Whenever we bring animals into our lives, most of us do it with the understanding that they will be with us for as long as they live. But what happens when the other becomes the reality,
But what happens when the other becomes the reality, when you know you will soon be passing onto a new realm and your pet will be left behind. Such was the case of a Washington woman who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Her wish? That her three dogs would find a home.
Kathleen Zuidema , although never a smoker, was diagnosed with lung cancer that has since spread to her liver, brain, and into other parts of her body. She has begun chemotherapy, but her doctor has told her it will only extend her life a few months. With that hanging over her head, her greatest concern was finding a loving home for her three Australian shepherd-type dogs she has lovingly dubbed the “Aussie posse.” In this day of social media, she turned to her Facebook page, sending word out into the world in the hopes of finding a home for 11-year-old Autumn Moon, 4 and a half-year-old Mona Luka, and Finnegan, age 4.
With over 21 thousand hits on her page, people seemed to not only be coming out of the woodwork, but from all over the world with not only offers to take the dogs, but wishes and thoughts for Kathleen’s health and successful search for her beloved dogs future. In an interview with Q13 Fox-TV in Seattle she said, “They’ve just been my love, my world, my joy, my life. I just want them to have a good home.”
In spite of all the offers, she really wanted her dogs to be able to stay close to their home, on San Juan Island, in the Friday Harbor area. As fate would have it, a neighbor, who had seen Zuidema over the years driving around with her dogs and had always thought of her as a kindred spirit, learned of her situation. Danielle Cochran went to Zuidema’s home, knocked on the door, and everything fell into place. In a phone interview with Travis Mayfield, Cochran shared she and Zuidema had an immediate connection, as did she and the dogs. The older dog will be staying with Zuidema as long as possible, and the younger will move in with Cochran, her husband, and their two dogs. Cochran says all the dogs have met and “They will blend just fine.”
This is a bittersweet story, but such a strong one for advocacy on so many levels. Having so much love and respect for your animals that you want to make sure they are provided for in the same way you have done for them is so loving and responsible…and difficult. Opening your heart to someone else’s pets to give peace of mind to an owner who is moving on and a loving home to animals that will also know loss, but continue to be loved, is equally both remarkable and generous. Lessons for all, whether living or dying. Pets are family and considering their care, even in the hardest of times, is truly a sign of unconditional love.