I never knew Simon’s exact age or his breed. The first veterinarian who saw him after I rescued him, estimated that Simon’s age was between one and three and his breed was a mix of terrier, possibly Poodle or Maltese and some Schnauzer. Nevertheless, this non-descript dog turned out to be a remarkable little fellow with a great temperament, an excellent friend and companion. He lived with me for more than 17 years, making him anywhere from 18 to 21 years of age when he passed away August 18 this year.
I will never forget our first meeting. I had been working in what most of my friends and family thought was a glamorous job – traveling frequently around Ontario, then annually or more frequently to New York, Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and other .U.S.cities, doing media junkets. Initially it was fun, but after nearly ten years of this, it became long, tedious and I felt like my life was going nowhere. I wanted a change, a new job and wanted to pursue my interests. I wanted to put down some roots, get a house and really wanted to raise a dog.
I soon changed my job and began to volunteer at the Toronto Humane Society until things sorted out. After about a year of volunteering, a staff person named Deb said I should have a dog – and I replied I don’t have a house yet -and then Deb responded – well take a smaller one we are over-run with dogs. You are great with dogs and it will adapt to an apartment. There were eight smaller dogs, transferring to the “big room” for adoption the following day.
I checked out the little guys, a Cocker Spaniel, a Bichon Frise, and then I made eye contact with this small gray stray and that was it. He was about 18 lbs, matted, needed some medical care and would soon be mine. The name on the cage said “Simon”. I had to train him to walk on a leash and I think he had been abused as he needed quite a lot of reassurance in the beginning. I also found out after a few days that Simon was not his name, just the name on the cage – but he was now responding to it and the name Simon suited him. Simon and I bonded and became best friends.
I had two cats which he tried to chase and they soon let him know that they were boss, but in a very gentle way. As time passed he fit in perfectly. He loved the cats – his “buds”. He would hang out with them through the day and cuddle with them at night, if they permitted.
The following year we moved into a row house in Corktown and he was in his element, a backyard and normal dogs like Bella, Archie, and Tray to hang out with in the park. All of the neighbours loved Simon. He was friendly and got to know almost everyone on the street.
Over the years our house was used in many films and commercials. Simon loved this. He watched Tim Horton’s do the Roll-up the Rim commercial with our house as the backdrop. He saw the famous murder scene in the movie the Last Don which took place right in front of the house.
Simon loved those movie people. Movies came with catering trucks and most movie people like dogs – Simon knew how to work it especially for a hot dog or tasty piece of roast chicken or beef.
One Sunday night in 1996 or 1997, we were walking on King Street East going to the bank machine. Two young men and a woman approached us. The shorter blond man with a Boston accent asked if I lived in the area. I said yes and then the taller guy with dark hair said they thought it was cool. The woman was tall with British accent and said that they were working on a movie at a small bar near Jarvis and Front called the Upfront Bar and Grill. Toronto was being used a back-drop for Boston. Then the guys asked if they could pet the dog. Before I knew it they were talking with Simon, petting him, rubbing his tummy -they said what a great dog. We chatted for a while then parted and I thought what a nice group of grips.
At Film Festival the following year, I was asked to attend the first media screening at 8:00 am of a movie called Goodwill Hunting with critics from California and Toronto . My media friends said that the script was great and that the actors were basically unknown. During the movie, I soon discovered as did the other media that Simon’s buddies from that Sunday night were Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Minnie Driver, all of who would soon have aspiring film careers.
Through the years we moved a couple of more times. Simon seemed to fit in everywhere. As long as he had his cats, his treats and his long walks he was fine. Then about six years ago he was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. The vet suggested a specialist and surgery at a special clinic. Simon was strong and I decided to pursue the surgery and the chemo. He responded to both remarkably well – he recovered from the surgery in less than three days and had no visible side-effects from the chemo. His oncologist, Dr. Kevin Finora at the VEC said it would probably reoccur and we would probably need to re-treat it or determine what we would do. The cancer did come back and we did surgery and chemo again. This time, it seemed to remain at bay for the rest of his life.
Simon bounced back after his last treatments and continued to have fun – long walks, play with the cats, chase a squirrel. Life was good. About five years ago his favourite cat, Agatha became ill. We knew it was the end, so the vet came to the house to euthanize her. We said our good byes. Simon watched and when she died – he cried for two days. We could not believe how he loved her, but then I remembered how she accepted him and welcomed him in the house that first day many years earlier. I remember her sniffing and touching him.
Two months after Agatha’s death, it was time for Simon’s heart worm test and annual vaccines. Up to Riverdale Animal Hospital we went. Simon loved the vets and the staff at Riverdale. Then as soon as we got in the waiting room, Simon spotted five kittens for adoption in a cage. He immediately went over to the cage and seemed to really connect with a small Calico. After his shots, he had another visit to the cage connecting with the Calico kitten again. We could not believe it and we thought he really likes her and we talked about it for the next few days. Maybe we should get another cat – i.e. get him the kitten. The following week, Simon was back at Riverdale for grooming and of course he checked out the kitten again and it was evident that she liked him. His tail was wagging and she was very curious about him.
That Friday morning after I walked him, I thought he should have that darn cat. I called the clinic at 8:00 and asked if the cat was still there. They said yes and said to hold her. Then I called my partner at work and said, let’s get him the cat. He agreed. I said that I will pick her up after work – see you at home at around 6:30.
I will never forget that day. Simon greeted me at the door as always and I was carrying the cardboard box with Molly in it. I put the box on the floor, opened it and then we watched Simon’s tail wag non-stop. She hopped out of the box – they ran around the house together, slept together that night and were almost inseparable until his death.
For the last five years of Simon’s life we always rented a cottage on Halls Lake north of Minden and Simon loved it. Last summer my partner and I watched him running into the lake to cool off after the long drive north. By now Simon’s eye sight was going but he still found the path and the water. He never swam -just waded around in the lake. When we look back on it now, we think that Simon knew his time was coming last summer, he seemed to be taking the cottage in like never before – almost knowing it was his last visit.
After that last summer at the cottage, Simon seemed happy to be at home. He had a new dog walker – Jaya. Simon had lived such a long life that Jaya was his third walker and his favourite. He always seemed to be on a high after being walked by Jaya. The neighbours commented on it. He really likes her. She is patient and calm with him on his slow days and his tail is high in the air when they walk together. Often Simon still had big energy days and with Jaya he would stay out at least 20 to 30 minutes before wanting to come back home. Jaya soon discovered Simon’s charm and his good nature and a strong friendship formed. In his last few days, he started to slow down and was having pain and just could not get comfortable. His time was coming and yet his friend Jaya still continued to visit him and spend some time with him which he loved.
When he left us on August 18, we all cried as we had been touched by a very special, sensitive being It is still hard sometimes and we miss him deeply but we know that he is no longer in pain and is probably walking happily, chasing squirrels and rabbits in a much better place. We are fortunate to have had Simon and the many happy memories which we will cherish forever.
Thank you Simon.
Your good friend -Tom