Service Dog Helps Woman Get Through Cancer Treatments Thanks to ‘Super Suit’

Clear the Shelters

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.

Geril gets treated at the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. According to the center’s website, service dogs, guide dogs and therapy dogs are welcome in the building’s public spaces as long as they are well-behaved and remain under the control of their handlers.

Geril decided to start documenting her journey with Tulsa on Instagram after she discovered the service dog community on the platform. She said a lot of misinformation and misconceptions exist about service dogs, so she wanted to do her part to help educate others.

“There’s no handbook on service dogs; there is no right or wrong,” she said. “I just really wanted to share, educate, get (the) word out, because I didn’t know anything about it before I started with this.”

Geril’s chemotherapy treatments and her fear of needles cause her to pass out frequently, so one of Tulsa’s main jobs is to alert her before that happens. Geril said the human body undergoes a chemical change before a fainting episode, and dogs can recognize that change through smell. If Tulsa detects this scent, she puts a paw on Geril’s leg to let her know that she has between 10 to 30 minutes before she will start to feel dizzy.

“It’s huge; it’s given me my freedom back greatly,” she said. “I can go out by myself now.”

Geril said she didn’t truly understand how much Tulsa helped until she had to pull her from work during the pandemic, as she noticed her health and quality of life declined drastically.

“I went into a wheelchair full time because I was afraid to be up and walking around because the hospital’s rules are you can’t have any visitors,” Geril said. “I didn’t want to risk passing out with nobody around.”

However, since Tulsa has started using the Shed Defender and returned to work, she said she feels more confident and can worry less.

Geril said that although Tulsa was initially a little unsure about her new attire, after a lot of playing and positive reinforcement training, she has adjusted very well.

“It’s a new world now and we’re finding new ways to cope with it, and I’m just so happy that we can find new uses for products like that,” she said.


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Clear The Shelters

Shelters near you


TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) - Thousands of pets are looking for their forever homes and News Channel 8 is On Your Side helping to make that happen in the Tampa Bay area.

We are teaming up with hundreds of shelters across the country to host Clear the Shelters, a nationwide pet adoption drive from Aug. 1 through Aug. 31, featuring virtual pet adoptions to make it easy for people to donate online to participating shelters and rescues.

More than 150,000 pets found their forever homes since 2015 and we want to add to the number.

Find a shelter near you:

  • Pasco County Animal Services, 19640 Dogpatch Lane, Land O'Lakes
  • Paw Warriors, Inc., 355 Spring Time Street, Spring Hill
  • Pinellas County Animal Services, 12450 Ulmerton Road, Largo
  • Cat Haven Rescue, Inc, 1231 Bruce B. Downs Blvd, Wesley Chapel
  • Cat Haven Rescue, Inc - Pasco, 8529 Little Road, New Port Richey
  • SPCA Tampa Bay, 9099 130th Ave N, Largo
  • Bishop Animal Shelter SPCA of Manatee County, 5718 21st Ave West, Bradenton
  • Hernando County Animal Services, 19450 Oliver Street, Brooksville
  • SPCA Florida, 5850 Brannen Rd S, Lakeland
  • Barking Out Loud Rescues, Inc, 300 N Lake Drive, Lorida
  • Precious Paws Rescue, Inc., Citrus County Florida, 5164 S. Florida Avenue, Inverness
  • Humane Society of Pinellas, 3040 State Road 590, Clearwater
  • Hernando County SPCA, 9075 Grant St, Brooksville
  • St Francis Society, PO Box 261614, Tampa
  • Humane Society of Tampa Bay, 3607 N Armenia Avenue, Tampa
  • Rebels Rescue, Petco 136 S. West shore Blvd, Tampa
  • SPCA Suncoast, 7734 Congress Street, New Port Richey
  • Friends of Strays Animal Shelter, 2911 47th Avenue North, St. Petersburg
  • Florida English Bulldog Rescue, P.O. Box 754, Odessa
  • The Humane Society of Polk County, Inc, 3195 Dundee Rd, Winter Haven
  • The Humane Society of Sarasota County, 2331 15th Street, Sarasota
  • Hands Helping Paws Rescue Inc., 53 W Bay Blvd S, Lake Wales
  • Humane Society of Manatee County, 2515 14th Avenue W, Bradenton
  • Highlands County Sheriffs Animal Services, 7300 Haywood Taylor Blvd, Sebring
  • Manatee County Animal Services, 305 25th St W, Palmetto
  • SPCA Suncoast, 7734 Congress Street, New Port Richey
  • Citrus County Animal Services, 4030 S. Airport Rd, Inverness
  • St Francis Society, PO Box 261614, Tampa
  • FLUFF Animal Rescue, 9400 SEMINOLE BOULEVARD, SEMINOLE
  • SPCA Tampa Bay, 9099 130th Ave N, Largo
  • Polk County Sheriff's Office Animal Control, 7115 De Castro Rd, Winter Haven
  • The Greener Side Haven, Inc., 3892 N Lecanto Hwy, Beverly Hills
  • Humane Society at Lakewood Ranch, 26920 Gopher Hill Road, Myakka City

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