It’s been a pretty crazy last 10 years. In 2010, my father-in-law Larry was diagnosed with Pancreatic Cancer at 60 years old. He fought like a Warrior with independance and dignity during an uphill battle for 4 years. I was diagnosed at 39 with a Grade 3 Astrocytoma, which is a brain tumor. I learned so much form Larry that resonated with me later on. He was my cancer partner. He showed me how to act, fight and live in the moment. I wrote a book about us which became a best-seller titled, “Starting at the Finish Line.” I am a Keynote Speaker and share our story together globally to connect deeply with others, to help them digest the realities of life, and let them know they are not alone on the journey they have been placed on.
This article is not about Larry, it’s about a dog we lost this year named Pepe. Peep was about 100 lbs., and was a Rhodesian Ridge Back mix. We live in Washington Crossing, PA, where George Washington crossed the Delaware. A beautiful, rural area, 30 minutes from Philly and about an hour form NYC. In 2007, we had rescued beagle shepherd mix named Mia. One day she was in our backyard, and this big dog was playing with her. I went over, read his tag, his name was Pepe. I called his owner, told him the dog was here. He eventually came over and picked the dog up. For a big dog he was docile and friendly, and him and Mia were having so much fun running around together.
Over the next month or so, Pepe would be at our house every day. Each day we would call the owner, and sometimes he would come get him, sometimes days would go by that he never showed up. We made a bed for Pepe in the garage, and weeks later he was in the house with us and becoming a part of our family. I would constantly tell the owner if he didn’t want the dog, we will take him. He told us his 4-year old loved the dog and he would keep him. As this went on and on, my wife Rebecca noticed some other stuff going on. On sweltering hot days, they would chain Pepe up on the driveway with 6 feet of give, leaving him on a burining hot driveway that would leave black marks on his paws. He would break away and come to our home. Rebecca and I were getting irate over this cruelty, and it was like a microcosmic wheel that went season to season.
In the winter the same thing would happen in the freezing cold and snow. It was painful to watch, and the more he would come to our house, the less we wanted to give him back. One day Rebecca told me her and her friend Krista were going to steal the dog to protect him from what he was forced to deal with. I looked at both of them, and said, “You are not stealing the dog! I get it but that is not happening!” They formed this master plan to save Pepe, and as entertaining as it was to listen to, it was impractical and the wrong way to go about things.
A few weeks later, I called Rebecca from work, and she answered the phone and told me she couldn’t speak because the police were there. I started shouting, “Did you steal the f$%$^ dog??” And she hung up on me. I waited for her to callback, and when she did I asked what the hell was going on? She told me the police were there, because Pepe had run away from his house to be with us, as usual, because the owner of the dog, and father of a 4-year old child blew his head off with a shotgun in front of both of them. I was speechless. The cross that this person put on his son to bear with was reprehensible and cowardly. His child did nothing to deserve this! I was angry and disgusted! Pepe was now our dog, and he now had a place he can truly call home.
In February of 2013 I was diagnosed with brian cancer as mentioned previously. We were there for Pepe from the minute we met him, he was now there for me. He never left my side. He was with me everywhere I went. He would lay on top of me on the couch, sleep right at my side, he was letting me know I was not alone and he’d never leave my side. Things happen for a reason, and the inspiration and love we showed each other was pivotal in both of us achieving a clarity and comfort during the deepest and darkest of times. He inspired me more than he will ever know.
Pepe left us physically in 2020, but he will never leave us spiritually. I miss him more than you can imagine, but it was his time. We think he was about 14 years old, and he became a permanent part of our family in perpetuity. Thank you Pepe for all you did to help me take on the battle at hand and help me understand what love and support really provides during times of turmoil.