When Frank Gibson of Reston was diagnosed with throat cancer last September, he looked to his friend Pip, for inspiration.
Two and a half years ago, Pip was diagnosed with lymphosarcoma, a cancer of the lymphoid system, and given six months to live. Now, for more than two years Pip has battled his cancer, undergoing chemotherapy and occasionally slipping in and out of remission.
Gibson figures if his daughter’s 5-year-old Chihuahua make it, so can he.
On many occasions, Gibson accompanied his daughter, Patricia Shaeffer, to treatments for Pip, which is short for Pipsqueak.
“Now there’s a turnaround, and Pipsqueak accompanies me to visit my dad,” said Shaeffer.
FOR SHAEFFER, Pipsqueak was that little dog in the window. In fact, when Shaeffer bought Pipsqueak as a puppy, he weighed 2 pounds, 4 ounces.
“We usually have beagles,” said Shaeffer. “But my dogs find me and I knew that Pipsqueak was my dog.”
It wasn’t long before Pipsqueak met the neighbors. Susanna Tisa, owner of a Labrador-Akita mix named Bandit, remembers first meeting Pipsqueak.
“He fit in the palm of your hand,” she said.
Despite their difference in size, Bandit and Pipsqueak became good friends, said Tisa.
“We used to walk our dogs almost every night together,” said Tisa. “Pipsqueak would jump all around Bandit, playing.”
BUT ONE DAY, when Pipsqueak was 2 1/2 years old, his neckline swelled up. “It looked like he had a tire around his neck,” said Shaeffer, who rushed him to a veterinarian. “I thought he must have eaten something.”
When Shaeffer got there, she was shocked to learn Pipsqueak had cancer. “They said it was very rare to see it in a dog that young,” she said. A few days later when Shaeffer took Pipsqueak to a specialist, she found out that her dog was in stage 4 (out of 5) cancer.
Without hesitation, Shaeffer decided to try the treatment. “He’s a survivor. He’s a tough little guy,” said Shaeffer.
Shaeffer then began taking Pipsqueak to the Veterinary Internal Medicine in Manassas to receive chemotherapy treatment. Over the years, Shaeffer said, her dog has become the de facto office mascot. “He goes in there cheerfully because he loves the people there,” said Shaeffer. And the people there love him.
“He’s the best dog ever,” said Jessi Kaline, a veterinarian assistant at the office who helps administer Pipsqueak’s chemotherapy. “Every time he comes in the door, everybody plays with him. He’s a very well-liked dog here.”
Kaline explained that the treatment can be very difficult on dogs.
“It’s very remarkable. He’s just one of those dogs that’s done very well on chemotherapy,” said Kaline. While Pipsqueak is slipping in and out of remission, he’s living a normal, active life.
BUT THEN, THIS last fall, the Patricia’s family received bad news again when her father was diagnosed. It was an emotional time for the family, but Pipsqueak helped them get through it.
“When my dad was really down, all I had to do was bring Pipsqueak over,” said Shaeffer. “Now, he’s a dog with cancer who’s also a hospice dog.”
Shaeffer said she’s amazed at how much Pipsqueak has done for her family.
“We value our dog as a family member because he contributes to the welfare of the family,” said Shaeffer. “We take care of him and he gives back to us joy and comfort everyday, particularly to my dad.”
“Me and Pipsqueak keep each other going, one foot in front of the other,” said Gibson. Or, in Pipsqueak’s case, one paw in front of the other.