Korean War Vet finds renewed purpose with Buck Jr. - VA Eastern Colorado Health Care System
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Korean War Vet finds renewed purpose with Buck Jr.

Side by side photos of Buck Jr. on adoption day

Buck Jr. on adoption day, July 4, 2019

By Terri Rorke
Monday, June 22, 2020

Sometimes all we need is to find a reason to keep going.

When Korean War Veteran Dick Cope’s companion of 14 years—a German Shepherd named Buck—died unexpectedly last year, the void in his heart left him feeling like he also lost his reason to live.

While Buck was not a service dog, he was a major part of Cope’s life since he was adopted at 8 weeks. The unexpected loss was not only traumatic for Cope, but the grief was seemingly unbearable. Living alone at age 90 left Cope feeling isolated and struggling to find purpose after losing his beloved companion.

The first Buck the dog
Buck, Cope's beloved companion of 14 years.

“His grief reaction was visceral and raw,” Cope’s LPN, Haydee Sanchez at the PFC Floyd K. Lindstrom VA Clinic in Colorado Springs, said. At the time, Cope confided in Sanchez about his emotional and physical pain. Sanchez sat with Cope and listened as he talked about not wanting to go on living. While the conversation was uncomfortable, Sanchez said she understood his sorrow and did her best to support his broken heart.

But when it was time for Sanchez to reach out to Cope again recently for a pre-appointment phone call, she was cautious, but hopeful, to hear how life was going for him lately.

Cope couldn’t answer fast enough to share that he was happy, and that life was brighter since they last spoke just shy of one year ago. He explained that he has a new companion—a beautiful 7-year old rescued German Shepherd. “He was giddy with delight, explaining how he drove all the way to Buena Vista on the 4th of July to pick up this dog,” Sanchez said.

It wasn’t long after Cope met the dog when he climbed into his truck and gave him a great big kiss! The two bonded immediately and so Cope decided to name his new friend Buck Jr.

Sanchez said the conversation left her “with a whole lot of hope in my spirit—something we all need in today’s uncertain world.”

Although Cope can no longer drive these days, the two are inseparable and spend their days on adventures at his lakeside home. These days, Cope will tell you, “I have a reason to be here—taking care of Buck Jr.”

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