Denisse gets a glimpse of life as a Veterinarian at NorthStar VETS

Denisse spent a Saturday shadowing veterinarians at NorthStar VETSDenisse came to visit Northstar VETS through the kindness of Mary Spano Gleckner and the Ashley Lauren Foundation. This foundation helps children and their families who are negotiating pediatric cancer. That help can come at many different levels including “Making Dreams Come True”.

Denisse, a lovely 12 year old girl in a 3 year battle with Osteosarcoma, has a dream of becoming a veterinarian. NorthStar VETS’ team turned a typical Saturday for them into a very special day for an exceptional young lady.

Denisse feels the cougar's paw while Dr. Lewis extracts its teeth.We began in Dentistry with Dr. Lewis and he had Lancelot, the cougar, already sedated and underway with his tooth extractions. His being here was an awesome bonus to her visit today! Having undergone many medical procedures and surgeries of her own, Denisse had no problem getting up close and personal with Lance as Dr. Lewis continued to work on his mouth. When I told her prior about the possibility of blood she said it was no problem at all. She listened to his heart with the stethoscope, viewed his extracted teeth and learned as Dr. Lewis explained his problems. Touching his paw and being so close to a big cat like this was a once in a lifetime opportunity for her. She took it all in and loved every minute of it. (See the video on the NorthStar VETS YouTube channel.)

On from Dentistry we headed to surgery, CT and MRI where Dan B. went over scans including those of a chinchilla, turtle, parrot and even a liver shunt CT angiogram. Again a seasoned patient in her own right, she let us know she would be having a CT within the next couple of weeks. That CT would precede what would be her 28th surgery. Denisse has Osteosarcoma and has been battling the cancer courageously for 3 years. Her concern throughout today was if the animals have any pain. She has to deal with it always. It seemed important to her to know that the cougar would not experience any pain when he went home. I assured her he will be made comfortable. She said pain is not good. I agreed.

denisse holds a patient in the dog wardWe continued onto the nursing wards where she had some hands-on time with employee pets (Jillian’s and Deon’s). Though tentative with the big dogs, she gingerly held a Yorkie when encouraged by Dan B.

Denisse and Dr. Doolen examine a bird togetherHeading over to Exotics she saw a gecko, rabbit and conure. Onto an African Grey exam with Dr. Doolen and Stephen, then to PT where Jillian explained the underwater treadmill while a patient did his laps. She was thrilled but at this point very tired. We knew it was time to end and though she was excited to see more she just couldn’t go on. Denisse explained a low blood count was making her feel this way. (See Denisse and Jillian at the aqua treadmill on the NorthStar VETS YouTube channel.)

Denisse pets a pug in the rehabilitation room at NorthStar VETSBeing on a 10 day break from chemo, Denisse was able to have enough strength to come to NorthStar VETS. We were blessed to have her. We let her know she is welcome back at anytime. She hopes she may get the chance to do so again in the future. In February, she goes for that 28th surgery, so keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

For information on the Ashley Lauren Foundation, visit

The mission of The Ashley Lauren Foundation is to bring hope and help to children in New Jersey who have been diagnosed with cancer.

Their goal is to ease the journey when pediatric cancer is diagnosed by:

  • Providing resources for financial and material assistance as well as emotional support so the journey is never without hope
  • Connecting with community, friends, and family so the journey is never alone
  • Ensuring that young adults ages 18-21 are provided the same services afforded the youngest patient so the journey is a bridge to the future
  • Forming a link with centers of care so the journey is never without direction

Eileen SchuckEileen Schuck

Marketing Assistant at NorthStar VETS

Director of Vet-i-Care

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