Oncology Dog Brings Comfort to Cancer Patients

courtesy of phaedra sulli

     Blair is always there for the cancer patients at Children’s Health Hospital, lending solidarity and support to those in much need of it. No, this isn’t highlighting the amazing doctors and nurses at Children’s, though in times like these recognitions is the least we can do for healthcare workers. This is the kind of support only offered by man’s four-legged friend.

     Blair is a dog gifted to Children’s hospital sponsored by the Carson Leslie Foundation, a philanthropy dedicated to raising funds and research for ending pediatric cancer. Residing on the oncology floor, Blair helps to ease the anxiety brought on by both the disease and its treatment, always offering unconditional love to distract from the questions, pills, pokes and shots painfully familiar to cancer patients.  

Blair Care is able to reach children and teens in ways only attainable by a golden retriever, and though Blair is not a budding oncologist on the verge of a cure for cancer disguised as a dog, her service is a necessity to those in need of a quiet comfort. As Blair offers all the love she has to give, her friends find peace and solace in a place where there is never enough.   

     Over the past 20 years, dogs have been proven to be effective tools in therapy treatment, helping to reduce anxiety and provide comfort—especially for those in already stressful situations like child cancer patients.

    This year, Phaedra Sulli ’21 became an active supporter of the program that maintains Blair at the hospital, Blair Care.

     “It’s not so much hands-on volunteering, but it’s more like organizational work to put together a fundraiser,” said Sulli while describing her role in the program.

     Fundraising is critical to the preservation of Blair Care. Blair is an expensive pup, costing about $2,000 per month to keep her up to code and safe to be around the patients and an overall minimum of $24,000 per year of upkeep fees which include routine trips to the vet, food, a partial handler’s salary, and, of course, toy and treats.

     When asked how she was able to get involved and fundraise for the program, Sulli said, “I met Anette Leslie, the founder of the Carson Leslie Foundation, at Ursuline while making cards for the You’ve Got Mail Club. She was at Ursuline to collect cards for the room’s teens, and then we started talking and found out that I had visited Carson’s Corner when I was at the hospital for some injuries.”

     Although Sulli was supposed to meet Blair and present a check at an event for the funds she raised, COVID-19 had different plans. However, despite that setback, Sulli said, “My favorite part was seeing how happy it made Ms. Leslie.”

     Blair holds a special place in many hearts. Residing in Carson’s Corner, a teen room on the oncology floor, Blair creates a safe space for those who need it. Sulli said, “The smallest and most innocent cancer patients all the way to teens benefit greatly from the furry buddy who helps ease anxiety brought by a cancer diagnosis plus all the pain that goes with treatment.”

     Both Carson’s Corner and the Carson Leslie Foundation are dedicated to Carson Leslie, a teenager who passed away ten years ago from cancer and whose memory continues to be carried on today.

     Currently, there are not many active opportunities to support Blair Care, but donating to the Carson Leslie Foundation helps maintain Blair and ensure the continuation of the support and comfort she lends.

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