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Community comes together to support dog with cancer after owner diagnosed with COVID-19

The owner said that he had not been separated from Duchess, his 12-year-old dog, since he had gotten her as a puppy.

While people across the country celebrated New Year's Eve with virtual get-togethers and parties, one man in Knoxville was in the University of Tennessee Medical Center with COVID-19. He had his 12-year-old dog by his side, Duchess.

However, she needed a safe place to go, according to a release from the University of Tennessee. Duchess couldn't stay at the hospital and required regular medication to treat her cancer. And since the patient was new to Knoxville, he did not know anyone who could care for her.

So, he called AlignCare for help. The program uses social service agency resources and veterinary resources to support people who may not have access to pet care. It is a part of UT's Program for Pet Health Equity.

AlignCare had worked with Duchess several months earlier, according to a release from university officials. On New Year's Eve at around 6 p.m., Dr. Pamela Linden, the director of veterinary social work for the program, received the call for help.

She said that she thought Young-Williams Animal Center would be able to help, but the center was closed for the holiday. Instead, she called Knoxville Animal Control and spoke with an officer.

The officer said that if she could get Duchess to the center, they could meet and get the dog to a safe place for the night before handing her to Young-Williams Animal Center when it reopened. To help, the UT Medical Center offered to transport Duchess with hospital security.

"I’d say that this all took place over the course of an hour and a half. I was in contact with the pet owner the entire time, reassuring him that Duchess would be well cared for," Linden said. "He shared that he had not been separated from 12-year old Duchess since he had gotten her as a puppy.”

Staff at Young-Williams Animal Center worked to make sure Duchess had her medication and kept in touch with Linden who would then speak with her owner about her.

After a week, the owner was discharged and Linden arranged for him to be reunited with Duchess. Knoxville Animal Control transported her back home.

“This situation is an example of how a community can come together to provide assistance to pet owners in need,” said Linden. “It was so rewarding to know that we helped this family in their moment of need. The Knoxville community is amazing.”