Lots of us will have several best friends throughout our lives. And some of those best friends will have fur and four legs.Aaron Salkill’s best friend was a Dalmatian puppy named Ember.Though their story ends in sadness but with fond memories, it’s still a beautiful. Grab some tissues because this story is worth a read for a dog as honorable as Ember.
As he explains it: “It was love at first sight.”“I nearly jumped out of my shoes with excitement. I had been working as a firefighter for a little more than a year, but the idea of actually finding a Dalmatian puppy had seemed far-fetched to say the least,” Salkill, of Marietta, Georgia, recalls in a post for Love What Matters.
Salkill rushed over to the veterinarian’s office where Ember’s previous owners abandoned the 3-month-old puppy.
Salkill was surprised by how much energy Salkill possessed.
So, he had to make sure he kept her busy with lots of walks, hikes, games of fetch, tug of war, and trips to the dog park.
Children would often gather around Ember every time she and Salkill would go out in public.
Salkill had an epiphany during one of these encounters.
“If Ember’s presence could bring about such a powerful response in healthy children, how much more of an impact would she have on children in a hospital? I knew I had to find out. The next day Ember and I started on our quest to become a certified therapy dog team,” Salkill explains.
Ember and Salkill spent hours training to be the best therapy dog team they could be.
Ember passed the test for the Alliance of Therapy Dogs with flying colors.
They made their first therapy visit on Halloween 2016 at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. Salkill was surprised to see a nurse dressed up as Cruella Deville.
“I watched a young girl of 7 or 8 get wheeled out of the elevator in a little red wagon. She was very thin, and obviously very ill. Her lack of hair told a story that no child should be a part of. Yet, in the next moment, all of that was forgotten. She saw Ember and let out the most joyous exclamation, “A DALMATIAN!” She climbed out of her wagon and came running to Ember and embraced her. She sat with us for several minutes before she finally left to go join the number of others that were telling Cruella to leave poor Ember alone,” Salkill recalls.
The girl’s mother told Salkill that running over to the dog was the most she had walked in weeks because the chemotherapy made her so weak.
“That single thank you was one of the most rewarding moments in my whole life,” he says.
Salkill and Ember spent the next two years making children and hospital patients smile. During this time, they became lifelong best friends.
“As many lives as Ember has touched, no one has been more impacted than me. She has been with me through good times and the bad. When I had no one else, I could always rest easy knowing my sweet girl would be waiting excitedly for me with all the snuggles I could handle,” Salkill recalls.