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Feature by Jemima Harrison


Invisible killers


Cancer kills all types and ages of dogs - including young crossbreeds - but it is twice as prevalent in pure breeds. Has your beloved breed started to lose vital immunity genes? There’s now a test to help us find out...


had landed in Dunboyne pound near Dublin as a stray and had never been claimed. We specialise in retrievery crosses and he seemed a nice chap so I was sure we could find a home for him. Deep into researching the evolution of the dog at the time, I called him Darwin. Like all the dogs who travel


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from Ireland, he arrived in the very early hours of the morning and it was clear, right from the start, that he was lovely - sweet, unassuming and affectionate. He trotted a little tentatively into our garden and then started rolling over and over on the grass with delight. Within half an hour he was playing beautifully with our Tickle, who takes all the new dogs under her wing. It was still really early, but


my other half, Jon, who tries to feign disinterest in the new rescues, popped his head out of the bedroom window to have


wo summers ago, the small rescue I run brought over a black collie cross from Ireland. He


a peek, then came down and made us a cup of tea. We sat down on a step outside to drink it and Darwin came over to plant a kiss on my face. I reached up to stroke him under his neck and found a golfball-sized lump. There was one on the other side too - clearly enlarged lymph nodes. I quickly checked and every other lymph node on Darwin’s body was up like a hard rock. My heart sank. I knew Darwin had been


unwell in Ireland - he’d gone down with something in the pound, as many do. But he’d bounced back with antibiotics. I took him to our vet, who gave him the once over and then looked up at me with raised eyebrows. “I think it’s lymphoma,” she said, confirming what I already knew in my heart. But she gave me some antibiotics and we took him home. There was no question of us


subjecting him to any heroic treatments. The prognosis for lymphoma is extremely poor, even with the most advanced care. It is rare that it can give a dog more than a few extra weeks and we felt this little


chap had been through enough without subjecting him to the rigours of chemotherapy. Darwin was a little star. He


fitted in seamlessly with us; he loved his walks, loved his food, loved my dogs, and even managed to put on a kilo - yay! In the evening, he’d creep up on to my lap, tuck himself into my neck and sigh, as if he was the happiest dog in the world. At night, he would sneak up on to the bed and curl up small. We pretended we didn’t notice.


Hopes dashed I allowed myself to hope - a little


- that the diagnosis was wrong. But the lumps didn’t go down, and although he was active and playful, when he was in repose you could tell he wasn’t well. He was also unnaturally hot. Two weeks after he arrived


with us, Darwin was much quieter on his walk. That evening, he ate his supper and then went to lie in his favourite spot on a rug in front of the television. His breathing was fast and shallow. I picked him up and laid him back in my arms on the sofa. He snuggled into


Dogs Today August 2010 Dogs Today


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