Canine cancer companions |

Canine cancer companions

SUMMIT COUNTY – While many people find comfort in their animal companions, 14-year-old Kelsey Bohman and her friend Sandy, a 9-year-old golden retriever, have a particularly unusual bond. They both are cancer survivors.

In fact, it is through their separate struggles with cancer – and a program called Youth and Pet Survivors (YAPS) – that they met.

Three years ago, Bohman, who lives in Glenwood Springs, was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia – a rapidly progressing cancer of the blood cells. She and her family spent most of the next nine months at Children’s Hospital in Denver where she went through intense chemotherapy and then a bone marrow transplant to battle the illness.

A nurse told her about YAPS, a program through which children and animals with cancer are paired together as pen pals.

The program was developed by Anne Ingalls, a nurse at Children’s Hospital, who believed that the friendship would help kids deal with their illness in a less threatening way.

“You can tell dogs anything,” Bohman said. “It’s just someone to talk to that doesn’t say anything negative.”

“Kids sometimes have an easier time talking about their anxieties with an animal,” said Frisco resident Patti Burnett.

Burnett and her husband, Dan, have raised and trained Sandy, a search-and-rescue dog for the Copper Mountain Resort ski patrol and Summit County Search and Rescue.

Bohman has been writing letters to Sandy for more than a year. Of course, she’s old enough to realize that it isn’t Sandy writing back to her, rather it is Burnett who is penning the correspondence for her canine companion. So she often writes to both Sandy and Burnett.

Though YAPS was developed primarily to provide comfort for the children, the friendship between Bohman and Sandy has helped the Burnett family as they faced the possibility of losing Sandy prematurely as he underwent surgery to remove aggressive tumors from his nose and hip.

“I think probably as pet owners (and) search-dog handlers, we get pretty emotional about our dogs and their well-being,” Burnett said. “It’s put things in perspective – that it’s way, way more important with how Kelsey is doing than how Sandy is doing.”

Learning about Bohman’s struggle and seeing the bond between her and her family has given the Burnett family a greater appreciation of life.

Fortunately for the Bohmans and the Burnetts, both Bohman’s and Sandy’s stories are of survival. The pair is winning its battle with cancer, and their resulting friendship continues to blossom.

Lu Snyder can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 203, or

Available for adoption



Roberta – Domestic short hair; 1 1/2 year old black tiger spayed female; this cat came to us as a stray, she’s front declawed, needs a home with adults only.

Luna – Domestic short hair, 1-year-old spayed female, all black; sweet cat, doesn’t like dogs.

See-See – Domestic short hair, 3-year-old spayed female, brown tabby; playful, recently transferred from Ark Valley Humane Society in Buena Vista.

Yukon – Maine/coon mix, 3-year-old spayed female, front declawed; good with dogs and cats.

Roberta – Domestic short hair brown tabby; 1-year old spayed female; front declawed; playful, came in as an unclaimed stray.

Izzy – Manx/mix; 8-year-old spayed female; this sweet cat would do best being the only cat. She loves to be a lap cat, will give kisses, very smart – responds to your voice.

Pepper – Domestic short hair; 5-year-old silver tabby; this shy, sweet cat is quite the lover.

Trinity – Domestic short hair; 3-year-old brown and white tiger with front paws declawed; friendly cat, needs a home without dogs and other animals.

Binks – Domestic short hair; 3-year-old orange tabby; this handsome cat is shy at first, but warms up quickly. He would do best being the only animal in the household.


Douglas – Chinese Sharpei; red neutered male; housetrained, knows some obedience, great temperament, very athletic, no cats.

Zeke – Siberian husky. Zeke is a black and white husky that is 8-years-old. He is a gentle quiet husky and would make a great friend to anyone that adopts him.

Quinn – Border collie mix. Quinn is a shy and timid dog. She knows all about hearding with her antics. Quinn is a short hair, black and white female.

Lola – Lab /border collie mix. Lola is an energetic female that loves the water. She is black and white and always eager to go on a walk. Age unknown.

Moonie – Lab mix. Moonie is an unusual dog because she is so small. She needs lots of walks and loving. Moonie is 1-year-old and has lots to learn with her new owner.

Baron – Rottweiler mix; 2-year-old black and brown neutered male, loyal, lovable, friendly and needs a lot of attention to be a great dog.

Hannah – Catahoula, 5-year-old tricolor spayed female; this sweet, beautiful dog needs a stable, loving home without other animals.

Zobo – Pit bull mix, white and tan; really sweet, would do best in a house without cats.

Lola – Labrador retriever/Border collie mix; 4-year-old spayed black and white female; nice dog, needs and active home, good with other animals and kids.


Peter – beautiful, domestic bunny available for a loving home

For more information, call (970) 668-3230, or check out the pets available for adoption at

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