Personality: Tonie Stevens
Spotlight on co-founder and board president of FETCH a Cure
10/28/2021, 6 p.m.
Pets are just as vulnerable to illness and cancer as any living creature, and Tonie Stevens is working to further public awareness about pet cancer and treatment.
The Loudoun County native is the co-founder and board president of FETCH a Cure. FETCH stands for Furthering Education and Treatment for Companion Health. The organization wants to help improve the quality of life for pets.
“Let’s face it: Pets went from the barnyard, to the porch, to the couch, to our beds,” Ms. Stevens says. “They are our children, our siblings, our best friends. As the living conditions of pets improved, so did their life expectancy. And similar to humans, the longer the life, the more ailments will be experienced.
“What wouldn’t you do to extend the life of a family member?”
Ms. Stevens joined with Mike Holland and Ryan Traylor to start FETCH a Cure in 2006 after Mr. Holland’s pet was diagnosed with nasal osteosarcoma. Little info was available about the condition, and what Mr. Holland could find, he found difficult to understand. His pet was given only two months to live, but lived another two years as he helped fight the disease with various treatments.
FETCH began then, and continues today, as a resource for pet owners when it comes to awareness and treatment of pet cancer. The goal, according to Ms. Stevens, is “ensuring all have access to adequate information and finances to make the right decision for their pet and family situation.”
“Our vision is a community where no one is denied a choice for their pet’s health due to lack of options, education or funding,” Ms. Stevens says.
To achieve this goal, FETCH a Cure works to increase pet cancer awareness and prevention through advocating for annual pet wellness visits and screening of lumps and bumps to rule out cancer and other illnesses.
The organization also hosts two monthly support groups for pet owners who are caring for animals with cancer and for those who have lost pets.
Through its Companions in Crisis program, FETCH also provides financial assistance to families unable to handle the cost of pet cancer treatments, as well as access to treatment through their pet oncology center in Henrico County.
FETCH also has Pixie’s Pen Pals, a program that offers second chances to rescue dogs and inmates in Virginia correctional centers. The inmates learn responsibility and other skills by helping to socialize and train the dogs to prepare them for adoption in new homes. It becomes a fresh start for the inmates and the pets.
Her work carries a deep, personal meaning for Ms. Stevens, who currently has two “fur-children,” as she calls them, Pumpkin, a Staffordshire bull terrier, and River, an American pit bull. She cites raising them, as well as two pets she has lost, as a major part of her life and development as a person.
“My dog Bailey influenced me the most,” Ms. Stevens says. “I had her for 17 years, and she was my first dog. I never knew how to take care of another living soul before that. She taught me responsibility and unconditional love.”
FETCH a Cure is just days away from its signature fundraising event, Pets On Parade Benefit & Auction, the proceeds of which support the Companions in Crisis program.
The 13th annual event will be held 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 5, at Main Street Station, 1500 E. Main St. in Shockoe Bottom.
Dogs are welcome at the event and can be dressed “any way they want to express themselves – a fancy leash or bow tie, hula skirt or their favorite Western bandana,” Ms. Stevens says. “Pet cancer survivors are encouraged to wear something that lets us celebrate their courage and accomplishment.”
In addition to furry guests, the event will feature food, cocktails and silent and live auctions. Tickets and details are available on the organization’s website: fetchacure.org
“If we can provide hope to a pet family, we are successful,” Ms. Stevens says. “If it’s two weeks, two months, two years, any of those numbers equal success. The gift of time is precious.”
Meet a spirited advocate for education and treatment for pet health and this week’s Personality, Tonie Stevens:
No. 1 volunteer position: Co-founder and board president of FETCH a Cure.
Occupation: Account executive, sales.
Date and place of birth: June 1968 in Loudoun County.
Where I live now: Richmond.
Education: Bachelor’s in fine arts, Virginia Commonwealth University.
Family: I live with my fur-children, Pumpkin, 12, and River, 5. I’m the youngest daughter to a single mother. My older sister lives in Texas, and I’m the auntie to two nephews and one niece. Two of my fur-children have passed, Bailey, at 17-years-old, and Bernard, at 4.
FETCH a Cure is: A 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. FETCH stands for Furthering Education and Treatment for Companion Health.
FETCH a Cure’s mission: To improve the quality of life for our pets by working with pet owners and the veterinary community to further pet cancer awareness, education and treatment. Our vision is a community where no one is denied a choice for their pet’s health due to lack of options, education or funding.
No. 1 goal as co-founder and board president: Be the resource for pet cancer awareness and support pet families through pet cancer treatment options; ensuring all have access to adequate information and finances to make the right decision for their pet and family situation.
How FETCH a Cure will accomplish this goal: By increasing pet cancer awareness and prevention through lumps and bumps screening and educa- tion materials; providing free continuing education to the veterinary community around oncology and other developing pet cancer treatments; providing financial assistance to families to secure pet cancer treatments; and providing access to treatments by supporting a pet oncology center here in Central Virginia.
Pet cancer awareness is: Knowing the early warning signs of pet cancer and participating in your pets’ health by scheduling annual wellness visits and lumps and bumps screening with a veterinarian. Early detection can make all the difference in treatment options. A list of pet cancer prevention tips and early warning signs can be found on our website at fetchacure.org.
Average cost of cancer treatment for pets: Varies widely based on so many factors, but upward of $2,000 depending on type, stage and age and condition of pet. Some treatment protocols require more visits than others.
Success rate of pets beating cancer: We measure success in hope. If we can provide hope to a pet family, we are successful. If it’s two weeks, two months or two years, any of those numbers equal success. The gift of time is precious.
Pet insurance and cancer: Some pet insurance providers cover pet cancer. It is well worth looking into. Insurance can really help out, especially when treatment is extensive and long term.
Cancer support for pets is necessary because: Let’s face it: Pets went from the barnyard, to the porch, to the couch, to our beds. They are our children, our siblings, our best friends. As the living conditions of pets improved, so did their life expectancy. And similar to humans, the longer the life, the more ailments will be experienced. What wouldn’t you to do extend the life of a family member?
How people can become involved with FETCH a Cure: There are many ways. We have a strong volunteer core that helps with awareness events, fundraisers, pet transportation, fostering, marketing, arts projects and more. Additionally, we have two monthly support groups that meet both in person and virtually. They are:
• Pet Cancer Support Group – allows pet owners to share their journey and experiences through diagnosis, treatment and remission/recovery.
• Pet Loss Support Group – provides resources to help deal with pet loss. This group is led by an experienced psychologist, Dr. Leslie Greenberg. Participants learn to cope and work through the pain on losing a beloved companion.
FETCH a Cure partners: We partner with the local veterinary community. We also are extremely fortunate to have the support of many community sponsors.
Ways readers can participate with FETCH a Cure outside of the event: Volunteering is one of the best ways to get involved with FETCH, as well as participating in one of our many events, from Yappy Hours, Golf Tournament, Mutt Strut, Holiday Bone Treat Trees, and more. We publish a calendar of events on our website.
A perfect day for me is: Walking River and Pumpkin on a fall day with a cool breeze and leaves falling from the trees.
What I am learning about myself during the pandemic: That cuddling on the sofa with River and Pumpkin beats any night out on the town, hands down. Or I mean, paws down.
Pets and the pandemic: Adoptions increased tremendously. Veterinary practices are beyond full with new patients. Veterinarians need to be applauded and praised for continuing to treat our fur balls during all the chaos. They had to reinvent how they would do intake and service, but they did it and we are grateful.
My pets’ names and breeds: Pumpkin is Staffordshire terrier/bully, which means she’s incredibly adorable and a low rider, and River is an American pit bull, which is more like the body of a labish and a big head. But he’s super lovable and handsome.
Favorite activity with my pets: My pups love to ride in the car to go get a mani-pedi at Dogma and then go through the Starbucks drive-thru for some barista adoration and pup-accinos. That’s a Starbucks cup full of sweet cream with a dog treat at the bottom, or sometimes on top.
Something I love to do that most people would never imagine: I love to swim in the pool in September through November. I’m a polar bear swimmer. I love the cold, cold water and then warming up by a fire pit, wine in hand.
Quote that I am inspired by: “How lucky am I to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.” — Winnie the Pooh
My friends describe me as: Vivacious.
At the top of my “to-do” list: Walk the pups. That’s top of the list every morning and evening. But beyond that is travel. I can’t wait to travel abroad again. I love a good adventure with friends.
Best late-night snack: Cookie dough and popcorn.
Best thing my parents ever taught me: Be true to yourself.
Person who influenced me the most: Mine was not a person. My dog Bailey influenced me the most. I had her for 17 years and she was my first dog. I never knew how to take care of another living soul before that. She was completely dependent on me. She taught me responsibility and unconditional love.
Book that influenced me the most: “The Mists of Avalon” by Marion Zimmer Bradley. It’s Arthurian legends from the female perspective. I’ve read it about three times at different stages in my life. It’s powerful and helpful.
What I’m reading now: “The Forever Dog: Surprising New Science to Help Your Canine Companion Live Younger, Healthier and Longer” by Rodney Habib and Dr. Karen Shaw Becker. In all honesty, I fell in love with the dog on the cover in his red super power cape.
Next goal: It’s always the same goal—help where I can, when I can, for as long as I can. And spend summer in the French Riviera.