Gabe’s Story

Young therapy dog goes from visiting patients to being the patient. But thanks to the Pet Cancer Awareness Campaign, Gets the Treatment Needed.

PCA + Gabe

Gabe, a four-year-old yellow lab, was a happy go-lucky dog who had never been sick a day in his life. To those who know him, “he’s a big, goofy guy that loves everyone he meets,” says his owner, Glenna Mockbee of Cincinnati, Ohio.

It was that cheerful disposition that convinced Glenna that Gabe should be a therapy dog – a job Gabe embraced right from the start. At 90 pounds, this gentle giant practically gallops into hospitals and schools, eager to visit with kids and adults who eagerly embrace him and return his affections.

"He’s a special dog with a gift for making people feel better."

Gabe, therapy dog  At Shriner’s Hospital for Children in Cincinnati, Ohio, for example, Gabe doesn’t just give out hugs and kisses; he stands tall and steady so kids who are learning to use artificial legs can hold onto his body to stand up. When he visits autistic children at public schools, he sits patiently while they brush him and stays close when they walk him on a leash around campus.
“He seems to know what each person needs and meets them where they are,” says Mockbee.

“He’s a special dog with a gift for making people feel better.”

Sudden symptoms lead to “shocking” diagnosis

Gabe’s life was one happy therapy visit after another until one day last year when Mockbee discovered a large lump on Gabe while bathing him.

“It was the size of a tennis ball,” she says. “That same night, he got sick for the first time in his life. He whined every 15 minutes to go outside and throw up.”

Glenna took Gabe to her veterinarian, Dr. Lucinda Craig at Baker House Animal Hospital. “I remember her saying, ‘This lump doesn’t look good,’” says Glenna. “I knew we were going to get bad news.”

A week later, a biopsy confirmed Mockbee’s worst fears. Gabe’s tennis-ball size lump was a Grade 3 soft tissue sarcoma. “I couldn’t believe cancer could happen to such a young dog,” says Mockbee. “I thought he could die.”

Gabe goes from visiting patients to being the patient

Gabe was too sick to continue his pet therapy sessions in the community. In fact, Dr. Craig surgically removed as much of the lump as she could from Gabe’s hind end that very same week. She then referred Gabe to Dr. Cheryl Harris, a local oncologist, for ten rounds of chemotherapy.

Things were moving quickly, and Glenna worried about the cost of the surgery and chemotherapy treatments. “I was ready to max out a credit card for him,” she says.

Fortunately, she didn’t have to go into debt. As a therapy dog for Therapy Pets of Greater Cincinnati, an affiliate of the national group Pet Partners, Gabe qualified for a grant funded by the Petco Foundation’s PCA campaign for his surgery and chemotherapy treatments.

According to Natalie Pond, Marketing & Strategic Partnerships Coordinator for Pet Partners, Glenna received $3,000 in support for Gabe’s cancer treatment.

“It was the most wonderful thing on earth to get this help,” says Glenna. “It was heaven-sent.”

After treatments, Gabe spreads joy again

Gabe received all his chemotherapy before heading back to Dr. Harris for one last surgery to make sure the tumor was gone. “It looks like they got every bit of it,” says Mockbee. “Gabe’s in remission and should live to a ripe old age now.”

After six months of treatment and surgeries, Gabe started his pet therapy visits again.

“He’s happy to be visiting people, and they are happy to see him,” says Mockbee. “He’s running and playing, and happy as a lark. I am forever grateful for the financial help for Gabe’s treatments. He spreads so much joy everywhere, and I think that’s something he is supposed to do.”

Gabe just celebrated his fifth birthday.

Join the fight

Together with Blue Buffalo, the Petco Foundation has invested more than $13 million in pet cancer research and treatment. If your pet has been diagnosed with pet cancer and you need assistance with the cost of care, please see our Pet Cancer Resource Guide for a list of organizations that may be able to provide assistance.

Join the fight against pet cancer. Make a donation today.