Ninteen years ago today, I got up with my best pal and went for a coffee. It was a big day, and she knew it. After all, she had been a big reason for the day being so important. If it hadn’t been for her, I might not have embarked on one of the best decisions of my life.
We had a glorious walk in Stanley Park to start the day, and later she sat beside me as I wrote my vows. That afternoon she was there too, all decked out, as I set out to form a new life. I’m so glad she was there. One always wants one’s best friends to be a part of momentuous occasions as well as everyday life.
You see, my best friend enabled me to get a first date with the man who would be my husband. We did a double date, us two girls with him and his best friend. I knew right then there was something special between us. We all stayed close and became a kind of family for many years.
Today I have another best pal, as the one from all those years ago is gone now, but her spirit lives on. We walk every morning, and most evenings too. She reminds me every day to stop and smell the flowers, take in the moments that make life special. She listens to my ramblings and supports me through thick and thin.
Can you guess who I’m speaking about? It’s my Chocolate Labrador Retrievers. The one from nineteen years ago was named Satchmo, as she was a great singer of the blues and a lover of life. Her successor is Ella, the queen of jazz (and a friend of Satchmo’s in another life). Both of them have been the best companions anyone could ask for, and they helped me to be a better person.
Satchmo was the dog I had when I met my hubbie. He had a wonderful Doberman Pinscher named Paul (after Paul Simon – do you see a theme with our pet names?)
Our first date was to take our dogs for a walk, something that immediately endeared me to this man who seemed an unlikely candidate to hook up with for the long term.
His dog was very well-trained, as they both went to school to learn about training assistance dogs for people in wheelchairs. I was told to hold a chestnut in my hand for a while on the walk and then Hubbie threw it in the bushes down the slope to the beach. “Find it!”, he said to his Dobie.
Paul leaped over the edge of the slope and crashed his way through the brush. When we reached the bottom of the hill we saw his trotting back towards us, looking very proud. He sat ramrod straight in front of us. “Thank you”, said Hubbie, with his hand out. Paul spit out the chestnut, which had been marked with an x for verification. How impressed was I?!
It took almost 3 years for us to tie the knot, going through the trials and tribulations of life along the way. But our dogs were there with us – I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
When Satchmo went blind from a congenital defect at age 8, Paul helped her walk straight by nudging her on the sidewalk and he protected her in the park when we saw other dogs. They became soulmates just like Hubbie and me.
And now, almost 22 years after that first afternoon walk, having shared memories across the country and back with two more dogs and a little girl who is now married, we are still going.
I am so fortunate to have experienced so much love. Even more fortunate to have found my soulmate with whom to share all that love. But more than anything, I am grateful for the Brown Girls in my life – they have taught me how to love and live well, and given me more love (and laughter) than I could ever have imagined.
There is an old Harry Nillson song called “Me and my Arrow”, from a movie called The Point. I remember the tale and the song, every morning as I walk. I try to cherish those friendships appropriately.
Here’s to living the life your dog expects of you.
Winter in most of Canada is cold, windy and white. Kids and animals are mostly okay with that, but most adults don’t seem to have much patience for wintery weather. I walk every morning with my chocolate Labrador, Ella, in a fruit orchard and pumpkin patch so I’m out there in the elements daily. I decided that I might as well enjoy it, and so I look to Ella for inspiration.
This year the snow has built up and it’s gotten harder to walk each day. There is no real path as we are the only regular walkers, except for the odd coyote or deer tracks we see. So in loose snow I felt as though I was making two steps forward and one step back. I already do a workout inside, so I didn’t want to be doing more. Then I noticed Ella’s pawprints in the snow – she spreads out her toes in deep snow, to make the best use of her webbed Labrador paws. Her usually tiny feet with their winter fur between the pads end up almost twice the size – like snowshoes! “Aha”, I thought – I can get on that bandwagon. This morning our little sojourn in the field was much more enjoyable with my snowshoes on. Ella was in a fine mood too, bounding off my track to leap in the deep snow like a baby deer.
We were lucky enough to have some blue sky and sunshine today, so I did my best to soak in the good vibe. Ella leads the way, and she is a great role model for enjoying the moment. She trots along, not afraid to stick her head deep in the snow to sniff out the tracks of another creature (even if it is a woozle). She bounds about, and if I stop to blow my nose, as often happens on a cold day, she will happily plunk down, her fuzzy bum in the snow (makes me cold just to see it happen!) She also loves to eat the snow.
So here’s my foodie epiphany for the day: take a moment to truly experience the weather. I scooped my mitten in the fluffy snow and took a tongueful. It tasted clean, it sparkled on my tongue the same way it sparkled in the sunlight. It was pure and fresh and gone too soon. I wanted more. After a few mouthfuls I was deep in the memory of days spent tobogganing and playing tag on sticky frozen monkey bars. My heart soared with the sheer joy of it all.
P.S. If you’re wondering what a woozle is, brush up on your Winnie the Pooh here.
I write often about the fact that sharing food is a central concept to enjoying it. Gathering around a table to break bread and share the events of the day has been an integral part of society since the ancient Greek and Romans started it. As a cook and a lover of food, I get a kick out of seeing others enjoy my preparations and also being able to sit down and savour someone else’s hard work.
Food isn’t the only thing that is fun to share; friendship works exactly the same way. One of the easiest friendships to have is with a dog, and I have been privileged to know many four-legged friends in my life. Dogs don’t judge friends; once they have decided you are a companion they stick by you for life. I am partial to Labrador Retrievers, who are famous for their gregarious nature and ability to be thrilled with whatever you want to suggest to them. They can be running or swimming at full speed one moment, and then relaxing and ready to nap the next. With their dense soft fur, they are eminently huggable, and will often encourage this kind of behaviour, being touchy-feely animals. They are also big lovers of food, another worthy trait in a friend, I think. I highly recommend at least making use of a dog that belongs to someone you know even if you don’t have your own. They say time with a dog lengthens your life, so how bad can it be?
In this post I’d like to salute my current companion, Ella. She is featured this week in a photo contest, so here’s your chance to think about dogs you might like. Hopefully you’ll vote for my lovable Brown Girl, but even if you don’t I’m sure this few moments will put a smile on your face. Vote here (no registration required)
Take time out to simply Be Happy and Live in the Moment. It’s Ella’s philosophy. Doesn’t she look like she’s enjoying life?