I fell in love with the Labradoodle breed ever since I laid eyes on it. It was the fall of 2008, and I had just lost my father to cancer 4 months ago. Walking down the street to my school was when I first came upon the Australian Labradoodle. With its teddy bear looks, beautiful coat and not to mention the fact it was jumping in anticipation to greet everyone and everything in its path, I was a goner from the first moment I laid eyes on it.
That particular Labradoodle belonged to my neighbor, who lived three doors down from my own house. A gentleman, who had always gotten along well with my father, he had tried to invite me several times to his house for a cup of coffee since my father had passed away. On his last visit a few weeks ago to my house, he had come around to ask after the health of my grandmother, and as he was leaving, he invited me once again to come over so that he could show me his new puppy.
As has been my state for the last 4 months, I had found little that excited me so I politely declined his invitation. That evening, my grandmother sat me down and tried to advocate the idea of occupying my mind with a different task, one that would distract me from the grief of my father’s death. She told me that our neighbor advised her to get me a dog so that I would come back to the world of the living again. At that time, I felt the suggestion to be inadequate and lacking. In my mind, how could a canine ever replace the role of a human, and a dearly loved human at that?
That following week, my encounter with my neighbor’s dog changed my life forever.
All through my school day, I kept thinking about the Labradoodle’s uninhibited nature, its easy-going attitude, and above all its extremely cute teddy bear face. It was the last week of senior year, and I had still not applied to any colleges. My father’s passing in the middle of the school year left me without any guidance or prospects. I had always looked up to him and relied on his advice, , and he had always told me to choose a career based on what made me excited to get up every morning. With no advice recently, I had developed a bleak outlook on the future.
As soon as the bell rang on that school day, I raced to accept my neighbor’s invitation for coffee, hoping the offer was still standing. To my surprise and delight, I was greeted by his Labradoodle, an adorable puppy named Cuddles. Soon, I found every excuse to take Cuddles out for a walk or to dogsit him whenever my neighbor was away. And soon after, just as my grandmother had told me, Cuddles the Labradoodle brought me back to life.
However, soon after the school year ended. My melancholy and despair over the future also returned. I still did not know what made me excited to wake up in the morning, if I wanted to wake up at all in the first place. The only bright light in my day was Cuddles. My time with Cuddles started making me appreciate other living animals as well. As he chases squirrels in the local park, I too was mesmerized by the little inhabitants of the park trees. His curiosity in every anthill piqued my own. Animals had a different sense of time and grief, or so I surmised. Their lives, actions and motivations fascinated me.
It didn’t come to me as a surprise that when I saw a flyer for a veterinary program at my local college my heart skipped a beat. It looked like the future, it looked like the beginning of my adult life. I had given up hope, but somehow Cuddles had brought some of it back. I went to college, I graduated top of my class. I practiced for 8 years, yet still, even though I loved my life as a vet something seemed missing.
Whenever someone asked me what made me become a vet, I attributed it to Cuddles. Then one day, one cold morning of fall, I heard the news that my dear Cuddles had passed away. I got detained at work, and couldn’t visit till a week later. . This time, my neighbor opened the door. The lack of Cuddles at the doorstep brought grief back all over again. We sat for a long time, talking about our loved dog, we shared how he had lit up our lives. He had helped us out of our grief. That next evening on my flight back, I realized what I was missing.
Cuddles had brought me back to life, it was something that not most people understood. Even I had disbelieved in the start. So, there and then began my quest to breed therapy and companion dogs. It was without question that dogs are some of the most unconditionally loving creatures on the planet. Their traits were beautiful and God’s gift, in my view they had to be shared. I believe that all of us in this world are starved for love, and overcome by grief, but sometimes a single brush of unconditional love can mean a potential future for us. With that in mind, my program grew and today I provide people that have recently faced the loss of a loved one with therapy dogs. Labradoodles are still my favorites, of course, but I have a preference for all other Poodle crossbreeds as well. I now live with my 6 therapy dogs, in an apartment above my veterinary clinic, and together we hope to bring hope back to people’s lives.