Hello SCARS, It is with broken hearts that we let you know that our beautiful little girl, Camille, passed over the rainbow bridge on Sunday, February 18, 2024. She was our SCARS foster failure (the best failure ever!), originally given to us in June 2013.

I’ve written a bit about her and would love to share it with your team. Know that you are doing great work and that we have been honoured, and humbled, to have been Camille’s home for the past nearly 11 years. She was truly unique and my husband’s soul dog (and in her final years, she became my constant companion, too), and one of those dogs that leave large spaces to fill. I don’t know if we’ll ever have another that has such a legacy and impact in our lives.

Thank you for everything you do, and for trusting us with her. This is her story:

In June 2013, Jay and I decided to try fostering with Second Chance Animal Rescue Society (SCARS). We already had two dogs, one adopted from SCARS and while I don’t remember our exact reasons, it was something I wanted to try. The day we got the call for our first foster, we were told that multiple dogs had been brought to a spay/neuter clinic by an individual and that of the 7 dogs he brought, SCARS took 5. None of the dogs were in great condition and most were starved. They told us directly “We don’t usually give first time fosters such hard cases, but you both have a lot of dog experience. Can you take a female?” Jay and I looked at each other – we had our dogs Maggie and Kooza at the time – Maggie was often reactive to females and we had specifically said no females – however hearing how desperately these pups needed help – we said “We can manage, we’ll take her”.

The next day we drove to meet up with the volunteer driver who was transporting the foster pup to us. We were absolutely horrified and shocked by what we saw. A scared, skittish, skeleton of a dog was gently placed on the grass outside the car. How could anyone let a dog get to this point?!?! We scooped her up and placed her in the backseat to drive her home. The whole way home, we wondered what we were thinking and if we could handle this – but looking at those bright eyes in the backseat, we already were thinking of names. I said I wanted something that reminded one of healing, and thought of soothing chamomile. Jay though, likes using real names, and so by the time we got home, we had decided on Camille.

Our two dogs, Maggie and Kooza, were in the backyard when we got home, and this was the ultimate test. If Maggie didn’t accept this new addition, we’d have to give her back immediately. Jay lifted her out of the car and put her down in the backyard, just a tiny skeleton next to two dogs weighing nearly 200lbs between the two of them. Jay placed her gently on the ground in front of him, and in her terror at all these new surroundings, she immediately crapped on his shoe! And that, we often say, was when he fell in love with her.

She weighed only 26lbs when we got her, less than half than what was healthy for her size. She tried to climb on the counters to find food, flinched when we went to touch or pet her, smelled TERRIBLE, had skin conditions, infections, worms, broken teeth from eating garbage, and a porcupine quill embedded in her cheek. She was neglected, starved, beaten down, worn out and exhausted. For the next two months, we helped her heal. Dental work, vaccinations, skin and medical treatment. Slowly gaining weight and confidence, she clung to her new big brother, Kooza, who shared his bed and taught her that this new life was good, that sitting meant treats, and how to be a dog. Both Maggie and Kooza accepted her immediately – our worry with Maggie quickly diminished as I think Maggie realised Camille wasn’t a threat at all, and we were overjoyed that no major issues arose from this new addition to the household. Her first bath took nearly 30 minutes, as layers of dirt and grime were washed away. After that very stinky bath, we wrapped her in a towel and placed her on the couch, where she snuggled and settled in for a long snooze to decompress. As I looked at her little body next to mine, my heart was already being won over, too.

Each new milestone brought so much joy. One day, she let out a bark and looked at us for reassurance that this was ok – Jay and I suspect she was beaten every time she made too much noise. As the years went by, her barks turned to full blown howls, often instigating the entire household to erupt into howling chaos that could last minutes every time a strange person or dog went by. Despite the shrill tones and pitch, we laughed, even praised this behaviour rather than let it be silenced again. One day she finally took interest in the squeaky toys, and we watched with tears in our eyes as she squeaked and played with toys for the first time. She must have known how much joy this brought us, because from those days onward, to the very end, that was how we were greeted – joyful tag wags and then retrieval of the closest squeaky toy, which she would “make it squeak” to show her joy and love for our return.

About 2 months after she came to us, we were already in love, but thought we should at least attempt to let her get adopted. However, we knew there were some behavioural issues. She did not like kids, and had some tendency to give butts a nip if she didn’t like a person. Despite this, SCARS had her featured on Global News one morning, which was a nervous experience for both of us as she panted in my lap. Later, at a local adoption event, she crawled into a chair onto Jay’s lap and would NOT move for several hours and showed no interest in meeting other humans. However, despite her anxiety, an older couple did show interest and so we decided – let’s give her a chance to be adopted. I mean, this was only supposed to be temporary. Our hearts broke a little as we drove to the couple’s house and we held back tears. Although Camille showed no signs of warming up to them, we decided to let her hang out with them for a little bit and we’d take a walk. 30 minutes later we came back, to the frantic potential adopters saying that she had freaked when we left, crawling under the shed and wouldn’t come out. We were standing outside their yard, and hearing this, we called out for her. Suddenly a little black streak came wiggling out from under the shed and ran full power across the yard, jumping over the short 3ft fence to rush to our sides in panicked relief. The couple looked at us and said “Looks like she’s already chosen her home”. Jay and I exchanged looks with each other, and knew it was true. Camille was officially a foster failure, and in her furever home with us.

Over the next 10.5 years, this little girl brought so much joy to our lives. A few more months went by as she grew stronger and she showed interest in joining Jay on his runs, and what a powerful runner she was! An absolute gem, she stayed by his side on countless adventures in the Edmonton river valley, runs ranging from 10-50 km! She became an icon in the running community, being recognized as Camille the Ultra Dog. She was very selective and slow to warm up to people, the extent of this was to usually sit quietly while people pet her or fed her treats. Yet with us, she was a completely different dog – wanting endless snuggles and always nearby, she would always be joyful and seeking out love. If we paid too much attention to other dogs, she would butt in or bark to get attention, butting her head under our hands for more pets.  Her steadfast devotion to being Jay’s running partner was an epic achievement and we would brag that she was one of the best running dogs in history. Jay took her to the mountains where she would do multiple summits with him, to the awe and amazement of all who crossed their path or joined them. Two stories stand out to me from these – one was at Bragg Creek. Jay was completing a 100km distance that day, and it was extremely hot. He took Camille with him and she refused to leave his side all day – to the point that she started to develop heat exhaustion despite Jay’s best efforts to keep her hydrated. They made it back to the parking lot, Camille hitting her farthest distance ever – 75km! She tried to go back out with him and I had to hold her back as she whined watching Jay go. Yet within minutes the poor thing was so exhausted she started puking from the heat and exhaustion, and she spent the rest of the day relaxing in the shade and eating all the food. Another instance, Jay took both Camille and Olly up to the mountains with a group. After a couple summits, the two pups were left with our running friends. Our friend took pictures of the pups reuniting with Jay. The first photo, they stared up at the forest, watching impatiently. The second photo, where they are reunited, was so gorgeous. Our friend Steve commented “I’ve never seen a bond like Jay has with his dogs”. And it was true. Camille and Jay were inseparable. Many hours I have seen the two of them cuddling together on a dog bed, or Camille nestled into Jay’s arms for a massage or when her “love meter was low” as we would joke. She loved him more than anything in the whole wide world. At races, she would eagerly whine when seeing him, and joyously jump and cling to his leg at finish lines. At Sinister 7, she may have “escaped” my grasp to join Jay on Leg 7, and later ran him into the finish. At the Canadian Death Race a few years ago when Jay finished, I let her loose to run across the finish line with him, and she bounded along the best she was able, always the loyal companion.

As Camille got older, she slowly retired from running. She joined me on my runs, finishing her last Ultra in 2020 when I walked 50k with her and Olly. In 2021, she went up Coliseum Mountain with me; her last mountain summit. The runs turned to walks, and her last good mountain hike was in summer 2023 on a 7km hike in Grande Cache. She spent more of her time sunbathing, eating treats, getting cuddles, and gentle walks – always preferring the single track and forests more than anything. When I started working from home in 2020, the dogs made it a welcome transition, as I got to spend full days with them. Camille and Olly became my constant companions as I volunteered driving food hampers around the city, and working from home the past 3.5 years made Camille and I closer than ever. Jay and I often joke that when they are young, they are his. But as pups get older in our home, often they become more ours, as I take on more of the care.

She started to show true signs of aging in 2021, with a limp that wouldn’t go away. Arthritis and age were catching up to her, and this was one of the first years we thought we’d lose her. In anticipation of this, we decided to get a third dog to become Jay’s new running partner. We also hoped that Camille would help mentor the new pup a bit. I really wasn’t up for a 3rd dog, but Jay fell in love with Norah’s photo on the SCARS website. So in April 2021, we went and picked up Norah; our home now full with 3 SCARS dogs. The first night, we were quite terrified for the pup – despite Olly’s gentle nature, he didn’t seem to want a third pup either. He growled and nipped at the puppy, causing huge fights to break out and anxiety to heighten. We had gone through this for nearly 3 months when Olly had come into our home, Maggie and Camille had fought for hierarchy and it had taken months for peace to come back to the household. Norah was a similar story. Both Olly and Camille wouldn’t let Norah in our bedroom to sleep, so I slept on the couch with little Norah snoozing on the floor beside me, my hand resting on her fur. Over the weeks ahead, Norah finally settled in, and to her credit, she respected the original boundaries set by the other two. She never went into the bedroom to sleep with us at night. The only time she went in there was to quickly greet me in the morning or to sleep on our bed during the day. The dog beds in there were off limits. I promise this has relevance to this story!

For the next two years, we kept thinking Camille would continue to decline and leave us, but a true ultra runner, her health stayed fairly stable. Although her signs of arthritis had started in 2021, and we knew her health was declining, it wasn’t until mid-2023 that we saw her mobility really start to decline. This was accompanied by syncope and seizure episodes that started in May 2023. The few tests we did showed bad signs in her blood work, and a few theories were given to us. It was all just speculation but the main point was that the last chapter was upon us. Every day forward was a gift to us. We started some injections at the advice of our vet that gave her some comfort from the arthritis and bought us more months with her. She celebrated her last Christmas, loving all her new squeaky toys, endless treats, cuddles, slow walks and car rides. We savored every single second. In January, Camille started showing us that despite her well-fought determination, her body was failing. Finally, this week, we decided it was time.

On Sunday, February 18, on Family Day weekend, we held our little girl as she took her last breath and crossed the rainbow bridge. While we wrestled with this decision, we believe Camille was in a lot more pain than she let show. She was all heart, a true runner, who was determined to keep going as long as possible despite her failing body.

Her last day was filled with love – enjoying treats, a burger, a peanut butter cupcake, a last car ride through the drive-thru, a sunny walk on some of her favorite trails, a nap with our other dogs, cuddles and a thousand kisses from us.

From a starved, beaten down skeleton, to a healthy, smiling, dedicated adventure pup who became an icon of the running community, a poster dog for a local charity run, a constant companion on the trails, climbing mountains and summits with ease, to the most perfect, loving pup one could ever dream of. She loved treats, PIZZA, squeaky toys, howling, car rides, single track, and her Papa more than anything in the world.

We anticipated this goodbye for a long while, but nothing prepares you to lose a beloved companion, especially not one as special as Camille. From the moment we met, she chose us right at the beginning. To trust us, to love us, and to share so many beautiful memories together. She was Jay’s soul dog and one of those rare, once in a lifetime companions – the ones who leave a legacy and such a meaningful impact on your life. The loss of her presence is felt deeply already, and Jay and I are devastated to say the least.

Rescue dogs are amazing, and Camille was more than that. She was exceptional. To the person who surrendered her all those years ago – while we will never forgive you for what you did to her, we are grateful that you showed an ounce of kindness to bring her to that clinic and give her a second chance at a better life. May you receive the same treatment you bestowed, but may that shred of humanity you showed, be repaid in kind. We want to thank SCARS for trusting her with us, and for bringing her into our lives. She was truly the most incredible, unique pup. Thank you for Camille, and our other dogs, Kooza (2010-2016); Olly (2016 – oresent), and Norah (2021 – present).

When Camille passed, we did it at the comfort of our home, so she would be able to fall asleep in her own bed, in the home she was in with us her whole life, surrounded by all who love her. We kissed her to sleep as our other pups watched. And the strangest thing happened. Those who know our youngest pup, Norah, know she is an independent soul. We honestly thought Olly would take it harder, show more interest in what was going on, but he simply laid and watched, or tried to bribe the vets into giving up more of the treats they had in their back pocket. This was normal, they said. 9/10 dogs don’t actually engage or show much interest in what is going on. They accept it and that is all.

But not Norah. Norah had an interesting relationship with Camille. She was tolerated, most of the time. But Norah often showed submissiveness to Camille, and up until hours before her passing, often engaged Camille to play with her. When the vets wrapped Camille gently in blankets to transport her, we said our goodbyes and stepped back as they placed a blanket over her head. Norah stepped forward unexpectedly and curiously sniffed where Camile’s head was. It was as if Norah wondered why Camille was hiding under there. After a few moments, she lowered her head, as if realizing what was happening, that her mentor was gone. Suddenly, to our astonishment, she laid down next to Camille, as if to protect her, preventing the vet techs from picking her up. The vets looked at us and expressed that only a few dogs do this, and it genuinely surprised us all. It was as if, upon realizing her mentor was gone, Norah meant to honour her as well, as a fellow runner, a leader and teacher, a kind of passing of the torch. It caught us all by surprise. Norah has continued to surprise us in her actions – sleeping on Camille’s dog beds, even venturing into the bedroom she was once forbidden from.

Camille is so, SO missed by all of us. She had such a large presence in our lives, and our home. Despite still having two dogs, it feels empty and so quiet. It will be that way for a long time as we adjust to this new reality. We miss her immensely and always will, but though our hearts are broken we are also left with so much gratitude for her love and all the memories we shared together.

Camille. Sweetest pea. Camille-Leanne. The queen, honey bunny, squishy faced girl, the most perfect, beautiful, pretty girl. Little one. We are so, SO proud of you. Thank you for the honor of being your humans. Thank you for the memories. We will never forget you. We love you so much. Forever.