When John Loughney saw a picture of a Harper at the Animal Welfare League of Arlington, he knew she was going to be his dog. What he didn’t know was that he would have an early and abrupt goodbye with his best friend six years later, when Harper was diagnosed with cancer.
She licked my hand and I felt a little bump on her tongue. It was maybe the size of a pencil tip. It was teeny. I called the vet and they said to keep an eye on it. In about a month it doubled in size to maybe the size of a pencil eraser. The vet then suggested, in late March, that we remove it for biopsy. That’s when it all went down hill. About a week later the results came back and it was not good. The vet mentioned this was a type of oral melanoma and there wasn’t really much that could be done. It was aggressive. I broke down in the vets office. I broke down in the car. I cried all day at home. I didn’t know what to do.
Loughney was heartbroken, but Harper was still the smiling, happy pup she always had been. Inspired by the Cocker-mix’s vitality, Loughney was determined to make their remaining time together as joyful as possible. In order to alleviate some of his sorrow, Loughney wrote a letter and posted it to his Facebook page:
“My heart is shattered as I write this.
It’s not often that we meet people who have a life changing impact on us, let alone meet an animal who makes us a better human. As you all may know (based on my posts) Harper is the most special thing that has ever happened to me. She brings me such light and joy that no one person or thing could ever provide. She is my sidekick, my wingman, my accomplice, my coffee date, my Princess of Wiggles.
Sadly, this prince can’t quite rescue his maiden.
As few know, it’s been an incredibly rough few weeks as she has been diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. The outlook is grim and all we can do is take it day by day. I. Hate. Cancer. I don’t know what to expect, but I am going to do all I can to live it up in the time we have. There are still squirrels to be chased in Lincoln Park and and arch-nemesis mockingbirds perched on street signs that need to be taught a lesson or two. Harper has a simple bucket list that I’m certain is filled with friends, belly rubs, walks through her favorite parks, lots of stuffed toys to rip apart and quality time with her blue squeaky ball; her most prized possession that she secretly stole from someone’s yard years ago. I plan to check off each item on that list. And then some.
Harper has been the most consistent relationship of my life. That is a fact. We share a bed. We share meals. We are best friends. We are a family. She brought out my inner optimist and stomped on the realist. She has taught me to not make excuses. She has taught me to be present. She has taught me what love really is. She stole my heart in a single beat. She has taught me mornings are a gift and should be treated as such. She has taught me patience. She has taught me to be an adult. She is currently teaching me that snoring can be the most precious sound to hear at 2am as you lie awake and reflect. The list goes on.
I absolutely hate that it has had to come to this, but I’m trying to find light in a shitty situation. I must pick up the pieces. For her. For the time we have now. For this journey we are on. It’s with great hesitation that I put this “out there,” but she has been an ever present presence in my life (and many of yours) and I didn’t want that to simply disappear or wash away, without tribute. I’m not fishing for sympathy. I’m not sure I can handle that, honestly. I’m looking to find personal solace in writing this down, opening up and moving forward. In recent times, I seem to have forgotten how healing this can feel.
Through surgery and endless tests, her tail never stopped wagging and I’m going to do all I can to make sure it never does. I believe if you put positive energy out into the world it comes back to you. I ask that each of you who reads this tries to bring just a speck of the joy that she has brought me to anyone or anything in the coming days, weeks, months, lifetimes…She never sees spreading happiness as a chore. She just does.
Give hugs. Tell jokes. Write a letter. Pick flowers. Share a compliment. Free things. I mean this. Harper has never had a dollar to her name and has made me feel like a millionaire. I pray that her energy lives on long after she waves goodbye. It simply has to. I rescued her when she was 2. She’ll be 8 in June. In this ever tangled tragic fairytale, it was indeed the princess who rescued her prince.”
Loughney saw the post as a sort of contract to Harper, promising that her quality of life would never falter, despite her failing health. “On her last day, she walked into the vet still wagging her tail.” He told BarkPost, “I knew I held up my end of the bargain.”
Harper passed away in the fall, but her memory lives on in the beautiful video tribute Loughney made for her:
Loughney is still in the habit of saving his last bite of food for Harper, and feels the absence of her head in his lap every time he sits on the couch, but he hopes that his video will inspire other people to adopt as well. Despite their limited time together, rescuing Harper was the best thing Loughney has ever done.
“She was my best friend. I want her spirit to live on. Someone might be inspired to rescue like I did. If one more dog’s life is saved, it’ll be worth it.”