Pets & Animals

Woman with terminal cancer comforted in her final hours by beloved horse

In the days before she died of cancer on Friday, Stephanie McManus had one last request: to say goodbye to her beloved horse, Luna.

In fact, the former Toronto-area securities lawyer remained so focused on the goal, she threatened to check herself out of Juravinski Hospital and take a cab to the stable where her 10-year-old Tennessee Walking Horse was kept.

Instead, family, friends and a local animal group rallied to bring Luna to her.

Courtesy of Donna Jenkins
Stephanie McManus saying goodbye to her pet horse, Luna, at Juravinski Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, last week.

"We've never done something like this before, it's usually just household pets, but something felt special about Stephanie so we wanted to fulfill her wish," Donna Jenkins, founder of Zachary's Paws for Healing, told TODAY.com.

Since 2013, McManus, who was 55, had battled multiple myeloma, a cancer of the plasma cells.

RELATED: Dying man's wish to say goodbye to his beloved horse granted by hospital

Things became dire last week when, after a recent kidney failure, her oncologist broke the terrible news that she had just days to live.

Jenkins’ organization, which facilitates pet visits for hospital patients, became involved on Jan. 20, bringing McManus' cat, Spencer, to her bedside for a final visit.

Courtesy of Donna Jenkins
McManus had grown close with the horse over the past several months as her cancer condition worsened.

But once she learned of McManus’ special bond with Luna, she made arrangements with the Hamilton, Ontario, hospital and the owner of Ashblue Equestrian stables to bring the horse the same day.

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“It's only fitting that the thing that helped her get through the end of her cancer was the last thing she got to see,” Jenkins said.

When McManus spotted Luna on the hospital's receiving dock, she completely broke down.

“Hey my baby girl,” she said, kissing the horse on the muzzle, according to Jenkins.

A horse owner since her teens, McManus’ relationship with Luna began in June 2015, when her conditioning was worsening and she was in need of a little motivation to recover.

Courtesy of Donna Jenkins
McManus with her cat, Spencer. "Stephanie is the kind of person who once she hears about a broken animal, feels the need to take it in and fix it," Jenkins said. McManus died Friday at 55.

"Stephanie is the kind of person who once she hears about a broken animal, feels the need to take it in and fix it," Jenkins said.

Two days after her visit with Luna, McManus died, surrounded by family and friends.

A memorial service was held on Tuesday.

Jenkins had never attended a patient's funeral, but felt compelled to McManus’ memorial on Tuesday to pay her respects.

"You could just tell how much she loved Luna by the way she looked at her that day," Jenkins said. "A bond with your pet is a bond that can never be broken, no matter the circumstance."

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