Domer Diaries

My Domer Diary: Peter Flach (and Slater)

The Sunglasses-Wearing Chihuahua Making Sick Kids Smile

Editor’s Note: Domer Diaries is the newest storytelling series from the Alumni Association where members of the Notre Dame family tell their stories in their own words. This week’s Domer Diaries entry comes from Peter Flach ’75, whose sunglasses-wearing chihuahua, Slater, works as a pediatric therapy dog and travels with the LPGA and PGA Tours. 

Name: Peter Flach
Class Year: 1975
Residence Hall: Grace Hall
Major: Bachelor of Business Administration
Student Activities: Intramural Hockey, Basketball, Bookstore Basketball
Occupation: Principal, AKF Group, NYC; Contract Advisor, LPGA & PGA Tours 
Local Notre Dame club: Notre Dame Club of the Jersey Shore

Tell us about Slater and how he came to be a cancer therapy dog who tours with the PGA. What are some favorite experiences on the road with him?

Slater is a rescue from a Washington, DC shelter. His disposition and personality were so low-key, it was recommended by a neighbor — who was the president of a New Jersey hospital system — that he would make a great therapy dog. After investigating, I had him trained to work as a pediatric cancer therapy dog, a job for which he is a natural.

In my career doing contract review for LPGA players, I first brought Slater to the Pure Silk Championship in Kingsmill, Va. I planned to take Slater to visit kids at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters and then return to the venue to watch the tournament. After our hospital visit, back at the event, the players saw him and his trademark sunglasses and asked about his work. When I told them why he was there — to visit kids — several LPGA players, including former world No. 1-ranked Yani Tseng and current world No. 1-ranked Lydia Ko, asked to support him and to visit with the kids to help raise money for the cause. This was the impetus for what has become a four-year journey. 

Word got around the Tours that a sunglasses-wearing chihuahua was making sick kids smile. Soon, several players on the PGA Tour, who are also personal friends of mine (and Slater’s), expressed an interest in his mission. It grew from there to the point where Bryson DeChambeau was posting get-well videos with Slater for several of the critically sick kids whom we had visited. Included in those who have helped and supported him are Rickie Fowler, Kevin Na, Tom Hoge, and Danny Lee. For the last four years, the players have made videos, joined on hospital visits, and provided tickets for disabled kids to attend tournaments. Equally as important, they have donated countless items that are auctioned at multiple hospitals throughout the country. 

Slater and the Tour players have made visits to child patients in hospitals all over the country, often coinciding with local PGA or LPGA tournaments. The extensive list includes San Diego (Rady Children’s Hospital & Farmers Insurance Open), Orlando (Arnold and Winnie Palmer Children’s Hospital & the Arnold Palmer Invitational), Pittsburgh (UPMC Cancer Center & U.S. Open), Baltimore (Johns Hopkins Children’s & BMW Open), Boston (Boston Children’s & FedEx Cup), Atlanta (Emory Cancer Center & The Masters), Washington DC (Children’s National Medical Center & Quicken Loans Invitational) and his hometown Philadelphia (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia & the U.S. Open and FedEx Cup playoffs), among others. He even attended an event honoring disabled veterans at the PGA’s Military Tribute at the Greenbrier in West Virginia.

One of his many adventures included when, during the practice round for the Quicken Loans Invitational, Danny Lee had in his group Bret Baier of Fox News. Bret and his wife, Amy, had a child who had gone through many protocols at Children’s National Medical Center. He saw Slater, realized that Danny knew the dog, and asked about him. When I explained what Slater did, Bret asked if we could support Children’s National and the black-tie event they had coming up. He also asked, kiddingly, if Slater had a tuxedo. To his surprise, I responded, “Yes!” Slater and I, both in our tuxes, attended the black-tie event, which raised over $2 million for the hospital. Needless to say, Slater was the biggest hit of the evening.

Luke’s Gospel says, “To whom much is given, much will be required.” To their credit, these players on the PGA Tour and LPGA Tour, in supporting Slater’s mission under the radar with no publicity, are doing great things. It is impossible to put a price on the looks of these kids when Slater comes to visit.

What meaningful connections did you make on campus, whether with roommates, friends, professors or someone else?

The group of guys from my section on the second floor of Grace Hall continues to mean so much to me. To this day, I remain close friends with Frank Allocco ’76, Drew Mahalic ’75, Richard Galac ’77, Pat Pirozzi ’77, Brian Bracken ’77, and Richard “Dick” Waris ’77, ’80 J.D. We had a group we called the “Elks,” and perhaps the mantra of our Elks, “Doing good for others,” has stuck with me for all of these years.