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 Tulsa, a German Shepherd puppy, to be her therapy dog. But when Geril’s cancer flared up again, it turned out that the 2-year-old dog, Tulsa, had an even more critical role to play.
Nowadays, Tulsa has received additional training as a service dog, which means she can accompany her human to chemotherapy treatments. But although Tulsa initially trained as a therapy pet, the 2-year-old dog offers much more than mental and emotional support.
One of Tulsa’s most essential functions has been helping her human overcome her extreme fear of needles, which often leads her to faint. But these terrifying episodes have become a non-issue with Tulsa in tow, because the dog can smell the chemical reaction that these episodes trigger. Now Tulsa just politely places one paw on Geril’s leg to warn her she has anywhere from 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 seems unlikely Tulsa would contract the disease, but humans have also infected their dogs in some cases. Geril just 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 might allow the service dog to resume her role as Geril’s essential role at Geril’s side. The suit is intended to prevent shedding, but also looked like it could help keep Tulsa safe from any hospital germs and eliminate the need for Geril to give her dog a full-body bath after an already exhausting chemotherapy session.
“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,” she told TODAY. (Tulsa wasn’t initially sold on her new get-up, but this very good girl apparently came around with extra playtime and positivity training.)
But the most important part, of course, is that Tulsa can finally able to accompany her human to chemotherapy treatments, where her steadying presence once again keeps her human 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.”⠀⠀