Jessup woman turns to social media to help fund surgery for her service dog

Jess Nocera
Contact ReporterHoward County Times

Six years ago, Hazel Sanders won a battle to allow her Rottweiler service dog to stay in her subsidized housing.

She is facing a new struggle today. Her dog, Jurneé, has developed a tumor and Sanders, 75, of Jessup, is on a fixed income and cannot afford an estimated $1,200 needed for surgery.

Sanders, born with kneecaps turned in opposite directions, said the 6-year-old dog, Jurneé, “is basically my legs.” If Sanders falls, which has happened, Jurneé is trained to come to her aid.

Sanders has turned to a California-based internet site to collect donations for the surgery.

In 2012, Sanders gained notoriety when an independent living senior complex in Jessup would not allow her to rent, citing a no-pet policy and a state appeals court ruling that labeled pit bulls, but not Rottweilers, as “inherently dangerous” dogs.

She successfully fought the decision, working with the Howard County Office of Human Rights and the landlord, and had Jurneé assessed by an animal behavior specialist before moving into the apartment.

“Jurneé and I have been through a journey,” Sanders said. “I didn’t know it at the time but I named her right.”

Dr. Gary Holmes, a veterinarian with Telegraph Road Animal Hospital in Severn, has been Jurneé’s veterinarian since she was seven weeks old.

“We go way back,” Holmes said. “She’s a big, strong, intimidating Rottweiler, but she’s actually a very sweet girl and has been a wonderful pet and companion for Ms. Sanders.”

According to Holmes, Jurneé has a mass on the left side of her chest, “which is probably a fatty tumor,” that is continuing to grow.

Holmes said it is common for Rottweilers to have tumors.

In 2017, it was the size of “a little pimple,” and now its protruding from Jurneé’s left side, according to Sanders.

“I can’t afford it [the surgery] but I can’t afford to lose my dog,” Sanders said. “We are inseparable.”

Sanders found Free Animal Doctor, a California-based nonprofit website.

Ryan Boyd, co-founder of Free Animal Doctor, said the nonprofit began in 2015 to help people raise money for pet medical care. The California-based nonprofit had $7,626 in net assets in 2016, according to its federal tax filings.

The “biggest thing” Free Animal Doctor does is provide verification of the person asking for monetary help for the donors, Boyd said.

The nonprofit contacts the pet’s veterinarian to verifiy the animal is in need. The money raised goes directly to the health-care provider, Boyd said.

“If you donate $20, the dog [or other animal] gets $20.” Boyd said. “We act as the responsible financial partner in between.”

Holmes, who is neutral on the organization, said his patients “do their own due diligence,” when finding an organization and so far, he has not had any problems with any of the organizations used.The campaign ends Sept. 13.

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