Summer came into my life one month after I bought my first house. I was on my own and knew that not only did I want a dog, I wanted it to be a therapy dog. When I went to meet Summer I picked her out because she came running around the yard, ran right to me, and sat. She was 8 weeks old and even then there was something about her eyes; they see into your soul.
I immediately began training her and we continue to train weekly, never having stopped. At 1 year and 4 months she passed the Delta, now Pet Partners therapy certification. She is now 9 1/2 years old.
During the years, she has visited weekly at over 12 facilities ranging from personal care homes, reading programs, hospitals, and Millersville University. She has logged between 8-10 hours a month for 9 years. During the 9 years she has lived with me she has also spent many hours in an Intensive Day Treatment Facility working with kids diagnosed with mental health disorders and behavioral issues. In therapy work alone she has affected hundreds of lives.
In 2010, Summer and I received our certification as a crisis response team. We currently work with National Animal Assisted Crisis Response and have continued to make a difference for hundreds of others. Summer and I had the honor of assisting the Salvation Army in New York City, working with family members at the 10 year anniversary of 9/11 with those who had lost loved ones. In 2011, Summer and I were one of two canine teams that assisted the students of Manheim Central High School in Lancaster County, PA after four students and members of the football team were tragically killed in a car accident. In that one day alone, Summer assisted hundreds of faculty and students as they started their grieving process.
Summer and I are also members of the Lancaster County Critical Incident Stress Management Team and work with first responders throughout the county to assist them in dealing with the tragedies that they face in their jobs. This past Spring, Summer assisted me in telling the kids I work with that one of our own staff members had passed away. Although our facility is a therapeutic placement, Summer helped the kids face their loss and start their grieving process.
This brings me to the current obstacle Summer and I are facing. A few months ago, Summer had a small bump on her neck. Thinking it was harmless, I didn't do anything. As the months went by, it seemed to start growing and draining. On October 11, I had our veterinarian aspirate it and was told it needed to come off immediately. On 10/14, Summer had what was now a marble size lump taken out of her neck area with 4 cm margins. On 10/20, I was told it came back as a carcinoma and the margins were not clear. On 10/21, she had a second surgery and a wider margin was taken from the area. Her chest x-rays were clear and all bloodwork was normal. However, the cancer was ruled as an apocrine carcinoma and labeled as high grade. Due to the high grade level, surgery would not be enough and after meeting with an oncologist additional systemic therapy in the form of chemotherapy has been deemed necessary in order to prevent reoccurrence. She will require 5 rounds of chemotherapy over a 15 week period, with bloodwork required after every round of chemotherapy, along with medications and follow up radiographs. This will be on top of the two surgeries that she has already had.
Summer has no idea she is sick and continues to face everyday with her instinct to help others guiding her way. Due to her zest for life, showing no signs of sickness, and her impact on our community, I have no option, but to help her fight. To steal a tag line, I am asking for you all to help Summer "fight like a girl" so we can pay it forward by continuing to provide comfort to others. All funds donated will be used to cover medical costs of treatment. If more then necessary is achieved funds will be donated to research for canine cancer or to help other working dogs diagnosed with cancer.
- Deborah Stelmok
- Brittany Keen
- Julie Vandegrift