'Loyal beyond measure': How pets helped Know Your Value readers through hard times

We wanted to hear how pets have impacted your life, especially during challenging times. Here's what you told us.
Olivia Wojcicehowski and her dog, Gunther.
Olivia Wojcicehowski and her dog, Gunther.Courtesy of Olivia Wojcicehowski.

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By Know Your Value staff

This week, Know Your Value is exploring the way our pets have helped us through difficult times. Mika Brzezinski recently shared her story, particularly how dogs have given her mother a new sense of purpose.

We asked you to share your experiences. Here’s what you said:

Mary Kay Gerrets:

On a very snowy, cold Saturday in February, a scared 6-month old-puppy showed up in my front yard. I grabbed him and brought him inside where he was terrified of my Labrador Retriever and everything else. He was very skinny, and I later learned that he had been on the other side of the development for about a month before he ventured into my yard.

I tried to find his owners to no avail, and I really had no intention of having two dogs. At the same time, I was taking care of my mother who suffered from dementia. This little dog perked her up so much and since I had gotten into a routine of taking care of mom and two dogs, I decided to keep him, especially after she begged me for the dog.

Mary Kay Gerrets' late dog, Pepper.Courtesy of Mary Kay Gerrets.

We had been calling the dog "Puppy" and he was answering to it. To keep with the "p" sound, he was re-named Pepper. I can still see my mom calling Pepper over to jump up on her leg so that she could pet him. Or the time she decided to get on the floor to play with him and then discovered she couldn't get up. She was laughing, as she promised me that she had not fallen. My mom was a big dog lover, and she passed that love of dogs onto me.

She always said that she wanted a dog until her dying, and she got her wish. On July 26, 1997 she peacefully passed away at home with Pepper right by her side. Five years later, I'm sure Pepper ran to her has he crossed over the bridge.

Catherine Montgomery-Brink:

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Once when I was feeling really low, I went into the bathroom to cry because I didn’t want my children to see me sad. I was careful not make any sound but heard my German Shepherd come and lay down in front of the bathroom door. The thump that he makes when he hit the wooden floor was followed by a sigh.

Catherine Montgomery-Brink's dog Bruce Brinksteen.Courtesy of Catherine Montgomery-Brink.

I’ll never forget this moment and how grateful I felt that someone knew how I was feeling. Then the most amazing thing happened, he slid his paw under the bathroom door, as to say, “You’re not alone mom.” He’s a 7-year-old named Bruce Brinksteen.

Olivia Wojcicehowski:

My name is Olivia, and I am a 33-year-old Life Skills Special Education teacher from Pennsylvania. I just recently earned my Director of Special Education.

When I was 27, I was diagnosed with Ovarian Cell Tumor Cancer. I had to have immediate emergency surgery. It was a scary, harrowing ordeal, but something that ultimately made me a better person. Today, by the grace of God, I am a healthy young woman, with tomorrow actually marking my six year anniversary.

Olivia Wojcicehowski's dog Gunther.Courtesy of Olivia Wojcicehowski.

Flashback to when I was in recovery, I stated in a drug-induced haze that I wanted a dog. Two years later, my family got me Gunther. He is an Australian Shepherd. My best friend. His middle name is Fredric, after my doctor. Gunther has been my steady rock, and consistent companion. He is loyal beyond measure and makes me laugh daily with his clownish personality.

A year-and-a-half ago, I wanted to get Gunther a sister, so after much research, I settled on a German Shepherd. I named her Mika, which means ‘gift from God.’ She and I do Search and Rescue together. Mika is Human Remains Detection (HRD) trained. She is my little girl. And my constant shadow.

Olivia Wojcicehowski's dog Mika.Courtesy of Olivia Wojcicehowski.

What I haven’t mentioned is that I am, as a result of my surgery, unable to have children. It has been a bittersweet pill to swallow, and it is a loss that I think I will always carry with me. Especially as all of my friends are now having babies. But in my saddest moments, and they are just fleeting moments, my own two babies are right by my side. They make me so grateful for all I have been blessed with. I know how lucky I am. Mika and Gunther ARE my children. We are our own perfect little family, and I love them beyond all measures. As any mother loves her children.

Pat Cooney:

Introducing Ms. Kaya Marie, a rescue from the Louisiana area following Katrina. Kaya was rescued almost 13 years ago by my son, when he was a senior in college, from the Northshore Animal league.

She became our family dog, along with two goldens, and currently resides in Boston with her beloved rescuer and his wife! Kaya is extremely smart and fiercely loyal. Two years ago, she fainted while playing on Martha’s Vineyard and had to be rushed off the island to an emergency animal hospital where she was diagnosed with a large tumor on her liver. Surgery was too risky so the vet sent her home to live her remaining days- he thought maybe just a few. That was August 2018!

Pat Cooney's dog, Kaya.Courtesy of Pat Cooney.

Two weeks ago she fainted again- the tumor bleeds-and again she was rushed to an emergency hospital outside Boston. Learning her history and seeing her condition they recommended putting her down. My son and his wife tearfully went into the room to see her and make the final decision. Laying on her side, hooked up to an IV she looked awful until she heard my son’s voice. Up she leaped, tubes flying, tail wagging!

The vet said in her 16-year practice this was a first! Above is a picture taken yesterday in Boston in front of my son and his wife’s newly decorated Christmas tree. Our family has had now two Thanksgiving celebrations with this wise lady and our hope is another Christmas — 2019!! #gokayago

Maggie Falconer:

Five years ago, my husband Tom rescued Duke from a bad situation. Knowing he was heart worm positive, he knew it would require months of treatment, but without it, he would likely not survive.

Maggie Falconer's husband, Tom, and dog, Duke.Courtesy of Maggie Falconer.

Little did he know that months later, he would be the one who needed care. For weeks, Duke kept sleeping by Tom’s side of the bed. We soon discovered Tom had a high-grade sarcoma cancer. Duke was his constant companion and we believe he sensed something was wrong even before the diagnosis. He stayed by his side through his recovery and they remain close. #bestdogever #loyalcompanion