Moment of Truth
She watched the black car roll up and hoped against hope that it was bearing good news. The sheriff got out and opened the back door and her heart fluttered. Suddenly, someone was running towards her at full tilt and she let out a yell.
The two-year long search for her missing dog and the investigation had finally paid off, and all the clues had finally led to this moment. Kameroun was a fighter and she had refused to give up… and that’s when she had found the most important clue — hiding in her dog’s microchip.
Californian Kameroun Mares beat lymphoblastic leukemia at a young age, but after going into remission, she suffered from terrible depression, as well as hyperglycemia. The disease had taken a psychological as well as a physiological toll on her.
She then decided that she needed a positive influence in her life. And what could be a more positive companion than a dog?
Kameroun did all her research and decided on a Siberian Husky. The high-energy breed needs a lot of exercise, and this suited her well. She planned on going for daily runs with her new companion by her side.
She prepared carefully for her new puppy to come home and had had even decided on a name. But she had no idea just how attached to this little pup she would become.
When it was finally time for Semper Fidelis, meaning “always faithful”, to come home she couldn’t contain her excitement. And little Semper was everything she had ever wanted, and more. Semper thrived in his new home with Kameroun, and soon he grew from a rambunctious Husky puppy to a beautiful and well-tempered adult.
But Huskies usually present some challenges, too.
Semper was having trouble with recall and with walking on lead, which is common for huskies. Bred to run and pull sleds, even huskies in suburbia never really forget their roots. Semper would pull and tug on the lead with his powerful shoulders when Kameroun walked him, and she knew that if she ever let go, he would run and run — not stopping until he was finally exhausted.
And this is just what Kameroun thought had happened when Semper went missing. But she was very wrong.
Kameroun and Semper had become inseparable. She loved her dog dearly, and during the ups and downs of her illness, he was always by her side. Having such a loyal companion helped Kameroun tremendously, and she was feeling a little stronger every day.
So naturally, When she moved to Florida in 2015, Semper came with her. But then, something awful happened.
When Kameroun was undergoing treatment in Florida, she quickly realized that she wasn’t covered by her medical insurance in the new state, so she had to return to California for the duration of her treatment. She was beside herself with worry — she would have to leave Semper in Florida.
She was a responsible pet owner and made sure he wouldn’t be alone, but she never knew that her trust would later prove to be terribly misplaced.
Semper would be left in her apartment with her roommate as well as a pet sitter to make sure he was taken care of when she was gone. Then, it all went horribly wrong, and Kameroun received a startling call about Semper. “I was told by my roommate Semper had escaped through the front door,” Mares explained to ABC News.
“I asked, ‘Did he have a collar on?’ My roommate said he didn’t know.”
Kameroun was devastated and took to social media, joining lost pet groups and sharing Semper’s image as widely as she could. She put up fliers and did everything she possibly could to find him. Two years passed with no sign of Semper.
Then one day, as a last ditch effort, she decided to check Semper’s microchip records online. And then the mystery as to his whereabouts only deepened.
Kameroun was feeling particularly low today. The heartache of losing her best friend was only getting worse with time — not better. Tired of feeling helpless, she had an idea. It couldn’t hurt to check… after all, there was nothing left for her to lose.
Opening her laptop, she fired it up and logged into the microchip database that Semper had been registered with. Then she saw something that made her eyes widen.
A Strange New Record
There was not one record attached to Semper’s microchip, but two. But who had registered the second one? The original registration for the American Kennel Club was there, but there was also second mysterious record under the name “PetKey.” What’s more, the date that it had been added was around the time of Semper’s disappearance.
Kameroun felt a wave of hope wash over her. Now she suspected foul play. Finally, she had a clue. She was no longer battling a faceless enemy. And she knew exactly what to do.
With renewed resolve, Kameroun hired a private investigator and a lawyer. She wasn’t going to give up on her best friend. Ana Campos Investigations (ACI) worked tirelessly on the case, until one day they made a disturbing discovery. Kameroun’s suspicions were finally confirmed: Semper hadn’t run away after all — he was taken.
But why would the roommate she had trusted have told her that her dog had escaped? There was something fishy going on here.
“In reality, he was never missing; he was sold,” Kameroun said. “He was stolen [by my roommate] and sold from me without my consent.”
That’s when the investigators discovered that Kameroun’s roommate had sold Semper for just $200! But what could they do now? Would they have any recourse? But Kameroun was a fighter, and she wasn’t about to give up now that they had made a breakthrough.
Kameroun battled the legal case in court, and she fought with everything she had. Until one day, it all paid off. The court decided to rule in her favor and declared Kameroun the rightful owner of Semper. Now, she had to get him back. The Sherriff seized Semper from his illegal new owner. After two and a half years, he would finally be returned to her.
Ana Campos uploaded an update on the case on October 18, 2018. Underneath the video, the caption read: “Watch at your own risk of crying immediately. Here is the video and audio from Kameroun Mares reunion with her dog Semper today.”
Semper strains on the lead when he hears his name, and the officer lets him go. He sprints towards Kameroun, eyes wide and tongue lolling out of his grinning mouth. Kameroun awaits him with open arms and kneels to receive him.
After everything she’s been through, she finally has her best friend back! But will he remember her?
Tears Of Joy
Semper hears his name as Kameroun shrieks, then he starts to strain against the leash. The Sherriff holds on as tightly as she can, but he breaks free. Suddenly, he is dashing toward Kameroun, with ears flat and tongue lolling. His tail is a grey blur of happiness as he bounds, closing the distance between them.
Kameroun falls to her knees and opens her arms as the tears run down her cheeks. She finally has her best friend back in her arms. She can hardly believe it’s really him. Then, he does something that dissipates all her doubts.
“He’s still the same as usual,” Kameroun cries. “Just tugging the leash as always.” Kameroun cries tears of joy into her dog’s fur and then leads him inside — back home. But the question remains, how did this happen in the first place?
Who is to be held accountable for Semper’s unauthorized rehoming?
Ana Campos Investigations wrote: “Please keep in mind Kameroun is just 26 years old. She was 23 when this began. For a young girl to have the wherewithal and courage to hire a private investigator and attorney is remarkable.”
She continued, “Shame on Petkey pets for causing her to suffer and spend her savings on fighting for her dog back because of the role they played.”
“He was stolen and sold by her roommate 2 1/2 years ago. She was told he was lost on April 30, 2016. But on April 11, 2016 the buyer added their name to his AKC Reunite “registered chip”. They registered this registered chip on Petkey pets instead. Petkey pets did not bother to see if he was chipped already.”
Nevertheless, Ana Campos Investigations were as thrilled as Kameroun to finally have Semper back!
PetKey’s response was unsatisfactory: “It is a pet identifier,” they claimed. “It’s not a certificate of ownership, it’s just to help pets going in the right direction. Vets, shelters, animal control etcetera. It’s not for the microchip company to determine who the rightful owner is.”
But surely they should have checked for a chip and contacted Semper’s owner?
Importance Of Microchips
Nevertheless, Semper’s story serves to illustrate how important it is for people to microchip their pets — if it weren’t for Kameroun’s ability to check Semper’s online microchip records, she may never have seen him again. “The huge wound in my heart can finally start healing,” Kameroun told ABC News.
Kemeroun also advised owners of lost pets to check their microchip records for extra registries: “I implore owners to be aware that this can and does happen,” she cautions.
Huskies have become extremely popular due to their beauty and extraordinary intelligence. One woman learned just how extraordinary the beautiful breed is for herself. The doctor said it was just a normal ailment, but surprisingly, her dog knew better.
A Sudden Change
Her dog had snapped viciously at her belly and she knew something was very wrong. Something inside her. Something waiting to reveal itself. As the doctor casually looked her over she shuddered as another wave of nausea gripped her, and he didn’t even notice.
She was hiding behind a wall of pain, a dull ache that had become an insistent ball of agony.
The First Signs
It was 2013 when she felt the first sign, bloating up her belly like a fat frog and causing a lot of discomfort during the move from California of Wisconsin. They had just stopped for a quick snack before getting back to the task at hand. She waved it off as something they had had for lunch.
It was very unusual but, like most of us, she shrugged the warning signs away thinking that next time she would order something better–maybe a salad or something light. She wouldn’t be that lucky.
It wasn’t long before Stephanie conceded to herself that this may be more than a bout of indigestion so, in the fall of 2013, Stephanie finally set up an appointment with local GP.
She outlined all the symptoms she had been experiencing over the past few months. Trouble eating, bloating and now full-blown pain in her abdomen. She told the doctor that she was worried that this was more serious because it was only getting worse, not better.
The Dismissive Doctor
Pushed for time and having seen similar cases before the doctor dismissed her worry with a quick diagnosis even though he did no tests to confirm anything. Stephanie, not wanting to insult him, accepted his answer.
She grasped the script he had scribbled down on his pad in her hands as a wave of nausea hit her.
A Deeper Mystery
Stephanie tried to remember what the doctor had said as she filled her prescription for painkillers at the pharmacy–he thought that she just had an ovarian cyst, it was painful but they usually disappear on their own within a few months. But this pain felt… different.
She wanted to believe, but deep inside she knew that it was a lie.
Masking The Pain
After taking a couple of days off for bed rest she had to get back to work. The pain medication was helping with some of the symptoms, like the sharp shooting pain in her belly was more of a dull throb now, but even medicine couldn’t hide the fact that the pills were masking something serious.
It was only when Sierra, her Siberian Husky, did something strange that Stephanie knew she couldn’t trust that doctor.
The Adopted Dog
Sierra had been adopted by Stephanie from her son when she was nine months old. Sean Pere, her oldest son, had enlisted in the Air Force and was due to leave for duty overseas shortly.
Sierra soon became Stephanie’s best friend and loving companion. She never wanted to leave Steph’s side, so when Sierra started acting weirdly around her she couldn’t help but think that something was wrong.
Sniffing Out The Problem
One day, just as Stephanie walked in the door, Sierra walked right up to her and did something she had never done before, “She put her nose on my lower belly and sniffed so intently that I thought I spilled something on my clothes,” she recalls. Then, Sierra snapped in distress.
Now Siberian Huskies are quite tall dogs and her nose was right up against Stephs belly but she didn’t click until something strange happened.
Hiding And Frightened
“She did it a second and then a third time,” Stephanie explained. Then Sierra stopped sniffing Stephanie’s shirt and suddenly turned and fled, “After the third time, Sierra went and hid. I mean hid!” She ran away in pure terror and Stephanie’s blood ran cold.
When she eventually found her she was curled up in a tight ball, deep inside her closet.
Stephanie was shaken at Sierra’s behavior, the sudden change was so unlike her. She was not known to become frightened easily, even taking thunderstorms that most other dogs would cower from in her stride.
It was clear that the dog had sensed something inside her owner that had deeply unnerved her, but Stephanie wasn’t ready to listen, yet.
Stephanie’s symptoms became progressively worse and she began to deteriorate in front of her family’s eyes, but she remained determined to get to the bottom of her illness.
She tried natural remedies, herbal concoctions, spoke to apparent “experts” in online chats, but nothing helped. And no one could give her an answer. Maybe it was all in her head?
A Different Doctor
Stephanie was suffering more than usual on one particular day, and she made a decision. She wasn’t going to continue hiding from the fact that something clearly was not right with her health.
She decided to get a second opinion and booked a gynecologist appointment. She trusted her dog’s reaction more than a rushed doctor. And she was right to.
“To see (Sierra) become so afraid was spooky in its own right,” Stephanie recalled later. This time she had 2 tests done (in addition to a complete pelvic exam) an ultrasound and the CA-125 blood test. Soon she would have all the answers she so desperately needed.
But nothing could have prepared her for the moment she got her results.
It took a few weeks for Stephanie to get her results from the blood test back, and then the phone call came that rocked her world.
The doctor told her that she needed to come in urgently–she would prefer to speak with her in person about her test results.
The Results Were In
“So I made an appointment with a gynecologist,” Stephanie said, her voice choking up, “and in a matter of weeks and some blood work with an ultrasound, on 11-11-13 I was sitting in the gynecology oncologist room in shock that I had cancer.”
She will never forget that day the fight began.
On November 11, 2013, Stephanie’s doctor sat her down and told her that she had stage 3C ovarian cancer, a far cry from the ovarian cyst she had originally been diagnosed with by the first doctor. How could they have missed something so big?
Finally, it all made sense–her strange symptoms and even her dog’s behavior. She was relieved to finally have an answer, but where did she go from there?
In stage 3 ovarian cancer, the cancer is found in one or both ovaries, as well as in the lining of the abdomen, or it has spread to lymph nodes in the abdomen.
Former US Marine Corps, Stephanie underwent a full hysterectomy and had her spleen removed. She was a strong woman, but how strong?
In April 2014, Stephanie received amazing news and all the chemotherapy, worry and sickness had actually paid off. Her doctor declared her free of disease – cancer-free! But they warned her that cancer has a nasty reputation of returning. Feeling lighter than she had felt in months she rushed home to tell her family the great news.
She was a survivor! But she should have known better.
The Hard Truth
Stephanie resolved to live each day to its fullest, she knew the statistics and she knew she was lucky to still be here, surrounded by family and not lying in a hospital bed.
70% of woman who are diagnosed with ovarian cancer are at risk of the disease returning, especially for the woman who are diagnosed with the late stages of cancer. Would she become a statistic?
A Late Catch
Stephanie had caught it fairly late, out of four possible stages she was diagnosed at stage 4. Her doctors warned her that it was more than likely that the disease would return.
She tried not to dwell on the past or fret over the future and just live one day at a time. But the doctors were right with their prognosis and in 2015 Steph was back in the doctor’s rooms.
It Was Back
Steph didn’t need to be told twice when Sierra did the exact same thing she had done the last time. She sniffed Stephanie’s belly and sped away to hide deep in the closet again. A sinking feeling filled her because she knew exactly what was wrong.
Stephanie immediately made an appointment with her doctor only to find out the terrible news – the cancer had returned. Sierra had caught it a second time, and now it was in Steph’s liver.
This time the dread disease was caught earlier and Stephanie was able to undergo treatment again. She did the unthinkable. She beat cancer a second time with some cutting-edge technology, Dr. Kushner suggested that she enroll in a clinical trial that included a new type of targeted cancer-fighting drug called a PARP inhibitor.
She only hoped it was the last time she’d need it.
Third Catch For Sierra
It wasn’t to be. Sierra once again started acting strangely and Stephanie knew it was back. She went to the doctors again to confirm what she already knew…
What her dog had told her! And for the third time, Stephanie began treatment. This time the cancer had spread to her pelvic area. How much more could she take?
The Best Medicine
“It’s almost like the dog knows something is going on and is scared. The dog didn’t want to be near her,” Ashley Wagner, the executive director of the Wisconsin Ovarian Cancer Alliance said.
“That made all the difference in the world to her,’’ says Dr. Kushner regarding the high-tech science behind her recovery. “It’s amazing that one of the first targeted therapy for ovarian cancer became available just as she needed it.”
I Owe My Life To That Dog
Stephanie, for the third and final time, managed to fight the disease and the 52-year-old is now cancer-free. “I owe my life to that dog. She’s really been a godsend to me. She has never been wrong,” Stephanie said. Her oncologist, David Kushner, has even said that some breeds of dogs have an incredible ability to accurately smell cancer.
Dogs have 220 million olfactory receptors in their noses compared with just 5 million for humans, and the part of their brains devoted to smell is also much larger.
An Incredible Nose
Studies have confirmed that dogs can effectively detect cancerous cells in a human body. Cancerous cells release different metabolic waste products to healthy cells. A dog’s sense of smell is so powerful that they can detect these cancerous cells even in the very early stages of cancer.
Studies show that dogs can be trained to detect cancer in 93% of cases.
A Positive Outlook
Stephanie knows that there is still a chance that she will have to battle cancer again but she is positive and an inspiration to those battling alongside her.
“There are things that are coming out new every day. That’s how I live my life.”
“I’m going to do the best thing I can do at the time until the next best thing comes along,” she said. “I just feel like my story can let people think about their animals and think, ‘Wow, my animal did this when I got diagnosed.’ Just to give the animals credit that they are pretty smart.”
But this is not the first time a dog has accomplished such an amazing feat. One pup from Australia surprised even her owners — and broke a world record in the process. There had been nothing to indicate that this would be an unusual birth. But by the time they realized what was going on, they were faced with chaos.
Waiting On The Unknown
She had been in labor almost all day. It was her first litter of puppies, so the vet and her owners thought this would be a quick birth. But as the hours went by, they started to realize this was not a normal birth at all.
Nobody knew what the outcome would be, with the threat of complications looming over them the whole time. And by the time it was all over with, everyone was left gobsmacked.
But Miley’s pregnancy had not been nearly as unexpected as her delivery would turn out to be. In fact, everything was meticulously planned. She belongs to Cecilia Langton-Bunker, a 43-year-old breeder in Ballarat, Australia.
Her company, CCDalmatians, has been breeding, training, and showing Dalmatians for 24 years. So when the time came to breed 3-year-old Miley, a rigorous protocol was followed. But they would soon find out that nature follows no protocol.
The Perfect Match
Miley was paired up with a male called Astro, whose pedigree name is Astro Wonder Boy. A prized show dog, Astro has been winning competitions every year since 2013. But he is also smart, affectionate and intuitive.
He and Miley hit it off right away, which was wonderful news for their breeder. Soon, Miley was pregnant and everything was going according to plan. But neither dogs nor humans had any clue what they were really in for.
Monitoring Every Change
Miley’s belly started growing very fast, and Cecilia took notice. She took Miley to the vet, who told her it would be a litter of three. This would be normal for a first-time mother, although Dalmatian litters can run up to eight or even ten puppies. But a large litter can also bring health complications with it.
And as Miley’s belly continued to grow, so did everyone’s concern.
An Accomplished Show Dog
Miley, whose pedigree name is Sarasota From Russia With Love, had been an exceptional show dog before being selected for breeding. She was still young, so she could theoretically go back to competing after she finished nursing her puppies. But show standards are very strict.
If she had pregnancy complications or delivered a large litter, her body would likely change too much to be fit for competitions. Of course, that wasn’t bothering the mother-to-be. In the blink of an eye, she was ready to give birth.
The Day Finally Came
It was 7 am on May 18, 2017. Cecilia was awakened by strange sounds, which she soon realized were coming from Miley. To an outsider, the dog’s behavior would seem completely bizarre. But, being an experienced breeder, Cecilia knew what was happening: Miley was in labor.
Calmly, she called the vet and began preparing everything that would be needed for the birth. But nothing could have prepared her for what she was about to witness.
Labor Of Love
Cecilia and the midwife were busy getting the birthing area ready while Miley was still having mild contractions. They padded her bed with blankets, made sure the room was warm enough, and even though Miley didn’t have much of an appetite, they stocked up on her favorite treats.
Having done this many times before, they were pretty confident and thought they knew what was coming next. But Miley was about to surprise everyone — including herself.
Waiting And More Waiting
Hours passed, and still no sign of the puppies. By then, the vet had arrived, and he frequently checked up on Miley to make sure she wasn’t in distress. It was important to stay on top of any complications that may arise. If she was found to be unable to deliver the puppies by herself, there was always the option of a C-section.
But this wasn’t ideal for her or the puppies, so everyone waited patiently. Finally, by late afternoon, the first puppy crowned.
They Just Kept Coming
After the first puppy was born, everyone thought the rest would come out quickly. But they found themselves waiting long periods of time in between each pup. But at least they were coming, and they seemed to be in good health.
Three puppies came out, then four, then five, then six. By the tenth puppy, everyone in the room knew something very special was happening. But it would be a few more hours before they truly realized the importance of this occasion.
18 And One Dalmatians
It was 8:30 pm by the time Miley finished giving birth — more than 13 hours after she started labor. But that was not the most impressive thing about this day. Miley had delivered a whopping 18 puppies! Now the room was full of tiny, white, blind creatures shuffling around looking for mom.
In total, there were 12 females and six males. Everyone was in shock that Miley had managed such a feat. Not least of all, the puppies’ baby daddy.
After the birth, Astro was let into the room to bond with his newborn puppies. But he clearly wasn’t expecting this much offspring. He was said to be “a bit disconcerted by the 18 puppies running around, he’s like ‘are these all mine?’” according to Cecilia.
Meanwhile, the breeder herself was just happy all the puppies seemed to be in good health. But soon it dawned on her how much help she was going to need to look after them.
An Enormous Undertaking
Cecilia hired seven veterinary nurses to take care of the puppies while they nursed, making sure that Miley wasn’t overwhelmed by having to feed so many mouths. But, like the champ she was, she took it all in stride and diligently fed them every four hours. “They have been a really healthy, happy, thriving litter from the time they were born which is largely because of their mum’s dedication and perseverance,” said Cecilia.
Soon the time came to look for potential owners.
Leaving The Nest
Two months after being born, the 18 puppies were ready to be taken to their new families. Cecilia even started feeling a little nostalgic. “I expect to get an empty nest feeling when they all start going to their new homes on July 22 because this is a very special litter,” she said.
Indeed, this litter was special. They had broken the Australian record of most Dalmatians in a litter and matched the current world-record holder. But not all the puppies were about to leave the nest.
Continuing The Family Legacy
Cecilia decided to keep one of the puppies, a female whom she named Paris. Described as “outgoing, smart and highly spirited,” Paris soon began training for her first show. And, just like her mother and father, she proved to be a natural champion. She won Best Puppy of Breed and Best Puppy in Ring at the Royal Melbourne Championship Show 2017.
Months later, she would get to reunite with many of her siblings.
In February 2018, Cecilia organized a “puppy party” to reunite the members of this very special litter. Ten of the 18 dogs were in attendance, along with their owners and their families.
The puppies and their parents got to run and frolic along the field, followed by a refreshing swim in the pool. Cecilia felt proud of how well these pups are growing and thanked their owners for keeping them happy and healthy.