As a novice rescue volunteer, I got the call one Friday evening.
"There is a 9 or 10 year old Golden Retriever in the Riverhead Shelter [Long Island, New York], and he is going to be euthanized. He was picked up as a stray, and he has a tennis ball sized tumor on his rib cage. It seems that no one wants to adopt an old dog with a big lump. Could you go and drive him from the shelter to a vet's office, for surgery to remove the growth?"
So off I went on Saturday morning, figuring the whole thing would take an hour and I could go home and finish seeding my lawn.
When I got to the shelter there was no one around, and as I pulled into the driveway the barking was deafening. I walked around back to the kennels, to see if I could spot a Golden.
There he was. The only dog in the place that wasn't barking and jumping on the fence, Blake sat with all the dignity he could muster. He watched me with the most soulful brown eyes that I have ever seen. I called him over. His tail began a slow, uncertain wag. He seemed to be thinking "Could she be talking to me?" I told him I had come to take him out of this place and he seemed to understand.
I waited for over an hour. Riverhead is a small shelter, and only the assistant warden was working that day but he was out on a call. It took over two and a half hours before I was finally able to get Blake released. During that time he watched me with eyes that seemed to say, "I know you're here for me. I trust you."
When he came out of the kennel he walked politely to my car and sat down, waiting for permission to climb in. He was a perfect gentleman on the ride to the vet's office, where I was told that the mass on his side was probably malignant, and would need to be removed. That was the beginning of what would turn out to be three surgeries in three months.
Blake came to stay with me as a foster dog after his first surgery. Before he even had his stitches from the first surgery removed, we found two more lumps. They also needed to come off. As soon as he was recovered enough, back he went for another operation. We were told that his chances of survival were only about 50/50, but apparently nobody told Blake! (a.k.a. "Himself"!) He slowly got stronger, and I marveled at what some love, veterinary care, and good dog food could do. Blake seemed to be getting younger every day!
The first time I saw him running happily across my backyard, I cried.
The third surgery was performed 3 months after the first, and Oh Happy Day, the biopsy said benign!
Blake has been cancer free for eight months now, and his vet feels that the chance of a recurrence is small. He says that Blake is probably only about 6 or 7years old, not 9 or 10 as we originally thought! Our family officially adopted him in June , as we could not bear to part with him. I shudder to think of what may have happened had someone not notified rescue that there was "an old dog with a big lump" in the shelter.
In the ten months that I have volunteered with Long Island Golden Retriever Rescue, I've learned that every one of the nearly 100 dogs rescued by our organization this year  is as special as Blake. The families who adopt these dogs tell me that the joy and love that their rescue dog adds to their lives is irreplaceable.