Absence makes the heart grow fonder: River finds a pack and new independence

Online First Riverside Stories

Our three family dogs have all had a very special place in our lives and hearts, each one making his own indelible mark. When you are forced to say the final heartbreaking goodbye to one, the heart wonders if it can ever be brave enough or even open enough to love again.

The unconditional love of a beloved pet is one of life’s most secure bonds. You knowingly re-enter a place of great vulnerability as their life span will go racing by while your pet has become entrenched as a part of your family and you can not imagine life without them. My husband, son and I have loved each of our family pets deeply and we could not begin to choose a favourite. Each one has or had his own role depending on our stage of life and his personality. Brady, our yellow Labrador retriever, was the strong protector and the baby before the baby. Striker, our first golden retriever, was a free spirit and lovable charmer while River is our affectionate anchor and constant companion. Little Mister as I call him, joined our family at a point in time when our son is a young adult and my husband and I have had significant changes in our careers. This has meant three adults showering him with attention and more one on one time with him.

Recently we travelled to Toronto for a long weekend that included a NHL game, sight seeing and time with family. It would be our first time away from River for more than a day and the thought of leaving him behind was causing me stress and worry. Fortunately, we were aware of a wonderful local dog kennel but first he had to pass the admission test. River didn’t let us down and was on his best behaviour for both the owner and his new buddies during the trial run. When we drove back to take him there for the extended stay we were relieved that he was excited to go back to the kennel. In fact, his excitement was like that which he shows for beach runs with joyful sounds mixed with whimpers and an inability to stay still.

During our trip, as wonderful as it was, I felt very lonesome for him and it brought to light how firmly our bond has been cemented. Messages from his caregiver alleviated my worry as she reported River was doing great and enjoying his new pack. But I missed the sloppy kisses, snuggles, his big soft eyes that still say puppy and even the relentless dog hair on my clothing. When we arrived home, we drove straight from the airport to the kennel. As he heard our voices, River came running out to us, and could not decide which one to welcome the most, darting back and forth among us, wrapping himself around and in and out of our legs.

We were told by the owner who provided great care for him that River was best suited with the more energetic of the group but he had fit in beautifully and would be welcomed to return anytime. Turns out he is extroverted, independent and well adjusted. More than I was, that is for sure. That evening our baby was tuckered out from his adventures but also wanted to stayed close. River soaked up the lap of luxury at home, hogging the couch, never missing the chance for a comfy pillow and a spot close to his family, whether pressed beside us or nestled in at our feet.

Absence does indeed make the heart grow fonder.