Gunner could not be without my dad. I think he chose to go with him.
When Daniel Hove was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, family and friends rallied to help the Air Force veteran-turned-assistant fire chief navigate this difficult time. But nobody was more supportive than Daniel’s loyal dog, Gunner, an 11-year-old lab who rarely left his owner’s side.
Photos of Daniel’s final years show the loyal pooch snuggling beside his human bed in bed and curling up on his lap, despite being a 90-pound dog. No matter what happened, Gunner made sure he was never more than a few inches away.
“They were best buddies till the end,” Daniel’s daughter, Heather Nicoletti, told Kare 11. “They were hunting buddies, they went everywhere together.”
So nobody was surprised, really, that when Daniel lay lying, his loyal dog suddenly fell ill, too.
“When my dad would get agitated, the dog would be agitated, my dad was restless, the dog was restless,” his daughter said, remembering how her father and Gunner had always been in sync. “My dad was unresponsive, the dog was unresponsive. So once we saw how the dog was doing–he wasn’t moving much anymore, not doing well– we knew, it was coming.”
One day, as the old dog grew increasingly listless and his arms started swelling, Heather knew it was time, sadly, to put Gunner down. “I called the vet clinic I used to work at,” she said, “they got me in right away and I rushed him up there, put him to sleep. And about an hour and a half later, my dad was gone too.”
But as distraught as she was about losing her father — a loving parent, loyal veteran, beloved community member, and a faithful mentor and friend to everyone he met — Heather took comfort in the fact that that her dad, at least, never had to say goodbye to his beloved dog. Such a separation would have been equally harrowing for Gunner, who could never bear to be far away from his best human friend.
“I had said I don’t know what’s going to be more traumatic for him,” Heather said. “To try to take him away to end–to put him to sleep– to end his suffering, or if you let him live through dad dying. I think either way it’s going to kill him. We knew they were going to go together. We just didn’t know it was going to be hours apart.”
“Gunner could not be without my dad,” Heather said. “I think he chose to go with him.”
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