Woman Battling Cancer Gets a Surprise Hangout with Shelter Puppies

Here come the happy tears.
By: Aly Semigran

Courtney Gessford is as tough and brave as they come. The events manager from Sacramento, California has been fiercely battling brain cancer for three years. Her grit and determination inspires and amazes everyone around her. 

Of course, facing a room full of sweet and adorable puppies is enough to reduce even the toughest person to a puddle of tears (Gessford included), and that’s exactly what happened in early January when the 28 year old was given the surprise of a lifetime thanks one of her closest friends, Maris Loeffler. 

Loeffler knew that Gessford—who is a dog mama to a Golden Retriever named Clyde— majorly adores pups, so when she couldn’t find a breeder who would help her shower Gessford in a pile of puppies, she reached out to the Front Street Animal Shelter who were happy to help this dream come true. 

Gessford had no idea about the world’s most adorable ambush. According to “Today,” Loeffler requested that her friend wear comfortable clothes and then put a blindfold and earphones on her friend before driving her to the mystery location. 

When they arrived, Gessford was greeted by friends and family at the shelter, as well as all of the shelter’s adoptable puppies. 

“My first reaction was shock and confusion—I had to take a second to figure out where I was, who was there, and why everyone was there,” she tells PawCulture. “Once I realized what was going on, I was overwhelmed with emotion and gratitude and excitement. I was overwhelmed with the love in that room.” 

Gessford got to spend a blissful hour cuddling and playing with all of the puppies, which was caught on film and shared on the shelter’s Facebook page. In the two weeks that it’s been online, the video has racked up over 1.7 million views.

“I totally bonded with them,” Gessford says of the puppies. “If I had the ability to take one or more of them home, we would have.” 

Fortunately, Gessford has the love of her wonderful dog, Clyde, who she says has been critical both emotionally and physically in her healing process. 

“When recovering from my surgeries (three brain operations), we walk every day. Just to the mailbox and back, but we walk. As I get stronger we would walk further and eventually we are back out there together, hiking all day,” she says. “He can sense when is the time to play and when is the time to just lay with me in the room where I’m resting.” 

It’s that mutual love and appreciation of dogs that made her surprise afternoon with the shelter puppies so meaningful. Gessford calls her friend’s gesture “loving, kind, and thoughtful.” She adds that the past few months have been especially difficult for her and what Loeffler did for her, and the experience itself, brought a big smile to her face. 

Her story and the video has brought smiles (and, yes, some happy tears) to everyone who has come across it. Gessford says she is overwhelmed by the response from people around the world, and that she’s glad she can bring some joy to others in a time when the news is overwhelmingly dark. 

“As a bonus, this video is giving me a voice to share the causes that I’m passionate about like the National Brain Tumor Society, and how adopting a shelter pet can be equally as therapeutic for the animal and the human,” she tells PawCulture. 

Now, there’s a message that’s as powerful and inspiring as Gessford herself.