Wednesday, 3 July 2013

A Dog's Life

When my children were eight and ten years old, we welcomed a new member to our family with the introduction of a black Labrador puppy.  He was a promise for our daughter, who began persistently pleading for a dog by about the age of four and her younger brother soon joined the negotiations.  Together, they make a persuasive team, but the kids learned that a dog was a “big responsibility” and that we would get a dog on sister’s tenth birthday.  We lived up to the promise. 

I had dogs as a kid and believe that a home is not really a home without a dog, especially for children.  Rocky was an integral part of our family and our children grew up with him.  We walked with him several times every day, played with him, threw thousands of sticks for him, swam with him, went camping with him and loved him.  He was always in the middle of every gathering of our family and was a great listener and observer of people.  He supervised the preparation of every meal and, like a sous-chef, he watched carefully and was always willing to help with tastings or to clean up spills.

My three children
Active and healthy and blessed with a beautifully shiny coat and a friendly disposition, Rocky died suddenly this past spring.  He was not quite 11 years old. This piece is not about the sorrow that goes with the loss of a beloved family member.  Unfortunately, most of us know how this feels and understand that grief is sad and complex, but that it is part of life. Intellectually, I accept that Rocky was a family pet and a dog, yet emotionally, I was surprised by the incredible vacuum that he left in our lives.  I miss him most in the mornings as we shared this time together.  As the first up each day, we had the house to ourselves and our routines became an integral part of my day.  In the recent stillness of my mornings, I have been reflecting on what Rocky gave me.

He taught me that every day is a great day.  He lived with enthusiasm and vivacity.  He greeted all human beings openly and the people he loved with unfettered joy and happiness, each and every time he saw them.  He taught me that you can communicate best by listening and observing people and allowing them to tell their story. You do not need to speak or offer an opinion to be a loyal friend.    Just by being available, and perhaps going for a walk, people often work out their own problems. He taught me to appreciate the joy that exists in the simplest things in life; going for a walk, having a nap in the warm sun, being curious about all new things and the importance of checking out old things you haven’t seen in a while. Rocky enriched all of our lives and brought us closer together as a family and we are all better people for having known him.

I can't get out of the lake yet, its only been two hours...
Lots have been said and written about dogs, by authors, musicians, poets, presidents and movie stars.  Man’s best friend.  A dog is the only thing that loves you more than he loves himself. If there are no dogs in heaven, then when I die, I want to go where they went.  I hope to be half the person my dog thinks I am. If you have a dog, you know all of this to be true.  If you do not know dogs, you may think this is overly sentimental and that is probably your loss. If you don't own a dog, at least one, there is not necessarily anything wrong with you, but there may be something wrong with your life.  

To honour our dog's memory, I will do my best to begin each day with enthusiasm and optimism and greet those that I love with unfiltered warmth and joy.  Like all dogs, I think Rocky was on to something good.


A sincere thank you to my good friend, Dr. Grant Cumberbirch and the Amherst Veterinary Hospital in Vancouver for their incredibly professional and empathetic care of our beloved dog.  They handled Rocky's passing with remarkable professionalism, dignity and grace.  

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