Good Dog

Good Dog

by Arlene Kroeker


Over a year ago, my daughter Maxine called to tell me that something was wrong with Winston. She’d found him lying on the floor, like a rag doll. She tried to get him to stand up, but failed.

When I opened the door, I saw her sitting on the couch with Winston lying partially on her lap. (He weighs 50 lbs and never understood he wasn’t a lap dog.) She’d tried to give him his favourite treat – her home-made milk bone – but it just fell out of his mouth. He closed his eyes.

We carried him to the car and placed him on the back seat. Speechless, we drove to the vet. The drive took forever. Construction, red lights, stalled cars.

Finally, the vet looked at his gums, took his temperature, listened to his heart, commented on Maxine’s boots, told a joke that I can’t remember, and said that Winston was bleeding internally. Take him home, he said. Keep him comfortable. Feed him his favourite foods.

The bleeding, he said, could stop and Winston would rally. If that happened, we could expect it to happen again within two or three weeks and that would likely be the end. Or, he would worsen in the next few hours.

We headed for the door. Winston tried to take a step, but his legs wouldn’t cooperate. He swayed and fell to the floor. We stayed with him at the vet’s for some time. Crying, whispering, stroking him. He may be an old dog, but we thought he’d live forever. Out on walks, people constantly comment on his enthusiasm. “How old is he?” We’d reply, “Fourteen.” To which they’d say, “Months?” No, years. He thought he was still a puppy.

Winston is a bearded collie, a smaller version of an English sheepdog. His job is the same as a sheepdog, herding. And that’s what Winston has done throughout his life – herded us. We found him at a breeder on Vancouver Island who told us they’d named him Mr. Happy. He’s lived up to that name. I was going through a divorce when he joined our family and he was the one who made me, and my daughters, laugh when we cried. He’s the one who laid his head on our lap when we needed a hug. He’s the one who loved nothing better than to go on a walk with two or more of us. He’d circle us, determined to keep us together.

I called oldest daughter Lisa in Australia to tell her the situation. She was due home in a month. “Tell him to wait for me,” she said.

We finally left Winston with the vet and drove aimlessly.

“I don’t know how to do deal with this,” I said to Maxine.

“Let’s go for a walk,” she offered.

We did. We walked around Kits beach and ended up at the Museum of Vancouver and wandered around the displays. Then a bite to eat on South Granville, followed by a movie. Max fell asleep during the movie. I think I did too.

“It’s great we got to spend the day together,” she said once we got home.

The next morning, Winston greeted us with his tail wagging. He took the offered treats. He licked our hands, gave us kisses, and walked by himself to the car. As I picked him up (he can’t get in by himself anymore), I whispered, “Thank you. Thank you for being the balm our family needed. Thank you for letting us love you just a little longer. And please, please wait for Lisa to get home.”

Lisa returned home to Winston’s kisses and wagging tail. Almost two years later, Winston collapsed again. We made the decision to let him go and said good-bye to the best dog in the world. Thank you Winston, for your infinite patience with us.


Traditional Milk Bones


3/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup powdered milk
1/3 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
3 cups whole wheat flour

In a large bowl, pour hot water over powdered milk. Stir until mixed. Add salt, butter, and egg. In 1/2 cup intervals, add the flour. Combine until forms a stiff dough. Dust surface with extra flour and roll dough to a 1/2 inch thick. Cut into bone shapes or use any cookie cutter. Bake at 325 degrees for 50 minutes. Biscuits will harden when cooled.

One Response to Good Dog

  1. gks18 November 22, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    Just copied and shared this lovely story with my cousin who owns two dogs.
    Maybe she will make some of these treats for them as well as enjoy reading this piece. 🙂

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