Carl Hofmann found Bruiser in a York County SPCA kennel about seven years ago while he was killing time between work appointments.
He didn't go in expecting to adopt a dog. But there was Bruiser, a skinny puppy, "all legs" and playful.
Hofmann reached through the metal bars to scratch Bruiser between the eyes.
"When I stopped petting him, he started crying," Hofmann said. "And he wouldn't stop crying."
That was it. Carl went to the front desk and asked to adopt Bruiser.
Today, Bruiser is a laidback, affectionate pooch who sleeps with his parents in bed each night. He's a big fan of food and visits from other canine friends and young children.
"He's just a happy dog," Hofmann said.
A few weeks ago, Hofmann's wife, Danielle Hofmann, said she was rubbing Bruiser's neck when she felt two golfball-sized lumps. Just a few days earlier, Danielle said, she's sure there weren't any lumps.
In July, a veterinarian diagnosed Bruiser with lymphoma.
"I thought a piece of my heart had been ripped out," Danielle Hofmann said.
Lymphoma moves fast, the doctors said. But, if treated early enough, Bruiser could survive and live a healthy post-treatment life.
Carl Hofmann said he immediately began searching for treatment options. He discovered canine oncologists aren't exactly easy to find.
"I was calling 30, 40 vets a day," he said. "You hear cancer, the first thing you think is death. And losing him would kill me."
Finally, they located an oncologist in Maryland who could treat Bruiser.
Bruiser had his first round of chemotherapy July 22 and his second round July 29. He'll continue treatments once a week until November, with a few weeks off to rest.
Treatment is not cheap. Bruiser's chemotherapy will cost about $3,000.
But the Hofmanns, who live in Dover, said they're willing to do whatever it takes to save Bruiser. They've spent about $1,600 so far.
"I've cleared out my 401K," Carl Hofmann said.
The couple, both 34, said they've been through their fair share of hard times - from job losses to medical issues.
But nothing compares to the pain of possibly losing Bruiser.
The Hofmanns began searching for help, and they found the Magic Bullet Fund - a nonprofit that provides fundraising assistance to families with dogs diagnosed with cancer.
The group donated $750 to kick off the online campaign, which ends Aug. 28.
So far, Bruiser seems to be doing well. He's a bit more lethargic than usual, but he's eating and using his outdoor bathroom.
Bruiser's lost a little weight, but that's normal. Besides, his parents said, Bruiser could stand to lose a few pounds.
Better yet, veterinarians believe Bruiser is responding well to the chemotherapy.
"I believe in miracles again," Danielle said.
The couple said they worried whether their pleas for help would fall on deaf ears because Bruiser is a pit bull.
"They get such a bad rap," Danielle said. "But he's nothing but love."
So far, the pit-bull stigma doesn't seem to have mattered. Family members, friends and complete strangers have donated money to help the Hofmanns pay Bruiser's medical bills.
News organizations responded quickly to a press release about Bruiser's plight, something Danielle said she found hard to believe.
"I feel loved," she said. "When it comes to animals and dogs, people just come out of nowhere."
To help the Hofmanns, visit www.themagicbulletfund.org. Donations are tax-deductible.
- Reach Erin James at email@example.com.