Category Archives: Dogs in my life

A New Volume of My Life Begins

My life has many chapters, but until now, they were contained in four volumes, one for each of my four dogs: Suzy, Odin, Rama, and Angus. All lived 14 years and I have spent a couple of dogless years between the passing of one and the entry of another into my life. Suzy arrived when I was 6, Odin when I was 22, Rama when I was 38, and Angus when I was 52; corresponding to different stages of life. Their lives were shaped by my level of maturity (and immaturity), and my life was shaped by them.

Bran at 7 weeks

When I chose this puppy, I did so because I met his parents. Both were friendly and inquisitive and didn’t hold back. When I picked him up yesterday, I pointed his mom out to my brother by saying, “The one whose tail is wagging faster and harder than all the others.” I would like to think that’s the way people portray me…but I know that I can also be the curmudgeon. Perhaps this guy will soften my edges and I, too, will be wagging faster and harder than those around me, bringing a modicum of joy to the world.

Naming a dog is not something to be taken lightly. I have been drawn to the dog as god or dog as hero motif. Odin was named after the leader of the Norse pantheon who sacrificed an eye to drink from Mimir’s Well to gain knowledge and wisdom. Several times, my Odin came back with cuts near his eye from fights with wild animals. There is power in names.

My original idea was to name him “Fionn mac Cumhail” (Fin mac Cool in English), a hero from the Irish tradition. Driving down to collect him, I listened again to the story of Fionn’s life and the complicated. sometimes tragic events of it, and decided he didn’t need to be saddled with that kind of complexity. Instead, I chose “Bran,” the name of one of his hunting dogs. Bran’s life wasn’t without challenges, but they were simple acts of courage and devotion. I hope that my Bran’s challenges are as simple, but less risky, like stealing bread off the counter when I’m in the same room, and figuring out how to blame the cat (that I don’t have).

And so today, at 68, my new teacher, has arrived, and the next volume begins. Already, my life is changing…and not just because I got up six times in the night to let him out to pee. Since Angus’ passing, there are so many times I’ve reflexively looked to see where he was or planned my day to park in the shade. These are my default behaviors, and I look forward to exercising them again to a purpose.

As Bran barks softly in his sleep, I wonder what he is dreaming. Whatever his dreams, I hope I can make some of them come true.

Top row: Bran’s mother, Pepper; father, Mason; great-grandmother, Shoney.
Bottom row: 4 weeks, 7 weeks (when I picked him up 4/7/23) with my brother, Gord, and with me.

For more photos, click here.

Thanks to Wayne and Lynn Schapp at Eastlake Labradors for their patience with my questions, their warm hospitality whenever I’ve dropped by, and for providing me with this beautiful puppy.

1 Comment

Filed under Dogs in my life

In Memoriam: Angus

April 12, 2007 – October 7, 2021

I’m beginning this memoriam in Angus’ last hours. He’s lying at my feet and seems to be at peace. Six months ago, he had a series of small strokes and his kidneys started to fail and so his passing has long been on my mind. As he lost weight and mobility, I was keenly aware of the contract we make with the animals we bring into our lives: that we will know when their suffering is too much and act accordingly. With Angus, it was a simple test, wagging tail and smiling eyes. And he has passed that test every day until today.

He was endowed with such joy and peace! Even as his kidneys failed and he was getting up many times a night to pee, he always took the opportunity to patrol the place at least once. I might miss one of the guests coming into the cabin but Angus, despite being almost totally deaf, would greet them. Even yesterday when we were at Veigh’s for lunch, he had to sniff around the yard and sniff his pal Izzy’s butt before I lifted him back into the car.

Angus with his mom, Daisy, and some of his littermates

They say the best we can hope for is a good life with compressed morbidity. He certainly has had a good life and brought joy to all he encountered. The pains of old age didn’t stop him from feeling joy. He would hobble around the place, eyes smiling and tail wagging. Until today. I hoped he would go gently into that good night on his own. He was better in the morning—a brief wag of the tail—but it was clear he wasn’t the same. “Never too soon and only a minute too late,” is what an old friend told me. I think I can say I found that balance. Huge thanks to Dr. Eric Putman who took time out from his surgery day to console us both before sedating Angus and giving us some last time together.

My life is divided into my four dogs. All have lived to be 14 and all have been fine teachers. Angus came into my life 14 years ago as a gift from my dear friends, Sandy and Louis Maine. Angus’ full name is “Angus, Retriever of Love” and was born of “Daisy Loves a Lot.” He has lived up to his name and lineage. Despite not being neutered, he was an incredibly gentle dog and was never in a serious fight. He seemed to be able to approach people and know quickly whether his advances were welcome.

Dylan and Angus
A very young Juneau and Angus

He loved to play and would get down as low as he could go to encourage smaller dogs to not be intimidated so they would be comfortable playing with him.

He always reminded me, by example, that the true joy in life is giving…although that did not extend to sharing his dinner.

He arrived in my life just as I was moving into the new house. Having had dogs that have been wanderers, I installed an invisible fence around 10 acres of the place and a dog door. It was, if I don’t say so myself, a perfect place for dogs! And Angus had many friends to came to visit for the day, the night or the week. His sister, Mieta, and later his niece, Penny, were often here (and he at their place, too); Juneau, his best friend; Ely and Gogol; Toby, Sophie, Thomas, a cat who thought he was a dog, and Frank, a cat who was very much a cat; Chip, Isla, and Snow; Sidka; Obie; and lots of others who came with their people or just on their own. It was very much a doggy day camp.

Front row: Toby, Sophie, & Angus;
Second row: Me, Thomas, Carrie, and Frank
 Mieta, Penny, and Angus
Chip (Upper left), Angus (upper right), Juneau (middle), and Isla (bottom)

A new chapter in my life will begin. I won’t have to worry about whether he’ll be too hot or too cold in the car. I will be able to travel and spend a night away from home, something I haven’t done this year. I will take advantage of the freedom but it will always be bittersweet.

A light has gone out of the world but his presence and the lessons he brought will remain. I will smile while I cry for his loss, but I will cry rivers. Here’s to you, fine friend, may the light you brought to world remain in memory and inspire good in all creatures.


Filed under Dogs in my life, On Life