Striker, a dog suffering from Valley Fever, is taken for a walk at the Southern Arizona Humane Society. He has an emotional support toy in his mouth, but more support is on its way.

It started two years ago when NFL great and former Arizona Wildcat Rob Gronkowski told people he’d get a dog if he and the Buccaneers won the Super Bowl.

“What do I know, we win the Super Bowl,” said Gronkowski. “Four weeks later, I went and got my dog, and named him Ralphie right on the spot.”

Ralphie, Gronk’s french bulldog, is healthy. However, the same cannot be said for many of the animals that Dr. Sarah Neuser, a veterinarian, treats at the Southern Arizona Humane Society.

“They can start with some lethargy,” said Dr. Neuser. They can get a cough or fever, which is how the infection got its name.”

Valley Fever, which is common in the desert southwest, is a fungus that crosses species.

“It exists in the soil,” said Neuser. “What do dogs love to do? They love to sniff.”

It also affects more than just a dog’s health.

“All of the tests up front can be a financial cost and then treatment can be a challenge,” said Neuser.

It’s all why Gronkowski wants to throw his most important block.

“I’m just trying my best to fight it any way that I can,” said Gronkowski.

The future Hall of Famer has committed one million dollars as an investor to an animal health company called Anivive Lifesciences. It is currently working with the veterinary profession at institutions such as the University of Arizona. And, they are working on a vaccine for Valley Fever.

“Having some sort of preventative would be amazing,” said Neuser.

The vaccine from Anivive is currently under review form the United States Department of Agriculture, and it is targeting late 2023 or early 2024 for approval.

“It would just save so many pets lives,” said Gronkowski. “It would save so many hassles with family members dealing with their pets getting Valley Fever. So, once it drops, it’s going to be unbelievable. It’s going to help so many. It’s going to make happy and healthy pets out there.”

As for Striker, he’s still being treated for Valley Fever, but the hope is that future dogs who come into the Southern Arizona Humane Society won’t have to be.