Ever wondered why we call dogs “man’s best friend”? Is it really true that dogs know what we are feeling, thinking, and experiencing? That they know to give us extra attention when we are sick or down? That they remain by our side all the way to the end?
If you’ve ever had any doubts about this, an incredible story from North Carolina will sweep them all away. In early April, a 76-year-old veteran named Bill Schiller passed away after developing dementia. Schiller was comforted in his final years by his companion Anne-Marie Sibthorp and especially by their dog, Chief.
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Chief was an unlikely addition to Sibthorp’s house, rescued from the pound in 2014. At first, she was worried about not being strong and active enough to keep such a big dog. Sibthorp thought a family with young kids would be the perfect environment for Chief to flourish in.
Introducing 'Chief". He was a rescue from the Rowan County Pound where he was to be gassed the day we 'sprung' him. He…
But when Schiller and the dog met, all that went out the window. “There’s a chemistry between a person and a dog when they’re really special, and he was really special for Chief and Chief was enormously for him,” she told WCNC in Charlotte. Sibthorp kept the dog, and he became an integral part of their lives.
Alluding to the bond between Schiller and Chief, Sibthorp further said, “They bonded; they belonged together.”
Schiller had led such a busy life that he had never really had time for pets, but in his golden years, he fell hard for Chief. Sadly, in 2017, Schiller developed dementia. He moved from Florida to North Carolina to be with Sibthorp, and Chief was trained as a therapy dog to be able to help Schiller.
Through Invisible Paw Prints, a non-profit Charlotte-based organization that is “led by compassionate volunteers who use their canine companions to provide heartwarming visits” to those in need, Sibthorp had Chief specially trained to work as a therapy dog. This meant that Chief would be allowed into medical care facilities of all kinds.
As Schiller was taken into care facilities, Chief was there by his side, doing his best to comfort his friend. Schiller kept getting weaker and weaker though, and after petting Chief for one last time in the nursing home, he passed away on April 8. Sibthorp arranged an open-casket viewing a couple of days later for all of Schiller’s friends and family to say goodbye.
But what about Chief? To have the funeral without Schiller’s best buddy wouldn’t have been right. Sibthorp asked the James Funeral Home if the dog could attend, and they said yes. Owner Sam James told WCNC that he understood completely. Cats and dogs “grieve when they lose somebody that they love, and I believe it helps them connect the dots in the same way it helps us connect the dots.”
At the funeral, Sibthorp’s 12-year-old granddaughter, Nina, happened to have a phone handy to take a picture of an amazing moment. When Sibthorp took Chief up to the casket to say goodbye, the dog stood up on its hind legs, leaned into the casket, and licked Schiller’s ear one last time.
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“And he just stood there and looked at Bill like he was telling him goodbye. It was really sweet. It meant a lot to Chief to be able to do that and he knows now that Daddy’s okay.”
Indeed, the truest friends are those who are there for you when you need them, and Chief has certainly been one for his mom and dad.