I had a guardian angel watching over me. When I felt little things, like a rush of air running away from me, as a result of ARDS (Acute/Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome), all I needed was a soulful look from the depth of Blues' brown eyes, a simple twitch of his nose, and a subtle tilt of his head, to let me know, that everything was going to be okay.
On June 11, 1993, I was admitted to a community hospital, for what had been described to me as routine surgery. Unfortunately, the word "routine" quickly lost its literal meaning, as I developed a number of complications. My weekend in the hospital, turned into nearly two months, and my life as a secondary school vice principal, was tucked away in my "memory file." It was a brand new world, a world that I had to learn to participate in, one step at a time.
There was daily physiotherapy and neuropsychological assessments, followed by "skills for daily living" sessions. I had once headed a high school special education department and run workshops across the province, and now here I was, trying to learn the very same things that I had taught my students.
I remember the day I had to relinquish my drivers license. I still keep my photo card in my wallet. I remember when my walker was no longer a rental, but was all mine, an aide I never dreamed I would ever need, but now provides me with the opportunity to walk unaided, when on weekly visits to the Hamilton Market, to a mall, or even to a dog show. I remember the day I got my four-wheel scooter. It provided me with a feeling of independence that at times, I thought I had lost forever, but the best was yet to come.
On April 21, 1995, we brought a golden bundle of fluff into our home and hearts. We are all familiar with the saying, as one door closes, another opens. Blues allowed me to step over the first threshold, and, since that day, we opened many doors together. Blues became a Canadian Champion, a Canine Good Citizen (certified by the Human/Animal Bond Association of Canada, and he also passed all of the requirements to become a St. John Ambulance Therapy Dog. I have no doubt in my mind, that Blues was a healer. On so many occasions, I saw him weave his magic with people young and old, sick and well. He even became a "Rent A Dog", accompanying a wonderful neighbour on regular walks along the waterfront trail. Blues and I also enjoyed making informal outdoor visits to a nearby seniors residence. Blues became a fixture in Bronte, often being referred to as Bronte Blues. He had a tail wag and a smile for everyone. He was a truly remarkable dog.
Each of us has been touched by cancer in one way or another . . . a family member, a friend, a colleague, a pet. We can try to run and hide, but inevitably, its evil grin will cross the threshold of our homes. It crossed ours in the summer of 2000, and our lives have never been the same. On March 27th, 2001, our beautiful Blues lost his battle with lymphoma. He was the sun and moon and stars to us. He was our Smiling Blue Skies. He was everyone's Blues Man. In Blues' memory, a special cancer fund was set up through the University of Guelph's Ontario Veterinary College Pet Trust Fund.
Since 2001, The Smiling Blue Skies ® Cancer Fund has raised over $1 million, to support the precious pets and people in our lives. Thanks to you, we are reaching beyond the bluest skies and brightest stars, to take a bite out of cancer!
Smiling Blue Skies is the only two time recipient of the Golden Retriever Club of Canada's Silmaril Kennel Trophy for the Human/Animal Bond. We are also the proud recipient of the 2009 Golden Retriever Club of British Columbia Christopher Burton Memorial Trophy. Suzi is also a member of the the 2010/2011 Dean's Legacy Council, OVC Pet Trust, University of Guelph, and the Honouree of OVC Pet Trust's Inaugural Gala, "A Walk in the Park," for her work supporting cancer research and aiding in the building of Canada's Institute for Comparative Cancer Investigation.