Gus’ Story

Therapy dog gives love and gets love in return when he needs it most.

PCA + Gus

“Mender of Broken Hearts” Loves Everyone He Meets

Maureen Kilgour of Alpine, Utah, has been taking Gus, an eight-year-old Golden Retriever, to visit adults and teenagers at Utah State Hospital through Therapy Animals of Utah, an affiliate of Pet Partners, since 2013. One of her nicknames for Gus is “Mender of Broken Hearts.”

“When someone tells you that they wouldn’t have made it through a program without a visit from Gus, you know he’s mending hearts and making a difference,” says Kilgour.

"When someone tells you that they wouldn’t have made it through a program without a visit from Gus, you know he’s mending hearts and making a difference"

During a weekly therapy visit, Kilgour recalls Gus’ impact on a young girl who had been crying.

“Gus ran over and jumped on the couch,” she says. “He leaned over and put his nose on her shoulder and sniffed in her ear. I thought the girl was too upset to notice him, but she reached up and started petting him. She slowly stopped crying. After a few minutes, she said, ‘Someone else can sit by Gus now since he helped me.’ “

Every day, Kilgour says she is amazed at the impact Gus has on people’s lives. She remembers a teenage girl who said, “she didn’t feel ugly around Gus because didn’t judge her,” and an older gentleman who was losing his eye sight and refused to leave his room or talk to anyone.

“The only time he engaged with anyone was to visit with Gus,” says Kilgour. “Gus was a lifeline for him.”

All she every wanted in a dog “four times over”

Gus is Kilgour’s fourth Golden Retriever who she rescued at 17-months-old from Companion Golden Retriever Rescue in West Jordan, Utah. Surrendered by his owner, Kilgour reviewed his medical records, which indicated possible elbow dysplasia arthritis in his front legs from being run too much as a puppy.

“When I saw Gus on the rescue site and saw his elbow problems, I knew most people would pass him over,” says Kilgour. “I knew he was supposed to be mine.”

Kilgour recognized Gus’ special gift with people right away. “He’s my first therapy dog,” says Kilgour. “All I ever wanted in a dog I got four times over with Gus.”

Gus eventually had a titanium plate put into one of his legs to slow the progression of arthritis. Other than that, he had been a healthy dog until September 2016 when he suffered a grand mal seizure.

Kilgour took him to Advanced Veterinary Care in Salt Lake City where doctors found three enlarged lymph nodes. A biopsy revealed some type of lymphoma. Kilgour was distraught.

“When you have a Golden Retriever, you expect to hear the word cancer at some point,” says Kilgour. “Goldens are known for getting cancer. But I was completely in shock.”

Therapy dog gives love and gets love in return

Through Therapy Animals of Utah, Kilgour learned that Gus qualified for a $3,000 grant through Pet Partners and funded by the Petco Foundation’s Pet Cancer Awareness campaign. The support helped pay for his chemotherapy treatments, which lasted six months.

Kilgour took Gus to visit people throughout his treatment, depending on how he was feeling – and the people he visited happily showered him with love and affection in return.

“He needed the girls at the hospital as much the girls needed him,” says Kilgour. “If he wasn’t feeling well, I could call at the last minute and say he wasn’t up for it. He only missed four Fridays, and on those Fridays, the girls usually called to see how he was doing.”

Gus’ lymphoma went into remission in December, but he still continued treatments through March 2017.

“I would have gone into debt to save Gus’ life because he’s made such an impact on so many lives,” says Kilgour. “Thanks to this grant, he can continue doing his special work helping others.”

Join the fight

Together with Blue Buffalo, the Petco Foundation has invested more than $13 million in pet cancer research and treatment. If your pet has been diagnosed with pet cancer and you need assistance with the cost of care, please see our Pet Cancer Resource Guide for a list of organizations that may be able to provide assistance.

Join the fight against pet cancer. Make a donation today.