Adopted Dog Comforts Family as They Face Loss Together

Cubby’s companionship and love helped transform grief into gratitude.

George + Cubby

When his pet mom faced a cancer diagnosis, Cubby was there to wrap his new family in unconditional love. Now he’s helping his pet dad move through loss as a best friend would: hand in paw.

"Cubby was meant to join our family, to love and comfort my wife in a way only he could."

In May 2013, my wife and daughters convinced me to visit a Home for Good Dog Rescue adoption event. Despite my reluctance, we fell in love with a dozing puppy. He lifted his head and something about his soulful brown eyes got me. My wife, who travelled constantly for work teaching software programs for oncology teams, looked at me with her own soulful eyes and said, “The house feels lonely and sad without a dog.” We brought Cubby home and he quickly became a member of the family.

Four months later, Alice became ill and we were stunned to learn she had uterine carcinosarcoma, a rare, extremely aggressive cancer. Alice took the news better than me. Partly because of her personality, and partly because of her family history: her mother died of lymphoma at age 40. Specialists discussed options with us. The terminology was over my head. I thought chemotherapy could cure this, but Alice understood. She took my hand and calmly said, “No. I don’t have long. I am going to die.”

The cancer was rapid and three weeks after the first round of chemo, Alice was so weak we moved her to the family room couch. Cubby knew. He stopped following us around and only wanted Alice. He parked himself by Alice, becoming her protector. Alice often dangled her hand, stroking his head and saying, “I love you Cubby bear.” One day Cubby kept pacing between the rooms. I finally followed him. Alice was watching a movie about a mother dying of cancer. She cried uncontrollably. Cubby looked at me as if to say, “I couldn’t take care of her this time. Can you?”

The first round of chemo would be Alice’s last. She died six weeks after her diagnosis. In lieu of flowers, we asked for donations to be made to Home for Good Dog Rescue. A month later, I got a call from their founder. She said donations in Alice’s memory had poured in. I told Toni Ann how Cubby never left Alice’s side, how fortunate we were to have him — and so glad he’d come from a loving family. “Loving family? Cubby was a day from being euthanized when he was found. He was malnourished, didn’t trust anyone, and cowered when he was approached.” I looked at Cubby lying at my feet and knew it was no accident he’d been given another chance.

He was meant to join our family, to love and comfort my wife in a way only he could. The following year with both girls away at college, it was just Cubby and me. When I was ready for bed, Cubby would bolt up the stairs ahead of me and jump on Alice’s side of the bed, touching me with his paw until I fell asleep. He was back again in the morning when I woke, those soulful brown eyes looking into mine. I felt he was telling me, “I know you get sad and lonely without Alice. I miss her too. But we have each other.” That’s what she wanted.

Each year, Petco Love Holiday Wishes campaign invites adopters to share stories of how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by George won Home for Good Dog Rescue in Berkeley Heights, New Jersey a 2020 Holiday Wishes award.