Remembering Pepper

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Pepper

On Monday I had to say Goodbye to an old friend. She was an amazing dog that will live in my heart forever. This post is a tribute to her and the memories. Pepper in 2010

When my daughter was growing up, she wanted to pet every dog we came across. She regularly asked if we could get a dog.

Being a single parent, I wasn’t too keen on getting a pet because of the added work and responsibility I knew all too well growing up with cats and dogs, but I made a promise to her that when she was old enough to take care of a pet, she could get a dog.

That time was near the end of Grade 8 in June 2010. We went to the pet store in the Cambridge Centre mall and my daughter fell in love with the first dog she held: a 2-month-old Cattledog/Collie mix that was sitting alone in the corner away from the rest of the litter. She had a black speckled coat, so we named her Pepper.

She was the sweetest, most affectionate dog. She loved to give kisses and got excited over everything. She loved to jump up on visitors and regularly lunged at passing cars. She was a herder that had to know where everyone in the family was at any time. She hated bicyclers and skateboarders (likely the sound of the wheels). The food she got excited over the most was fish.

She was also a high-energy dog that loved sticks, or playing kickball in the sports park behind our house.

The sports park behind our house – and the public park it connected to near the end of our street – were her favourite areas for playing and walking. Each time we would leave the public park to walk home, she would come up and give my hand a small butterfly kiss as a thankyou for taking her to “her park” and my heart melted each time.

Sticks and kickball

After my daughter moved out of the house, it was just Pepper and I. And so she became my hiking buddy. We frequented the Puslinch Tract Conservation Area near where we lived, but later branched out to many other gorgeous trails, including all of the ones I listed in my 2023 in review blog post. We hiked these trails all year round, and both of us loved every minute we spent on them.

Hiking

Before my daughter moved to Australia in 2019, she and I took Pepper on many of these trails, and to various other scenic places all around Ontario (including areas with beautiful waterfalls). Pepper especially loved these trips because her pack was all together!

Hilton Falls

Elora Gorge

Kelso and Indian Falls

Turkey Point

Webers Burgers

And we’d always take Pepper with us to get Starbucks, often sitting on the patio if it was open.

Starbucks

After she turned 13 last year, I noticed that she slowed down quite a bit. While her general health was otherwise excellent, she napped most of the time, couldn’t be bothered to bark at the things she used to bark at, and her walking got slower and slower. It was the first time I realized that maybe she wouldn’t be around forever, and I remember telling her to “stick around until your girl visits in September” back in the summer. Of course, “your girl” was my daughter, who visited from Australia in September with her boyfriend and my grandson, who was thrilled to walk the “woof woof” in the back yard.

Although Pepper continued to sleep more and get slower (walking behind me most of the time), we made sure not to waste any good weekend weather by exploring many new trails, as well as many existing ones we frequented in the past. She visibly loved it all - she often started slow on trails, but by the end she seemed 10 years younger and the afterglow stayed with her for the rest of the day. I gave her extra pets, hugs, and kisses.

In the end, it was a brain tumor (or similar uncurable nervous system disease) that caused her to go downhill very fast, and it broke my heart to watch it all knowing there was nothing I could do to help.

But I’m grateful for many things. I’m grateful I was able to work from home most of the time since 2020 so that I could spend extra time with her in her golden years. I’m grateful that she was able to see her girl one more time. I’m grateful she had a great Vet and was able to spend her final moments at home. And I’m grateful for the joy she brought to our lives.

We gave her a good life, and she gave us a good life.

Rest in peace sweet puppy girl - we’ll always love you!

     

Inspirational afternote: Pepper’s final walk

The Saturday morning two days before Pepper passed away, she couldn’t stand up or walk (she couldn’t figure out how to move her legs at all).

So first thing in the morning, I gently put her on a soft dog bed and used it to carry her outside so that she could pee on the front lawn. It was a beautiful, sunny, warm February morning, about 8 or 9 degrees Celsius outside, and green grass instead of snow. After she peed, I said “Why don’t we try to get you walking girl?” So, I straddled her with my legs and gently propped up her front legs with my hands and kept them there until she could figure out how to hold them there. And then I repeated that with her back legs, and we took baby steps around the front lawn until she figured out how to do it on her own. She was very very slow, but managed to walk around the house beside me. I only had to help her balance herself a few times.

When we got to the front lawn again, she immediately started going towards the end of the driveway quite intently as if she wanted to go for a walk. I figured we wouldn’t get too far, but I wasn’t going to stop her if she wanted to try. We walked up to the public park at the end of our street, and she went through the areas of the park she normally visited. Then she wanted to go from there to the sports park behind our house, along the path she loved to take around the high school, through the tennis courts, down the length of the football field and running track to the field behind the grade school at the other end. From there she led me down the path she loved to walk along at the front of grade school and down the hill to our street, where we walked back up to our house. It took us a very long time (2 hours!), and even though she was very slow and looked pretty rough, I still took some video and pics of her rockin’ that walk.

She knew she didn’t have much time left and wanted to see and smell the neighbourhood and park she loved one last time. The whole time, it was clear she was putting everything she had into that final walk… and she managed to do it! And on a beautiful, sunny, warm February morning too!

She was visibly happy afterwards, and so was I.