Relish, You Took a Piece of My Heart With You

by Jeff
(Cotacachi, Ecuador)

Relish in the front yard

Relish in the front yard

It was a year ago today that Relish died, and the tears are already blurring my vision as I type this.

I met Relish one sunny afternoon on a beach on Prince Edward Island, Canada. It was my first visit to the beach in more than a month. As I sat there enjoying the heat and the sound of the surf, this beautiful black dog came over to check me out.

Almost immediately, I wanted to take her home with me. But she had a collar on, which meant that she belonged to someone. I let her wander off. A minute later, as some people entered the beach from between the dunes, we struck up a conversation. I told them that it was a good thing the dog had a collar, because I had considered taking her home. The woman asked me if I was serious. I said that I was.

She told me that the owners were looking for a new home for the dog. A month later, after an "interview" over dinner one night, Relish was mine. It took a while for her to get used to being with me, and me with her.

We spent another two years on Prince Edward Island, taking long walks twice a day. I'll never forget the walk where she decided to take a tree branch about 20 feet long home with her. She dragged it with her teeth for at least a half mile before she finally gave up.

She was known to everyone who drove by our house as the dog who loved to lay in the snow for hours at a time. Her cold belly must have moderated the heat from the sun on her back.

We went to the beach as often as we could, as she so loved the water. I'm sure it was the Labrador in her that made her wade out, even when the water was freezing cold early in spring and late into autumn.

In 2007, we headed west for a year before moving to Ecuador. Inadvertently, she saved me from walking into the path of a couple of grizzly bear youngsters. She stopped in her tracks, tail dead still. I knew something was wrong, and when I looked up ahead, I saw what it was. The bears were less than 100 feet from us. I yanked Relish back in the direction of home, looking over my should the entire way.

We left for Ecuador on October 1, 2008. I don't think she ever got used to it here. She was the gentlest soul I've ever known. She loved people, and enjoyed meeting anyone.

But in Ecuador, they don't treat dogs the way they're treated in North America. Especially large black dogs. People used to cross to the other side of the street when they saw her walking down the sidewalk by my side.

She loved me unconditionally. And she loved her rubber duck just as much. She had her duck from puppyhood, and she has it still. I buried it with her in the park across the street from our house in Cuenca.

Relish died at the vet clinic, less than an hour before I arrived to take her home. The vet said she started coughing up blood and there was nothing that he could do to stop it. So he put her out of her misery. Less than an hour later, mine began.

I'm embarrassed to say that I have almost no photos of Relish. To honour my sweet Relish, I photographed Rubber Duck on the night that my girl died. That's one of the photos of Ducky up at the top of the page.

Relish, thank you for coming to the beach that day in 2005. We had almost 8 years together, and I cherish every day. At least I can laugh now about the day after our first Christmas in Ecuador, when you came home green after rolling in cow manure. And the time when you rolled in the skunk carcass in the backyard on PEI.

You brightened up my life for months and months and months. You were definitely my better half.

I've had to make do without you for a year now. No more walks. No more standing in the door to my office, waiting for me to take you for a walk. No more lifting my arm off the keyboard with your snout whenever your food bowl was empty. And no more looking at me with those beautiful eyes.....

I'm so sorry that I wasn't there to hold you and say goodbye. Perhaps one day soon I'll forgive myself for being late to pick you up. If I'd been on time, I would have been there for you when you needed me most.

I loved you at first sight, Relish, and always will love you!


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