Mikkel Becker's Pug, Bruce
We got some sad news last week about our beloved Pug, Bruce. For the past several weeks, Bruce has had a noticeable cough and has seemed to have less energy than usual. At first, his symptoms seemed to be related to a bronchial infection, but the cough never let up — even with treatment. Suspecting that it could be related to a heart condition or a problem with the structures in his airway, I took him to the vet for some tests.

The Bad News

What I saw on Bruce’s radiographs made my heart drop. He has a tumor in his chest that is pressing down on his heart and lungs. I stood in the vet’s office and faced the very real possibility that my beloved Pug may have cancer.

As I listened to the vet explain his findings, my mind was already spiraling forward. I immediately began to think about who to call and what appointments I would need to schedule in order to get a more specific diagnosis. I was thinking about treatment options and potential cures, and fretting about side effects and associated risks. And through it all, I was wondering exactly how my family — including our other Pug, Willy — would live without Bruce, our furry ball of joy.

I was able to hold myself together until I left the vet’s office. But as I lifted Bruce into my car, he licked my hand and wagged his tail and looked up at me with his sweet face, and I immediately teared up. “I love you Bruce,” I told him. “You mean so much to me.”

"Our Little Brucie"

On the drive home, I called my father. My attempts to be strong and factual as I told him what the vet had found lasted about 10 seconds, and then I burst into sobs. In that moment, he went from being Dr. Marty Becker, America’s veterinarian, to being my wonderful daddy and a sad and grieving Pug grandparent.

“I can’t imagine anything ever happening to our beloved little Brucie,” he told me. “There’s a lot that’s unknown, but I’ll tell you what I do know: Bruce is family. And for him, we’ll do whatever we would do for any family member. We will give him the best healthcare we can give while also ensuring a high quality of life, so he has the best life possible.” 

“I’ve loved that little guy since he was a puppy,” he added, “and I’m going to do everything in my power to help him the best I can.”

My heart was lifted by my father’s encouragement and wisdom, but our grief was still there as we hung up. I was still crying, and I found myself asking for help and guidance for our dog.

It’s the Little Things

Mikkel Becker and her Pug, Bruce
Bruce has always been a very emotionally attached dog, and he clearly sensed my heartache. When we arrived at home, he immediately curled up on my lap and nestled against me. I didn’t want to upset him, but my emotions were too much to contain — the tears cascaded down my cheeks as I snuggled him. But Bruce knew how to help: He stood up on my lap and gently licked away the tears, comforting me as I grieved for him.

I decided the best thing for everyone would be to focus our energy on an activity Brucie loved, so I leashed both Pugs, and we set out on a walk. Doing this simple, everyday thing reminded me just how special these ordinary moments — training, walks, playtime, snuggling— have always been, for Bruce and for me.

Despite my grief, I feel so grateful for the time I’ve had with my precious Bruce. I have been blessed to share my life with this devoted dog. He is much more to me than a mere pet — Bruce is my furry family member and my four-legged child.

That night, despite the bad news, our home felt peaceful, as though we were covered with a blanket of love. So many people had reached out with kind words and prayers.

A Dream — and a Realization

I awoke early the next morning from a vivid dream: I was walking with Bruce, but I was moving slowly and was hunched forward as if carrying a very heavy load in my arms. Bruce turned and looked at me. He told me I needed to let go of the weight I was carrying and play with him instead. I stared down at the ball in my hands and felt the weight slide away.

The dream felt prophetic. I realized that no matter how Bruce’s path unfolds as we seek further diagnosis and treatment, I can’t let myself be overwhelmed by worry, sorrow and anxiety. Bruce needs me to be present for him, enjoying the moments of happiness and love we have together.

I know that whatever treatments we choose, one of the best ways I can help Bruce — whose heart is always in a good game of fetch — is by simply letting go, enjoying my time with him and throwing that ball.

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