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

Only wicked pet

GUILFORD — Tears flow freely as Dan and Ann Montuori talk about their beloved 7-year-old goldendoodle, Stella, a pet-search dog who is battling cancer. “Things are going like a roller coaster, as you can expect,” said Dan Montuori. It was in July 31, the day after Stella’s birthday, that the […]

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

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

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

The diagnosis, osteosarcoma, was devasting.

Stella and Dan have star status along the Shoreline. Together they make up Dog & Drone Search Pet Rescue, finding pets that have gone missing.


Now, the tables have turned. A GoFundMe page has been created to help with Stella’s medical costs. To date, some $6,000 has been raised, towards a $10,000 goal. To contribute visit “Help Stella with her medical bills” on GoFundMe.com.

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

The Montuori’s are doing everything they can do to make Stella comfortable. Her leg was amputated on Aug. 4 and she is undergoing chemotherapy. She is scheduled to have five treatments, one every three weeks, ending Nov. 17.

“She’s pain free and she’s doing well with the chemo,” said Dan Montuori. “She was sick for a day, yesterday, but today she’s back to being pretty much herself.”

The day after her first chemotherapy she was running on the Madison green, tail wagging and a smile on her face.

“They’re superheroes,” said Debbie Longyear, walking her Shih Tzu, Acacia, on the Madison green. “I read all the stories on Facebook and they’re just so touching, especially when it’s a little kid that’s getting its pet back. It just really gets to your heart.”

“Look at that smile,” said Dan Montouri.

Stella came to the Montuori’s at 10 weeks old, via their son who could no longer care for the pet. It was not something this Guilford couple ever expected.

Dan Montuori shows off a scar on his nose, the result of a dog bite as a 7-year-old.

“He did not like dogs at all,” said his wife, Ann Montuori. “Now they’re best friends.”

“I took her over when she was 3 months,” said Dan Montuori, choking up.

Immediately upon joining the Montuori household Stella became a therapy dog for Dan Montuori who was experiencing seizures associated with Lyme disease.

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

“I was home depressed in bed and she’s the one who got me up and out,” he said, wiping away tears. “I haven’t had a seizure because she alerts me ahead of time.”

He recalls being in the hospital recuperating from a heart attack when Stella was allowed to visit.

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

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

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

Then it was on to finding lost pets. Dog & Drone Pet Rescues has helped locate over 100 cats and dogs and all their work is free, he 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 as pet finders together — he uses his tracking skills and Stella uses her nose. For the animals they can’t locate, he tries to help them find their way home.

“I look for what the wild animals are doing, their game trails to the water and back, and usually the domestic dogs and cats are doing the same thing,” he explained. “So, I’ll put the scent markers there and show them a way to get home.”

Whether it is traipsing through the woods or giving advice over the phone, the duo has helped reunite some 100 pets with their owners over the last seven years.

Sam Kramer recalls searching for a neighbor’s dog and the assistance from Dog & Drone.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“She’d just gotten into her prime as a search dog,” he said.

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

Dog & Drone Pet Search, 203-824-1042; Facebook Dog & Drone Search D&D; “Help Stella with her medical bills” at GoFundMe.com.

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