Having looked out my hospital room window and seen a man walking his dog in the rain, it made me realize how much I love dogs. We always had a dog when I was growing up. When we were first married, we had a yellow lab. After seven years of allergic reactions from most of the family we had to give it to a friend of ours. After a move to Baltimore from Barrie Ontario, my wife, Julie, and I decided we needed to get a dog. Our youngest son would watch animal planet relentlessly and really wanted a dog. The boys had faint memories of our lab, but really wanted a dog to be part of their growing up.

One of the main reasons deciding on the dog was to put a positive spin on life and get the attention off myself and the cancer. We had a few breeds to choose from that were hypo-allergenic. We also wanted a larger dog so the boys could wrestle with their pet. I couldn’t see a 6’6” and a 6’4” boy playing with a small dog.

We ended up getting a standard poodle. We found a husband and wife who had a small operation out of their house. Julie and I went to their place and picked out the dog. A few weeks later, we were out in the car, and we said to the boys that we had to stop at a house where a friend of Mom’s lived. The boys came into the house and discovered all these 8 week old puppies. Man were they cute! I picked up the one we had chosen and put it in our youngest son, Jake’s, arms. He was over the top with excitement! At this point, he had no idea the dog he was holding was going to go home with us. We asked the boys if they thought it would be neat if we could take this guy home with us. They thought we were kidding. When they realized we were serious, they were the happiest guys on the planet! At that particular moment, they had totally forgotten about Dad and his cancer.

From now on the centre of attention was the dog. Of course, you know who has to walk it and clean up after it when the boys were at school. At this point I was still at home. It was very beneficial to my own recovery. I had something to look after and it took the focus off of my suffering. By the way, the dog’s name is Murray and he doesn’t look like a poodle. He doesn’t have a froo froo haircut. Somehow I couldn’t see the boys and I walking Murray down the street with a fancy hair cut.

Fast forward four years and I am diagnosed with another cancer. I am scheduled to have my cancerous prostate gland removed at the end of January. At this time in our life my wife and youngest son were living in Orlando where Julie was teaching at Lake Highland Prep and Jake was in his senior year of High School. I was back in Ontario teaching and commuting to Orlando every four weeks or so. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the best for our son.

Julie took two weeks off and came up to Ontario to be with me for the operation. Prior to the operation, and after I was diagnosed I started to think of another dog. We had seen a relatively new breed of dog called a Golden Doodle. It was hypo-allergenic and a large dog. To keep my mind off the surgery, I spent a lot of time researching the dog and finding a breeder that had a litter ready to go.

Two days after coming home from the hospital, Julie and I drove an hour and a half to just look at the dog. You know what happened next. Nobody goes and looks at a dog and comes back empty handed. If you're lucky you leave with just one dog. Was I loosing it? What was I thinking?

This was a Sunday and Julie was going back to Orlando on Monday. I still had my catheter in and it would stay in for another week or so. I would be all alone with an 8 week old puppy. Murray was in Orlando at this time. How would I manage? It is hard enough training a puppy when you are 100%, let alone recovering from a major operation.

His name would be Fozzie Bear. Fozzie sped up my recovery 100 fold. If Fozzie hadn’t been there I would have spent the next few months in bed. There would have been no reason to get up and get going. The Foz Man made sure I was up all the time. Keep in mind, this was February and it was cold and snowy.

A good puppy is a tired puppy, so I took him for long walks in thigh deep snow to tire him out. When he would sleep in the afternoon, I would grab a power nap. The sound of him going down on the floor to sleep was music to my ears.

So in closing, I have had two cancers and now have two dogs. We are not getting another dog as I don’t plan on getting another cancer. So when I take Murray and Fozzie Bear for long walks and it starts to rain I enjoy the time in the rain because I will never forget the time when I couldn’t be out walking in the rain.

Make Life Your Vacation!










"What makes cancer so horrific is how it continues to torment and taunt its victims long after the treatments are finished"
– The Globe and Mail

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