Mila and Loki

1999 – 2010 ; 2000 – 2011

I had already picked out two names because I was thinking of adopting two dogs. My roommates then convinced me to wait a while before adopting the second. I was set on naming the first dog Milagro (meaning ‘miracle’ in Spanish, and Mila for short) and the second Luna (meaning ‘moon’ in Spanish). I was drawn to Mila the moment I saw her in the Humane Society kennel in Toronto on October 19th 1999. A three-month old German Shepherd and Wolfhound cross, she was sleeping but awoke when I approached and tried her hardest to lick and play with me through the screen. She was the first dog I saw there and I told the Humane Society staff member that I did not want to look further as I knew she was the one I wanted to adopt. The staff member reached for the dog’s file and, highlighted at the top of the first page, was her name: Luna. This strange coincidence added to my feeling that we were meant to be together but I stuck with my original plan to call her Milagro. Her file also revealed that she had been adopted and returned twice for reasons that were not completely clear, but I imagine she was a bit mischievous because I was asked by the staff what I would do if she was to destroy my couch. I assured the interviewer I would never return her.

On the ride home it became apparent that she was going to be more than a handful in her puppy stage as she seemed to think I was a giant chew toy. The first four months together were challenging. I frequently had to wear my denim jacket to prevent my arms from being scarred by her razor sharp puppy teeth. She also had fun waking me up in the middle of the night by pouncing on my head and biting and scratching my head. Our walks together were far from relaxing as she was fixated on biting at my ankles. Finally, after about five months, the snapping behaviour subsided and we settled into our relaxed walking rhythm and pace.

I doubt I would have ventured to Trinity-Bellwoods Park–one of the best off- leash areas in Toronto–if not for Mila. Here we met many human and canine friends, many who became our closest friends. We looked forward to our morning and evening walks around the Trinity-Bellwoods loop–a walkway that surrounded a valley in the centre of the park where people and dogs congregated for chats and play. We were overjoyed when fellow dog park friends, Nancy and her dog Dwight (likely a Husky and German Shepherd cross) invited us to share a home across the street from the park. We enjoyed having dog park gatherings at our home. One in particular stands out, where there were thirteen dogs, including a Great Dane, and their human companions on our small deck!

Mila and I left our Trinity-Bellwoods family in 2007 when we moved to Vancouver. Thankfully we eventually reunited with four dog park friends on the west coast. We were lucky to find a place to live three blocks form the beach and so we had magical morning and evening walks along the Burrard Inlet. Our favourite walks were along the beaches of Vancouver and Victoria. Mila would break out into exuberant sprints along the sand or grass that would often include spontaneous somersaults.

Almost a year after we arrived in Vancouver Mila developed a limp in her back leg. After numerous tests the veterinarian established that she had a condition called Degenerative Mylopathy, a disease more common in German Shepherds. When I learned that both of her back legs would become lame over the next year, I purchased a wheel cart and, thankfully, Mila took to it right away. She was able to sprint again without any problem; I had a problem keeping up! Her front legs remained very strong for a year and a half. At home she used her front legs to pull herself around (using the wheel cart indoors was impossible because she was so large). Although she still seemed happy and was not in any noticeable physical pain, I was reluctant to leave her alone at any time. My cousin and his wife were very kind to suggest that their dog Loki, an incredibly gentle and kind Newfoundland and Lab cross, could live with us to keep Mila company. At this time we also met Steve who completed our family.

For a year and half Mila happily wheeled around, always with Loki by her side. She received plenty of attention from passersby who were amazed at how well she managed with her wheels. Mila also enjoyed her rides in her chariot (designed to carry toddlers) and later, when her front legs succumbed to the disease, she enjoyed excursions in her wagon. All the while Loki kept up our spirits.

Mila passed away peacefully before the November rains set in 2010. Through memories our inextricable connection carries on. In many ways she continues to walk with me. Loki helped Steve and me through this very difficult time so we were thrilled when my cousin informed us that Loki could live with us permanently.

Loki continued to fill our days with his sweet and loving nature. We looked forward to introducing him to our twins expected in the summer but, sadly, Loki passed away a month before their due date.

We look forward to sharing stories with our children about the beloved dogs that filled our lives with joy and taught us continuously about the wonderful, powerful strength of love and connection.

Anna and Steve