Adopted Dog Helps Woman Through Breast Cancer Treatment and Beyond

When Whitney needed treatment for breast cancer during COVID-19, her adopted dog gave her a dose of hope, healing, and love.

Whitney + Dash and Duncan

At 37, Whitney was diagnosed with breast cancer. As she approached the fight of her life, she adopted a Terrier named Dash who gave her a reason to get out of bed each day and smile. Dash was by Whitney’s side through chemotherapy and COVID-19, and together they have fostered countless animals in need—including Whitney’s second adopted pup, Duncan.

"I'm smitten with my furry little bookends—Dash and Duncan—perfectly opening and closing the most challenging and scary chapter in my life."

I was diagnosed with breast cancer at age 37. An indelible fear quickly envelopes once the word “CANCER” falls from a doctor’s lips. I was living alone, in a new city, more than a thousand miles away from family, and (unknowingly at the time) simultaneously confronting another unknown adversary: COVID-19. The pandemic shut down the entire U.S. within just a few weeks of my diagnosis. I’d now face six months of chemo and quarantine—simultaneously and alone—without the supportive presence of my friends and family.

Rapidly approaching the fight of my life, I knew I’d need companionship and a reason to get out of bed and smile each day. Just before the nationwide lockdown, I ran to Petco for a Proverbs 12:10 adoption event and instantly fell in love with a spunky little terrier named Dash. Wondering how anyone could resist that sweet face, I filled out an adoption application right away. Callie, a Proverbs employee and fellow breast cancer survivor, called within just a few days: Dash was coming home with me!

Dash was my constant companion through COVID, chemo, radiation, surgeries, and quarantine for an entire year. He got me out of bed to go get the exercise I needed. He snuggled with me when I came home from chemo feeling sick and exhausted. He made me laugh with his goofy “zoomy” antics. He became the “Mayor of 52nd Street,” greeting all my neighbors who now know him by name. I’m certain that he played a critical role in my healing process and full recovery from breast cancer.

Dash and I have fostered many other Proverbs pups over the past year—Jax, Oreo, Ninnie Muggins, Alexis, Buddy—each bringing a new little spark to our lives before moving on to their forever homes. Just before my final breast reconstruction surgery, a litter of ten beautiful babies were born into foster care through Proverbs. Although I was still recovering, I believe in the joy and magical power of healing that animals bring into our lives. Half of the litter, plus their mama, came to stay with me throughout the month following my reconstruction surgery. Although I promised myself it wouldn’t happen, one adorable little boy stole my heart. Duncan became my first foster failure, and Dash couldn’t have been prouder and more excited to have a new little brother.

I’m smitten with my furry little bookends—Dash and Duncan—perfectly opening and closing the most challenging and scary chapter in my life. They helped me transcend the loneliness and solitude that came to so many single people during the COVID quarantine (particularly for the elderly and immunocompromised). I’m so grateful to be alive today to say that I’ve survived breast cancer and am thriving on the other side with my two new best friends.

In the words of Thom Jones, “Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them, filling an emptiness we don’t even know we have.”

Each year, Petco Love Stories invites adopters to share how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Whitney won Proverbs 12:10 Animal Rescue in Burns, Tennessee a 2021 Love Stories award.