In Memoriam: James Douglas Whytock

It’s been a tough week. Last Tuesday, Ken got a call from his mom that his dad, who’d been suffering from Alzheimer’s and had been in a nursing home for the last couple of years, had stopped eating. He’d been on a steady decline and if any of you know anything about Alzheimer’s disease, you’ll know that’s pretty much a signal that the end is near. And it was. Ken’s father, a lovely man, passed away peacefully on Thursday night at the age of 87, surrounded by people who loved him very much. And while the last two years of his life were incredibly sad, as we watched him drift further and further away from us, I’d like to take this opportunity to tell you a little bit about him.

James Whytock was a kind, hard-working man. He had to quit school and take over the family dairy farm at the age of 16 when his own father passed away very young. He and Ken’s mom built a good life for Ken and his siblings, and I know they all look back on their childhoods with fond memories. One of my first experiences with Jim was when Ken and I had begun dating and I would go with him to the family farm. In the morning, our chore was to feed the calves while Jim milked the cows, and he would razz me about being a ‘city girl’, even though I’d grown up in a town that really wasn’t much of a city, but to Jim, anything larger than the 1000-person town he called home was a metropolis.

He loved to tease people, but never in a mean-spirited way. He was quick with a one-liner and had a variety of sayings for all occasions. He was the skip of our family curling team, and I still laugh when I remember the time we were winning but the other team was gaining points—he leaned over to me, winked, and whispered, “Now the cheese is starting to bind!” It made me laugh so hard that I could barely sweep, but we won the tournament–and some bacon. Even once the dementia got hold of him, there were still glimmers of the old Jim—every once in a while, he’d crack a joke and it would let us know he was in there somewhere.

He was an incredibly creative person. When, at the age of 62, he and Ken’s mom sold the family farm and moved to town, he finally had more time to devote to all his favourite hobbies. He was a talented photographer (in fact, he was the photographer at our wedding and did an amazing job). He also worked with glass. He taught me how to do stained glass, and we shared ideas and designs. He had a glass kiln as well and made all kinds of things out of fused glass, including my favourite set of checkerboard “Alice In Wonderland” coasters.

He collected all kinds of things, notably coins and diecast tractors. Kate inherited his love of coin collecting, and when she was younger, they would discuss coins—she was always impressed by how knowledgeable he was. And not only did he collect tractors, he also customized his own collector vehicles, one of which sits proudly on a shelf in Ken’s office—a gift from his dad.

James Whytock leaves behind a family who loved him very much and who will miss him terribly, and an enduring legacy as a man who always saw the positive side of things—I don’t think I ever heard him say a bad word about anyone, and my last image of him this past Father’s Day was the smile on his face as he ate the chocolate that Ken’s mom brought him. Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease and I’m glad he’s finally at peace.

My favourite coasters
A lamp made by Jim

Farewell To The Best Boy Ever

2 weeks ago Sunday, just after I’d hit the ‘publish’ button on that week’s post, Ken yelled to me from our family room that Titus had collapsed. We’d called the vet the previous week because he’d started having some weakness in his back legs, which we assumed was a touch of arthritis. The vet prescribed some anti-inflammatories and he seemed to perk up, and for the next few days, he’d seemed fine–just a slightly senior dog with a touch of the rheumatism. Then…Sunday happened. We rushed him to the emergency vet, who diagnosed him with a very large inoperable abdominal tumour that had just ruptured. She pumped him full of IV fluids and let us take him home, knowing that his time with us would be short. We wanted Kate to be able to see Titus one last time, and we were fully expecting that the vet would come to the house later that day, or Monday at the latest to help him pass. But he rallied, and for another week and a half, he seemed almost back to his regular self. Then, this past Wednesday morning, he stopped eating and couldn’t get up again, so we did what no one ever wants to do. We called the vet (a lovely young woman named Dr. Alison), and she came out to the house late Wednesday afternoon. It all happened outside on the front porch with everyone wearing masks, but at least we were able to go through it at home, with Titus on a cozy blanket in the sunshine. While she got everything ready, Titus nibbled on his favourite pepperoni, and was told he was a very good boy, the very best boy in fact, by all of us more times than I can count. He passed quickly and peacefully in the arms of the people who loved him best. You all know him from this blog—in fact, if you search ‘Titus’, he comes up in 99 posts—and you know how much he meant to us. He was a dog to whom every day was the best day ever, who loved everyone, loved to eat, loved his toys, and was the best canine conversationalist I’ve ever met. In honour of the best boy ever, here are a few of my favourite Titus moments.

Titus and the Magic Box

Titus: Oh my God! You’re making cookies, aren’t you?!
Me: Sigh. Yes. Like I do EVERY Sunday.
Titus: This is the best day ever! I’m just going to lie here, OK?
Me: So long as you don’t drool on my feet like last time.
Titus: I’m not promising anything.

Half an hour later:

Me: What are you doing?
Titus: Waiting for the cookies to come out of the magic box.

Me: You mean the oven?
Titus: Call it what you want. Technically, it’s the “medium-sized” magic box. The “large magic box” is where you keep all the delicious luncheon meats and cheeses.
Me: None of this is actually magic. It’s all based on science.
Titus: Well, how does “the oven” work then?
Me: Well…you push this button, and it gets hot. Then you put uncooked food in it, and it cooks the food for you…
Titus (whispers): Magic.

Titus and I Talk About The Movies

Me: So hey, my blogger friend Often Off Topic is doing a Dog Blogathon in a couple of weeks so for the challenge, I’m supposed to write about dogs and movies.
Titus: Cool, cool. I’m a huge movie buff. I’m still pissed off at you for not taking me to TIFF.
Me: Right, like I was going to take a chance on you trying to high-five Sam Rockwell and slapping him in the face?
Titus: Fair enough. But I do love “the moving pictures”.
Me: Really? What’s your favourite movie?
Titus: Citizen Kane. Good old Rosebud.
Me: I know, right? That shot of the sled at the end gets me every time.
Titus: What sled?
Me: The sled. Rosebud.
Titus: Rosebud wasn’t a sled. Rosebud was the guy.
Me: What guy?!
Titus: The main dude with the big castle.
Me: THAT was Citizen Kane.
Titus: I thought Rosebud was his nickname or something.
Me (rolls eyes): What else do you like? How about Star Wars?
Titus: Meh. That giant cat was really annoying.
Me: You mean Chewbacca? He was a Wookie.
Titus: Chewy cookie? Yes, please.
Me: No, Wookie. So you didn’t like it?
Titus: It was confusing. I could never tell who the bad guys were. Luke and Leia made a cute couple though.
Me: They were brother and sister.
Titus: WHAT?
Me: And Darth Vader was their father.
Titus: You’re sh*tting me! Thanks for the spoiler!
Me: You don’t pay very close attention to what you’re watching, do you?
Titus: I like to multi-task.
Me: If by multi-task, you mean ‘beg for popcorn’, then no wonder you miss so much. So what are some dog movies you’d like to see?
Titus: Um…Slumdog Millionaire. That sounds GREAT.
Me: It’s not about dogs.
Titus: Huh?! OK, what about Reservoir Dogs?
Me: Again, not about dogs.
Titus: I thought it was some kind of nature documentary. Dog Day Afternoon?
Me: Nope.
Titus: The Dogs of War? Wag The Dog?
Me: Do you know any movies that are actually about dogs?
Titus: Apparently not. By the way, Soylent Green is people.
Me: I already knew that, but nice try, Mr. Spoiler. Here, it says on this website that Old Yeller is the number one dog movie of all time.
Titus: Sweet. We could watch that. What’s it about?
Me: It’s about a dog that gets…then the boy…uh…Reservoir Dogs it is!
Titus: Awesome–I love a good documentary.
Me: Do you want popcorn?
Titus: Is Jaws a shark?

A dog of discerning taste.

The Titus Challenge

Titus: I hear you’ve stopped eating pork. You realize that means bacon too, right?
Me: Sigh. I know. It’s breaking my heart, but I saw a video recently of a pig solving a puzzle. Pigs are smarter than dogs, you know. I wouldn’t eat a dog, so how can I eat a pig?
Titus: Pigs are NOT smarter than dogs. For example, when was the last time you saw a pig who responded to commands based on Harry Potter spells?
Me: I’m sure there are pigs out there who could do that. Besides, you have a pretty sloppy Leviosa, so let’s not get carried away.
Titus: It’s Levi-OH-sa, not Levio-SA.
Me: Look at this video. She’s trained that pig to do 17 different tricks.
Titus: Damn. He gives a great high-five.
Me: I know, right?
Titus: But does the Avada Kedavera spell render him seemingly dead?
Me: Dead? Like for a fraction of a second before you jump back up and try to snatch the Corn Pop out of my hand?
Titus: Dead, jumping in the air, whatever. No bacon? Now that’s harsh. OK, find me a pig that can do Leviosa better than me, and I might consider it.
Me: Challenge accepted. Accio the wine bottle, will you?
Titus: Is it 5 o’clock somewhere ALREADY?!
Me: I dunno—I’m not wearing a watch.

Black and White Challenge Week 2

Titus Gets Punchy

Alarm goes off.

Me (*stretching*): ERGH. Time to get up.
Titus: NO.
Me: Oh my god, you just punched me in the eye!!
Titus: It was an accident–I was trying to high-five you. Where are you going? Stay in bed.
Me: No! I have to see if my eye is OK!
Titus: You’re fine. Stop being a baby. Besides, eye patches are all the rage this season.
Me: I don’t want an eyepatch! OWW. If you scratched my cornea with your slappy paw…
Titus (whispers): I just wanted you to stay home with me. I’m sorry.
Me: Sigh. I love you, buddy.
Titus: You’ll look awesome with an eyepatch. Like an angry pirate.
Me: ARRRR.
Titus: I love you too.