YES, we are what we eat.

We just love Saturday Night Love’s *ads*. Funny, how they are picking up on the sad state of our food supply. So, before getting the true scoop on nutrition and diet, check out this poignant video on what NOT TO BE SERVING TO OUR DOGS (initially posted in Oct 2009)!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

This is closer to the truth than you can imagine.

Check out lots of incredible information on diet plans, some from veterinarians (
Dr. Gregory Ogilvie and Dr. Demian Dressler) and Cornell University. There are 3 SUPER PDF documents for you to print out, with over 100 pages of material in fact. Just click here.

I home cook an organic diet and have done so for several years now. I add all organic ingredients to an organic pre-mix that is actually used for dogs with cancer. I feel it is a good preventative to use this formula as I really like the amount of antioxidants. I do not sell the food (I do not sell any food at my store) but know the person who developed it, and she does extensive work with veterinarians and dogs with chronic health issues.

The CANINE LIFE PRE-MIX FORMULATION FOR CANCER contains: Organic milled whole brown rice, Organic chick peas, Organic whole oats, calcium, carob, Acadian sea kelp, green tea, turmeric, oregano, marjoram, parsley, rosemary, ginger, and garlic.

Canine Life: Home-Baked & Organic

Canine Life: Home-Baked & Organic

This is a true home-cooked diet, each recipe making muffins or squares. The baking time is extremely short as there is nothing to rise here, it is merely to cook together so that any bacteria is removed from the raw ingredients. Three cups of this purchased pre-mix (above) is added to the following ingredients that I provide from home: organic broccoli, organic egg with shell, organic red apple, organic blueberries, organic pure cranberry juice, organic safflower oil, organic ground chicken with skin, and organic chicken livers. The ingredients, such as the organic chicken livers, organic red apple and organic broccoli, are pureed or chopped fine via a (Cuisinart) food processor. And, the organic chicken (I use organic thighs) with skin (no bones) is ground up via a meat grinder attachment on my food processor. You can learn about it here at my foundation’s site.


Another punishing blow…

I am back here talking about Golden Retriever Robin, Police K-9 detection & SAR dog (aka Ch. Nitro’s Boy Wonder). I have posted here, here, here, and here about this very special guy, who has an aggressive form of cancer and is now fighting for his life.

Mary’s latest news is not good, Robin’s cancer having metastasized to the right mandibular lymph node:

I have heard that grief has several stages, one of which is denial. I find myself repeating that while the statistics are grim, Robin is no ordinary dog. He does not know that this will be the fight of his life, and it will be a prohibitively expensive process. Somehow in my struggle, I find myself taking momentary comfort in believing that somehow, this whole thing will be a big error and that Robin isn’t really sick. But, as soon as I sell out and feel that few seconds of comfort, reality comes back and drives a blade between my ribs and reminds me that Robin is in the cross-hairs.

Right now Robin and I are involved in a battle for his life, even though he is not yet showing signs of his illness. Robin’s type of cancer can have a variable prognosis, and Cornell has informed me that the initial treatment for his lymph node removal and radiation will cost somewhere in the vicinity of $8,500 to $10,000. If subsequent treatment is required, the costs will escalate from there. We are desperately trying to raise enough money to save him, and we need your help. Whether it be fundraising ideas, or personal donations, every little bit will help.

Please get over to to learn more and help in this fight.

Here’s Golden Robin (BISS Am-Can Ch. Nitro’s Boy Wonder OS SDHF CGC TDI) and breeder/owner/handler Mary MacQueen receiving their AKC ACE award in the law enforcement division at the 2009 AKC/Eukanuba Invitational in Long Beach California.

And, here’s Robin doing his thing (drug detection).

I don’t understand how we ended up in this place.

That is how Mary MacQueen begins her moving article, Personal Reflections:

I don’t understand how we ended up in this place. Not my partner! Not my hero! Not my friend! I keep rehashing all of this over in my head and just can’t seem to grasp it.

You see, Robin, my Police K-9 detection dog (aka Ch. Nitro’s Boy Wonder) and I are sitting in the waiting room of Cornell University’s Small animal Hospital, 200 miles from home, waiting to see an ONCOLOGIST!   …

Read more from Mary’s article at Golden Retriever Robin’s page: .

He does it all … Update on Police K9/SAR Dog Robin

Golden Retriever Robin leading the parade

ROBIN IS THE FIRST GOLDEN RETRIEVER IN HISTORY to win the American Kennel Club Humane Fund Award for Canine Excellence (ACE) in Law Enforcement [2009]. This is an incredible feat and we are so proud that Mary MacQueen and her boy Robin (Am-Can Ch. Nitro’s Boy Wonder SDHF BISS TDI CGC Police K-9/Search and Rescue Dog). We came to know about Mary’s exceptional work in 2002 when she shared the story of Golden Working Dog-in-Training Buddy. And, we wrote about Robin earlier this week when I learned of his Cutaneous Epithelioltropic Lymphoma diagnosis and their being laid off from the Salamanca Police Department due to budget disputes.

Robin’s story was featured yesterday and today in The Salamanca Press, a paper that has been following his work in the community for several years now.

FREWSBURG — Less than a week after owner Mary MacQueen learned her dog, Robin, had been diagnosed with a malignant form of skin cancer, the pair visited Cornell University to run additional tests. After several tests — including chest x-rays, ultrasounds, blood work and urinalysis — the diagnosis was confirmed: Robin has Cutaneous Epitheliotropic Lymphoma.

Although MacQueen doesn’t expect to hear the complete results from the test for about a week, she does know Robin will at least have to undergo 16 days worth of radiation as well as another surgery procedure to followup one which removed a minor bump on Robin’s rib cage earlier in the month.

Depending on what the results determine, Robin may also need to have chemotherapy conducted.

MacQueen said the radiation is expected to cost at least $6,000, and she has been accepting donations online from friends, family members and fellow dog lovers. She said she wants to help not only Robin, but to raise awareness for the disease in general.

“What I am looking at now is a bigger plan than just Robin,” she said. “He is such a great ‘spokesdog’ for the things dogs are capable of. No matter what the future holds, maybe it will raise some additional awareness for the disease.”

Come over to to learn about Robin’s strong work ethic, this week still doing a drug demonstration for elementary school children. And, see how much we have now raised for his care at Cornell.

Be sure to spread the word about Robin’s story (you can use this short address as well:

Can you help Police K9/SAR Dog Robin?

ROBIN IS THE FIRST GOLDEN RETRIEVER IN HISTORY to win the American Kennel Club Humane Fund Award for Canine Excellence (ACE) in Law Enforcement [2009]. This is an incredible feat and we are so proud that Mary MacQueen and her Golden Robin are the recipients. We came to know about Mary’s exceptional work in 2002 when she shared the story of Golden Working Dog-in-Training Buddy, and continue to be amazed by her strong work ethic. We initially blogged about Robin a little over a year ago.

Robin also is the recipient of the 2010 Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA) Gold Standard Award. This award is presented to honor a Golden who performs honorable, heroic acts or who enriches, inspires or contributes to the lives of individuals and communities.

Eight-year-old Golden Retriever Robin (Am-Can Ch. Nitro’s Boy Wonder SDHF BISS TDI CGC, Police K-9/Search and Rescue Dog) and Mary MacQueen have worked for the Salamanca Police Department, the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office, and assist with searches for the Southern Tier Regional Drug Task Force in Western New York State. In 2009 alone, Robin had been responsible for getting about half a million dollars worth of dangerous narcotics off the streets.

Robin and Mary’s work with the Cattaraugus County, NY Sheriff’s Office included jail & vehicle searches, school searches, and searches during community festivals. Robin, the second narcotics certified K-9 in Cattaraugus County, is their first to be allowed to search people/students due to his easy going temperament and passive “sit” alert when he locates drugs.

Mary MacQueen and Robin also assist with searches for the Southern Tier Regional Drug task force and Kinzua Search Dogs, a non-profit, all volunteer group that endeavors to locate missing persons. Based in southwestern New York, Kinzua Search Dogs conducts searches in New York State as well as Pennsylvania.

Robin and Mary were recipients of the 2008 Police Officer of the Year award for the Salamanca Police Department. In addition to his work in law enforcement, Robin is also a therapy dog, AKC Canine Good Citizen, AKC Champion of Record, and the recipient of the Golden Retriever Club of America’s Show Dog Hall of Fame title.

When Robin’s busy schedule allows, he also leads local parades, visits hospitals and nursing homes, and makes trips to schools to educate students about the dangers of drug abuse. They say during community events and fundraisers that he can often be seen carrying a donation basket or lunch box filled with candy for the kids.

On October 18, 2010 we received a very sad email from Mary about her special boy Robin, his being diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer on October 15th, two days after his eighth birthday.

Needless to say, I am still reeling from this horrible news. I have our first Oncology appointment on Wednesday at 11AM at Cornell University. They said it is an all day appointment filled with blood work, scans, ultrasounds, and x-rays. The original mass removal was done by my vet, but the histopathology was done at Cornell, so there was probably little room for error in the diagnosis which was Cutaneous Epithelialtropic Lymphoma. They said it was in the early stages for this aggressive form of cancer, so we are confident that this is the ONE special dog who will beat this disease!

While there is never a good time to get a cancer diagnosis, the situation has been compounded by Mary and Robin being laid off from the Salamanca Police Department on Oct 11th due to the Seneca Casino/NY state disputes.

Robin’s medical bills are not covered by his police department, and the treatment will be both extensive and expensive. Please help us save this dog who has given so much of his life for his community. Make a tax-deductible donation today …. designating it solely for Robin’s care. The money will be directly applied to his care at Cornell University


And, please spread the word by having folks come to

CANCER: What you aren’t being told

At our foundation’s website we have been harping for years about the need to learn how to Protect rather than Pollute ourselves & our Pets. So, we were very excited about seeing the film below.

The same chemical companies who produce cancer‐causing chemicals, are also invested in and develop cancer treatments, the most profitable disease on earth. Now these same chemical companies have lobbied against the long term health testing of their new invention — genetically modified crops. Do these foods cause cancer? Watch The Idiot Cycle unravel.

This award winning feature documentary “The Idiot Cycle,” is a must-see film by Emmanuelle Schick Garcia.

“It has now been scientifically demonstrated that there is indeed a link between chemical products and the appearance of diseases, such as cancers, infertility, degenerative diseases of the central nervous system and allergies.” ― CPME – Standing Committee of European Doctors, 2005

“There is little direct evidence of widespread ill health or ecosystem damage by the use of man-made chemicals.” ― Alan Perroy, Director General of the European Chemical Industry Council, in a 2001 letter to European Members of Parliament.

Once upon a time, a king accumulated most of the gold in his kingdom. His subjects were very poor, without land to grow food. When the subjects began to starve and watch their families perish, they realized they had nothing to lose. They stormed the castle and found the king in a large room, cowering next to his mounds of gold, begging them not to steal his gold.

The subjects did not take the gold. But they left the room and locked the king inside. Upon leaving they called out, “now you will be able to see the real worth of your gold.” The king, trapped in the room with no water, air or food, realized the gold was useless.

This story became the impetus for The Idiot Cycle – a film about cancer.

“Everyone should know that the ‘war on cancer’ is largely a fraud.” ― Dr. Linus Pauling, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize and the Nobel Prize in chemistry

The film follows the cycle taken by the world’s largest chemical producers: Dow Chemical, BASF, Bayer, Dupont, Astrazeneca & Monsanto, and how these chemical companies, who manufacture and emit cancer causing chemical substances, also develop, produce and invest in cancer treatments, the most profitable disease on the planet.

Today we are bombarded with 18 million man made chemicals, many that have mixed in the environment to form new chemicals. Only 2,000 of these synthetic man made chemicals have full toxicological profiles. No government in the world knows which chemicals are in what consumer products and at what quantities.

“For the first time in the history of the world, every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals, from the moment of conception until death.” ― Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

Now these chemical companies are launching biotechnology, an “innovative” frontier, just like synthetic chemicals were half a century ago. These companies are now developing, producing and hyping genetically modified crops, which have never been tested for long term health effects like cancer.

“Commercialization of genetically modified crops seems to have been based on public relations and not on full and truthful scientific reporting. Science has begun to feel the impact of putting commerce ahead of full disclosure and debate.” ― Professor Joe Cummins, University of Western Ontario

“Um, so they are, um, in the food arena, probably the most extensively studied and tested scientific arena that we’ve ever seen. If you look at FAO or WHO or even the European Union, you can go to the European Union’s web site, there’s a whole exposition on the safety of these technologies, so, um yes they are safe.” ― Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto asked about the safety of G.M. foods for Fortune’s Brainstorm Green Conference.

Once again, like synthetic chemicals, GMOs have been unleashed onto the consumer market, without full health and toxicological studies, without proper governmental regulations and without public consent. Once again, these companies will test their products on the general population. And round and round goes the idiot cycle.

“When the same mistakes are repeated over and over again, it’s time to consider the possibility that they are not mistakes at all.” ― Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine

You can stop the idiot cycle. Just . . . . . .

1. Level One – “Where do I begin?”

2. Level Two – “I Want to do More.”

3. Level Three – “I Want to do Even More!”

True Giants …. Curing humans & their animal companions

The Land of PureGold Foundation became a 501(c)(3) charitable and educational nonprofit corporation in February 2005. The formation of our organization followed a period of 8 years that the had been a presence on the web, supporting and engaging in various charitable endeavors and providing numerous educational activities to promote the human-canine bond.

One of our goals is to raise monies for research in comparative oncology, which is the study of cancers that occur similarly in companion animals and humans. Another, is to support and disseminate information on canine cancers; and, to educate and promote interest in research of those cancers in companion animals that share a similarity to the cancers that afflict children.

Given the tough economic times and the limited resources of such a small non-profit, fundraising has been difficult. But, we decided to bite the bullet and provide $20,000 to Dr. Jaime Modiano for one of his exciting comparative oncology research projects. The funding went to Minnesota Medical Foundation’s Comparative Oncology Research Fund for the following:

PROJECT TITLE: Discovery and Characterization of Heritable and Somatic Cancer Mutations in Golden Retrievers (this project also involves Hemangiosarcoma)

PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATORS: Dr. Jaime Modiano (Veterinary Clinical Sciences), Dr. Jim Cerhan (Mayo Clinic), Dr. Matthew Breen (North Carolina State University), Dr. Kerstin Lindblad-Toh (Broad Institute)

PROJECT GOALS: We propose to identify and characterize heritable (genetic) traits that contribute to risk and progression of hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma in golden retrievers. This project is developed as a partnership between the GRF and the Investigators, Drs. Modiano, Breen and Lindblad-Toh. The goal to “make a major impact” carries some risk, but in this project, risk is mitigated by the financial commitment from the GRF and MAF, as well as by the investigators’ entrepreneurial spirit, the extensive preliminary data from their laboratories, and their collective expertise applying state-of-the-art genome-wide technologies to cancer investigation. Our long-term goals are (1) to institute simple, straightforward tests to allow assessment of the specific genetic risk carried by an individual dog and thereby to allow breeders to develop strategies that will slowly reduce the incidence of hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma in golden retrievers, while retaining the positive phenotypes of the breed, and (2) to develop effective diagnostics, risk reduction, and treatment strategies for hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma that will benefit not only golden retrievers and other dogs, but also humans with these diseases.

Dr. Modiano is a true treasure. Our back-and-forth correspondences have exemplified both his wisdom and patience, prized traits for successful researchers such as himself. Dr. Modiano is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine’s V.M.D.-Ph.D. Program. Graduates with this or D.V.M.-Ph.D. degrees go on to careers in translational research, thus qualified to develop and do research in animal models, compare basic biology across animals, and translate research findings to different species including humans.

Jaime Modiano is one of the graduates who elected to focus on academic research. After completing the V.M.D.-Ph.D. program at Penn, Modiano went to Colorado State University for a residency in pathology. At the end of his residency, he realized that “you can’t go into science with just a Ph.D. and clinical training. I really needed to do a postdoc.” He joined the lab of Erwin Gelfand at the National Jewish Center for Immunology and Respiratory Medicine (now National Jewish Health) to do research on T-cell activation, the subject of his Ph.D. research. He soon realized, however, that his residency training in pathology and his research interest in immunology didn’t mesh well professionally.

“My research in immunology was so disconnected from [my clinical work] that I had to make a choice because I wasn’t being excellent at either aspect of my career,” Modiano says. He decided to stick with research and joined the staff of the University of Colorado–affiliated AMC Cancer Research Center while serving as an associate professor of immunology at the School of Medicine of the University of Colorado, Denver. “It was kind of fun being at a medical school and known as the weird guy who worked with dogs,” says Modiano, who is now a professor of comparative oncology at the University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and the Masonic Cancer Center, where his research focuses on immunology, cancer cell biology, cancer genetics, and applications of gene therapy. …

Irrespective of the path that their careers have taken, D.V.M.-Ph.D.s have opportunities to make significant contributions to biomedical research, for the benefit of both humans and animals. This becomes apparent in diseases such as cancer: Dogs and cats suffer from naturally occurring cancers similar to human cancers. Unlike rodent models, which are developed from inbred strains of mice kept in controlled environments, companion animals, like humans, are genetically diverse and are exposed to many of the same environmental influences as their owners are. …

A critical barrier to using companion animals in preclinical research is organizing those studies. It’s a problem that Chand Khanna recognized when he arrived at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in 1997 to do a postdoc. “I came with the intent to study molecular biology techniques,” says Khanna, a D.V.M-Ph.D. who is now a senior scientist in NCI’s pediatric oncology branch. “But I also came with the veterinarian perspective, and as I talked to people, I realized there was an opportunity to answer questions in dogs with cancer that can’t be answered in either humans or mice. And that is critical for the development of new drugs.”

To that end, Khanna created the Comparative Oncology Program within NCI’s Center for Cancer Research. By linking together veterinary scientists at research centers across the country and in Canada, the studies completed through the program’s Comparative Oncology Trials Consortium provide valuable information needed to design human clinical trials.

Khanna believes companion animals will play an ever-increasing role in biomedical research on cancer and other diseases. As such, he believes there is an obvious role for dual-degree veterinarians. Penn’s Volk agrees: “For me and most of my colleagues, … we are thrilled to make a difference for our animal patients,” Volk says. “But really, there is an opportunity with appropriate animal models to make a huge difference for the human community as well.”

So proud of our famous pal, Suzi

One of my bestest Golden Retriever pals is Suzi Beber, also a much valued board member of our Land of PureGold Foundation. More importantly, though, she is the creator of the Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund, through the University of Guelph’s Veterinary College and Teaching Hospital’s Pet Trust, so providing an important educational resource in the areas of canine cancer treatment options, nutrition, and complementary therapies.

I cannot imagine life without Suzi as her professional insights have guided my path for many years now. And, her knowledge in alternative medicine, as she assists veterinarians in the care of companion animals with complex medical needs, has greatly benefited the information that I am able to share with folks.

Suzi is quite a talent, this illustration to the right one of her “Cancer Breaks” artistic hockey trading cards. It graces the cover of the July/August Vancouver Island, BC edition of Canada’s Rising Women Magazine.

Check out the wonderful Rising Women Artist Bio below.

Taking a Break from Cancer…Suzi Beber spent the first part of her adult life teaching and making sure that she really savored life’s “awfully big adventure” by living it to the fullest, which included an incredible summer on Baffin Island in the Eastern Arctic with Tommy, her partner of 30 years. But everything changed… when a routine surgery took a detour.

Each of us has been touched by cancer. Suzi’s “healing helper”, her Golden Retriever “Blues”, was stolen by cancer at only 6 years old. Suzi made a pact that she would turn her love and loss into a new passion and mission, thus founding in the Spring of 2001, The Smiling Blue Skies® Cancer Fund, which is a part of the University of Guelph’s Pet Trust.

Suzi and Tommy moved to Vancouver Island in 2003, where the moderate climate is kinder to Suzi’s ongoing health issues. They now share their world of gardens with three Golden Retrievers – generations of offspring from Blue.

Suzi’s “Cancer Breaks” artistic works are one of a kind, and are only the size of a hockey trading card. Each represents a precious person or pet whose life has been touched by cancer. “Cancer Breaks” are miniature worlds done in pen and ink and are sacred spaces where hope is the medicine and love is the cure for cancer. Suzi’s intricate work has been described as being reminiscent of a stained glass window or delicate needlepoint. Her “Hey, Veronica!” women honour those fighting breast cancer. Proceeds from the sale of all Suzi’s artwork fund cancer treatment and research.

It is said that the people in one’s life are like the pillars on one’s porch you see life through. Sometimes they hold you up, sometimes they lean on you, and sometimes it is just enough to know they’re standing by. Langston Hughes wrote that “a life without dreams is a broken winged bird.” Suzi says, “I am a very, very lucky person. My dreams are overflowing and there are so many wonderful people and golden spirits to help me fly. Smiling Blue Skies® has raised over $600,000 for comparative cancer research, and offers 24/7 support to those whose lives have been touched by cancer.”

To learn about Suzi and the Smiling Blue Skies® Cancer Fund and Resource Centre, visit Together, we can reach beyond the bluest skies and brightest stars, to take a bite out of cancer, on behalf of the precious people and pets in our lives.

Rising Women Magazine

WAG MORE, worry less.

Just added this to my foundation store’s cafe press offerings. “WAG MORE, worry less” is a healthy coping skill that we can learn from our furry companions. You are supporting canine cancer funding for working dogs with a purchase of bags or apparel with this cool new design.

  • Check it out on bags, housewares, and light-colored apparel for the entire family by clicking here.
  • Check it out on women’s, men’s & children’s dark-colored t-shirts, hoodies, sweatshirts & aprons by clicking here.

The Human-Canine Connection: A Shared Genetic Makeup

I am fascinated by the fact that, about 15,000 years ago, dog domestication and human settlement took place virtually together. As a lover of all things dog, it would be nice to speculate that they played an important role in the development and structure of human society. Clearly, the more we research dogsespecially given the recent successful sequencing of the dog genomethe more we learn about ourselves. And, the more we see the powerful part they play in shaping and bettering our existence.

Humans and dogs have been partners for thousands of years, our canine friends quite active in the fight against cancer. Dr. David Waters, Co-director of the Purdue Comparative Oncology Program, notes that dogs and humans are the only two species that develop lethal prostate cancers. And, the breast cancer that affects dogs spreads to bones, just as it does in women. Further, osteosarcoma, which is the most frequent bone cancer of dogs, presents in the same way as it does for our teenagers. In fact, under a microscope, cancer cells from a teenager with osteosarcoma are indistinguishable from a any breed dog’s bone cancer cells.

Drs. Modiano and Breen have found that humans and dogs share the same genetic basis for certain types of cancer. Furthermore, the researchers say that because of the way the genomes have evolved, getting cancer may be inevitable for some humans and dogs.

Scientists have found a shared gene in dogs with compulsive behavior. Obsessive-compulsive disorder afflicts anywhere from 2.5 percent to 8 percent of the human population, and according to Dr. Karen L. Overall, a veterinarian specializing in animal behavior at the U of PA School of Medicine, up to 8 percent of dogs in America (5 to 6 million) — exhibit compulsive behaviors, such as, fence-running, pacing, spinning, tail-chasing, snapping at imaginary flies, licking, chewing, barking and staring.

Researchers studied Doberman pinschers that curled up into balls, sucking their flanks for hours at a time, and found that the afflicted dogs shared a gene. They describe their findings — the first such gene identified in dogs — in a short report this month in Molecular Psychiatry.

Dr. Nicholas Dodman, director of the animal behavior clinic at the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University, in North Grafton, Mass., and the lead author of the report, said the findings had broad implications for compulsive disorders in people and animals.

Some geneticists believe that due to pedigree and similarity of genes to those of humans, “dogs make an ideal model for studying human behaviors and pathologies, especially those involving complex patterns of inheritance. Few humans keep detailed genealogies for themselves, but they are diligent in recording every detail in the ancestry of their purebred animals.”

The dog genome has been decoded by researchers at Massachusetts’ Broad Institute, via sequencing of the boxer’s genome, and also by DNA sequencing pioneer, Craig Venter, who decoded his poodle’s genome. Based on both genomes, the Broad Institute designed a dog SNP chip, similar to those used in scanning humans for genetic disease. SNPs, or “snips,” are sites of common variation along the DNA. A UCLA research team led by Bridgett M. vonHoldt and Robert K. Wayne used the dog SNP chip to scan for genes that show signatures of selection.

One such favored dog gene has a human counterpart that has been implicated in Williams syndrome, where it causes exceptional gregariousness.

Many with Williams have so vague a concept of space, for instance, that even as adults they will fail at six-piece jigsaw puzzles, easily get lost, draw like a preschooler and struggle to replicate a simple T or X shape built with a half-dozen building blocks. Few can balance a checkbook. These deficits generally erase about 35 points from whatever I.Q. the person would have inherited without the deletion. Since the average I.Q. is 100, this leaves most people with Williams with I.Q.’s in the 60s. Though some can hold simple jobs, they require assistance managing their lives.

The low I.Q., however, ignores two traits that define Williams more distinctly than do its deficits: an exuberant gregariousness and near-normal language skills. Williams people talk a lot, and they talk with pretty much anyone. They appear to truly lack social fear. Indeed, functional brain scans have shown that the brain’s main fear processor, the amygdala, which in most of us shows heightened activity when we see angry or worried faces, shows no reaction when a person with Williams views such faces. It’s as if they see all faces as friendly.

Another two selected genes are involved in memory. Dogs, unlike wolves, are adept at taking cues from human body language, and the two genes could have something to do with this faculty, Dr. Wayne said.

How Dogs Read Human Body Language: Is your dog reading you like a book?
By Stanley Coren

Most dog owners have had the experience of simply glancing at where the leash is hanging, only to find that Lassie is now headed for the door in anticipation of a walk. While this seems like an everyday event to dog owners, it has special significance to scientists because of what it indicates about how dogs think. First of all, it shows that dogs have the ability to read human body language. In addition, it shows that dogs feel that our movements and gestures contain important cues as to what will happen next in their world.

For decades, scientists have been studying “social cognition” in dogs. This simply refers to how well dogs read cues in the behaviour of others. As humans, we do this automatically. For instance, we know that when the person we are talking to starts glancing at his or her watch, we had best get to the point quickly. All social mammals have evolved remarkably discriminating ways of reading the signals sent to them by their group members, normally members of the same species. However recent research shows that dogs are surprisingly good at reading certain types of social cues in humans.

The experimental set-up used to test for such perception in animals is quite simple. Start with two inverted bucketlike containers. Place a morsel of food under one of them while the subject of the test is out of sight. Of course you must make sure that both containers have been rubbed with the food so that there is no scent difference. Now bring the subject in and give some sort o social cue to indicate which bucket actually contains the food. The most obvious cue would be to tap the container with the food. Less obvious would be to point your finger toward it. An even more muted signal would be to tilt your head or body toward it without pointing. The subtlest signal of all would be not to move your head or body but to simply look with your eyes toward the correct container. If the subject chooses the right container he gets the food. Simple, huh? Don’t bet on it.

Surprisingly, Daniel J. Povinelli, a psychologist at the University of Southwestern Louisiana, found that our closest animal relatives, chimpanzees, were initially quite poor at this task. (Actually, so were three-year-old human children, though they were better than the apes.) However, both the chimps and the kids could quickly learn to read the correct cues. The real surprise came when a team led by Robert Hare of Harvard University ran the same test on dogs. The dogs could immediately interpret the signals indicating the location of the food four times better than the apes, and more than twice as well as the young children, even if the experimenter was a stranger.

Now the real question is: where did dogs get this talent? The first guess might be that since dogs are descended from pack-hunting wolves, the ability to pick up social signals evolved to help coordinate the hunt. If so, one would imagine that wolves should be at least as good at the bucket task as dogs. However when Hare tested wolves at the Wolf Hollow Wolf Sanctuary in Massachusetts, he found that they were actually worse than chimpanzees and a lot worse than dogs. The next guess might be that dogs learn to read human body language because they hang out with and watch their human families. This would suggest that young puppies, especially those still living with their littermates and not yet adopted into human families, should be poorer at picking up human signals. Wrong again! Even nine-week-old puppies, still living with their mother and littermates, do better than wolves or chimps. “The punch line is that this ability was not inherited from the last common dog-wolf ancestor, and it does not take tremendous exposure to humans,” said Hare in a recent conversation.

With the experimental evidence driving wooden stakes through the hearts of the two most obvious explanations, we are still left with the question: where do dogs get their superior ability to read human signals from? Once again we have two candidate explanations, both concerning evolutionary changes that occurred during dogs’ domestication.

Obviously, dogs that could figure out their masters’ intentions and desires would have been more likely to thrive in a human-dominated environment and hence produce more young. But were specific dogs initially chosen to be domesticated because they had a better ability to understand people? Or was the improved ability some sort of unintended by-product that arose during the process of domestication?

It is easy to find rational reasons to support either of these two theories. Obviously people would tend to prefer and form stronger bonds with dogs that could understand human body language. However the alternative theory could also work. Domestication usually involves selecting the tamest and most easily managed animals-for safety’s sake, if nothing else. According to Hare, “If you select against aggression, a whole suite of changes accompanies that reduction in aggression. There are a lot of unintended changes that occur as by-products.” In a classic early set of experiments on captive foxes, it was shown that these changes are not just behavioural, but include tendencies toward floppy ears, tails held high, and multi-coloured coats. “So it’s possible that this ability in dogs is simply a by-product of domestication. You pick the calmer, more attentive animals, and they also happen to be the ones that are better able to pick up subtle social cues.”

Unfortunately the scientific jury is still out. We simply don’t have enough data to decide whether humans deliberately chose dogs that could better understand our social signals, or whether this ability is a “hitchhiker” trait that came along on the evolutionary ride to domestication. Regardless, this is yet more proof that our domestic dog is not merely an urban-dwelling wolf that has learned to sport a veneer of civilization in order to get free room and board. Rather, the dog is a separate species that has evolved, or more precisely co-evolved, with humans.

Given the fact that we started this discussion with every dog owner’s presumption-as an article of faith and observation- that our pet dogs understand our body language and signals, I simply could not end my interview with Hare without asking, “Won’t dog people think that this research finding is obvious?”

“I had the same reaction,” he replied. “I knew that people would say, ‘Of course dogs understand this kind of thing!’ But it’s one thing to say it and another to go and demonstrate it. The people who were really surprised were the scientists-not the lay people.”

Stanley Coren is Professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia and author of several books on dogs, including How to Speak Dog and Pawprints of History. His website is

Dogs Really are Man’s Best Friend

I just discovered a marvelous article on canine genomics, its applications critical to both veterinary and human medicine.

In 2003, the US National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) agreed to fund a project to sequence the entire genome of a boxer dog named Tasha. Although the USA is a country of dog lovers, with approximately 38 million households owning one or more dogs, why did one of the National Institutes of Health countenance the use of $30m for such a purpose? The answer is that the NHGRI recognised the value of the dog as an unrivaled model for the study of human disease. In this paper, the reasons why the dog is such a good model are examined. Examples of where the study of disease in dogs is increasing the understanding of the genetic basis of human disease, of the development of improved diagnostic assays and of the evaluation of clinical therapies are provided.

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Learn more about Comparative Canine Oncology here.

Dispelling Myths of Canine Cancer & Its Treatment

I came across a great article by Colorado State University’s Douglas Thamm, VMD, DACVIM.

There is still a great stigma attached to a diagnosis of cancer, and it is natural for owners of dogs with cancer to equate cancer treatment in animals with experiences they may have had with treatment of themselves, their friends or family members. Having an understanding of how cancer treatment in animals and humans differs can insure that dog owners make an informed decision when selecting treatment for their dog with cancer.

Read more here. And, learn more about canine cancer here.

Bisphosphonates: When Amputation isn’t an Option for Osteosarcoma

This is Deb Walz’s Golden Retriever Selka, or more formally, Sandhill’s Goldust Selka. A lover of the sport no matter what the season, he also enjoys dumping snow from his Frisbee onto his head! Now, that is what we call one thinking Golden! According to Deb, Selka is a joy to everyone who knows him and spends his time retrieving, working as a therapy dog or laying in Mom’s lap. Selka has greeted folks for years at our foundation’s page on the sport of Canine Frisbee.

So, we were especially sad to receive this news today from Deb:

Rochelle, I wanted to share the sad news that our beloved golden Selka has been diagnosed with osteosarcoma. Amputation was not a good choice as he has some neuropathy in his hind legs and probably could not walk on three legs. We are doing the best we can, loving him as we always do and spoiling him until the time comes to say goodbye. We do not want him to suffer at all. You will remember the photo of him in the winter with his red frisbee that you used in one of your sections here.

Tripawds has a great article on the new options for patients like Selka.

More recently, there is a promising new option for non-amputation candidates: bisphosphonates. You’ve probably heard of them: Fosamax and Boniva are two. This class of drugs is used in human patients with osteoperosis, or those with prostate or breast cancer that has metastasized to bone.

Now, many veterinary oncologists are using bisphosphonates for canine patients, to build and stabilize bone, and effectively manage pain. In some cases, bisphosphonates can also be used for dogs with osteosarcoma metastasis to bony areas such as the spine or skull.

Typically, non-amputee dogs being treated for osteosarcoma are given the bisphosphonate drug Pamidronate. This drug is given as a two hour IV injection every four weeks. Pamidronate may also be given in conjunction with radiation therapy for pain control.

At the Veterinary Cancer Center (VCC), dogs have the most powerful bisphosphonate available; Zoledronate. For the last year, the VCC team has conducted a Zoledronate clinical trial on dogs with bone cancer, and so far, the results are promising.

I actually know of a canine patient who has been on Pamidronate for almost a year and is now able to run and play like old times, before being diagnosed. I do not have detailed information regarding the Zoledronate clinical trial which is being conducted at the Veterinary Cancer Center in Santa Fe, NM, but contact information is available here.

Polluted Pets (and people) …. need I say more?

I have a great informational page on polluted pets at my foundation’s site. It’s been there for years and has lots of information that can be downloaded and utilized.

Please do read this powerful article: Polluted Pets: High Levels of Toxic Industrial Chemicals Contaminate Cats And Dogs. For me, this is old news. But, for many, it continues to be foreign information.

And, we’ve talked about this issue for years at the site: Nutritional value of fruits, veggies is dwindling: Chemicals that speed growth may impair ability to absorb soil’s nutrients. Another incredible article to read and understand with respect to implications for both you and your furry ones.

Please get serious now. Prevention is what it is all about. Waiting until an illness process takes hold just results in needless pain and suffering. Being proactive about your family’s health is the best way to fight back and possible win the battle.

Writing in a vacuum

My third newsletter has lots of fun and serious articles. You do not want to miss it. REALLY.

But, besides a handful of people, no one has bothered to check it out (yes, webstats are great things until you find out no one is paying anything you say any mind). It’s kinda like contests I put together to GIVE STUFF AWAY that no one bothers to enter …. oh my :0)

Maybe for the next issue I need to hide a secret word or image somewhere in the issue and tell folks the first person to find it wins something.

My spirits were buoyed, though, when I received this post from a Golden breeder (with some English Golden Alfie relatives no less).

Dear Rochelle, You could not have described more perfectly your newsletter: “Sometimes laughter, sometimes tears. But always food for the soul.” I laughed at the start, and I cried at the end—and yes, so much food for my soul.   Thank you for sharing it! — Sincerely, Felice Haggerty

I also read a lovely thank-you by a hurtin’ Kelley Baldwin, just having lost her Golden girl Chaser on June 19th. But, she may not count since she was one of the wonderful authors who contributed articles for the issue.

Through the wonders of social media a few months ago, I met the founder of Land of PureGold Foundation. The foundation promotes the human-canine bond and responsible pet ownership, and also funds cancer research and treatments for working dogs for animal-assistance therapy, search and rescue, etc.

Rochelle first contacted me after reading one of my columns, which featured my Chaser. She wanted to reprint it in Pet Talk, her foundation’s newsletter. Of course, I said YES! Just a few short weeks later, she returned the favor by providing us with a great resource – – after learning about Chaser’s osteosarcoma diagnosis.

As if Rochelle hadn’t helped us enough…she continues to amaze me. In this month’s foundation newsletter, she included a two-page feature on my Chaser. Others will read about her journey and her life. It is ways like this my Chaser will live on. You can read it here (pages 7-8).

I love Kelley’s Life Like Mine blog, as her writing is always so spot on. She needs to be writing for some comedy shows. She really is that good. And, I was thrilled to see at her blog another tribute to Chaser, just stumbled upon by her hubby.

Even after she’s gone, our Chaser continues to surprise us. … It’s the website for the Veterinary Speciality and Emergency Center. We took Chaser there for her eye exams. I guess they decided she was beautiful too.

We always joked she could have been a movie star. However, it was enough she was a star in our hearts.

Golden Retriever Foundation Partners with Morris Animal Foundation

The Golden Retriever Foundation and Morris Animal Foundation  have teamed up to announce a new major canine cancer study titled Discovery and Characterization of Heritable and Somatic Cancer Mutations in Golden Retrievers, or the MADGiC Project (Making Advanced Discoveries in Golden Cancers).

This is a three-year, $1 million project slated to start in the summer of 2010. This jointly funded project is part of Morris Animal Foundation’s Canine Cancer Campaign, a worldwide effort to prevent, treat and, ultimately, cure this disease in dogs. Learn more at

The study will be led by premier canine cancer researchers Jaime Modiano, VMD, PhD, at the University of Minnesota; Matthew Breen, PhD, at North Carolina State University; and Kerstin Lindblad-Toh, PhD, at the Broad Institute of MIT and Uppsala University, Sweden.  They will work together to investigate mutations that are involved in risk and progression of the two most common cancers affecting Golden Retrievers, hemangiosarcoma and lymphoma.  This research will be of interest to all dog owners because these cancers affect every breed and cause the deaths of tens of thousands of dogs each year.

It is expected that this research may directly benefit humans too, because the genes involved in cancer are sometimes the same in dogs as in people, although these mutations can be more difficult to discover in people.  Therefore, identifying these genes may also advance scientists’ understanding of common human cancers such as lymphoma.

In addition, researchers will seek to identify genes that predispose some dogs to cancer so that breeders may someday be able to reduce cancer risk through breeding selection.  DNA tests may also be used for diagnosis and possibly to guide treatment choices in the future.  The scientists will also investigate mutations that occur in the tumors themselves and will profile the susceptibility of specific tumor types to various chemotherapy compounds, which may lead to improved therapy options.

Owners of Golden Retrievers diagnosed with lymphoma or hemangiosarcoma can support this research by donating a small tumor and/or blood sample; blood samples from healthy Goldens over 12 years of age are also needed.  More information about sample donation can be found at,, or contact Rhonda Hovan at or 330-668-0044.

About The Golden Retriever Foundation

About Morris Animal Foundation

A great recipe … but so bittersweet

I just received the most glorious sugar-free, gluten-free, organic birthday cake recipe. It was sent for my Bone Appetit Recipe Contest.

It was sent by Sharon Wachsler who made it for her Gadget’s ninth, and last, birthday. Gadget worked with Sharon for seven years, trained via positive methods such as the clicker, and provided a critical function for increased independence despite her disabilities.

Sadly, Gadget was diagnosed with Lymphosarcoma in May 2009 and then with a Mast Cell Tumor in September 2009 (which sadly took his life on 11/19/09). A Working Dog Grant from our foundation was utilized for some of Gadget’s chemotherapy treatments.

That means that tomorrow, I will be mailing Sharon a FREE full-sized $9 bag of SuperTreats Pro-Digestive 100% Fruit Chews!

Dr. Nancy Kay …. a fitting tribute, indeed

I recently heard from veterinarian, Dr. Nancy Kay, and was so glad she sent us a copy of her seminal book, Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life.

These days, it seems impossible to keep up with all the great books debuting in our ever expanding realm of the dog. Already in its third printing, the book was honored in 2009 by the Dog Writers Association of America and her Speaking for Spot Blog (which is fabulous btw) won a Best Blog Award as well. Wanting to become a veterinarian for just about as long as she can remember, Dr. Kay graduated from the Cornell College of Vet. Medicine, her residency completed at the Univ of CA-Davis in Internal Medicine.

Currently a board certified internist at the Rohnert Park, CA Animal Care Center, a 24-hour emergency/specialty care center, Dr Kay additionally founded and helps facilitate the Animal Care Center Pet Support Group. Of course, you know just how important she is when you see the fitting tribute received from Bruce and Jim at Draw the Dog.

We love how Dr. Kay helps you come to grips with a cancer diagnosis, and explains the tough choices that are bound to follow. Plus, you’ll find an alphabetical listing of the most common symptoms experienced by dogs and the questions your vet is sure to ask when you report them—not to mention hundreds of prevalent diseases and related points you should be certain to clarify before leaving your vet’s office with a treatment plan in hand. A labor of love, this book was fueled by her passion to teach people how to be effective medical advocates for their four-legged best friends. Gone are the days of simply following doc’s orders―today’s dog lovers are confronted with health-care decision-making on many levels. Have you ever wondered . . .

  • How do I find a vet that feels just right for me and my dog?
  • What are the important questions I should be asking my vet?
  • How will I be able to afford my dog’s health care? Is pet insurance the way to go?
  • Does my dog truly need all those vaccines listed on the reminder postcard?
  • Does my dog really need the surgery or procedure that has been recommended?
  • Are there other options I should be considering?
  • When is it appropriate to get a second opinion? Where should I go to get one and how can I avoid offending my vet?
  • Should I take my dog to see a specialist?
  • Should I consider treating my dog’s cancer?
    Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing this for him or for me?
  • Is my dog ready to say goodbye? Am I ready to let him go? What are my choices when it comes to the euthanasia process?

If you’ve struggled with these questions, you’ve come to just the right place! Dr. Kay and Speaking for Spot will help you answer all of these questions and many more. With warmth, candor, and humor cultivated over 20-plus years of working with dogs and their human companions Dr. Kay provides an insider’s guide to navigating the potentially overwhelming, confusing, and expensive world of veterinary medicine. The result is everything you need to know in one fabulous, fully illustrated book. Speaking for Spot is the consummate guide on how to be your best friend’s medical advocate!

We’ve loved Betty White for a long time

Betty and Golden Retriever Pontiac

BETTY WHITE, an American actress, comedian and former television host with a career spanning over sixty-five years, is also a well-known advocate for animals and president emeritus and trustee of the Morris Animal Foundation). She had a Golden Retriever named Kitta, a former Guide Dog “who had bum hips”, and now has a Golden named Pontiac.

“He’s a career-change dog,” says White of her pet who was trained as a guide dog but couldn’t actually work in the field. “I lost my last fellow when he was 10 years old, and Guide Dogs for the Blind heard about it. They called and said they had another golden, so I went up to their facilities to meet him — and now he’s mine!

Here is Betty with Pontiac making a statement about our most important topic, Canine Cancer. And, what follows is the wicked funny Betty (from her debut Saturday Night Live hosting job) that we have all come to love.

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Betty is actually part of my site, at one of the most visited areas. It is where I feature those authors, TV personalities, movie actors, artists, and sports stars …. who are all owned (or previously owned) by Golden Retrievers! There are actually over 160 celebrities in this special Golden club.

Betty wrote [Nov 2001] about how her Golden boy Kitta helped her recover from hip surgery. Here is what she had to say:

“As well as we think we know the pets we live with, they still manage to surprise us now and then. It’s especially nice when the surprise turns out to be a pleasant one.

My three animal friends are my family in every sense of the word, and we are in total communication at all times. Self-appointed queen of the group is Panda, a black and white Shih Tzu, 11 years old, who came from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Los Angeles. She had been picked up in a cruelty case and impounded until the case came to trial. Panda has earned the right to be as spoiled as she is. Bob Cat is a beautiful Himalayan with huge blue eyes who found me seven years ago and, like the man who came to dinner, never left. He has no idea that he is of the feline persuasion and follows me everywhere with dog-like devotion. Unfortunately, his idea of “Sit-Stay” is on my chest.

Betty and KittaThen there is my golden boy, Kitta, a 6-year-old Golden Retriever. He was puppy-raised in Alaska (kitta means “forward” in the Inuit language) but didn’t make it into the formal Guide Dogs for the Blind program because his hips didn’t quite measure up to the requirements for those hard-working dogs. Privately, I like to think it was because we were meant to be together.

Kitta is fine, but a few months ago, I was the one who needed hip replacement surgery. As someone who for 30 years has worked with the Morris Animal Foundation (an animal health organization that funds studies into specific health problems of all animals), I have seen enough canine X-rays to recognize the problem area. When my doctor showed me my pictures, my reaction was, ‘I’ve got hip dysplasia — can I go to my veterinarian?”

While hip replacement is something we would all just as soon skip, they really have it down to a routine procedure these days. However, even under optimum conditions, there is a five-day hospital stay involved and a few weeks of slightly limited activity once you get home. My bedroom was off-limits as I couldn’t go up stairs, so I arranged to set up headquarters in the playroom — separate from the house and with no steps to manage.

The day I came home from the hospital, I was walking but with the aid of a walker. I went directly out to the playroom, got safely ensconced, then had my furry friends brought out one at a time for their greeting. First Panda, then Bob, and finally Kitta — on a leash so he couldn’t get too carried away in his enthusiasm.

I took the big golden head in my hands and, nose-to-nose, proceeded to explain the situation in detail: “Sorry, Kitta dear, but Mom’s going to be real dumb company for a while . . . .” He sat motionless as he listened, just swaying slightly because of his intensely wagging tail. I unhooked the leash, and he sank down but within reach of my hand.

From that moment on, Kitta was on duty. When I would get up to move around, he was at my side but didn’t move any faster than I could go with the walker. His idea, not mine. Later, when I graduated to a cane, his pace adjusted but only up to what I could manage, and his back was within arm’s reach at all times.

The hospital sends a tool home with you called a “grabber” — a long stick with a handle that lets you pick up whatever you drop without bending over. Handy tool, that is. But I didn’t need it. All I had to say to my golden friend was “Fetch it up,” and whatever it was would be handed to me. One day, I got myself into a place in the rose garden where even with my cane I couldn’t get back to smooth ground. I reached for Kitta’s help, grabbed hold of some loose skin at his shoulders, and he literally pulled me back where I belonged.

Most animals are creatures of habit and don’t appreciate change in their routine. Surprisingly, Panda — and even Bob — adapted to the altered daily pattern without complaint, bless them, but Kitta’s reaction was something else. Remember, this was a dog that had never been trained to be a caretaker. He had only gone through puppy socialization, which simply meant being taken to various public places and learning to mind his manners. Where did this instinctive nursing behavior come from? I didn’t ask questions; I just deeply appreciated it.

Continuing to improve, I was soon driving, we all moved back upstairs, and before long, everything was back to normal. Another surprise was yet to come: The day I put the cane away for good — the very day — my nurturing helpmate changed back into my regular fun-loving playmate, and my Kitta was his old self again, begging for a tennis ball game without a care in the world.

If possible, however, we are both just a little closer than before.”

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Vindicated … by President’s Cancer Panel, no less

So nice to see Nick Kristof’s NYT’s Op-Ed, “New Alarm Bells About Chemicals and Cancer“.

The President’s Cancer Panel is the Mount Everest of the medical mainstream, so it is astonishing to learn that it is poised to join ranks with the organic food movement and declare: chemicals threaten our bodies. The cancer panel is releasing a landmark 200-page report on Thursday, warning that our lackadaisical approach to regulation may have far-reaching consequences for our health.

I’ve read an advance copy of the report, and it’s an extraordinary document. It calls on America to rethink the way we confront cancer, including much more rigorous regulation of chemicals.

Traditionally, we reduce cancer risks through regular doctor visits, self-examinations and screenings such as mammograms. The President’s Cancer Panel suggests other eye-opening steps as well, such as giving preference to organic food, checking radon levels in the home and microwaving food in glass containers rather than plastic.

So much is at blame, especially the bizarre presumption that chemicals are safe for us unless there is glaring evidence to the contrary. Isn’t it nice to know that there are over 80,000 chemicals in use but only a few hundred have been tested for safety? With 41% of us being diagnosed with cancer, it is not comforting to realize that “Many known or suspected carcinogens are completely unregulated.”

My Alfie .... and his pal

In my discussion, Learning to Protect rather than Pollute ourselves & our Pets, I’ve been harping on these same issues (and for some time). Although this panel’s report is geared toward humans and not companion animals, the health of animal companions mirrors our own. Researchers have discovered a genetic cancer link between dogs and humans. Jaime Modiano, V.M.D., Ph.D., University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine and Cancer Center, and Matthew Breen, Ph.D., North Carolina State University’s Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research, collaborated on this research study. Drs. Modiano and Breen have found that humans and dogs share the same genetic basis for certain types of cancer.

Dr. David Waters, Co-director of the Purdue Comparative Oncology Program indicates, dogs and humans are the only two species that develop lethal prostate cancers. And, the breast cancer that affects dogs spreads to bones, just as it does in women. Further, osteosarcoma, which is the most frequent bone cancer of dogs, presents in the same way as it does for our teenagers. In fact, under a microscope, cancer cells from a teenager with osteosarcoma are indistinguishable from a any breed dog’s bone cancer cells.

For many pet owners, the recent April 2007 pet food recall (which resulted in so many horrible deaths of both dogs and cats) was a huge wake-up call about the weak FDA regulations and enforcement, and inherent dangers in our food supply …. for our companion animals and ourselves. Yet, for me, it was the cancer-related deaths of my Ollie and Darcy, that drove home my current mission to educate and help others.

I am already incorporating the many recommendations of this Cancer Panel, for both myself and my dogs. The whole family (2 & 4-footed) has been using filtered drinking water since 1998. I have been home-cooking a 100% organic diet for my Goldens since 2005, and for us human folks, giving preference to foods grown without pesticides, chemical fertilizers and growth hormones. We have grown our own vegetables, organically, with no pesticides for over 20 years, and use no lawn chemicals. I have used water or vinegar and water to clean the floors. I store water in glass or stainless steel containers, and microwave using ceramic or glass containers. I choose foods and garden products with fewer toxins or endocrine disruptors.

Will I ever know if any or all of these actions extend my life? Probably not. There are just so many variables, and one cannot discount the enormous genetic role. It is disheartening to know that researchers, Drs. Modiano and Breen, believe that because of the way the genomes have evolved, getting cancer may be inevitable for some humans and dogs.

They have concluded that despite millions of years of divergence, the evolving genomes of dogs and humans seem to have retained the mechanism associated with cancer, and that the conserved changes in the genomes have similar consequences in dogs and humans. I am looking forward to their current research which seeks to pinpoint risk factors for cancer in various breeds of dogs … especially since cancer is the leading cause of death in the Golden Retriever breed, Hemangiosarcoma and Lymphosarcoma leading the list.

I believe prevention is the best defense and only hope folks will begin to learn more about these issues, as natural health writer CJ Puotinen posits in her article on cancer prevention: “What could be better than curing your dog’s cancer? That’s easy! How about avoiding the illness in the first place?

Part of the mission of the Land of PureGold Foundation is to support and promote holistically healthy and responsible dog care, as well as disseminate information on canine cancers. Dogs do not get to be by our sides for that long—the fun we share together, training and playing and living and loving, so woefully brief. That is why our hearts stop, and life slows to a halt, when we feel those lumps or hear the results of those dreaded biopsies.