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WSU veterinarians make second birthday possible for young pup

Closeup of Holli, a dog who had a brain cyst removed, smiling at a camera.
Cami Anderson and her family spared no expense for the second birthday of their young pup, Holli.

Cami Anderson and her family spared no expense for the second birthday of their young pup, Holli. 

There were matching party hats for Holli and her best buddy, Rosko, the family’s 13-year-old Labrador mix; tons of new toys; and even a puppuccino from Starbucks.

It was a day the Andersons doubt they would have seen without expert care at Washington State University’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital, where less than two months earlier Holli underwent a life-saving procedure to remove a potentially deadly cyst on her brain. The recovery has had its difficult and frightening moments, but the family is grateful for every day they have with their beloved dog. 

“Holli seems to be getting better every day,” Cami said. “Every day I just can’t wait to get home and see her. We just tell her all the time we love her so much.”

Love at first sight

The Andersons welcomed Holli into their Olympia, Washington, home in March of 2020.

The Andersons welcomed Holli into their Olympia, Washington, home in March of 2020. She immediately melted the hearts of her new family, and her energy and playfulness added much-needed love and life. 

The prior two years had been filled with heartbreak, starting with the death of Cami’s father in 2018. The next year, Cami’s brother passed, and just a month prior, the mother of Cami’s husband, Kris, died. And while Rosko was happy and healthy, they knew he was a senior pet.

Cami’s daughter, Cali, began searching for another dog, hoping it would have time to learn from Rosko. She stumbled upon an online post for a puppy at a rescue in Texas. Its birthday was Dec. 12 – a date shared with Cami’s mother-in-law. 

“Cali felt it was a sign that Holli was meant for us, and we finally agreed to adopt her after a lot of discussion,” Cami said. “We now say it was the best decision of our lives.” 

A rare condition

There were no signs anything was wrong with Holli until Cami’s son, Zach, found her on the basement floor in May 2021. Holli, in obvious pain, struggled to get to her feet.

“We thought at first maybe she ate something like a mushroom,” Zach said. “It was worse the next day, and that is when we knew something was very wrong.”

Holli’s condition continued to degrade, but the cause remained elusive until two days later when an MRI found she had a cyst on her brain, a rare condition called arachnoid diverticula. The condition could be managed for a time with Prednisone, but the steroid was not a long-term option, as it would eventually weaken her immune system and cause liver damage. 

“We didn’t know how long she would survive – the neurologist said it could be days, weeks, months or longer – but it was such a joy to bring Holli home after the pain of thinking we were going to lose her,” Cami said. 

Surgery was an option, although a risky and expensive one, but the family would need to contact a neurologist with expertise in the area. They were referred to WSU. 

Holli recovers after surgery.

Hope at WSU

Holli began to resemble her old self after some time on Prednisone, but the drug was taking its toll by the end of August. By this time, WSU neurologist Dr. Chen-Allen had reviewed Holli’s case and felt surgery could save her, however, she would have a long road to recovery and there was a 30% chance the condition would return.

“This surgery is one that not many veterinary neurosurgeons will do mainly because it can be intensive, and the outcome can be very unpredictable,” Chen-Allen said. “Although we knew surgery could be risky, it was the only chance for Holli to maintain a good quality of life without Prednisone.

Holli (right) and Rosko celebrate Holli’s second birthday.

In October, Holli arrived at the WSU for surgery with Chen-Allen and resident Dr. Carlos Valerio-Lopez. The Andersons were constantly updated on Holli’s condition by her veterinarians and fourth-year student Dane Collier, but it would be a roller coaster of 10 days – and several nights in which there were doubts she would survive – before Holli finally returned home. 

Initially, she was unable to eat without a feeding tube and couldn’t’t walk, but day by day, Holli improved. Now several months into her recovery, she can eat on her own and even run. While the future is uncertain, the Andersons are grateful for every day with Holli.

“We truly feel blessed to have Dr. Chen-Allen, Dr. Valerio, and Dane come into our lives to help our sweet Holli – we just can’t thank them enough for the amazing care, compassion, warmth, understanding, positiveness, support and encouragement,” Cami said. 

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