BELLFLOWER — Freeway got a second chance in life when the Mosgrove family adopted him, and last year he got a third one.
Struck by an aggressive cancer on the front of his face, the pitbull-boxer mix underwent a surgery that removed his nose, upper lip and upper jaw — yet left him still able to do essential doggie things like eat and smell.
If his new look might be a little different, well, he hasn't noticed.
"He's really a very cool dog," says Dr. Laura Selmic, a veterinary surgeon at the University of Illinois Veterinary Teaching Hospital.
Tawnya Mosgrove of Bellflower says she and her family came to adopt Freeway when the 6-year-old was a puppy, after someone threw him out of a moving vehicle along Interstate 74.
Luckily for Freeway, a woman saw it happen, stopped, found him in a ditch and brought him to a rescue service. The Mosgroves were going to foster Freeway for a while, Mosgrove says, "but my husband (Greg) couldn't let him go."
Freeway's next stroke of bad luck arrived last fall when his nose swelled up. His veterinarian was convinced it was bone cancer, Mosgrove said.
With a poor prognosis, Mosgrove took Freeway to the UI hospital to be evaluated, was given options, and within a week they had a plan. Some options would have given Freeway about a year of life, Mosgrove said, but the radical maxillectomy surgery he had gave him the best chance to survive.
Selmic, who specializes in soft tissue and oncologic surgery, said after she removed Freeway's nose and front of his lips, she created a new nose opening.
The adjustment to his face won't cause him pain and his prognosis is good, she said, though he'll have to be monitored every few months for the next year to make sure the cancer doesn't grow back.
A dog looks different after a surgery like this, Selmik says, "but the dog still feels himself, and he has a very good quality of life."
Today, Freeway, one of three Mosgrove family dogs, still has a great sense of smell and can eat his kibble. And while he can't catch a ball or pick up big toys any more, he is adjusting to playing with different toys.
"You can see almost his entire tongue and his lower teeth," she said, "but we're so used to it by now I don't even think about it."