COLUMN: Rankin is lucky to have Tuxedo in its corner

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Hanging around and being a bit of a pest for an hour or two, while the three visiting animal health-care professionals from the Winnipeg-based Tuxedo Animal Hospital took care of business at Rankin Inlet’s annual veterinary pet clinic this past week, triggered some emotional memories for me.
These good folks have been coming to Rankin for the past 18 years and I’ve covered their visit in Kivalliq News for just about every trip.
My exposure to their level of professionalism and caring personalities led me to entrust the care of my own family pets to their capable hands pretty quickly.
This development, revolving around a gentle canine soul known as Princess, led to her and me owing Dr. Stavros Iacovides a great deal of gratitude.
And a little further down the road, she and I were destined to share her final moments of life – the last second of which are quite haunting – with one Dr. Pat Dorval.
To say Princess was a trooper who loved life would be an understatement of Rottweiler-ian proportions.
She came to us as an abused dog and her first three days in our home were spent wedged between the refrigerator and a pantry door – only eating the food and water I slipped behind the fridge where she could down my offerings unseen and maintain a little piece of her dignity.
On day four, she decided to join us.
I came up through the sports ranks in the 1960s and ’70s, being a three-sport athlete by the time I joined the Canadian Armed Forces. Primarily I was a hockey goalie and I did not wear a mask my first three years in goal.
My own birth-given teeth had long been claimed by six ounces of vulcanized rubber when, on the morning of day five, I heard my daughter gasp, peered around the corner and saw three perfectly formed teeth protruding from Princess’s mouth that didn’t seem to be her own.
It was soup and sandwiches for me for awhile. Welcome to the family.
When Princess reached the age of 14 she started showing signs of canine cognitive dysfunction. She began losing control of her functions rapidly and it broke my heart to watch my girl descend into the darkness and be powerless to help.
I pleaded with Dr. Iacovides over any possible help for her and he told me we could try medication used for people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. It was expensive and many animal docs didn’t put much stock in its promise.
I can’t speak to what they observed but for Princess it was magic and we had our girl back, good as new, for almost three more glorious years.
Dr. Iacovides continuously warned me the medication would lose its effectiveness over time and she would slip back into the darkness.
That day came, but Dr. Iacovides will always be a hero to me for giving us that extra time.
We couldn’t stand to see her suffer, so we had to make the most hellish decision any pet lover ever has to make.
On one of the saddest days of my life, I could not have asked for a better professional to be with us than Dr. Pat Dorval.
I gently held Princess, as I had done a thousand times, knowing the injection was making its way through her body.
When it hit her huge heart, she stiffened and in her final second of life, her eyes met mine in fear and disbelief. I could hear her mind scream, “Dad?”
That second of betrayal haunts me to this day.
As I sat there, racked with pain and guilt, Dr. Pat Dorval touched my arm and said, “She was lucky to have had owners who loved her so much.”
It remains the kindest thing anyone has ever said to me.
Dr. Pat Dorval smiled at us, softly closing the door as she left the room and said, “Take all the time you need.”
It seems one never forgets words of kindness spoken in times of pain.
Today, I’m two months in with my third pup, Ozzy. He was badly-treated in his former life. His first medical procedure was performed by Dr. Jonas Watson of Tuxedo Animal Hospital.
I felt Ozzy was in good company.
For 18 years they’ve been coming to Rankin and we’re lucky to have them (you too, Page).

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