October 08, 2020


A dog sits on a porch in the sun


Canopus, an Australian Shepherd, was found with his mom and littermates in a dumpster in Tennessee and taken in by a local rescue organization. The family who adopted him was in mourning after the recent loss of their beloved dog of 15 years, and named their new puppy after the second-brightest star in our night sky. It was only fitting, after the bright spark of light and love Canopus brought into his new home.

As he grew, Canopus was given the honorary title “Mayor of the Neighborhood,” an office he upheld with a gentle paw and a careful eye on the local children. Aimee, his owner, tells of his kind soul and beautiful spirit, how he shows his gratitude at every meal with nuzzles and licks, and the deep bond he shares with his family.

At 11 years old, Canopus began to slow down, and he developed a chronic cough. The cough seemed relatively mild, but Aimee knew that something wasn’t right. She took Canopus to the emergency room at Animal Medical Center (AMC). Though they knew that at his age, these symptoms weren’t unusual, AMC medical staff took chest x-rays in order to provide the most thorough examination possible.

Hearts sank when the x-rays identified a very large mass in Canopus’ lung.

Less than one week later, internal medicine resident Dr. Brett Harling brought Canopus in to review his case and set up the advanced imaging necessary to understand the full extent of his illness. A CT scan was performed, and a sample of tumor cells was taken through a fine needle aspirate. “The results showed that Canopus had a very large pulmonary carcinoma,” said Dr. Harling. “It was the size of a New York City bagel!”

The good news was that thanks to Aimee’s intuition, and the skill and care of the AMC team, the tumor was discovered before it had a chance to spread to other parts of the lungs, to nearby lymph nodes, or to other organs.

“We spent a long time discussing the next step,” recalled Dr. Harling. Everyone understood that Canopus was an older dog, whose quality of life remained good. However, they now had the answer to why he was coughing and not feeling his best, and they knew the type and location of the tumor meant that removal was possible. Without surgery, Canopus would likely have just a few more months; with a successful surgery, he would feel great and enjoy life well into his golden years.

Aimee knew that the cost of such an operation was more than her family could bear, and she was hesitant to put Canopus through such an undertaking at his advanced age. But, Canopus was family—how could she turn down the chance to save his life?

Community funds like The Buddy Fund, established in 2006 to help ease the financial burden for qualifying owners of pets with cancer, save lives every day. AMC was overjoyed to have the funds available to give Canopus the care he needed.

Dr. Dan Spector, staff surgeon, spent quite a bit of time with Aimee discussing the pros and cons of the procedure. Dr. Spector believed that Canopus would do well. Aimee signed off and Dr. Spector scrubbed in for the complicated procedure to remove the entire left caudal lobe, a portion of a second lobe, and the nearest lymph node. The operation was a complete success and, showing no signs of his age, Canopus was cleared to return home just two days later. A follow-up visit confirmed that the tumor was completely gone, with no spread of cancer cells, and within two weeks Canopus had regained his energy and was once again sharing his light with the neighborhood.

“I wasn’t convinced at first that surgery was the way to go,” recalls Aimee. “But I’m ridiculously over the moon to acknowledge that I could not have been more wrong. We are so grateful to AMC for giving Canopus a second chance, and we feel so blessed to be able to continue to celebrate his brightness every day.”

A dog sits on a porch
A dog wearing a t-shirt on a couch
A dog and a cat sitting on a couch
A happy dog on a couch
A dog resting its head on a pillow