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'A comforting moment': Victoria woman finds 1950s dog tag buried in garden

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VICTORIA, B.C. -

To appreciate why Karin Hedetniemi was so surprised by what she found buried in her back garden – how meaningful it was to discover an old metal dog tag from 1950 – we need to go back to when she met Gary Salmon in 2018.

“We had each lost our spouse to cancer,” Karin says.

They first connected during an online grief class. Then they formed a friendship while hiking the Camino Trail in Spain, which led to a long-distance romance between New Jersey and British Columbia.

“We were wanting to not only move forward,” Karin says. “But recapture some of the joy of everyday living.”

Eventually they married and Gary moved to Canada along with his dog Muffin — who loved to have breakfast with Karin in the garden.

“Muffin would sit at my feet and want to lick the yogurt bowl,” Karin recalls with a laugh. “How could I say no?”

Muffin was a constant companion, even when the 16-year-old’s health started declining rapidly.

“She had her treats and she had good snuggly naps,” Karin recalls of the day Muffin died. “We loved her a lot that day.”

That day was followed by difficult days filled with Muffin’s absence being palpable.

“You look out of the corner of your eye and expect to see them there,” Karin says. “You think you see them and they’re not there.”

As Karin reflects on their relationship with Muffin, she allows her self to feel all her feelings, including gratitude.

“This pet filled our life with love,” Karin says, before scrolling through countless photos of the pup, surrounded by flowers, keeping her company in the garden.

Which brings us back to that discovery in the dirt.

“If I had found that tag next year,” Karin says, “it probably wouldn’t have touched me that way it did that morning.”

Despite spending countless hours working with Muffin in her garden over the past five years, Karin found a tag belonging to a previous owner’s long-deceased dog just days after her own pet had passed.

“It was a comforting moment. It was whimsical,” Karin says, before rubbing the circular metal tag that she plans to keep. “It brought a little bit of joy.”

While it could be a coincidence – or maybe a message from Muffin – Karin says it’s definitely a reminder that if we keep our hearts open, finding moments of love and life after loss is possible.

“And, as silly as it seems,” Karin smiles. “I like to imagine that little spirit dog (who had the tag) playing with Muffin.”

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