Allison Mahoney holds a photograph of her seven-year-old German shepherd, Buddy, at her home in Staten Island, New York. In June, Buddy was the first dog in the U.S. to test positive for the coronavirus. He died on July 11.
Buddy liked dog stuff: running through the sprinklers, going on long car rides, swimming in the lake. He cuddled the Mahoneys—his owners and family—at the end of tough days. He humored them when they dressed him up as a bunny for Halloween. He was a protective big brother to 10-month-old Duke, the family’s other German shepherd. He loved everyone. He lived up to his name.
In mid-April, right before his seventh birthday, Buddy began struggling to breathe.
Six weeks later, he became the first dog in the United States to be confirmed positive for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19. On July 11, Buddy died.
Medical records provided by the Mahoneys and reviewed for National Geographic by two veterinarians who were not involved in his treatment indicate that Buddy likely had lymphoma, a type of cancer, which would explain the symptoms he suffered just before his death. The Mahoneys didn’t learn that lymphoma was being considered as the probable cause of his symptoms until the day of his death, they say, when additional bloodwork results confirmed it. It’s unclear whether cancer made him more susceptible to contracting the coronavirus, or if the virus was responsible for any of his symptoms, or if it was just a case of coincidental timing. Buddy’s family, like thousands of families grappling with the effects of the coronavirus around the world, is left with many questions and few answers.
Until now, Buddy’s identity, the details of his case, and his death were not public. A...