Middletown WSFS teller Vicki Dixon is trying to raise enough money to afford chemotherapy treatments for her 7-year-old greyhound, Sadie.
Vicki Dixon feared the worst when she first noticed her greyhound Sadie was developing a painful limp this summer.
"I had another greyhound named Lucky who had died of bone cancer just two month earlier," Dixon said. "Lucky had the same limp in the exact same leg, so I just knew it was happening all over again, even before I took Sadie to the vet."
Dixon's worst fears were confirmed on July 29 when the 7-year-old, former racing dog was diagnosed with osteosarcoma, one of the leading causes of death among greyhounds.
"At first, I was so devastated and angry that I kept asking what did I do to deserve going through this again, although it wasn't even me it was happening to," the 49-year-old teller at the WSFS branch in Middletown said last week. "But then I just kicked into gear because I know from experience that this disease is aggressive and I knew I had to move fast."
Last month, Dixon paid $3,000 to have Sadie's front left leg amputated – the same procedure Lucky had undergone just months earlier.
"My bank account was pretty much wiped out from the first go round, so I had to put Sadie's amputation on my credit card," Dixon said. "Now I've got nothing left."
Yet more veterinary bills were still on the horizon, including the cost of intravenous chemotherapy treatments, additional supplements, testing and follow-up appointments.
Desperate for help, Dixon reached out to fellow greyhound owners online, including the Yahoo group Circle of Grey and the Delaware chapter of Greyhound Pets of America.
Those groups, in turn, helped to put her in touch with Ohio State University's Greyhound Health and Wellness Program and the Magic Bullet Fund, a charitable foundation in New York that helps financially-strained pet owners afford life-saving medical procedures for their animals.
The Greyhound Health and Wellness Program agreed to donate chemotherapy drugs that Sadie will receive during four to five monthly treatments, while the Magic Bullet Fund has agreed to help Dixon raise $1,600 towards other medical expenses.
"I just feel it's important to help people help their dogs fight [illness], rather than be forced to stand by and watch their beloved pets die," said Laurie Kaplan, founder of the Magic Bullet Fund – named after her Siberian Huskie, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2000. "While I was taking Bullet through treatment, I ran into a lot of people without the resources to give their dogs the same level of care and it affected me strongly, so I set out to help people like Vicki and dogs like Sadie."
Using a $50,000 grant from the Petco Foundation, the Magic Bullet Fund makes an initial donation to qualifying dog owners and helps them raise the remainder by accepting donations on their website.
In Dixon's case, the fund provided a $500 grant and has helped her to raise an additional $720 as of Tuesday.
Without that assistance, Dixon says she almost certainly would have had to euthanize her beloved greyhound.
"I know some people probably say, 'Oh, it's just a dog. Why are you going through all this trouble,'" she said. "But when you adopt or rescue a pet, that life becomes your responsibility. I love her and I feel compelled to do everything I can to help her get through this. I'm just so thankful there are people out there who know what I'm going through and are willing to help."
While Dixon remains committed to seeing Sadie's treatments through, she's also aware there are no guarantees. Her late greyhound Lucky, for instance, underwent five chemotherapy treatments and survived for only another six months.
"I believe Lucky might have lived longer if I had acted faster, but cancer in dogs, like in humans, is different from individual to individual," she said. "It's a chance you take, but I try to remain positive and live each day in the moment just like Sadie. In the end, I won't regret anything I've done."
Contributions to Dixon's fundraising campaign will be accepted until Oct. 4 at the Magic Bullet Fund's website www.themagicbulletfund.org/DogsNeedFunds.shtml.