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My wife finished her first set of chemotherapy in 2002. They were aggressive drugs, and Genie fought hard. In the spring, cancer’s grip was finally broken. We thought we could rest easy.

Then something odd occurred, something cold.

Cancer took Wylie, our first sweet dog, the summer of 2002. Cancer took Ruby, our tall red dog, the following year. And when Jackson — a bigger, stronger dog — died a few years later, he too was riddled with cancer. Our first three. Gone.

They had all stayed by Genie’s side — as close as close can be — as she battled cancer in 2001 and into 2002. As jumbled and full of distractions as that period of time was, their eyes never lost sight of Genie.

Is it possible, as Genie and I believe, that they took on Genie’s cancer so that she might live?

I know — too dramatic, too outlandish. No way could that be. Besides, cancer isn’t contagious. Good point, I guess.

There are few things any of us know with certainty.

I know a few things. Dogs are funny. They aren’t selfish. They are loyal. They ask no questions. They never doubt. They stand by our side as the world spins, as the world darkens, as the winds howl.

Sometimes you wonder why. Is it merely because we house them, pet them, feed them? Or is it something more? Could it be something more?

We speak of devotion when we speak of people. There are devoted people, and people in blissful love. What a beautiful thing, devotion. And how sweet deep love, which leads to devotion. It’s what we all want out of life — to be loved. To have someone there when darkness falls, and to warm us when it turns cold, as the world does from time to time.

The thing about people is that sometimes they hesitate. They may come around, they may love, they may be devoted, but, sometimes, maybe for only a fraction of a second, they’ll hesitate when times turn tough. They’ll blink.

Dogs don’t hesitate. They stand by our side, no matter the odds, the reason, the depth of cold. If we step into the blackest of nights, they step with us, and sometimes — most of the time — they take the first step.

And no matter their size — from the smallest to the largest — they’ll do what needs to be done to safeguard their human companion — their friend — even if it means giving their life. They don’t weigh the odds, or ask any questions. Dogs are selfless.

Maybe Genie and I are luckier than some, but we’ve known a number of devoted dogs.

We’ve seen three fall to cancer. Yes, I don’t know for certain that they took on Genie’s cancer so that she might live. But from the depths of my heart, that’s what I believe. They loved Genie that much, that’s what I know. And here’s one more thing: If they bought her but a mere minute more of life and time, they’d be happy.

I’ve seen and touched and felt such tremendous love.

Devotion. A truer sounding word I can’t name.

This article first appeared in The Bark,
Issue 60: Jun/Jul/Aug 2010

Illustration by Robin Spowart

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Submitted by Doreen | June 16 2010 |

I actually read this article when I received my last issue...I think of my own dogs because what this man describes is the say my dogs are. I didn't have cancer but when I had an arthroscopic knee procedure done, my husband had brought me home and I fell asleep on the recliner. One of my bichons, Bailey, hopped up on the recliner which is pretty normal for him anyway, but he was acting different...I cannot explain it. He just was not content sitting on me. I then went to get up and noticed my whole bandaged leg was full of blood. Yes, I would have eventually noticed it but I can't help but think Bailey knew something was wrong.

We don't give dogs enough credit. I never had a dog growing up. I now own two, one of which is an abused rescue. The unconditional love, no matter what my mood, is something unexplainable. They are always there, by my side through it all.

I never thought a dog would change my life but my two have...The feeling is indescribable!

Submitted by Karen Mitchell | June 24 2010 |

To be adored by a dog is an honor and a privilege. This love transcend's all other earthly love as it is freely given with no expectations or strings. If you have been blessed with the love of a dog, you are truly lucky.

Submitted by Sue Ellen Crossfield | June 24 2010 |

I am touched. I, personally, know the power of a dog's love. I am touched.

Submitted by Dana Gonzalez | July 2 2010 |

I enjoyed reading the article Devotion.It showed how dogs are great animals.

Submitted by Chris McLaughlin | July 10 2010 |

Moved by this...beautiful and true!

Submitted by Anonymous | December 4 2010 |

i had been really sick with diverticulitis this year and finally I was well enough to undergo surgery to remove part of my colon. The minute they wheeled me into surgery, my daughter received a call that my horse, Robin was colicking. Robin had never been sick as long as I had her. She was a sturdy, healthy 16 y.o. quarter horse. A friend shipped her to the vet clinic, but she was too sick and did not recover. I truly feel that Robin took on my illness (basically we both colicked!) so that I may recover. I really miss her!

Submitted by Dustin | March 5 2011 |

I can't put in words how truly moving your article was to me in every way (as I'm sure it was to countless others), having been personally touched by cancer myself when both my uncle and oldest two dogs passed in the same year from that horrid disease in '09. Thank you so much for sharing such a heart felt and personal experience.

After my own dogs passed I setup this webpage: for dogs with cancer, to help others from having to go through what I did, or sadly if it's inevitable, how to make your dog as comfortable as possible. There's also a link on the page to an eBook that my sister sent me and I just can't put in words how badly I wish I knew even half of the information in this book before it was too late.

--Best of luck to everyone out there touched by this horrid disease, God Bless.

Submitted by Kristie | April 19 2012 |

After reading your article, I must say:
"You can say any fool thing to a dog, and the dog will give you this look that says, `My God, you're RIGHT! I NEVER would've thought of that!'"

I am also a dog lover and I have written my personal Guide for Homemade Dog Food Recipes. I hope it will help to all dog lovers. Anyway Thank you so much for sharing such a heart felt and personal experience.

Keep sharing a great article. Good Luck!

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