When Paul Heroux found out that his 10-year-old Japanese wolf dog had just months to live, he set out on a man-and-his-dog road-trip that criss-crossed North America and included a stop on Vancouver Island to visit the place where Mura was born.
Heroux and Mura have been inseparable since 2008, when the then-eight-week-old pup was transported from her Island breeder to Heroux’s home in Attleboro, Massachusetts.
“It sounds corny but we were instantly attached,” he said of their first meeting. “She paired with me immediately.”
Mura would accompany her owner, who also happens to be the mayor of Attleboro, on door-to-door campaign visits, trips to seniors homes and to the state capital. She would dutifully walk by his side during parades and countless public engagements.
“She’s my family, I take her everywhere I go,” Heroux said.
On Sept. 21, Mura’s spleen ruptured, causing internal bleeding which almost killed her.
She survived that night after an emergency surgery, but Heroux found out his best friend had a non-curable blood cancer, leaving her with months to live.
Heroux had been planning a trip to the Middle East, but he scrapped that in favour of a 12-day road trip that would see him cross 24 states and the Canada-U.S. border with Mura happily riding shotgun.
“For me it was a chance to spend time with my girl doing a bunch of sightseeing in the process,” he said.
Between Oct. 28 and Nov. 9, Heroux documented the trip on Facebook, posting photos of Mura in front of Niagara Falls, in Yellowstone National Park, at San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge and in front of Seattle’s Space Needle.
“She doesn't know what the significance is of the Grand Canyon or Mount Rushmore, but what she does know is she got to spend all day everyday with me and that’s what she likes,” Heroux said.
One photo shows Mura looking pensively over the Strait of Georgia as the pair ferried from the Lower Mainland to Vancouver Island.
The trip was also a homecoming for Mura, who visited the property on central Vancouver Island where she was born. The breeder, Heroux said, was impressed by Mura’s calm and well-behaved nature. “She was very happy with the outcome of how I raised my girl,” he said.
Heroux shared Mura’s terminal diagnosis on his public Facebook page, and the online visual diary of his last trip with Mura has captivated people all over the world. He has been contacted by media all over the world who want to share the touching story.
Some have suggested he turn his story into a children’s book. Others got in touch to share their stories of losing a four-legged best friend.
“The reason it resonates with people, it’s a love story about me and my dog. It’s very pure, very simple and innocent. It’s just a guy who loves his dog who went on a trip.”
— Katie DeRosa, Times Colonist