73: That Dog

73: That Dog

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dog Did What?

That Dog

We derive immeasurable good, uncounted pleasures, enormous security, and many critical lessons about life by owning dogs.

~Roger Caras

You know that TV commercial that starts with heart-wrenching images of abused and abandoned dogs and cats while Sarah McLachlan sings “Angel,” then Sarah herself appears, petting a big white dog, and asks for donations to help the animals? Well, that was my dog.

When my husband first saw Dylan in the animal shelter in Chilliwack, British Columbia (a few years before the video), we weren’t even looking to get a dog. My husband was only there for an unrelated meeting with the shelter manager. But when he met Dylan through the bars of the kennel, they had an immediate connection. I was at home with our four-year-old daughter when Craig called to ask, “What would you say if I came home with a dog?” He had other meetings to go to in the area, but would stop by the shelter again before returning to Vancouver and would make the decision then.

Danielle and I waited, not knowing whether Craig would arrive home alone or with a dog. Of course, when he came through the door, Dylan was with him. We loved Dylan instantly. But he was also a handful. A Lab mix, at four and a half months old, he was already tall and gangly. And while he’d been on his best behaviour when my husband took him for a walk by the shelter, he now jumped and pulled and chewed with joyful exuberance. He also was not house-trained.

At that time, I was a stay-at-home mom and my husband worked in a building that did not allow pets, so Dylan stayed home with Danielle and me. I have fibromyalgia (similar to chronic fatigue syndrome) and found the combination of looking after a young daughter and a young dog exhausting.

But Dylan was smart, confident and good-natured. In very little time, he caught on to the house rules (happily bending a few of them if we let him) and became an indispensable part of our family. He grew up alongside our daughter. Sometimes they even had the same conflicts and rivalries that human siblings have (though usually inadvertent on Dylan’s part). It was after one of the times he had knocked over a Lego set-up or chewed one of her doll’s feet that Danielle remarked, “Sometimes it’s hard being the sister of a dog.” At other times, Danielle was happy to run around the yard with Dylan, or curl up next to him on the living room floor, her head resting on his soft, thick fur.

As much as my daughter and I loved Dylan, however, he was my husband’s dog. A few years after we got Dylan, I broke my hip in a skiing mishap. By then, my husband’s office had moved to a building that allowed animals. So while I was recovering, Craig took Dylan to work with him each day. Dylan soon became a fixture at the office. He had become much more laidback with age and was content to hang out most of the day on his bed near Craig’s desk, reminding Craig to take a break for lunch and not work too late. Every once in a while, he got up to walk around the office, stopping to say hello and beg for a pet or a treat from everyone else who worked there. Long after my hip had recovered, Dylan continued to go to work with Craig.

Dylan was also a humane educator and meeting arbitrator. Craig took him into elementary school classes to meet with children and help teach them about animal care and safety around dogs. Dylan sat in on work meetings and negotiations, easing any tensions with his relaxed presence, and standing up to step in between people when any arguments arose (at home, he also broke up fights between our two cats).

When singer Sarah McLachlan volunteered to help the British Columbia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (BC SPCA) with an ad to call for donations to help animals, Dylan was ready to join her in front of the camera. All Craig had to do was ask Dylan to “sit” and “stay” while the lights shone and the cameras rolled. After a few takes, the director asked, “Can you stop him from panting?”

“Sorry,” said Craig. “The lights are too hot.” Dylan stopped panting only long enough to lick the make-up off one side of Sarah’s face. Luckily, she didn’t mind.

The commercial first aired in 2006 for the BC SPCA, then was later revised for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Since then, it has raised over two million dollars for the BC SPCA and over thirty million dollars for the ASPCA, and has received over a million views on YouTube. It even made everyone cry on an episode of the TV series Modern Family.

People often asked if the big white dog in the video was available for adoption. We were happy to say that we’d adopted him, and that he was part of our family.

Dylan died of cancer at age twelve, almost three years ago now. We still miss him. It’s been a while since the video with Dylan and Sarah McLachlan aired regularly, but sometimes we still see it when we’re watching TV late at night. And there he is—our big wonderful dog, alive, panting, his tongue hanging out. As Sarah pets him, I remember the feel of his soft, thick fur under my own hand, and it’s almost as if Dylan is sending us a message that he remembers us too.

~Jacqueline Pearce

Editor’s note: Watch the British Columbia SPCA video featuring Dylan: http://youtu.be/9gspElv1yvc

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