A Journey Without End

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A Journey Without End
Bucket list travels with a beloved dog inspires book

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The placard on the cage informed me his name was Prince, that he was a year old Border Collie/black Lab cross, and “extremely intelligent.” The look on his face told me he was more bored than anything, but if I took him home, he’d be my best friend and companion. For the next 17 years he was true to his word.

Princeton, as I renamed him, began his new life as my farm dog in Edmonton, Alberta. It was a life he relished, spending his days alongside me. He was soon an integral part of the farm, accompanying me wherever I went. Everyone I dealt or socialized with knew him. What I didn’t know is that he was to become an inspiration not only to me, but to others as well.

When Princeton was 12, he developed osteosarcoma, a highly aggressive bone cancer with a very poor prognosis. My only knowledge of the disease was that it was the same cancer that had felled Canadian hero Terry Fox. Princeton’s cancer was particularly fast moving, and he was not expected to survive much more than a year, even with the most aggressive treatments, including the amputation of his right rear leg and six rounds of chemotherapy. Princeton, however, decided a poor prognosis wouldn’t stop him from living a full and rewarding life. He went on to live until he was 18, making him the longest known survivor of canine osteosarcoma. During this time he also defeated two other types of cancer, and when he passed it wasn’t due to any of these diseases.

 


Terry Fong and Princeton at Long Beach in Tofino, Vancouver Island, BC. Photo by Cam Shaw

 

After Princeton’s treatments, I wanted him to experience as much of life as he could. I shut down my farm at various times to allow him to do what he enjoyed most: travelling. For five years Princeton and I travelled off and on in a camper van we affectionately called Poseidon. We drove through much of Western and Northern Canada together, seeing many wonderful places and making new friends. When I look back on the last five years of Princeton’s life, I realize it was the best time of my life as well.

Shortly after Princeton’s passing, I began writing of our experiences together. Due to the nature of my work, I was only able to write between 2:00 and 3:00 AM each day. This went on for two years. To be honest, the manuscript was not intended to be shared with anyone. It was only meant to be a history of myself and my best friend. Nonetheless, I wanted it to be done as well as it could be and sent it out to two professional editors for their opinion and to provide polishing where needed. Unexpectedly, both remarked it was a story that needed to be shared with others.

 


Princeton in Ucluelet, Vancouver Island, BC. Photo by Terry Fong

 

Somewhat reluctantly, I contacted a few publishers to gauge their interest. Surprisingly, the interest was strong. What concerned me, though, was that once I committed to a publisher, most of my rights would be gone. I felt I would be selling the memory of a friend to someone who could do with it what they pleased. I appreciated the offers, but this was something I wasn’t prepared to do. By then I did agree that Princeton’s story should be made available to others, but I wanted to do it myself.

 

“What pleases me the most is that it feels like Princeton is still travelling. My friend is off on his own now, meeting new people and seeing new places.”

 

I was told if I didn’t have the book published in the traditional manner, the likelihood of it ever reaching bookstore shelves would be almost nil. Truthfully, this didn’t bother me. I felt those who needed to read about Princeton would somehow find him. And indeed, that’s what happened. Like Princeton with his original cancer prognosis, the book, which I titled Princeton: A Love Story and published through a self-formed company, exceeded the expectations others had placed upon it and was picked up for distribution.

 


Terry and Princeton at Sign Post Forest, Watson Lake, Yukon. Photo by Terry Fong

 

It’s because of Princeton the book has done well. The memory of a very special dog continues to inspire. It’s both rewarding and terrifying to walk into a bookstore and see Princeton’s book displayed on the shelves.

What pleases me the most is that it feels like Princeton is still travelling. My friend is off on his own now, meeting new people and seeing new places. It’s humbling to get emails from people thanking me for sharing Princeton’s story. I’ve received messages from such faraway places as England and Australia, and I’m so glad my friend has touched the hearts of those who wanted to know more about him.

Princeton may not be with me the way he was before, but I’m happy he lives on through the hearts and minds of those who read about him. I know Princeton would be just as proud of this as I am of him.

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