Dog at center of cruelty case diagnosed with cancer

The extremely emaciated dog found in Pojoaque in October was making remarkable progress, but a shocking discovery this week shows Rafael is in worse shape than anyone expected.

Raphael weighed in at 77 pounds on Friday at the Santa Fe Animal Shelter, a far cry from when he was brought in this October, weighing just 45 pounds.

His original owner, Michael Riggs, came to News 13 at the time claiming Raphael was so skinny because he was sick.

Veterinarians, though, couldn’t find an underlying medical condition.

Riggs was cited for animal cruelty.

“It seemed like there were just other things going on with him and he wasn’t responding like a regular starved dog would,” Dr. Janet Kramer told News 13 Friday.

Raphael grew stronger, winning hearts around the world, and moving to a foster home.

This Wednesday, days after the shelter announced they hoped to adopt Raphael out soon, he was diagnosed with lymphoma. Veterinarians tell News 13 weight loss can be a symptom of lymphoma, but they aren’t sure if he was emaciated because of the cancer.

“It’s hard to say whether the lymphoma was the initiating event, or if there was something else,” Kramer said.

The Santa Fe County Sheriff’s Office said the citations against Riggs will stick because he had an obligation to seek treatment for his dog.

Shelter staff said Raphael isn’t a good candidate for chemotherapy or other invasive treatments, so he’ll live out the rest of his life with his foster family.

“We’re hoping he’s got maybe a good year, and he’ll stay with me,” his foster mother Claire Leonard told News 13. “We’re just going to have him have a good life.” provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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