Mr. Twee will be remembered for more than just his princely charm.
The 12-year-old shih tzu died last month, but not before making his mark on the hearts of many community members as a therapy dog at local care homes and strolling Parksville Beach in his recognizable pink dog cart.
“He loved everybody and he was very friendly and outgoing and everyone seemed to love him,” said his owner Jean Meikle.
Mr. Twee started working as a therapy dog for St. John Ambulance when he was six-years-old. He began his work at Trillium Lodge and went on to work at five local care homes including Eagle Park where he was able to greatly affect the life of a female resident and her family. The resident had Alzheimer’s disease and had been keeping her eyes and fists closed for a long time, never responding to anyone, Meikle explained.
Mr. Twee “leaned over and kissed her under the chin, gave her a few licks, and then her eyes popped open and they were lovely, blue, bright eyes and she started to smile and laugh,” she said.
The resident put her hand on Meikle’s arm and said, “I love this adorable little dog,” Meikle recalled. So the two came to visit the woman weekly and would stay for about 45 minutes, during which time the resident would hug and cuddle and even sing to Mr. Twee, said Meikle.
“Her family was standing around her amazed and then as soon as we took him off her knee her head dropped, her fists closed and she went back into her non existent state,” she said.
Once, at Arrowsmith Lodge, a male nurse asked Meikle if Mr. Twee would come help get a male resident out of bed. The man was disgruntled when the two arrived but soon the man was cuddling and kissing Mr. Twee. He also began to get weekly visits form Mr. Twee.
“He would be so growly-looking when we came in and then I plunked (Mr. Twee) on the bed and he just changed,” Meikle said. “As soon as that little dog touched his bed his eyes opened, his arms went out to him, and he was a happy, happy man.”
And Mr. Twee in turn loved to visit with the residents, Meikle said. He also loved the walkway at Parksville Beach where he would often walk ahead on his extended leash and people would comment how proud and beautiful he was and how he looked like a prince, Meikle said.
Mr. Twee was featured in The NEWS in April 2012 and after that even more people recognized him, Meikle said.
Last year Mr. Twee was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and he went downhill quickly, she said.
St. John Ambulance retired him as a therapy dog, but the care homes wanted him to keep visiting, so Meikle purchased a pink doggy stroller.
“Elvis had a pink car so he had a pink stroller,” she said.
On their walks people would often stop them to pet the dog and get their pictures taken with him.
Mr. Twee and Meikle visited the care homes for another six months after retiring from St. John’s and then in June of this year Mr. Twee decided he was finished with the job. He didn’t put his paws up to get into the car one day, Meikle said, so she lifted him onto her seat and he made a retching noise. She took him down and he ran back to their stairs, looking back at her as if to say, “let’s go back up these steps,” she said.
“That was his way of saying I’ve had enough.”
By the end of November his heart was struggling and it was his time to go, Meikle said.
Although Mr. Twee will no longer be seen strolling the beach in his pink cart or cuddling with care home residents, those who knew him will remember his warm and happy demeanour and the look on his proud face as he rode in his pink stroller. Most of all people will remember the joy he brought to others around the community.