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Missing boxer helped couple cope with cancer

Wed., Oct. 24, 2007

When Michael Buletti was fighting prostate cancer two years ago, his dog Reno’s companionship helped him through.

Last winter, when Buletti’s fiancée, Leslie Andersen, was battling breast cancer, Reno would lay by her side in bed.

On Saturday, the 9-year-old boxer ran off during a hike – and the Mead couple are beside themselves. Reno needs human medication to treat an irregular heartbeat. Buletti is offering a $1,000 reward.

“I just want to give something back to him that he gave to us,” Buletti said.

The cancer survivors walked miles on Saturday with their two other boxers – Millie, 11, and Gretta, 6 months – trying to find Reno. They walked more on Sunday and put up lost-dog fliers. They received a tip Sunday that Reno was seen near North Fairview Road and East Silver Spurs Lane, Buletti said, but that’s it.

“I’d walk away from my house just to give him his medicine,” Buletti said.

Diagnosed at Washington State University with boxer cardiomyopathy, Reno takes human heart medicine to normalize his irregular heartbeat. He hasn’t had it since Saturday.

“He could live for six months or he could die any minute,” said Buletti, a long-haul truck driver.

Buletti, 53, knows the feeling. He found out he had prostate cancer in October 2005 and underwent treatment through that December. It ruined Buletti financially – he lost his brand-new delivery truck and nearly lost his house. But Reno was by Buletti’s side, riding with him as he drove deliveries throughout the Inland Northwest.

That was what the former show dog had done for years.

“Reno and I, we crisscrossed the country many times,” Buletti said.

He met Andersen over Labor Day weekend 2006, and the two hit it off. Within weeks, Andersen learned she had breast cancer.

Starting that November, she had two mastectomies and underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapy until February. The 50-year-old had community support from Roosevelt Elementary School in Spokane, where she has taught physical education for nine years, but Reno was her “Godsend,” she said.

“When I was upstairs laying down,” Andersen said, crying. “Reno would come up and lay down next to me and make me feel better. He made me not feel so alone.”

Buletti can be reached at (509) 991-6896.


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