Cancer survivor funds support dog for 2-year-old
The Denver Post
Vail CO Colorado
DENVER – After two years of surgery, chemotherapy and treatment for a brain tumor, 9-year-old Allison Winn wanted other kids with cancer to have a companion like her dog, Coco.
“She made me feel better,” Allison said.
So when she regained her strength at the end of spring, Allison embarked on a fundraising campaign of her own invention to pay for feeding and training companion dogs for kids like her.
On Tuesday, in the lobby of the women’s prison where Coco and the new dog were trained, she watched quietly, but intently, as 2-year-old cancer survivor Krysta Hubbard caressed the nose of Lucky Bug, a gentle black Labrador. Krysta affectionately called him “Puppy.”
“It made me feel good,” Allison said in a soft voice.
Allison was a 7-year-old first-grader on April 6, 2007, when a doctor told her mother, Dianna Litvak, 40, that a medulloblastoma was causing her to see double.
Within two days, doctors performed surgery to remove the tumor and initiated chemotherapy that sapped Allison’s strength.
A doctor suggested that she get a pet for companionship. Litvak applied for a dog through the Colorado Department of Corrections’ correctional industries program.
Under the program, inmates at the Denver Women’s Correctional Facility train dogs surrendered to local animal shelters to be companion or service dogs for elderly, disabled or seriously ill owners, said Debi Stevens, who supervises the program.
Allison named her white bichon frise Coco because the dog often got dirty around the mouth when she ate.
When Allison started feeling better in the spring, she announced one day, “I want to do this for a kid who has cancer.”
It was her idea to bake homemade dog biscuits from a recipe using flour, bouillon cubes, oil and dried milk powder. She made thousands of dog-bone-shaped biscuits to sell at a lemonade stand in front of her house or a store.
Allison called the treats “Stinkbug dog biscuits,” because “stink bug” is what she called chemotherapy on the last day of her treatments. “Bye-bye, stink bug,” she declared, according to her mother.
At the same time Allison was baking dog biscuits this past summer, Shanell Mullen, a waitress at a Golden Corral restaurant in Riverton, Wyo., began noticing that her daughter’s eyesight was impaired and that she had become moody.
She had brain cancer. A tumor the size of a golf ball was removed from Krysta’s head in July.
On Tuesday, Shanell drove down from Wyoming, with Krysta repeatedly asking her mother, “Doggy? Doggy? Where’s my puppy?”
At the prison, Krysta got a chance to choose from three dogs. Legally blind, Krysta sniffed and patted and drew her face close to the dogs until she selected Lucky Bug.
“C’mon, dog, c’mon,” she finally said to Lucky Bug as she gently tugged on the dog’s leash.
Her mother said she thinks what Allison did was unique.
“I just think that is an awesome little girl,” Mullen said. “It’s a very touching story.”
Allison earned about $1,000 over the summer – enough to buy Lucky Bug and two other dogs she can give to other cancer-stricken kids. She’s also planning a new dog biscuit-making campaign.
Support Local Journalism
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User