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Vietnam veteran, alone in hospice care, gets visit from beloved dog 'one last time'

John Vincent may not have much time left and he had only one request: to see his dog, Patch.
Vietnam veteran John Vincent holds his dog, Patch, during a visit in hospice care.
Vietnam veteran John Vincent holds his dog, Patch, during a visit in hospice care.Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department
/ Source: TODAY

When John Vincent, a Vietnam veteran living in New Mexico, was admitted to hospice last week, he had to give up his beloved dog, Patch.

At 69 years old, Vincent’s caretakers weren't sure how much time he had left. They reached out to the Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department, where the little Yorkie was staying.

“We ended up with his dog because he didn’t have any family here,” Danny Nevarez, the director of the department, said. When they heard Vincent wanted to see the dog “one last time,” Nevarez and his team took action.

“It wasn’t even a second thought,” he said. “Everyone jumped on it and was like, ‘Tell us where to go and when to be there.’”

John Vincent visits with his beloved dog Patch.Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department

Last week, they made the visit happen. Nevarez said they drove the dog to see Vincent at the Raymond G. Murphy Veterans Affairs Medical Center.

He said the whole way there, the dog was quiet and looking out the window.

“As soon as we turned onto the street of the VA hospital, for whatever reason, Patch got up, put his paws up on the window and just started whimpering — just started crying,” Nevarez said. “It was just like he knew. He knew he was close to Mr. Vincent.”

Nevarez said they went into Vincent’s room and put the dog on the bed for the reunion. Immediately, Patch started licking his human and burrowing his head as close to Vincent’s chest as he could.

Vincent and Patch snuggle on the bed together.Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” Nevarez said. “Everybody was taken aback by it.”

Patch got to hang out with Vincent for the rest of the day; even hospital staff pitched in by walking the dog throughout the afternoon.

When the story of their heartwarming reunion made the local newspaper, Nevarez said one of their longtime volunteers, Robert Candelaria, immediately reached out about adopting Patch.

“There wasn’t a dry eye in the room,” Danny Nevarez said.Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department

“He’s a gentleman who volunteers five to six days a week … he’s a veteran, too,” Nevarez explained. “He was just committed — wholehearted — to say this dog is going to have a good life.”

TODAY spoke with Candelaria, who said he absolutely had to adopt Patch after hearing his story.

"When my boss shared the story with me — I’m a Marine veteran as well — I promised he wouldn’t spend another day in the shelter and I went and picked him up yesterday," he said over the phone Tuesday. "When they said he had nobody, I said, 'He ain’t leaving this world alone.'"

He said Patch has already adjusted well to his new home and follows his other rescue dog around.

Candelaria visited Vincent on Tuesday — without the dog — and plans to stay in contact with the VA hospital to bring Patch by whenever he can.

Patch the dog hangs out and enjoys some cuddles from his favorite human, John Vincent.Albuquerque Animal Welfare Department

"If they (the hospital) can work it out, me and that pup will be next to Mr. Vincent when he passes," he said. "We, as veterans — we don’t need to have the same blood to be brothers. No brother should leave this world alone."