What’s Important In Life


For over four decades, I have worked with people during some of their darkest times; recovering from injury or loss, their worlds falling down around them, or after destroying their own lives and their families’ with stupid mistakes.

Above even that are the myriad crises and challenges of one’s own life and family. I have had a wonderful life.

It is an emotional stew that rules my existence, leaving to ask,  “How can I be be the best person I can be?

A few of you may remember that after a year of doing “other things”, I announced earlier this week 30 days of postings of  some of my most informative writing. It is a form of marketing and sharing what I know.

But things went off track. Duffy, above, is the culmination of a life filled with pets, dogs, cats, and a few other creatures. I loved every furry creature and each, in his or her way, was “the best’. Each has a truly poignant story. All but one are dead.

Duffy was different. We got him the morning after he was “dropped” into the bin at the local shelter. He was scared, perhaps 6 weeks old! And he was lost, worried, lonely, and loveable. We scooped him up and never looked back. He had one scary, life threatening, event early in his life. Perhaps something he found in our garage? We nearly lost him. A month later he took off into the woods, chasing his favorite friends, the deer. He was gone for 3-4 days until we got “the call” from our neighbor.

Almost two years ago we noticed a troubling lump on his rib cage. The short version is that, thanks to a FB Friend, Martha, we found the Pittsburgh Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Center, PVSEC. He had two surgeries, had several ribs removed, and they discovered a large tumor wrapped around the ribs and a small one on his spleen. Two forms of deadly cancer

The diagnosis was terminal. But things went so well. Both tumors were removed. The chemo worked great. He tolerated it well and wasn’t sick or sad for nearly two wonderful years

The costs? It was worth it.

The first chemo wore off, but the second round made all but one stubborn nodule fade away. Our new goal was to get it to be tiny and take it and one of three lobes of the lung out. We settled into a visit to Pittsburgh every other week. A treasured, almost magical, trip  at Thanksgiving was with our Granddaughter  Anna who wants to become a veterinarian. Not only did Anna get a tour of the PVSEC, but my phone lit up as we passed “TheTubes” in Pittsburgh. Sister Pat was ten minutes away at the bus station, so we picked her up, and all of us brought Duffy back home. It was a wonderful day.

Wednesday Janueary 8th was to be a “routine” chemo infusion, the one before the decision about surgery. Duffy met me Monday after work, running up and down the hallway, around the dining room table, and feinting left and right as he made it clear, snow or not, he wanted his walk! We only got one more short, chilly, walk together

On Tuesday afternoon, his breathing changed, and his demeanor. He was in distress. We were relieved to have our appointment the next morning at 8:15 a.m.

He walked out  of our bedroom on his own and took some water, but he had not eaten the night before, and he “just wasn’t right”.

We experienced one of the sad days of our lives as we learned he had fluid (which turned out to be blood) around his heart. The X-rays showed a tumor on the heart that had ruptured. “But we thought we’d have another year!.”

We didn’t. we had only moments,

They brought him to us. His head hung low. His eyes were sad and a bit glassy.  We cuddled with him on the floor, with kind people all around.

Something went wrong with the euthanasia, as he clearly felt pain when he wasn’t supposed to. It passed in an instant but pierced our hearts. Then the drugs did their job. It was over.

If you are still reading this, do me a favor. Look into those eyes. This was the most loving, attentive, intuitive, and comforting creature I have ever known. And, if you ever visited us, in his quiet way he would let you know that you really are the most wonderful person, deserving of love, on the face of the earth. And he meant it.

We thank God that we had him. He helped us complete our lives and appreciate what it is to love and be loved.  We miss him.

p.s. Lest one think from those deep brown eyes that Duffy had a sad streak, here he is the way we remember him, with our grandchildren and a full grin:

This post was written by Burton Hunter


  • Nancy Norris says:

    This brought tears to my eyes. You and Nancy gave him such a great life. You will miss him but on occasion he will let you know he is still watching over you.

  • Barb Cleavenger says:

    Burt and Nancy, I have been through this many times. I know and understand your grief. These animals are not pets, they are members of our family’s. I loved reading your posts of Duffy and his antics as well as all the pictures your posted. Duffy loved you and Nancy and had a wonderful life with you. Know that now Duffy is no longer in pain and is running in the green pastures and fields in heaven. Duffy is also waiting for you at the Rainbow Bridge. Thank you for being such great parents to this little guy.

  • Ed says:

    What an incredible life you’ve given Duffy. All your love returned seven fold reflected in those eyes quietly gazing back.
    Through all the tears the pain won’t seem to lessen. To have had the opportunity to know and love that dog makes this pain worth it and that realization is so far away right now.
    Be strong.


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