Oso’s Canine Cancer Survival Story

Pet Parent Heroes Cris & Pauline Martinez: Oso’s Tale

Canine cancer surviver dog bend

Pet parents Cris and Pauline Martinez moved to Bend, Oregon in 2015, and a year later, welcomed their dog, Oso, into the family. It was a shock when Oso, young and otherwise healthy, experienced the sudden loss of the use of his back legs. Faced with a scary situation, Cris and Pauline had to move quickly to secure a diagnosis and treatment. With the support of family, friends, and a great veterinary network, Oso’s pet parents were able to be the heroes he needed to be up and running (and swimming, and playing) again. Here’s their story.

Watch the Video: Oso Survives Canine Cancer

At Two, Oso Started Dragging His Back Legs

One day, on their usual neighborhood walk, Oso, two years old, started to drag his back legs. Cris and Pauline’s first thought was, “Is there such a thing as a doggie chiropractor?” They took Oso to a local veterinary hospital, where he received acupuncture. However, the treatment had no effect. Their vet then referred them to the Veterinary Referral Center of Central Oregon, where they met Dr. Mauricio Dujowich, veterinary surgeon. Dr. Dujo told them that, while he had a CT scan in the office, he recommended Oso get a more comprehensive MRI at Oregon State University. Portland was an option, as well.

Pauline called OSU at 5 p.m. OSU had an available spot at 7:30 a.m. the next day. Cris, Pauline, and Oso scrambled to make the three-hour drive over the pass. It was midnight when they arrived in Corvallis, where friends of friends put them up for the night. The next day was tense with waiting, and the news wasn’t encouraging.

Bad News from OSU

Oso had a very unusual and large tumor that extended across his spinal cord, blocking his nerves. The staff at OSU told Cris and Pauline the tumor was likely inoperable. Back at VRC, Dr. Dujowich held out hope, saying they could “give it a shot.” Stakes were high: there was a chance Oso would be paralyzed, or fail to recover from the surgery. The Martinez family was willing to take the chance with the support of 30 friends and family who donated to Oso’s GoFundMe campaign. Oso was the Martinez’s beloved first dog and seeing how he was still so young, they decided to go ahead with surgery.

Cris & Pauline Opt for Surgery at VRC

Dr. Dujowich removed a portion of Oso’s vertebrae and opened up the spinal cord to delicately remove the tumor. Because the tumor was soft—it had the consistency of black jelly—it was a tricky job to be as thorough as possible in its removal, without damaging the nerves. To everyone’s delight, two days after the surgery, Dr. Dujo reported that Oso was beginning to put weight on his back legs!

The biopsy results revealed that Oso had a rare cancerous tumor known as a spinal ependymoma, seen most often in the brains of human children. Cris and Pauline did their homework, scouring resources and peer-reviewed medical articles for prior cases. Finally, they found one case in which a four-year-old Beagle successfully recovered from spinal ependymoma after undergoing a combination of surgery and radiation treatments. A year and a half after treatment, according to the case study, a follow up MRI confirmed that the Beagle remained tumor-free.

Five Weeks of Treatment in Davis

Dr. Dujowich appealed to his former professors at UC Davis to accept Oso for radiation treatment. Because the condition is so rare, Dr. Michael Kent was able to tap into a scholarship fund to help offset the cost of radiation therapy. Pauline, who could work remotely, stayed with Cris’ parents, who lived within commuting distance to UC Davis. For five weeks, she and Oso went in for treatment every day. Oso was his friendly and charming self, a big favorite among the medical team.

A Happy Ending for Oso & His Pet Parents

Back in Bend, Cris, Pauline and Oso celebrated his good health at VRCCO with a party, complete with cupcakes and party hats. Today, nearly 3 years later, Oso is a happy five-year-old boy who loves a walk, a swim, and belly rub—thanks to quick action and some tough decisions on the part of his loving pet parents.