On October 6th, 2003, an Angel was born in a little village at the ocean’s edge in Prince Edward Island. She had a beautiful face, an intelligent look… and four paws. Nine months later, a family from Whitby, Ontario was visiting the little seaside village and the Angel insisted on joining the family. Forever.
Twenty-four hours after their first meeting, when the family with its newly added Angel, toured a sheltered workshop to look at the furniture produced there, the people working in the shop streamed close to the Angel, surrounding her. She sat down, wagged her tail, and kissed everyone who came near. She was telling the world that she was a Therapy Dog and her job here was to just love. Just love. And she was so happy to be doing her job.
In the next few years, the Angel worked very hard in classes to be obedient (although it seemed she was born with good manners). She thoroughly enjoyed and excelled at four levels of agility classes – flying on and off the teeter-totter was her best and most fearless performance – but her all-time favourite sport was, and remained, chasing her tennis ball. She barked and jumped for joy at the sight of it… and she was expert at leaping up to snatch it out of the air.
Then came the day the Angel was ready to turn to her Life’s work – to be evaluated for her fitness as a Therapy Dog. She easily passed the tests (although leaving the tennis ball behind on the floor was the toughest part for her). Her joyous reward was wearing her red vest – that’s how people knew that she was a Therapy Dog on Duty – and how she loved her job.
The Angel visited people on the Palliative Care Unit. All people. Patients who were alert, or making ready to leave This Life. Nurses. Family members. Cleaning staff. Physicians. Anyone needing a hug and kiss. She nuzzled into so many souls in need of Pure Love, with little whimpers and a Happy Girl face. Many people cried holding onto her. She didn’t mind. The Angel knew it was her job and she was proud to serve.
One terrible day, in March 2014, the Angel had to have her right rear leg removed. It held a deadly tumour. The same tumour that another Angel, Terry Fox, had carried in his leg. Then followed four courses of IV chemotherapy and daily oral chemotherapy – but the Angel was restored in health and returned to her job – helping people on the Palliative Care Unit. And later, university students at exam time. She learned how to snatch her tennis ball out of the air and land on three legs instead of four. The yard was filled with her joyous bark, wagging tail and Happy Girl face.
In the Spring of 2015, things began to change for the Angel. She developed a hop in her gait – something was wrong in her remaining rear leg. And she was becoming tired. Her last tour of duty was to the university students where she had to lie down a lot (but she was still able to lay love and kisses on the students who visited.) Over the next few weeks, she was less able to walk until there was no more walking, but even lying down became painful as mighty spasms moved up and down her spine.
Many humans tried to help the Angel but the light was leaving her intelligent eyes. She made it difficult for the humans to realize what was happening because she continued to kiss everyone who came near, and wag her tail, and tell people she was still trying to take of them. But the tumour had returned and invaded her lung. No earthly power would stop The Invader’s return now.
And so it was on the 29th of May, 2015. The Angel was still whimpering and kissing everyone who came near her, and spreading her love and trying to take care of people, until the heavy sedation made it impossible. The Angel was a Therapy Dog to her very end in This Life.
How do I possibly try to describe The Blessing she brought to my existence? Words fail….
I wish to thank the many, many people who came to Misty’s aid (and mine) over the past 14-15 months. Your kindnesses and generosity made our lives easier, happier, gave us more time together on this planet. I am more grateful than I can adequately express…
- Our Pet Nannies, Sandi Jackson and Lillian Miller. Sandi, who came in each day, giving Misty doses and doses of various medications, healthy foods and love, leaving me notes of how she was doing at each visit. Lillian, for her master’s touch at reiki and emails of encouragement and support.
- Our many vets and their assistants:
· Drs. Mingram, Kuc and Bosak and the wonderful, caring staff of the Clarington Animal Hospital. They initially diagnosed Misty’s osteosarcoma and helped us, as they always do, through the many day-to-day crises, triumphs, heartaches;
· Drs. Reynolds, Stojanovic and Huska and the wonderful, caring staff of the Toronto Veterinary Hospital. They performed Misty’s amputation, administered chemo (it was Dr. Stojanovic who told us that a dog with osteosarcoma who’d had an amputation plus chemo survived an average of 9 months – Misty survived 14 months – again surpassing average expectations). Dr. Huska helped relieve Misty’s severe pain in her final day in This Life;
· Dr. Silcox, who came to our house with acupuncture needles and a laser to help improve Misty’s mobility for a short time, then control her pain.
- Janet Kirby, Misty’s groomer of many years, whose tender touches helped keep the three legged girl with the bald spot on her back (where the hair never grew back post-amputation) looking and feeling glorious. Misty appeared to love being and looking clean.
- Molly Barber of Canadian Animal Rehab Services, who fixed the fit of Misty’s dog cart/wheelchair, so that she could actually ambulate with it.
- Lauren Bode, Animal Communicator, who helped Misty and I understand each other better when the going was getting really tough.
- Lauri Rusk, Canine/Equine Massage Therapist, who helped control Misty’s life-diminishing muscle spasms.
- And final, special, heartfelt thanks to our many friends and dog + handler teams of Therapeutic Paws of Canada for the love, support, fun, silliness, shared commitment. A shout-out to Michele Peddle and Jasmine (the Princess of Cheerios) for being such wonderful mentors and loving partners to Misty and me.
I feel indebted in a way I can never repay for all your loving attention and support. Thank you all so much.