admin On September - 21 - 2013

IMG_1383I do not mistake her for a child (though certainly my sister’s time as preschool teacher was a fairly vivid reminder of just how similar dogs are to three-year-olds). I don’t call her a fur-baby. She is a dog. And I owe her nothing less than to treat her as such, because to do otherwise would be a grievous injustice. To treat her as a child would be to abdicate my responsibility to teach her the ways a dog must interact with the human world. But the fact that she is a dog does not render her contributions to my life—and to others—these last seventeen years any less remarkable.

Putting aside the fact that she is, of course, the original “Zombie Dog,” she has given more of herself to others than many humans I have encountered—and with far less expectation of recompense. I have watched her nuzzle the hands of a patient, far-removed from the crowd, one who I had thought undesirous of attention and been move to see that they had, in fact, been desperate for a moment of connection. I have watched her pull children—battered and exhausted from physical and mental trials no one should have to endure—from their shells, and return to their sides week after week until finally they could emerge fully.

I’ve watched her give a young girl whose body was 80% burned the only touches of softness and painlessness she had felt in lord only knows how long. I’ve watched the faces of the elderly who have not seen their own animals in months—many of whom would never see them again—begin to glow at the sight of her smiling eyes. And you can ask anyone who has met her: they really do smile. I’ve heard both the sadness and joy echoed in their voices as they tell me about the pets long gone, the ones that accompany their childhood memories.

She has done all this without the slightest expectation of receiving anything more than a scruff behind the ears (though lord knows a piece of chicken has been known to serve as a bit of a distraction for her, and will elicit a run-through of her complete trick repertoire). Some might question whether she engaged with patients simply out of duty. But just a couple of months into her training as a therapy dog and she’d already learned the phrase “going to work,” and the reaction we’d witness made clear she felt no burden of obligation. She’d be bouncing in the car on the way to the hospital or centre, the normally somewhat reclusive dog turning on the charm and intuitively seeking out those patients who needed her most.IMG_1981

And so that is why I massage her stiff legs each night. That is why I have felt no shame in spending these last months in her company, opting to work at home whenever I can. That is why I pack her into the scooter pack and drive her to Park Maissonneuve each afternoon so she can chase squirrels. And it’s why I carry her back when it’s clear she could use a hand. And it is why, when the time comes, I will not allow her to suffer a moment—though my heart will break.

But in the meantime, I will revel in the bounces of that bunnybutt at the park and her snarly bedtime kisses. And I will hope that, in whatever level of consciousness and awareness our canine companions possess, she knows how much she has done and that she feels a tenth of that love in return…