Editor’s Note: By Michele C. Hollow of Pet News and Views
I met Zoey and Kelly Kaliszewski at BlogPaws, a conference for pet bloggers. Zoey, an American Pit Bull Terrier, stood out because of the pink taffeta that she was sporting. If anyone sees a large dog that may appear a bit frightening, think pink! That was why Kelly Kaliszewski, Zoey’s mom, dressed Zoey in pink. Personally, Zoey looked adorable. I’m a fan of the breed. She was so friendly that I wanted to get to know her story. Kelly was kind enough to write it.
By Kelly Kaliszewski for Pet News and Views
Zoey came into my life quite unexpectedly in December 2010. I was asked to foster a litter of puppies that had been confiscated from a person who was involved in breeding dogs to support illegal activities. I agreed to foster two of them until their adoptions were secured—not knowing at the time that one of them would capture my heart.Zoey and her brother, Bruiser, were as different from each other as night and day. Bruiser lived up to his name. He stuck close by my side. Zoey, however, was a free spirit. She stared defiantly at me when I called to her, ran from me when I tried to pick her up, and danced to the beat of a different drummer from the moment she set paws in my house! I fell in love with them both.
In 2008, I left a career in real estate to launch my own dog treat company, Wishcuit. I had grown weary of a job that left me unfulfilled. For several years, I had been crafting food and treats for my deaf dog Bear, who struggled with food allergies. I had created a treat that didn’t cause her any problems, and found that all of my dogs and my friends’ dogs loved them. Wishcuit was born.
Donating a portion of the proceeds to rescues was a no-brainer. It was just three days later that I found myself on the road, selling treats with my American Bulldog Cain at my side. Everything seemed perfect, and then my world came crashing down. Cain was prone to aspiration pneumonia. Before we left on our trip, I had taken him in for a routine x-ray. It was something that had been a part of our lives for more than three years, so I was shocked when I received a phone call stating that the x-ray had discovered a tumor in one of Cain’s lung lobes. I returned home with him to have additional tests run. A few days later, Cain was diagnosed with cancer. I’m not even sure of the exact moment that I made the decision to put Wishcuit on hold, but my heart wouldn’t have it any other way. We spent the next year and a half battling his cancer, and taking advantage of every single moment that we had left to share. You can read Cain’s story here.
After My Loss
In 2010, I created a completely different product for Wishcuit, which I titled Love Adds Up; I began attending pet events and canine cancer walks, selling stickers and magnets and donating portions of the proceeds to rescues, urgent dogs in need, and to the research and treatment of canine cancer. I stayed as busy as I could while keeping much of my sorrow to myself. Losing Cain was devastating, and it seemed that no matter how hard I tried to move on, I slipped deeper into depression. I still had two other dogs that needed me, Bear and Sadie. I also fostered, and eventually adopted another dog during that time.
Zoey, the crazy little dog, with one ear that perpetually flops while the other stands straight up, has become my rock. Shortly before she turned one, her birthday is 10/10/10, she began attending events with me. She was like a magnet; people were drawn to her for her friendliness. This little dog began to help me heal.
In the summer of 2011, she went with me to a pet expo outside of Denver. Denver has a breed ban in place, and the media is notorious for spewing negative stories about dogs that resemble “pit bulls.” I had a cute little tutu that I threw around her neck before we left for the event that day, and the rest as they say is history! People couldn’t resist her! I found myself not only sharing information about canine cancer, but also sharing her love and good nature with thousands of people. Zoey became my sales associate thaty day, and pit bull advocacy became a huge part of our campaign.
She continues to visit retail businesses and veterinary hospitals on my quest to raise money to help find a cure for canine cancer. Whether she’s dressed in a pink tutu or wearing a pair of glasses, she knows what I need her to do, and it’s absolutely incredible to see her changing preconceived perceptions of those who have believed otherwise about “pit bulls.”
She has her own Facebook page, in which she shares information on canine cancer studies, clinical trials, pit bull advocacy, and events that we attend to raise funds and spread awareness. She also has some new merchandise that will be released through Wishcuit in the fall.
Cancer invaded my life again on September 18, 2011 when it claimed the life of my beautiful lab Sadie. At that time, I strengthened my commitment to do all that I can to help find a cure for this insidious disease. I recently founded the Wishcuit Canine Cancer Fund, which is currently pending 501c3 non profit status. The mission of the Wishcuit Canine Cancer Fund is to provide education and awareness about canine cancer on a national level through partnerships, social media, events, speaking engagements and other forms of media, while raising funds to help find a cure.