Bruce and Precious

A short story of a healing friendship started by a patient and a dog

The Neighborhood

Precious and I moved into this neighborhood just outside of Uptown Charlotte a little over one year after my wife died. It is a beautiful area with old growth trees, winding streets, repaired roads and sidewalks, and sidewalks broken by large surface roots, some offices, no stores, except on the surrounding main roads. The houses are a mix of different sizes and styles, from single story cottages to elegant mansions. There are also apartments in the style of the larger houses, so far. On each end of the main street through this area are major hospital complexes. So ambulances and helicopters are frequently heard on the road and overhead.

I rented a condo, part of four buildings, 19 units, on a corner and set up under an HOA. Three of the buildings and a parking lot are behind a 4000 sq. ft. three story mansion that is a ways up a hill, about 20 feet above street level. I tell everyone that God gave me this place to live. Nobody argues that point. It could also be that God's purpose for me included me being in this location. But that is another story.

Within one mile of the condo, are a theater, a pharmacy, A Starbucks, a Panera, a movie theater (closed due to Covid), a supermarket, a dozen restaurants, and four churches. Theatre Charlotte is one half of a block away, with just over 200 seats, which has several different plays each year, but "A Christmas Carol" is performed each year. Most parking for it is on the street or in nearby parking lots. I can easily walk there.

On the next street over, three blocks down is a famous mansion, built by the Duke family of Duke Energy. It's in a classic H shape with beautiful gardens and fountains. It also has a nice park across the street. Across the other street from it is another mansion. This one with a classic ballroom that can be seen from the street.

At the end on the other corner street beside me is an assisted living facility. It has a large porch on the side where many of the patients gather to enjoy being outside. Some of them smoke, some just watch the world go by.


Precious was a large, 110# female Doberman Pinscher that we bought from a breeder in Richburg, SC. Her tail was clipped but her larger than normal ears were natural and she was not spayed. Her mother weighed in at 90# and her father at 140#. All three were AKC registered. Precious was raised to like people and she did that well. In fact, she had an intuitive feeling and care for people. She did not like other dogs, though.

She was beautiful, smart, strong, fast, loyal, protective, and had a bark that hurt my wife's ears. She was never without a leash when out-of-doors. She hated to get wet in the shower or in the rain. She shredded paper towel rolls and really anything cardboard. Small stuffed animal toys were also destroyed, starting with the eyes being removed, then pulling the stuffing out. Precious did not like any competition. She had 6 thick rubber squeaky toys, shaped like inflated balloon animals. 2 Rhinos, 2 Lions, and 2 Crocks. One of the Rhinos became her baby. None of the other 5 mattered. She would often carry her "baby" around in her mouth, never biting down on it. She also used it as a way to communicate what she wanted. If she dropped it in my lap, she wanted something, like water, food, or to go potty. If she held onto her baby, she wanted attention or wanted me to take a break because I was under stress working.

We would walk around the immediate block, just under a mile, once or twice per day for exercise. Sometimes we would add an adjoining block to get about a mile and a half for the walk.

Fast Friends

On one of our walks, a patient at the assisted living facility asked to meet my dog. Precious had no problem with him and he liked her. The patient went by the name Bo. His name is Bruce. Bruce had a massive stroke that was still affecting his speech. Over time, I would walk Precious by there and we would talk and she would get petted and get her ears rubbed. We met two or three times per week, but rarely during winter. As a short haired dog, Precious could not stay out long in the cold, and would prod me to get her home. Sunny days could also overheat her, cutting visits short. I would cool her off with a pair of ice packs, concentrating on her chest, neck, and head.

The stroke affected muscles on Bruce's right side. The speech problem he had wasn't muscle control, though there were still some minor effects there from the stroke. The major problem was that he could not get what he was thinking into his speech. He could get really frustrated with expressing himself and would call himself stupid. I corrected him anytime he called himself names. What I did and still do is accept it, give him time, and work with him. I also asked him to read any magazines or papers out loud so he could see if his speech matched his thoughts.


We were all friends. Bruce loved to see and pet Precious. We would sit on the steps leading off the porch to one of the parking lots. Precious also exhibited her role of protector as Bruce was now her buddy. She would show some attention to the other patients there, but only briefly. While Bruce and I talked, Precious would patrol the length of the walk in front of the porch, about 30 feet, always on her leash.

I was learning more about him, his condition, and his past. I found that he loves music. I would play some songs from my Android phone. As we were listening to music, I noticed that he was drumming to the music. Not the simple full hand drumming that I do, but as though he was holding drum sticks, hitting a snare or a tom-tom, and a high-top. He told me that he had been a member of a local rock group, but not which one.


When the Corona virus hit, all visits were cut off, but only for a few months. Masks were required. We moved our meeting place to a gazebo between the porch and main parking lot. We followed that arrangement for over a year. Bruce's speech problems continued, though the frustration was not as bad.


About the time the COVID precautions were diminishing, on a walk one day, I noticed some drainage coming from Precious' vulva. It seemed to contain some white blood cells. A trip to a previous vet involved taking a sample and examining under a microscope. She was diagnosed with Pyometra, an infection of the uterus. That was the worst form of the infection, which could have killed her within a week with a ruptured uterus. She would have to be spayed immediately. A previous vet hospital was recommended with the cost of emergency surgery about $3,000. I found a very helpful vet that could do the surgery for about $1,000, but it would be about 5 days away. That vet's phone support found a county spay and neuter clinic that would do the surgery for under $300, in 2 days, but she needed a couple shots first. So, shots next day and surgery the following day. That veterinarians diagnosis after the hysterectomy was mucometra. Much less severe, but still needed attention.

Cancer and Goodbye

At the same time, Precious had a large growth appear in her tummy, near one of her nipples. It was about the size of a small potato. I don't know what it was nor did the vet who performed her hysterectomy diagnose it. I assumed that it was milk produced, because her thickened uterus walls were interpreted by her other organs that she was pregnant. Whatever it was, it had built up pressure inside it and actually shot it out and penetrated her stomach skin.

Back to the vets to determine what it was and how bad, and to prepare for surgery. A sample was taken and sent to the lab. The results were delayed but once received, the test showed that the growth was a malignant cancer. I kept her at home for couple of weeks, changing her bandages twice a day. She was getting weaker and started looking for a hiding place for protection. I cried when I told Bruce about her condition and would have her put to sleep. He was deeply affected too.

Finally, the day came. I took a big pocket full of her favorite treats and drove her around some of her favorite places. We came to the vets and prepared her for her shots. She wolfed down all of the treats and then laid there, taking in all of the attention and affection that was given her. She was very relaxed and looked as though she knew what we were doing there. After the shots I only had the strength to stay for a few minutes, then went out to the car and cried.

She was cremated and put into a nice wooden box, I had two paw prints made and gave one of them to Bruce.

Prayer and Solo Visits

I had been saying a rosary almost every morning and now included thanksgivings for having Precious and for the rehabilitation of Bruce from his stroke. I continued to visit Bruce and we continued our friendship.

Music Therapy

I bought Bruce the "Rolling Stone Collectors Edition of Pink Floyd". Like before, I told him to read it outloud. We've had many discussions about them, good and bad. We have also talked about other musicians, like The Beatles, Queen, Jeff Beck, and REO Speedwagon and about other musicians that have passed away. I asked Bruce if he had a radio so he could listen to music. He didn't. I bought him a small MP3 player / FM radio, about $30, online. I put some songs on it that I knew he would like and some, I gambled on. I gave it to him just before Christmas. He loved it. We talked about many of the songs, some of which he had not heard before. He really liked the Pink Floyd songs on the player.

The End of the Beginning

After a couple of months with the player and discussions about music and performers, Bruce has begun to speak more coherently and can fairly easily carry on a conversation, with much less confusion and frustration. He is more interested in getting exercise. He has begun talking to and about more and more of the staff and patients at the facility. He is clearly happier, (except for the food).

There is more to go and he seems to be improving almost daily.

Update: Bruce is showing an increasing ability to recognize and work with numbers and colors. He also enjoys the realization of his progress.


Pets, especially dogs, are good icebreakers for making new friends.

Pets, especially dogs, can break people out of their shells.

Treat everyone with the respect that they deserve and maybe more than they deserve.

Last modified: Wed Aug 2 21:00:00 Eastern Daylight Time 2023