Gave Bronx a Shot at a Long, Healthy Life

Bronx is our dog. He was a dog pound rescue. He was a day from the gas chamber when I found him. He is sweet, loyal, and, well, the ladies have ALWAYS loved Bronx. He has a swagger. He is cool. Much cooler than I ever could be. But that was almost cut short. See, our beloved dog Bronx acquired a small sore in his mouth on his gum line this past January. Fast forward to last week, and it was a tumor about the size of an apple. It was literally about 1/4 the size of his head.

When it all first began, we took him to a local vet thinking it was just a sore from his Christmas rawhide bone, and that is where this whole carnival ride began. They told us it was cancer. That’s it. Right away. Cancer. $100 and roughly 6 minutes of examination. Cancer. I need a second opinion. So, I loaded up Bronx and drove back to my first vet in Columbus. Another $100. A bit longer on the exam time, around an hour. A phone consultation with a “world renowned” veterinary surgeon (those were their words, not mine). Another vote for cancer. Instructions to take him home and “make his last few weeks as comfortable as possible” (again, their words, not mine).

A month passes. Then two. The mass is growing before our eyes, but Bronx’s sweet disposition and zest for life has not diminished even a little. No weight lost. No slowdown whatsoever. Time for a third opinion. Another $100. Another 10 or so minutes. Cancer. Looks like we needed a fourth opinion. You guessed it, another $100 and another 20 or so minutes. This time I was assured, “It isn’t whether or not it is cancer; it’s just what kind of cancer.” If it’s localized, we might prolong his life; if it has spread, he is a goner. They only wanted $700 to do the biopsy. One problem, even if it was “curable,” they couldn’t do the surgery, and didn’t even know of anyone who could. Weird. Here comes the question I am sure every single person reading this asks: why? If all of these vets tell you the same thing, why keep asking? I will tell you why.

I am not a scientist. I am not a doctor. I am not an overly smart, bookish type person. I am a chef. I am an entrepreneur. Maybe that is why I kept questioning, because entrepreneurs don’t accept “no”, or “you can’t do that” or, “it’s cancer and your beloved dog is going to die soon.” I obsessed over research on the internet. I armed myself with facts and studies. I just didn’t understand why he wasn’t losing weight, slowing down and becoming lethargic like he would with cancer. Also, I was tired of all these vets with no real answers and no ability to help him anyway. So I hit the internet one last time. I googled veterinary surgeons in Louisville. I got two results. I read reviews of each. One got horrible reviews. One got glowing reviews. I called one and got a completely disinterested receptionist. I called the second. I got one of the nicest, friendliest, receptionists I have dealt with ever. She listened. She showed compassion. She didn’t try to hurry my call to another. The other end of that phone call was BluePearl Specialty and Emergency Medicine for Pets. Four days later, Bronx was to be seen by their surgeon.

I walked into BluePearl and immediately felt at ease. They are so kind, so professional, so compassionate. Bronx immediately started working his charm on Dr. Rebecca Hodshon. Prognosis was simple. Step one, X-ray his lungs; if it was cancer and had spread, we would finally know. Done. Clean. Step two, blood work. Done. No elevated levels of any kind. The dreaded step three, biopsy. Done. Three longs days between the biopsy and the news. Benign. WHAT? No cancer. Just a freakishly fast growing mass. A week later, Bronx checks in and gets the surgery that I wish we could have gotten for him months ago. The mass? Well, it went, along with most of his lower jaw, to the University of Tennessee just to be sure it’s all gone. Bronx came home the next day. He still eats like a horse. Runs around the backyard like a maniac. Snuggles in bed like Casanova. Bronx has his swagger back.

I will FOREVER be grateful to Dr. Hodshon and the entire staff at BluePearl. They saved our family member. They gave him a shot at a long, healthy life with us and his girlfriend Brooklyn (also a rescue). We are blessed.

Doug Van Epps