Who Saved Whom: Vicky Slesser and Gianna

A blind Bichon Frise and cancer survivor make an instant connection.

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Vicky Slesser of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., has loved many pets. But something intangible and so profound struck her about a blind Bichon Frisé mix named Gianna.

“Something happened to me that has never happened to me in my life,” Slesser recalls. “I had to have her. I had to.”

Gianna was found wandering the streets of Los Angeles. Someone had neglected her for many years, and her white coat was filthy and matted. Her eyes had become deformed from infections, and they needed to be removed. After about nine years of a seeing life, Gianna became completely blind.

Although it wasn’t obvious from the outside, Gianna’s adoptive mom, a cancer survivor, also had endured painful struggles. Slesser has survived two bouts with leukemia over the past decade. She spent months in the hospital but recovered.

“I always wanted to give back all the care and help that I received during my illness,” Slesser says.

That sentiment, in retrospect, foreshadowed what was to come into Slesser’s life — surprisingly, in a dingy, matted, four-legged package. Gianna, whose veterinarian had removed two mammary tumors, was going to endure another, final tumor that would claim her life.

That divine, instant connection Slesser felt? It all makes sense now. Gianna didn’t have much time left. And Slesser was determined to make that time count.

“I wanted to care for her, love her and give her the best life I could,” Slesser says. She describes Gianna as “the sweetest dog you’ve ever met.”

A short, sweet life

Tragically, Gianna’s new life with Slesser lasted just one day shy of a year. Gianna — who in 2013 joined Slesser and her husband, Tom, and male Bichon named Lucky — was diagnosed with terminal mammary cancer in April, and she lived less than two months after that diagnosis. But in that short time, Gianna was blessed with the love of a very devoted family.

“I still feel complete devastation over my loss,” Slesser says. “We always want to know why, but we probably never will.”
No one can know why Gianna’s time with Slesser ended so soon, but we can feel certain of the reason why these two cancer fighters found each other.

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Kellie B. Gormly

Kellie Gormly is a Pittsburgh-based journalist otherwise known as “Mother Catresa” to homeless kittens and cats. Read about her adventures in fostering on her blog.

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