Renaissance Dogs


Ren-ais-sance: A rebirth or revival.

It was a poignant occasion for the adults. The family had gathered in Kelowna for a memorial service for Dale Chisholm, the owner and very best friend of a Pomeranian named Sonny.

Sonny's life had changed radically since his dog mother, Judy Chisholm, had become ill with a form of dementia, and since his constant companion, Dale, had passed on.

My sister Heather had created a spectacular dinner for the family. We were 14 in all, counting the kids. And there were four dogs in my sister's huge garden, surrounded by grape vines and kiwi plants, basil plants, garlic, chives (the latter seeming to magnetize dog pee, much to my brother-in-law Sal's dismay), strawberries, and who knows what else. The yard is a veritable Garden of Eden.

Two of the dogs are having a Renaissance.

By this I mean that my dog Siriuss, who has had digestive problems for most of his life, is now recovered; and that Sonny--who was born with three legs and who had been very well taken care of by his dog parents, Dale and Judy--is now learning to live in a family with two little kids.

Both dogs are eight years old. You could say they're late bloomers.

Siriuss, my Yorkie, is the product of some awful puppy mill, and because of that, has had various ailments throughout his life. And I have finally, I think, found some solutions.

In the last few months he has been behaving like a real dog for the first time in all of his eight years: full of barks and vigour and even responsible for a few little naughty holes in the garden.

Sonny was born with three legs. He probably thinks all other dogs are quite strange, but because of what seemed like an affliction, Dale and Judy were very protective and did not encourage him to run and play with other dogs.

Charlene is one of three daughters of Dale and Judy. She and her husband Randy have taken Sonny into their home, to grow with two small kids and lots of freedom.

On the warm Kelowna evening of the memorial, Sonny and Siriuss tasted, for perhaps the first time, the intoxicating joy and sense of total freedom in running as hard as they could in huge circles, following—or at least trying to follow—the leader of the pack, a six-month-old Snoodle named Winston and Pippen, the dignified resident dog.

They ran, and they sniffed, and they gave each other little corrections that sounded like fierce snarls; and sometimes they sat under our chairs where there was a little shade. I brought out a bowl of cold water, and from time to time they would partake, but soon they would be off again, running, and running, and running some more.

Memorial services are, by nature, sad affairs. They represent the end of the cycle of life. Eight-year-old Renaissance dogs, however, discovering life and health and freedom and the joy of running free in the garden, even on three legs, represent a new, if perhaps a little late, beginning of a new cycle.