This page is dedicated to my dog friend, Ghost, who died at 4:00 am Tuesday Sept 5, 2006 at the age of 13.5.
We met at the Toronto Humane Society in February, 1994. He sat quietly and didn't bark, waiting patiently while we met with other dogs. On our first walk together, he politely sat at each corner and heeling on leash and showing his enthusiasm by sniffing everything. He leaped eagerly into our car, full of optimism despite having been adopted and returned once already.
He was always very polite, gentle, well-mannered and friendly. He would let people get to know him at their own pace, and gained the trust of many who had been afraid of dogs. He carried himself with a quiet dignity that only faltered for any squirrel who dared to leave its tree.
But he also had a sense of humour that earned him the title of "Goofball". Once, when friends were pet sitting for us, they fed him a grape. He happily took it, then trotted away, presumably to eat it. They repeated this several times before they found the pile of grapes he'd stashed behind their couch.
Due to his separation anxiety problem, we purchased a double-thick jumbo airline crate for him for the times when dog daycare was not an option. He could read our minds; before we moved or even talked about leaving him in it, he would head straight for the bathtub and hide there whenever he thought he was going to be left behind. I have no idea why, but we've speculated that he was trying to tell us that he'd even have a bath to smell better if we'd only stay with him or bring him along.
He had an unusual way of relieving himself by balancing on his front legs only and letting his back legs swing forward in front.
We think that he may have been religious, as he always put a few pieces of kibble beside his bowl before he ate. Possibly an offering? He wouldn't tell. It must have been a private thing.
He taught us patiently how to take care of him and trust him; how to listen to each other, and to stop and smell...well, the "interesting" smells along the way. He introduced us to our neighbours. And taught us important lessons: it is better together, slow down, listen to each other, live fully in the moment, don't give up, don't be afraid to show how much you care, never be too proud to forgive.
Ghost's mainly black coat led many to inquire about his name. He followed us around silently for the first few weeks, never letting us out of his sight. Shadow was too ordinary for him, so he became Ghost.
His favourite activities were stick in the water, snowball, and sniffy walks.
His least favourite thing was being left alone. His separation anxiety was so strong that he once broke through an airline crate (after being tranquilized) and was found stumbling around the tarmac. He went through a second story window (left open an inch), a bay window, and a wooden front door. He also figured out how to unravel chainlink fencing when we extended it too high for him to jump. Each escape found him either following our scent or, if we took the car and our trail couldn't be followed, sitting on our front lawn waiting for us. We tried every therapy, behaviour mod. and drug offered to help, but in the end, stayed home or brought him along when possible, and put him in dog daycare when not. His separation anxiety, although not solely responsible, made life decisions such as homeschooling, starting a home-based business, and buying our first home easier.
He loved camping, especially playing stick-in-the-water, but not the insects. He liked to hide in the tent when the bugs got bad. He also didn't trust us humans to swim in the water. Once we set up our dome tent on a hill (unpegged), and decided to go for a swim. Ghost decided to hide out from the insects. When he heard the splash, I saw the tent start to roll down the hill, propelled by the dog like a hamster in a ball. I was able to catch the tent before it hit the water.
One evening we stargazed on the rocky point of our campsite. When I got up, I managed to knock our only flashlight (outside the tent) into the lake. There was no moon and our tent was deep in the trees behind the point. Between us and the tent was a wall of solid black darkness. Ghost led us as well as the best trained guide dog, stopping at each fallen branch or rock until we reached the tent.
When a bear entered our campsite on the Witness Trail in BC, he told us with body language, which allowed us to gracefully retreat until the bear lost interest.
He was a well-travelled dog. He swam in lakes in Temagami, Algonquin, on Vancouver Island, in Buntzen Lake, and at Ambleside Park in Vancouver. He went to dog daycare with Gillian Anderson's (The X Files) dog Cleo, and was sniffed by Graham Greene On Granville Island. He sailed with the PCYC commodore (and was routinely invited to kiss her face), despite his "hobo" appearance.
One winter we were given an opportunity to run a canoe outfitter business the following summer. We went up to check on the buildings, and decide if we wanted to do this. The buildings were closed for the winter and we had to hike in through two feet of snow. Ghost frolicked and ran like a crazy dog, with his customary lump of snow sitting on his nose. Bounding through the snow in the winter or swimming in the lake in the summer, he was able to find joy in any season.
On our last canoe trip together, he prepared me for his coming death. I'll never know how he did it, but he managed convey to me that this was his last trip, and asked me to let him go when the time came. He mustered up the energy for one last spirited game of stick in the water, and slept for most of the rest of the trip. We found out a few days later that a valve in his heart had failed. Two and a half days with different veterinary specialists gave him two extra weeks in which the medications allowed him to walk and sniff and enjoy his last days as a dog.