Riverside Stories

Editor’s note: The Advocate is delighted to introduce a new columnist to our website. Kimberly Dickson is certainly no stranger to Pictou County residents. She is a writer, photographer and artist who loves to travel. She had been a frequent contributor to the pages of The Advocate writing a humourous column on her dog Striker. This is her newest writing venture…

A broken heart is hard to mend and often stays closed to the possibility of new love as the pieces try to find their way back to wholeness.

With the loss of our beloved golden retriever Striker, there were three aching hearts in our home. We were grieving as a family but also as individuals as we each had a special connection with this powerful creature.

The arrivals home once filled with joyful, boisterous greetings were now uneventful, lonesome and silent. The topic of a new puppy hovered over us, first unspoken but then cast out into the open. Would it be too soon? How could any dog compare to the magnificent Striker? Would it be a painful reminder of what we had lost? Were we ready? We didn’t have the answers but we tip toed into a social media search for black Labs as we thought a different breed might make it easier. We found impressive kennels throughout Nova Scotia and PEI, sending out emails with trepidation. The answers were always the same. Give us a call in the spring or we will put you on a waiting list.

Then one evening I searched New Brunswick and up came the name Klaasem Golden Retrievers, automatically reverting to the Goldens. These dogs had a different look from Striker, smaller, butterscotch and blonde tones but equally handsome, regal and strong. We took a deep breath and sent off an email saying we were hoping for a female pup. The breeder told us she had two lovely females, Vali and Nina, who both had given birth to litters on October 26. This date was three days after Striker had died and it sent a chill through me as Striker was born three days after we had lost our first family dog, an amazing big yellow Lab named Brady. Could it be a sign?

My husband Barry called the Klaasems and was informed that all the pups were spoken for but there was a remote chance that the sire’s owner, who had the rights to one puppy, would decline. The decision would be made by December 14. As we checked out the puppies online it was tough not to fall in love. The week before the 14th, we checked in again and were told that Conan’s owner had decided this was not a good time for a puppy and that the remaining male puppy could be ours. So, in we jumped! Not sure quite how we got there but it sure seemed like destiny.

Our thoughts of a female black Lab in summer somehow turned into a male golden retriever for Christmas. On a blustery Saturday afternoon, a week before Christmas Eve, we headed out to pick up our new baby. We arrived to find a beautiful snow covered countryside property obviously, a doggie haven. As we signed the papers, the breeder confessed she had creeped us on Facebook and upon seeing how Striker was part of the family, we had passed her screening test.

Finally, the new puppy was ours. Off we went, so excited despite a five-hour white knuckle drive home in a blizzard without hardly another vehicle anywhere to be seen. We finally made it home safe and sound and our puppy remarkably slept through the night.

The next morning, we road warriors hit the highway again, this time to Antigonish to pick up our son Darcy who was finishing his final exam at StFX the night before.  We pulled up to Governor’s Hall and as Darcy came down the stairs from his residence, I held the puppy in the Lion King pose. The look on his face is one that will be forever etched in my memory.  It was as if time turned back and he was six years old receiving his most desired present from Santa. It was an instant love – pure magic.

The still nameless puppy was handed over to his big brother in the back seat for the drive home. We took the Shore Road along the Northumberland Strait and were deliberating names. The puppy had been described to us as one with lots of curiosity, eagerness, a healthy confidence, brave but not reckless. Captain, Ranger, Chance – who would he be? Finally, we agreed and River he became.

Rivers lead to the ocean and the seacoast has forever been a family favourite. River because rivers are often beautiful, mysterious, serene waterways that give way to adventures and discoveries. River because we have a beautiful river running through our hometown and River because he was born near a river valley to a Vali (Valiant).

We still carry Striker in our hearts as a new love honours the past one.

Stay tuned for more Riverside stories as River makes his own mark on our world.

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