Christina & Gus: The Best Present Ever

I’ve been a Pet Partners handler since 2016 with two of my leonbergers, first with Gulliver and now with his son Gus. I wanted to share my story and also say thank you to Pet Partners for their gracious assistance we recently received to help Gus battle cancer, with their Cancer Care Fund.

Gus is a 5-year-old leonberger and my absolute best working partner. His sweet nature and gentle soul have made him an excellent therapy dog and he truly loves his visits to the hospital to see all his friends, and make new ones. It’s amazing to see what a 140 lb. fluffy dog can do for someone in need of a little love and kindness in the midst of an often chaotic hospital. I’m always honored to be on the other end of his leash while we’re on duty.

Last summer Gus was unexpectedly diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma, a very aggressive and deadly cancer. I was shocked, devastated, and absolutely heartbroken. I’d lost multiple dogs to this awful cancer before and knew time was critical if Gus was to have a fighting chance.

Thankfully we caught it very early and our awesome local vet did surgery to remove the tumor, and then referred us to an oncologist for further treatment. The oncology team was wonderful and they were very optimistic that we could buy Gus more quality time as his X-rays and ultrasounds revealed no sign of the cancer spreading yet.

Just before Christmas 2022 Gus completed his final chemotherapy infusion and we were thrilled to hear we could officially go into “monitoring” mode for his cancer. I don’t know how long our victory will last, but we’re going to take the win while we can and make every day count! Being given more time with my beloved Gus was definitely the best Christmas present ever.

A leonberger sits on a beach with the words "I Beat Cancer" written in the sand in front of him.

When Gus started chemo we went on hiatus for our therapy dog visits. When I asked his vet what we should do afterwards, she told me to let Gus live his life—and do whatever makes him happy. Medically he was cleared to return to duty, but I debated about if he’d want to. So I pulled his therapy dog vest out of the closet and showed it to him…and oh, the happy dance he did! He was so excited to see his working vest, so I called our volunteer coordinator the next day and got us back on the schedule.

Our visits these days are a little shorter and slower, but he’s so happy and proud to be back visiting all his friends at the hospital. Thank you, Pet Partners, for the help in making all of this possible. ❤️

(Photo taken before he started chemo….he’s not quite as fluffy these days, but he still has the same happy smile on his face! 🥰)

—submitted by handler Christina Merten