By Dr. Tracy Venier, DVM
“The journey of life is sweeter when traveled with a dog”
It was during my second semester of Veterinary School when Blackie and I began our wonderful journey together.
Blackie was one of our clinic dogs at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine. The clinic dogs were instrumental in our training to learn anatomy, practice palpation, as well as practicing anesthesia and several other invaluable skills to further our education. These dogs also provided some stress relief and enrichment for students. In our second semester, students were assigned to walk and take care of the clinic dogs. Blackie was a mostly black with some tan, fuzzy 6 year old “Coconut Retriever.” This is what we fondly called many of the mixed breed island dogs. It didn’t take me long to realize what a special dog Blackie was, and how lucky I was to find out that Blackie was up for adoption.
Blackie officially came to live with me during my 3rd semester. Together, we spent another 2 years on St. Kitts before embarking on our next journey together. Blackie was my protector, fondly, or not so fondly called “the lion” by many local Kittitians, as he let them know that this was his house and I was his girl. I tried to make Blackie into a beach dog, but soon realized he did not have an affinity for water, sand or the heat despite his Caribbean roots. We had many late nights together spent studying and cramming for exams. He was always there for me.
Then, came our final semester at Ross. As it was almost a right of passage for Ross students to bring a dog, or two home with them as they departed the island, I was worried about getting Blackie on a plane home so I asked my good friend Danielle if she would fly down, spend a few days and take Blackie back to New York to meet my parents.
That month without Blackie was so lonely! I was so eager to return to him. As our time on the island was finished, Ross students complete their final year of training at a University teaching hospital in the US. I did my clinical training at Purdue University. With an even more rigorous schedule, unfortunately that meant a lot of time home alone for Blackie, but we soon found a horse barn close by to school where I would take lessons. I soon learned that Blackie, who remember was not a beach loving dog, loved being a barn dog and loved horses. Some of my fondest memories are riding around and Blackie would follow behind, always close by to me and the horses. He may have grown up as an “island dog,” but his true calling was as a barn dog. We had the best times at Foxton Farm, that even led to the purchase of my beloved Thoroughbred, Valentino.
As our time in Indiana drew to a close, that meant Vet School was officially completed! Blackie and I yet again set back to the East coast. He was the very best travel companion and he loved riding in the car. Blackie helped me through Vet School, clinical year and what followed as I transitioned into the real world of Veterinary Medicine.
My first year out in practice I was devastated when Blackie was diagnosed with malignant oral melanoma, a very aggressive cancer. How fortunate we were that surgery was very successful and with follow up visits with an Oncologist, Blackie did very well.
A little over 2 years ago I took a leap of faith and decided to relocate and take a job with Winding Hill Veterinary Clinic. This was not an easy decision as it meant leaving behind family, friends and a place that I had called home for most of my life. I can honestly say, having Blackie by my side made things much easier, and I also soon learned how wonderful everyone at WHVC would be to not only me but to Blackie also.
Blackie soon became the unofficial Winding Hill mascot as he would take many trips to work with me. He would pick his spot in the Doctors office where he liked to take naps, usually under Dr. Barnhart’s desk. He loved to attend our staff meetings so he could travel around from person to person to beg for pizza, Panera or whatever catered goodies were up for grabs. Blackie also loved coming to the clinic for his weekly therapeutic laser treatments with Nanaette, as she would focus on all of his sore, arthritic spots, and of course, treats were involved. His BFF Brittany also made him his own special platter of treats during his many visits, you can see Blackie was a very food motivated dog but he also loved his interaction with everyone at the clinic as well.
It was this past November that Blackie made his journey to the Rainbow Bridge. While I miss him every single day I am beyond thankful for our 7+ year journey together. My parents would often say how lucky Blackie was to have found me on St. Kitts, but I can honestly say that I was truly the lucky one to have found such a devoted, loyal and loving companion.
I received so many wonderful messages from people that knew Blackie from our time in St. Kitts to Indiana, New York and beyond. I realized that Blackie touched other people’s lives also. My father, who didn’t grow up with dogs and who was admittedly a little timid of most dogs grew to share such a wonderful bond with Blackie. I’m convinced it was almost impossible to not love him, though I know I’m a little biased. Our journey together was one filled with many adventures, wonderful memories and a whole lot of love. And all of those things I will cherish forever.