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A terminally ill woman looks for a caregiver for her three elderly dogs | CBC News


A Regina woman facing terminal cancer won't have peace of mind until she finds a loving person to take care of her three senior dogs.

Susan Dickens wants to make sure her 3 canine companions are looked after once she is gone

Three dogs are sitting beside each other, gazing up at a hand.

Olive, Cisco and Booda wait for Susan Dickens to give them a treat. (Adam Bent/CBC)

Susan Dickens doesn't know how much longer she has to live, but she is certain about one thing. She needs to find a good home for her dogs, Cisco, Booda and Olive, before she dies.

Dickens, who lives in Regina, was diagnosed with late-stage cervical cancer last year.

"Knowing this, I want to find a good home for my puppies."

The puppies are actually all senior dogs, aged 16, 15 and 13. Dickens said she will feel at peace once she knows that they will be going to a loving home, rather than some sort of cage or shelter.

She also wants the dogs to remain together. 

Olive is an Australian Shepherd, Booda is a corgi mix and Cisco is a border collie lab mix. Dickens said Cisco became especially attached to her after her husband passed. 

"I just recently went away and [Cisco] cried, whined, howled the entire time I was gone, so whoever gets my dogs has to have a bit of patience, right, because they're going to be sad," she said.

"To know they're going somewhere beautiful is all that matters, and then I will feel way better."

A woman wearing glasses sits outside in a chair. She is wearing a pink sweater over a black shirt.

Susan Dickens was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2022. Her biggest wish is to find a loving home for her three dogs. (Adam Bent/CBC)

Sandra Archibald, who is the executive director of New Hope Dog Rescue in Saskatoon, said the dogs deserve to live out the rest of their lives together, but it could take some time to find someone willing to take them in. 

"Their world is her and each other. To separate them will be traumatic for everyone," said Archibald, who also owns three dogs. 

She said that it is important dogs who grew up together or are bonded be re-homed together.

However, there are challenges that come along with that.

A composite photo showing an Australian Shepherd and a corgi mix.

Susan Dickens wants to find someone who can take in all of her senior dogs after she is gone. (Adam Bent/CBC)

Dogs are individuals and come with their own personality quirks, behavioural challenges, and dietary and exercise needs. More dogs also means more money.  In Dickens's case, the dogs will also be in mourning and will have to adjust to the absence of their long-time human companion.

"To find a home that's able and willing to take all of this into consideration, and love them and continue to give them their best life as their current guardian wishes — it's going to take somebody with a really big heart and a very generous soul, and I really hope that person is out there."

WATCH | Sask. terminal cancer patient searching for someone to take in her 3 senior dogs: 

Terminal cancer patient searching for someone to take in her 3 senior dogs

VIDEO: Woman with terminal cancer searches for someone to take in her 3 senior dogs
A Regina woman facing terminal cancer won't have peace of mind until she finds a loving person to take care of her three senior dogs.

Archibald said it's becoming harder to find suitable homes for dogs in need. New Hope Dog Rescue has been struggling to find homes for dogs of all ages and breeds, and people's interest in adopting has seemingly stalled.

The rescue organization has been seeing an unprecedented amount of people surrender their dogs for many reasons, including health and financial troubles.

"We see the need every single day."

Archibald is hopeful more people will consider helping. If adoption isn't an option, people can also consider opening their homes to provide temporary care. The experience of fostering a dog while waiting for them to find their forever home is heartwarming, inspiring and rewarding, she said.

A border collie-lab dog smiles at the camera. The dog has light brown eyes and black hair with white and grey on his snout and eyebrows.

Susan Dickens said she will be at peace when she knows her dogs will be taken care of after she is gone. (Adam Bent/CBC)

As for Dickens and her dogs, her wish list for the person who takes them in is short and simple. She said the person must have a backyard (fenced, of course, because the dogs may try to run to their old home).

Beyond that, all she asks for is for their new human companion to show unconditional kindness and love. 

"Lots of pets, a comfy couch and patience."


VIDEO: Pensacola woman now cancer-free thanks to her dogs
CBS Miami

Kendall Latimer (she/her) is a journalist with CBC News in Saskatchewan. You can reach her by emailing [email protected].

    With files from Bonnie Allen


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