July 19, 2005
My aunt's dog passed away yesterday. Poppy was 9.

Anyone who has an animal living with them knows how close to family members they are. Poppy was even a little more than that.

Just a couple days before Christmas in 1995, my aunt lost her husband to cancer. It was pretty sudden, given that we all thought the tumours were shrinking. One night he got up to go to bed and collapsed. He died the following day of a blood clot and it was found the tumour in his esophagus was roughly 4 lbs. For some reason, it had never shown up on any of the tests he had gone through.

My aunt was devastated. They'd been married 47 years and she was lost.

They had one child, my cousin Lani but she lived out of town and only came into visit maybe twice a year. My Aunt was lonely and grief-stricken.

In 1996, we banded together and got my Aunt a beautiful purebred Golden Retriever puppy. I remember the night she arrived from her long trip down to the Coast. She had been born on a large farm in the Interior and had never seen carpet or stairs. She was terrified. That little puppy looked up at us with such fear as we coaxed her in the door. The breeder was a Danish lady and when she talked about the puppy, it came out 'Poppy'. Her name was born.

My Aunt adored that dog. Poppy was the reason she would get out of bed in the morning. Before she had her, she was seriously depressed and with her daughter so far away, she felt very alone.

Unfortunately, in the summer of 1997, it got a little worse. My cousin passed away very suddenly at the age of 48. It was a terrible death. While she took 9 days to actually pass, she had a stroke and suffered badly before she finally was at peace. Her death has and always will haunt me and it rarely leaves my consciousness.

For my Aunt, it was tenfold. She had lost her husband, and now her only child. All she had was Poppy. Of course, we visited, we called. But she has never really recovered. Most of the family now has just let her be...calling her 'Crazy Aunt J'. There are serious cracks in her soul. She drinks a little too much. She stares at the walls and at times becomes very morose.

But Poppy has kept her at least someone even. She takes her for walks every day and it's what keeps her going. She has mentioned more than once that she didn't want to be here if Poppy wasn't.

About a month ago, Poppy took a seizure. It lasted about 2 minutes. A long time when you're standing helpless beside her. When she came out of it, she was confused and a little aggressive. My Aunt tried to go near her, but she bared her teeth. It surprised us all, as Poppy had never shown anything but the even-tempered Golden Retriever personality that makes them so popular. The vet came but there were no obvious signs of distress. Blood tests were negative and it seemed like it must be a one-off. Maybe she choked on her food?

For the past month, she has been fine and back to her old self. Then the night before last, she took another seizure. And again. Through the night, she had about 7 and by morning, she was unable to move at all. My Aunt called the vet, who came straight away to the house and he diagnosed a severe stroke. There was nothing that could be done. He put her to rest, right there, with my aunt soothing and comforting her the best she could.

We are all devastated, and extremely concerned for my Aunt. I tried to talk to her last night, but she was incoherent. I don't know what I can do. Flowers seem so trite.

I don't know what will happen now. My Aunt has already had a stroke herself, last November. She's not young. Getting another pet was something she distinctly said she would never do. She didn't want to burden me with another animal if it outlived her, but frankly, I have no problem with that.

Of course, it's too early to think that way. I am just very sad this morning. I will miss Poppy very much. She was just so much more than a dog, she was the lifeline for my Aunt.

Vancouver, British Columbia
A patriotic Canadian full of visions of a better Canada, random thoughts and a lot of hot air. Who am I? A struggling writer and photographer, who looks forward to a better Canada. I read. A lot. I learn. A lot. I push myself. A lot. The world is a small place, and getting smaller every day. I'm proud to have friends in every corner of the earth, and abide by the old adage that there are no strangers, only friends we haven't met yet.

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