Best friend to the end

John Vincent holds tight to his Yorkshire Terrier “Patch” Thursday morning after Animal Welfare brought the dog to visit at the inpatient hospice center at the Raymond G. Murphy VA Medical Center. (Jim Thompson/Journal)

Copyright © 2019 Albuquerque Journal

John Vincent may not have much time left. And he had but one request.

So, Thursday morning, his best friend, a 5-year-old Yorkie named Patch, was brought to the Hospice Center at the Raymond G. Murphy Veterans Affairs Medical Center and placed in his lap for what could be their final reunion.

“Yeah, that’s me, that’s daddy,” Vincent cooed as Patch licked his face and neck. “Are you so happy to see me? I’m so happy to see you.”

The 69-year-old Vietnam veteran’s steel-gray eyes lit up as he held the wiry pup close to his chest and softly stroked his brown and black fur. There were few dry eyes in the room, as physicians, social workers and those from the city who made it all possible crowded around – assuring Vincent that Patch “will get a wonderful home.”

In fact, Patch is already spoken for and has a home waiting for him.

Amy Neal, a palliative care social worker, said Vincent was admitted this week and told them his Yorkshire terrier had been taken to a shelter. He asked to see Patch.

“I asked him if that’s something that would be meaningful for him,” she said. “And it came together very quickly.”

Neal has been working with hospice patients for more than 15 years and called it “an honor” to fulfill Vincent’s request.

“It’s about ‘what can we do to enhance his life?’ Because it’s about living here when they come here … and this is living for him,” she said. “When I reminded him this morning that they were coming, he goes, ‘Is this really happening?'”

Those at Albuquerque Animal Welfare said it was a first for the department.

Danny Nevarez, director of Animal Welfare, said Neal called them and let them know Vincent “was not doing too well and wanted to see his dog.”

“When the request came in, it was an immediate ‘absolutely,’ and let’s do whatever we can to get it done,” he said. “It was as simple as getting Patch over here.”

Nevarez said Patch was “as quiet as can be” during the entire car ride from the Westside shelter, but as soon as they turned on to Gibson that all changed.

“It’s almost like he knew, he just started whimpering,” he said. “Like he had that anticipation.”

Vincent said he was born in Montana and raised on a ranch – where he owned a full-blooded wolf dog. As a young man, he enlisted in the Marines for three years and served in Vietnam. From there, Vincent moved around to Wyoming, Alaska and eventually retired in New Mexico.

That’s when a neighbor’s dog had a litter and Patch came along.

“He was the smallest, and I wanted one that could ride on my bike,” Vincent said. “The only hair I had was on my chin, which was called a patch. … And he had a little white patch, so we were the patch brothers.”

Patch would ride on Vincent’s Harley, snug behind his own pair of tiny goggles, and when the blue-collar worker retired, the two would take long walks every night, when the city was most quiet.

When asked about his time in the military, of days past, Vincent summed it up, as he doted on Patch with a smile on his face.

“I always went where the best went,” he said.

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