Fox was a hero. He saved me from the all-consuming grief I felt after my father passed away. He was pure joy and mischief bundled up in the most adorable furry package. Don’t be fooled by his innocent demeanour, Fox was definitely a handful as a puppy.
When we first brought Fox home he couldn’t go up and down the deck-stairs. My mom and I would cradle him like an infant and walk him down the steps so he could play in the backyard and do his business. He chewed through my entire collection of heels and most of the furniture in the house. He hid my sneakers and flip flops under the deck. I remember getting dressed up for a date and coming downstairs to find the shoe rack empty, not a single shoe left!
If ever there was a child on a scooter or roller blades he would break free from his leash and go after them. Even after long walks Fox still had tons of energy. He was always up for chasing us around the backyard. Fox wasn’t much for fetch but he did love running to the toy you threw and then excitedly back to you. Fox the puppy was a fierce protector of the backyard, ensuring no bunnies or squirrels dared to trespass.
When Fox was neutered we stayed up all night together, him crying and me petting and consoling him while holding back my own tears. “It’s okay puppy, you’re alright. I’m here” I kept repeating. It was one of the longest nights of my life.
We were always there for each other. We got through that hurdle, and many others with patience and a positive attitude. Fox and I were quite the team.
Fox at School
Training Fox was a pleasure. He was a quick learner and always top-dog in all levels of obedience. A teacher’s pet, Fox was often asked to demonstrate learning a new trick to the class. We even did agility training, which I think may have been more amusing for me than it was for Fox.
He wasn’t all that agile while running through tubes and attempting obstacles but he sure was cute.
When friends and family remarked what a “good dog” Fox was I would think back to all the hours spent training him- training that made all the difference. He was great on leash and kind to strangers because we encouraged that behaviour from a young age and learned how to correct him when necessary. The most important thing we learned was to trust each other.
Adjusting to Condo Life
When Fox was a little older, I moved out of my mom’s house and into a condo with my (now) husband. Soon afterwards Fox got sick. The two events were unrelated but made for a devastating combination.
He suffered from violent seizures which left him disoriented and unsteady for hours afterwards.
The first time it happened, we woke up to loud banging and thrashing. As I rushed to his side I was sure he was dying. Some days he would have up to six seizures in a twelve hour period. It was heart-breaking. After almost every seizure he would need to be given a quick bath because he was covered in his own urine and feces. It was very overwhelming to see him suffering.
If only we still had our backyard I would think, at least then he would have soft ground to seize on and could dry in the sun after his bath instead of having to wait for my hairdryer to do the job.
The medication available would make him feel groggy and nauseous and couldn’t prevent the seizures only potentially reduce the number of them in a day. We opted to not medicate him so that on all of the days that he wasn’t ill Fox could live his life to the fullest.
Seizing the Day
And that’s exactly what he did; Fox experienced it all. He was there for all our happiest and hardest days and every day in-between. Life revolved around Fox friendly activities. What new off-lead trail or park could we explore, which apple and pumpkin picking farms allowed dogs, outdoor festivals in the area, year-round hiking, pet-events like costume contests, and when we went to visit friends and family Fox was almost always welcome. He was even part of our wedding ceremony.
Fox was rarely home alone for more than a few hours and got plenty of exercise every day.
Thankfully his seizures eventually stopped. The vet couldn’t explain it; it was a doggy miracle. At the age of six he had almost as much energy as he did as a puppy. The exercise kept him young at heart!
It was because of Fox that I discovered my passion for photography. I loved taking pictures of him on all of our adventures and created an online gallery He brought me and my family so much joy. His unfaltering love and enthusiasm was contagious.
Cherished Memories with Fox
- Walking in Petroglyphs Provincial Park in the Fall was such a breathtaking and serene hike
- Discovering the Badlands with Fox and photographing him on the trails
- Teaching him new tricks and practicing them together
- Cuddling with Fox on the couch
- Him jumping up on me as we played in the park
- Seeing Fox run outside for the first time in the winter. He was so happy, and looked adorable as he stopped to eat some snow along the way
- Fox meeting farm animals and exotic animals. Even camels wanted to befriend him!
- Watching him chase and play with dogs at various parks around the city
- Having Fox there on our Wedding Day
Words can’t describe how much Fox meant to me and my family. He was more than a pet, he was a best-friend to many. Fox kept us active, and challenged us to find the most pet-friendly venues in the GTA. We did everything together! He prepared us well for the responsibilities of adding a new addition to our family
And Then There Were Four
When our daughter Elowyn was born Fox started to get significantly less attention, especially while I was recovering from my c-section. All of his favourite companions now wanted to spend as much time with Elowyn as possible. He was confused because excited noises usually meant play time but in this case it was play time with Elowyn that they were signalling and Fox unfortunately wasn’t welcome. When my mom was holding Elowyn we had to be especially careful Fox didn’t trip her while trying to get her attention. When Elowyn was on the floor playing with toys or learning to roll he was told to stay back.
All he kept hearing was “Settle down” “Not now Fox” “No Fox” from all of his favourite people.
He spent more time alone at home. During the winter months Elowyn had to wear a harness for her hip-dysplasia and didn’t fit into regular pants or snowsuits; long family walks weren’t possible. I felt bad for Fox every single day. I felt like I was failing him. I was sad I couldn’t give him the life that he was accustomed to and the life I felt he deserved. Still hormonal and very sleep-deprived, I was feeling the guilt and sadness especially strongly. And then the comments started..
What Not to Say to New Parents
As a new parent you expect everyone and their neighbour to pass on sage parenting advice but what I wasn’t ready for was so many judgemental comments about my pet parenting.
“Your dog is depressed don’t you look after him anymore?”
Fox wasn’t depressed he was lying down near his family like he always did. “No one loves Foxy anymore.” I certainly never stopped loving Fox, and this insensitive comment was one of the most hurtful. I will never stop loving Fox.
“Fox is jealous of Elowyn, look how sad he is that you’re playing with her”
Fox didn’t pay much attention to Elowyn but I’m sure he would have loved to play with us more. Then there came the cliché “You can’t have a dog and a baby together; dogs are dirty they bring all sorts of germs into the house. Do you want your baby to get sick?” Of course, Fox never made Elowyn sick, or any of us sick. What was true though is that Fox’s life had changed. Could we have kept Fox? Of course. But now it seemed like I was letting even more people down, people close to me. Their consistent concerned comments made me question whether or not we were selfishly keeping Fox when maybe he would be happier in a new home.
Was Keeping Fox the Right Choice?
Fox had a very sensitive stomach. Cleaning up diarrhea and vomit in the condo was almost a weekly occurrence, one we were used to.. Except now when accidents happened Elowyn was there crying and wanting to be held. I had to leave her in her crib so I could clean it up, and hearing her cry and cry was terrible.
I was torn between two people needing my love and attention at a time when I felt so raw as a new mom.
The responsibilities were overwhelming. Even still, just having Fox in my life brought me so much happiness. He was a beautiful dog with an amazing personality. When Fox would run up to greet me, with what could only be described as a smile, he would melt my heart in an instant. Is that enough of a reason to keep a pet though? That you love them and feel like you need them in your life? I remember thinking, I already lost my dad I can’t bear to lose Fox too. At the same time, I wanted to do right by Fox.
What I wished for Fox was that he could spend the rest of his days with a family who could give him the type of life and adventures we shared before Elowyn was born.
I wanted him to get long walks every day so that he could stay in good shape. I wanted him to go to off-lead parks and trails; he loved meeting new furry friends and their owners. I wanted his amazing coat to stay well-groomed just like we had kept it. Now Elowyn needed me round-the-clock, was it fair to my sleep-deprived husband who worked full-time to be solely responsible for making my dreams for Fox come true?
Considering a New Living Situation
I knew I couldn’t give Fox away to just any living situation. We had some offers on the table, but they came with conditions I wasn’t comfortable accepting. I didn’t want Fox shaved, or crated home alone all day, or living with cats who hated him, or being left outside in a backyard instead of being walked.
I needed some kind of guarantee that Fox would be taken care of by my standards. But was that even reasonable?
I figured such a situation wouldn’t come up and that I should make my peace with the current reality. Then one day I stumbled upon the Collie Rescue Network. This volunteer-run organization is incredible. They take Collies into foster-care while they get to know your dog to ensure that he or she is placed with a home that is a genuinely good fit. In order to adopt a Collie under the care of the Collie Rescue Network you need to have owned a dog before, have strong references from your vet, pass an interview and home-visit and be the right fit for the Collie in question. The adoption coordinator I spoke to was so caring and compassionate, she put all of my worries at ease. After we spoke I felt confident that letting Fox go was what was best for him; it was his chance to live a life I couldn’t offer him anymore.
The week leading up to Fox’s adoption was agonizing. I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t stop crying. I kept wrestling over all the possible scenarios. I couldn’t imagine choosing a life for myself that didn’t include Fox. I didn’t think I would be able to go through with it. When the day came I tried my best to stay strong. I knew it was the right time. The weather was finally warm and he would be able to spend lots of time playing outside during the transition phase of getting to know his new owners. On his last day with us we went to his favourite off-lead trail in our neighbourhood for one final family hike.
After we said our goodbyes I wanted to call them, to tell them I had made a big mistake, to do whatever I could to get Fox back.
But that would have been selfish. Fox was in great hands. I continued to get updates and was following along with his journey. His new owners took amazing care of him and he even became certified as a therapy dog! The updates provided me with some comfort, but I would still lie awake at night crying. I missed Fox. I replayed our happy memories together over and over. I wished I could see him again.
With each passing month it got slightly easier. I forgave myself for letting Fox go to a new home. I chose to take pride in the excellent life I was able to provide him prior to his adoption. I stopped dwelling on the hurtful and judgemental comments I received; it didn’t matter what other people thought. Fox’s adoption didn’t undermine our entire relationship, the years of unconditional love and devotion. I decided I wouldn’t let anything tarnish our memories.
The Final Chapter
I know I was fortunate to get updates, and I always looked forward to reading them, but one day (less than a year after Fox had been adopted) we got devastating news. Fox had started to feel lethargic, and wasn’t eating his food. He was diagnosed with lymphoma. His owners took him to an oncologists who ran further tests. He had a very aggressive, fast moving cancer; with treatment his prognosis was a few weeks to a month. They were writing to let me know Fox had passed away.
The news hit me very hard. Fox was still so young! Only 8 years old. I had always imagined I would be by his side when he crossed the rainbow bridge. Petting him, telling him I loved him like I did the day the Collie Rescue Network picked him up.
It’s very different to say goodbye to someone knowing they are alive and well and off to a new adventure versus to know their story has ended.
There would be no more updates. No more happy news. No new chapters. He was really gone. I didn’t know how to make my peace with it, and although I was very grateful to Fox’s new owners, I felt sad that I didn’t get a chance to see him one last time.
We went to his favourite trail, Sherwood. I thought a jog would make me feel a little better. As I ran on the trail, the most amazing thing happened. I could feel Fox running beside me, him rubbing his head on my leg. I could see him running ahead of me, turning around to wait for me to catch up.
Fox had come home.
Fox, from the first day we met you were in my heart. And there you will stay for all my days. I love you so much puppy; keep my Daddy company until the day we meet again. ❤