By Agrippina Fadel
Every difficult journey needs a good soundtrack, so Lori Miller plays Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” and sings along to it every time she takes her dog, Annabelle, to chemotherapy.
“That’s our fighting song,” she said.
Tamarac Lakes North residents Lori and her husband Jayson can treat their pup thanks to the support from the Magic Bullet Fund, a nonprofit that helps pet owners pay for cancer treatments.
The couple adopted five-year-old Annabelle from Good Karma Rescue when she was a puppy. “We got her DNA tested for fun, and she is 75 percent American Staffordshire Terrier and equal parts Shiba Inu and Labrador Retriever. But 100 percent a good dog,” Lori said.
In mid-June, she was petting Annabelle and thought her lymph nodes seemed bigger than usual.
“I was concerned, and we took her to Dr. Jed Powell at the VCA Imperial Point. He did a biopsy and found out she had lymphoma. I had a feeling in my gut that’s what it was going to be. It is a very common cancer for dogs,” she said.
Lori had a dog with lymphoma before and knew what to look for, so they started treatments promptly, knowing that lymphoma is a very aggressive cancer, and without chemo, the dog can die within months.
“We knew there was no time to waste. We got the first appointment as soon as we could and started the treatment saying we would figure out how to pay for it later,” she said.
Lori explained that the treatment with the best prognosis costs $7,000. A teacher at Oakland Park Elementary, Lori works with children in its Autism Special Program. Her husband, Jayson, works as a recruiter. The couple did not have that amount in savings but was determined to find a way to save their dog.
“After we started her treatments, I decided to look online if there was an organization that could help us,” she said, adding that most of the nonprofits for pet owners would only help those with income below the poverty line, and the couple did not fit that criterion.
The Magic Bullet Fund agreed to help after the Millers proved they had a financial need and were struggling to pay for Annabelle’s treatment on their own. The application was approved after three days, and the couple “cried happy tears” together, knowing that meant a chance at life for Annabelle.
“Dogs are part of the family, and you do anything for them. At the clinic today, I had to pay $70, and normally it is $700,” Lori said, adding that Annabelle is responding well to her treatments and is currently in remission, running around, playing, and eating normally.
“I am so happy every day that she has more time. She depends on us to care for her, and not being able to do that is a really horrible feeling. The fund gave us a chance to take care of her the way she deserves,” she said.
Lori added that the fund is still collecting donations for Annabelle so she can finish her treatment.
Founder Laurie Kaplan has been running the Yorktown Heights, NY-based Magic Bullet Fund for 15 years and has helped over 700 pets and their owners from all over the US. The fund received the application for assistance from the Millers on June 16, along with a medical review form from the veterinarian.
“We review all applications and have two criteria to determine which cases we can support. We choose the owners [who are] most in need of financial assistance, and without our help, the pet would not have treatment; and we want to help the pets that have the best chance of one-year additional survival time after chemo,” Kaplan explained.
The idea for the nonprofit came to her after her dog Bullet went through chemotherapy in 2000 and 2001. “I met many people then who had dogs with the same cancer but could not afford to pay for chemotherapy. It was heartbreaking,” Kaplan said.
She added that many dogs and cats have a good chance of living longer after the treatment, and The Magic Bullet Fund wants to help owners give that chance of survival to their pets.
“To me, the real reward is that we give them that chance to help their pet fight cancer,” Kaplan said.
- Agrippina Fadel grew up in Siberia and received her master's in journalism from Tyumen State University. Agrippina is also a writer and editor at Draftsy.net. She has been a US resident for over ten years and speaks English and Russian.
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