It was summer 2010. Phyllis and Paul Herber of Salem, Oregon, were out for a drive with their two Boston terriers, Lizzie and Sassy, when all of a sudden Sassy started acting strangely. The Herbers stopped the car, figuring Sassy might have to go to the bathroom. But once outside, Sassy fell to the ground; her mouth started foaming and her eyes rolled back.
The Herbers drove Sassy straight to their local vet and was swiftly referred to a local neurologist. An MRI revealed that Sassy had a good-size tumor in her brain. The Herbers were stunned. “Until that day, she was perfectly fine,” says Phyllis Herber. “We had no idea anything was wrong.”
Luckily the tumor could be removed—and it was. The bad news: the surgeon could not get it all, and without follow-up radiation therapy Sassy’s prognosis was poor. The other bad news: there was no certified veterinary radiation therapy center anywhere in their area. The veterinary neurologist suggested they take Sassy to UC Davis—a 9-hour drive away. “Our vets said she had maybe three months to live if we didn’t go,” Phyllis recalls. “So of course we packed and went.”
Sassy was five at the time; the Herbers—both retired now—have had her since she was six months old. “Everyone said, ‘Why are you taking her down there?’ But Sassy is a member of the family, and still young, and we love her dearly. So, we drove.”
In all, the Herbers logged five road trips from Oregon to California and back. “The doctors and staff were just wonderful,” says Phyllis. “By the third trip they knew us by name. We felt very comfortable at Davis—and Dr. Kent was just one nice guy. Sassy liked him a lot, too.” And she handled her treatments like a champ. “Sassy always sleeps at the end of our bed, but during the first night after treatment we woke up with her nestled between us, her head on the pillow,” says Phyllis. “But after that, she was back to her old self again.”
Sassy, now six, still takes medication—but her cancer has not come back. And she’s once again busily living up to her name. “She’s also in obedience training right now because she had a habit of barking at everybody,” says Phyllis. “Sassy always has to get the last word.” Or maybe it’s the last two words: cancer free.