarian recommended Morris Animal Foundation. So far, Kellie and Gary have raised more than $2,000 for pet cancer research with the help of friends and family, many of whom also have had to deal with cancer in a beloved pet.
“Sometimes when you feel helpless, the best thing to do is to find something positive that you can act on,” said Kellie. “We did some research and saw the Foundation was funding some of the most cutting-edge pet cancer research. Some of it is very progressive, especially in trying to find answers for osteosarcoma – a cause dear to our heart. I just want more people to have the opportunity to enjoy more time with their pets. Something we would’ve given anything to have with Oso.”
Kellie and her partner recently adopted a Pyrenees mix they’ve named Arlo. Like so many rescued dogs, Arlo had a rough life until he found his forever home. Kellie’s veterinarian has treated Arlo for bronchitis and discovered an old BB shot injury, but he’s very resilient!
“Arlo is still settling into his new life, but he is an amazing dog,” said Kellie. “He’s very focused, loves everyone, and is already great with the sheep and chickens. We are grateful we can provide him with a home and are working hard to keep him happy and healthy, but I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that cancer is always on my mind with every vet visit.”
The journey with Oso has taught Kellie and her partner a lot about cancer in dogs. They now know one of the top health concerns in Pyrenees is bone cancer and plan to regularly screen Arlo for the disease.
“There is a screening blood test that we now know about,” said Kellie. “And, while it’s not always the best indicator that a dog has osteosarcoma, it’s all we have right now. We hope more research will improve the ability to catch this disease early and provide better treatment options. It also makes us feel better knowing we can screen Arlo once a year. We want to always do our best for him.”