It started when I noticed him shaking his head and not responding to my voice. I realized he was losing his hearing. And then the walks became harder and I started noticing he was stiff; slow to stand up and quieter in his ways. He was getting old and his time was becoming precious and limited. This amazing dog that was my first dog I got on my own, that had been with me through such a transitional time of my life, that had guided my life, inspired dogma and had taught me so much. I remember the last turn back to the parking lot from one of his favourite walks at Fish Creek. He kept stopping and his leg was dragging. I walked back to the truck slowly with him, tears rolling down my cheeks and began thinking about how this would be his last walk at this spot. I cried because I worried about his pain. I cried because I did not want to think about this next life stage with him. I cried because I wanted him to be with me longer and could not think about walks there without him. I cried because I was not ready and wanted to do more with him. And then I realized that I could do more. I have created a bucket list for myself as I believe that life truly is too short. I have some lifelong goals and then do a yearly bucket list on New Year’s Eve instead of resolutions. I do it so that I make sure to experience life and get out and enjoy it. So, why not do this same thing for Guinniss?
My partner, Kris, and I immediately fell in love with this idea and how we could make sure each day mattered. We developed a list that outlined a variety of activities, items and places that we knew Guinniss had to experience or ones that we wanted him to experience more of. Our goal was to ensure that we didn’t let time fly by as quickly as it does. We all know what this is like; you get caught up in your day to day activities and forget about what really matters. We did not want to forget and we wanted to ensure the focus was Guinniss.
What an amazing journey it has been. I feel like I have had some of my greatest moments with Guinniss during his bucket list adventures. It has deepened my appreciation for him and words cannot express how it feels to see his joy during these times. He’s been so happy and I feel like he knows we are doing all of this for him and that he is grateful. From the simple times of watching his eyes light up as we prepare him a steak, to documenting some of his items in a photo shoot with Brindleberry Custom Pet Photography, to my favourite time of watching him run down the beach with tears in my eyes from the love that swelled up in my heart.
It has been hard at times. I found it very emotional and hard to leave our beach vacation in Tofino, knowing that this was likely the last time I would see his paw prints in the sand. We have been going through this list for the past year and a half and officially completed it this past weekend at Guinniss’s 13th birthday party. It was an emotional day on a few levels and felt kind of bittersweet to check off his last two items (we had a meet n greet at dogma, got him out again for a steak dinner in the mountains and tracked down some cows). But he is 13 years old and what a privilege to have had him by my side for this long.
What an honour it is to have these animals in our lives and how small of a gesture it is to ensure they get to enjoy their lives to the fullest. It reminds me of this quote, “He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.” ~Anonymous
Creating Guinniss’s bucket list taught me that we must do more for our dogs at all times. A bucket list shouldn’t happen just when they are old, but should be an ongoing part of their lives. They are stuck with whatever we provide them. And a daily walk around the neighbourhood or to a dog park is not enough. Get them out. Let them meet new people. Take them out into nature. Give them time to watch wildlife. Bring them along on your vacations. Take time to just rest beside them and feel them breathe. And for goodness sakes, let them taste some different foods outside of their meals or just the same old treats.
We have begun this with our three other dogs now and know it will grow into some exciting adventures. I initially started the bucket list to honour Guinniss, but it has grown to so much more. In a short time it has touched many lives, inspired other bucket lists and helped encourage others to focus on spending quality time with their pets. Life is too short, but our dogs are here just a small fraction of that time. The quality of their lives depends entirely on us. They come into our lives, support us with everything we do and provide the purest form of unconditional love. A bucket list is just a small way to return some of that love to them. Try it. You won’t regret it and I know you will deepen your relationship because of it.
Guinniss’s Bucket List:
Thank you Guinniss, for all that you have done. I am ready for the next phase and will value each minute with you. They may be quieter times now, but I know we both feel at peace <3. We will enjoy this final stage together, a we will do whatever we can to keep you happy and comfortable.