My dog, Beau, is the newest companion on my IPF journey

Adopting a puppy is hard work, but it's been rewarding for this columnist

Samuel Kirton avatar

by Samuel Kirton |

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Do you have pets? If so, have they been good companions? Following my diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) in January 2017, I faced periods of loneliness and isolation. That was especially true during the COVID-19 pandemic.

My wife, Susan, has always been a cat person, while I’ve always had dogs. Let me be clear, though: I love both. Our cats, Bella, Prince, and Jack, have been constant companions during my pre- and post-transplant journey.

Bella, the oldest of the three, is our resident diva. She is 17 years old and a beautiful, long-haired, butterscotch-colored girl. Bella loves to curl up next to me under a blanket, and she’ll steal your heart with just one look. Somehow, I sense she knows she’s beautiful.

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Prince was my constant companion until he passed away shortly after my bilateral lung transplant in July 2021. He was by my side most of the day and slept next to me, too. There were nights when I was using both a continuous positive airway pressure, or CPAP, machine and supplemental oxygen, and my breathing slowed or stopped. I’d wake to Prince placing a paw on my chest. He’s always been my guardian angel.

Jack came to us as a kitten almost two years ago to be a companion not only for us, but also for Bella, who’d always been part of a multicat house. Jack’s playful, energetic kitten spirit was only mildly amusing to Bella, and she tolerated it in small doses.

But until recently, I hadn’t had a dog during my IPF journey.

Along came Beau

Recently, the Lost Dog & Cat Rescue Foundation (LDCRF) put out an appeal on social media for assistance fostering a large number of puppies. Paloma and Gordon Leigh answered the call. Paloma and the couple’s oldest son, Ben, went to the LDCRF shelter on a rainy Saturday morning expecting to bring a puppy home to foster until it could be adopted.

Whether it was luck, fate, or some form of divine intervention, the situation changed. A staff member at LDCRF indicated they’d have to make a difficult decision about which of two puppies to bring home that day. Ben asked further questions and suddenly, much to Paloma’s surprise, said they’d take both.

That day they brought home Mo and Larry, 5-month-old sibling Aussiedors. I met the dogs and will be the first to admit that I fell hard for Larry. A couple of days later, I asked if I could adopt him. Larry was scheduled to be at an adoption event the following weekend, so LDCRF and Paloma helped arrange a home visit so that Larry could meet Bella and Jack. Thankfully, it was a nonevent.

A man kneels next to a puppy on a wooden pier near his home in Virginia. He's wearing a long-sleeve khaki shirt, black vest, blue jeans, and sunglasses. The puppy is a mostly black Aussiedor with several white patches on his chest and paws. It's a beautiful, sunny day, and both the man and the dog look very happy.

Sam Kirton introduces Beau to his new home. (Courtesy of Sam Kirton)

Then the pace picked up. I completed an application, interviewed with an adoption counselor, and arranged a meeting to finalize everything. The best part? The Leigh family decided to adopt Mo.

Mo was renamed Loki, and Larry was renamed Beau. Beau came home with me on March 11, and his presence has been so welcome. Caring for a puppy is hard work, but it’s also very rewarding.

Another bonus is that I’m walking more now. On my first full day with Beau, I noticed an increase in my number of steps. Since Wednesday, my daily step count has exceeded 10,000 — a marked improvement from before Beau came home to us.

This week, Beau and Loki begin a 14-day training immersion program — or, as some call it, puppy boot camp. Their gentle disposition suggests they’ll likely be good candidates to train as therapy dogs.

With Beau by my side, I have a new companion on this journey. I’m confident he’ll help me make every breath count.

Note: Pulmonary Fibrosis News is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Pulmonary Fibrosis News or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to pulmonary fibrosis.


Judi Frost avatar

Judi Frost

II have a similar story and must agree an animal companion is the most wonderful way to boost positive feelings with a diagnosis of IPF.

After our two bostons passed during Covid I started looking for another dog . 2 years without the wild crazy Boston Terries, Stevie and Betty tearing around was way too quiet ! We started with looking for a rescue and we were turned down !! By a rescue group that turned out to be not reputable!
I went back to my youth and started looking at boxers which I grew up with talked to the breeder then literally a few days after my diagnosis I put in the request to adopt a puppy !
Lucy the boxer turned two on Jan 30 2024 she is full of energy and a huge handful but our lives are richer ! We have many new friends human and canine ! Do many hikes with her in the blue mountains with a group of friends and their doggies on weekends ! During the week , walks at least four times per day in downtown Toronto ! We also have a Bengal cat Birdie they get along however the cat just wants Lucy to chase her !
Birdie watches me at nite sleeps in my arms (she does not have dander), and Lucy keeps us busy and watches me during the day !! She is always by my side !
Our home is back to exciting and we have to deal with dog and cat sitters when we go away however the diversion from dealing with my breathing is worth millions .
Thanks Sam for posting about your new baby pup in your life !

Samuel Kirton avatar

Samuel Kirton


Thanks for reading my column and your comments. I have been amazed how much more willing I am to walk with Beau. He is a puppy right now but he seems to pick up cues quickly. He is off to puppy boot camp for two weeks. I missed him from the moment I dropped him off. Our menagerie of cats and now Beau all get along.

Sam ...

Karen Carns avatar

Karen Carns

Great news and an impressive 10,000+ steps per day!! You are making every step count!!!!

Samuel Kirton avatar

Samuel Kirton

Jim and Karen,

Thanks for reading my column and for your comments. Beau is now at boot camp and I cannot believe how much I miss him.



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