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Sanford therapy dog battling cancer with help of community

A therapy dog who lives to help others, is now in need of a helping hand this holiday season as he battles cancer.

SANFORD (WGME) -- A therapy dog known for helping others is now in need of a helping hand, as he battles cancer this holiday season.

One has four legs, the other has two. Both answer to the name, "Chief."

"People want to know whether they're talking to me or the dog sometimes, but you know, he had the name first, so we thought we'd keep it," said Steve Benotti.

He heads the Sanford Fire Department, while his yellow lab works as a therapy dog.

"It's really just his warmth and his demeanor," said Benotti. "And it seems like he's full of love and just wants to pass that onto people."

Rescued from a high kill shelter as a puppy, the seven-year-old is now certified to help people at the highest level.

"He's been into hospitals, Alzheimers units, nursing homes," Benotti said. "He's visited cancer patients."

In a sudden turn of events, Chief has become a cancer patient.

"What they call an Ectopic Thyroid Tumor in his right ventricle," Benotti said.

It's a tumor in his heart. Benotti said the diagnosis came four weeks ago, when congestive heart failure caused Chief to gain 20 pounds in water weight.

He's getting chemotherapy, but surgery is the only cure.

"They give him about an 80 percent chance of recovery," said Benotti.

It's scheduled for January with a specialist in Colorado who plans to remove the tumor.

"He's got a lot of people behind him, rooting for him," said Steve Johnson, a friend and also the fire chief in Acton.

He and one of his firefighters started a Go Fund Me page in an attempt to raise $20,000 dollars to help with medical expenses.

"The outpouring has been amazing," said Johnson.

When Johnson's dad was sick last year, he said Chief came to visit, bringing comfort and smiles.

"He really spends his whole life giving in a way only a dog can,"Johnson said.

With more than $1,000 dollars raised in just a few days, the community is showing its appreciation.

"I think he knows he's on this earth for a different reason, and so he gives back to people in all different ways and just enjoys doing it," said Benotti.

If Chief gets the chance, you can be sure, that's exactly what he'll continue to do.

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