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New Chapter: Dog Holds Special Place in Woman's Life

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa — Three years ago many came together to fulfill a dying man’s wish.

Now there’s another chapter to that story.

Kevin McClain, 57, was homeless and living out of his car in Cedar Rapids with his dog, Yurtie. They were separated when McClain was hospitalized with terminal lung cancer. Jan Erceg was volunteering at the animal shelter when crews brought Yurtie in. A few days later, she also happened to be the paramedic dispatched to transfer Kevin to Hospice. She helped grant McClain’s final wish, which was to see Yurtie one last time.

“I think about it all the time. There’s not a day go by that I don’t think of Kevin McClain,” Erceg said.

Three years ago Jan Erceg found herself in the middle of something she never expected. With a cellphone video of that day, she remembers bringing Yurtie to see her owner for that final meeting.

“The only way I can describe it is she melted like chocolate over him,” Erceg said.

Jan said the last thing she said to the dying man was that she’d find Yurtie a good home.

Shortly after, Jan adopted her. Since that time, Yurtie’s story has spread across the world.

“I just received an email from northern England,” Erceg said.

The 12-year-old dog’s health also started to fail.

First, Yurtie went through a bout with cancer and then something much more serious. Yurtie was recently diagnosed with renal failure.

“I’m not ready to lose her … I feel that I’ve been a good replacement to Kevin, and I know how much this dog loved him and I know she looks at me now like she looked at him, and I’m just not quite ready to give her back to him yet,” Erceg said.

Through the cancer and kidney issues the pair traveled to New York and Wisconsin for treatments. Jan said she’ll do whatever it takes to keep this dog happy and healthy for as long as possible. After all, giving Yurtie a good home — that’s the promise she made to Kevin, and it’s a promise she plans to keep.

“I will never have another Yurtie … So, she is very special. She is the love of my life really,” Erceg said.

Jan says Yurtie is cancer free now. Things are also looking much better after Yurtie went through some experimental infusions to deal with the kidney issues.

l Comments: 319-398-8268;

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