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Our Tribute to Sawyer: the Legendary King of Edinburgh

2015 was a special year because that is when our beloved Golden Retriever, Sawyer, was born. He was quite a big boy, and had the fluffiest ‘mohawk’ on top of his head. Our hearts melted the first time we saw him and held him in our arms. Sami and I knew instantly that he would be the perfect addition to our family.

From the moment he came home, we knew there was something special about this bundle of fluff. He had boundless energy- and gave his big brother, Finn, a fright or two with his crazy antics. However, they quickly bonded, and shared a deep brotherly connection that lasted their whole lives.

For his puppy years, we had Sawyer all to ourselves and he thoroughly enjoyed just spending time going for walks with Finn, swimming, and playing endless sessions of fetch (he would go crazy with excitement whenever he saw a tennis ball).

However, his life all changed when Sami decided to take him into the Edinburgh city centre and see if he was interested in going to ‘work’ with him. Well, there is no way to describe how Sawyer took to going to ‘work’ on tours other than to say that he was born to do it. After all, even though we always asked him if he wanted to go to ‘work’, to him it wasn’t work at all. Instead, it was the best walk ever- he got to be with his Dad, Sami, and spend time greeting and guiding people around Edinburgh. In fact, he would get really upset if he didn’t go with Sami to work- even on days when he needed to stay home and rest.

We always said that Sawyer had strong therapy dog instincts, and it never ceased to amaze us to see them kick into action. There were many times when people that came on our tours would tell Sami that they had horrible anxiety in busy public spaces (which Edinburgh almost always is), but that Sawyer helped them to feel safe and at ease. He would naturally sense when someone was anxious and just stay with them throughout the tour. He had an incredible ability to adapt to the needs of the group. For example, if someone was in a wheelchair, he would know to be careful and gently give them his head to pat. His patience and love would shine through at just the right times.

Like many Goldens, Sawyer also loved attention. Therefore, it isn’t too much of a stretch to understand why he loved his ‘job’ as a tour guide. Whenever he was on tours, as we walked along, we would constantly hear people say, ‘there’s Sawyer! I can’t believe it’s him- I follow him online!’ or comments like ‘isn’t he the cutest tour guide you ever saw?!’. Sawyer revelled in the adoration, and proudly sashayed his fluffy tail around the city as people fawned over him.

Not only was he an integral part of our Edinburgh walking tours, but he also joined us on our travels around Scotland with a sense of adventure and excitement that was contagious. His boundless energy and enthusiasm for life inspired everyone who met him, and his way of looking at life constantly inspired us. Sawyer got to see and experience more of Scotland than most people do, and we will always treasure our family time ‘exploring and discovering’.

Unfortunately, our darling Sawyer started to experience problems with his wrist a short while ago. Initially, we (along with our vet) thought it was just an injury coupled with arthritis. However, as the problem persisted and the medications didn’t work, we realised there was something else going on and went back to the vet. Yet, even at that point, we never expected to find out the diagnosis of advanced bone cancer. Our sweet baby boy never gave us any indication until the very end that something was wrong, and his incredible zeal for life somehow overcame any pain he must have been experiencing. We were shocked at the horrible aggressiveness of that cruel cancer that ravaged his body at the end.

However, we won’t let cancer ‘win’ this fight, because, even though Sawyer has now crossed the Rainbow Bridge and we are beyond heartbroken, we will never forget the incredible impact he had on our lives and of those who met him.

Personally, it’s difficult for me, as his mama, to begin to describe what Sawyer meant to me. I still can’t believe he’s gone, and the whole situation is just so hard to comprehend and discuss. Sawyer was more than just a dog; he was a best friend, companion, and guide to us and all those who had the pleasure of ‘exploring and discovering’ Edinburgh (and Scotland) with him. Sawyer provided me and countless individuals with memories that will last a lifetime. This is an amazing legacy that I will never forget and will make sure it continues on for as long as I live. This is the small measure of comfort I am able to provide myself during this difficult time.

Sami’s Ode to Sawyer

What can I say...I am broken.

This year has tested me like no other. We first mourned the loss of Stirling in March, and then in October, we were faced with yet another loss as we said goodbye to Finn. Going through those tribulations one thing remained constant and solid like a rock – Sawyer was always there.

But, while in the midst of mourning Finn, my world came crashing down when we learned the devastating news about Sawyer. What had baffled us and the vets was that his bone cancer was so advanced, and he hadn’t shown any signs of the disease. Our vets literally called Sawyer one of the most stoic dogs that they had ever come across. He was like a rock!

I don’t even know where to begin to tell you about Sawyer. The easiest thing would be to just write: I love you Sawyer – forever and always. But that would not even be remotely enough to express to you how I feel. We have all heard the clichés about a dog being a man’s best friend, and the stories about dogs’ love and loyalty. Well, let me tell you, I have lived and experienced something better than all the stories combined.

To me Sawyer was not (or is not) just a dog, a pet, or a furry friend. To me he was my saviour. Now, some of the stories have not nor will not be told; even if I tried, I couldn’t do justice in telling them. So, let me just say that – Sawyer saved my life and more than once.

I could tell you the horrifying tale of how on a dark and cold winter night, Sawyer and I were making our way down towards Elm Row bus stops near the top of Leith Walk. We had just finished watching a stunning sunset over our beautiful city of Edinburgh, from atop Calton Hill. However, as we started the descent on the eastside of Calton Hill, I suddenly lost my footing and like a cartoon character, both of my feet flew out from under me and up in the air I went! I landed on the back of my head- how it didn’t crack is beyond me. But, as I slipped in and out of consciousness, and in between throwing up and gasping for air, I knew that I was in a bad way.

That’s when it dawned on me that if I passed out for too long, I might not wake up, and that my frozen corpse would probably be discovered the next day. I even let go of the lead so that Sawyer could be free and save himself. But NO, Sawyer wasn’t having any of it! He wouldn’t let me go, and he kept nudging me with his giant head- a head bigger than a bowling ball. He would not even let me blink. I am certain that my memories of the night are a bit fuzzy due to a concussed brain. However, I swear to you that that night that amazing dog lifted me up and dragged me down to the lights of Leith Walk.

I remember that in my mind I started thinking the mantra – Get Sawyer home! Get Sawyer home! Get Sawyer home!

That night my beloved Sawyer literally saved my life.

But, like I said, that is not the only time. Because, long before that fall on Calton Hill, and without getting into all the details too much, I am just going to say that it is not easy for an immigrant to get a job- especially when you are older like me. Despite all the experience, education and qualifications it is tough out there. So, as I struggled to find a footing in this country of Scotland that I have come to love with every fibre of my being (as much as I love my native Finland), I was starting to get desperate for work. I was not even getting interviews for jobs that I was extremely overqualified for, jobs that paid less- a lot less- than a living wage. That’s when I knew that I had to make my own own luck.

That is, in a nutshell, the origin story of Wee Walking Tours. Now, as for luck, we had plenty because we had Sawyer. He took one look at me, and I swear if he could talk he would have said, “Don’t worry Dad – we got this.” And, boy did he ever!

Everything that we are, all that we have, all that we aspire to be – we owe it to a dog. Better yet, all that I am I owe to Sawyer. He has made me a better man, husband, and father. So, how could I possibly even begin to put that into words? I am telling you, Sawyer’s story and legacy is better than what has been told in stories before. I know that that is a bold claim, but I swear that I will continue to share his story. I owe him that – I owe him my life!

Even just days ago, one of the last things Sawyer did on this earth involved saving my life yet again. As we were preparing to take his last car ride to the vet, I laid sobbing on the couch, a broken man. I had not stopped crying for days. Quite frankly I don’t understand how I still had tears left to cry...we were running out of time, out of miracles. I could feel my heart literally breaking as my chest was tightening, and once again I knew that I was in a bad way.

But, at that moment, Sawyer had one more miracle left. Ignoring all of his own pain and, defying the laws of the universe, he leapt up like a puppy on top of me. He laid down on my chest as he done for years, rolled over and nudged my hands, so that I would start to scratch his chest and belly.

As he laid on top of me, he looked back at me with his loving eyes. His deep and thoughtful eyes, that have forever been carved into my soul, assured me that everything will be okay. He told me that it was his time, and that we needed to get in the car and go for our last ride. He asked me to repeat the mantra once again: “Get Sawyer home! Get Sawyer home! Get Sawyer home...” As I chanted that mantra, I could feel my chest pain easing, and I could feel the scar tissue forming, keeping my broken heart in one piece. It was not my time – Sawyer made sure of that as he saved my life yet again.

So, for now I might be broken, and I will most likely will never be completely whole again, but I will move on. That’s because I feel the nudging of a massive heavenly dog head forcing me to get up and to not to give up. Dagnabbit! Sawyer is saving me again, smiling from the Rainbow Bridge, assuring me, ”Don’t worry Dad – we got this!”

Stories Yet Untold

We will continue our walking tours of Edinburgh, as well as our blog posts and videos of our travels around Scotland in Sawyer's memory. There are countless stories and places that he visited that we haven’t even covered yet. Therefore, he will continue to be a regular feature and star on our social media, blog posts, and videos.

Sawyer, you will always be the best boy and canine tour guide that ever walked the streets of Edinburgh- Mommy and Daddy will never forget you. Everything we do is in honour of you.

Credit: @BertsLegacy on Twitter


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