Courtney Gessford, 28, was diagnosed with brain cancer at the age of 24. She lives in Sacramento, California, and had been experiencing “debilitating migraines and other neurological symptoms.”
When she went to her doctor, tests and scans showed a “a cancerous tumor the size of a lemon growing” in her brain. Her treatment has consisted of three surgeries, radiation, and she’s going through chemotherapy right now.
With all of these terrifying things happening in her life, her main form of solace is her golden retriever, Clyde. “He became such a healing presence in my recovery, treatment and coping,” Gessford said. “Simply being around him made me happier.”
He was therapeutic, and was healing in ways a human or medicine can’t be. He’s just a dog, not a therapy dog or emotional support dog (at least officially), but there’s nothing like the love of a pet to cheer you up on your darkest days.
Gessford’s friend, Maris Loeffler, would often send her videos, gifs, and pictures of dogs and people being surrounded by them, because who doesn’t love that? It’s just what friends do nowadays, too.
And then one day, Loeffler got an idea. Why not make that happen for her friend? Nothing is more healing than a pile of puppies.
So Loeffler started researching, reaching out to breeders and getting shot down. But then she found Front Street Animal Shelter and Ryan Hinderman, the shelter’s social media coordinator.
He immediately agreed, and they started planning what they called the “puddle of puppies.” He said, “it just seemed right up our alley,” and that any way of bringing awareness sounded like a good plan to them.
Hinderman told Today, “Our shelter’s mission is to improve the lives of both people and pets. This was a fantastic opportunity to not only bring joy to a remarkable young woman, but also to raise awareness for shelter pets and brain cancer.”
And on Jan. 7, Loeffler told Gessford to wear something “cute and comfortable,” blindfolded her — with a pillow case — and put headphones in so she wouldn’t be able to figure out where they were going.
But what they didn’t think about was the smell.
Any shelter is going to smell like animals, and Gessford’s sense of smell tipped her off to where they might be.
It didn’t prepare her for the upcoming surprise, though. Loeffler guided her to a padded (drained) kiddie pool, and had her lie down.
“Then the blindfold came off and earphones out,” Gessford said. Surrounded by her friends and family, shelter volunteers started placing puppies on her one by one.
“I immediately broke down,” Gessford said. “I felt so overwhelmed and grateful all at the same time. I had only imagined something like this in my dreams and Maris made it a reality.”
Gessford reports that her prognosis is “good; it’s positive.” Maybe puppies really do have powerful healing paws!
All the best to Gessford in her battle against cancer, we’re rooting for you.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.