a heartbeat at my feet.

 

I didn’t come up with that headline. Judith Wharton did, in an ode to her “little dog” back in 1920. In her lifetime, she won the Pulitzer and was nominated fora Nobel in literature. Thrice.

I, on the other hand, won that dog up there on the left.

Eight weeks after losing my last dog, Scout, to a brain tumor, a friend called to ask if it was too soon to think about another one. If not, he had a colleague who was fostering an abandoned puppy. He was an odd mix of Shar Pei and Lab. (The puppy, not the friend.) I was curious.

That was the summer of 2014. He was aboutsix-months old and fearless, with a big bobble head and cheeks he couldn’t possibly grow into. He also had cherry eye. But according to the foster vet, that was all he found wrong with him. I named him after Gitche Gumee, the Ojibwe name for Lake Superior, one of my favorite puddles on earth. It means “be a great sea” and he would soon prove to be just that. When I took the great sea to my vet to begin theprocess of correcting said cherry eye, there emerged a new hypothesis for why Gitch was abandoned:  He had a heart murmur. A wicked one, caused bya pulmonary valve that was nearly fused shut. 

And so began a sixth-month odyssey that would take Gitch from the cardiologist (“He won’t live to be one.”) to the operating table of the College of Veterinary Medicine at Michigan State University. In the end, the other guy in the photograph saved Gitch’s life. His name is Dr. Bari Olivier. He is a surgeon. He is our hero. With the help of a few equally heroic human beings (including a legend who came out of retirement and a student who made it a point to be there to greet Gitch when he walked in the door), he invested himself both professionally and personally in the fate of a dog and the happiness of his owner. 

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For that, I will always be grateful. Of course, not all stories end this way. While at MSU, I overheard a family talking to a doctor about a procedure their dog would need done. It was critical. It was expensive.  But it might work. You could hear the anguish in their voices. I knew what that anguish sounded like because I knew how suddenly and all-at-once the costs could mount. But I couldn’t imagine not being able to try. Once Gitch was out of the woods, karma compelled me to do something. Coincidentally, my mother sent me an article about The Lucky Fund at MSU. The fund subsidizes costs for pets who have a fighting chance but whose owners don’t have the money to pay for treatment.  

Which brings us here. On behalf of the pets whose owners work at seeds marketing+design and the clients who make moments like this possible, we made a contribution to The Lucky Fund in Gitch’s name Then, we made this calendar. Our hope is that, if you’re reading this, you’ll help too. For every contribution made in Gitch’s name during 2016, seeds will donate more money to The Lucky Fund. In addition, when we make a social media post with the hashtag #theyearofthegitch, we will add to the fund for every like the post receives. 

This won’t be our only cause this year, but it’s the one we’re rallying around. I’ll spare you the cliches about pets being members of the family and, instead, simply say I want a few less families to have to make decisions about their pet’s survival based on money.  It would suck. Period.

As I was approaching this last paragraph, Gitch told me it was time to take a walk. So we did. And as usual, along our route to the park and back, no one looked at me. They were all looking down. At the heartbeat at my feet. Smiling. Which always makes me smile. We hope the following pages make you smile in 2016. We hope every day is a celebration. Here’s to the year of the Gitch… Here’s to being a great sea.


Dan Zwolak,
Chief Dog Walker & Executive Creative Director, seeds marketing+design