- Associated Press - Wednesday, January 22, 2014

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Raphael, an emaciated stray dog whose progress has been monitored by thousands of Santa Fe Animal Shelter Facebook fans, has lymphoma, shelter officials said Wednesday.

The cancer diagnosis comes after the dog had been making steady progress, going from 45 pounds when he was found in October to more than 80 pounds last month when he was released to a foster home.

Based on Raphael’s daily improvements, shelter officials had been optimistic. Last week, however, a swelling appeared near his shoulder and tissue samples revealed the lymphoma. Weight loss can be a symptom of the illness.

Shelter spokesman Ben Swan said the dog is happy, but has lost 5 pounds in the last week. Swan says Raphael will remain in hospice care at his current foster home.

“We are going to try to keep him happy until the very end,” Swan said. “We are not going to give up on this guy.”

While it is unknown how long Raphael is expected to live, shelter medical director Dr. Jennifer Steketee says she’s treated many dogs with lymphoma that have had a good quality of life for eight months to a year after diagnosis.

Raphael, described by Steketee in the past as a “New Mexico giant red dog,” was found in Pojoaque. Steketee has estimated the dog’s age as around 8. The initial posting of his arrival generated more than 200,000 hits on the shelter’s website.

Mary Martin, the shelter’s executive director, said the amount of support and love shown for the dog has been humbling.

A special fund was created in his name to handle his medical costs, along with other shelter animals that need long-term veterinary care.

“Raphael’s story has touched so many people,” Martin said. “He has brought so much joy to so many people, and we are thankful for everyone’s cards, letters and support.”

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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