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.