Cornell University's Canine Health Center to Debut 

Get ready for the pet version of the Mayo Clinic website to find authoritative information about dogs' well-being! 

A network of faculty scientists and clinicians at Cornell will be devoted to research, public education and outreach to advance dogs' health.

Many dog owners seek information from the internet but often have a difficult time distinguishing helpful information from misleading and sometimes dangerous information. In turn, many clients take their pets to the clinic later than adviseable because of the misinformation on the internet. 

When the website is ready, dog owners, veterinarians and breeders will also be able to attend regular workshops online and in person.

This is information was just published in the April issue of the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine's publication DOG Watch. This is exciting news for all of us concerned with our pets health. 

Visit the Cornell Canine Health Center at

Scottish Terrier Health Info 

A funny thing...
When Tommy lost the hair on his muzzle, he started pulling the "fur" off his plush toys in the area of the face

and neck.  Maybe his reasoning was, "Why should they

have fur on their face when I can't?"  

Spring 2011

Tommy on his way home from an appointment at Cornell, wearing his white hospital collar. He loved a ride - even if it was to the hospital. 

Tommy Has Cancer...

Tommy was a little drowsy from the anesthesia. Here he is outside the hospital wearing his Cornell Animal Hospital bandana. "Let's go home mom"

Tommy had an exam. When the Oncologist tried to open his mouth to check the tumor, he growled. Tom made his statement - that's not going to happen! He made sure of it. We discussed treatments, diet, and the fact that the CT Scan needed to be done and treatments started as soon as possible. The only place with equipment for a CT Scan - Cornell University! By the way, the doctor said she liked Tom's scarf and I should sell them to help pay his bills. 

I had difficulty sleeping again and I did A LOT OF PRAYING. One Sunday after church I took Tommy to be blessed by Father. I figured, it could only help. 

One morning I woke knowing exactly what I had to Tommy no matter what it would cost and what they had to do. We'll find a way to pay for it somehow. I'll worry about that later. His health is more important. When we adopted Tommy we made a commitment to love him and take care of him no matter what happened and that's what we had to do. "I'll stand by you...I will never dessert you..."  I scheduled the CT Scan at Cornell.

February 2, 2011...

Our appointment is cancelled due to bad weather. It's rescheduled. We'll try again tomorrow.

February 3, 2011...

Tommy and I left home at 5am for his 9am appointment. I took a wrong turn and we were late.

Tommy had his CT scan, chest x-rays and bloodwork. 

The good news...his chest was still clear and he received his first melanoma vaccine injection. His liver enzymes were slightly elevated, but no ultrasound was done. We know about Scotties liver enzymes don't we?
The bad news...the cancer was invasive into the bone. This is not what I wanted to hear. I was also told the survival rate was 3 to 6 months. I didn't want to hear that either. It was Thursday. His treatments would start the next week on Tuesday, February 8th at 10am.  He would receive Palliative Radiation Therapy, once a week for 4 weeks, melanoma vaccine injections bi-weekly for 8 weeks,  then continual follow-up exams and x-rays. We would be there on Tuesday for the next three weeks. It looked like there would be no vacation this year.

February 8, 2011..

We leave at 5:30 am for Tommy's 10 am appointment. The weather was treacherous. Blowing snow, icy roads, my windshield wiper didn't work. I couldn't see out the damn window! I had to keep stopping. The road off the thruway toward Ithaca had snow drifts covering half of it. This was brutal! It took 4 hrs. and 40 mins. to get there. We were late again!

Tommy received his first radiation treatment. I was so afraid and he had no idea what was about to happen. He was going to hate me for this, I thought. The treatment went well and was quicker than I expected. He quickly woke up from anesthesia and was ready to go. I'm told he was a strong little guy. See you next week!

The next three weeks I drove Tommy to his treatments at Cornell. Caileigh occasionally tagged along for moral support. A few nights were spent in Ithaca rather than getting up at 3 am for the 3-1/2 hour drive.

Tommy continued to receive check-ups at Cornell until his last appointment on March 6, 2012. Tommy survived his deadly form of cancer longer than the doctors expected. You can read about Tommy's treatments and canine malignant melanoma below.

So many times I questioned...

  • Why did this have to happen to this sweet boy who just found a wonderful new life?
  • Did we do the right thing for Tommy?

It's said that everything happens for a reason. We didn't know Tommy's past and had no control over him

developing cancer, at least we were there to give him the best life possible, for however long that would be. I guess it's the reason he came into our lives. To have a good life

and be loved. 

Tommy led a very happy and fulfilled life after we

adopted him. He went camping, traveled to visit friends in PA, proudly walked the ring at a rescue show, attended a dog walk, loved going to the park for rides in the stroller and red wagon, and enjoyed lounging on the swing. Tommy just enjoyed every minute of life to its fullest. That's what life is all about, isn't it? 

                      WE WILL ALWAYS LOVE TOMMY!    

December 6, 2010...

Tommy has his teeth cleaned and the masses removed.
Doc gives me the news...

  • While cleaning Tommy's teeth he noticed a couple teeth were missing and saw a tumor on the roof of his mouth. A biopsy was taken. I know it had to be very difficult for Doc to tell me this...Tommy has oral melanoma. I could not believe this was happening...another Scottie nightmare. The heartache of MacTavish's sudden loss still lived inside of me and now I'll be counting the days I have left with Tommy. The official biopsy results would arrive in about a week. 

December 20, 2010... 

I took Tommy to a specialist in Orchard Park for a consultation with a surgeon. I left him there for testing and headed to work.
The surgeon gives me the news...

  • The tumor extended across midline to end within 2mm of the right detition. The extent of the tumor would make surgery problematic and would not be in Tommy's best interest. It was suggested I call the Oncology Department at Cornell University for other options. Cornell University? That's 3-1/2 hours away in Ithaca, NY, but I heard it is the very best place to go. 

Sunday, January 2, 2011...

Tommy and I left for Ithaca. I hoped for good weather!

It was a beautiful sunny morning when we left. We spent the night at a hotel close to the University. The next morning at breakfast I met a woman from Canada who was there to pick up her dog at the University hospital. He also had cancer. Looks like it is the very best place to go for treament. 

January 3, 2011...

8:30 am we arrived at the Cornell University Hospital for Companion Animals. There were cars in the parking lot from NY, PA, OH, NJ. Wow! They come from everywhere.

Consultation with the Oncologist...
He discussed the disease and treatments, everything I already knew from my own research. The biopsy needed to be re-checked and then a treatment plan would be put into place. Biopsy results would take another week.

Tommy would need: 

  • CT Scan
  • Radiation Treatments (Curative or Palliative) 

Curative Radiation is given 5 days per week for 4 weeks at smaller doses, and Palliative once a week for 4 weeks at a higher dose. Cost: approx. $4000. (I thought "How could I get him there on a daily basis? I have a job"). 

He would also receive melanoma vaccine injections bi-weekly for a period of four weeks. Cost: approx. $500 per injection. OR...I could do nothing and let nature take it's course. There is always pain medication to make him comfortable. How could I live with that?

Tommy had an exam and was put under anesthesia for  thoracic radiographs (chest x-rays). 

I paced the halls, walked outside in the cold, sat in my vehicle, sat inside the hospital, I thought alot and I cried, while I waited for him. I bought him a Cornell Animal Hospital bandana. His chest was clear. Excellent! We left Cornell about 4pm. It was a very long ride home.

Scottie Paws Forever

A big THANK YOU goes out to so many wonderful people at the Cornell University Hospital for Animals who were involved with Tommy and Caileigh Ann's treatments and care.  The doctors, LVT's, students and office staff all are caring & professional individuals.
     It was always nice to hear someone say "Here's Tommy" when we walked in or to find out how happy staff were when they knew Caileigh was coming in for her appointment. 
   A special THANK YOU goes to Tommy's Oncologists, Dr. Waite & Dr. Rizzo to Caileigh's Internal Medicine doctors, 
Dr. Cortright and Dr. Lucy and her Oncologists who cared so much for her - Dr. Baldanza, Dr. Davis and Dr. Piscoya. 
You are all very special and I will always remember you. Thank you so much.   Keep up the good work!

The "C" word no one wants to hear, for themselves or for their pets. Cancer has touched our lives in so many ways; our family, our friends, and now our pets. 

Tommy had a little "skin flap" on the top of his head. In September 2010, I noticed it grew larger. It reminded me of a wart. Another small growth grew in the corner of his right eye.  Not wanting to take any chances, I called Tommy's Vet to have it checked. Doc said he could burn

the mass off Tom's head, but Tommy needed to be asleep to remove the one near his eye. We could wait 5 or 6 months and remove them when his teeth were cleaned. I was told to keep an eye on them. The growth in the 

corner of his eye grew larger. I didn't want to wait.

On March 17, 2012, Tommy crossed the rainbow bridge. It was an unusually hot day in March and a very was a difficult drive to the Vet. I believe Tom knew where we were going and accepted it. The drive home was even more difficult. Once home, Tommy was given a special burial in his yard which he loved so much. Caileigh could not accept the fact that her best buddy was gone, and tried to dig up his grave. It was a very sad day for all of us.

Tom - I hope you found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow!

Once home...
I researched, researched, and researched: The disease, the treatments, the survival rates, where I could get funding. I looked for clinical trials within a reasonable driving distance. I did this every chance I could. I sought the advice of my cousin, Dana, who is a Veterinary Surgeon. But only I could make the decision. 

I spent countless nights tossing and turning as I tried to make the right decision, the best decision for Tommy. I would ask myself, "Do I do nothing, then find out I could have helped him?" or "Do I help him and whether it works or not at least I know I tried?" I kept saying we can't afford the treatments, but I knew deep down inside I was also afraid. Afraid of the radiation and what it would do to Tommy.  Would it do more harm than good? Would it burn a hole in his mouth? I just didn't know.

January 28, 2011...
Tommy and I headed to Rochester, NY for a second opinion. Only a 2 hour drive - not bad! Tommy was wearing his blackwatch plaid fleece scarf which I made him for Christmas. What a handsome guy!

The Bad News...

  • Complete removal of the cancer (CMM) is difficult.
  • Tumor recurrence and metastasis is common with malignant oral tumors.
  • After inital diagnosis of oral melanoma, survival  life span of the most aggressive stage is 5 to 8 months. 
  • Malignant tumors metastasize in early stages and spread quickly to the lungs, lymph nodes, and other organs, including the brain.

The Good News...

  • The DNA-based vaccine for oral melanoma shows promise for improving a dog's survival rate. The vaccine is produced with a human gene for tyrosinase.
  • The immunotherapy has been used in dogs with stage II or stage III canine oral melanoma to support surgery and/or radiation therapy and prolong survival time.
  • The immunotherapy uses your dog's own immune system to target cancer cells. 

You can read more about the DNA-based immunotherapy vaccine ONCEPT at the Merial  website, producer of the vaccine.


I acquire all of my information from reliable sources which include:


Veterinary Schools and Universities 

Veterinary Research Journals 


There is a wealth of information for all of us, but please use reliable sources.  

Tommy was one tough little Scottie. I believe it's the reason    

he lived as long as he did. 

Summer 2011

One of Tommy's favorite pastimes was sitting on the swing. He also enjoyed sitting in our camper. Tommy lost the hair on his muzzle after his last radiation treatment in March. Two months later it was growing back. He was a handsome guy even without the hair!

Tommy's Treatments 

Click the button below to read 

about Tommy's treatments.

Canine Malignant Melanoma 

Canine Malignant Melanoma (CMM) is a highly aggressive and  life-threatening cancer. CMM is a common type of cancer in dogs and the most common malignant tumor in their mouth. CMM can also be found in the nail bed and foot pad. 

Dogs  susceptible to developing CMM:

  • Scottish Terrier
  • Flat-coated Retriever

Usually found in older male dogs with dark pigmentation.

Catching melanoma in it's earliest stage is your pet's best chance for survival. A routine dental cleaning allows a veterinarian to examine the dog's mouth for unusual pigmentation and hard to spot tumors. 

Signs you can watch for include:

  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Bad breath
  • Bleeding from the mouth
  • Loss of teeth
  • Facial swelling
  • Chronic coughing
  • A decrease in eating

- A biopsy will determine if the tumor is malignant. More testing may be done to determine if it has spread to other parts of the body. 

- CMM is initially treated with aggressive local therapies, which include surgery and/or fractionated radiation therapy to treat tumor cells and local lymph nodes. 

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Did you know that half of all dogs will face cancer during their lifetime?
One in four will die of the disease.

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We are all looking for a brighter tomorrow for ourselves and our canine companions...which includes a healthy life free from cancer.

Let's all do what we can to help!