Deep down inside, the patient knew she was dying. She had neither close family nor enough time to tend to the thousand things large and small which, if complete, might offer her a small measure of peace.
But there was one she knew that must get done: she had to find a place for Cody, a beautiful husky that had provided steady, reliable companionship.
“It was apparent that the end of life was approaching,” said Stacy Sawyers, a nurse navigator who helps guide sick patients through a frightening and difficult time. “Her beloved family was Cody, and it was clear choices were being made that were not in her best interest.
“She was sick and in pain and there were things we could provide that could help. But she didn’t want to make that choice.”
Then just as things seemed their bleakest, a series of kindnesses and small miracles offered through strangers came along to help ease a dying woman’s mind when she needed it most.
A loyal companion
Some of the details have gone fuzzy but the essentials — and the memories — behind the adoption of one older dog remain fresh, timeless and heartening.
“You’re going to make me cry,” Sawyers said when asked if she would mind re-telling the story. “I’m going off memory.”
Sawyers met two years ago a woman she called Kathy; she didn’t want to give her full name out of respect for her privacy.
Kathy had welcomed Cody into her life years earlier. Her neighbors were moving and couldn’t take their gentle Husky with them. And for Kathy, an animal lover, it was an easy choice.
“When I saw them together it was obvious they loved each other,” Sawyers said. “Cody would nestle into her. They provided each other love and comfort.”
Which is exactly what pet owners look for when choosing a companion; the bond grew tighter with each passing year.
Then Kathy fell ill. Her doctors advised her as best they could about what the future would hold and Sawyers began working with her. The time to consider choosing hospice care was rapidly approaching and taking care of a large dog became more challenging.
Cody wound up spending time in a boarding kennel, but that wasn’t really a solution. Either through inspiration or research — or perhaps both — Sawyers took Kathy to the Forsyth Humane Society to look around.
They saw that it was a good place, that the dogs and cats were well cared for — and that staff worked very hard to find good homes. With that, Kathy made the decision to place Cody with the Humane Society and accept hospice care.
“She was doing it out of love because she wanted (Cody) to be taken care of,” Sawyers said. “She was saying goodbye to a family member.”
A peaceful place
Making sure Cody was going to be OK became the priority. Adopting an older dog — Cody was maybe 14 years old at the time — can be a challenge.
But as luck would have it, a young couple who’d lost their own husky a few years before was ready for another to be a companion to a smaller dog they’d adopted. They learned about Cody and went to take a look.
“We just didn’t want a 14-year-old dog to die at the shelter,” said Roy Doron. “We decided it’d be easy to give her a nice place to spend her last few months. We brought her home thinking it was going to be a few months. But she’s still with us.”
But before the adoption was made final, Cody came to visit Kathy one more time. And Sawyers was able to share a video she’d taken of the blue-eyed Husky playing in what would soon be her new home.
Kathy died soon afterward.
And Cody has settled into life with Doron.
“They both went to a peaceful place,” Sawyers said. Patients, a lot of times, they see, at the end of life need to say one more thing or make sure everything is in place.
“Cody was her life. And she had taken care of everything.”