Rory Arrives In Prince Edward Island
I had believed that when we made the two-hour trip to the tiny village in New Brunswick to meet Rory, that we would be bringing him home with us. Not so. Jean, the breeder, would deliver him at her convenience. As it turned out, her convenience was ten weeks later.
In mid-September, 2014, Jean and her friend pulled into our driveway. When Jean released Rory from his travelling cage, he danced in circles, thrilled to be free. An hour later, our property having passed inspection, I handed a cheque to Jean to seal the transaction. The friend took the steering wheel. Jean wept in the passenger’s seat. After the death of her daughter, Rory had became the focus of her life and of her love. Parting with him renewed her terrible loss. I promised to keep in touch with photos and updates—a small consolation in the face of such emotional devastation.
The first item on my agenda was a new name for Rory. In the eleven years we had Sophie, Gilles consistently called her Pitou. In Quebec, Pitou means “little one” or “puppy.” Calling a dog “Pitou” is the equivalent of naming a cat “Kitty.” However, to avoid confusing our new family member, he would have to be Pitou. Within days, Rory answered to his new name, especially if food were involved.
I signed us up for obedience lessons and bought the necessary paraphernalia—clicker, waist pouch, treats, and a special chest harness. For six weeks Pitou and I learned the basics of good behaviour. Pitou soon knew how to “Lie down”, “Stay”, “Heel”, and go “On-by.” But “Sit?” Never! When I communicated the problem to Jean, she said, “Of course he won’t sit. Show dogs are punished if they sit.” So, Pitou lies down when asked. He never learned to shake a paw—too difficult from a prone position.
The training was food-oriented: click—treat, click—treat, click—treat. About half-way through the sessions, Pitou developed itchy black scabs on his torso. Trial and error determined that one-ingredient treats produced the fewest symptoms.
Over the next five years, the scabs worsened. On a veterinarian’s advice, we experimented with various foods, shampoos, creams and ointments. Changes in diet produced bowel irritations. On many winter nights I stood under the cold stars waiting for Pitou to expel pudding-like poo.
By January 2019, the problem had become extreme. Most of Pitou’s skin had turned black. Further, this non-shedding dog lost most of his hair. His ears were often infected. I was frustrated, angry and exhausted from worry and lack of sleep. The constant scratching made me cry. I was a bad dog owner. I couldn’t alleviate Pitou’s suffering. I requested that my vet refer Pitou to the dermatologist at the Atlantic Veterinary College. There, three biopsies uncovered an auto-immune disorder. Pitou’s immune system attacks his sebaceous glands. The doctor prescribed a medication to suppress, but not cure, the disease.
Throughout the years of his ordeal, Pitou never ceased to be my “best friend.” In spite of his discomfort, he cheerfully accompanied me on walks, shadowed me from room to room in the house, and snuggled against my side while I read or watched a favourite NetFlix program—lowering my blood pressure, softening my heart.
Each month I pay almost $400 for Pitou’s medications and special food. Grooming, vet visits, annual shots, and dental care are extra. How grateful I am that I can afford these expenses. As I said earlier, unconditional love has no price tag.
The spring after Pitou’s arrival, I emailed Jean her regular update. Her husband responded. Jean had passed away suddenly. I don’t believe in coincidence. I do believe in synchronicity—”events that appear meaningfully related but do not seem to be causally connected.” Pitou and I were meant to find each other so that Jean could rest undisturbed knowing that her favourite terrier was well-cared for and deeply, deeply loved.
If you type “scientific benefits of dogs” into a search engine, a thousand or more lists pop up, each with five to one hundred and two entries. Below are the ten advantages of dog ownership that Kaitlyn Arford compiled for the American Kennel Club in October of 2020. For the full version go to
10 Science-Based Benefits of Having a Dog
1. Dogs make us feel less alone.
2. Dogs are good for your heart.
3. Dogs help you stop stressing out.
4. Dogs help us cope with crisis
5. Dogs encourage you to move.
6. Dogs make you more attractive—even virtually.
7. Dogs make us more social.
8. Dogs are so adorable they make us love them
9. Dogs make us happier
10. Dogs help seniors with cognitive function and social interaction