When Guy Weidner-Ahorrio of Lewes was a child, two of his favorite things were his love of animals and his annual summer vacations.
His family lived outside Philadelphia when he was a youth, and his mother and father would pack up the family car each year for trips to Rehoboth Beach. "I loved to go to Funland on the Boardwalk," he said. "I also loved when I got to go out on the boat with my dad and go fishing."
But his childhood was cut short when cancer struck. "I was diagnosed with bone cancer when I was 8," Weidner-Ahorrio said.
Osteosarcoma, one of the most common childhood cancers, was detected in his left arm and doctors said the youngster had one year to live. However, he emerged victorious following a three-year-battle with the illness.
At about the same time he received his clean bill of health, cancer again struck his family. His father was diagnosed and eventually lost his battle with the illness.
Now a 41-year-old businessman juggling several projects, Weidner-Ahorrio said those challenges in childhood shaped his world view and led to a decision to become a health-care professional. "It contributed to me becoming the person I am today," Weidner-Ahorrio said.
He balanced an 18-year nursing career with a study of clinical science, in which cutting-edge medical breakthoughs often extend the lives of patients. He managed an HIV clinic in Pennsylvania for several years, where brand-new drugs for Phase 1 HIV were administered. After receiving his clinical science degree, he authored a training manual on the subject; this led to extensive road work as an independent consultant. "I've traveled all around the United States to hospitals to teach doctors and nurses how to do clinical trials with experimental devices and medications," Weidner-Ahorrio said.
He returned to Sussex County to take classes at Beebe Medical Center in 1991 and moved to Lewes in 2007; his mother and stepfather live nearby. He opened an office for his consulting business, Weidner Clinical Research Services, in the Red Mill Center on Route 1 near Milton.
In 2009, he was legally wed to his partner, Jose Weidner-Ahorrio, in Massachusetts. The two drove to Wilmington May 11 and witnessed as Gov. Jack Markell signed Delaware's new civil union bill into law. "It's a different title than marriage, but it will give us benefits, rights and responsibilities," Guy said.
Jose is a talented artist from Puerto Rico who came to the United States as part of an arts exchange program at the University of Delaware's Newark campus. He is studying to become a licensed veterinarian and shares his partner's love of animals. "I worked at a dairy farm in Puerto Rico and always had lots of pets," Jose said.
They currently have two dogs, Dolly and Reina. A third dog, Chelsea, passed away at the age of 10. "Chelsea died from the exact same kind of bone cancer I had when I was a kid," Guy said.
In March, Dolly was also diagnosed with cancer; the Stage 5 lymphoma was predicted to take her life quickly, so her owners took drastic measures. They take Dolly to the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia every week for chemotherapy and clinical trials. "One day I was emotional and crying, and Dolly gave me that look that said, 'I don't know what you're worrying about; I'm not going anywhere,'" Guy said.
Their love of pets prompted the men to launch their new business, Dolly's Pet Sitting Services, which was bonded, licensed and insured in April.
"It isn't a kennel; it's our home — the dogs get full run of the house," Guy said. "We'll pick up your pet and take them to the vet so you don't have to take time off from work to do it yourself. We also provide dogs with 'joy rides.' Everyone knows dogs love to go for a drive, but the owners don't always have time."
"It's definitely our intention to turn this into a full-time career," Jose added.
For more information about the pet care business, go to www.dollyspetsittingservices.webs.com.