This is a story about community. A tale of loss, of friendship and the dogs that brought them together.
Meet Max a 7 year old American Cocker Spaniel, who was rescued by The Findlays and Sophie a 10 year old Maltese-Bichon who is his very best friend.
One would have no trouble knowing that Dr. Findlay and his wife the lovely Rita are dog people. As I made my way down the long steep driveway to their home, which is nestled in beautifully along the Gorge Waterfront, I was asked by their friendly doormat to wipe my paws. I entered their home through a bright red door that was still trimmed by a row of multi-coloured Christmas lights- which made the kid in me very happy. On the wall just inside was a special hook with an array of brightly coloured leashes and collars and I could see toys scattered around - happy dogs live here. I wasn't certain what to expect when meeting the pups as Rita had explained that Sophie was unsure of new people, but as I lowered myself to the floor to say hello I took to her instantly. Her sweet little face and energetic personality won me over. I have never kept company with either breed before but from the approving noises from Tim and Rita when Max turned his back to me and sat down at my knees- I got the feeling I passed the test.
Tim, Rita and their dog Sparky had just moved into an apartment complex in Vancouver almost a decade ago when they met sweet Sophie. They had left their door open and she thought she would welcome them to the neighbourhood by stopping in. Sophie belonged to their neighbour Trish- she and her sister Diane both lived in separate units in the building and they all quickly became friends. "The closeness in the building is quite special actually" Rita writes. "We did lots of things together." Sparky was 17 years old at that time and was heroically fighting both cancer and heart disease. Sadly the little Spaniel passed away 6 months later. After grieving their loss for a few months The Findlays decided they were ready to welcome a new dog into their world. They knew they wanted to stay with the same joyful, trusting breed and had been in contact with a fantastic group here in Victoria called Angels Under Our Wings Cocker Spaniel Rescue. (You can find them on Facebook under the same name). It was Lisa at the rescue group that suggested Max and sent some photos to the couple. They fell for him right away and took the ferry over to bring him home.
Max wasn't too sure about his new home right away. He was a scared puppy and didn't want to leave the safety and comfort of his new bed. Tim and Rita tried coercing him with treats, toys and snuggles but nothing was working until they remembered Sophie... "I ran downstairs and asked Trish if I could borrow Sophie and everyone came up." and it worked "by the time Sophie was through the door, Max was half-way down the hall! Sophie didn't like puppies but they took to each other right away" Rita says. Over the next 4 years a community was formed in this apartment complex. Max and Sophie couldn't stand to be apart and would mope without one another. When Trish and Diane would go to their family cabin Max would join them. When Tim and Rita took vacations, Sophie came too.
In 2015 Tim and Rita's neighbour, Sophie's human, Trish succumbed to the illness she had been fighting. Trish's sister Diane lovingly took Sophie in. They still live in the apartment complex together. It was later that same year that Tim and Rita had the most bonding experience they have shared to date with Max. I love hearing these stories as I know from my own experience that there is always a moment with a pet where one of you saves the other, your eyes meet and your bond deepens. It's in that moment that your souls are etched into each other forever. In November 2015 Max went missing. His dog walker thought he lost him but Max had been playing in the water and hadn't heard the calls to come back. He trekked all over North Vancouver looking for his pack. Finally, thanks to a tip on social media they were able to track him to where he had been spotted. "...he slinked out of the bushes wiggling his little bum ~ Tim was never happier to see him! I think we were more traumatised than he was!" "He still goes on dog walks but now he is lowjacked with his very own GPS!"
At the end of 2016 The Findlays purchased their stunning home here in Victoria, which personally makes me feel like I'm in New England when I'm looking at the view from their living room. The Gorge Waterway flows right past their expansive backyard- which is perfect for Max and Sophie (when she visits) to play in. With work in order, they made the move leaving behind the neighbours and building they had come to love over the years.
As always I try to win my way to the hearts of dogs with treats. Today, both Max and Sophie politely and gently took my offerings and then laid them on the floor without a second thought. As we toured their home, I discovered that Rita is a busy girl and aside from her job outside the home she also has a side project creating healthy all-natural dog treats. Now it made sense! These two didn't need store bought cookies- they had the mother load right under their sniffers! A visit to the kitchen was in order and with a tiny ray of sunshine just starting to poke in through the patio door our timing couldn't have been better.
These all natural snacks were inspired by Sparky. With all of his medicines causing dietary issues Rita was motivated to create a treat that would satisfy his temperamental tummy. Sparky Snacks come in 5 different flavours and are all baked with love in this very kitchen. www.sparkysnacks.ca They are definitely Max and Sophie approved.
Diane, Tim and Rita made an agreement that they would do their best to keep the pups close always and they have been keeping up with frequent visits. We hope Max and Sophie will be best friends forever. They seem to be a furry shoulder for each other through all the changes big and small and a reminder of the community and love of their shared family.