Listener Stories


On Wednesday afternoon, Gabe, the 10-year-old yellow Labrador, who won the hearts of thousands through his affectionate personality and stellar military career, succumbed to cancer and failing health in the arms of his owner and best friend Army Sgt. 1st Class Charles “Chuck” Shuck.

Shuck, who has been with Gabe for the last seven years first as his handler in the Army and then as his owner, wrote on his Facebook page last night that Gabe was made comfortable with his favorite toys, snacks and medals before taking his last breath.

“I took him for a final walk,” he said on Facebook, “kissed him a thousand times, but I felt peace when he laid his head in my lap and left me.”

He noted that Gabe’s condition improved slightly from Tuesday night, when he was rushed to the animal hospital and given four blood transfusions after internal bleeding was discovered; but it was not enough for a full recovery. The cancer had spread to his liver and spleen.

Shuck, a native of Lansford currently residing in Columbia, S.C., said via email, “He was my life, my pooh bear and my heart is broken into a million pieces right now. I appreciate the seven awesome years I had to be his dad and to give him the best life possible.”

He also thanked everyone who supported Gabe over the years as he and the lovable pup journeyed through life together.

Gabe was the kind of animal that you fell in love with even if you never met.

Through Shuck’s Facebook pages about Gabe, the pair brought light to many through pictures, posts and other activities. The love was evident Tuesday and Wednesday as hundreds of posts from friends sending condolences and prayers were posted on Shuck’s page.

Gabe’s life story is an inspiring one.

His life began on the streets of Houston, Texas, where he was a wanderer, with no family and no home.

Eventually he was taken to the pound; and in 2005, he was rescued by the Army.

He was taken to Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio, and trained as a bomb-sniffing dog before meeting Shuck in 2006.

The pair was deployed and traversed Iraq through 2006 and 2007, completing over 210 combat missions and finding 26 explosives and weapons.

By the time he retired from active duty in 2009 as Sgt. 1st Class, bomb sniffing, Gabe had become a decorated war hero, having been awarded three Army Commendation Medals; an Army Achievement Medal; 40 coins of excellence; and was named the 2008 American Kennel Club Heroic Military Working Dog.

Gabe was also named the 2012 American Humane Association Hero Dog last October and traveled with Shuck to California, where he accepted his award and earned $15,000 for the charity United States War Dogs Association, which helps send care packages to deployed K-9 handlers and help find retired military working dogs homes.

Most recently, he and Shuck were featured in the 124th Annual Rose Parade in Pasadena, Calif., broadcast nationally on New Year’s Day. They were joined by a number of military personnel and their canine companions on the Dick Van Patten’s Natural Balance Pet Foods Inc. float “Canines with Courage: The Military Working Dog Teams National Monument.”

In addition to his military life, Gabe also liked being a regular house dog, enjoying belly rubs, walks, squeaky toys, visiting school children and wounded veterans, and lounging around with Shuck.

— Al from Orange, CA


Four weeks ago, I had to do the most dreadful thing a pet owner will ever have to do. My dear, sweet kitty Sony was gravely ill, and I was forced to put her to sleep. I almost said that I had to extinguish her light, but the illness took that from her months ago. She was 17 ½ years old, and was suffering from renal failure. I knew that her kidneys were acting up some years ago, but being the stubborn calico that she was, she simply refused to eat any modified diet. It seem like some cats would rather starve to death than to eat something they don’t like. So it was with my little furry friend. I got her when she was just 8 weeks old. She was full of vinegar, and would attack the legs and feet of passers-by. She used to climb up into the inside of the easy chair, and wait for somebody to come sit down, and she’d quickly vacate and tear back and forth across the living room, stopping briefly at each change of direction to crouch down low and briefly look around. It was the cutest damned thing I ever saw. She grew from a scrawny kitten with a head that looked to be two sizes too big into a beautiful cat with the prettiest face, and the most piercing green eyes. She had a saucy nature, and the joke said often was that it was HER house, and I just lived there. She certainly played the part of the regent of the castle. She loved affection, but only on her terms, and she had a real fetish for leather. If anybody put something made of leather near her, be it a jacket, a purse or even a leather pair of shoes, she’d be on it in an instant, rubbing her face all over it. So many good memories of the silly things she did, I could go on for hours.

I read “Rescuing Sprite” back when it came out, and kept Mark’s story with Sprite, Pepsi and Griffen fresh in my mind as Sony aged. I hoped that I’d wake up one morning to find that she’d passed in her sleep, but Sony was a fighter to the end. She rapidly began shedding weight. A visit to the vet and some blood/urine work confirmed that the end was near. We did what we could to make her last days as comfortable as possible. One day, she was clearly not doing too well. She had difficulty walking, and she would find the darkest corner of the house to go lay down in. We took her in the next day, and put her to sleep. The feeling of having to euthanize your friend of the last 17 years is so surreal, I still have difficulties wrapping my mind around the fact that I did it. I feel indescribable guilt. It took time for her heart to stop, because she was so dehydrated. I pray to God that she didn’t suffer at all in that time, and that she didn’t suffer. Sony was the first pet of my own that I ever had, and I miss her terribly. I’ve experienced the phenomenon of seeing her out of my peripheral vision, like so many other pet owners describe. It’s truly a heart-crushing experience. I doubt I’ll have another pet, as the grief of losing them is something I don’t think I want to experience a second time. Who knows though…maybe time will heal all wounds.

— Jason from Camino, CA



I adopted Daisy at age three from the animal shelter.  I did not realize she was a pit bull until my heart was completely taken by her.  I adopted her anyway, even though I believed the stories I read about the breed.  I constantly watched for any sign of aggression, and never ever saw any.  I only experienced the sweetest, most gentle dog I had ever owned.  Daisy was left at the pound by her former owner because she was unable to give birth to the latest litter of puppies she was having for their monetary gain.  Instead of taking her to the vet to help her deliver, they took her to the pound.  A vet at the pound surgically removed the puppies which were all dead.  The owners never went back for her.  Daisy quickly became a major part of our little family and was even loved by my five cats, especially one named India.  India always slept with Daisy.  Three years later, Daisy was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer and was given three months.  If any dog deserved a better life it was Daisy and I am still angry that the former owners never realized what a really great dog she was.  She has been dead a year now, but her paw prints are still all over my heart.  Pit Bulls have truly been given a bad rap, they are magnificent dogs

— Carla from Palm Springs, CA



Kara left us early this morning. She lay down in the grass and quietly went to sleep. We are sad to see her go, but glad that she is not suffering any longer. We will miss her following her sisters barking. We will have to find someone else to blame when food has been snatched from the kitchen counter. She was the sneaky one. A faithful friend, she now joins her sister Tori in Heaven. I am sure they are happily chasing a squirrel today – together again at last. We love you always, Kara.

— Don from Dunedin, FL



I very suddenly lost my Snickers to hemangiosarcoma on 5 August.  A 12 1/2 year old  female Brindle Boxer that was quite simply, the sweetest soul I ever had the privilege to encounter.  Snickers was born at the beginning of the “Digital Picture” era 19 November 2000.  The pictures are the first (6 weeks) and last (12 1/2 years) images taken.  Her story is amazing and I’m doing my best to document it.  In no small part pursuant to inspiration from Mark himself.  It won’t be “Rescuing Sprite” but I am unusually compelled to write it.  Miss you Snicks… So very much.

— Larry from Cape Coral, FL


Xena & Fly

We have 4 dogs…..3 are rescue dogs and one is a trained protection dog.  Xena is our German Shepherd protection dog,  Fly is our matriarch….my girlfriend got here almost 14 years ago.  Guerin is our boy dog and is he all boy….fast as greased lightening.  We recently got little Syd….and he may be small but he is fiesty.

We just had a close call with Xena when she got a terrible infection and we almost lost her but witht the grace of God and a wonderful Vet….she was saved.

I come today with a heavy heart as our matriarch Fly has sucumbed to Kidney Failure….we will have to let her go soon as she is getting worse and worse and with no hope for a cure we do not want her to suffer…she has been a fixture part of our family for so long I do not know how we are going to get along without being greeted at the door with her smiling little black face.  All of the other dogs show her so much respect and we can see that they know something is wrong just not exactly what.  We are spending all of the special time we can before she leaves us and we ask for any prayers you might give….she is very special to us as are all of our dogs…..but she is the momma of the house.

This is a picture of Xena and Fly….Fly is the little black one.

— Bob & Dawn from Grand Prarie, TX