A beloved Anacortes teacher battling stage four cancer is now facing another hardship: his companion dog is missing.
Every school day, biology teacher Victor Garcia greets his students at Anacortes High School with a kind word and an enthusiastic smile.
He encourages students to meet life's challenges head-on. Now Garcia has to remind himself to follow that philosophy.
"Sometimes having a terminal disease isn't all they crack it up to be," he jokes, with a wry smile. "But we're making the best of it."
A year ago, Garcia was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer that has since metastasized to his spine.
His chances of survival are less than 10 percent.
"It's spooky. As a biologist, I know too much, but one has to put the best face on anything," says the longtime teacher.
Making matters even worse for Garcia is the fact that his beloved dog, Avis, disappeared from his front yard near Mount Vernon back in February. Garcia called shelters and animal hospitals, put up posters and finally searched roadsides for a body but nothing has turned up.
It has left this man -- fighting so hard to beat cancer -- heartsick.
"No one ever loves you as much as your dog. No one is ever as happy to see you when you come home as your dog. No one is ever as sad to see you leave as your dog," he says.
Avis, an American Water Spaniel, wasn't wearing a collar at the time, and was so friendly he would hop in a stranger's truck. He is chipped and Garcia hopes anyone who picked Avis up will understand how much he means, and help restore a bit of hope to someone who could really use it.
You can call 360-708-8014 with any information on Avis's whereabouts.
"I'd love to have him back," says Garcia. "I miss him every day."