People in their 20s are pros at making life goals. They want to have kids, get their Masters, buy a house, or make a good salary.

By: Susie Ehrhardt

People in their 20s are pros at making life goals. They want to have kids, get their Masters, buy a house, or make a good salary. My honest-to-goodness life goal in my early 20s was simple – I just wanted a dog. But I could never find the “right” time. I was too busy with school, lived in apartments, worked too many jobs, and spent too many late nights downtown.

When my health started to decline at 25, and I moved from Toronto back home to New Brunswick, I saw it as an opportunity to finally achieve this life goal. But before I even had time to get my footing, life as I knew it was gone in a cancer diagnosis. My daily workouts turned into ambles around the Moncton Hospital. My soundtrack became an orchestra of IV pumps beeping. Every set of eyes that looked at me had noticeable tears ready to splash out at any moment. Voices changes tones and hushed quickly on the other side of my door.

Two months into chemotherapy, I found myself browsing Kijiji’s pet section. I can’t remember what led me there, but I very quickly found a picture of King Charles Cavalier Spaniels being sold by a local who had no need for them anymore. I called the owner of the dogs, called my mom, and two hours later we were driving home with the love of my life.

Buster Bartholomew Ehrhardt saved me in more ways than I can list for you. I’d be remiss not to mention that my oncologist freaked when he found out because of sanitation worries. But the week I got Buster, my sister Sara told me she could see parts of my old joyous self return. My family really stepped up in helping me care for the 10-month-old, 15-lb dog. They walked him on chemo days, cared for him when he got stomach sick, and cleaned his dirty paws before letting him in my bed. I easily trained him not to lick my face and got him accustomed to lying with me until noon.

Buster brought energy into the house that was desperately needed at the time. After months of obsessing over my own health, it was such a relief to focus my energies into caring for another creature. On days where I just wanted to lay in bed and watch stupid YouTube videos, Buster would stare at me with the “WALK!?” face and get me outside. Susie with Buster two weeks before the end of her chemo

Most importantly though, is that Buster never judged me. He is the only creature to ever see me without a wig or hat on when I had no hair. He woke up every morning wagging his tail to cuddle me, instead of asking for the bazillionth time “How are you feeling today?” He never once looked at me with a teary-eyed expression, but loved me for the human I am behind the cancer.

Nowadays, Buster is 2.5 years old. He’s a little more grown-up and sleeps longer than me. We still walk together almost every evening, even when I’m tired after a day’s work. And he still wakes up wagging his tail to cuddle me in the morning. Cancer or no cancer, that dog will always love and treat me the same, and that’s a therapy I haven’t been able to find anywhere else.


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