“What we have once enjoyed, we can never lose. All that we love deeply becomes a part of us.” – Helen Keller
2003 – 2018
Dear OVC Pet Trust,
We first laid eyes on Dalwood, our handsome 10-week old black Labrador Retriever, on October 21, 2003 in the Village of Dalwood, Devon, England, just days before we brought him home to Canada. Our fondest memories of our boy are the simple things.
Our countless days together in our gardens, Dalwood lounging in the sunshine, supervising us doing yard work. Our summer vacations at our home in Tobermory, swimming in Lake Huron and soaking in the cottage life on our front porch. The way he sprawled out on the floor or in his basket when he slept. Our walks together each morning – the best part of our day. Dalwood would have his nose to the ground, taking in the sights and sounds of our adventure. He was energetic, spirited and regularly made us break out in spontaneous laughter. Our times together in the show ring, his ears and eyes attentive to what was expected of him.
He gave back to us every day. He was our everything. We were there for him; he was there for us. It was a true partnership. A lot of people have that with their dogs and our relationship with Dalwood was no different: we were blessed to share meaningful and unconditional companionship with our beloved best friend.
When he was three years old, Dalwood was diagnosed with PRA, or progressive retinal atrophy, a condition that causes degeneration of the retina and progressive vision loss in dogs. He started to go blind, first with night blindness at age six and by 10 years, he was completely blind. Together, we made adjustments – physically and emotionally – to help him continue life as normal as possible. In the last year of his life he went deaf. Dalwood shared his challenges with us and we accepted them whole-heartedly. We spent all of his life loving him as best as we knew how, if only to give him an ounce of the love he gave us back in return.
July 2019 marked one year since Dalwood’s passing. We still have his bowl, his leash and his bed in their usual spot in our home. Grief can last for a very long time. We know it is a process. But, we have found ways to remember and memorialize our dog – ways to pay tribute to him, but also to help us in our grieving. We planted a Celebration Tree. We had a local artist create a visual portrayal of his life. We put our photo collection on a digital frame, randomly playing and reflecting on our favourite memories. We wrote an obituary to honour his life and we journalized and made a scrapbook of our most cherished remembrances. We returned to England on a pilgrimage this spring to the villages where he was born and where his father lived. We honour him and we pay tribute to his life by way of our donations to OVC Pet Trust: we are keeping his memory alive and helping other pets at the same time. And the Dalwood Memorial Scholarship has been created for a deserving fourth-year OVC student.
Dalwood made our life whole and it was a joy to share our lives with him. He will forever be alive in the deepest part of our hearts.
“We can hold you no longer, but will love you forever.”
Donna Ross & Peter Szmidt
Gifts made in honour or in memory of a beloved pet to OVC Pet Trust support advancements in companion animal health at the Ontario Veterinary College. Thank you to everyone who chooses to give back to improving and advancing companion animal health and well-being in this meaningful way. Make a gift today.
Access is available to pet loss support resources on our website.
Read more in the fall / winter issue of Best Friends Magazine.