Dogs are not only man’s best friend, but a certain Moline pooch is a doctor and a new author, who’s giving invaluable help to many Quad Citizens touched by cancer.
Pamela Crouch of Moline, a four-time cancer survivor, is distributing dozens of copies of her cute, companionable paperback by her talented beagle, Cooper Wigglesmith Crouch. The 32-page collection of photos, pithy sayings and witty hashtags is called “Dr. Cooper’s Guide to Cancer Recovery: How I Helped My Mom Beat This Stupid Disease Four Times.”
With photos of Cooper by Crouch, edited by her husband Chris Zayner, layout by Hunter Pairrett, and printed by Davenport Printing Company, the 250 copies are free thanks to a grant from Quad City Arts.
Crouch has been donating books to area cancer centers (including Genesis and UnityPoint), Gilda’s Club, other cancer organizations and to cancer patients she knows. Before she started as a grant writer last February for the Figge Art Museum, she was the co-founder and longtime executive director of Living Proof Exhibit — a nonprofit that uses therapeutic benefits of the arts to help those impacted by cancer.
Living Proof provides monthly Creative Sessions, exhibitions of art created by cancer survivors as a annual major exhibition and permanent rotating exhibitions at local cancer centers.
Toni Weeks, manager of the oncology program at UnityPoint Health – Trinity, 7th Street campus in Moline, said the Dr. Cooper book is a priceless gift.
“Already, we’ve taken some of the books to Gilda’s Club, which is on site,” at the cancer center, she said Thursday. “The way she mixes in some of the truth about what happens as patients are going through cancer treatment, it really helps patients relate.”
Writing the book from Cooper’s point of view, “It just makes help make it more relatable,” Weeks said. “A lot of times, no one really knows what it’s like going through a cancer diagnosis and treatment. This helps people see it from a fresh perspective, allows people to view it from someone who sympathizes with someone going through it.”
Weeks gave 25 copies to Gilda’s Club, which has a library, where patients are able to borrow books and bring them back. “Anyone can go down to Gilda’s Club and use their library,” she said.
Crouch has “been a great advocate for Gilda’s Club and doing Living Proof,” Weeks said. “We have some of her artwork in the cancer center, she’s always doing workshops with Gilda’s Club, to share the benefit of art therapy — it’s been great.”
While pets are traditionally comforting for anyone, they’re especially important for recovery of cancer patients, Weeks said.
“Patients can get their support in a multitude of different ways, and pets are definitely top ones, being a source of comfort for sure,” she said.
A great bedside manner
Dr. Cooper does have a great bedside manner, being a dog, Crouch said recently. “He does, especially if you have snacks, he’s really good,” she said.
Cooper (who was just a year old when Crouch was first diagnosed with cancer in 2008) is very comforting, which helps her immeasurably when she’s undergoing treatment.
“I have lymphedema — it’s a side effect of one of my cancers and when I’m having a flare-up (of arm swelling), he ends up right on my arm, where he never sits except when I’m having a lymphedema flare-up,” Crouch said. “I mean, beagles can smell all sorts of things and they notice all sorts of things. They are pretty amazing little dogs, but he just knows, so he’s right there.”
“I think he’s just giving me comfort. He knows that’s where it hurts,” she added. Cooper is now 15 ½ and has had health struggles of his own, including trouble walking and wagging his tail, Crouch said.
“He’s had acupuncture to help him walk a little bit,” she said, noting that was recommended by his vet. “He lost his tail wag and he started getting chiropractic and then the doctor, the vet did acupuncture and within three treatments, he’s wagging his tail again. It’s been amazing.”
Cooper’s vet is Another Way Veterinary Rehabilitation and Chiropractic.
Pets are very helpful being people’s best friends, so it makes sense to have them assist in disease situations, Crouch said.
“I know people have said that, their dog is helping them through it or that their cat — cats are a little different,” she said. “It depends on the cat. You have a cat that says, like ‘I don’t care. If you’re sick, give me my food,’ or the cat that just says, ‘I’m in your face ‘cause I’m worried about you.’ I mean, there doesn’t seem to be a middle ground for cats, but I’ve heard a lot of people say how much their pet has helped them.”
“They really like the fact that Cooper wrote a book about it, because it made them realize how much their pet helps them through,” Crouch said of cancer patients.
Offering humor and perspective
The new book is meant to help patients and their loved ones through cancer, with a sense of humor and perspective, she said.
“Here’s all the things that go on through life’s journey from a dog’s point of view,” Crouch said. “It makes it easy for someone to say, this is what I’m going through and you can kind of laugh about it off because it’s all over the place.
“It’s pretty open about what goes on and the other thing is, I’m hoping that of course I want people to laugh,” she said. “It’s a feel-good kind of thing…Anyone can read this book because Cooper doesn’t have a very long attention span. So, it’s pretty short.”
“If parents want to read it together with their kids, or for kids, if Grandma’s going through treatment and then this is something that they can explain, well, Cooper’s mom felt like this,” Crouch said. “It’s light-hearted; it’s a serious subject, but hopefully on an approachable level.”
Though Crouch’s own “Doggie Howser” obviously didn’t go to medical school or can’t write, her beagle with big brown eyes has been a critical part of her cancer recovery.
“My faith and family has gotten me through this, but also my choice of humor and Cooper,” she said. “Cooper didn’t care if I was exhausted. He didn’t care if I was bald. If I came home full of tubes, he actually kind of thought it was silly that I wasn’t hungry sometimes, ’cause he’s always hungry.”
There’s also a “pawtograph” on the first page of every book. Crouch may have extra copies to give out. If you are interested, contact her at email@example.com.