Devon, a 7-year-old golden retriever, underwent surgery early Friday morning to have the mass removed from his left front paw. It was shipped to a lab for further testing, and if the results showed a malignancy, chemotherapy or radiation treatments likely would have been needed.
Dr. David Shuman, who operates the Santa Cruz Westside Animal Hospital, donated his services to remove the growth, and when the lab learned of Santa Cruz resident Tori Stitt’s story, “they donated their services and put ‘STAT’ all over it,” he said Monday.
Meanwhile, when the community learned the invaluable services Devon provides to help Stitt cope with post-traumatic stress disorder — including licking her awake to interrupt persistent nightmares — they eagerly opened their wallets, donating about $8,000.
Shuman and Stitt both expressed their appreciation for the outpouring of support.
“It’s amazing to see how the community will come together to support someone like me,” Stitt said. “The cards, the checks — it’s like, wow.”
Devon entered Stitt’s life in 2009, not long after the former Navy lieutenant returned from a yearlong deployment to northern Iraq. During her time there, she trained staff members how to defuse improvised explosive devices and witnessed many of her trainees injured and killed while working in the field.
Plagued by recurring nightmares, and increasingly isolating herself from society, she sought help from the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center, a nonprofit that provides service dogs to disabled veterans.
Ever since, Stitt has become more outgoing and involved in the community, befriending such staunch supporters as Santa Cruz resident Rachel Boyd, who cares for Devon while his owner works. He was back in Shuman’s care Monday, getting his sutures removed and paw rebandaged.
“As soon as the skin heals and we make sure everything’s covered over, it’s a done deal,” Shuman said.
Meanwhile, the funds donated over the weekend have been set aside in a client account.
“He should be a very well cared for dog for the rest of his life,” Shuman said.
By Kimberly White
Santa Cruz Sentinel
Posted: 02/04/2013 01:51:09 PM PST