Jon Schell and Bruno

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With kennel cough, an untreated skin condition and a bad case of wanderlust, Bruno was not an easy sell at a Philadelphia shelter. But Jon Schell saw something extraordinary in the handsome pit bull. The problem was convincing his girlfriend, Katie.

“I sent a picture of him to Katie and she said, basically, whatever you do, do not bring that dog home,” says Jon. So just how he ended up in their Audubon home is still something of the mystery of love. Once Katie met Bruno her hesitation vanished and her heart melted. Bruno knew how work his magic. The big, playful pit was one of the family.

“When we adopted him he was not vaccinated and not housetrained,” says Jon, 39. “Dr. Shreiber got him up to date with everything in early January 2015. He was absolutely fantastic. He and his whole staff are amazing.”

Still, Bruno had to wear a diaper in the house until close to March. At the time, Jon was working as a systems operator and had a rotating shift that started at 10 in the evening. “I would get home at 7 in the morning and he would still be in his diaper, so I would have to take him out.”

One morning there had been a flash freeze. Jon opened the door to let Bruno out and the burly dog burst out of the house. “I took off after him, still wearing my boxer shorts,” says Jon. Suddenly, he slipped on the ice. Although Jon was able to jump up and finally catch Bruno, the fall left with a limited range of motion in his right leg.

“It was hard to be mad at Bruno, because dogs do dumb things sometimes,” he says. For months, Jon tried to determine the source of the pain. “I was trying everything to relieve it.” After many doctor visits, he finally had an MRI.

“I’ll never forget the day,” says Jon. “It was June 29, 2015, one day after my birthday.” His mom and Katie had come with him to hear the doctor’s report. The news was not good. “He said ‘you have cancer in your kidney.’ I felt like someone had sucked all the air out of the room.”

Jon underwent surgery, treatment and a grueling recovery at Lankenau Hospital. Now in remission and strong again, Jon believes that if it were not for Bruno’s wild run across the icy yard, he may never have discovered the cancer.

“That dog saved my life,” he says. Holding back the tears, Jon thinks back on the day he spotted the tough-looking dog alone in the shelter. “I guess you could say, I saved Bruno and Bruno saved me.”

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