My Father in law had failing health at the same time. He loved to hunt and take Jiggs with him. He used to joke they were both too old to be going. My husband, who had long given up the sport of hunting, offered to take the two of them out one day.
It was a beautiful fall afternoon and they hadn't been gone long, when I went out to my back garden to find two partridges in the bushes. I chuckled, grabbed a quick picture and sent it off to my husband who had just happened to text me to say they hadn't seen one. It was however a nice day for a father and son outing, with their favourite dog in the bush.
As they were turning to come home they noticed that there was something not quite right with Jiggs. She had her tongue slightly hanging from her mouth and her head was tilted a little. Once they got home I examined her. Worried she had had a stroke we called the vet. To make a long story short she indeed had a stroke and at fifteen years old, she didn't have much time left. We hung on; Barry carried her up and down the stairs every time she had to go out. He also built a ramp for her to go down our back steps. Finally the time had come for us to acknowledge she was ready to leave this world. That took a little encouraging from my sister Mary. It was a very hard time for all of us. We loved her dearly and that was the reason why we knew it was time to let her go. Many of you will I’m sure relate.
Our house was like a morgue. We missed her greeting us as we entered. We missed her pleading eyes for a walk every time each of us left, no matter how many times she had been out that day. She was a constant friend who had grown up with our girls, who had lain by my bed while I recovered. She was a part of our family.
It was Meghan who started the conversation about another dog. She going into grade twelve and really wanted to have a dog. I felt the same. Barry did not. He had been the one totally responsible for Jiggs in the final months. She needed to be carried several times a day and at almost one hundred pounds it really was all up to him. He felt he had had his last dog.
I was lonely. I missed Jiggs of course, but as I was home alone most days, I also really missed the company a dog can bring. It didn't help that Meg was all but pleading for another dog. We still consulted about it daily, but Barry never really wavered until one day he said, “ I don't want a dog but if you do, I won't say no.” That's all it took.
Jerri, Meghan and I searched. We knew it had to be another Golden Retriever; they are perfect dogs in our eyes. But then again aren't all dogs? We found a breeder near our home and the surprise was we knew them! I hadn't known they were dog breeders. He had been my first physiotherapist after I left the Toronto rehab, after my first surgery. We had spent several hours a week together. There was a mutual respect. We met and decided right then and there that they were the perfect breeders and we were the right family for one of their pups.
On a beautiful November morning Meghan and I went to pick up our beautiful Whinnie. We had been visiting the pups since they were two weeks old and had chosen one of the smaller females. She was a gem. There is something about the pure black pads of puppies paws that makes my heart swell. I couldn't stop looking at them and her. The softness of her coat and the way she loved to snuggle was a perfect fit for this family who was still holding some grief for Jiggs. You can't replace a dog, but you sure can open your hearts to the love of an other one.
With Meghan working lots of hours at a part time job - and getting ready for university, and Barry being somewhat stand offish about this new pup, Whinnie became my dog. She and I spent a lot of hours together in those early days. I read everything I could get my hands on and she seemed a willing participant in learning new things. She could sit and lie down on command at the vet’s office at nine weeks old. He told me to teach her everything I could as she was a smart one.
What I wanted was more than a trick dog, although tricks are fun. I wanted a dog who was well socialized. We took her everywhere in those early days. We made sure that she was well used to people and other dogs.
That has all paid off for us because Whinnie is a content, beautiful dog of three and a half years right now. She is also a therapy dog at the North Bay regional Health Centre. We both love visiting with patients, families and staff. She has come to love her job, and shows me this as soon as we are in the hospital parking lot. She perks up and gets very excited. She has made it possible for me to volunteer again and do so in such a fun way.
Many days I look at that dog and wonder if she was sent to me. She has done as much therapy at home as she has at the hospital.
The love of a good dog is as healing as any prescription written.