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In Loving Memory of Our Wee Stirling



“I think dogs are the most amazing creatures; they give unconditional love. For me, they are the role model for being alive.” ~Gilda Radner


There once was a wee Golden pup born in the heart of the Scottish Highlands, and his name was Stirling. He went to live in his forever home in Edinburgh with a family who loved him very much. From the moment he arrived, he brought joy and happiness to his family.


In his short two years on this earth, Stirling went on incredible adventures all over Scotland with his family, including his beloved brothers- Finn and Sawyer. The happiness he felt going on ‘explore and discover’ missions was palpable- from ‘An Exploration of Scotland’s National Museum of Flight’ to a memorable visit to the iconic ‘Battle of Bannockburn Visitor Centre’.



“The hardest part of having a dog is saying goodbye.”


However, despite Stirling’s zest for life, it eventually became apparent that there was something seriously wrong with his health. Tests and examinations by the vet confirmed that our wee boy was indeed incredibly ill. You see, he was born with a liver that never fully developed and the horrendous effects of this were starting to catch up with him. This issue never really presented itself before and we (and his vets) thought he was healthy.


Therefore, it was an incredible shock to find out our wee baby boy was now starting to suffer from fluid build up and bloating that was impacting his other organs. We eventually reached the point where we knew that there was nothing else left to do, and to prolong the fight would have been cruel for Stirling’s quality of life. Therefore, we made the hardest decision of our lives as we said our goodbyes and let our baby cross over the rainbow bridge.


The trauma and grief we have been experiencing these past months since Stirling passed has been intense and has made it extremely difficult to work and navigate daily life. That is why it has taken us so long to write this. Yet, we know we must remain strong for our other canine family members- Finn and Sawyer- who are also working through their own grief at the loss of their wee brother.


There are so many lessons that we learned from Stirling, and one of the most important was the gift of unconditional love and a desire to live each day to the fullest. His loss demonstrates just how short life can be, and despite our grief, we know that we must honour him by continuing our ‘explore and discover’ missions.


"The best way to show your love for those that are gone is to tell their stories."

~The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Once Upon a Time


This post is just the beginning of our celebration of our wee Stirling’s life. We still have many adventures that he went on with us that we want to share with all of you. For example, it only seems fitting that, with Stirling being our very own canine Peter Pan, we visited the birthplace of the author of that iconic story- J.M. Barrie.



While we will always miss our ‘Highland boy’, we want to keep his memory alive through this blog (and videos on our YouTube channel). We hope you will join us in honouring Stirling’s life by joining us on these explorations.


And, finally, to my wee Stirling- you were the best boy a mama could ever ask for. You were my constant and loyal companion- keeping me company every day. I'll never forget your sweet face looking at me so seriously while I talked with you- and you truly seemed to understand me in a way I'll never forget. Know that I love you more than anything, think of you everyday, and keep you in my heart always.


Our tribute continues as Stirling’s dad, Sami, also wanted to share his memories of Stirling below...


“It's been a while, my dear

Dealin' with the cards life dealt

I'm still holdin' back these tears”


The quote above and all the quotes in my section of this tribute post are from Ed Sheeran’s song ‘Eyes Closed’. It is a heart-breaking song that Ed wrote about losing his friend Jamal. However, he has also said that it is dedicated to everyone who has lost a close friend or a loved one. In the past, he stated that even though his songs are personal to him, once they are released, they belong to us all, and they become personal to each one of us for different reasons. I feel that is why his music resonates so well with so many people.


I can personally attest to this, because after losing our wee bonnie prince Stirling a few months ago, the song – ‘Eyes Closed’- has imprinted on my heart and soul as I continue to grieve the loss of my baby. So, to honour his memory, I want to share a few personal memories of our angel baby, intertwined with lyrics from ‘Eyes Closed’.


“Every song reminds me you're gone, and I feel the lump form in my throat

'Cause I'm here alone”


A little over two years ago now, we drove up the A9 towards the ‘Heart of Scotland’– Aberfeldy. We were on our way to go look at a litter of fluffy Golden Retriever puppies of bonnie Skye! We previously saw some pictures of her puppies and our hearts were singing with joy and excitement. We were so excited talking about the possibilities that we missed out on the gorgeous scenery we drove by in both Fife and Perthshire.


The main topic of our conversation was the potential names for a puppy if we were to pick one. Since Golden Retrievers originate from here in Scotland, we tossed around name ideas in both Scots and Gaelic. We went through all the stereotypical names for Scotland too, but nothing really seemed to click. I even listed names of just about every historical figure in Scotland, but we were still helplessly at a loss. After dismissing all the names of various rivers, lochs and munros here in Scotland- almost as a joke- I started going through various place names: Dundee, Glasgow, Kelso, Elgin, Motrose, Alva, Banff, Melrose…and dozens more. However, I finally arrived at – Stirling.


As soon as I said “Stirling”, we looked at each other and repeated – “Stirling”! We had finally arrived at a name that we loved – just like we love the city of Stirling. Besides, Finn, Sawyer and Stirling had a nice ring to it. But the time flew by on the drive, and, before we knew it, we were pulling into the driveway of a cottage near the shore of the stunning Loch Tay. On the porch waiting for us we see the most beautiful female Golden we had ever seen – Skye.


“Just dancin' with my eyes closed

'Cause everywhere I look, I still see you

And time is movin' so slow

And I don't know what else that I can do”


After greeting Skye, we also met her owner, the kindest and friendliest, ‘salt of the earth’ type of man – Bill. With his thick Scottish accent, he immediately put everyone at ease, and after just a few moments with him we were left feeling like he was the kind of man you would want as your grandpa. But it was now time to step into the cottage to meet the PUPPIES!


They were the most adorable balls of fluff roaming around their pen set up in the dining room. They all had different coloured collars, and Bill told us that the two available males were the red and the purple one.


The red one was adorable and also full of energy- maybe a bit too much 😉. However, as I sat there in Bill’s dining room, the purple one walked calmly over to me, as if asking to be picked up. In my head I’m thinking – “hmm…purple – how fitting – it’s the colour of Scotland!” So, I picked up the adorable fluff ball, and as I brought him up to my chest, I gazed into his dark brown and thoughtful eyes – and my heart melted. As I placed him gently against my chest and stroked his fluffy head, he fell asleep. And I fell in LOVE!



“So I'll keep dancin' with my

Eye-eye-eye-eyes

Eye-eye-eye-eyes closed

Eye-eye-eye-eyes

So I'll keep dancin' with my…“


It was one of those moments in life that would turn even the toughest of guys into jelly! I could feel the tears of joy rolling down my cheek as I mustered the words- “This is Stirling, and he his coming home"!


After my declaration of the purple pup being Stirling, I noticed through my misty eyes that Bill was smiling and he then asked me inquisitively – “You are going to name him Stirling?” But, I misunderstood his tone for disapproval of sorts, and my mind was rushing and I wondered if that was not an okay name. Was there some unwritten rule about not naming your dog Stirling? Or, any other place name? My head was literally filled with so many questions, but I settled on the first one and asked if that was that not an okay name.


“Oh no, I think it is a perfect name…” Bill replied and he then added, “…especially since they have a monument for me in Stirling.” At this point, I was so baffled and confused- what on earth is my Scottish Grandpa talking about?! Monument? What monument?


Bill read the confusion on my face, and he burst out into hearty laughter. ”Stirling is a perfect name for him, and I love it because it feels personal to me as well. You see, you have only known me as Bill, but my name is William…William Wallace. And, of course it is in Stirling where they have the National Wallace Monument. So, Stirling is perfect!”


My confusion turned into laughter and agreement- Stirling was a perfect name. And Stirling was perfect!


“Delusion is here again

And I think you'll come home soon”


That is the brief version of the day that Stirling came into our lives, and the reasons why I would argue that he was the most Scottish dog ever:

- A Golden Retriever – a breed originating from Scotland

- Born to a Mama named Skye – like the Isle of Skye in Scotland

- Born in Aberfeldy – the Heart of Scotland

- Mama Skye belonging to a man named William Wallace. I know, you can’t make this stuff up!

- His name Stirling – Stirling – the former capital of Scotland, or as Robert the Bruce said- “He who holds Stirling, holds Scotland” - Do I need to say more?!


“A word brings me right back in

Then it's only me that's in this room

I guess I could just pretend

The colours are more than blue”


A couple of weeks later we made the trip again, but this time to bring Stirling home. During the ride back to Edinburgh, Stirling quickly melted all of our hearts again as he started to imprint on all of us.



After we reached our house, it was time for wee Stirling to meet his two doting big brothers– Finn and Sawyer. And, like magic, he won them over in a matter of seconds. As we watched them playing in our garden, we noticed a remarkable coincidence – Stirling had a black birthmark on his tongue. What made it remarkable was the fact that it was identical to the birthmark that Sawyer has on his tongue. Now, what are the odds of that?! So, needless to say, it was apparent that Stirling had found his home!



“But I lost more than my friend

I can't help but missin' you


As time went on, we experienced all the joys and the frustrations of raising a puppy. We have millions of stories of scratches, puppy teeth marks, piles of all sorts of excrements, chewed up toys, etc. We, of course, had concerns about his health and development, but rather than focusing on those, I mainly want to share some joyous personal moments we had with our incredible wee-man; moments that can’t be told with social media posts. I know that the common expression is that a picture is worth a thousand words. However, sometimes words can convey a lot more than a picture.



Stirling became well known by many because of his adventures around Scotland (so many of them that we haven’t even had a chance to write about them yet- stay tuned for those). Here are some photos of his adventures you can scroll through (click on the black arrow):



But the reality is that most of his time was not spent adventuring around Scotland, but rather living his best life right here at home.



For example, something that no one really knew about Stirling is that he loved dancing with me (maybe you can now start to realise why I chose to highlight the song- ‘Eyes Closed’ in this post). We spent countless hours blasting music in our living room while both Stirling and I sang and danced (in case you wondering, Finn and Sawyer usually rested on the couch looking at us like the fools we were).


Would you like to dance, Daddy?

Stirling- being the most Scottish dog in history – absolutely loved Scottish folk music. His favourite was The Corries, closely followed by Gaberlunzie. He also really loved Runrig. But, like I said, The Corries were his favourite! All I would have to do is to turn on songs like ‘MacPherson’s Rant’, ‘Bonnie Dundee’, or his absolute favourite ‘The Braes of Killiecrankie”, and my wee Jacobite, Stirling, was hopping and howling!


“I pictured this month a little bit different, no one is ever ready

And when it unfolds, you get in a hole, oh, how can it be this heavy?

Everything changes, nothing's the same, except the truth is now you're gone

And life just goes on”


In our lives we have been very fortunate in that we have had some incredible and lovable dogs but- trust me when I say this – Stirling was the most huggable of all time! And he loved to give hugs and snuggle. I was often exhausted from doing tours with Sawyer, walks with Finn, adventures with all of them, and dancing with Stirling and I would finally crash and just lie down on the couch…but never alone. That little fluff ball that fell asleep on my chest the first time I met him never grew out of that.


So, as I would crash, my little Peter Pan – the boy who never grew up – would hop up on the couch, climb on my chest (I swear that I have permanent Stirling paw marks on my chest), flop down, and go to sleep! The warmth of his body on top of mine and the smell of the top of his head pressed against my face, are just two tiny examples of sensations that can’t be conveyed in a photo. Quite frankly, my words don’t do justice either in telling you what a lovable snugglebug Stirling was.



“So I'm dancin' with my eyes closed

'Cause everywhere I look, I still see you

And time is movin' so slow

And I don't know what else that I can do”


Stirling was not only lovable and kind, but he also had some flare and attitude! He could give Sawyer a run for his money in a side-eye competition.



But even Sawyer couldn’t compete in the swaying walk of flare that Stirling had. He would wave his fluffy tail feathers in the Scottish winds like a proud flag. He would march into Prestonpans with the swagger of the proudest follower of Bonnie Prince Charlie. So, I might have to amend Sir Robert’s saying- it’s not who holds Stirling that holds Scotland, but rather Stirling is Scotland!


“So I'll keep dancin' with my

Eye-eye-eye-eyes

Eye-eye-eye-eyes closed

Eye-eye-eye-eyes”


I hope that from these brief stories you have also gotten to know Stirling a bit better. Because, for those of us who were lucky enough to know him, he will never be forgotten. He might have been with us for only a couple of years, but they were incredible years, and they created a lifetime of memories. Memories that we will continue to share as we slowly move on.


So, finally, to my sweet baby boy Stirling- thank you for choosing us on that magical day in Aberfeldy in the Spring of 2021. Thank you for taking us on a journey of a lifetime! You were the perfect dog, at the perfect time, at the perfect place. So, until we meet again…


“So I'll keep dancin' with my

Eye-eye-eye-eyes

Eye-eye-eye-eyes closed

Eye-eye-eye-eyes

Oh, I keep dancin' with my-“



We both (Stirling’s mom and dad) thought that it was only appropriate to close this tribute post with ‘the Boss’, Bruce Springsteen, and some of the lyrics to his hauntingly beautiful song, ‘I’ll See You in My Dreams’, which he sang as he closed his concert here in Edinburgh earlier this summer:


I'll see you in my dreams When all our summers have come to an end I'll see you in my dreams We'll meet and live and laugh again I'll see you in my dreams Yeah, up around the river bend For death is not the end And I'll see you in my dreams (See) you in my See you in my dreams


Go


And I'll see you in my dreams


-Bruce Springsteen, ‘I’ll See You in My Dreams’


Until next time- Explore & Discover!



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