Rescued dog now cares for boy with cancer

For nearly eight long years, German Shepherd Zero lived a life without love and without hope. Abused and severely neglected by his former owner, it seemed Zero’s story could only end badly.

When Marik is feeling blue, all his mom has to do is mention Zero and he lights up. (Photo credit: Miracles for Marik Facebook Page)

But after staff members at the Oxford Animal Shelter in Oxford, Conn., rescued Zero, they put the sweet pooch up for adoption, and now Zero has become a true hero in his new home and to the little boy who now calls Zero his very best friend.

That little boy is Marik Tucker, who at only 10-years-old is fighting the battle of his life. Last summer, Marik was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer called osteosarcoma. In July 2012, Marik was playing with his little sister at a local pool when he appeared to have injured his leg. What he and his family thought was only a pulled muscle or a slight fracture ended up being something much worse. After a biopsy, doctors discovered Marik had a bone cyst, and an August surgery revealed that cyst was cancerous. Marik started chemotherapy immediately, but by November it was evident Marik’s leg would have to be amputated in order to stop the spread of the cancer.

Marik’s mother Kelli Tucker says that after the diagnosis, the initiation of the chemo and the devastating amputation, her once happy, rambunctious young son became a shell of his former self.

“This is going to affect him his whole life,” Kelli says. “No one should have to go through this, especially not a child.”

Marik spends three weeks out of every month receiving chemotherapy, and his family wondered what they could do to help keep Marik’s spirits high. The Tucker family loves animals, so they decided right away they would like to adopt a dog. Kelli tells CTPost.com the Oxford Animal Shelter was quite close to the Yale-New Haven Hospital, where Marik goes for his treatments. It was there the Tuckers found Zero.

When the Marik’s parents first met Zero, they noticed an instant connection and knew the German Shepherd’s gentle personality would do wonders for their ailing son.

“We wanted to see him first,” Kelli says of Zero, “and we just fell in love with him and knew Marik would, too.”

When Kelli learned of Zero’s sad past, she knew her family — especially Marik — would be able to provide the TLC Zero desperately needed.

“He was covered in fleas and ticks,” Kelli tells WTNH.com of Zero’s condition when he was first brought to the shelter. “His teeth were very poor as well because all he ever had to chew on were rocks. He was attached to his dog house at least for 7 years they thought.”

Marik was able to join his parents at the shelter two days later, and it turns out mom and dad were absolutely right — Marik loved Zero immediately.

“When we saw the look on his face, we just knew he had to have this dog,” Kelli remembers. “They bonded from the start,” she says of the now inseparable pair.

Perhaps Marik and Zero forged their instant friendship because they truly are kindred spirits — both Marik and Zero are also hearing impaired.

“The dog is a new friend coming along in his life,” says Marik’s father, George Tucker. “Marik realizes he isn’t the only one.”

“Marik’s been around other hearing impaired children during school time,” George tells the Oxford Patch, “and now he’s seeing it’s not just people, it’s animals, too.”

Marik still has plenty of challenges ahead of him, but his mom says Zero has made all the difference in her son’s life. On days when Marik is feeling blue, all Kelli has to do is mention Zero and Marik lights up.

“If I say, ‘put on your leg and go outside with Zero’ — he’s up and out,” says Kelli.

While Zero has become Marik’s main motivator, the happy German Shepherd has made friends with the entire Tucker family.

“He loves being with the family and wants to sit by you all the time,” Kelli explains. “He’s an absolute sweetie. We couldn’t have asked for a better dog.”

To follow Marik and Zero’s story, or to offer your love and support to the Tucker family as Marik continues to battle his cancer, visit the Miracles for Marik Facebook page. Monetary donations toward Marik’s medical care can be made by clicking the FundRazr link.

Sources: CTPost.com, WTNH.com, Oxford Patch