Although it was not unexpected to hear, we knew the day would come when there would be an update in the form of a text message, email or phone call about the passing of a family member.
But, it was shocking to hear that we lost one of the ‘Boys.’ The ‘boys’ are our eldest daughter’s and son-in-law’s family pets, affectionately known as Winston, a 9-year-old Saint Bernard and Caesar, a 12-year-old Rottweiler; both dying within a week of each other. My wife and I expected and were prepared for the Rottweiler going first as he was older, arthritic, with failing internal organs, but we weren’t prepared for Winston’s sudden and premature departure due to an undetectable stomach disorder characteristic of the breed.
Fitting the Boys into our Lives
Our lifestyle has us on the road for the six months we’re in Canada house and pet sitting and working, while the other six months we are in Mexico, so we get back to visit the family maybe three or four times a year, for a week at a time to be with our kids, grandchildren & the ‘boys.’
Fortunately, with our schedule, we were able to be around in late July to see the gang before heading back to Ottawa to complete a sit, and as usual, on our departure, Winston was sprawling out on the inside porch/mudroom floor in front of the door, with his head between his paws, looking up at us as though it was the worst thing happening to him with those ‘You’re going? How could you do this to me?’ sad dog eyes….Caesar was sprawled out at his post on the kitchen floor keeping an eye on things. I made sure to spend an extra few moments with each before heading out… which was one of my best decisions.
Unexpected Passing and a New Birth
We’d been back in Ottawa for a week when my wife read me the text message about Winston and then when we found out about Caesar passing away; all the memories about the boys returned like a tsunami. Oh yes!, did I mention that during the same window of time that the dogs passed away, our daughter was due to go into labour anytime with our third grandchild which turned out great, and there’s now a second grandson book-ending a granddaughter.
Now Back to The Boys…
We first met Winston and Caesar ten years ago, one summer while at our house in Milton, as my wife’s daughter and then-boyfriend were attending a wedding nearby, so we offered to look after them for the weekend. Both my wife and I had large dogs from our past marriages, so we had an idea of what to expect as far as them being around the house and backyard. My daughter was residing with us at the time, and my son stopped by to see them. They were both quite comfortable with the big dogs, as they grew up with a female Malamute Husky for 11 years.
We affectionately refer to Winston as Mr. Personality, and Caesar as the stoic, quiet older gentleman of the pair.
The backyard is huge, well-designed with a patio, hot tub, landscaped garden and a huge oak tree, for which both dogs love running around in and laying at the foot of to keep a family of raccoons up in it the whole time they are on patrol. Winston lays down in the big patch of Hibiscus plants to cool off and ambush the raccoons when they descend the oak tree… he doesn’t catch any of them, but once they leave they do not return!
The first walk around our neighbourhood takes about 90 minutes and is a ‘SMELLAPALOOZA’ with at least 75 stops along the way to find out firsthand what was what and where they might want to …. you know! They’re big dogs, both about 100 plus pounds, and their piles of poop are bigger than some dogs; I walk them both on a sidewalk and when other dog owners see us approaching they quickly cross the street to not meet them. I don’t know why they do this as the dogs are friendly and would not hurt another dog unless perturbed.
Tolerating the Cat
A year later we were house and dog sitting with the boys, which means daily walks along the local beaches in Kincardine and Sauble Beach. Winston, the Saint Bernard, thinks he is a fish, as he runs and swims in the water for hours, then he shakes, shakes, shakes the water off, smiles and then rolls around in the sand. Caesar frolics along the shoreline, as he doesn’t like to get wet as it reminds him of getting a bath.
Their constant companion for walks is an adopted barn cat, Hunter, who follows them, but from an appreciable distance, as he is a cat and does not officially go for walks. Hunter is always safe with them; they do not chase or terrorize him. Hunter tolerates the boys and they respect him. As the story goes, Hunter swatted both of them really hard when they were puppies and set the rules and tone for their futures; they get the message loud and clear.
The Things I Miss:
I’ll really miss the post-dinner plate cleanups – you know the thing that happens before the plates go in the dishwasher!
Whining in my ear at 6:30 am that it’s time to go out for a pee, especially at the farmstead, as I pee off of the back porch while they drain their systems as well.
Their dedicated bedside company for Jennifer when she was recuperating from her automobile accident, as the boys slept near her, she in her hospital bed, and kissed her good morning and good night.
Being greeted with slobbery kisses and wagging tails.
Going for long walks around the farmstead with them.
Hearing them drink water out of their bowls.
Pushing their heads into my lap for attention.
Meeting the grandkids at the bus stop in the afternoon.
Dressing the dogs up in Halloween outfits.
Taking them for car rides to DQ, each with their own side to stick their heads out of the windows.
Chasing the neighbour’s cats off of the property.
Climbing onto the bed during the night while we sleep…feeling them on it, but not booting them off unless they are snoring really badly.
Being general PITAs and getting in the way.
Protecting the grandchildren.
Eating shoes, slippers, and just about anything else they could get their mouths on.
New Life in the Midst of Sadness
The Boys are buried beside each other on the family homestead, and later this fall we’ll plant two trees that’ll become a reminder of them. The farmhouse was eerily quiet until three new boys came into the mix – a two-day-old grandson named Quinn, a six-month-old male barn cat, and a three and half-month-old Saint Bernard puppy named HOMER! ….yes HOMER!
Homer is his own man – a different personality, terrorizes the three cats and is not afraid of Hunter’s swats and hisses they direct towards him, as his paws are as big as the top of my hand from the wrist to the knuckle. Homer’s father is 220 lbs of solid muscle, has a great disposition, so Homer will be a big bodyguard for the grandkids, and is already the talk of the school bus occupants.
A Final Goodbye
Lastly, the night that I first took Homer for a walk around the farmstead, he stopped and lay down at the foot of “The Boys” final resting places, sniffed, pawed the ground a bit, whined a bit, then sat up, barked, then proceeded to chase/guide the hens and turkeys back into their shed for the night.
Yes, Homer has a big wet nose and hogs the bed…but we wouldn’t want it any other way!
RIP Caesar and Winston. We love you, and we miss you!