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Alexandria puppy with incurable cancer finds loving home for final months

Gelato (photo courtesy Animal Welfare League of Alexandria)

Gelato is a playful puppy who enjoys hanging out with other dogs, but the puppy also faces an incurable medical condition that means he likely only has months to live.

It’s a tall ask for any family to adopt a pet knowing that their time with the dog will be brief, but Gina Hardter, director of marketing and communications at the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria (AWLA), said the shelter was flooded with calls from locals offering to give Gelato the home he deserves — however briefly. Now Gelato has found his new family.

Hardter said 12 families reached out to inquire about Gelato after the AWLA posted about the dog on social media, but the first one to contact the shelter wound up being a good fit. Now, Hardter said he’s in a home with other dogs.

Gelato is a rare circumstance for the shelter. While cases do come in with incurable medical conditions like Gelato’s, they tend to be older. Gelato is only around three or four months old.

“That’s very rare,” Hardter said. “A lot of people said they’ve never seen that in all their years of animal welfare.”

Hardter said when the team at AWLA first found out about Gelato’s condition, they believed he would only survive for days.

AWLA doesn’t euthanize animals for remaining in the shelter for any length of time, but Hardter said sometimes it can be necessary if the animal has a health condition that is negatively impacting their lives to the degree where it’s uncomfortable for them to live or if the animal is a danger to the community.

When that prognosis said the puppy likely had a few more months, Hardter said they got to work finding him a home to spend those months.

“We wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing,” Hardter said. “When we found out from the vet oncologist it was incurable cancer, we learned Gelato could have several good months [and he’s] not going to know he has a tumor or has cancer. He’s going to be a happy puppy up until his last days. We wanted him to have that time and in a home environment like any other puppy. That’s a big ask, a big imposition, but we know he deserves it and we have a caring, compassionate community.”

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