NORTH MYRTLE BEACH — Louise Henderson found the love of her life, and he walks on four legs.
His name is Tony, a yellow Labrador retriever the retired North Myrtle Beach teacher got last August.
Henderson and Tony have enjoyed both good times and bad, with one of the worst being the dogs ongoing battle with cancer.
The two are the best of friends. The couches in Hendersons home are covered with towels for Tony to lounge on, without the worry about excess hair getting on her furniture.
Tonys a talker, and hell let loose quiet barks when Henderson mentions its time for a walk, one of the dogs favorite activities.
I guess I chose to love him because he chose to love me, said Henderson, whose three grown children have flown the nest.
Her love for Tony isnt wavering as she works to raise money to pay for one more surgery and additional chemotherapy treatment to finally rid the dog of the cancer thats already cost him his left ear and most of the ear canal.
The cost of Tonys treatments is approximately $3,100, and hes scheduled for surgery on Oct. 18, assuming Henderson can raise the money. As a retiree living on a fixed income, she wasnt prepared to handle all the extra expenses.
Still, shes not giving up. Henderson has been handing out flyers around the community, asking for help. Shes even gotten support from The Magic Bullet Fund, a fund based out of New York that helps dog owners who cant afford cancer treatment for their pets.
Laurie Kaplan, founder of the The Magic Bullet Fund, said a $50,000 grant the group receives from Petco allows them to offer this assistance. One thousand dollars from its general fund went toward helping Tony.
An additional $200 has been collected from donations, leaving $1,900 to go.
He just means everything to me, Henderson said. Im his granny and hes just like my grandchild.
Tonys ear was removed on Sept. 6. Lab reports then revealed the margins were not clear of the cancer. Henderson said the prognosis is the 8-year-old dog would live another one to four years with the additional surgery and chemotherapy.
Without the surgery, theres no guarantee the chemo would rid Tony of the disease, she added. So far, it has not spread to his lymph nodes.
Aside from the missing ear, to look at Tony is to look at what the average person might assume is a healthy dog.
Henderson said the chemotherapy has only caused Tony to vomit twice, and hes actually gained three pounds during the treatment.
Still, the effects are there. Tonys body trembles at times, and he has heavy and frequent urination.
Henderson added their walks are short, as long jaunts leave Tony out of breath.
Kaplan said cancer is a very prevalent disease in dogs. The latest figures she could provide were that 8,000 new cases are diagnosed a day.
And thats conservative, Kaplan said.
The most common are what Kaplan refers to as lumps and bumps, which can be many different types. Mammary cancer, she added, is also very common, along with lymphoma.
Since lumps and bumps are so common, Kaplan said dog owners should feel their pets whole body once a week to make sure theres no abnormal growth.
Spaying and neutering a pet is a great way to help prevent mammary cancer, she added.
Kaplans fund has brought 210 dogs to the publics attention through its website. Theres an online application for those needing financial assistance for their pets treatment.
Hendersons doing everything she can to make sure Tonys treatments are paid for, so she can have several more years with the love of her life.
Hes beautiful, even if he just has one ear, Henderson said.
Contact BRAD DICKERSON at 626-0301.