Reynoldsburg High School HS(2) Academy senior Katy Titchell has been "ruffin' it" in too many ways for the past few months.
As she was contacting dog shelters and rescue groups over the winter to promote her pet adoption event "Ruffin' It in Reynoldsburg -- A Walk in the Park" for her Girl Scout Gold Award, she was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma. A pathologist had determined that lumps removed from Titchell's collarbone Dec. 10, 2013, were cancerous.
A few days later, on Dec. 13, she spent the day joining the "cancer club" at Nationwide Children's Hospital.
The stress and fear from such a diagnosis puts most families into a tailspin, and Titchell said the changes in her life were very stressful.
"When I was diagnosed, the project came to a halt," she said. "I had to take a break from my job working at Pet Palace, too, because there was no way my doctors were going to allow me to be around animals.
"I felt so tired I couldn't really do anything," she said. "It is really hard to attract pet organizations without meeting them face to face. I tried to do things by email, but most were dropped or ignored."
Titchell endured four months of perpetual sick days and lost her hair during chemotherapy treatments. And with her immune system compromised by the treatments, she also missed a big chunk of her senior year in high school.
Her love of animals and her anger over puppy mills, though, fueled her passion to keep working on her Gold Award project.
"This is my senior year and my last chance to get my Gold Award completed, so I really want it to be successful," she said.
Titchell is winning on all counts now, though, after enduring her last chemotherapy treatment and being declared cancer-free March 20.
"Once I recuperate from this last round of chemo, I am hoping to get my stamina back so I can work hard to inspire people to come to my event," she said.
Ruffin' It in Reynoldsburg is scheduled Saturday, April 12, from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. at Huber Park, 1520 Davidson Drive, in Reynoldsburg.
"If you are looking to adopt a dog or have custody of a dog that needs a forever home, this event is for you," Titchell said.
Ohio Fuzzy Paws-Shih Tzu Rescue and Pet Promise, along with a private foster parent bringing an adoptable dog named Pepper will be at the event, but Titchell said she needs more organizations and foster animal parents to sign on.
"It has been difficult to get groups to come to a first-time event because they want it to be worthwhile for them," she said. "If people don't show up at the park that day, they will have wasted their time packing up dogs to share."
Any organizations with adoptable dogs that are not pit bulls, since pit bulls are currently illegal in Reynoldsburg, are urged to call Titchell at 614-917-8767 or email her at Titchell.firstname.lastname@example.org.
No adoption fees are required the day of the event; it is an opportunity for prospective dog owners to meet a dog and its current caregiver.
Titchell said people coming to the event could also donate new or gently used items for the shelters, such as towels, pet food, shampoo, pet dishes, leashes or collars.
She said learning more about puppy mills led to the adoption project. A neighbor had brought over a tiny puppy to share, but a few days later, the puppy died.
"I didn't realize puppies were so fragile," Titchell said.
She found out puppy mills breed and sell such a large number of dogs that many are not cared for properly and suffer from crowded, abusive conditions.
"When an abusive puppy mill is busted by humane authorities, the puppies are sent to rescue shelters," she said. "That means not only can you find a purebred puppy at the rescue, but you know that you helped put a puppy mill out of business and the rescue is going to cover the first round of vet care for the pup."
Titchell is hoping her project for her Girl Scout Gold Award will make a difference in the lives of the animals and the people who attend.
She said private foster homes that have an adoptable pet should have proof from a vet that the animal is healthy. Dogs are required to be on leashes and cats need to be in crates or pens for their own safety.
"It would be nice to see some pets find a new home here in Reynoldsburg," she said.