For Winston, life is to be lived.
He’s made that clear at least twice in his 17 years, in ways that have amazed the people who know him. He’s something of a miracle dog.
Winston stands about a foot high, with greying black hair and what appear to be terrier-type ancestors.
The story begins in 2008, before Winston was connected with the “Taj Mahal” of dog care, as his current home has been called. Win Malner-Rolf, his current owner or guardian with her spouse Fred Rolf, recounts the resilient canine’s history.
For about a year and a half, Winston was abandoned and homeless near White Lake where he had reportedly been thrown out of a drug house. An area resident would feed him periodically, but otherwise he would wander and forage for anything edible he could find.
Stephanie Brady, Malner-Rolf’s friend and former hairdresser, received a call from her husband Shane on Dec. 17, 2008.
He felt a thump as he drove down White Lake Road, so stopped to see what it was.
He was very upset to discover he’d run over a dog – and it was dead.
He took the body and put it on the front steps of a nearby home. He left a note apologizing for what had happened.
Stephanie called him about an hour later, realizing how shaken up he’d been, and told him he should go back and get the dog.
Shane agreed, went back and still no one was home, so he picked it up – and discovered the little dog was alive.
Stephanie described it as miraculous, because her spouse is an experienced hunter and had no doubt that the dog was dead when he left him.
Shane and Stephanie then took the little fellow to their veterinarian Jim Clark at Shuswap Veterinary Clinic.
An examination and X-rays revealed a head injury, as well as old injuries including a dislocated shoulder. Malner-Rolf said the vet said the dog was eight years old and had lived a rough life.
The dog stayed in a coma for three days. He couldn’t move, he couldn’t walk and, although his eyes were open, he couldn’t focus. The veterinarian decided it was time to let him go as he wouldn’t get any better.
A newspaper article at the time quotes Stephanie: “He went to get the needle, and he (the dog) stood up and looked at him…’”
Within 24 hours the dog was drinking water and, within a couple of weeks, walking normally.
And so began a new chapter for the amazingly resilient dog.
Stephanie – who Malner-Rolf calls her Salmon Arm daughter, just as Stephanie calls Malner-Rolf her Salmon Arm mom – asked if she would take the dog.
Malner-Rolf succumbed and has never regretted it.
“He’s a little dog, but not a yappy dog. He used to bark when somebody rang the doorbell, but he’s stone deaf now. He’s going blind, but he can probably see about 50 feet. He’s got a lot of arthritis as he gets older. But he’s excellent, clean. He’s a people dog – he’s just been an amazing dog.”
The truly amazing part, she says, is that he saved her husband’s life.
About a year ago, Rolf had gone to hospital for a colonoscopy.
“I went in there and everything went fine; I went home and everything was fine,” he says.
However, he woke up at 2 a.m., feeling he needed to rush to the washroom. He knew he couldn’t make it in time.
In the darkness he missed the door and hit a wall, which knocked him down. Weak, he crawled to the toilet and back to the bed, only managing to get halfway onto it.
In the meantime, Winston, who isn’t one for unnecessary activity, began pacing up and down on the hardwood floor of the hallway outside Malner-Rolf’s room, his nails tick-tacking on the floor. She woke up and thought Winston must be desperate to relieve himself, which he never usually does in the middle of the night.
She opened the door for him to go outside. That wasn’t what he wanted, however. He started pacing again.
It was then that Malner-Rolf went into her husband’s room and found him – in pools of blood.
She called 911 and he was rushed to hospital, his blood pressure dangerously low.
He was found just in time, though, and managed to make a full recovery.
“If it hadn’t been for the dog, he wouldn’t be here,” Malner-Rolf says.
They call him the miracle dog.
“He’s the one in a million. The dog that was meant to survive – and, boy, he proved that with my husband.”