- Associated Press - Saturday, February 11, 2017

LOVELAND, Colo. (AP) - MoDo, a 12-year-old black Lab, has spent years helping others as a therapy dog, freely sharing her gift of infinite patience, kindness and the ability to draw smiles out of nearly everyone.

When she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer last September, defenseman Jake Marto of the minor league Colorado Eagles hockey team stepped in to help the dog through her own ordeal.

“I’m kind of her therapy aide,” he said in a video segment recorded at Colorado State University, where MoDo went through successful surgery and chemotherapy treatments for her cancer.

Marto visited MoDo throughout her treatments, giving her love and attention, positive energy to help her through her illness, even coaxing her to eat at times the chemotherapy killed her appetite, reported the Loveland Reporter-Herald (https://bit.ly/2lhfAu3).

Now that she has been declared cancer free, MoDo and her owner, Kitt Amundson, joined Marto, the rest of the Eagles, her doctors from CSU and the community in raising money to fight cancer.

During the Eagles’ annual Hockey Fights Cancer game, MoDo was set to visit fans on the concourse, and a special harness worn by the therapy dog who survived cancer was to be auctioned off along with player jerseys to raise money for the UCHealth Cancer Center in Fort Collins.

The benefits of exercise

Inside the Colorado Eagles Fitness and Rehabilitation Center at the Cancer Center in Fort Collins, cancer patients come together to work out under the guidance of specialized trainers to battle the effects of chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

Patients attend group workout sessions twice a week, when they perform exercises specifically designed and proven to help battle fatigue and build strength without damaging their immune systems, explained Kathleen Michie, oncology services program manager.

Specialists customize exercises to the individual patients to find that “sweet spot of moderate intensity” to meet their unique needs, and the patients do those individual workouts in a group setting.

“There’s a support of nature; they also have that group camaraderie of support,” said Michie.

The exercise room in the Wellness Place at the center, which opened in 2015, is paid for by donations from the Colorado Eagles.

The team pledged $350,000 to the cancer center, and as part of that, the Eagles raise money each year by auctioning off game worn jerseys and promoting awareness during its annual Hockey Fights Cancer Night.

About a third of the cancer center itself was paid for with donations, and continued community support is key to continuing the mission of providing treatments and wellness in all one building, a haven for patients facing exhausting treatments, hundreds of appointments and a mountain of challenges, explained Erica Siemers, senior director of the Poudre Valley Hospital and Medical Center of the Rockies Foundations.

The Eagles gym illustrates that support as well as innovation in treatment, she continued.

“It’s an example of how philanthropic support can help us move from good to great,” said Siemers. “It helps us move from the standard services to exceptional care. Community support can help us take advantage of new opportunities and innovate in a way we might not have.”

Since the Eagles’ gym area opened, it has tallied 5,416 rehabilitation visits and 3,422 cancer-related fatigue visits by patients whose lives are improving through exercise.

One of those patients is Bryan Zubler, who is undergoing treatment for colon cancer.

“It greatly reduces my chemotherapy-related fatigue,” said Zubler, who is from Toledo, Ohio, and is staying with his parents in Loveland during his treatment.

“Oh, my God, it’s amazing. The fatigue was so bad for so long, and I got into this program, and it’s manageable now. It gives me more energy and allows for an overall better quality of life.”

The longtime hockey fan also was looking forward to watching the game with family, friends and fellow cancer patients and was ecstatic that he was chosen to ride the Zamboni that resurfaces the ice during the Eagles games.

“I’m sure it will be an exciting time for the fans, plus I get to ride on the Zamboni on Saturday night,” Zubler said before the event. “How cool is that?”

A team mission

Before MoDo was diagnosed with cancer, she was about to join the Eagles as an official therapy dog, attending different community events with players.

She was certified as a therapy dog about five years ago and since then, she has touched many lives. One of her biggest projects was helping children with autism at a specialized center in Denver.

Amundson, who writes for the Eagles, describes how MoDo would sit patiently, almost with a smile on her face, as the children would read to her or dress her up in hats and scarves, how she would run and play with them.

“She just somehow knew these kids needed special attention,” said Amundson.

After moving to Windsor and starting to work for the Eagles, Amundson thought MoDo, who grew up around hockey players and is named after the Swedish hockey team of former Colorado Avalanche all-star Peter Forsberg, would be a great ambassador to the community for therapy dogs.

But before she could really start her new mission with the Eagles, MoDo herself faced the challenge of cancer.

And it was her new teammates as well as the doctors at CSU’s Flint Animal Cancer Center who rallied around MoDo and Kitt, who helped them pull through.

Darryl Bootland, another player known as a tough guy, an enforcer, gently petted and loved on MoDo after a recent practice, even feeding her a doggie treat from his own mouth.

“That’s pretty much what we would do every time she wouldn’t eat,” he said.

Now, MoDo will step back into the community as a therapy dog with the players, her friends, her teammates.


Information from: Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald, https://www.reporterherald.com/

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