Whenever Kerious, an 11-year-old Yorkshire terrier, strolled into a senior living home or a hospice center, residents who would not normally get up to eat would rise to greet the therapy dog, said his owner, Tracyi Johnson, 39, of Clinton.
“When they see Kerious they just want to get up and pet him and hug him, and they’re already up, so now they can eat and go to the bathroom. It’s cool,” Johnson said.
After several years of comforting the elderly and the disabled, Kerious now is the one in need of assistance in his battle against stage IV lymphoma, said Johnson, who is trying to raise $7,000 for Kerious’ chemotherapy treatments.
Although she takes Kerious — pronounced “curious” — to the doctor every six months, Johnson said there were no signs of cancer until June, when she noticed Kerious licking a pelvic lymph node. She said she was in disbelief when Kerious was diagnosed with lymphoma July 4.
“He’s such a good dog. He doesn’t deserve cancer,” Johnson said. “I never would have thought he would have cancer.”
Her mother, Ella Johnson, immediately started researching canine cancer and found the Magic Bullet Fund, a website that crowdsources donations for families that cannot afford dog chemotherapy treatments on their own.
Laurie Kaplan, the founder of the Magic Bullet Fund, said the fund gives pet owners the chance to help their dogs beat cancer.
“I have met a lot of owners who had dogs with cancer and knew there was treatment that could help their dogs survive for a significant period of time and they could not afford it,” Kaplan said. “It’s emotionally devastating. I think it’s important for owners to say, ‘I fought for my dog’s life.’”
Since the Magic Bullet Fund posted a profile for Kerious on July 29, close to $800 has been raised for his chemotherapy treatment. The campaign ends Aug. 29.
“Without organizations like Magic Bullet helping us pet owners who love our pets, our pets would die,” Johnson said. “I feel bad for people who don’t know about Magic Bullet.”
For families that have limited Internet access but are looking for ways to finance their dog’s cancer treatment, Kaplan recommended setting up a payment plan with the dog’s clinic or applying for a medical credit card called a care credit.
Johnson, who does not have children, said she takes Kerious with her everywhere — to the movies, to church, and even on long rides when she worked as a tractor-trailer driver.
“She takes good care of him, believe me,” said Carrie Blake, 91, who lives with Johnson. “You would think he’s her child instead of a pet.”
Kaplan said lymphoma is one of the most aggressive cancers in dogs because it moves quickly, but it is also one of the most treatable — 80 percent of dogs who receive treatment for lymphoma go into remission, she said.
Although Kerious is moving slower than he used to, Johnson said he doesn’t act his age and still has a lot of life in him.
“Despite his sickness, he’s trying to be himself,” Johnson said. “I’m not ready to give up on him because he’s not giving up.”
To donate to the chemotherapy fund for Kerious, visit www.themagicbulletfund.org or mail a check to P.O. Box 2574, Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510.