Raio the golden retriever wearing a pink Veg Fest T-shirt

Raio: A Life Lived in the Moment

October 25, 2019

“Raio was graceful, full of peace and love right to the end. As she lay dying, I wept, and she comforted and consoled me, assuring me that it was alright. Then she was gone.”

Many people will recognize Raio and her sister Maia as longtime mascots of Veg Food Fest and ambassadors for compassion and veganism. This is her story.

Article care of Kenneth Butland

It’s a sunny summer day in Nova Scotia, and Emre Uzun is enjoying a drive in the countryside with his new best friend, a one-year-old Golden Retriever named Raio. The year is 2005, and his heavy fog of depression—after many years of struggle and with Raio’s help—has finally lifted. A song by Nellie McKay comes on the radio:

Yeah, it’s just me and my dog
Catchin some sun
We can’t go wrong

“Raio looked out the window, soaking it all in, totally in the moment,” Emre recalls. His eyes well up as he recounts what happened next: “As the song played, I was filled with a profound sense of peace. I felt so alive and connected. It’s difficult to explain.”

Emre also credits Raio with inspiring his decision to go vegan and become an animal activist. “I’d never had a relationship with an animal before. Raio taught me that animals are individuals, not objects. I found myself imagining what it would be like if it were Raio in that crowded, filthy truck on the way to slaughter. I just couldn’t bear it.”

Now living in Toronto with Raio and Maia, his second Golden Retriever, Emre and his two furry ambassadors attended the Veg Food Fest as TVA volunteers, other dog-friendly outdoor events, seniors’ residences, and anywhere else they were welcome, sparking conversations about the treatment of animals and moving hundreds of people to consider embracing veganism.

Both dogs thrived on a vegan diet for many years. Emre is quick to point out that the average life expectancy for a Golden Retriever is as short as 10 years, and that Raio lived to nearly 15, avoiding the heart disease and kidney failure that end the lives of so many companion animals fed a meat-based diet. “She was healthy all the way up to a few days before she died. She danced and played and goofed around and enjoyed her life until she left us,” Emre says through his grief.

Here he pauses thoughtfully, holding in his mind her beautiful spirit, now crossed over the Rainbow Bridge, who transformed his life forever and inspired so many others to live a more compassionate life.

In Raio’s memory, Emre has requested that readers make a donation to the Toronto Vegetarian Association.

Click here to listen to Emre speak about raising his dogs Raio and Maia on a vegan diet on the Toronto Vegetarian Podcast.

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