When she adopted her dog, an American bulldog named Rocky, Molly Akers had no idea how important a companion he would turn out to be.
A few years after she adopted him, Akers developed a rare form of neck cancer; at the same time, she was also misdiagnosed with breast cancer. The harrowing experience marked her calling as a tireless advocate for patients’ rights.
Akers, whose background is in marketing and public relations, has undergone 15 operations in 15 years. She has testified on behalf of medical reform in front of governing bodies in Springfield and in Washington D.C., and made numerous appearances on national television (Oprah, The Today Show) to discuss the issue of medical misdiagnosis.
“These opportunities kept happening to me, things like Oprah telling Dr. Oz to remind me my experiences mattered,” Akers says. “I felt like a modern-day Forrest Gump, but I wasn’t entirely sure what to do with all of these experiences at the time. I just kept going.”
As part of her recovery, Akers took up running and ran the Boston Marathon the year before a terrorist bomb struck race participants. The year after the bombing, she ran the race in support of Martin Richard, the youngest victim of the attack.
Through it all, Akers relied on the support of family, friends, her two children, and Rocky.
“Rocky was basically my therapy dog without me realizing it,” she says. “For all intents and purposes, he was perfect and was always by my side without me having to ask. Everyone loved him. My neighbors used to call me and ask me if they could borrow him for a while.”
When Rocky passed away, Akers and her daughter put together a Shutterfly slideshow of photos in memory of their late dog. They received so many positive comments that the project became a book, Life Lessons from the World’s Happiest Dog.
It was Rocky’s unique circular tail wag—what Akers would come to learn is known as a “propeller” wag—that inspired her to launch a new business.
“The wag is reserved for extremely special people in the eyes of a dog,” she explains. “It’s a true sign of unconditional love.”
Propeller Wags was born to show someone how special they are, and to let them know that they are not alone. The business offers greeting cards and gifts for special occasions such as Valentine’s Day and birthdays—or they can be an everyday reminder to loved ones that they matter.
It’s the perfect way to use Rocky’s legacy to bring cheer to others.
“I wanted to build connections through the eyes of a dog,” she says. “The world is so connected electronically but we have such a lack of human connection.”
In particular, Akers started Propeller Wags to lift up those who might be lonely.
“My experience being involved with cancer survivors made me ask what my long-game message should be,” says Akers. “More than 60 million Americans point to loneliness as a key factor in their unhappiness. What if you’re that person? How do you get up and get involved in a club, for example. Propeller Wags says, ‘You are special.’”
Akers refers to the moment someone receives a Propeller Wags card or gift as a “goosebump” moment. Gifts are packaged in a red “happy” box with Propeller Wag stickers.
“We’re not trying to reinvent anything,” she says. “We’re just trying to provide a good moment. We want to make you smile and be more comfortable asking for help.”
Propeller Wags is available at propellerwags.com.