Εvery once in a lifetime, something happens that changes our lives or draws us inward to deal with unfinished business. For me, it was June 2007, when a message came across the Maritime Show Dog Mailing List which I moderate, asking for anyone to come forward to assist a person who was having a difficult time in their life. They were so desperate that they were ready to euthanize their two Dobermans – one an older girl and the other a youngster.

Without even a pause, I was on the phone inquiring about the older girl and, before I knew it, I was sitting in the owners’ living room with a large red alpha female glued to my feet. Her name was Kit. She was a few months shy of her 10th birthday and it was obvious that she was riddled with cancer. She had been spayed only the year before with life just taking its toll on her human owners and their ability to keep up with her health issues. There she was, there I was, and there was no doubt that she was coming home with me. The younger dog was pretty and surely needing of attention. But this old girl stood her ground, claimed her ticket out and we were gone.

There is some humour to this somewhat glum beginning. The chap who agreed to drive me to pick Kit up – didn’t tell me that he was terrified of Dobermans. Needless to say, we didn’t realize that there was no crate for the dog and so it was a LONG drive home with a terrified old dog and a terrified driver. Neither was amused in the dead of night, in an icy rainstorm, from the Halifax area to Windsor, NS.

Kit and I shared eight wonderful months together. She asked, or rather demanded, a great deal of affection and attention that she craved and it was gladly given. By the early autumn, it was obvious that, although her quality of life was still good, it was only a matter of time until her condition would decline. As she had been through so much and had given so much, I made the heart wrenching decision to euthanize before she had to deal with any further complications from the cancer.

The response to my grief over her death by those who should have known better was a shock to me. “You only had her for a few months.” “Why did you take an old dog with cancer?” “Well, it couldn’t be that much of a surprise. With all your years in dogs, you should get over yourself.” I felt that if this was happening to me what was it like for others who may not have any resources to fall back upon? After I could breathe again, I rallied and began my search for ways in which this would never happen to anyone else.

Kit’s living and dying and our brief but deep love ignited within me a desire to guide others through the journey of pet bereavement and our own fears of death and dying which ironically begins with the realization of how precious life is day to day.

Sadly, early in 2010, the friend who drove me to pick up Kit and make her part of my life also died from cancer.

Goodbye old friends.