By John Lauritsen

MONTICELLO, Minn. (WCCO) — Sometimes the phrase “Man’s Best Friend” just doesn’t do it justice.

Dogs are furry companions that are there when you need them — and that holds especially true in Monticello. Mauer was a St. Bernard and therapy dog who made hundreds of visits to kids and cancer patients before he himself had to fight his own cancer battle.

Traffic in Monticello is pretty much like traffic in any other town. Same old cars and trucks, same old stoplights. But for the past few years, there were sightings of a St. Bernard cruising by, wearing goggles and drooling excessively.

“We found Mauer and he was only 7 weeks old, so he was just a little fur-ball,” said his owner, Raeanna Nowacki.

But he grew into a big fur-ball. Mauer was buddies with Buxton. No, they weren’t twins, but they did get into trouble together.

When he was a good boy, which was quite often, he was rewarded with a treat at Caribou.

“He sits in the front and stares at the people that are serving us to make sure that he is seen,” Nowacki said.

Because of his laid-back persona, Raeanna Nowacki and her family got Mauer trained as a therapy dog shortly after adopting him. Earlier this fall, they let WCCO tag along for a day.

“He loves people,” Nowacki said. “He loves people-watching. As soon as he sees me get his stuff situated, he knows he’s going somewhere. And he gets pretty excited.”

The first stop was to the library where kids could read to him.

“We love our pets, we love them so that all our pets are best in show,” Nowacki said.

“I think he’s pretty special,” said Jenna Bouchie, who read to Mauer. “He’s not a jumpy dog. He’s more mellow and he likes to be read to.”

But as he laid on the floor and listened, it was the words above that spoke volumes.

“[At the] end of July, Mauer was diagnosed with lymphoma,” Nowacki said.

He received chemotherapy but it didn’t take. Even though doctors gave Mauer six to 12 weeks to live, he still made the rounds on good days.

During his time as a therapy dog, Mauer made nearly 250 visits. Many of those to cancer patients like Pat Kinch.

“Petting him is very relaxing,” said Kinch. “You know, you can get your fingers and run through. Very relaxing. And I know it lowers blood pressure because I’ve seen it.”

Their bond was strong before. It became even stronger as they battled cancer together.

“Just for a little while, it’s a smile and they’re happy and I know people go home and talk about the dog that they’ve seen,” Kinch said.

But sadly, it was the last time Pat saw Mauer. A week later, surrounded by his family, Mauer made his journey over the Rainbow Bridge.

It’s still an adjustment, especially for Buxton.

A new therapy dog himself, Buxton has big paws to fill. Mauer was a St. Bernard, but to so many people, he was simply a saint.

“I would want people to remember him as being the big, old sweet teddy bear that he was. That he loved every body. He didn’t discriminate,” Nowacki said.

Rae says she is hoping to find a new St. Bernard pup to be a buddy for Buxton.

John Lauritsen