“Everything happens for a reason, and Zeus came into my life for a big time reason,” Rick Asbridge of Green Forest, Ark., recalls about his boxer puppy Zeus. It was a Sunday in 2003, and Rick saw a sign on the side of the road for Boxer puppies. He pulled over, and the minute he saw Zeus, he felt instantly connected.

Zeus was Rick’s “caregiver” and a source of strength as he was dealing with the aftermath of a pancreatic cancer diagnosis. Zeus kept him company before and after his Whipple procedure.

“I knew he was special,” Rick said.  “I didn’t have the money on me, so I went and sold my guitar so I could buy him. My wife, Chris, asked if I wanted to look at other puppies, but I knew he was for me.”

Known for his proud, dynamic personality and strong presence, Zeus quickly became Rick’s constant companion. The two spent a lot of time together. When Rick was diagnosed with early-stage pancreatic cancer in 2007, Zeus was there alongside him for every step of his recovery from the Whipple procedure.

“After I came home from my surgery, he would not leave my side! In some ways he was my ‘caregiver’ and kept me company when my wife left for work. It didn’t matter how I was feeling at the time; he was always there. I can tell you with all my heart I do not know where my health would be at this moment without God and Zeus.”

When Zeus passed away in 2014 from bladder cancer, it left a big hole in Rick’s life.

Zeus wearing Rick’s army uniform.

“I felt terrible because he was there for me during my diagnosis, but I wasn’t able to help him in his time of need. His pictures are up on the wall, and my wife and I miss him every day. He wore my dog tag from the military, and I had one made for him. Both tags are now on my key chain so I’m always reminded of him,” Rick said.

“For everyone who has a ‘caregiver’ or best friend [with fur], never take a single second with them for granted.”

Because Zeus was such an important part of his journey to recover from pancreatic cancer, Rick suggests that survivors who are open and able to spend time around animals should do so.

Best buddies Rick and his beloved dog, Zeus.

“Give animals a chance and for those who can, I suggest you get one. Pancreatic cancer is a terrible disease and it’s so important to find as much love and comfort in your life as possible,” Rick said. “They’ll be there constantly during your recovery and give you a sense of understanding. They’re very therapeutic to be around.”

Rick and Chris have adopted three Boxers since Zeus’ passing--Ozzie, Brandy and Cheyenne--but Zeus still remains in their hearts.

To find the support you need when fighting pancreatic cancer, call Patient Central toll-free at 877-573-9971 or email patientcentral@pancan.org. Also, learn more about our Survivor Caregiver Network.