White Dog and the Army listened attentively as I shared highlights from the presentation Dr. Kitchell gave about cancer treatment being a successful example of the power of comparative studies research bridging dogs and people....as attentively as they could listen as they crunched on chunks of the caramel apples mixed in with cold delicious vanilla ice cream.
She started with some thought provoking insights...400 species of dogs have been "engineered" by humans in just the past 150 years. In our selective breeding for purpose or looks we have also developed gene structures and physical characteristics that are more prone to certain types of diseases, like cancer. Studies indicate the first "dogs" were relatively small (30-40lb) muscular animals dingo looking with bristly brown hair. They were not particularly long lived because they were subject to the hazards of infirmary, predators, etc. From that, the species has developed into the mammal with the largest variance of size and character diversity on the planet (think chihuahua vs mastiff, or sharpei vs komondor).
While of course, the holy grail is to eliminate cancer, Dr. Kitchell who is internationally known for her work, suggested that with improved pharmaceuticals and individually targeted treatment plans we might find reason to celebrate cancer that is controlled, like thyroid or diabetes issues are now in many...so that ultimately one, human or pup, would die after a long and normal life WITH cancer...not FROM it.
In discussing the effect of the environment on disease generation (again with a focus on cancer), she was joined by Deb Openden of the Breast Cancer Resource Center and Dr. Paul Polechla, a biologist from University of New Mexico. Compromised water quality and its catastrophic effects on health was viewed from the perspective of humans, companion animals, and river otters. And guess what? All showed increased signs of disease and vulnerability to certain types of cancer.
White Dog looked up from her empty bowl. "River otters get cancer, too?" she asked. Steve nodded. "So we are not just building bridges between pets and people, but ALL animals! Momma, we are talking about important stuff here. We could change the world."
"Not alone, Little White Dog of My Heart, but with the help and support of others and by sharing what we know, we can sure start the chain reaction. The White Dog Army is a vital part of that plan; I hope you know how proud I am of each of you for being our spokesdogs." "And let's not forget Quinn and Oso who were wonderful ambassadors in educating people about epilepsy and dementia," Steve added. The WDA wagged their agreement.