Learning one’s cherished dog has cancer is an all too frequent experience among dog owners today. The Golden Retriever Club of America reports that Golden Retrievers are among those in the highest risk group for cancer, and 66% of males and 57% of females die from it. USA Today reported recently that, overall, the disease kills one in four dogs. At the time of diagnosis, veterinarians may suggest treatment options such as surgery or chemotherapy. Such is what happened in our case. But, our dog’s cancer was too widespread to consider surgery, and the harsh treatment of chemotherapy didn’t seem appropriate for this gentle-natured golden. Instead, we chose to celebrate the life and spirit of our beloved pet each day we had left with him.
What happened next is an adventurous true story of love and courage. Last Summer with Oscar is a narrative case study about a 9-year-old Golden Retriever’s response to cancer. As my husband and I came to grips with his diagnosis, Oscar made an amazing discovery as we walked along a road that we frequented. Nestled among a patch of young trees were Slippery Elm seedlings, and eating them became Oscar’s choice of treatment. His profound will and determination to live enabled him to return to this same patch of unmaintained land to eat the leaves, whereby he regained strength to continue his customary 3-mile walks with his littermate, Winston. As time went on, other patches of Slippery Elm seedlings were discovered, and he ate from these as well. Researching Slippery Elm trees led me to discover some amazing truths as well as riveting, historical facts about the tree’s usefulness for cancer and survival.
Oscar, the teacher, continued to ﬁnd ways to communicate with me, his student, and remarkable discoveries and moments of miraculous happenings occurred. When the leaves fell off the trees the search for another remedy yielded the discovery of Graviola tree extract, a product of the Amazon rainforest, whose rich, scientiﬁc history of effectiveness in the treatment of cancer needs to be shared.
The four chapters in the book are named for the seasons that Oscar lived post-diagnosis, and the subheadings denote clues as to what will be revealed here and there. Scanning the table of contents provides one with a preview of the adventure. Other effective research-based treatment remedies were discovered and utilized. While each is elaborately discussed in the text, further information about the remedies used and where one might locate them are provided in the ten appendices at the end of the book.
The goodness of the journey elicited unusual kindnesses and exceptional measures of helpfulness from others. Children and police ofﬁcers cheered for Oscar as we walked. People began to share the news of his treatment with others who might beneﬁt from the information. Others knowledgeable offered helpful suggestions of other herbs or natural products to enhance his healing. A friend’s perfectly timed suggestion to use red clover was a true best-ﬁt modality as days later Oscar was miraculously able to eat again. The interfering tumor in his mouth shrank in size until it was barely visible. Last Summer with Oscar is ﬁlled with extraordinary anecdotes that inspire love and a true belief in the potential of humanity.
An epilogue is offered so the reader may learn the details that complete Oscar’s story. It conveys Winston’s response to his littermate’s passing eleven months after the diagnosis. Winston’s sadness did not ease for fourteen months. The sensitive and caring staff at the Orrville Pet Spa in Orrville, Ohio provided Winston with a precious and most unique opportunity to reinvent himself as only “one.” Also signiﬁcant and meaningful for the reader is the sharing of our vet’s response (in the form of a handwritten note) that reveals his respect for the results of Oscar’s adventurous journey.
Further, our decision to transplant young Slippery Elm trees from Oscar’s backyard patch that had nurtured him (and, subsequently, Winston) served to honor Oscar’s work and to further his legacy. One strong, young tree was planted in our own front yard, but the most beautifully formed and developed tree was planted on our treasured friends’ family farm. Today, this glorious young tree is growing well at the entrance to the Regula family’s farm where it receives joyful attention. Finally, most precious of all is a photo of Winston sitting beside his “favorite tree,” one of the several locations that served to supply Oscar with the essential fresh, young Slippery Elm leaves he found to be so revitalizing. Following Oscar’s passing, visiting this tree became a ritual for Winston. It was something he wanted to do during every walk we took. “Winston’s favorite tree” is, indeed, the magniﬁcent, very old Slippery Elm tree in our own front yard.
Ten appendices provide information regarding all of the remedies used, and these comprise the ﬁnal section of the book. It is my fervent hope that the information shared in Last Summer with Oscar will create new avenues of interest for research into effective treatments for dog cancer.