Bossco, a 10 year-old German Shepherd, is used to providing comfort to others as a certified therapy dog and former member of the KP-K9 team at Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center. He brought joy to many patients throughout his career, including children with cancer. When Bossco was diagnosed with cancer himself, he was fortunate to find his way to Jenny Schutte, DVM, PhD Candidate, DACVR-RO, and the staff at VCA Sacramento Veterinary Referral Center (SVRC).

Paula and Tom Bastian, Bossco’s owners, rescued him when he was a year old. Paula describes him having a “deep soul,” with the ability to make people feel calm. He was therefore an ideal therapy dog, bringing joy and a welcome distraction to people in the hospital. Paula and Bossco bonded over their volunteer work, putting in so many hours together that they received a presidential pin and a letter from President Obama for their volunteerism.

When Paula and Tom first noticed a swelling on Bossco’s right brow four years ago, they immediately took him to their primary veterinarian. They were referred to a veterinary oncologist who diagnosed Bossco with a very rare form of nasal cancer known as nasal chondrosseous respiratory epithelial hemartoma. Paula and Tom left the appointment under the impression that little could be done to help him, and that his chances of survival were low. They were told he would likely only live for a few months. Paula and Tom were devastated.

In order to keep Bossco comfortable and maintain his quality of life, the specialist prescribed an antibiotic and steroids. His primary care veterinarian managed the swelling of his brow.

“We thought we were doing all we could for him,” says Paula.

When Bossco’s primary care veterinarian, Amanda Rico, DVM, took a new job with VCA Greenback Animal Hospital in Fair Oaks, CA, she heard wonderful things about a veterinary specialist in radiation oncology at nearby VCA SVRC. Since Paula had stayed in touch with Dr. Rico, she got a message from her, urging her to seek out a second opinion with Dr. Jenny Schutte. At that point, Bossco had been living with cancer for over two years. 

“Dr. Rico really liked Bossco and always went above and beyond for her patients,” says Paula. “But I was still very touched that she thought of him and would take the time to reach out.”

When Paula brought Bossco to VCA SVRC to see Dr. Schutte, she was floored by the news she received. 

“After running some tests and doing some scans, they told me that the cancer hadn’t spread to any other parts of his body,” says Paula. “I couldn’t believe it when Dr. Schutte told me she recommended just five sessions of radiation to treat his cancer.”

Dr. Schutte gave Paula something she hadn’t felt in years: hope.

Bossco’s cancer was treated with the brand new, state-of-the-art Halcyon™ radiotherapy system, currently the most advanced radiation therapy system available for pets. The extremely precise technology treats complex cancer tumors with minimal damage to surrounding tissue. This means that patients can be treated in fewer sessions, and in some cases, with less anesthesia.

“Bossco’s case was a great example of why this type of precision in treatment is so important,” explains Dr. Schutte. “Since his tumor was so close to his eye, a less precise treatment would likely have caused him to lose his eye, or we would have had to spare part of the tumor to save his eye.”

Since Paula was driving two hours each way to VCA SVRC for Bossco’s treatment, she was thankful that it was completed in just five sessions. With very few side effects from the radiotherapy, he was back to his normal routine in no time. Now one and a half years out from treatment, Bossco is doing well and shows no signs of recurrence. He even enjoys doing some light rally and obedience work with Paula.

While Paula is grateful for the technology that has extended his life and saved his eye, she is equally thankful to the staff who showed her and Bossco so much compassion and kindness throughout his treatment. 

“We feel like a total celebrities when we go there,” she jokes. “They make you feel like your pet is the most special animal in the world, and I want them to know how much that meant to me.”

Paula also credits Dr. Rico for reaching out to recommend Dr. Schutte to her.

“If it wasn’t for her caring as much as she did, Bossco wouldn’t be here,” says Paula.

Dr. Schutte urges the owners of pets who have recently received a cancer diagnosis to seek out a consultation at a VCA Pet CancerCare Center like VCA SVRC. VCA Pet CancerCare Centers are places where board certified cancer specialists and leading edge technology come together to offer the most advanced and effective cancer treatment for pets today.

“We’re here to support people in their choices,” says Dr. Schutte. “But how can you make the right choice if you don’t know what the options are? Every cancer diagnosis is different, and we usually have several options to offer pet owners, from treatment to making the pet comfortable, so they can have a good quality of life.”

“I hate to think there are people out there, possibly putting down dogs with treatable cancer because they think there is nothing that can be done for them,” adds Paula. “I hope my story encourages others to seek a second opinion.”

We invite you to visit the website of your closest VCA Pet CancerCare Center. You can read about the specialists and teams of people who are always there for you and your pet should the need arise. You will find doctor and team member bios, helpful descriptions of the services offered, and much more.
“Bossco’s cancer was treated with the brand new, state-of-the-art Halcyon™ radiotherapy system. One and a half years out from treatment, Bossco is doing well and shows no signs of recurrence.”