Veterinary medicine team gives service dog a second chance

Mizzou veterinarians help Brady the golden retriever beat cancer and get back to his family.


girl in wheelchair with her mom, dad and service dog, with two veterinary health employees in the background

From back left: Employees Max Latifi and Owen Skinner, and the Fiorelli family photographed with Brady after he was released.


Jan. 21, 2021

Natalie Fiorelli, a 13-year-old from Columbia, Illinois, has made incredible progress since she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a baby. Along the way, Natalie has had the assistance of service dogs to help her progress. Her current helper is a 2-year-old golden retriever named Brady ─ named for NFL quarterback and Natalie’s favorite football player, Tom Brady. Brady supports Natalie in a variety of ways, such as keeping her balance when she is standing, running to her for emotional support when she is upset and even alerting her parents when she is in need.

For nearly Brady’s entire life, he was at Natalie’s side. That is, until he was diagnosed with cancer.

Based on the recommendation of their veterinarian, the Fiorelli family turned to the University of Missouri Veterinary Health Center to help save Brady.

Owen Skinner, an assistant professor of small animal surgical oncology, and Jason Couto, a medical oncology resident, diagnosed Brady with an osteosarcoma, an aggressive bone tumor.

After a complex surgery involving removal of the tumor and part of five of his ribs, Brady returned home to his loving family. He continues to do chemotherapy at the MU Veterinary Health Center.

Though he is not out of the woods just yet, Julie Fiorelli, Natalie’s mom, says the family is just happy to still have Natalie’s helper around. “Brady is himself right now, and Natalie is just as happy as can be,” she said.

Read more from the College of Veterinary Medicine


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