I have been lost in my head for days preparing to write this blog. I was scared to put anything down on paper, knowing that it would really mean I was saying everything out loud and he was really gone. I asked myself - was I capable of writing anything that was profound enough? Would what I wrote be filled with enough meaning and love as powerful as the meaning and love he gave to me? The answer is no, that will never be. I simply just have to write and hope one day I can fulfill the debt of knowledge and love I owe to Fitz William.
I will never forget the day he walked into the front door of my pet resort. His look said he was up to no good and Jan who was at the other end of his leash proved that to be correct. This graceful woman was wearing a bucket hat to cover the bruising on her face, and walking with a cane to support her injuries. Fitz William, the excitable 8 month old puppy that he was, had taken her for a joy ride down her driveway. That was when she knew she needed help.
Fitz became a full time boarder with us because Jan’s wonderful husband Don was critically ill and she needed to be by his side. There were many months where he would stay with us during the week and visit with Jan on the weekends. Don’s health had declined shortly after getting Fitz William so they had not had the opportunity to get training in. He was an unruly brat! Nathan and I pulled out all the tricks to turn this wild wolfhound around, but it was our Harley Dean that proved to be his greatest teacher.
As time passed we grew closer to having a wolfhound that would sit and act just like a bulldog. In and amongst Fitz’s naughty behaviours he also had chronic colitis, rapid growth spurts, hygroma on his elbows - all that also needed correcting. I learned first hand the many wonders raw food could do for the giant breeds. It was also my first experience with true controversy in raw feeding and training. Experts in large breeds were against raw food and prong collar training. Sticking with what I knew was best for Fitz proved everyone wrong.
As time passed Jan become a mother to us and Fitz William became a permanent paw print on my heart.
On the rainy day of July 5th Don passed away and I knew Fitz was here to stay and life was going to change.
Irish Wolfhounds are guardians of the heart. Their purpose in life is to be the keeper of your emotions, and be your pillar of strength when you want to crumble most. Fitz William was blessed with the gift of providing this to anyone that would accept it. He always knew in a crowd of people if a person was terminally ill or had just lost someone. He would passively approach them, bow his magnificent head, and take away their pain for a few moments.
At full size he was a staggering 175 lbs of broad chest, mesozoic head and muscle. We were always complimented on how astonishing he was but his gentle nature truly over shadowed his size. He let children with learning disabilities hold him, he sat with the elderly, and just wagged his tail for everyone. During his early years Nathan and I were rehabilitating dogs while also running our open concept pet resort. Fitz William was a forced to be reckoned with. He was Harley Dean’s wing man and assisted in all of our training session and pack work. I watched him time and time again communicate with Harley to teach or help a new dog. When working with some very aggressive cases Fitz came to my rescue more than once and stopped a dog from biting me. Never once did he bite back.
Everyone was always so quick to tell me that he was never going to live long. Even with genetics not on his side and the chance of cancer being so great, I was determined to prove everyone wrong. I researched until it felt like my eyes were going to bleed, designed food blends that were specifically for him and gave him everything I could to make him strong. Still, it was just not meant to be, and selfishly I feel hate for not having enough time with him.
And so in his honour I will share with you his last days and our last moments.
In the week leading up to his passing Fitz William saw the sea and felt it’s majesty for the first time. He was surrounded by rolling hills, tall trees and red sandy cliff sides. He got to sleep in the sunshine and let the salty air whip through his hair, while it carried songs from the sea. He was surrounded by his pack and his best friend Harley Dean.
Fitz was always very sensitive to change and began acting out of character, but all the dogs were. They had just undergone a massive journey and a big change in scenery. This time the behaviours didn’t adjust they just got worse. When I think about it now, deep down, my instincts knew what was happening. I just did everything I could to lie to myself and hold on.
He began straying from the pack and he wanted to be left alone, He would wander to the cliff side and look out at the sea as if he was being called, only to turn around because I was calling him back. Then he started to get very tired and began refusing food. I was doing everything to get him to eat and drink. He would just turn away lie on his side and hand me his paw. Everything happened so fast, it was like I woke up and he had completely deteriorated. We had only just arrived in Nova Scotia and had to rush him to the vet. On the way we called Jan and told her what was happening. I immediately began to collapse on the inside.
Blood work and tests revealed that something serious was going on and he needed to be put on fluids and hospitalized. We were told by the medical staff that his heartbeat was so strong, that he had a chance to bounce back. A 24 hour period of time passed and we must have received what felt like were a million phone calls. Every call was an update on his improved or worsening condition. Outside it was raining and then calm, then raining then calm. Mother nature was informing me herself on his condition. The last phone call we received was while we were on route to the hospital. The news was that Fitz had lost his ability to lift his head and control his bowels.
I walked into the hospital in a trance. It took every ounce of energy I had in me to be strong for Fitz. The moment I saw him I felt my heart begin to crack, knowing that the crack was going to slice away the piece that belonged to him. Just for me he mustered up enough strength to look up and tried wagging his tail twice. I laid down with him and somehow he told me it was time for him to go.
When the doctor knelt down to speak with Nathan and I, she approached us with cautious words. I can’t imagine how she must have felt trying to explain to us that she could continue to try but… I looked up at her and said “I know what I have to do, Fitz is ready to leave us, he is not himself anymore.” The doctor was taken aback and began to cry.
I took off his collar and held on to him as the doctor began the procedure. I brushed his wispy bits out of his eyes, and as I kissed his head he drew in his last breath. In a second his magical energy was gone. July 5th Fitz William left us the same day as his owner Don, but this time the sun was shining.
In the week since his passing, he has visited me in my dreams every night. I open my eyes and I can see him as clear as day by my bed side. When my mind goes to a dark place I can feel his energy pushing me back to the light. And when I’m crying extra hard the wind blows just right to dry my tears.
Fitz William - I will love you forever.
They say that all dogs go to heaven, but where do the dogs go when they give you heaven on earth. That must be an even greater place.
Good bye my sweet giant, until we meet again.