Most everyone enjoys a story with a happy ending – this one has two. A young boy diagnosed with leukemia finally gets his wish and an orphaned puppy gets a loving home. Twelve-year-old Jacob Galbraith, a two time cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient hopes for a dog and scores the perfect pup.
Not so long ago the thought of running around outside playing with a puppy seemed a bit far-fetched to Jacob Galbraith and his mother Heather Nash. Twelve-year-old Jacob lives in Lead with his mom - he has been in and out of the hospital for a good part of his life.
Jacob’s mother Heather says he was diagnosed early on.
“When he was four and eight months old it was November of 2005, he was diagnosed with leukemia – acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL). His blood cells were very, very weak – they were actually surprised he was up walking and talking – they were amazed,” says Nash.
Mom Heather says Jacob is a fighter. She says they supported each other and always hoped for the best.
As Jacob’s battle with leukemia went on, he says spending time with his mom and playing his XBox provided some relief, but he says he just couldn’t shake the feeling that someday he wanted to get a dog. He had wanted a puppy for years, but due to his illness it hasn’t been possible.
“My mom, promised me that we’d get a puppy, we’re just going to have to find the right house,” says Galbraith.
Jacob’s health began to improve and the doctors were encouraged. Finally it seemed as though Jacob’s dream of getting a puppy was becoming a reality.
“When we went for his one-year check-up they said systems good, T cells growing, Jacob looks great, his blood work is great,” says Nash.
I said, “Can we get a puppy?”
They said, “Absolutely.”
The two were excited to get some normalcy back in their lives, though they would find out it is short-lived.
“He was actually cancer free for close to six years before he relapsed at the age of ten. It was the same leukemia – it was the same cancer and they said it came back. If it comes back that’s dangerous. He could relapse again. So they suggested a bone marrow transplant. So we went forward, he went forward, he fought. He was amazing,” says Nash.
Heather says Jacob stayed positive.
“He had a bone marrow transplant and a year later they said, you’re all clear, you can get a puppy. And we began looking for the perfect dog,” says Nash.
Jacob had a dog in mind, and since they were finally living in a dog-friendly home, he didn’t delay.
“I was looking for a pretty good-sized dog that would be playful, able to get me up and do stuff,” says Galbraith.
Jacob and Heather began looking for a dog to adopt at local humane societies, but Jacob says he didn’t see any pups that caught his eye. They kept looking.
Jacob says while in Deadwood they ran across a booth for the Oglala Pet Project, or OPP – a non-profit dog and cat rescue organization from the Pine Ridge reservation. OPP staff members were in Deadwood trying to raise awareness of its services - animal rescue, re-homing, and spay & neuter. OPP had brought some orphaned animals with them in hopes of finding them homes.
Jacob says it was fate.
“I looked at the puppies and then I saw Yankee and then I knew it was him,” says Galbraith.
The meeting may have been love at first sight.
“You could say that but I just liked him because he would just come right on to my lap and just lay on me,” says Galbraith.
Jacob says there was an immediate bond.
OPP Director Andrea Goodman agrees.
“Some matches are just perfect and meant to be and I think that Jacob and Yankee was that same way. They were meant to be together. He was meant to have a dog. And Yankee was the lucky pup he got to pick," says Goodman.
Because of certain OPP adoption requirements Jacob couldn’t take Yankee home that day – and he was disappointed.
OPP staff members knew how important Yankee was to Jacob so they worked with Jacob’s mom to speed up the adoption process. She says Jacob would be playing ball at the time they planned to bring Yankee.
Jacob was playing on a little league team – named the Yankees.
“So we’ll show up at the game with the puppy and surprise him. And they came with Yankee and Jacob was out there practicing and with his team, and all the sudden he looks over and sees his mother, his grandmother, and everybody with a puppy in their arms,” says Nash.
Jacob says he was surprised. He also says Yankee remembered him.
“He was actually really small so he wasn’t really good at running around and stuff but he was excited to see me again,” says Galbraith.
Six weeks have passed since Jacob and Heather brought Yankee home. Jacob says Yankee is smart and learns quickly. He says Yankee enjoys fetching and playing with Sisco the neighbor dog.
Heather says he has been a good companion for her son. She says having Yankee has been a treat.
“I’ve only adopted older dogs so this is my first puppy experience and it’s been wonderful. I’ve enjoyed it. I’m exhausted but I love it. I enjoy him very much,” says Nash.
Heather says she’s glad her son’s wish of owning a dog finally came true.
The final score is two happy endings - Jacob is now cancer free and is producing healthy T cells and Yankee hit a home with a loving home and a new best friend.