GoFundMe page for Stella from Dog & Drone Search Pet Rescue, to help with medical bills

GUILFORD — Tears flow freely as Dan and Ann Montuori talk about their beloved 7-year-old goldendoodle, Stella, a search-pet dog who is battling cancer.

“Things are going like a roller coaster, as you would expect,” said Dan Montuori.

It was on July 31, the day after Stella’s birthday, that the Montuoris discovered a lump on her right front leg. Except for a limp, she “wasn’t acting sick,” Dan Montuori said.

The diagnosis, osteosarcoma, was devastating.

Stella and Dan have star status along the coast. Together they form Dog & Drone Search Pet Rescue, finding missing pets.

Now the tables have turned. A GoFundMe page has been set up to help with Stella’s medical costs. To date, about $6,000 has been raised, for a goal of $10,000. To contribute visit “Help Stella with her medical bills” at GoFundMe.com.

“I just thought, ‘This is an amazing person and she could use a hand,’” said Susan Brinigar, the page’s creator. “It was kind of a no-brainer to set up GoFundMe and see if we could raise some money to help with Stella’s bills.”

The Montuori are doing everything they can to make Stella feel comfortable. Her leg was amputated on August 4 and she is undergoing chemotherapy. She is scheduled to receive five treatments, one every three weeks, through November 17.

“He is pain-free and doing well with chemotherapy,” said Dan Montuori. “She was sick for a day yesterday, but today she’s practically back to herself.”

The day after his first chemotherapy, he was running on the lawn in Madison, tail wagging and a smile on his face.

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“They’re superheroes,” said Debbie Longyear, walking her Shih Tzu, Acacia, across the Madison lawn. “I read all the stories on Facebook and they are so heartwarming, especially when it comes to a little boy getting his pet back. It really touches your heart.”

“Look at that smile,” Dan Montouri said.

Stella came to the Montuori home at 10 weeks old, through her son, who could no longer care for the pet. It was not something this couple from Guilford ever expected.

Dan Montuori shows a scar on his nose, the result of a dog bite when he was 7 years old.

“He didn’t like dogs at all,” said his wife, Ann Montuori. “Now they are best friends.”

“I took care of her when she was 3 months old,” said Dan Montuori, a lump in his throat.

Immediately after joining the Montuori family, Stella became a therapy dog ​​for Dan Montuori, who was experiencing seizures associated with Lyme disease.

“She started sticking her head into me and we thought there was something wrong with her,” Dan Montuori said. “So she was having seizures and it turns out she was warning me that she was having seizures. So, she’s officially my service dog.”

“I was at home in bed depressed and she was the one who picked me up and lifted me up,” he said, wiping away tears. “I haven’t had a seizure because she gives me advance notice.”

He remembers being in the hospital recovering from a heart attack when Stella was allowed to visit him.

“We rescued her and then in turn she rescued me and now we’re rescuing other people’s pets,” he said.

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Over time, Dan Montouri and Stella’s love of tracking animals in the woods made them the perfect match.

“I took her out tracking animals with me in the woods and it turned out that when she lost her visual scent, she was picking it up,” Dan Montouri said. “We were tracking coyotes, bobcats and deer, just for fun.”

He then went on to find lost pets. Dog & Drone Pet Rescues has helped locate more than 100 cats and dogs, and all of their work is free, she said.

This is “a hobby,” said Dan Montouri, who works as an insurance inspector. Stella is his constant companion.

He described how he and Stella work together as pet finders: he uses his tracking abilities and Stella uses her nose. For the animals that they cannot locate, he tries to help them find their way home.

“I look for what wild animals do, their game comes and goes in the water and usually domestic dogs and cats do the same,” he explained. “So, I’ll put the scent markers in there and show you a way to get home.”

Whether it’s strolling through the woods or giving advice on the phone, the duo have helped reunite some 100 pets with their owners in the past seven years.

Sam Kramer recalls finding a neighbor’s dog and help from Dog & Drone.

“One minute Dan and Stella were there and countless days passed,” Kramer recalled. “Ruby was gone for quite some time and they continued to come back and trudge through the woods in the middle of winter, trying to find this dog, which was incredibly kind of her.”

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“They really helped us, eventually helped us, find Ruby a couple of days later,” added Kramer, a Madison native who recently moved to Chicago.

Dan Montuori gives advice over the phone to people who have lost their pets. He often tells them how to set “scent markers.”

“You cut your blanket, which smells like your dog, and you go out into the woods and leave a trail for it to come back,” he said.

Dog & Drone has helped people as far afield as Australia, New Zealand, England, Greenland and Finland, he noted.

Dan Montuori is confident that Stella will be back on the trails soon.

“She had just entered her prime as a search dog,” he said.

“It’s a game we’ve always played,” he adds. “It’s not work for her, it’s something she likes to do and we enjoy doing together.”

Pet Search with Dogs and Drones, 203-824-1042; Search for dogs and drones in Facebook D&D; “Help Stella with her medical bills” at GoFundMe.com.