Dogs. They’re our best friends, and also our family.
And when it comes to cancer diagnosis, they are no more immune than we are.
This is a story of two canines, both recently diagnosed, living out their last days by checking off items on their “bucket lists.”
Buckeye, a 15-year-old golden retriever, and nearly 10-year-old bulldog Harley Bruiser were only recently introduced, but the pair have become fast friends.
They have a few things in common — cancer diagnoses and caring families, dedicated to giving their dogs the best last days of their lives.
They also, have bucket lists.
“He had a complete stranger offer us to let him take a ride on his Harley Davidson, in the side car,” said Ashley McElfresh, of Caldwell, Ohio, said of Harley, her family dog.
Between them, Harley and Buckeye are enjoying their fair share of treats and toys, whether it’s ice cream at night, the plushest blankets money can buy, truck rides, farm play dates, pet-friendly boutiques, or bubble baths.
“He’s got to ride in the back of our vehicles with us into town, skateboard down the road, I mean, anything a dog could ever want to do,” McElfresh said of Harley.
Dr. Grace Kemp lets Buckeye tag along while she treats other four-legged friends at Goodworks Veterinary Hospital.
“He really likes people, and it’s really making his life happy at this point,” Kemp said.
Buckeye has been part of the Kemp family for more than decade after they found and adopted him from a rescue.
During Christmas, the Kemps received the news they feared.
“I knew he was sick,” Grace said. “I knew something wasn’t right. So I took him to Ohio State and they also found a liver tumor, and he’s been diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer.”
Buckeye was diagnosed with Cholangiocellular Carcinoma and given just 4-to-6 months to live.
McElfresh and her family were given an equally devastating diagnosis of Lymphosarcoma for Harley, with a 4-to-6-month lease on life.
“He was one of the best things that we’ve ever brought into our family,” Ashley said.
Kemp advocates for senior pet care with her patients.
“One of the biggest questions I’m faced with is, someone comes in, and they say, ‘well gosh, Doc, my dog is 12,’ and I maybe recommend a test or a surgery of some other care, and they say, ‘well I don’t really know what I want to put him through. He’s 12. He’s old.’”
And while she acknowledges that few pet owners have unlimited funds …
“I think it’s really important to try to keep giving your pet the best quality of life till the very end,” Grace said.
Buckeye and Harley are now traveling a similar road, one that will inevitably lead them over the Rainbow Bridge.
“Without him, caring for me, there’s no way that I could care for him the way I have,” Ashley said.
Both the Kemp and McElfresh families have already lost two dogs, Kenya and Pup, respectively.
Buckeye has reached the 4-month mark of his projected 6 months, and Harley is also nearing the end of his prognosis.
You can follow his journey and bucket list adventures here.