By Janet McAfee

Our eyes locked when I spotted this lovely large black dog in the shelter kennel. Her gaze had a magical, knowing quality. Her chances of making it out alive from the San Bernardino County shelter at Devore were not good considering her color and size. We rescued her from the shelter, and headed to a vet clinic for vaccinations and spaying. Sapa went to a wonderful foster home with dog lovers extraordinaire, Vanessa Ruggles and Curtis Sweesy.

Vanessa recalls, “Sapa was our first foster dog and our first ‘foster failure’. This 40-lb dog stole her dad’s heart when she silently snuck into bed every night to snuggle in her dad’s arms despite my ‘no dogs on the bed’ rule. She fit into our family immediately, and welcomed and guided numerous other foster dogs into her home. Sapa was the referee. She was the loving, brilliant Alpha dog who knew who needed protection and who needed comforting.”

Vanessa continues, “When she was 6 years old, we noticed Sapa was not finishing her food. The vet prescribed antibiotics and sent her home. However, she continued to lose a noticeable amount of weight. Back to the vet for multiple tests, and we got the worst diagnosis imaginable: terminal lymphoma. The vet gave Sapa 2 weeks to live.”


The couple knew their dog detested trips to the vet, and no vet would provide chemotherapy during house calls. Vanessa states, “We refused to torture her for what might have been only a brief extension of her life. Sapa declined quickly, and when she quit eating all together, we force-fed her which made us all miserable. She quit chasing birds in the yard, and trailed lethargically behind on walks. I began researching studies regarding holistic remedies for lymphoma, reaching out to friends in the dog community, and asked every ‘science minded’ person I could think of for ideas. After consulting with an expert as to dosage and administration, Sapa was soon taking CBD and THC oils. We consulted with a dog nutritionist, Lori Weiner, and dove into radical diet changes and a regimen of multiple supplements and essential oils.”

“Suddenly our feisty little girl did an about face at death’s door. She began eating, she trotted into the lead position on walks, and became joyful again. The results were shocking and thrilling. Sapa’s vet said she had never seen a dog whose body was so riddled with cancer survive more than a couple weeks.”

For three and a half months, Sapa thrived. The dog accepted the bad-tasting doses dropped on her tongue like a champ. She had few side effects. Occasionally she peed on the bed, but her Dad wasn’t about to put her on the floor when she most needed comfort, and he devised a complicated system of potty pads and towels. Sapa enjoyed homemade meals with organic ingredients, snuggled with the other pups, and loved on her human parents. Her regimen was expensive and required dedication.

Four months after her diagnosis, Sapa again lost interest in food, developed skin infections, and rapidly lost weight. Curtis and Vanessa were devastated to learn the lymphoma was back. They arranged for a vet to put their beloved dog to sleep in her own home, surrounded by their love and the loving comfort of the other dogs.

Vanessa states, “We said goodbye to our precious girl, this brave fighter, on May 18, 2016. Although it did not cure her, we are confident that cannabis oil caused Sapa’s remission. It gave us 4 months that we otherwise would not have had.”

AS WITH ANY MEDICATION, PET PARENTS SHOULD CONSULT WITH THEIR VETERINARIAN FIRST BEFORE TREATING A DOG WITH CANNABIS OIL. From there, those who have a medical marijuana card can visit a reputable dispensary and purchase the product that best meets their pet’s needs. Dosages and administration must be carefully monitored depending on the dog’s weight, temperament, and other factors.

You should not experiment freely with your dog’s health. The number of marijuana toxicosis cases at Colorado veterinary hospitals has quadrupled since that state legalized marijuana, and some dogs have died after eating baked goods containing the substance.

Canine cancer is epidemic (50% of deaths in dogs over age 10 are due to cancer), and desperate animal lovers look to alternative treatments. There is enough anecdotal evidence to warrant scientific research exploring the effect of marijuana on canine cancer pain.

Additional resources include a YouTube video “Shorty Beats Cancer” and the book “The Dog Cancer Survival Guide” by Dr. Damian Dressler, DVM.

(photographs by Alicia Bailey)