How do you describe a best friend? How many words or experiences can you capture that tells someone what your best friend was like? Are best friends only people or can they be your dog?
It’s not often you have that amazing intimate relationship that makes you a better person. And it’s not until you lose them that you realize what they brought into your life.
Three years ago we made a decision to adopt an adult female chocolate lab named Madison. We decided to adopt an adult dog as I didn’t want to have to potty train a puppy. We discovered that good dog breeders have female ‘retiring’ dogs that need good homes. What a great idea I thought at the time.
We did our research and found a chocolate lab breeder four hours outside of Toronto who had two sister dogs that were retiring. One she said was a lot of energy and needed a big yard and the other was a cuddle bug who was fairly quiet. Well that made it easy! We knew the cuddly quiet one sounded perfect, so away we drove to meet her. We knew we would have to wait to bring her home as she was still nursing her last litter, but we wanted to meet her.
After a 4-hour drive there we spent a half hour seeing her. She was sitting in a corner watching us. I got on the floor and finally got her to come over. She stared at me then stuck her nose into my shirt collar and licked me. That was it. She was mine. We drove home (another four hours) and got ready for her arrival. Three weeks later we made the trip again to bring her home.
That began an amazing three years of getting to know her, and seeing her blossom. She didn’t know what toys were but soon became a total toy monster! She was just over six years of age but had been having puppies so now she got to be a real dog. She was terrified of stairs but with treats we got her to race up the Atelier stairs. We had her swimming that first summer in Lake Cameron and in a motor boat cuddled into me but loving it. She discovered bacon and peanut butter. Her first snowfall brought us the laughter of “snowplow dog” as we called her. It was pure joy watching her.
Almost everyone in the last three years met her at the Atelier, as we became inseparable. She was my shadow; my constant companion. She was a bed hog after the first week we had her. I made the mistake of letting her sleep on the bed. That’s where she slept every night… and snored! You don’t mind the snoring when you can cuddle.
Five weeks ago our world was turned upside down and changed forever in a twelve-hour period. Our dear Madison went from a very playful little nine-year-old girl to a very sick one in the blink of an eye. We tried everything we could but we were told she had a ruptured tumor and it was cancer. There is that old expression, “if you love something set it free.” We had no choice. We had to say our goodbyes and do the hardest thing I’ve personally ever done.
We are given the amazing gift of love through our animals. We receive these best friends and get to love them. The gift we get is immeasurable. They leave us changed for the better and they leave us too soon. If I had to do it all again with the same results I would. Ten minutes of wonderful is always better than a lifetime of nothing special.