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Newfs Reach Out to Cancer Survivors

by Sharon Bauman, reprinted from 1Q 2003 Newf Tide

A friend asked me if my Newfs and I would like to participate in a weekend retreat geared towards helping cancer survivors and their families deal with living with cancer. The dogs and I had done some nursing home visits, but somehow I knew this was going to be totally different. For starters it was going to be for two days instead of an hour long visit. The dogs would act as therapy dogs helping participants to relax and promote conversation. I invited my daughter to attend with me so I could take both my Newfs, Holly and Auggie.

auggie
Rachel smiles with Holly and Auggie

The weekend started out by all of the workers introducing themselves and the dogs. It is amazing what icebreakers animals can be! After the introductions, everyone had an opportunity to visit with the dogs before moving on to their assigned activity. One of the nurses asked me if we would mind taking the dogs out to the courtyard instead because one of the children wanted to see them, especially Auggie. Since my daughter, Nikki, had Auggie during the introduction I didn't know they had already met a little girl named Rachel and that she and Auggie had immediately connected. We found out Rachel's family had signed up for the retreat at the last minute, and yes, nine-year old Rachel was the cancer survivor. Rachel's family had just found out that her cancer was not responding to the treatment and there were no other treatments to try.

rachel and auggie

Rachel and Auggie share a hug

We headed out to the courtyard to meet Rachel and her family. Rachel had fallen in love with Auggie, and he was to be her constant companion for the entire weekend. Whenever we had an activity, I just handed Auggie over to Rachel. As for us, we fell in love with Rachel. She was an amazing little girl. She had a way about her that just drew you in. Her family had been missionaries in Brazil when Rachel became ill and had come home to seek medical treatment. I'm so glad they did so I had the chance to know Rachel if only for one short weekend.

On the last day, Rachel came to our room. We talked while she petted Auggie and said her goodbyes and we planned to try and get together again. After that weekend, Rachel and her family went back to Brazil so she could say goodbye to her friends there. After they returned to the US, Rachel was too sick for a visit. I never got to see Rachel again, but she is always in my thoughts and heart.

When we lost Auggie a couple of years ago, my only comforting thought was that Rachel would be there at the Rainbow Bridge to greet him.

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