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Sheeba & Dan

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Published on Aug 8, 2015

We met US Army Veteran, Dan, after his vet called us for financial help for Dan’s 9 year old female Husky, Sheeba. Dan’s been through a lot over the years, including three strokes he suffered over the past 12 months. These strokes left Dan with significant disabilities like aphasia, which is the inability to connect one’s thoughts to one’s speech. In other words, Dan knows what he wants to say, but he can’t get the right words out without a tremendous amount of concentration. Dan also suffers from symptoms much like those of Parkinson’s Disease; his muscles spasm uncontrollably at times and make it impossible for him to drive a car or maintain his cleaning business.
With no choice but to adapt to these physical and mental challenges, Dan still manages to keep his modest apartment neat and orderly. He is devoted to his dog, Sheeba, whom he rescued 4 years ago when times were better. Dan says his recovery from the strokes can be attributed to his determination to get back home with the dog he loves. The two do everything together and Dan carefully manages his budget in order to purchase high quality food for his best friend. He also makes sure there’s always a supply of marrow bones, Sheeba’s favorite snack, in the fridge. Seeing these two individuals together makes you feel genuinely good; Sheeba is as tuned in to Dan as he is to her. Sheeba’s patience with Dan’s handicaps and her look of absolute reverence for him are inspirational to behold. Dan can struggle painfully just trying to tell one of us what he had for lunch; but when he gazes at Sheeba, the words, “I love you,” roll across his lips like a poet’s.
Imagine Dan’s shock and discouragement when, during Sheeba’s annual wellness check, her vet discovered a very unhappy lump, about the size of a golf ball, on one of Sheeba’s mammary glands. Careful examination and cytology on this lump yielded suspicion of adenocarcinoma. With his own health and finances in such precarious condition, this news hit Dan like a grenade. He was at a loss as to what to do next. Dan wants to cure his dog just like most of us would. But with no hope of paying for the next layer of diagnostics, let alone the surgery to remove the cancer, should he just let her live out the rest of her life without surgery? How long could she last? The thought of her suffering was something he just couldn’t accept, but he didn’t know how he, a man with so many challenges of his own, could help her overcome this nightmare.
Luckily, Dan’s vet was already aware of The Animal Support Project’s exceptional work for animals owned by financially-challenged individuals. Since we received his call, TASP has visited Dan and Sheeba several times and has been working with multiple local vets to perform X-rays, urinalysis & bloodwork on Sheeba. TASP has also committed to helping Dan with raising the funds to have Sheeba’s lumpectomy performed,, now that the diagnostics have confirmed it's safe to proceed.
If you Google the words, “mammary adenocarcinoma,” you will read about this cancer’s tendency to move first into the lungs and then on to other parts of the body. A board certified radiologist has determined Sheeba’s cancer has not yet spread to her lungs. This makes Sheeba a good candidate for lumpectomy to remove the cancerous tumor before it can metastasize.

The suspense of waiting for the testing on Sheeba to be done and the results determined is almost more than Dan can stand. His own health challenges already leave him exhausted from the daily intense concentration to control his speech and limbs. The things we healthy people take for granted are the things Dan struggles with day in and day out. Having Sheeba as his partner in this journey has been his lifeline. The pressure of Sheeba’s condition weighs heavily on him and he has more and more difficulty with getting his words out because of this pressure.
Without The Animal Support Project’s partnering with this deserving veteran and our local veterinary community, this overlooked odd-couple would become just another sad statistic. At this crucial stage in his life, without his sole companion, Dan’s own ability to focus and his very reason for getting out of bed each day would be in jeopardy. TASP is committed to honoring both of these warriors: the two legged one and the four legged one. We will stick with them and work to raise the funds it’s going to take to fight this battle. We're hoping you can help by donating whatever you can afford and by spreading the word. Thanks for caring and for sharing their story.

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