Michèle and her dog Simone: Through thick and thin

Michèle and her dog Simone: Through thick and thin

Michèle never imagined that she'd become her dog's primary caregiver. She did, however, decide to accompany Simone until the very end.

May 3, 2019 By Violaine Charest-Sigouin

She stood out from the start: the only white puppy in a litter of little grey Italian Greyhounds. Michèle decided to call her Simone. “I've always had a weak spot for those who don't fit in,” says the 41-year-old Montrealer. During the following 12 years, the dog was a witness to 3 broken relationships, numerous moves, changes of profession and the meeting with Nicolas, who fell in love “with me and Simone.”

Simone was almost 9 years old when Michèle noticed her limp. The diagnosis dropped like a bombshell: a nerve sheath tumour. Simone's left paw had to be amputated. But losing a limb didn't slow her down and just 2 weeks later she was climbing up Mount Royal. “She was even cuter than before! When I picked her up, without her missing limb, it was as if we were even closer. I loved to say that we were heart-to-heart, as if woven one into the other.”

Alas, as is often the case with this type of cancer, it returned 2 years later, threatening to attack Simone's remaining limbs. Michèle decided not to put her down. “I wanted to give her my support until the very end of her natural life—just as long as I could see the brightness in her eyes.” The following year was an emotional roller coaster with dizzying heights of hope and troughs of despair. “Despite everything, I really believed that the chemotherapy would defeat the cancer. Up until her final moments, when she had so little energy, Simone made people smile—children, the elderly, homeless people ... she was like a bridge between myself and the rest of the world.”

One beautiful sunny day, as she was walking Simone, Michèle suddenly believed that her dearest wish had been granted. “I was used to supporting her with a harness as she could no longer walk on her back legs. Unexpectedly, she started walking again. I cried with joy!” she remembers. Sadly, the chemo turned out to be a poisoned chalice. The dog slept all day long, completely lost her appetite and started to suffer from anemia. Although she was a committed vegan, Michèle began to cook meat for Simone so that she'd be tempted to eat. “My life was completely focused on Simone.”

And then, on July 4, in the midst of a heat wave, Simone ate her entire meal (something that hadn't happened for a long time). She was standing on her 3 remaining legs but when Michèle went to let her out, Simone collapsed and was unable to control her head movements. Michèle immediately realized that the time had come to say farewell.

Michèle isn't ashamed to admit that “I've never grieved so much in my life.” She was fortunate to enjoy Nicolas' full support throughout this sombre period. Looking back, Michèle appreciates how much she learned from the experience and how it made her a better person. But she still misses her dog desperately. “Simone had such joy for life. Without her, I'm scared that I've lost my capacity for amazement and delight.”

Thankfully life has a subtle way of reminding Michèle of its brighter side, like when she was recently flamenco dancing and unexpectedly noticed a tiny white hair on her black dress.

Photo 1: Michèle accompanied by her partner Nicolas and their friend Alexis at Lafontaine Park in Montreal. Together, they make up Meave, the musical group for which Simone was the mascot.
Photo credit: Christine Grosjean.

Photos 2 and 3: Michèle and Simone savouring every moment they had together.
Photo credit: Personal collection

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