Despite weighing less than 5 pounds, Gracie is making an enormous impact on a great many human lives. She was adopted for all the reasons thousands of area families give homes to pets from the Richmond SPCA each year: love, companionship, comfort and friendship. But Cheryl and Mike Tankersley also adopted Gracie for another purpose, to provide solace to Cheryl’s special clientele at Planet Hair, the West End salon the couple own.
Cheryl specializes in fitting wigs for women undergoing medical treatments that cause hair loss, such as chemotherapy. One of her clients is Pat Manning, a member of our Board of Directors, and when Pat learned of Cheryl’s desire to have a small, calm dog who would sit with clients having their heads shaved and wigs fitted, Pat was certain that a perfect match could be found at our Robins-Starr Humane Center.
At Pat’s urging, Cheryl called Carly Sgueo, our senior manager of shelter operations, to begin looking for a candidate to adopt. Carly immediately knew that Wicket, a tiny terrier mix whom we had just brought into our care, would be a wonderful match for the Tankersleys and up for the job they had for her.
Wicket got her name from a Star Wars character, as did nine other dogs who came to us from the same crowded home. Their guardian suffered a medical emergency in late March, at which time it was discovered that she had more animals than she could care for responsibly.
Like many of her housemates, Wicket suffered hair loss from flea allergy dermatitis and had not been spayed, but in spite of this neglect, she was immediately friendly and affectionate with our staff and volunteers caring for her. Carly described Wicket to Cheryl and Mike who were eager to meet the tiny 8-year-old dog immediately after her spay surgery. However, they would have to wait.
While she was performing the spay surgery, associate veterinarian Dr. Kristen Talbott discovered and removed a mammary mass. Carly anxiously shared this news with the Tankersleys as we awaited the results of the biopsy.
Rather than being discouraged by this news, they felt even more strongly that it indicated she was the right dog for them. All were overjoyed on April 20 when the biopsy revealed the tumor to be benign, and by the end of the week, she was a permanent member of the Tankersley family.
Another touching coincidence marked Gracie’s first day at Planet Hair. Cheryl asked a new client if she would like for Gracie to sit with her while Cheryl shaved her head and fit her wig. Gracie laid calmly in the client’s lap, and she asked to know more about the dog’s story. When Cheryl shared that she had just been adopted from the Richmond SPCA, the client, Jackie Woolfolk, revealed that she is a member of our Board of Directors.
The consolation and reassurance Gracie provides to Jackie and other women who visit the salon is a wonderful illustration of the far-reaching impact of saving the life of a deserving animal.
Gracie will also become part of Cheryl’s volunteerism with hospice patients. In the coming months, they will work toward therapy dog certification through Paws for Health, the Richmond SPCA’s pet visitation program.
Your loving gift ensures that formerly neglected pets like Gracie have the opportunity for rehabilitation that enables them to reach their full potential. See more photos at www.richmondspca.org/gracie.
Tabitha Hanes is the director of advancement of the Richmond SPCA. To read her biography or that of our other bloggers, please click here. Before posting a comment, please review our comment guidelines. Please note that our comment policy requires both your first and last name to be used as your screen name.