Saying Good-bye
A Therapy Dog Love Story

Sherman does not speak Spanish, but understands it! When we met Juan, he didn't speak much English, but understood it. Juan, his Mom and brother Jeremy were from the Dominican Republic. We met Juan the beginning of 2001 at the Ronald McDonald House in Cleveland, Ohio. Juan had been told that Sherman and Josie would be visiting on Wednesday evenings to play with the kids. He was at the door waiting when we arrived. Sherman went right to him, tail wagging, happy as could be to meet someone new at the House. Kisses were given and Sherman was ready to play. Josie looked him over, got a pat or two and Juan was looking for Sherman.

In the months that followed that first meeting, I could let Juan take Sherman wherever and Sherman went. Normally Sherman goes nowhere without me, but there was something special about Juan that Sherman must have known. He would look back to see if I was coming, but didn't stop and wait for me like usual. Juan and his brother Jeremy would take Sherman out on the fenced patio or in the yard to the play house during the nice weather and run with him, along with any of the other kids that were able to be out and playing. I was always there to make sure everyone was safe.

Juan needed to spend some time in the hospital as he was on the list waiting for a bone marrow transplant and needed chemo treatments. While there, the motorcyclists clubs did a big ride to deliver stuffed animals to the kids at the Cleveland hospitals. About 600 of these cyclists rode into Cleveland one Sunday afternoon and visited the Pediatric floors handing out all sizes of animals. Juan received a huge, almost life size dog which sat on the window ledge.

When we visited the hospital the following day, Juan had a surprise for Sherman and Josie. His mom told us when the cyclists were in his room, Juan told them of Sherman and Josie, how much they meant to him and how he looked forward to their visits every week and could he please have a dog to give to them when they came to visit him the next day. Leaving his room the next day was Sherman, Josie, Dale, yellow dog with black spots and myself. Yellow dog with black spots is now a permanent resident of our home. Juan was back at RMcD House for a short period of time then back to the hospital. September 9, 2001 he received his bone marrow transplant. He had is ups and downs, but seemed to be holding his own.

On Halloween, which was a Wednesday, it was 5:30 PM, I told Sherman and Josie it was time to get ready to go, usually they go into the bathroom, as they know visits are to follow. Sherman looked at me and slowly went to the bathroom, Josie went in the bedroom, up on the bed and stayed. I got Sherman ready, called Josie, didn't come, went in to get her and she moved to the far edge of the bed. Picked her up, cleaned her up, collars on, ready to go, but neither were really ready as usual.

When we arrived at RMcD House, I was going to put Sherman in his costume, but he was not up to it when we got out of the car. We were met outside by one of the volunteers and told that at 5:30 PM Juan had gone into cardiac arrest and passed away.

The last picture I took of Juan and Sherman was one of those "Kodak Moments". Juan, Jeremy and two other kids had been playing with Sherman as I was taking pictures. The others left and Juan gave Sherman a hug, thanked him, and I turned and caught the moment. This picture is framed at RMcD House for all to enjoy.

Juan was special and somehow Sherman and Josie knew on October 31st that Juan would not be there for them ever again, were saddened by that and did not want to visit that evening. However, when Juan's mom came back from the hospital, Sherman sat by her side in the kitchen while she told her "Ronald McDonald family" what happened. She was petting Sherman most of the time as he sat so still and listened. When she was finished, he put his feet on her chair and just looked up at her as if to say "I loved him too".

Betty Jean Greig
Willoughby Hills, Ohio