TORONTO - There was only one Rob Ford and one Ford Nation. But now there is a Dog Ford.
Yes, the late politician’s children, Stephanie, 10, and Dougie, 8, did get their puppy.
“His name is Brownie and while he doesn’t replace the grief they have for losing their father, he is wonderful and has been a good distraction for the kids,” said their mom, Renata Ford. “The dog has helped because we have to get through this and the kids have to move on with their lives.”
But that is easier said than done.
“They really miss their dad. It’s so hard,” Renata said in an interview. “Rob was home a lot in the last two years and we really bonded as a family. He was very close to Dougie and Stephanie so this is very difficult for all of us.”
When the former mayor died of cancer a month ago, newly-widowed Renata promised the children a pooch.
There was, however, a week’s delay.
“Just after Rob died my father also died,” she said. “They kept it from me because they knew I was going through a lot. They waited a few days to tell me.”
She said she knew her father had been moved from a seniors’ residence to the hospital, but “I was told he was doing OK.”
She ended up burying her husband and father in the same week.
“It’s devastating,” Renata said. “It’s too much for me and for the kids.”
Brownie — a four-month-old Morkie, a cross between a Yorkshire terrier and Maltese — has helped with the healing.
“The kids just love that dog,” Renata said, adding Rob’s allergies were just “too bad” to have a puppy in the house.
But he knew of this plan and was thrilled.
“I keep waiting for him to walk in the door,” she said of her late husband. “I just miss the guy. We were very close. Rob was a very good person.”
She said she and the kids cherish the send-off and love their dad received from Mayor John Tory, city councillors and Toronto residents — the taxpayers Ford worked hard to protect.
“When I was riding in the limo behind the hearse from City Hall to the church, I could not believe the crowd that was out there on the street cheering and singing,” said Renata. “I was crying the whole time because I know how much it would have meant to him.”
She said it meant a lot to her kids, as well.
“I told them that this shows how much people appreciated him,” she said. “The huge outpouring of love validated everything he tried to do in public life. He was not there for money. He was there trying to help regular people.”
Inside St. James Cathedral that day, Renata was “blown away” by what came out of Stephanie’s mouth during her eulogy.
“When she said Rob was the ‘Mayor of Heaven now,’ it was so perfect. She came up with that herself. That’s when I first heard it. I was so proud of her.”
Both kids picked up a few tricks while watching their dad in politics. Dougie enjoys the media more than his dad did and Stephanie “is very much like her father in so many ways.”
It would not surprise their mom if they had a future in politics, but “right now we have to focus on them just being kids,” she said.
There has been much speculation on who will be vying for Rob’s vacant council seat, including discussions of brother Doug Ford or nephew Michael Ford.
How about Renata?
“I get asked that a lot,” she said. “But no. I love the people Rob served but my focus right now is on the kids.”
Renata said the Ford family has been so supportive — as has the whole community.
“I just want to say again thank you to all of the people who reached out to us,” she said. “If I could write tens of thousands of thank-you cards I would. The people of this city are sure good. Rob loved the people of Toronto. This is a good city.”
That and a puppy’s love is helping them pull through.
Said Renata: “It means a lot because it’s part of your heart that’s gone.”