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Dogs & Daughters

September has been a difficult month around our house.  With both parents back to the whirlwind of the first few weeks of school, one son adapting to life as a grade nine student and twelve year old twins getting used to the practices of their ‘traditional’ grade seven teachers, we’ve had more than our share of bumps and grumps.Tossed into this mix was the inevitable and painful reality that comes with having a pet, our dog Katie became ill, very ill.

We adopted Katie from the local animal shelter 3 years ago. We all agreed that it would be a good thing for the children to have a dog in the house as they made the transition from going to after-school day care to being able to come home to our house at the end of the school day.  Katie was a settled and calm 9 year old blond Cocker Spaniel who’s previous owners had moved out of the country. One look at her in the shelter and we were charmed.

Upon bringing her home, we discovered that Katie was calm in almost all situations but two; when people knocked on our door (she barked loudly and protectively) and when we were dicing vegetables on the cutting board (she begged persistently and assertively). The inference we made was that her previous owner must have been a introverted sous-chef. In short period of time the novelty of dog-ownership faded for our two sons while Katie forged a deep and abiding reciprocal kinship with our daughter. Of course, irony demands that Katie would grow the most attached to my wife, the family member who was the least enthusiastic about adopting her in the first place. Never underestimate the canine ability to discern the identity of the pack leader.

In September Katie was diagnosed with canine oral melanoma, a form of cancer that we discovered is common in Spaniels her age and one that spreads rapidly. Faced with a grim prognosis, and fully aware of the pain our dog was experiencing, we made the difficult decision to end her suffering. As a family, we talked about the selfless nature of Katie’s loyalty to our family and how we were responsible for placing her needs above ours, love is not always easy.

Together, my daughter and I brought our Katie to the veterinarian’s office and my daughter bid her farewell.  I held Katie in my arms as the vet ended her pain. As hard as this was, it was remarkable to see the degree of honesty, strength and empathy that my daughter demonstrated that day and the days since.

There are moments where we get a glimpse of what we have accomplished as parents, a moment of clarity that is evident in the actions of our children. I saw my daughter at her best, real, honest and brave, and was proud of what I saw. Never easy this parenting thing, but so worth it. We miss our dog, she brought so much to us in the short time she was with us and we are grateful for the lessons she has helped us learn.

Categories: Parenting & Family
  1. Zoe
    October 4, 2010 at 3:10 pm

    Brian, you post put me in tears. We went through something similar a few years back. I am sorry for your loss and for what you are going through right now. You must be so proud of your daughter. A beautiful post.

    • October 5, 2010 at 7:26 am

      Thanks, Zoe. We are very proud of her~ the experience only confirmed what we already knew about her 🙂

  2. Colin Jagoe
    October 4, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    Sorry to hear that. It’s always tough. Best wished to the whole family.

  3. Cathy
    October 4, 2010 at 8:08 pm

    I understand exactly, exactly what you have gone through and continue to go through. Our 14 1/2 yr old lab had a massive stroke the first day back to school this Sept.
    ~ remember the good times~ We sat around our Ryelee the night before and told him all the things we love about him and what we will miss ~ our kids are stronger than I could have ever imagined…

    • October 5, 2010 at 7:24 am

      Thanks for the response and the empathy, I cant’ imagine how hard it would be to say goodbye after 14 1/2 years.

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