We don’t have kids, we have dogs. But if ever there was a dog who felt like a part of me from the moment I met him, it was Spike.

Spike came to us as a rescue. I found him online through a rescue group called Starting Over Airedale Rescue (S.O.A.R.) in the US. When we saw his listing we knew immediately that he was our dog. He was listed as a 3-year old who had been kept on a 3-foot chain in someone’s back yard his entire life. We applied for him, but were saddened to learn that someone closer was chosen to adopt him. Two days later, however, we received a call that Spike had been returned and if we still wanted him, he was ours. There was no hesitation. I packed a bag and I was in the car headed to Niagara Falls to meet a transporter from the US. It was my first long drive by myself, and my first time driving in bigger cities like Toronto and Montreal. I was terrified, but nothing was keeping me from getting my boy.

The second that Spike and I met in that Niagara parking lot we both fell in love. He hopped in my car willingly and I started the long drive back home. About 5 seconds later he barfed.

Once the car was cleaned up and Spike had a drink of water we got back on the road. Thankfully, with an empty stomach, he was fine once we hit the highway. We drove and drove and drove until 2:30 the next morning when I finally reached the motel I’d booked for the night near the Ontario / Quebec border. I brought Spike in and it was immediately apparent he didn’t know what to do with himself inside. He walked up to the big floor to ceiling mirror and stared. I had a short soak in the tub and he stood next to me the whole time, seemingly baffled. When I crawled in bed I tried to coax him up for cuddles. He had no clue what to do. Finally, when he did get up on the bed with much trepidation he snuggled in hard next to me. We only slept for a couple of hours but it was the best night.

The following day Spike and I drove the rest of the way home, only stopping for pee breaks and fast food. He didn’t make a peep the whole time, just sat on his bed and looked at the world going by. I’ve never had such a great canine travel companion in the car.

We rolled into our driveway at 1 in the morning and Troy brought Milo out to meet us. Milo can be dog reactive, but it was clear that they were going to be buddies right away. Relieved. we all crashed hard that night, Spike on our bed snuggled up tight once again.

Spike slept with me every night for the next 8 years. He had to be touching me at all times when we were in bed, but usually he slept with his butt in my face, watching the door. I assumed it was a guarding behaviour. During the first couple of years Troy had to be careful if he got up during the night. Spike would try to protect me when he came back to get in bed. Once, Spike actually bit him. Every morning when I stirred, Spike would spin around and plunk his 70 lb body onto my chest, pinning me to the bed. He was not a morning dog, and clearly he wanted me to stay and snuggle all day too.

Spike accompanied us on many adventures… hiking, mountain biking, snowshoeing, camping. He was game for anything as long as he was with his people. He was friendly to a fault, especially if he suspected someone had treats in their pocket. Although he was extremely discriminating when it came to dog food, treats of any sort could motivate him to amazing heights. He was smarter than any dog I’ve ever known, learning to “high five” and “roll over” in just minutes when a treat came into play.

Eventually Spike mellowed out. During his first day with us he slipped his collar and killed a chicken, ripping its guts out in one smooth motion. I told him that was bad and he never touched one again. He wanted nothing more than to please us. He was mouthy at first (not unusual for Airedales) but it didn’t take long to convince him that kisses warranted much more praise than biting. He was energetic and playful, but glued to me at all times. He never wanted me out of his sight.

About a year ago Spike stopped sleeping on the bed at night in the summer. He could get up and down no problem, but clearly he found it too warm. He chose, instead, to sprawl in front of the air conditioner on the hard cold floor. Several months ago he developed breathing issues which our vet treated quite successfully with drugs. Then his eyesight started to fail, as did his hearing. He slowed down and started showing signs of weakness in his hind end. We medicated his conditions for as long as we could, but on Friday morning when I found him lying on the floor gasping and refusing to get up I knew I had to take him to the vet. I carried him to the car and Milo followed us out, shaking. He knew.

The vet confirmed that Spike was in respiratory distress. She suspected he had a tumor in his lungs that had ruptured. The choice was to medicate him and keep him comfortable until his inevitable passing, or to euthanize him. It wasn’t much of a choice. I cried hard into Spike’s fur and held him tight as the vet administered the drugs, and when his breathing stopped I felt like my world had ended. There are no words that can describe the feeling of losing a best friend like that.

Spike will always be my “heart” dog. He and I were so closely bonded on every level. He was my dog and I was his person, that was clear. He wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect for me.

We buried Spike in our yard and I’ve decided to plant a gooseberry bush on his grave. Something that’s both spiky and full of goodness seems like a perfect tribute to my doggie. There will never be another Spike and I’m so grateful that he shared my life for 9 years. He was definitely the best boy.

“Dogs have a way of finding the people who need them and filling an emptiness we didn’t ever know we had.” – Thom Jones, author of The Pugilist at Rest

6 thoughts on “Spike

  1. Thanks for sharing about such a beautiful friendship! What a glorious grief it is to love and be loved.

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