Beating Osteosarcoma: Maggie's Story


Maggie's adorable face
Maggs in the ultimate picture of her true personality

Background


We got Maggie on July 4th, 2009; we joined ACDRA.org (Australian Cattledog Rescue Association) specifically to foster her.


Her family had been in a car accident and were in hospice care. The extended family didn’t want her so they turned her into a kill shelter in South Jersey (Gloucester Cty). Maggie was probably about a year old (maybe a bit older) when we got her. She was thin and high-strung.

She was horrible on the car ride home. She screamed like she was being tortured. She met our two other dogs (Ding, deceased 7 years, and Tugger Bear, deceased 3 years). She never got along with Ding. Two girls that could not get along. She did learn to play Frisbee from watching Ding, though.

Maggs played ‘Bee (our shortened term for Frisbee) for many years.


Maggs was awful at the vet’s office. I mean AWFUL. The first time we took her she peed and peed and peed on everything and everyone.


As mentioned, Maggs was a foster dog, the plan was always to adopt her out and we did adopt her out within a week of getting her. A couple in Asbury Park wanted her IMMEDIATELY. They were so in love with her.


My husband didn’t have a good feeling about them. I should’ve listened to him.


ACDRA has a return policy whereby we refund the adoption fee if the dog is returned within 10 days (we always take our dogs back but after 10 days we don’t refund the adoption fee).


Exactly 10 days after we had left Maggie with her new family, they called me in the middle of the day and demanded I come get her IMMEDIATELY. I worked an hour away at the time and had a hair appt that evening after work. I couldn’t get there until around 9 PM. They reluctantly agreed that would be okay.


I hurried my hair appt (which was two towns south of Asbury so it was nearby) to get to Maggs quicker. She was waiting by the front door, a full view storm door and when she saw me, she frantically started wagging her tail.


I knocked and knocked but no one was coming to the door so I went to open the door just a crack and she bolted out.


Yikes. I was afraid I’d now have a dog loose in Asbury Park and would be looking for her all night. Not a chance.


She was sitting next to my car waiting for me to let her in.


Someone finally came to the door and handed me her stuff and demanded their check back. I handed them their check and drove away with Maggs.


She came back to us with a horrible eye infection. It took over a month and two different treatments for it to resolve. She’s had gunky eyes since then.


We never adopted her out again. She was too high-strung, we just couldn’t do it to her. She had no other interest from adopters. We put in the application and made her a member of our pack.


Maggie in her youth going up for her Frisbee


Cancer Diagnosis to the Present

Fast forward to December of 2019.


We noticed she was limping but she was still active and seemed okay. By January 2020, the limp didn’t resolve so we knew she needed to go to the vet (always a nightmare).


I had to go away for a few days for work, my husband made the vet appt and took her in, she has to be sedated to go to the vet (two different drugs, she’s a nightmare). As I was heading home my husband let me know that the limp was due to cancer, she had osteosarcoma.


My heart sank.


We scheduled an appt at Garden State Vet in Tinton Falls, NJ with Dr. Michelle Cohen (veterinary oncologist).


The course of treatment was amputating the leg and 6 rounds of chemo. I was pretty freaked out but there was no other way to go with this, I couldn’t just let it kill her.


She had the amputation in early February 2020 and was scheduled to start chemo a few weeks later. A few weeks later the world shut down due to COVID. My husband took her to every chemo appt despite the chaos going on in the world (I work from home full-time in the pharmaceutical industry, I was as busy as ever).


She responded well to the amputation and the chemo. She never once let us help her get around on 3 legs. She somehow always managed to get down the deck stairs to go out to potty.


We were fully prepared to have to help her but nope, she could do it on her own.


About 4 treatments into her chemo We Rate Dogs on Twitter asked for pix of 3-legged dogs and their stories. I posted Maggs and her battle with osteosarcoma and was surprised when someone DM’d me and told me about the Canine Cancer Clinical Trial at Yale.


They gave me Professor Mark Mamula's name and e-mail address and assured me he usually responded quickly.


I wrote to Mark and he agreed that Maggie would be a good candidate for the vaccine.


She had to finish chemo and be declared cancer-free. That happened in July of 2020.


We decided to get the vaccine for Maggie to help prevent the osteosarcoma from spreading - a common occurrence for majority of dogs even with surgery and chemotherapy.


Mark sent the vaccine to Garden State and Dr. Cohen agreed to administer it and do any follow-up. I don’t remember the exact dates but it was August of 2020 when Maggie got her first vaccine shot and then the second one in the designated timeframe.


She did have an injection site response to both of them. About 2 weeks after her first shot, it was a Sunday, I went to pet her while sitting outside on the deck and I felt a scabby mess of pus and blood.


My husband cleaned it up and took pictures which I sent to Mark. He was actually pretty pleased about this, it meant her immunities were kicking in. She had the same response to the 2nd dose.


That was now over a year ago. She has returned to Dr. Cohen every 3 months for blood work and x-rays. Which have remained clear (so far). She has had some tummy issues but nothing severe, and since she was never a very good eater I’m not surprised by this. We know that by now she’s a pretty old dog who has been through a lot but all things considered she’s doing GREAT.


She gets a leash walk every morning (just up the street, then we cross over and walk back down the street, not very far at all) and she initiates play with the other two dogs most evenings during outside playtime (and also inside on a whim).


No matter what happens, Maggs has made it more than 20 months post-diagnosis and that’s amazing for osteosarcoma.

She has a great quality of life for an old dog. She enjoys her Purina Pro Plan soft food with some Purina Pro Plan kibble mixed in.


She plays, and she demands affection (which we happily give her).


No matter what happens, Maggs has made it more than 20 months post-diagnosis and that’s amazing for osteosarcoma.


A Message from Canine Cancer Alliance


The EGFR/HER2 vaccine study is temporarily paused while the research team works with the US Department of Agriculture to get provisional approval to distribute the experimental vaccine again. Contact info@ccralliance.org if you have any questions.

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