Lots of us will have several best friends throughout our lives. And some of those best friends will have fur and four legs.
Aaron Salkill’s best friend was a Dalmatian puppy named Ember.
Though their story ends in sadness but with fond memories, it’s still a beautiful. Grab some tissues because this story is worth a read for a dog as honorable as Ember.
Salkill had been looking to adopt a dog when a friend asked if he wanted a Dalmatian puppy.
As he explains it: “It was love at first sight.”
“I nearly jumped out of my shoes with excitement. I had been working as a firefighter for a little more than a year, but the idea of actually finding a Dalmatian puppy had seemed far-fetched to say the least,” Salkill, of Marietta, Georgia, recalls in a post for Love What Matters.
Children would often gather around Ember every time she and Salkill would go out in public.
Salkill had an epiphany during one of these encounters.
“If Ember’s presence could bring about such a powerful response in healthy children, how much more of an impact would she have on children in a hospital? I knew I had to find out. The next day Ember and I started on our quest to become a certified therapy dog team,” Salkill explains.
Ember and Salkill spent hours training to be the best therapy dog team they could be.
Ember passed the test for the Alliance of Therapy Dogs with flying colors.
They made their first therapy visit on Halloween 2016 at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Salkill was surprised to see a nurse dressed up as Cruella Deville.
He couldn’t help but laugh at the coincidence.
“I watched a young girl of 7 or 8 get wheeled out of the elevator in a little red wagon. She was very thin, and obviously very ill. Her lack of hair told a story that no child should be a part of. Yet, in the next moment, all of that was forgotten. She saw Ember and let out the most joyous exclamation, “A DALMATIAN!” She climbed out of her wagon and came running to Ember and embraced her. She sat with us for several minutes before she finally left to go join the number of others that were telling Cruella to leave poor Ember alone,” Salkill recalls.
The girl’s mother told Salkill that running over to the dog was the most she had walked in weeks because the chemotherapy made her so weak.
“That single thank you was one of the most rewarding moments in my whole life,” he says.
Salkill and Ember spent the next two years making children and hospital patients smile. During this time, they became lifelong best friends.
“As many lives as Ember has touched, no one has been more impacted than me. She has been with me through good times and the bad. When I had no one else, I could always rest easy knowing my sweet girl would be waiting excitedly for me with all the snuggles I could handle,” Salkill recalls.
“Ember even helped give me a family of my own. On our very first visit to Northside Hospital, Ember caught the eyes of every single person in the building. Those eyes included the eyes of some of the nurses that set me up on a blind date with their beautiful friend. That blind date would turn out to be with the woman that has become my wife,”
But eventually, Ember became sick after five years of being with Salkill.
Her kidneys started to fail out of nowhere.
Veterinarians said that Ember’s time would be short. So Salkill and his family tried to show her as much loves as possible.
“She went everywhere with me, and I refused to let her leave my side. We spent a few last days visiting kids at work, having multiple photo shoots with local fire departments, hiking to her favorite creek for a fun day in the water, and most of all, cuddling on the couch,” Salkill says.
She was making people smile until her very last day.
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“At the very end, when she was looking back at me, I knew she was ready to go. She was beyond tired, but was still happy with her little wagging tail. I believe she was sent to me with a higher purpose, and I think she knew she had done her job and done it well,” Salkill said. “Ember’s memory will live on in my heart, and in the hearts of the many others who loved her.”
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