Jeff Campbell has a new lease on life after being treated for a brain tumour - thanks to his furry friend.
The 48-year-old was an accountant prior to his diagnosis, and is now on disability.
In the time that followed a second surgery to remove the tumour, Campbell whiled away his time at home.
"I was sitting on the couch, doing nothing, not feeling good," he said.
That was before Digby came into his life.
The three-year-old Nova Scotia duck tolling retriever may not be aware of it, but he has energized Campbell, giving him a new purpose during their twice-a-week springtime excursions to Jerry Sulina Park, a 6.2-hectare green space in Maple Ridge.
Before he discovered the park, Campbell walked Digby around the neighbourhood where he lives in Port Coquitlam.
"He [Digby] is going to force me to go [outside], have to at least get my butt off the couch and feeling sorry for myself," Campbell said, looking back on why Digby joined his family. "It worked out really good but after a week of walking the neighbourhood, I was bored silly."
During his travels Campbell came across a woman who also owned a retriever.
She showed him a few of the techniques she had been working on in training her dog. Instantly, Campbell realized this kind of exercise is what Digby, and he, for that matter, needed.
"Without a doubt, that 'retrieve' concept is bred right into them," Campbell said. "One hundred per cent, it's in their blood. It gave me a purpose.
Now, not only do I have to train this dog, I have to figure out how to do it."
He connected with the B.C. Labrador Retriever Club, and early on, he was welcomed into their fold.
"They got me going, ultimately, with duck hunting and other bird-type hunting," he said. "The dog component of it is not about hunting. It's about taking your dog to that level, to the ability where you can go hunting with your dog and it's going to do what you want it to do, when you want it to do it."
Once he was cleared to drive again, Campbell motored east to find a suitable training ground for himself and Digby. This type of dog training blends land with a water component, and Campbell had a hard time finding the right venue.
He knew the Jerry Sulina Park was there after he looked it up on the internet, but the big draw for him was the fact it also offers an off-leash dog area.
In the spring, the two are at the park an average of twice a week. But in the summer, once the lily pads grow in, the water becomes too thick with vegetation for Digby to swim there.
@ Copyright 2013