Dog meets doctor who helps save life

ST. PAUL, Minn. - A journey to find hope brought one man and his dog all the way from Mississippi to the University of Minnesota.

Almost one year ago Davis Hawn's then 8-year-old yellow lab, Booster, was diagnosed with skin cancer. Booster was given three weeks to live. Hawn did not want to accept the death sentence and began searching the country for a cure. It was the least he could do for the dog who saved him from a self-destructive path.

"I made him a promise that I would never take life for granted again," Hawn said.

His search led him to doctors in Florida who removed Booster's tumor and gave him chemo. An online search then led him to Dr. Elizabeth Pluhar from the University of Minnesota's canine brain tumor clinical program.

Pluhar is no stranger to canine cancer. She along with the late Dr. John Ohlfest made significant strides at the U in finding a cure for brain cancer.

Their team uses a vaccine that causes a patient's own immune system to attack cancer. Pluhar had never made a vaccine for skin cancer before but agreed to try it.

"A lot of people are given hopeless prognosis when their dogs are diagnosed with cancer and I think that we should do whatever we can to try to see whether or not we can help. So, I just like to offer hope and help if I can," Pluhar said.

She shipped the vaccine off and ten months later Booster is cancer free. On Tuesday Booster and Hawn paid a visit to Pluhar at the U's veterinary center.

"It's made a great difference in my life. An extra year with Booster or two means we can go out in the world and meet others and pass it on," Hawn said to Pluhar.


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