Christina Summitt’s tattoo has always been a great conversation starter. Summitt, a bartender for the Clinton, New Jersey Holiday Inn, has a small dog paw inked on her wrist, and her customers often chat her up about their own four-legged family members.
But Summitt says she got the surprise of a lifetime Saturday night after a middle-aged bar customer inquired about her paw print ink and then left her an enormous tip when he learned Summitt’s story.
“He seemed like a guy you would run into in a grocery store,” Summitt remembers of the customer, who came into the bar during Summitt’s shift Saturday night with his wife. “Just your average guy.”
Summitt took the couple’s order — a few drinks and a basket of wings — and then the gentleman asked her about the paw tattoo on her wrist. Summitt explained that, in addition to being a bartender, she also volunteers with a local Pit Bull Terrier rescue group, Pibbles & More Rescue in nearby Ridgewood.
When the couple asked her if she had any dogs of her own, Summitt told them about Tucker, her Great Dane–Labrador Retriever mix. Summitt adopted Tucker back in 2011 before finding out that he had a bad case of the often-fatal parvovirus. Tucker was near death, but Summitt managed to nurse him back to health. Going through such a trying ordeal had helped Summitt and her dog forge a very close bond.
When Summitt revealed that Tucker had just undergone emergency surgery that morning after swallowing a ball, the couple was sympathetic.
“I know I teared up talking about him,” Summitt tells Lehigh Valley Live of Tucker. “I was devastated. I was, at this point, so emotionally exhausted that I just broke down.”
Then the man mentioned how expensive the surgery must have been, and Summitt admitted that it certainly was pricey; the vet’s office estimated that Tucker’s surgery would cost her a whopping $2,700 when all was said and done. For a woman working three jobs — fulltime as a chef at the Holiday Inn, part-time as the hotel’s Saturday night bartender, and part-time two days a week prepping food at a local deli — almost $3,000 is a lot of money. She says she even considered selling her car in order to cover the cost of Tucker’s medical care.
Summitt checked on the man and his wife throughout the rest of the night, and when it came time for the couple to pay their $80 bar tab, the gentleman decided to include a very substantial tip. When Summitt collected the receipt, she saw that the couple had left her $1,000. The gesture was so touching that Summitt says she started shaking and crying.
“I went back over and said ‘Sir, I cannot except this, what is this for, why would you do this?” Summitt remembers.
The man told her to put the money towards the cost of Tucker’s surgery.
“I just stood there in shock. I walked around and hugged this couple. They said, ‘We’ll be praying for Tucker,” Summitt explains.
Michelle Satanik, manager of the Holiday Inn, tells CNN that she worked with the company comptroller to track down the kind-hearted customer just to make sure the tall tip was indeed legitimate. The man confirmed that it was, but wished to remain anonymous, wanting no recognition for his caring act. He did leave Summitt a message, however.
“Hopefully this will inspire other people to pay it forward,” he wrote.
“Apparently this man does this quite frequently,” Satanik explains. “Just a really nice guy and humanitarian. I have never ever seen a $1,000 tip like that.”
Meanwhile, nearly a week after his surgery, Tucker is at home recovering. Summitt says her best buddy is doing well, despite all he’s been through.