My man’s best friend

My husband, Ginger is not an early riser. In fact, when she wakes up, Nutmeg (me) has usually finished exercising, done the laundry, and gone to the supermarket. To be really clear, there are two things that he will get up early for; alpine skiing (never cross country) and flying. Yesterday, he started with an early morning phone call to say that Skoki, our 14.5 year old black lab, was not doing well. Ginger bolted out of bed and attempted to set a land speed record by driving to Canmore to see her dog. She wasn’t doing well, although a visit to the vet seemed to lift her energy a bit, it wasn’t for long.

Our black labrador retriever, Skoki, was born in Leduc, outside of Edmonton. Ginger convinced Nutmeg to go for a walk on a snowy Saturday 14 years ago. Nutmeg was pretty sure of two things; you don’t drive to Edmonton “just for fun” and no dog lover in their right mind is going to “just look” at the puppies. The long and short, naturally, was that Skoki made the drive back south on Highway Two to Calgary. He started in the backseat of our car, that lasted about 5 minutes, before he started crying. Nutmeg quickly succumbed to her motherly pressure and Skoki sat in the front seat on Nutmeg’s lap for the rest of the ride to her new home, and she was very proud of herself for scoring the first point in our long relationship.

From the start, Skoki was what one might describe as a bit of a headstrong. In the early days, walks were determined by the will of a spirited little creature, who was quite clear that he didn’t want to walk on an icy sidewalk. This was a selective hearing dog from day one. However, if food was involved, she had excellent ears. Over the years, Skoki has been a faithful companion on dog walks, runs, and mountain hikes. Most of all, she loved people, though she was quite careful about giving her affection away.

Ginger has been absent from school for the past 10 months and returned home just two weeks ago. Skoki was on call throughout that time, making sure her mistress (Nutmeg), her dog companion (Jade), and the house were safe and sound. He knew that he had little time left and that his love was already home forever, he realized because the piles of his things had begun to accumulate. In his special way, Skoki said goodbye to his best friends yesterday. Early this morning, it was clear that he wasn’t going to get his strength back or his lovely courage. Nutmeg took her for a ride to see the views of the mountains in Canmore and then she said goodbye to her forever. We will miss our good friend, but we know that she is somewhere nearby, pretending to ignore us.

Animals are wonderful beings. They are cunning, sensitive, carefree and individual. It is amazing and wonderful how pets can truly become family members and trusted companions. For more than 14 years, our relationship with Skoki grew from wonder and delight at the pups’ antics to deep respect and love for one another. Every morning it would be clear that she had missed us and watched over us the night before. My husband was not lucky enough to grow up with dogs. His family had cats, who are certainly unique personalities, though often individuals first and foremost. Skoki was a Labrador with personality, an independent streak and a reserved love for her master, she was truly my husband’s best friend. She will be missed.

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