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Indy man adopts dog with terminal cancer to keep her ‘comfortable and happy’ in her final days

Indy man adopts dog with terminal cancer to keep her comfortable and happy in her final days

Dan Klein | News 8 at 10

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A dog with advanced cancer and likely just months to live has a new home. Her new owner tells News 8 he wanted her to have the best life she could with the time she has left.

Enoc Lopez says he hopes it’s a lesson he can teach his son. But perhaps the best part to this story is this isn’t the first time he’s stepped in to help in a big way.

There’s a new member in the Lopez household on the south side and her name is Mocha, and she is still getting used to the doggie door. She was out enjoying her new yard Thursday, less than 48 hours after seeing it for the first time.

“Something in me triggered,” Enoc Lopez said. “I just couldn’t leave her.”

Lopez was “triggered” after hearing his friend’s story on Saturday about a dog that had been at the humane society since April. The pup, now named Mocha, was turned over to the shelter after her owner died earlier this year.

Indy man adopts dog with terminal cancer to keep her ‘comfortable and happy’ in her final days

Indy man adopts dog with terminal cancer to keep her ‘comfortable and happy’ in her final days

Mocha is already 10 and a half years old, about 70 in human years. She has malignant melanoma and vets believe she likely only has six months left, a year at the most.

Most would pass at the chance to adopt a terminally ill dog, but not Enoc and his 8-year-old son Allen.

“I’m kind of sad and happy at the same time,” Allen said. “I’m happy that I have tears in the inside.”

Some might say Enoc Lopez doesn’t need Mocha. But Mocha most definitely needs Enoc Lopez.

“We always expect to leave other people to do it, but sometimes you have to take matters in your own hands and just do it,” Enoc said.

So he did, meeting Mocha Monday, introducing her to his other dog Amy on Tuesday before bringing her home.

Now it’s Thursday and Mocha is living her best life.

“I hope so,” Enoc said. “She might not live for a long time but at least she’ll be able to live in a big yard surrounded by people that will love and pet her and where she doesn’t need anything until that day comes. But until then, make her comfortable and make her happy.”

Allen has similar feelings.

“Very happy because she’s here because there’s so much life here,” he said.

Mocha’s not Enoc’s first rescue.

His dog Amy is deaf. He found out after he’d already fallen in love with the pup 11 years ago.

As for Allen, Enoc adopted him one year ago as a single dad.

“A lot of dogs out there need a good home,” Enoc said. “There’s a lot of kids in the foster care system that need a good home.”

Dr. Stacey Shore, Enoc’s vet at South 31 Veterinary Clinic guesses two or three out of 100 animal lovers would take on the commitment, knowing the clock is ticking.

“I admire him greatly. He has got the biggest heart,” Dr. Shore said. “He is not just a pet lover, he is a pet enthusiast that we don’t have enough of in this world.”

Enoc knows that day is coming. But he also knows when it comes, there will be comfort knowing Mocha’s last months will be here in his home and yard, not in a kennel.

He tells News 8 he’s doing it for Mocha, he’s doing it for himself, but most importantly, he’s doing it for Allen.

“It’s a life lesson that I want to teach my son,” Enoc said. “Everything dies but at the end, it’s the quality of life that you live that really matters.”

Enoc said Tuesday was nerve-wracking as Mocha and Amy got used to each other, but for the most part, it’s gone really well.

When it comes to the cancer, it certainly is one of those cases where everyone hopes to prove the vets wrong, including Dr. Shore herself.


Hamilton County’s ‘Wellness Unit’ part of nationwide effort to improve mental health among officers

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. (WISH) — An initiative to improve employee well-being at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office is among a spate of efforts across the nation to address mental health concerns among officers.

Sheriff Dennis Quakenbush announced the department’s new “Wellness Unit”  — devoted to the physical, mental and spiritual health of its deputies, correctional officers and civilian employees — Friday in a Facebook post.

“Our guys really care about the public,” he said Monday in an interview with News 8. “When you see somebody who’s injured or victimized, it really impacts us… We’re only human.”

The Wellness Unit launched in January with funding approved by county council members and commissioners.

Appointments are held off-site at undisclosed locations to protect the privacy of employees. Supervisors are not briefed on which employees seek counseling or what they discuss during sessions.

Information gathered during counseling sessions will not be used to demote or discipline employees, and will only be disclosed if required by law, including when somebody poses an immediate danger to themselves or others.

The department’s entire staff will receive training related to suicide prevention, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, critical incidents, addiction, mindfulness and officer wellness, the sheriff said.

Nearly 1 in 4 police officers has thoughts of suicide at some point in their life, according to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI); the suicide rate for police officers is four times higher than the rate for firefighters.

Years of daily exposure to stress, trauma and tragedy can have other devastating consequences if appropriate coping skills are not developed, according to Susan Sherer-Vincent, a licensed clinical social worker, certified alcoholism counselor and licensed marriage and family therapist involved in launching the Wellness Unit.

“Think of the hurricanes that come in, in Florida, and think of the palm trees where they bend,” she explained. “But then, what happens afterwards? They go back up. That’s called resilience. We want our officers to bend, not break.”

Until approximately 3 to 5 years ago, officers were often conditioned to “pull [themselves] up by the bootstraps and go to the next call” instead of addressing personal struggles, Sherer-Vincent said.

Cultivating resiliency can be difficult within a law enforcement culture that equates mental health challenges with “weakness,” she said.

“[Officers] are trained to have the warrior mentality,” Sherer-Vincent told News 8. “Truly, they would have been made fun of [in the past for seeking counseling].”

She compared strong, silent officers with underdeveloped coping skills to California’s famed redwood trees.

“They’re pretty sturdy. But what would happen if you took an ax and hit those every single day, day after day, for years? They would eventually fall,” she said.

Quakenbush credits his wife, church and non-law enforcement friends with providing “a really good support system.”

“But sometimes, you need a professional,” he said, urging employees to “talk through” negative emotions instead of turning to alcohol and other substances for temporary relief.

Several internal cases that resulted in disciplinary action during his year-long tenure as sheriff may have been prevented with wellness-focused intervention, Quakenbush said.

He was unable to comment on personnel matters. 

Sources within the department indicated some of the cases involved employees with substance abuse issues that had escalated over time, possibly as a result of work-related stress that had gone unaddressed. 

“I wouldn’t say that [disciplinary action] was happening often,” Quakenbush told News 8. “But seeing it happen and knowing that we probably could have done something about it made it impactful and something that we wanted to make a priority.”

Hamilton County announced its Wellness Unit days after New York City police officials revealed plans to hire a team of psychologists to combat a spike in officer suicides.

On Feb. 13, Indianapolis police officials said they planned to swear in the department’s first full-time therapy dog by the end of March.

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