This Vet Oncologist Treated Dogs for Decades. Then She Got a Cancer Diagnosis of Her Own.

In her book, Sit, Stay, Heal, Dr. Renee Alsarraf of Montclair explores how lessons from furry friends helped her along her journey.

Dr. Renee Alsarraf with her dog
Veterinary oncologist Dr. Renee Alsarraf fought cancer alongside her family dog, Newton. Photo courtesy of Joseph Frazz

Montclair-based veterinary oncologist Dr. Renee Alsarraf has been in practice since 1991, treating pets with cancer while also helping families worried for their furry companions. But when she was diagnosed with metastatic cancer in 2018, she realized how much her own patients could help her in return.

In her book, Sit, Stay, Heal: What Dogs Can Teach Us About Living Well, Alsarraf writes about the various dogs she has treated in her career and what she’s learned from them to help her on her own journey, including her own childhood dogs, Dickens and Drummer.

“Dogs are never judgmental about us,” Alsarraf says.

She also tells about her family dog, Newton, who was diagnosed with cancer only months after her own diagnosis.

“I didn’t want to believe it,” Alsarraf says. “It was hard to go through that because you think of your dog as your companion, not someone who’s going to get chemotherapy on the same day that you’re getting chemotherapy.”

Alsarraf hopes that the lessons she learned from treating dogs will help anyone who reads her book.

“One lesson is that we’re all better together,” Alsarraf explains. “[Another lesson] is that dogs survive out in the wild because they are a pack, and everyone supports each other. And dogs are never judgmental about us. They might love us, they might miss us, but they never look at us in a judgmental way.”

Alsarraf’s cancer is now in remission and she currently lives in Montclair with her husband, son, and their boxer, Dusty.

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