This mug came into the collection as a present to Heather. Heather doesn’t tend to drink hot drinks (Tea or Hot Chocolate, rarely), so by default it ends up in my collection.
But it’s one of the few mugs that has a story to it, and it’s a story worth telling. Because it’s about Heather, and the kind of woman she is. And that’s a story I want to tell. The first part of this story is tragic and sad, and will be mildly inaccurate as I only have the information third hand. I’m prone to embellishment in my stories, and I’ll fill in what I don’t remember or know with what I think it might have been. That’s not to say it’s not true, just that it’s the version of things as I recall them.
Heather has become a neighborhood icon of sorts. Since starting her dog walking business (of which I am now happily an employee), Heather’s natural charisma and friendliness draws people to her, and with a varying pack of dogs in tow, she has made friends and clients throughout the neighborhood. She’s always quick with a good morning, and almost always good for a bit of small talk about the dogs, and people just naturally gravitate towards that. Especially the ones with dogs of their own.
An adorable boxer pup named Marlee appeared in the building next door to us. Heather was quick to befriend the owners, a single mother and her son, as she does. This beautiful pup, Marlee, joined our pack as an occasional client and fast friend. From puppy visits to beginning on some group walks, we got to watch Marlee grow and play, and enjoyed every opportunity we had to take her with us to the park to play with our regular clients.
Recently when playing at a nearby park that Marlee uncharacteristically bolted from her mom. The park borders on some rather busy streets, and Marlee bolted out in front of a car, and was struck solidly. When her owner caught up to the dog, she was on her feet, but bleeding and unsteady. She managed to get her to the VEC, but Marlee was too badly injured to recover. Marlee was just over a year old. Still a pup.
It’s hard to put into the words the tragedy of losing a dog too early. Having just lost our own dog this past week, the feelings are acute – but to lose one so young, and so violently is always fraught with guilt, heartbreak and sorrow. It’s becoming more and more true that our dogs (and cats) are more than just pets – they are furry friends. They are family. They leave a hole in your heart when they pass.
Heather and I are no strangers to the costs of medical care for an animal. Places like the VEC have a not insignificant ’emergency fee’ that, along with the uninsured costs of veterinary time, medication and supplies can mean any visit reaches the thousands very quickly.
Instead of a token of grief (Which is always appreciated. There is something about the sentiments of sympathy expressed in words or gifts has an uplifting effect.) Heather set out to do something special. She began collecting up money to help offset the costs of the VEC visit and final arrangements. She spoke to neighbors and our local vet, and others around the neighborhood. Practically anyone with a dog that might have met Marlee.
All told, Heather raised nearly a thousand dollars in a short few days for Marlee’s family. Some people gave a little, and others, like an anonymous donor from the clientele of the Yonge Street Animal Hospital, gave a lot. They all signed short messages of sympathy in a card. We don’t know what the final bill was for Marlee, but we understand the money raised put a significant dent in the costs.
Heather didn’t have to cajole anyone. She didn’t have to pressure anyone. She just went out and told them what happened, and what she was doing, and people gave. That’s the kind of woman she is. She doesn’t ask for a lot, and when she does, it’s not even for herself. She saw suffering, and sought a way to ease it as best she could.
In this day and age, it’s difficult to believe – this is the first neighborhood I’ve lived in since moving to Toronto over ten years ago that I’ve felt like it’s more than just a collection of buildings to house people. People here still seem to care about the people around them, and not in a gossipy way. In a genuine, friendly, community way. The numerous dogs in the neighborhood probably helps this – you see the same faces in the ravine near our house, out on the streets around and about. It’s nearly impossible to go and get a coffee or yoga pants without running into someone with a dog we know.
Maybe it’s the dogs. Maybe it’s Heather.
The family was overwhelmed with the generosity of the little dog owner community in the neighborhood, and as a thank-you, gave Heather a small gift of baked goods and the mug. This mug.
So this mug is a reminder of how selfless and giving Heather is, and of how she helps bring people together. It’s a reminder of a lost friend, and the comfort we find in those around us, and how a little bit, just a little bit from everyone can help a lot.