At some point during her battle with Ewing’s sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer, a 25-year-old woman named Sydnee Geril decided to adopt a dog. After 9 months of chemotherapy and grueling hospital treatments, the young Florida woman noticed that everything seemed better when therapy pets were around.
So when her cancer finally went into remission, the young woman adopted a German Shepherd puppy to be her therapy dog. But when Geril’s cancer flared up again, it turned out the now 2-year-old dog, Tulsa, had an even more critical role to play.
Nowadays, Tulsa works as a service dog, which means she’s received the training to help her human in certain medical situations and accompanies Geril to chemotherapy treatments. One of Tulsa’s most essential functions, in addition to helping her human quell anxiety and panic attacks, has been helping Geril overcome her extreme fear of needles, which often leads her to faint.
But these terrifying episodes have become less of an issue Tulsa in tow, because the dog can smell the chemical reaction that these episodes trigger. According to TODAY, Tulsa just politely places one paw on Geril’s leg to warn her she has 10 to 30 minutes to find a quiet place to lie down before her next dizzy spell.
But even though taking Tulsa to chemotherapy treatments has been a game-changer, Geril was reluctant to expose her dog to any potential health issues during the coronavirus pandemic. It seemed unlikely Tulsa would contract the disease, but after hearing about humans who infected their dogs, Geril didn’t want to take the risk.
“I went into a wheelchair full time because I was afraid to be up and walking around because the hospital’s rules are you can’t have any visitors,” she told TODAY. “I didn’t want to risk passing out with nobody around.”
But undergoing chemotherapy without any friends, family, or your beloved service dog is an isolating experience, and Geril was desperately missing the steady support of her canine companion.
Fortunately, she happened to discover a “super suit” — aka a full-body leotard for dogs — that looked like it could serve a dual purpose. The suit is actually intended to prevent shedding and canine anxiety, but Geril thought it could keep Tulsa safe from any hospital germs and eliminate the need to give her dog a full-body bath each time they visited the hospital.
“It’s a new world now and we’re finding new ways to cope with it, and I’m just so happy that we can find new uses for products like that,” Tulsa’s owner told TODAY. (Tulsa wasn’t initially sold on her new get-up, apparently, but this very good girl apparently came around with extra playtime and positivity training.)
The best part, of course, is that Tulsa can once again accompany her human to chemotherapy treatments, where her steadying presence helps keep Geril happy, healthy, and safe.
“She has absolutely blown me away at how quickly she picked everything right back up. It’s like she never missed a beat,” Geril wrote on Instagram. “I can already see my quality of life improving. I’m so blessed and thankful to have my girl by my side again.”⠀⠀
J. Swanson is a writer, traveler, and animal-enthusiast based in Seattle, an appropriately pet-crazed city where dog or cat ownership even outweighs the number of kids. When the weather permits, she likes to get outside and explore the rest of the Pacific Northwest, always with a coffee in hand.
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