Service dog helps woman get through cancer treatments thanks to ‘super suit’


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When the coronavirus pandemic took hold in the U.S. earlier this year, Sydnee Geril stopped bringing her service dog, Tulsa, to her chemotherapy treatments. The 25-year-old made the decision out of an abundance of caution; while the chance of spreading COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, through pet fur is unlikely, the American Veterinary Medical Association still recommends taking precautions.

But in late May, Geril discovered a onesie for dogs called the Shed Defender— which helps control shedding — and her German shepherd has been able to stay clean and get back to work by her side.

“I’m so happy to have her back,” Geril told TODAY. “I honestly did not realize how big of an impact she had until I didn't have her.”

The Shed Defender, or the “super suit,” as Geril calls it, has been on the market for nearly four years — so it wasn't designed to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. But Tulsa wears it with a set of booties to cover most of her fur. Now, instead of needing a full bath after every hospital visit, all Geril has to do is wipe down Tulsa’s face and wash her suit. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends laundering clothes worn by an ill person on the "warmest appropriate water setting for the items.")

Geril lives in Ocala, Florida, and was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare bone cancer that typically affects children and young adults, in October 2017. After nine months of treatment, she went into remission and decided to adopt Tulsa and train her to become a therapy dog. Therapy dogs visit hospitals, nursing homes, schools and other health care centers to cheer people up, and Geril said these visits were one of the only things that made her feel better during her hospital stays — and something that inspired her to get Tulsa.

Unfortunately, after eight months of remission, Geril’s cancer returned, so the 2-year-old pup is now training to be her personal service dog, which requires a greater time commitment than what is needed for therapy dogs. Service dog training typically takes around two years to complete, and the dogs learn to cater to the personal needs of their owners.

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