Adopting a stray pup while battling a disease deemed incurable seems like poor timing, but it turned out to be a decision that Bill Hogencamp and his wife Kathy believe helped save his life.
Hogencamp, an 84-year-old semi-retired architect from Pheonix, Alabama, was diagnosed with incurable cancer of the gall bladder, liver, colon and lining of the abdomen in May.
Doctors told him he wouldn’t live to see Christmas.
“I have seven children and I’ve traveled all around the world,” Hogencamp said. “I thought if this is it, then this is it.”
Hogencamp chose to undergo treatment, despite being told by his doctor that there was no hope. In October, he had an operation to remove three large tumors.
Eleven days after surgery, his wife was on her way to pick him up from a rehabilitation facility when she spotted a small, white dog wandering in the middle of the street, in danger of being hit by a car. She was in a rush, but said something compelled her to stop and save the pup.
“He walked past six other cars right up to the side of my car and put his paws up on the door,” she recalled.
While Kathy was hooked on the cute little dog right away, Hogencamp needed convincing.
“I hadn’t had a dog in twenty years and I had no desire to have a dog,” he said. “I kept saying we need to find his owner.”
Despite an extensive search and nearly a dozen false leads, the Hogencamps were unable to track down the dog’s owner. A vet told the Hogencamps that the dog was a Maltese and was probably around 6-years-old. He was fixed but not chipped.
Besides, the dog very quickly won Hogencamp over. They soon became inseparable.
Whenever Hogencamp would sit down, the dog — named Mahjong after Kathy’s favorite card game — would jump into his lap. Whenever he napped, Mahjong would curl up next to him. And when he returned home after going out, Mahjong would jump onto his hind legs and dance with excitement.
Hogencamp underwent chemotherapy as he and his wife settled into life with a dog. Just before the holiday, he received some miraculous news: Tests showed that he was now cancer free.
The doctors are at a loss to explain this amazing turn of events, Hogencamp’s wife said. The family says that they believe that Mahjong has played a huge part in her husband’s recovery.
“The dog seemed to know right away that Bill was sick and it was his job to take care of him — and Bill knew it was his job to take care of the dog,” she said.
He said their relationship gave both him and the dog a sense of purpose. Although he knows he owes much of his cure to great medical care and a lot of luck, he said that he is convinced the little white dog was sent to him to help him get better.
As they celebrate Christmas, Hogencamp said he has two final chemotherapy treatments left to go. He said he’s spending the day with friends, family and of course, Mahjong.
“My life has been a miracle,” Hogencamp said. “And now Mahjong is part of that miracle.”