‘The act wasn’t meant for anybody to see’: Firefighters show incredible kindness to family, dying dog in final days

Rascall. (Clinton Petersen, Clinton Petersen)

Dogs are often referred to as man’s best friend. They bring so much joy to our lives. So when Clinton and Audrey Petersen’s dog Rascall became terminally ill, the couple wanted to do everything they could to make the beloved pet’s last days special.

In fact, the act of kindness one Jacksonville Fire Department station showed them was so meaningful that Clinton reached out to us to share his story.

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But let’s back up, because although Rascall and Clinton had a bond, it didn’t begin that way.

The meeting and bonding

The Petersens, who now reside in Jacksonville, Florida, were living in California several years ago, as Audrey was stationed there for the United States National Guard.

“A family member of (Audrey’s) had Rascall, and it was originally meant to be a temporary thing (for us to keep him),” Clinton said. “It was a family friend’s dog. They were going to come back to get Rascall and they never did.”

Clinton said he and Audrey had previously discussed getting a therapy dog for post-traumatic stress disorder. And although Clinton said Rascall basically attacked him during their first meeting, he realized quickly that it was the dog’s way of protecting the people who were around him. And Clinton soon became one of those people.

So the couple ended up taking him in, and Clinton couldn’t quite express how grateful he was for that decision.

“One of the first memories is, I must have had a bad dream, and I woke up to him barking on the bed,” Clinton said. “He must have heard something and alerted my wife. That was about two weeks after I got him.”

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The Petersens had Rascall for about a year before moving to Jacksonville, where Audrey continues to serve in the National Guard, as well as working as a registered nurse.

Clinton, who now does wood work, makes wooden tributes for firefighters and police officers. (This will be important later).

The couple hadn’t been in Jacksonville long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

“We’ve been adhering to the restrictions very much so, because of the greater exposure she has with her work,” Clinton said. “This year has obviously been really difficult, so (Rascall) and I have gotten quite close. I can’t even put into the words all the memories we have.”

Getting sick

Recently, the couple noticed Rascall wasn’t eating much, and he was kind of sluggish.

“We took him in for a normal checkup and everything seemed fine,” Clinton said.

But it didn’t take long for the couple to inquire about Rascall’s health again, because each time he ate, he would get sick.

“They did an X-Ray and found a mass,” Clinton said. “It was so large. It was pushing into his kidneys, which then turned into renal failure. There was no slow progress, early signs or options, because of how aggressive everything was.”

As they knew their time with Rascall was limited, Clinton said he and his wife began doing “last days” things with their pup.

An act of kindness

At the time we interviewed Clinton, it was a few days after that he and his wife had to put Rascall down. And even then, in the middle of grieving, he managed to chuckle as he told us a story about how their pup used to howl each time the local fire station’s siren would go off.

“He would try to mimic the sound, and he was so off-key,” Clinton said. “It was pathetic but hilarious to watch. And he did it every time.”

You’ll remember we told you earlier about Clinton making tributes for some first responders. Because of that, he said, “I have a special attachment to those particular careers.”

On one of their “last days” walks, they were walking past Fire Station No. 9 in Jacksonville when Clinton acted on a split-second idea on a whim.

Clinton said that although fire stations in Jacksonville don’t have an open-door policy amid the pandemic, he went ahead and knocked on the door anyway.

“I know it sounds strange, but (I asked if we) could we get a picture of Rascall next to the fire truck,” he said. “All of them were happy to fulfill.”

Audrey, Clinton and Rascall. (Clinton Petersen)

The firefighters took them in, spent time with Rascall and treated them with kindness.

“It’s one of those moments -- it’s easy to thank them when you run into them, but there was no obligation to do any of this, and the act wasn’t meant for anybody to see,” Clinton said. “That’s what really made me adamant about acknowledging what they did. It goes so far above and beyond.”

Clinton said he and his wife are forever grateful for the kindness the firefighters showed them and their dying dog in his final days.

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