Grateful couple donates to support veterinary oncology at WSU

Closeup of Rubie, an Australian shepherd.
Rubie, an Australian shepherd owned by Paul and Lynnea Thibodaux, is shown while waiting for a check-up at the Veterinary Teaching Hospital (photo by College of Veterinary Medicine/Ted S. Warren).

Washington State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine provided Paul and Lynnea Thibodaux with one of the most precious gifts they could ask for — more time with their beloved Australian shepherds, Doc and Rubie.

During the past decade and a half, the Thibodauxs have made the four-and-a-half-hour drive east from their home near Ellensburg, Washington, to Pullman and the WSU Veterinary Teaching Hospital more times than they can count.

Their travels, spanning from Doc’s battle against an inoperable brain tumor to the treatments Rubie received for melanoma, ensured access to some of the most advanced veterinary oncology care in the country. And, most importantly, it meant precious time, as Doc lived for nearly five years after his tumor was discovered, and Rubie survived for a year after her diagnosis.

“We appreciate every additional day WSU gave us with our dogs,” Lynnea said. “WSU was so wonderful to Rubie, just like they were with Doc, and we will be forever grateful.”

Since their first visit to the teaching hospital with Doc, Paul and Lynnea have been avid supporters. In 2010, they established an endowment, the Paul and Lynnea Thibodaux Oncology Resident Research Fund in Veterinary Medicine, in honor of Doc and to support cancer research projects for veterinary residents training in oncology. Recently, they made an additional $50,000 gift to help bolster the endowment, as well as documented a gift of the majority of their estate.

The additional funding for the endowment will increase funds available for oncology resident research, leading to improved care and treatments for cancer patients like Doc and Rubie.

Doc’s brain tumor was discovered in 2006, and shortly after, under the care of Drs. Janean Fidel and Rance Sellon at WSU, he began receiving radiation treatments with the teaching hospital’s linear accelerator. His cancer went into remission for four years, during which time Paul and Lynnea welcomed an Aussie puppy into the family. Picked from a litter of 11, the puppy, whom they would name Rubie, immediately stole their hearts.

Unfortunately, Doc passed away in 2010 after his cancer returned and additional treatments proved to be ineffective.

Rubie enjoyed being an only dog for a handful of years before Paul and Lynnea adopted Tobie, a 6-year-old Aussie, and an Aussie pup they named Ellie, all during a three-month span. They later adopted Tip, a young Catahoula, to round out the pack.

“Rubie went from being an only dog to the alpha of the pack,” Paul said. “They have had a lot of fun together and they love playing in the woods on our land.”

In 2020, Toby passed away at the age of 13. Then, in June of 2023, a growth was found on Rubie’s right cheek. After a local veterinarian said the growth appeared to be melanoma, Paul and Lynnea immediately contacted WSU.

“I emailed Dr. Fidel on a Thursday night, and I had a reply by the next day telling us to have her in on Monday. You can’t even get that kind of response in human medicine,” Lynnea said.

Rubie, an Australian shepherd, sits with her owner, Lynnea Thibodaux, right, as they talk with Dr. Rance Sellon, a professor and oncology veterinarian at WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Rubie, an Australian shepherd, sits with her owner, Lynnea Thibodaux, right, as they talk with Dr. Rance Sellon, a professor and oncology veterinarian at WSU’s Veterinary Teaching Hospital (photo by College of Veterinary Medicine/Ted S. Warren).

During the ensuing year, Rubie underwent several rounds of chemotherapy, primarily under the care of Fidel and Dr. Fernanda Gimenez, who is completing her oncology residency WSU.

“WSU, it just feels like family. I just have the utmost trust in them,” Lynnea said. “It has been nice getting to know the oncology team. Dr. Sellon and Dr. Fidel — they are just awesome. And Dr. Gimenez, she’s such an angel.”

Sadly, Rubie passed away in early June, just shy of her 16th birthday, but her family made every day count.

“Her loss leaves a big hole in our hearts, but she left us with so much to remember and cherish,” Lynnea said. “Rubie and our other dogs really are our family. We are just so grateful for every day we have with them.”

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