“It’s times like these you learn to love again
It’s times like these time and time again”
— Foo Fighters

It began on July 5, 2010. Three days prior I had moved to my new parishes in the Watson, SK area. My life was in boxes; I had no fenced yard. And this is when I received a text that a local breeder had one Soft-coated Wheaten Terrier puppy left from a litter, asking if I would like to go and look at the puppy. So, off I went.

This was Chloe: the source of some of my absolutely favourite moments and one of my most difficult goodbyes.

Pet owners know this well. We give our hearts to these little (or sometimes not-so-little) creatures, who reflect so much of the goodness of God and of this created world. They live in the moment, whatever that moment holds, showing loyalty and companionship in ways that cause us to marvel. As the phrase goes, “Lord, help me to be the person my dog thinks I am.” And we pet owners know that we will one day also say goodbye. As such, the Foo Fighters song has been coming to my mind: “It’s times like these you learn to love again.”

Since Chloe’s passing on Jan. 16, 2023, this has been for me a time of sadness, reflection, fond memories, and, I hope, learning. It all came very suddenly. She was getting to be an elderly dog, slowing down somewhat but always up for a walk or a treat or a Roughriders touchdown. But then she collapsed twice over the course of three days. Sadly, recovery was not in the cards: there was massive internal fluid buildup, especially in her lungs and around her heart, likely coming from an undetectable, slow-moving cancer that had suddenly hemorrhaged. There wasn’t much that could reasonably be done. And it was all over so very quickly.

It’s times like these…

First, I want to offer words of deep, heartfelt thanks. I am immensely grateful for the great care and compassion that both myself and Chloe received from the Lawson Heights Animal Hospital and the University of Saskatchewan Veterinary Medical Centre in Saskatoon, as well the excellent care she received over the years at the Humboldt Animal Hospital and Lakeview Animal Hospital. I also need to give a shout-out to the excellent kennels that I could, without fail, entrust with her care over the years when I had to be away: Rock ‘n J Ranch, Humboldt Animal Hospital, and Prairie Mountain Pet Resort.

I am immensely grateful for the outpouring of support. If it’s times like these you learn to love again, this is in no small part because of the love shown by others: by all of you. I have been blown away. I’ve received hundreds and hundreds of comments and messages, including from so many who I know have dealt with truly poignant, deep loss themselves in ways that I can scarcely begin to imagine. The fact that you all reached out with well wishes, prayers, cards, and even gifts is beyond what I could have ever imagined. God has been revealing a glimpse of his own love, mediated through you. Thank you.

And I am immensely grateful to God for the gift of this incredible, four-legged furry creature. She could be stubborn, attitude-filled, and sometimes not all that bright :). But in her loyalty and concern and gentleness and playfulness and affectionate nature she revealed to me and to many others glimpses of these aspects in the God who is the source of every good and perfect gift. And even though there has been left a Wheaten-sized hole in my heart, through the tears I can only offer the greatest thanksgiving and praise to the God whose love has exceeded all I can ask or imagine (Eph. 3.20).

And the fact that the very next Sunday after all of this happened, the second reading contained the one and only mention of the name “Chloe” in all of Scripture (1 Cor. 1.10-13, 17)… I’m just kind of blown away. God’s hand has been in this, slowly teaching my stubborn self that we — that I — am truly never alone.

So what now? The days do slowly get easier as they go by, as I know so many pet owners have also known and experienced — and every experience of this sort of grief is unique to every person. As such, I haven’t been all that active on social media as of late but that was partly just so that I could absorb and process and take the time I need. (My studies have also started up again, so that takes a good amount of time and energy!) And I suppose the writing of these words, which I’ve been pondering for weeks, is a part of the journey. So if you’re still here, thank you for reading.

And what of the future? One question I’ve been asked a number of times is whether I would get another dog. While Chloe is not replaceable, would I open up my heart in a new way once again to one of these glorious creatures? Would I even want to begin the slow, arduous process of raising (and housebreaking!) a puppy? Would I do this again?

The answer is… Yes.

I had initially been thinking of and looking for CKC-registered Wheaten breeders, but there are none anywhere near here who have plans for puppies any time soon. But the more I considered it, the more I realized that perhaps I needed to go in a different direction anyway. I wouldn’t want to try to imprint Chloe onto a new dog; a new dog would need to be treated on his/her own merits and quirks and all of those things that cause us dog-owners to love these creatures.

So, I have a deposit down for a Bernedoodle from a local breeder. My brother and sister-in-law have one from the same breeder. That dog has such a beautiful disposition: calm and affectionate while also loving to have fun, and I think this will be a very good fit for me right now. The litter to be born is of the “F1b” variety — a Bernedoodle mixed with a miniature poodle, which should result in a low-to-non-shedding animal in the 30-40 pound range. And both parents are beautiful, fun-loving dogs on their own, while the breeder obviously deeply cares for their animals. This litter is due to be born in late March/early April, and the puppies should be ready just in time for my return back from the spring session studies in Ottawa in early June.

(Plus, housebreaking when there is no snow on the ground is by far the easier option!)

So, it’s times like these you learn to love again. It’s times like these, time and time again. I thank you all very much for all of your support in these past weeks. You are all in my prayers. God bless you!

Here are some of my favourite videos and photos.