In my early 30’s my life felt a bit loss, lacking significant meaning, mostly I craved taking care of something, being responsible for another creature. I started looking online at rescue dog organizations and I was blown away. I signed up with the Mississauga Humane Society to be a foster parent and in a week I got a call asking if I could pick up Simon at the side of the road by the airport that Saturday.
Simon was a husky/german shepherd/collie mix and 18 months of old of feral, mischievous, adorable craziness. He had been deemed unadoptable at the shelter in Grimsby and was on death row to be put down when a trainer with the Ministry of Correctional Services picked him out of a lineup and gave him a new chance at life: he spent 3 months working with young boys in juvenile detention. He lived with them, and they trained him in a back field. When he left, these hardened youth, broke down and bawled their eyes out.
I had no idea what to expect. I picked him up and they gave me a crate and a box of food. I had 2 cats and worked full time. He had never spent time on a leash. He jumped up on people, lunged with teeth bared at people of different races or those wearing hoodies, he chased bicycles and ripped the pant leg off a kid skateboarding by… we started walking before the sun rose so I could run him and tire him out under the dark of moon when nobody else was around. I came home straight from work every single night for that first year. We took obedience class where he was the star pupil and I realized his lack of listening had everything to do with my lack of authority, my inability to communicate effectively or to tell him what I needed from him.
I ended up taking stress leave from work I was so exhausted and during this time I decided to move up to Georgian Bay with Simon. We had a year spending every minute together walking in the mountains, and in 15 feet of snow. It was our bonding year so that when we returned to Toronto and I found a place on the ravine, he was successfully a totally off leash dog and responsive to every command.
Simon is 8 now and we live by the lakefront in Roncesvalles where we walk the waters edge to the Humber River and then up around the whole of High Park and then back home again, usually twice a day. Our walks are our daily highlights. Everyone knows Simon in the neighbourhood. His feisty personality is infectious as is his obvious happiness with life.
I have struggled with anxiety/depression and addiction issues my whole life. Simon gives me more than just a sense of purpose, he grounds me, stabilizes the uncertainty of life, is my guardian angel in the form of a smiling, tail thumping, constant shadow. Our times together — endless walks through the humber river, the ravines across the city, cherry beach, up north, the adirondacks… have been my most satisfying, where I feel like I belong: in nature with my dog.