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Gay Seattleites Rally to Save a Dog

by Shaun Knittel
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Wednesday Feb 22, 2012

Sometimes it takes a village. And in keeping with that concept, Andy Swanson heard about a friend in need. He decided to enlist locals to help ease the financial burden of a dog owner who was fighting to save his 12-year-old chocolate Lab's life.

When author, Seattle Flash Mob boss and PrideFest organizer Egan Orion learned that his dog, Keo (pronounced "Kayo") was ill; he immediately obtained the treatment she needed. Her health took a turn for the worse in October when veterinarians discovered a tumor under her left armpit, and the financial burden to remove a mast cell tumor has become daunting.

"We've gone through months of chemotherapy and the cancer roared back at one point, only to be corrected by the next type of chemo," Orion told EDGE. "We wanted to get the tumor small enough that it was operable. Last week, we were there and then the surgical clinic gave me the quote for the surgery: between three and four thousand dollars. It was our one window of time to operate, but I did not have the money to do it. It's the one time I've had to make a decision about my dog's health and wellness based on money, and it tore me up."

Keo means the world to Orion.

"Through relationships and breakups and great hardship and prosperity, she's been the one steady force in my life, making me get up in the morning and maintain at least something like a regular schedule," he said. "After a tough breakup a few years ago, she and I took up a daily walking habit and we were often gone several hours a day. When a back problem made those sorts of long walks impossible, I was on my own, but I could always rely on her to meet me at the door when I got home and to be by my side to help me eat dinner."

Orion has had Keo since she was 6-weeks-old, and she has been his constant companion since.

"When my flash mobbers found out about my dilemma, they went right to work, and they even thought about making the fundraiser a surprise for me," said Orion, noting the response to his plight to save his beloved dog. "I'm normally a go-it-alone kind of guy, not wanting to ask for help, but with that attitude, I wasn't going to do much for the quality of my dog's life. So I took the help and we jumped in to fundraising mode."

The response was immediate.

In less than five days; they not only made the goal, but people kept donating. Ninety-one people contributed $4,030. A Phoenix man whom Orion befriended on Facebook even donated $1,000, telling him that his dog Duke insisted he help.

Swanson, one of the flash mobbers who helped create the ChipIn drive, met Orion two years ago in Seattle.

"His compassion and love for bringing joy to people, whether through the mobs or other events he plans, is vividly apparent and quickly I appreciated becoming his friend," he said. "Ever since, I have come to know Egan through many events throughout Seattle, and find every day that he continues to prove himself a true and honest giver and a well known and loved icon in the Seattle community."

Swanson said the ChipIn drive initially started as a secret cause among some of the flash mobbers.

"As a mob, we are a very close community and have shown support for many of our mobbers at numerous points over the past couple of years," he said. "There was one event where one of our mobbers ended up in the hospital with a drawn out recovery period and we bound together to provide people to visit, provide basic necessities and offer comfort. With this basis supporting our group, there was no doubt in any of the mobbers minds that this would be a gift we would want to give Egan. With all that he has done for us and the greater Seattle community with his joyous mobs and various other events, it was a unanimous yes."

As the ideas started flowing, the group started to put things into action. Colby, another mobber, brought in the ChipIn idea.

"Eventually we brought Egan in the solidify details and to widen the spectrum of fundraising support," said Swanson. "With the help of every mobber posting it throughout Facebook and emailing to friends, the ChipIn page exploded with support."

The fundraising effort has made Swanson "so happy and so proud of the love that our community of flash mobbers and the community that each individual has reached out to create."

"Seeing people in action for a good cause is a beautiful thing," he said.

Keo's prognosis remains uncertain, but Orion remains grateful for the efforts to help him save her.

"I don't know what will happen with my dog," he admitted. "Whatever the case, I couldn't have lived with myself if I hadn't done everything I could to take care of her. The generosity of love and support from friends and strangers alike made me feel like I wasn't going through this alone. Being single and taking care of a sick dog is tough, and when you've had 12 years with a dog, then it becomes financially, emotionally, and physically draining. The community support energized me and renewed my spirit-I'll need that for the next period of her care."

Shaun Knittel is an openly gay journalist and public affairs specialist living in Seattle. His work as a photographer, columnist, and reporter has appeared in newspapers and magazines throughout the Pacific Northwest. In addition to writing for EDGE, Knittel is the current Associate Editor for Seattle Gay News.


  • IndianaJag, 2012-02-22 14:59:35

    Heartwarming story! I had my dog 16 years and losing her was the great sorrow of my life so far. I hope his dog recovers!

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