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Long Island students start charity fund for coworker's dog

Basil, a year-old Great Dane mix, with his

Basil, a year-old Great Dane mix, with his owner Nicole Marie Ficano. Basil, who was adopted from the North Shore Animal League of America in Port Washington, was diagnosed with osteochondrodysplasia, a congenital disease in which the dog’s bones and cartilage form improperly, and luxating patellas, where the dog’s knee caps slide in and out of place. Photo Credit: Nicole Marie Ficano

Basil — a Great Dane mix who's had quite a ruff time over the past several months — and his owner Nicole Marie Ficano are still basking in the spirit of the Yuletide season.

Ficano, 22, a senior majoring in psychology at Adelphi University, adopted Basil in March from the North Shore Animal League America in Port Washington. During the summer, Ficano noticed Basil was having difficulty walking and his condition worsened significantly.

By August, Basil was diagnosed with osteochondrodysplasia, a congenital disease in which the dog’s bones and cartilage form improperly, and luxating patellas, where the dog’s knee caps slide out of place. After consulting with veterinarians and following treatments with supplements and an anti-inflammatory medication, Ficano, of Northport, was directed to an orthopedic surgeon who said Basil would need two surgeries. The first surgery on Dec. 26, 2014, was done to mend the luxating patella on his right side. “The surgery involved deepening the groove for the knee cap to sit in, tightening the surrounding ligaments and securing the knee cap in place with a pin,” Ficano said.

Treatments and surgeries come at a steep price, especially for a college student. Each surgery costs roughly $5,000 plus the costs for physical therapy and medications, totaling about $13,000, Ficano said.

Determined to help her beloved Basil, Ficano set up a fundraising campaign on gofundme.com. So far, she has raised $2,500.

Fortunately for Basil, his tale also involves a good measure of holiday spirit. Ficano, who has been working as a barista at Starbucks Coffee in the Walt Whitman Shops in Huntington Station since last August, didn't realize mortal angels in the guise of her co-workers, shift supervisors and manager, Milton Flores, were watching out for her. When they heard about Basil's condition, they were moved to compassion and decided to help. The crew pulled her aside just before Christmas and handed Ficano almost $700 — which included donations from her superiors and all of her co-workers’ tips from the previous week.

“It was a true Christmas story to me,” Ficano said. “Our store gets extremely, extremely busy during the holiday season and everybody works so hard. Everybody who works there could've used the extra money; there are single mothers there, college students paying for school and rent etc., and during the busiest time of year [when the tips are at their highest] they decided to donate them to me for Basil. What my co-workers did for me demonstrated what I feel is the true meaning of Christmas by performing a truly selfless act. I am still so overwhelmed by their gesture and continued support.”

Basil, who celebrated his first birthday on Jan. 7, faces one more surgery and possibly revision surgeries as well. But “the prognosis is hopeful ... With the continuation of vitamins, supplements, physical therapy and daily exercise, Basil will hopefully be able to live a relatively normal life,” Ficano said.

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