People have told me that I don’t know love because I haven’t had a child. Well, Dragon and I haven’t had any children but we have loved beyond our wildest dreams!
When Dragon and I first met, she told me that she loved dogs and that she once had a dog named Pippin. A glorious Siberian Husky who would howl with delight whenever Dragon came home. I was skeptical and unconvinced that she was a dog person, I thought that she kind of loved the dog the way that many people do as an afterthought. Until we started dog parenting together and I learned that all of the other dogs she would love, were part of Pippin’s legacy. There are few people who love as fiercely and deeply as Dragon.
Our fur family has taught us so much about the bonds of love and the deep loyalty and connection of family.
My first dog was named Shady and was an SPCA rescue who came into my life when I was barely 21 and in my first apartment. She was a pup herself a tiny little furry black creature who was literally one of the great blessings of my life. I was scared of dogs and didn’t know what to do. She was given to me as a gift on my birthday. Upon arrival, she was placed in a closed room in my apartment with newspapers on the floor. I didn’t know what to make of her. I went to her on her first night and lay on the floor with her and talked to her. She seemed as timid and uncertain as me. That’s when I decided that we could do this.
She was such a beautiful, sweet, kind, easy, loving and perfect dog. As she grew, people would stop and ask me if she was a belgian shepherd. When I told them that she was a shelter dog they were in disbelief.
She was my first dog and she was a sheer delight! She bonded to me and it seemed she could read my mind. She was off leash most of the time and I was so confident with her. We had almost 10 years together and I am so grateful for every moment. When she died I was gutted. I think that a part of me knew that there would never be another dog like Shady. She taught me about the quiet ways of love that are beyond words and species. She also was the first to teach me that love also means letting go. I was so scared to start over as I couldn’t imagine enduring that pain again. Soon, I started researching dog breeds and learning about dog temperament. I became obsessed with dogs and carried a dog breed manual with me while visiting the local SPCA regularly. I had decided that the best way to honour her memory was to have more dogs and keep loving them and name them after her…
Enter Shawn…. The fluffy, wild little black and white border collie who wanted little to do with me and everything to do with chasing a tennis ball. I loved Shawn to the moon and back and poured every ounce of myself into him. I was determined to give him things that Shady lacked. Sadly, Shawn lost a leg in a tragic hit and run while being walked off leash by my ex when he was barely four months old. There are no words to describe how distraught I was when he was in hospital being treated for life threatening injuries. Several weeks and surgeries later he emerged from hospital minus a leg and I began the journey of being a special needs dog mom. Oh! The places we would go! We enjoyed 13.5 years of adventures, walks, countless frisbees, tennis balls, hikes and swimming, dog camp, birthday parties and nature in all the weather. He taught me how hard love can be and so much about dogs and how wrong things can go. (Because it all did go wrong with him I’m just leaving out the countless calamities of his life). He was my sweet sweet prince and my heart grew with every click of the leash to his collar.
Shannon was dog number three. She is still in our lives. She is a very geriatric chihuahua who has always been a fussy old lady. Her golden years suit her perfectly! She is so thin and tiny and can hardly see or hear. She barks to be fed and refuses meals that aren’t to her liking. She enjoys sunbeams and naps on soft blankets. She has passed her 17th birthday already and is by far the oldest dog we have ever had. She was Shawn’s little sister and we enjoyed so many adventures together. Although she was known to refuse walks in inclement weather, she used to love getting out in the sunshine by the water with the hopes of catching the trail of the elusive muskrat… which she would chase with an uncharacteristically fierce passion!
There was a fourth dog named Betsy. She came to us already named at 10 years old, having been rehomed four times before becoming a member of our family. Yes, that’s right, we had three dogs for a while. Shawn, Shannon and Betsy! We laugh now as we remember those crazy dog days! But Betsy was a treasure! Our hearts were bursting with love for her! She was the sweetest little creature who craved nothing more than some comfort and cuddles. Knowing that she had endured so many changes and such rejection in her life, we were determined to make it up to her. We could hardly imagine how anyone could let her go. But we too had to let her go quite suddenly when she was diagnosed with cancer in her belly. She stopped eating and became very flat following a series of tests we learned the worst. This news came to us only months after we had lost Shawn and it was devastating!
So what have we learned from our dogs?
We have learned that love is painful and beautiful and can make you move mountains and weep waterfalls and fill your heart with a deep, growing indescribable joy.
We are so lucky to have loved and lost and we know that every time you love, the universe expands its capacity to love. So keep on loving boldly, deeply, fearlessly and furiously. That’s what we have learned from them.