A dying wish granted: Homeless man reunited with his dog in Cedar Rapids

Jill Kasparie
Published: June 17 2011 | 11:16 am - Updated: 2 April 2014 | 7:18 pm in

A community came together to grant a homeless man his last wish in Cedar Rapids.

That dying wish was to see his dog, Yurtie, one more time. It was a simple request, but one that meant the world to him in his final days.

People involved with the man's last wish describe it as something they’ll never forget.

Now that he's gone, they'll always cherish the memories of the man and his best friend.

"She is full of energy and just brings so much love and energy into the home,” said Yurtie’s new owner, Kate Ungs.

Yurtie, also known as Yurt, is getting used to her new home after being adopted by Kate and Eric Ungs of Marion.

"When we first saw her online in the bio it said 'has a very compelling story,' but you know, at the time those were just words,” Eric Ungs said.

Yurt used to live with a homeless man, 57-year-old Kevin McClain, in his car in Cedar Rapids. But a month ago, he became ill with lung cancer.

Paramedics rushed him to Mercy Medical Center and later to Hospice House. Yurt went to the animal shelter.

"In the transition of moving him over from our ambulance cot to the bed, he told me 'I have a dog,'” said Area Ambulance Service Paramedic Specialist Jan Erceg, who volunteers at the same animal shelter where Yurt was taken.

"He said her name is Yurt and at that moment, that was my 'Aha' moment,” Erceg said.

From the day Yurt and Kevin were separated, he asked to see her. It was his dying wish.

The Hospice House, Ambulance Service and shelter teamed up to make it happen.

"And the moment he opened those eyes and saw that dog, there was instant recognition and with Yurtie she licked his arms, she licked his face,” Erceg said.

"It was a couple days later that Kevin did pass away here at the Hospice House. So it just really seemed to work so perfect,” said Brandi Garrett, patient care coordinator at Dennis & Donna Oldorf Hospice House.

In the end, Yurt was there for her owner, even in death.

That’s a true companion that the Ungs know they're now lucky to have.

"She's our family and we're her family, just a tight knit group,” Eric Ungs said.

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