For some weeks now, I have attempted to draw attention to a powerful story that not only recognizes the importance of canines in our lives, but draws attention to the current real life effects of a seemingly never ending war. Unfortunately, the solitary newspaper article in the San Antonio Express-News (noted below) failed to be picked up by any other news organizations or, more importantly, any local Texas TV stations. And, it hasn’t been for a lack of trying. Yet I know that without such coverage, there is absolutely no chance for folks to even become aware of the story.
To spur tax-deductible donations for HARLEY, the Land of PureGold Foundation has offered Ollie Plush Pups for donations of $50 or more. Yet, so many have turned down receiving this gift, instead wanting these pups presented to the soldiers at the Brooke Army Medical Center. We have begun sending pups to Andrea for this purpose, and will also be donating several more pups so that they can be given to soldiers as a memento from Harley.
This is the letter I just received that made me break down….
I wanted to thank you for the plush golden retriever, it is beautiful and I will always cherish it.
Harley is doing fine. He is still weak in his back legs due to the medication he is on. We have not been able to visit for the past few weeks. I did go today by myself so I could give a plush Golden Retriever that Lauren from San Antonio donated specifically for a soldier at BAMC.
I gave the pup to soldier named Frank. He was injured in Iraq a few days before Thanksgiving. His vehicle was hit by an explosive and he lost both of his legs. He is a remarkable young man. I told him about Harley and about the donation. He was genuinely touched. To see the smile on his face that this gift brought was priceless. He held the pup and I asked him if I could take a picture to share with your website and was happy to agree. Along with the pup I gave him a card with Harley’s paw print which said “Get well soon, Love Harley”.
If anyone has any media contacts or ideas about how the local folks in Texas or even National media can learn about this story, please do try to make something happen for this guy, shown here with Andrea.
The following letter is what I have sent out to the media. Anyone wanting to make further contacts can extract any or all of the information.
A recent article in the San Antonio Express-News detailed a very special boy who has been cheering up wounded Iraq soldiers at the Brooke Army Medical Center, despite the diagnosis of a brain tumor.
The Land of PureGold Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization, has set up the Helping Harley Fund ( http://harley.landofpuregold.com ), but attention to it has been very slight despite the news article and the foundation’s best efforts. I feel this inspiring story desperately needs television exposure in order for it to make a difference.
A recent article in the December 2006 issue of Scientific American ( Cancer Clues from Pet Dogs: Studies of pet dogs with cancer can offer unique help in the fight against human malignancies while also improving care for man’s best friend) details the importance of cancer treatment for our canines and how comparative oncology (study of cancers that occur similarly in humans and companion animals) is an important key for all of us, 2 or 4-footed.
The Gulf Coast Veterinary Specialists, who provided cutting age therapy for Harley, are among the top veterinary oncologists in the country, also offering very valuable clinical trials as part of a network of National Institutes of Health researchers.
Although Harley’s tale may seem to be merely a human interest story about a ailing Therapy Dog, it is truly so much more. For it can bring attention to some information that is valuable to all as statistics currently indicate that one in three persons, as well as small companion animals, will be diagnosed with cancer. It also details how some very special people, no matter the adversity, are trying to do their part to help assist our returning wounded soldiers.
HERE IS THE NEWSPAPER ARTICLE ABOUT HARLEY:
Care is an elixir for dog with tumor
By Rose Mary Budge, San Antonio Express-News Staff Writer
It’s past midnight when Andrea Hanssen finally dozes off, exhausted after studying for her nursing board exams. Then Harley starts to bark. Instantly awake, she hurries to his side and starts dispensing her special brand of medicine. “I tell him Mama’s here and everything is going to be all right,” Hanssen says.
Harley, Hanssen’s 11-year-old golden retriever and hospital-visitation partner, needs extra encouragement and TLC these days. The things he used to do so easily — romping, jumping up on the couch, going for walks with his owner — are harder now and, occasionally, it’s tough for his weakened back legs to get traction on the tile or wooden floor.
“He can’t quite figure out what’s going on,” Hanssen says, “and that’s why I think he gets a little anxious at night and barks. I give him Valium to calm him if it’s really needed. But mostly I just stroke those wonderful golden ears and lie down by his side until he goes to sleep with his head between his paws.”
Harley has a brain tumor — cerebellar meningioma, the veterinarians call it. According to Dr. Stacy Randall of San Antonio’s South Texas Veterinary Specialists, a meningioma is a benign growth that normally affects the brain’s periphery and usually shows up in the cerebrum. In this case, the tumor has penetrated into a virtually inoperable area in the cerebellum, and the prognosis isn’t promising. Maybe six months. Maybe a year.
But Hanssen is trying to stay optimistic despite the odds, and she’s doing all she can to save her dog or to at least have the satisfaction that she tried.
Already her pet has been through radiation treatments, pneumonia and seizures when death seemed imminent. (Dots on Harley’s head mark the spot where doctors guide radiation therapy.) He’s taking an array of medications, including lomustine, (a chemotherapy drug), phenobarbital (an anti-convulsant), prednisone (a steroid) and Valium(a relaxant). Medical bills through September totaled well over $10,000. Hanssen has been maxing out credit cards and bank accounts and selling items on eBay to pay the bills.
“I’m hoping for a miracle,” she says, “and the cost doesn’t matter. My dog means everything to me, and he has an important job to do.”
Harley specializes in “furry therapy.” He and his owner volunteer under the auspices of Paws for Service, an organization that provides canine visits to hospitals, nursing homes and schools. The two started out at the children’s oncology ward at Methodist Hospital and for the past five years have been regulars at Brooke Army Medical Center, bringing smiles to both staff and patients whenever they visit.
Lillian Stein, volunteer coordinator for BAMC’s department of ministry and pastoral care praises their contributions. “They’ve been out here almost weekly and Andrea also comes out to help with our barbecues and parties. She’s always upbeat, which means a lot to the patients, and Harley’s just this great, lovable guy who cheers everyone up.”