Where a Riverside family found financial help to fight its beloved dog’s cancer
By David Downey | email@example.com | The Press-Enterprise PUBLISHED: March 26, 2018
LaHonda Edwards’ 9-year-old mixed breed Labrador retriever and boxer leaps over 6-foot fences, catches a Frisbee in midair and unlocks the family’s sliding glass door.
“Every time we go to the park she ends up with an audience and people clapping,” Edwards said.
But earlier this year, Sara, who has cancer and is now getting support from a nonprofit for her treatment, stopped doing those things.
“She started not acting like herself,” Edwards said. “It was almost overnight. She’s very active, playful all the time, hyper, energetic and all she wanted to do was lay down.”
She wouldn’t eat, either. And in short order, Sara shed 10 of her 58 pounds.
On Jan. 19, Edwards found out why: Sara was diagnosed with lymphoma.
Edwards, 44, a single mom who lives in a modest Riverside apartment and works part time as a caretaker, was confronted with an impossible decision: Raise thousands of dollars for Sara’s treatment or have her put to sleep.
Edwards didn’t hesitate. She refused to consider ending the dog’s life.
Pet helps autistic youth
Sara had meant too much to the family. She had meant too much to her son, Nicolas Neazer, who has autism spectrum disorder. Sara was Neazer’s Christmas present when he was 13. He’s 22 now.
“If she wasn’t here, I don’t know what my future would be without her,” Neazer said.
Sara helps him with his social skills, his mother said.
“I’m a social person,” Neazer said. “But not one to strike up a conversation.”
When he walks Sara through the neighborhood or takes her to nearby Andulka Park, talking becomes easy.
“Sara will catch their attention, and we will start up a conversation about her,” he said. “If I hadn’t had my dog with me, people probably wouldn’t have walked up and said, ‘Hello.’”
And, so, Edwards’ uncle, Wayne Fugate, who lives nearby, set out to find a way to raise money for Sara’s chemotherapy treatment. In his search, he came across a group called Magic Bullet Fund.
Laurie Kaplan, founder and administrator of New York-based Magic Bullet Fund, which helps cover cancer treatment fees for dogs, said in an email that an online fundraising campaign was set up for Sara through the group’s website. A goal of $3,570 was established. And as of Monday, March 26, $1,270 and change had been pledged, leaving about $2,300 left to raise.
Kaplan said the funds will pay for Sara’s cancer treatments. Magic Bullet Fund will also pay for some of Sara’s chemo drugs.
“We pay the drug distributor and they ship directly to the vet,” she said, adding that the firm, DiamondBack Drugs, gives Magic Bullet Fund a nonprofit discount.
The group has secured financial help to treat cancer in more than 600 dogs over 12 years, Kaplan said.
Dog fights disease
But, just as chemotherapy is anything but pleasant for a human being, it isn’t exactly a walk in the park for a canine. Sara has been subjected to the treatment weekly since her diagnosis.
Edwards said last week’s treatment made the dog especially sick.
“She was up all night,” Edwards said. “She was hacking and vomiting.”
After all the comfort he has received from Sara, Neazer is doing his best to comfort his beloved dog.
He had been studying business at Riverside City College. But he sat out spring semester to keep her company around the clock. Neazer plans to enroll again in fall, after Sara finishes the sickening ordeal four or five months from now.
“I know she can make it through this,” Neazer said. “She just needs me to be there for her.”
Little by little, Sara seems to be improving. Edwards said she has regained five pounds.
“She’s not her complete self,” Edwards said. “But she’s getting better.”
“And now,” Fugate said, “we’re hopeful.”
The family envisions a day not too far in the future when Sara, once again, will be leaping through the air to snag a Frisbee at Riverside’s Andulka Park.
HOW TO HELP
Online: Donations can be made on behalf of “Sara Edwards” at www.themagicbulletfund.org
Mobile: Text SARA to 71777
By Mail: Send check to Magic Bullet Fund, P.O. Box 2574, Briarcliff Manor, NY 10510. Write Sara Edwards in the MEMO line please!
If you need help for your dog: http://themagicbulletfund.org/apply/