Updated November 14, 2020 - 5:22 pm
Honking cars and waving neighbors ushered in a new best friend for 18-year-old Lauren Cleveland, who was given a golden retriever puppy Saturday through the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
The organization delivered the puppy to Cleveland at her northwest Las Vegas home while cars drove by displaying signs congratulating her. Cleveland was born with a type of neurofibromatosis — a brain tumor on her optic nerve — that has required her to undergo chemotherapy in the past year, said her father, Jason Cleveland.
Las Vegas Review-Journal employees participated in the socially distanced celebration that brought the puppy to Lauren Cleveland, and the newspaper also donated a PetSmart gift card and supplies for her new dog.
“I’m really thankful that we were able to bring him here today, and he’s going to have a nice loving home, hopefully forever,” the 18-year-old said while standing outside her home and holding the puppy, which she named Casper.
Jason Cleveland said that his daughter has always been an animal lover and would bring home stray animals as a child. Her family has another dog, two cats and two turtles, and she’s thinking about becoming a veterinarian.
Casper was chosen from a breeder in Utah for his calm temperament and potential to form a strong bond with a person, said Devynn Mills, a senior wish support specialist from Make-A-Wish.
“He’s just perfect, he’s so mellow and he’s a one-human guy,” Mills said. “He’s so ready to bond with Lauren.”
Jason Cleveland said his daughter wanted a puppy she could bring with her to doctors’ appointments and monthly chemotherapy treatments. She has to travel to Phoenix every two weeks to see an eye specialist because of the location of the tumor, he said.
The tumor might eventually cause Lauren Cleveland to lose her eyesight, her dad said, and Casper might be trained as a service dog in the future.
While her two young nephews ran around her feet, the 18-year-old cuddled her new puppy and showed him off to the neighborhood children across the street.
“He’s so perfect,” Lauren Cleveland told her dad during the celebration. She said she looks forward to buying new toys for Casper and giving him love and cuddles.
Jason Cleveland said that watching Casper being delivered reminded him that “there are a lot of good people in the world.”
“Even during a pandemic, people are willing to do these kinds of things,” he said. “It’s just very humbling and overwhelming.”