Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Greb Glides Away

 A quick scan of my Facebook feed and I see it; a heartbreaking post sharing the news that Greb, Fort McMurray's canine superstar, has been found by his equally locally beloved owner Sandy under the deck when he came home. But Greb was not asleep. He was gone.

I can’t even quite believe what I’m reading. The death of Winky several years ago was a hard blow at a time when we really didn’t need any more of those hard blows. It was the fall of 2016 when Winky passed away, and part of a year that was deeply troubling for anybody who experienced it. The death of Winky felt like just another punch in the gut after the wildfire and the evacuation and everything that came after it, and of course the biggest punch of all was felt by Sandy, who had loved Winky in the deepest way.

I feel a flash of anger as I read the post, as how unfair it is for Sandy to once again feel this pain after losing Winky. Not right, not fair, not even the slightest bit expected; sort of the way you know life is when you are old enough to have been through more than a couple of these unfair experiences.

How is it that one man and two dogs have had such a profound influence on an entire community? it can only be because that one man is remarkable and special. And somehow he managed to find not one but two dogs who shared those qualities

Whether they were out zooming around on the motorcycle for which they became known or whether they were raising funds in the community for the local SPCA or other causes, Sandy and his companions showcased the best of us. It was quintessential Fort McMurray really, a little bit quirky, and a little bit unusual, and a whole lot of compassion and driven by love for each other and this place.

I had often described Winky as a elder statesman while Greb was a bit more charming ruffian. Regardless, they both somehow had that ridiculous smile and an amazing way of connecting with everyone. You could say that’s genetics or the breed but I think that it was Sandy. I think it’s the way that he raised them  and the way that he treated them and how they were truly his best friend. 

And so Sandy has lost his best friend. Again.

A friend recently told me that they didn’t think they could have pets because they didn’t think they could handle the loss. I understand this, because the hardest part of loving an animal is that their lifespan is so much shorter than our own. But can you imagine what you would miss by not having them in your life? Can you imagine missing the joy and the craziness and the love and the occasional goofiness, and sometimes even the frustration? I cannot, and so I balance the loss with the joy, and the scale weighs more heavily in favor of joy every time. And I do so knowing that one day, I too will feel this pain once again too.

Whenever we experience a loss, I think it’s a reminder to tell those around us how we feel about them. None of us know how long we have here. We don’t know how long anyone else has either and that includes our beloved furry friends and so on days like today it is a chance to express how we feel. It’s a chance for us to say I love you. 

And that is why today I just want to say I love you to Greb and Winky and Sandy. I want to thank them for all they have given to us over the years - and by "us" I mean all of us, this entire community who benefited from the amazing partnership between a man and two dogs. In so many ways it feels like Greb, and Winky before, belonged to all of us in some way, and that is because Sandy so generously shared them with us, and he bravely shared their entire journey together, including this very sad end of yet another incredible story.

One man, two dogs. And yet these three captured the hearts and minds of tens of thousands of people, including my own. That's one helluva legacy. I have had the honour of writing about Sandy, and Winky, and Greb, and so their stories have interwoven into my own. What a privilege it is to know them; what an honour is to be able to remember them and their impact.

My heart hurts for Sandy as he navigates a new journey of grief. I know that Greb has gone to join Winky for a thrilling ride in the sky, somewhere over the rainbow bridge and a place where every day is perfect weather for taking out the motorcycle and hitting the road. Wherever they are, I know they are loved, not just by one man alone, but by all of us.

You can donate to the Fort McMurray SPCA in Greb's memory here:

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