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A Dying Wish: Man Donates $35K To Waterford Animal Shelter

The Story Of Robert Yuchniuk, Richard Atherton And Rosie

On Nov. 30, 2010, Linda Atherton of Waterford died. Her husband Richard was left alone and in poor health. He was concerned that he would not be able to care for the couple’s Boston terrier, Rosie.

At Atherton's request, Waterford Animal Control Officer Robert Yuchniuk came to the home and took the dog. But the next day, the 82-year-old called and said he wanted his dog back, because it was the only thing he had left.

Over the next year, Atherton and Yuchniuk would form a friendship as the animal control officer would help the man take care of the dog, and then after Atherton had to go to a Norwich nursing home, Yuchniuk adopted Rosie. The animal control officer would bring Rosie to visit Atherton at the nursing home.

On Sept. 29, Atherton died. And about two weeks ago, Yuchniuk received a phone call from a probate judge, telling him the man left half of his estate (around $35,000)

“It was awesome,” Yuchniuk said. “It is going to help us tremendously.”

The full story

On Dec. 1, 2010, after Atherton said he wanted to keep Rosie, Yuchniuk said he would help. Yuchniuk and his son would go over Atherton’s house about once a week to help take care of the dog.

In May, Atherton’s health worsened, and he had to go into a nursing home. That was a tough day, Yuchniuk said.

“He was rational enough to know exactly what was going on, that he probably was going to go there and never come back,” Yuchniuk said.

To help ease the pain, Yuchniuk said he would adopt the dog and bring Rosie back to visit Atherton in the nursing home. The adoption was more of the same for Yuchniuk, as he already has three Boston terriers.

For the remainder of Atherton's life, Yuchniuk would visit him from time to time, and bring Rosie. Yuchniuk also printed out pictures of Rosie to hang in Atherton’s room, so he could remember her when she wasn’t there.

“It would bring tears to his eyes when I would bring her up there,” Yuchniuk said. “He really perked up whenever I brought her.”

Atherton never once discussed leaving any money to Yuchniuk for the animal shelter.

"We never talked about it," Yuchniuk said.

To this point the animal shelter committee had raised $30,000 to build a new shelter, so this donation will more than double it, Yuchniuk said.

“He had no other family really, besides the wife and the dog,” Yuchniuk said. “I had no idea he was going to leave it.”

Update on the shelter

With the new total, which has not yet been collected, the animal shelter committee will have raised $65,000. to raise $100,000 to build a new shelter,

“We are more than halfway there,” he said.

Steward, in a Friday interview, said that the money could be used to update the existing structure. Major concerns, such as the heating and ventilation system (currently water bowls occasionally freeze in the winter time) could be addressed, he said.

Michael Hubbard December 06, 2011 at 10:50 PM
Thank you Robert Yuchniuk, you are to be commended for your compassion. I would hope that were I in the same situation as Mr. Atherton some one would care for my Louie. One certainly does get attached to ones pet. Thank you again.
--Robert December 06, 2011 at 11:11 PM
What a nice story and a lasting legacy from Mr Atherton. More people like Mr Yuchniuk and Mr Atherton would make the world a better place.
Holly Anderson Camerota December 07, 2011 at 12:57 AM
This wonderful story qualifies as a Christmas miracle! I have a suggestion - Imagine if every pet owner in Waterford bought one less useless gift this holiday and instead made a donation to the cause ? We might just make the goal to help pets like those that we love so much and are such a part of our lives -- like Louie and Rosie. In our case, our little black kitty, Gink!

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