Part Shar-Pei, part pitbull. All love.
There’s a photo of Bendu that Sophia Sincevich holds especially dear. The former stray has his head sticking out of the car window. Even though his droopy jowls made him look permanently sad, she could tell he was so happy.
“His eyes are blissed out, half-closed, his cheeks are flapping in the wind. You see the drool smeared on the side of the car,” she said. “I was like, ‘Yeah, we did the right thing. This was good.’”
Sincevich and her partner, Kyle Chu, decided to foster Bendu after reading his story in a Facebook post by Grand Rivers Humane Society in Grand Junction. He’d been found running loose in Palisade on Thanksgiving Day, then diagnosed with cancer and given six to 12 months to live. The organization was looking for someone to take in the senior pooch, estimated to be 10 years old, for the final stretch of his tough life.
A picture of Bendu’s floppy face, with his big, brown eyes, won the couple over.
“You can see that sweetness. You can see how much love that old boy had to give,” Sincevich said.
The image had been liked and shared on Facebook many times, with plenty of people offering to be foster parents. Chu joked that when they were chosen to be Bendu’s people, they became “Grand Junction famous.”
Chu found himself amazed “how much the community appreciated what we did and, and just wanted to genuinely support us through that journey.”
They’d just recently moved from the Front Range, and suddenly strangers were stopping them on the street, and even once in a brewpub, thanking them for stepping up for Bendu. That’s not to mention all the comments online.
It was sweet and surprising, but for them, this was not about notoriety. It was about Bendu — and giving him those experiences he’d almost certainly missed.
They documented his new life in countless photos and videos. Bendu snoring on the couch. Bendu panting as he learns to run on a leash. Bendu sitting in the grass, sunlight hitting his long threads of drool.
They even took him camping in Moab. Chu still smiles when he thinks of it.
At first, Bendu was a little apprehensive about getting in the tent, “but then, when we all got in there with him, he was happy just snuggling and passed right out and was such a happy camper.”
And the pair wanted to stay present for all of it.
“Every moment counted,” Sincevich said, “because we knew we didn’t have many.”
With their love and attention, Bendu was doing well. He gained weight. His rashy skin cleared a bit. He seemed more energetic. Chu even told himself they had to plan another camping trip.
“But his first trip was his last trip,” he said.
One day, not too long after, Bendu started breathing funny. They thought it might be the heat. Turns out, it was cancer spreading, which they knew was going to happen. Sincevich imagined they’d keep moving forward.
“There just wasn't much more forward that Bedu could go,” she said.
After being given six to 12 months to live, Bendu made it five. It was clear to them he’d reached the end. Sincevich could see it in his eyes, as if Bendu was saying “Hey, I'm done. Like, I'm good now.”
So they gave him wet food and homemade chicken broth and hung out together in the backyard, under the bright-blue sky. Then they went to the vet.
After the first shot, Bendu’s legs got shaky.
“He went to find the nearest sunbeam and just laid down and we laid down with him,” Sincevich said.
She was scratching his butt. Chu was petting him behind his ears.
Even though they knew what would happen next, “that second that his heart actually stopped and he did take that last breath, you know, I broke down,” Chu said. “I had to turn away.”
As Bendu let go, Sincevich could see a smile on his face.
“He was so peaceful and that felt good.” Then Sincevich’s voice broke just a bit. “But I was absolutely wrecked.”
While their life with Bendu was short, she said “it was exactly as it was meant to be.”
Sincevich got to be there for Bendu’s death, like she wishes she could have been when her father died of cancer. Chu was able to accept it was Bendu’s time, like he wishes he could have when his mom was dying of cancer.
Bendu found his home.
You want to know what is really going on these days, especially in Colorado. We can help you keep up. The Lookout is a free, daily email newsletter with news and happenings from all over Colorado. Sign up here and we will see you in the morning!