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JOHN DeMONT: Life lessons from my dog


I want you to know, right off the bat, that I have a spouse, children, and lots of people in my life. Nevertheless, like the others in my immediate clan, I have been spending a lot of time lately sweating about the health of the family pet.

The vet recently found some lumps and bumps on our hound’s paws, jaw, and eyelid, which worried all of us even if, at 43 kilograms, he is the size of a small human.

On the weekend, all the samples came back clean, meaning our 12-year-old golden doodle will live to sniff, sleep, and bark to go in and out, where he will decorate the snow with his seemingly endless supply of urine, for some time to come.

This would be great news at any moment in time, since our attachment to Auggie — named after the old cartoon character, not because we are lazy people and just dropped the D from doggy — is deep.

Yet, this news seemed particularly so in February of 2021, when any victory, no matter how small, is a thing to cherished.

We all felt for Auggie as he donned the cone of shame, meant to prevent him from licking his wounds, which seemed to puncture his canine self-esteem in the same way that an over-zealous shearing left him forlornly curled up on his dog bed.

For the past two weeks, as the stitches healed, his usual tail-wagging, directionless, ADD-informed rambling along beaches and through woods was limited to roads and sidewalks that were so familiar that he seemed to barely notice.


John Demont relaxes with his dog, Auggie, in his Halifax home on Monday. - Tim Krochak
John Demont relaxes with his dog, Auggie, in his Halifax home on Monday. - Tim Krochak

When the cone finally came off, one of his first acts was to find an untouched sheet of snow, hurl himself back-first into it and then to pump his legs as if dogpaddling while his eyes crazily rolled back into his head.

It was not, in the least, a graceful, elegant sight, but the transcendent animal joy was great to see.

We can all learn from that ability to take carpe diem pleasure in the here-and-now, just as we can learn from the way everything seems fresh and new to a dog, particularly one with a nose the size of a lion’s, which must make every little smell seem overpowering, and the big stuff almost too much to bear.

When Auggie is at his energetic best, his head is up in perpetual alert. Despite his age, he canters like a Royal Lippizaner Stallion. On days like that, a walk can seem to take forever as he bounces from tree to dirt pile, to electrical pole, to snowbank, stopping every few feet to claim his territory.

He is crankier now, more likely to growl at some other canine than in his younger years, but when he sees some unusual life form, he’s a puppy again who simply must give chase.

I forever admire his perseverance, for in all the years of pursuit he has only caught one squirrel, afterwards running back and forth wildly for a few minutes, until his jaws could be pried apart to release his still-living prey.

Yet he is completely unfazed by this fact when he glimpses another one.

At moments like that, the sway in his back seems to disappear and his shoulders, I swear, thicken. When he finally cannot contain himself any longer, Auggie, there is no other word for it, springs towards his target with enough power that the person at the end of the leash had better brace themselves, or risk being pulled face-first across the ground.

When that happens, you know for certain you are in the company of a lower life form. But who cares?

It is all very nice to have a 10-year-career plan, and an investment portfolio that ensures we aren’t eating dog food at the end of our days, but when we are honest with ourselves, we realize that we live moment-by-moment, and that enough of these moments, strung together, is what we really need.

We can forget that amid a lockdown, when getting the vaccine is our obsession. In which case, I would suggest taking a dog for a walk, and experiencing a little of the world their way.

Then, even during the pandemic, it becomes a big, wide-open place, where everything is worthy of notice and, even little things, worth full-blooded pursuit.

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