“Leo was very well-known on our street,” says Susan Streleaff of her family’s much loved golden retriever.
“Anyone who walked along Cawston, Leo would greet them. Often I would hear people call him over and they’d stop and pet Leo.
“It was interesting to see the expressions on their face change. He touched their lives on their daily walks. For 10 years he did that.”
Leo had love in his heart but it was fluid around it that brought his end at age 12.
The Streleaff family had Leo euthanized in mid-November.
When Leo came back to them in a box, inside with his ashes was letter and a print of his paw.
“It was comforting to have Leo back home with us. He was a member of our family.”
Leo was the Streleaffs first pet.
“Pet grief really hits you hard. I heard stories that pet grief hits you hard — they do become family members.”
To let all of Leo’s friends know of his passing, Susan put a poster up at the edge of the yard.
“We’ve been receiving cards … a four-year-old called him ‘Happy Dog.’”
As the days went by more notes appeared, along with ribbons, bells, even kisses pressed to the sign.
“People have been really kind.”
Leo loved to swim and hike on Knox Mountain.
“When we went out for a walk people would ask ‘Is that the dog on Cawston?’ It just kind of hit Cawston really hard.”
The family brought Leo into their lives when son Ryan was 9.
“Ryan was begging me to get a dog. I said, ‘We’re just going to look.’ But when 13 fluffy retrievers come at you, you know you’re going to go home with one.”
They did, picking a little girl out of the pack, but “it just didn’t fit right,” Susan said.
“We went back and I feel that Leo picked us. There was a feeling when he came up to us immediately. He had a number nine on him and the owner said ‘Oh, number nine: He’s got personality.’”
It’s too early for the Streleaffs to contemplate getting another dog.
“I can see the power of pets,” Susan says. “How they add to our family, our community, our lives.
“Leo didn’t judge — you could be tall, short, young, old.
“He was loving to the end.”