It’s funny how you can have years of memories about a person and yet there are a few that stick out more than others. It is not always because they are more meaningful or special, but just because they seem to be triggered by the smallest of things. With my grandfather it’s sharing moments at the breakfast table at 5am before he would go to work, him sipping coffee and me hot chocolate. A trip into Tim Horton’s or even just seeing him with coffee cup is enough to conjure the memory. Meanwhile, the Canada’s Wonderland parking lot always makes me think of my birth father because I once cried in his car in that parking lot because of a cancelled trip to the theme park.
But with my grandmother it’s just dogs, and a silly story that I’ve heard time and time again. I’ve heard it so many times that it’s become one of my dearest memories of her, even if I wasn’t actually part of it.
During my grandmother’s battle with cancer my mother went to her hospital room to hear a rather detailed and vibrant story about the dogs who had been in the room a while before. She adamantly described a large poodle that had got up on her bed with her. I imagine it was a ray of sunshine in that rather grey cloud filled room of chemotherapy.
Now, even I’ll admit that the story sounded quite delusional, as amusing as it was. The whole family was convinced that perhaps the hospital had gone a little overboard with her medications that day and that she’d simply hallucinated the whole thing.
That is, until the next week when they saw the St. John’s Ambulance dogs in the building.
At the time I don’t think therapy dogs were quite as well known or talked about. A dog wasn’t something you immediately pictured in a hospital unless it was for someone with blindness or vision loss. Now, emotional support dogs, therapy dogs, and trauma dogs seem to be around every corner. I had the pleasure of meeting many St. John’s Ambulance dogs myself while at university because they were brought in during exam time for the school’s wellness week. But at the time the idea of a giant poodle visiting a very ill woman didn’t make much sense.
But my grandmother had in fact had a lovely little visit with some dogs who had brightened her day, even if the whole family had thought she was completely loony at the time.
The story always brings a smile to my face (and sometimes a few tears to my eyes). I will admit that I couldn’t tell you every little fact about my grandmother if I tried. There are others who remember her mannerisms better than I do and who could probably pick her voice out on a recording much quicker than I could. But I try to remember as much as I can from those eleven years I had with her. I remember that she was funny, I remember that she was kind, and I remember that she never failed to make me feel loved.
You may be wondering why I’ve decided to share this story with you. Perhaps it seems too personal to put on the open web but there is a reason for it. You see, tomorrow is my birthday and it’s also the anniversary of her death. A tragic coincidence, I know. Through the years it’s been hard to celebrate and to really appreciate the day when it took so much from my family. It took the glue that had always kept us together. But over time I’ve learned to honour her memory more and grieve her less. This year, I have a particular way I’d like to do just that.
You see I remembered the story about the dogs at the hospital once again because of another lovely canine who has recently come into my life. Dandy is the trauma dog at Victim Services Toronto. Dandy is mostly used to comfort young victims of sudden crime and tragedy, and has begun comforting victims before court appearances. She is there to provide unconditional support and comfort to individuals during the most difficult of times. Just like the St. John’s Ambulance dogs were there for my grandmother, Dandy is there for many during their struggle.
This wonderful trauma dog has become a light in my life, a little reminder of my grandmother, and also a source of comfort. Even just to see her in the office is enough to make a tough day a bit easier.
Coincidently, there is a third party fundraiser for Dandy that is just about to wrap up on Friday. Toronto Police Superintendent Heinz Kuck raises money for Victim Services Toronto every year with wonderful campaigns and this year he completed a 3 day climb of 3 mountain peaks for The Climb campaign with 100% of the proceeds going to Dandy and the work she does.
So instead of gifts this year (although a generous number of early birds have already given me some) I am asking for donations for this wonderful cause. Every dollar counts. Every dollar brings another person a bit of light in a dark time. I’ve made my own donation just now in loving memory of my grandmother, Theresa Miller. Or Terry, as most knew her, though to me she will always be just grammie.
To donate: https://www.crowdrise.com/the-climb2
To learn more about The Climb and Dandy: http://victimservicestoronto.com/events/the-climb-2/
Lastly, I just want to say that fourteen years has not made a difference: I still miss you every day, and I love you more than you could ever know. My only hope is that I’ve made you proud.