After Cancer Diagnosis, Adopted Dog is the Greatest Gift

Cooper helped offer love, support, and companionship during a difficult time.

Cristina + Cooper

When his pet dad Joe was battling cancer, Cooper was by his side. Now Cooper is helping pet mom Cristina move forward, one outing at a time.

"Cooper gave me a reason to get out of bed, to go on hikes, and to breathe fresh air every day. He is my best friend, the greatest gift his dad left me."

My partner Joe and I had always dreamed of having a dog one day. Just like a lot of people, we found reasons why it wasn’t the right time. We moved around a lot, lived in small rentals that didn’t allow pets, and didn’t always have the finances to support another member of our family. Well, that all changed when Joe was diagnosed with stage IV esophageal cancer in February of 2017. With a terminal diagnosis like that, we decided to say yes more and accelerate Joe’s bucket list, which of course included adopting a dog.

We adopted Cooper when he was 5 months old and quickly became connected with his rescue organization, Project Freedom Ride. We learned about Cooper’s story, how he had been abandoned with his sister and they both battled Parvo. His sister died and Cooper spent a week at the vet. He was nursed back to health by a wonderful woman in Texas before making it on a transport up to Washington to find us. Due to many factors, Texas has a high number of stray dogs that need rescuing or face euthanasia.

Our first few days with Cooper were full of trial and error as new dog parents. Joe was undergoing chemotherapy and I was still working. Joe would spend his days walking Cooper and resting when his energy levels were low. Cooper was mischievous, full of energy, and very smart. I wish I could tell you about how Cooper helped Joe beat cancer, but sadly that was not our fate. Joe’s disease continued to progress throughout 2017 and into 2018. Joe continued to face obstacles including losing a lot of weight, and his energy levels declined quickly. On a good day, Joe would be able to get out of bed, sit on the porch, and throw the ball for Cooper, but sadly, there were many days where Joe could not leave the bed.

One remarkable thing about Cooper was his dedication to stay right by Joe’s side. In January of 2018, Joe spent three weeks in the hospital and Cooper was not able to visit. I would walk Cooper around the hospital so Joe could look out his window and see him. It broke Joe’s heart to be away from his beloved dog. When Joe passed away in May of 2018, our world was shattered. Cooper was the last one to kiss Joe goodbye as they took his body from our home. I spent the next chapter of my life wondering what my purpose was, and how I would continue on without Joe. I can say without a doubt that Cooper is the reason I am still here today. Cooper gave me a reason to get out of bed, to go on hikes, and to breathe fresh air every day. He is my best friend, the greatest gift his dad left me. I promised Joe we would adventure on with him in our hearts, and that’s exactly what I intend to keep doing.

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 Cristina won Project Freedom Ride in Midland, Texas a 2020 Holiday Wishes award.