A Tale of Two Cedrics: Namesakes at Home for Life Sanctuary: Part Two

Our Memorial Garden event was last Saturday. It is the annual event where we remember the animals of Home for Life who have passed away the previous year. The daily work to care for our nearly 300 animals is so consuming and requires so much focus and hard work that of sheer necessity it must be “business as usual” despite having a dog or cat pass away. We have to carry on even if the loss of the individual animal affects us deeply. Life does go on but the need to grieve is not diminished. To have a special and sacred time dedicated to remembering and mourning our animals is the reason we created our Memorial Garden event. The event is always held in conjunction with our open house where we welcome the public to visit Home for Life; however the day is really for me and our staff to remember our animals that have died. The rituals and more information about the garden and annual event can be found on our website http://www.homeforlife.org/facility_garden.htm

Throughout the year, we have other ways to remember our animals who have passed away and to keep their memories close to us. One simple thing we do is to pass down the dog’s collars. I have a little hobby of outfitting our dogs in beautiful collars, many of which are donated, adorned with name tags to protect our dogs if they ever become lost. Dogs appreciate and understand the gesture of being recognized and cherished through receiving their very own collar to wear and it becomes something that is uniquely identified with them.

Cedric, the smooth coat collie pictured here inherited the tartan plaid collar of Home for Life’s late, great Robin, a beautiful tri-colored rough coat collie who died at a young age. Robin had been surrendered to Home for Life by Collie Rescue and had had many auto immune disorders. However, none of his health problems prevented him from completing the Renaissance program and becoming a therapy dog. Robin died when not even five years old. Cedric is age 11, but reminded me of Robin in his noble yet gentle demeanor. As Robin was, Cedric will soon be involved in our Pet Peace Corps programs as a therapy dog working with our volunteer in the Sit*Stay*Heal program with oncology and critical care patients at Fairview University Hospitals in Minneapolis. Cedric came to Home for Life because his owner developed cancer and did not feel he could take care of him anymore. The owner is receiving treatment at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. So, Cedric’s work with oncology patients will have special significance. He just completed all his required testing and supervised visits with the Home for Life volunteer who will be working with him and will be certified as a therapy dog before month’s end. Cedric had always been a well behaved dog in his old home (Home for Life is his third placement) but had no specific training for therapy work before coming to the sanctuary. You really can teach an old dog new tricks! It somehow comforts me to see Cedric with Robin’s collar on, and to know that the special collar I chose for Robin, in perfect condition because Robin always kept himself and his collar absolutely pristine, will now carry on with Cedric and Robin’s spirit will be with him on his visits.

Cedric was named after a beloved cat who lived at Home for Life for many years. Cedric-the-cat was an elderly stray who was found by a kindly farmer and turned in to a the Dunn County humane society in Wisconsin. Someone had thrown acid on him and it burned much of his face,causing painful debilitating wounds. He was in terrible condition when surrendered to the Dunn County shelter, who shortly thereafter gave him to Home for Life so he could get more individualized attention. This photo is of Cedric shortly after he came to Home for Life. Cedric's story and before/after photos can be seen on our website: http://www.homeforlife.org/cat_cedric.htm.

Despite his suffering and hard life, Cedric was a forgiving and loving cat who touched many people. He was accepting of attention from all and despite the cruelty he had sustained, was never afraid of humans and did not shun them. In fact, he was one of the most recognizable and one of the favorite animals representing Home for Life at our annual holiday event at the Mall of America. It was a very difficult, depressing day when we had to let him go due to cancer.

We never name an animal of the same species after another who has passed away. (I am superstitious.) Also, every animal is unique and, out of respect, we want to have each cat or dog have its own identity. So, Robin the collie was named after Robin-the-cat (another special soul), a beautiful brown tabby and white neutered male, who was a paraplegic cat who came to us from New Jersey. He had been shot in the back by some kids wielding BB guns. Still, Robin never lost his joy for life and his loving nature. Over the years, this became a tradition—naming cats after our dogs who have died and dogs after our cats who have passed away. Another example is Bert, our St. Bernard, who was named after Home for Life's beloved brown tabby and white cat, Bert, a diabetic who lived at Home for Life for many years: http://www.homeforlife.org/dogbio_bert.htm.

Cedric our collie was named for Cedric the cat. Cedric the dog's original name was Rocky, which totally did not suit him. Cedric/Rocky belonged to a breeder from the east coast, and I believe as Rocky he was a show dog before being retired and sold to the owners who surrendered him to Home for Life. Rocky/Cedric did not like his name and would not answer to it. Animals especially cats will not respond if they don't like their name or feel humiliated by it but will learn a new name quickly if they like it. Cedric does like his new name and learned to respond to it within a few days of being with us Like him, Cedric the dog is kind,quiet and receptive to people. He has many of Cedric the cat's qualities which made him so endearing: his dignity,self posession and like Cedric the cat he is a senior animal. As a therapy dog, Cedric will have a more active role in reaching out and helping people than Cedric the cat could, who taught empathy and forgiveness more by example. In a special way the spirit of Cedric the cat will live on in our new dog Cedric the collie .