As Friday Harbor resident Kathleen Zuidema sits in a chair at the hospital awaiting her chemo treatment, she describes her three Aussies, their love of chasing balls and rides into town in her car with the wind on their tongues.
These images are bittersweet as Zuidema prepares to find a new home for the pups she has devoted her life to caring for. After battling cancer for about a year and a half, doctors now say the treatments will only extend her life for a short time, leaving her pack without an owner.
“At first I couldn’t bear it,” she said. “It was too heart-wrenching to consider.”
Zuidema now has one wish before she dies: to find a home for her three Aussies.
“They are awesome and well-behaved dogs,” she said.
It is a request that went viral after Zuidema posted on Facebook about her situation. So far her post has been shared more than 31,000 times, but she has yet to find the right match.
She is asking that all three, Autumn Moon, 11, Moka Luka, 4, and Finnegan, 4, be adopted into a home with a fenced yard where there is plenty of room to run and play. She hopes they will be able to stay in the San Juan Islands.
“I want someone who is like me to have them,” she said.
Even while struggling with cancer, Zuidema finds time to sit on a bench and throw a ball for her Aussies.
“Finnegan brings the ball right to my feet,” she said.
The ideal person would walk them on a daily basis, cuddle them on the bed and invite them up on the couch like any other family member. If someone needs assistance with landscaping or a fence, Zuidema has finances available for the right person.
She hopes to have time to help the dogs transition to new owners, but her future remains unknown as long as the cancer is in charge.
“Cancer turns on a dime,” she said. “We’re going to see what happens.”
Doctors have made it clear that saving her life is no longer an option, but chemo could buy her time. So she is planning the flower varieties she will plant in her garden this summer.
She is clear that her younger dogs will be with her until she can no longer care for them.
“But Autumn will be with me until the end,” she said about the 11-year old Aussie, who has been with her since she was a pup. But everything else holds many unknowns.
“I have never died before, so I just don’t know,” she said.
What is certain is that she will use all her energy to find a home for her pets, a home that resembles their life now, but without her.
“24/7 they are by my side,” she said. “They have always been by my side.”
Email Journal editor Cali Bagby at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information about Zuidema’s pack.