Dog days of August

Blue Bombers coach Jim Daley says when he was with the Roughriders, his dog Mac was the 'only...

Blue Bombers coach Jim Daley says when he was with the Roughriders, his dog Mac was the 'only person' who didn't care who started at QB. (Winnipeg Sun File/Marcel Cretain)

PAUL FRIESEN -- Winnipeg Sun

, Last Updated: 8:01 AM ET

You wouldn't know by looking at him that Winnipeg Blue Bomber head coach Jim Daley is under a lot of stress.

A glass-half-full guy if there ever was one, Daley bounces around Bomber headquarters with boundless energy, usually wearing a pair of shorts and a friendly grin -- at least when he's not screaming out instructions at a wayward defensive back during practice.

Slow to criticize, and always looking for a silver lining in the dark cloud that is becoming the Bombers' 2005 season, we can only imagine the platitudes he'd be handing out if his team was winning.

Or the mood he'd be in if his best friend wasn't dying.

Perhaps you've noticed that wherever Daley goes these days, so goes his dog, Mac.

A 13-year-old black lab, Mac has been Daley's constant companion since Daley was an assistant coach with the now-defunct Ottawa Rough Riders in the early 1990s.

Mac followed Daley to Saskatchewan in '94, Calgary in 2000 and, now, here.

There's no telling where Daley may go from here, but it's certain this is Mac's last CFL stop.

About a month ago, Daley and his wife Diane found out Mac's body was filling with cancer.

"He wasn't feeling quite right, and didn't look quite right," Daley was saying yesterday. "So she took him to the vet and they did X-rays and found the cancer throughout him. It was really shocking, really upsetting. We've come to grips with it now, but we're going to make sure he has, every day, a great day."

That's why Daley brought Mac here, while his wife and her black lab, Riley, live in Calgary -- so he could spend as much time with him as possible in the dog's final days.

Whoever said a dog is man's best friend must have had Daley and Mac in mind.

"He's been all over the country with me," Daley said. "We've driven everywhere, flown everywhere. And he is, in many days, my only friend.

"My wife gets mad at me because I won't take a holiday if it involves going to a place we can't bring the dogs. Like, she wants to fly to Hawaii. I won't go to Hawaii. Because we can't take the dogs."

When Daley goes home for Christmas -- he's from Ottawa, his wife from St. Catharines -- he often drives with his "boys," while Diane, a teacher, catches up with them by air.

"We've driven across the country so many time, it's unbelievable. We stop and play. They've played in every rest stop from here to St. Catharines. In Michigan, in Wisconsin, in Ontario, everywhere.

"He was at our wedding. He's been all throughout New York State, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, Montana, all through the States. He loves Lake Superior. He loves Lake Michigan.

"He's my best buddy. All the time. I'm like Mackenzie King."

You may have heard the eccentric former Canadian prime minister was said to have asked his dog, Pat, for political advice.

So has Daley ever consulted with Mac about his football teams?

"Mac's the only person, when I was in Saskatchewan, the only person that didn't care who started at quarterback," Daley said. "My wife did. He didn't. So he and I got along good."

These days, Mac has trouble getting in and out of vehicles, so Daley built a ramp that he carries around in his car.

"I can't carry him because of the tumours," Daley said. "It hurts him. We had to build a ramp, and I just have to help him up at the back end. He loves coming down. He just has trouble going up."

And so it is that a man and his dog spend their last days as best friends, sharing toast and raspberry jam in the morning, a football practice in the afternoon and a walk at night.

"He's day to day," Daley said. "And he's doing great today."

We would expect nothing less.


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