Thursday, September 23, 2021

Local News

A Rescuer by Nature, Now Stella Needs Help

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Dan Montuori and Stella are the team behind Dog and Drone Search, a free service that seeks to reunite lost pets with their people. Now, Stella is the pet in need of assistance after a diagnosis of fatal osteocarcoma. Photo courtesy of Dan Montuori

Dan Montuori and Stella are the team behind Dog and Drone Search, a free service that seeks to reunite lost pets with their people. Now, Stella is the pet in need of assistance after a diagnosis of fatal osteocarcoma. (Photo courtesy of Dan Montuori)

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Stella the goldendoodle will continue to take part in searches as long as she remains comfortable, according to Dan Montuori. Photo courtesy of Dan Montuori

Stella the goldendoodle will continue to take part in searches as long as she remains comfortable, according to Dan Montuori. (Photo courtesy of Dan Montuori)

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Dan Montuori says Stella is in good spirits after her amputation due to cancer, and may become the first three-legged dog to rescue a lost pet. Photo courtesy of Dan Montuori

Dan Montuori says Stella is in good spirits after her amputation due to cancer, and may become the first three-legged dog to rescue a lost pet. (Photo courtesy of Dan Montuori)

Dan Montuori and his goldendoodle Stella have spent years helping desperate pet owners locate their lost pets free of charge. After a recent cancer diagnosis took one of her legs, Stella and Dan can use your help.

It’s one of the worst feelings a pet owner can imagine: Your beloved pet escapes the yard and is nowhere to be found. Worse still, in your frantic state all you can imagine is how afraid and confused your pet is. That’s where Montuori and Stella come in.

Driving around in their specially marked car, Montuori and Stella are the team behind Dog and Drone Search, a Madison-based service that uses a drone and a canine’s searching skills to locate lost animals. Best of all, it is entirely a volunteer effort, meaning the service is completely free for stressed out owners.

Montuori estimated he’s helped locate around 100 pets all around the state since he started doing this about six years ago.

“The police and the state parks will refer people to me when people call with a lost pet,” Montuori stated.

In fact, people all across the world from Australia to Iceland have reached out to him online for tips on how they can lure their pets back.

“Whenever I help the people and bring back their dog it’s just so great. It means the world to me,” said Montuori.

After aiding in creating so many happy endings of reuniting pets and owners, Stella and Montuori could use some help now. The day after Stella’s seventh birthday, Montuori noticed she had a limp, so he brought her to the vet for a checkup. Stella was diagnosed with large osteosarcoma, a cancer that required the amputation of her front right leg. The cancer will also eventually take her life.

“There’s no cure. You can only postpone it,” Montuori explained after collecting his thoughts for a few moments. “I still can’t talk about it without crying. It’s all in God’s hands now.”

When Montuori shared news of Stella’s diagnosis, several people reached out to help. While there is no cure for Stella’s cancer, there is still medical treatment she can undergo that will improve her life. A GoFundMe was set up by Susan Brinigar with a goal of raising $10,000. At press time it has raised more than $4,500 across 94 donors. Montuori said the money will go toward chemotherapy and blood medication, which are expensive. The fund can be found at www.gofundme.com (search “help stella with her medical bills”).

Overcome with emotion, Montuori told The Source that the way so many people have supported him and Stella during this time means more than words can say to him.

“It’s been really overwhelming to see the way people in the community have offered to help. It’s been great to see,” Montuori said.

While Stella may not have much time left on the earth, she’ll be getting a send-off fit for a dog of her stature. Montuori and Stella will be riding in the Guilford Fair Citizens’ Parade this fall and will even have a booth at the fair where visitors can come say hi.

“We’re very thankful and appreciative for all the people who have donated. So many have been reaching out and if I haven’t thanked you yet…I want them to know how much it means,” said Montuori.

A Match Made in Accident

Though they’re inseparable now Stella wasn’t even Montuori’s dog to begin with. In fact, Montuori recalls as a youngster he was bitten in the face by a dog once and was even scared of dogs for a while. Then, about seven years ago his son and his son’s girlfriend got Stella. But with the girlfriend moving across country and his son working nights, Stella was eventually in need of a new home. Montuori agreed to look after her until a new home could be found, but instead found he couldn’t let her go.

“We just fell in love with each other,” Montuori said.

So deep is their bond, that Montuori credits Stella with saving his life in more than one way. Montuori has suffered from seizures for some time, but after he got Stella, he noticed that the dog would lay her head on his lap minutes before he would have the seizure. Once he made that connection, Montuori realized he never had to worry about an unexpected seizure again.

“She warns me if there’s one coming on and I can take my medication. She’s really saved my life,” Montuori said.

The seizures aren’t the only way Stella helped save Montuori’s life.

Before he got Stella, Montuori wasn’t getting the exercise he should have, but then after getting Stella he was always ready to take her for a walk and enjoyed doing so. Two years ago, Montuori suffered a heart attack and was told that if it hadn’t been for the years of walking Stella his heart would not have been strong enough to survive the attack.

Montuori is proud to note that Stella is now an official service dog,

Dog and Drone

One day about six years ago, Montuori was walking when he noticed people who were frantically looking for a dog who had gotten loose. Having recently purchased a drone, Montuori offered to help look for the dog since the drone could get bird’s-eye views that people could not.

Soon after that, Montuori began getting more and more calls to help. During one such search where he had Stella with him, he noticed the dog was able to pick up scents and aid in searching from the ground. Montuori, who is part Native American, said he grew up tracking animals for fun so it’s a skill he’s honed over the years. When his skills are paired with Stella’s keen senses and the drone, Montuori said the team is a tough combination to beat.

Of all the rescues he’s been a part of, one that stands out is the time he was called in to assist with a search in Cockaponset State Forest for a little girl’s pet dog who had run away. Soon after he was able to help find the dog, the girl wrote Montuori a thank you note and included money from her piggy bank that she asked be used to buy Stella a new toy.

“That letter is really one of my most prized possessions,” Montuori said.

In the weeks since her diagnosis and amputation, Montuori said that Stella has been in good spirits and still has a playful smile. Montuori said that as long as she is feeling well and isn’t in pain, he’ll keep using Stella on the searches as long as she can since it’s an activity she likes so much.

“She’s found dogs in places I’d never have looked otherwise. I’ll try to keep going as best I can,” Montuori said. “Who knows, maybe she’ll be the first three-pawed dog to rescue a pet.”

To donate to the Stella’s medical treatment, visit www.gofundme.com (search “help stella with her medical bills”).



Eric O’Connell covers news for Clinton for Zip06. Email Eric at e.oconnell@shorepublishing.com.

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