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As a California man lay dying in a hospital bed last month, his family wanted to make sure his beloved dog had one last chance to say goodbye.
Ryan Jessen, 33, had suffered a ventricular brain hemorrhage and was on a ventilator at Rideout Memorial Hospital in Marysville when his family brought his dog of six years, Mollie, to see him shortly before his death on Nov. 30.
Jessen's sister, Michelle, 32, caught the heartbreaking moment on video and posted it on Facebook for friends and family.
"Just realizing that my brother is not going to wake up, it was obviously upsetting,'' Jessen told TODAY. "We wanted the dog to have closure. We wanted to make sure she understood."
About six years ago, Ryan was walking in a cemetery near his parents' house in Sutter, California, when he first came across Mollie, a stray who was "a little flea-bitten puppy," according to his sister.
The two developed such a close bond that the family wanted Mollie to get a sense of why her owner wasn't going to be coming home by bringing her to the hospital.
"(Ryan) was a very sweet person, and we're all dog lovers,'' Jessen said. "Mollie's reaction normally would've been to run up and jump on him and be super excited, and she was very hesitant the way she reacted to him (at the hospital)."
The family has received an outpouring of support as millions have watched the video, with many sharing their own stories of grief.
"For us this would've been devastating if we didn't cling to our faith,'' Jessen said. "People have just shown overwhelming support, and it's been very meaningful to us."
Ryan suffered from high blood pressure that may have contributed to the brain hemorrhage, doctors speculated to the family.
"It would be nice to be able to blame something, but we can't,'' Jessen said. "We don't have answers."
Seven of Ryan's organs were donated, including his heart, which will be given to a 17-year-old California boy whose birthday is on Christmas, according to Jessen. The family is hoping his story promotes the importance of organ donation.
As for Mollie, she is now living with Ryan's parents in Sutter.
"She will continue to love Ryan vicariously through our family,'' Jessen said. "People are very worried about the dog, and we couldn't fathom not having her."
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