- Compatibility. My dog, Stanley, is well mannered and socialized with a rock-solid temperament, however I want the new dog to be compatible with him. I want my dog to have a voice in the new dog we bring into the house. This is far easier with a puppy than an older dog. I know he would get along with any puppy we bring home but there may be a puppy that really clicks with him so Stanley will be with us when we pick our puppy.
- Timing. When you work with a responsible breeder you know when the puppy will be born, when they are weaned and ready to come home. This allows us to plan accordingly and be ready. No spur of the moment decisions here or waiting endlessly for the “right” rescue to come along at the “right” time.
- Epigentics. Many people get a puppy from a shelter or rescue thinking that they are getting a blank slate. Quite often these puppies have behavior problems. Especially fear. Puppies are NOT blank slate. Why? Because of epigenetics. In a nutshell, the experiences of the parents affect the offspring. I want a dog with behaviorally sound parents. Curious about epigenetics? Here is a super quick explanation. And a longer explanation here.
- Early learning. The eight weeks the breeder has the puppy is super important. Why? Because the foundation of every animal starts the minute they come into this world. There are critical and important phases that all dogs must go through to develop into sound animals. I want a dog from someone who understands these phases and meets all their needs - especially at critical times.
- Health guarantee. Reputable breeders carefully select the best health qualities in the dogs that they breed. Every puppy born to a reputable breeder has parents that have gone through a series of genetic tests to ensure that the dog you get has the best possible chance of being healthy. So, our new puppy will come with a health guarantee that states “This puppy is guaranteed to be in good health and has been vaccinated and de-wormed properly for the puppy’s present age. The puppy has been thoroughly examined by a licensed vet, and given a clean bill of health. This puppy is guaranteed to the original buyer for two years against hereditary/genetic diseases, and hip dysplasia.” That is not only piece of mind for me but also for my pocketbook.
- Back-up Plan. Reputable breeders stand behind their work. Here is what my breeder has to say “I can tell you my dogs will NEVER end up in a shelter. Not only will I buy back dogs if they can’t be kept, but if, by chance, a dog I produced ends up in shelter, it’s microchipped with me as a secondary contact that can’t be removed. I am responsible for all my puppies for life. Shelters wouldn’t even be needed if all breeders did the same.” Again, piece of mind for many owners.
- Love of the breed. I don’t want to end up in a world that just has “dogs”. I love the variety of the breeds we have and don’t want to see them disappear. Did you know that many breeds today have very small populations? If some breeds were any other kind of animal, they would be considered endangered. You may find it hard to believe, but breeds can become extinct. If we don’t support reputable breeders, we will lose them and lose the wonderful variety of dogs they breed. For more on this idea read this blog.
- Stacking the deck. Right now, I don’t have a lot of free time and the time I do have I don’t want spend on a lengthy behavior modification program with my own personal dog. I’ve been there and done that with my previous dog, Jasper, so I know what it entails but that doesn’t mean I want to go there again. At least not right now. There is no perfect dog. Getting a dog from a breeder doesn’t guarantee that you won’t have problems or challenges. Not all breeders are reputable but that’s a topic for another day. By using a reputable breeder I believe I am going to stack the deck in my favor of getting a temperamentally sound and healthy dog.
- Truth behind the curtain. Rescues aren’t always what they seem. Some are great and some are not. "Don't buy while shelter dogs die" is great marketing. It tugs at your heart strings. But unscrupulous rescues and shelter organizations are responsible for importing almost double the number of dogs euthanized. Why are "rescue organizations" not placing the dogs we have in the United States? Why are they spending donation money on importing more? There is such a thing as irresponsible rescue. “670,000 dogs are euthanized in US shelters every year. 1,000,000 dogs are imported from overseas by rescues every year.” (Source – CDC & ASPCA) in addition, these dogs are often not healthy. Here are just two examples from this year of poor health in imported dogs. New strain of distemper and Rabies from Egypt dog.
- High expectations. My new dog will be a working partner with me and that requires a level of skill that the average dog owner doesn't need. It gives me piece of mind knowing that I will know everything my dog has experienced in his life so I am not surprised by an unexpected response in the middle of a training class or private session.
We have committed. We found our breeder and we have put a deposit down on a puppy so there is no turning back now. We chose to get a puppy from a responsible breeder. I’ve already been asked by a few friends “Why didn’t you rescue a dog? There are SO many homeless dogs!” So, if you are secretly wondering the same thing here’s a list of why we chose a buy from a breeder instead of buying a dog from a rescue.
The sun was shining, the snow was glistening and we were together. Michael, Stanley and I were in the mountains we love so much. It was our first time back without Jasper. It was bittersweet. We were happy to be back but we all knew it was different. We were less. Our pack is only three. As we walked we talked. "Are we ready?" and "Stanley is so lonely" being the two we kept coming back to. In the end Stanley's depression sealed the deal. We made a logical decision to get a puppy. As I started my breeder search it was overwhelming. I know so much more now than I did when we got Maverick and Jasper. Hell, even my idea of a great breeder has changed since we got Stanley. So, the hunt was on. All very logical. Timetables, cost, breeder experience, planning etc. All very logical.
But, where was my heart? Buried. Two weeks ago I got a shovel. It was in the dark of the night as I lay in my husband's arms that I cried for all that we have lost. Two dogs in less than three years. My soul dog just two months ago, and here I was talking about a new puppy. When you know the outcome how do you get back on the merry go round? And in the dark, with his voice cracking my beloved said to me, "because the love is worth the pain." Yes, the love is worth the pain so let's get back on. Dig your heart out of your grief to give it fresh and new to a brand new soul.
I've found my breeder and if all goes well the puppy will be here at the end of spring.
For now, though, I will enjoy the present moment. I will enjoy my sweet spot with my brown dog. What is the sweet spot? The time when your dog knows you. Knows the rules, makes wise choices, loves you and GETS you. This time is our chance to bond deeper with him as an individual not as a member of the pack. To give him ALL our attention before he has to share us with a pup.
A dear friend recently said to me, "I wish you the peace of simply living your days as they unfold, neither rushing ahead or regretting where you have been." Right now, I am living my days with my brown dog, appreciating what we have. I'm not over the moon excited about a new puppy yet. There is time for that. Today? Today I am enjoying my sweet spot with Stanley.
As I sit here on this cold first day of a new year I reflect on last year. Last year the theme that kept repeating in my life was “be present”. Present in a moment. Quieting the thoughts in my head to be present in THIS moment. Re-evaluating priorities to be present in this life. Focusing on the present moment, this moment right here, right now and letting tomorrow or next week go.
My father was diagnosed with Progressive Supranuclear Palsy in 2017. Progressive supranuclear palsy (PSP) is an uncommon brain disorder that affects movement, control of walking (gait) and balance, speech, swallowing, vision, mood and behavior, and thinking. The disease results from damage to nerve cells in the brain. The disorder’s long name indicates that the disease worsens (progressive) and causes weakness (palsy) by damaging certain parts of the brain above nerve cell clusters called nuclei (supranuclear). Estimates vary, but only about three to six in every 100,000 people worldwide, or approximately 20,000 Americans, have PSP—making it much less common than Parkinson's disease.
Before his diagnosis I had been visiting him once a week. I could see his declining health but I just thought it was old age and that people age differently. In the beginning I struggled with these visits. What in the world do I talk about with my Dad? But it wasn’t long and we found our rhythm. One thing that we did was listen to Mike Rowe’s podcast They Way I Heard It. If you get a chance, check it out. You’ll like it. That time, companionable silence opened the door to having wonderful heart to heart conversations. He started to share with me in a way he never had before and soon I was telling him things about myself, my life that I once kept hidden from him. Once we got the diagnosis so many things started to make sense. Unfortunately, he has struggled with health issues all this year. In the spring he fell and was hospitalized. After rehab he rebounded a bit and was able to come home. He could walk short distances with a walker but spent the majority of his time in a wheelchair. We passed the summer like this. I would visit three times a week and give my Mom a break from caregiving. I would bath him, help him navigate the bathroom, make him lunch etc. Modesty was quickly stripped away and again, it revealed a new level to our relationship. During this time, I focused a lot of my energy on being present with him. At the end of October, he fell again and this time he broke his tailbone. Back to the hospital and rehab. The day before Thanksgiving he was admitted to the hospital with a severe infection. Cleared that up and he’s back at the rehab place. I don’t know how long he will live. Each time he has one of these health crisis’ he rebounds but he’s still losing ground. When I am with him, I try very hard to be present. To allow myself to let the world fall away and to just focus on him and what he needs. He needs company, he needs patience, he needs help, he needs to be heard. He needs someone to just BE with him. Someone to hold him in light and love. People say to me, “I’ll pray he gets better.” And they mean well but the disease is progressive and he’s 81 years old. What I pray every day is this, “God, give us the strength the accept this situation, to be compassionate, to make the best decisions and give him a peaceful death.”
In September, for my birthday, Michael and I were hiking and I had a crushing epiphany. I had been spending so much time with my Dad that I had been neglecting my own family. Jasper was getting older and I realized, sitting right there on that mountain, that I may not have much time left for hiking with him. He has arthritis and even if he’s here next fall he may not be physically able to hike. I sat in that field and cried. I resolved right there to make some changes. As hard as it was to tell my Dad I shared with him how I felt and that I was going to visit twice a week and take Jasper hiking while I still had the chance. That I needed to be present for BOTH of them and this was the way I was going to accomplish that. Little did I know how right my intuition would be. At the end of September we discovered Jasper had a really infected tooth and enlarged lymph nodes. He had surgery to remove the tooth and we chalked the lymph nodes up to the infection. After his antibiotics were finished and his lymph nodes did not recede, we aspirated the nodes. The pathology was inconclusive. Could be leukemia, could be cancer, could be an infection. We started him on prednisone. Shortly after, on a Friday morning he spiked a fever. The vet started him on some heavy-duty antibiotics and we discovered he was anemic as well. I thought he was going to die that first night. His breathing was so labored and he was so fatigued. Once the antibiotics went to work he made it through the weekend and just like my Dad rebounded but wasn’t 100%. I realized I had to figure out how to be present for him, now. I reduced my work commitments as much as possible and made my time with him a priority. I knew, in my heart, that I didn’t have much time. I still thought, though, that I had more than we ended up having. He had a pretty good two weeks and then on a Monday morning he was so fatigued. I scooped him up and we cuddled on the bed all morning. He was always my cuddle buddy. I called Michael to come home early because I had to visit Dad and go to work and didn’t want him to be alone. When I came home that night the look on Michael’s face told me everything I needed to know. He wasn’t going to rebound from this. We called the vet and made arrangements for them to come out the next day. So, on Nov 6th, 2018 we helped our beloved companion and teacher pass from this world to the next. He was at home surrounded by Michael, Monica, Stanley and I. We were able to tell him how much we loved him and would miss him and that soon he wouldn’t be in pain anymore. That soon he would be young and vibrant again and running with Maverick. I keep telling my Dad that when he dies and gets to the other side to look for my dogs. That they will be there waiting for him and will show him the way back to me. I know that Maverick still visits us and he will show Jasper how to do the same. While my heart hurts that he is not with me I know that he is not “dead”. Energy doesn’t die. He is just transformed and on to a new adventure. Part of me knows that my time with him was a gift and that our connection is still as strong as always and our souls are intertwined and that we will be together again. And part of me is still in shock that he is gone. With Maverick we had a year of “pre – grieving” and a fast death, (he was gone 12hours after we found him unresponsive). With Jasper we had a short period of “pre-grief”, just a few weeks and we didn’t even really know we should be preparing ourselves and a longer death. We watched his body fail for 24 hours before he died. And if that doesn’t sound very long to you let me tell you it’s an eternity when your companion can’t walk and has labored breathing. I knew it was time to let him go because his physical body had failed. But it was just so quick (just months) and so recent (6 weeks tomorrow) that I find I am compartmentalizing to just get through the holidays. Just writing about it brings on the sobbing “ugly” crying that you see in movies. I take solace in the fact that while I can’t be present with my pain now I was 100% present with him at the end of his life. I gave him everything I could before he died.
In the spring Michael’s mom was diagnosed with cancer. She had brain surgery and spent the summer cancer free. It has returned and she will be starting chemotherapy soon.
But last year wasn’t all “bad news”. There were really joyous moments as well.
In February my beloved niece, Monica and her husband Corey had a baby, Athena Bobbi Castellano. I am over the moon excited to watch not only Athena grow up but to watch Monica and Corey grow and mature as parents. Athena is the goddess of wisdom and war and is the perfect namesake for this little one. Every time I see her, I think of the Shakespeare quote, “Though she be but little, she is fierce!”
Last year Michael entered a small art show and took first place in sculpture. Building on that success this spring he entered another show at a Denver gallery. We had a few friends with us for opening night and when they handed out the awards he took Best in Show! What an amazing moment! Feeling the anticipation build as they went category by category and then finally hearing his name is a moment neither of us will forget. And having our friends there to share the moment made it that much sweeter. With that win came the opportunity for his own exhibition. So, in October to celebrate Michael’s 50th birthday he had his very first art exhibition at Gallery 1505 in Denver. It’s not a big gallery but it’s a start and it was so much fun to see him step into this next chapter of his life. Hot on the heels of that exhibition he entered and was selected for his first international show, Craft Forms 2018. It was a REALLY big deal to even be selected and we made the trip to Pennsylvania in December to attend opening night. He didn’t win an award but he did sell his piece on opening night. I can’t wait to see where Michael’s art takes him in this life and I wonder how his life would have been different if he had allowed himself to be an “artist” his whole life instead of waiting until now.
In October Michael celebrated his 50th birthday. We went hiking and it was a perfect day. It was sunny and warm enough for just a light jacket. Not a cloud in the sky and no wind. There were pockets of snow in the shady areas that the dogs could play in and dig. I didn’t know it would be Jasper’s last hike but it was and it really was perfect. We spent the day together in a place that we love and I know that Maverick was there with us. And, don’t ask me why, but I dragged along my tripod so we could get some family pictures, never dreaming they would be our last with Jasper, but they were and I’m so grateful I have learned to listen to my intuition. You can see we are getting a little grey, and maybe a little thicker around the middle but there’s just something about the picture that I love. I think it’s “us” living our life in the present. Not worrying if I have makeup on, or if my hair is perfect, or if we are dirty. It’s us as we recharge our batteries and create memories. I love it so much I put it on our Christmas card.
I sit here right now, thinking about all these moments on 2018. When you look at them individually you see some that were wonderful and some that were absolutely crushing. But when you look at the whole picture you see life. This quote seems to sum up 2018 perfectly.
“Life is amazing. And then it’s awful. And then it’s amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it’s ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That’s just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful ordinary life. And it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”
~L. R. Knost
As we all step into a new year may we all be “present” in the moment. May we all see our breathtakingly beautiful lives.
People ask me all the time, “What do you feed your dogs?” I always dread this question. What I feed my dog doesn’t mean that is what you should feed your dog. You should feed your dog the foods that allow them to thrive. For some dogs that is a grain free diet. For other dogs that is a raw food diet. Perhaps even a home prepared diet is the key. Your job as their guardian is to find the right food for your dog.
When Maverick was a puppy I fed the same food my parents fed their dog. The vet sold it to them so it must be a good food, right? Wrong!! It was (and still is) an awful food for my dogs. Maverick always had gunky eyes. My trainer at the time recommended I talk to someone about food so I found someone with more knowledge than me. They pointed out that his current food was full of corn and that corn was not ideal for dogs. I changed to a better quality kibble and his eyes cleared up. But, then he developed hot spots on his body and was still itchy. He had to go onto a steroid to stop the itching and this was all before he was 1.5 yrs old! I knew there was something wrong and I started to research alternative foods. I researched raw feeding. Raw meaty bones. I transitioned him and the change was dramatic. His eyes were bright, his coat was great and his energy was wonderful. This was a match for him. I would classify myself as a raw food feeder. They still get dry food when we go hiking, in food toys or as a light morning supplement but the bulk of their food is raw. I also do some crock pot cooking for them and they love that occasionally as well. Variety. My dogs thrive on variety. I rotate my form of food and I also give a good rotation of protein sources. They never get the same bag of dry food twice in a row. I always rotate the manufacturer and the protein source. This is what works best for my dogs. What works best for your dogs might be different.
So, how do you tackle the question of what is the best food for your dog?
I am NOT GIVING YOU NUTRITIONAL ADVICE for your dog. This is just one friend talking to another friend and here is what my food journey has taught me.
Check out my short nutritional booklet below.
Just the other day I was scrolling through my Facebook page and this showed up. (All names have been changed)
“For those of you who do not know, John is my grandson. We all have taken our friends and families for granted at some time or another. Pause a moment and think where you would be today without that special friend that has been by your side over the years. As we go through our busy life we seldom get a chance to see the impact of our generosity. Here is a chance to give someone their own special friend. Please help this young man have a companion that will stick by his side. Give what you can, even if it is just a prayer that John will have a companion that will be happy to see him and give him his unconditional love. Thank you, and God Bless.”
Here is the text from the Go Fund me campaign:
Therapy Dog for our Autistic Son
John is our 14 year old Autistic son with a Cognitive disability. Although he is currently 14 years old he has a mentality of a 3 year old. When John was 4 years old he was diagnosed with Autism. John is a very happy boy who only sees joy in the world. The one thing he has always struggled with is friends. John has always been too shy to play with others and will sit in the background and watch everyone else. The one thing that has always been a joy in his life is animals. John has a natural love for dogs. More than anything we would love to provide John with a Therapy dog. A companion and friend forever just for him. As a parent of an Autistic child we would like nothing more than to see John enjoy life and have a forever friend. This Therapy dog will not judge John for who he is and our hope is John will no longer sit in the background watching others as he will be out there enjoying life as a young man. We have researched Labradoodles and the benefits of having a Therapy dog for John for over a year now. We have visited a company by the name of Larry’s Labradoodles out of Anywhere, USA. and found this is the place we would like to provide John with his Therapy dog. Our family would be forever grateful for any support you can provide in helping us with a Therapy dog for John.
If this showed up on your page what would you do? It was cross posted by someone you know. Would you help? Or would you see the problem? To see the red flag that I do you need to know the difference between a service dog, a therapy dog and an emotional support animal.
I can hear you now, “Aren’t they all the same?” NO! Differentiating between, service dogs, therapy dogs and emotional support animals is not a matter of splitting hairs or political correctness. Each of these dogs has a very different job from the others and the terms are not interchangeable.
Here are the differences in a nutshell:
Service Dog: These dogs are individually trained to perform tasks and do work that mitigate their handlers’ disabilities. (They work with their owner). They help them function in daily life. The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects the rights of people with disabilities to be accompanied by their service dogs in public places.
Therapy Dogs: Their responsibilities are to provide psychological or physiological therapy to individuals other than their handlers. (They work for other people). Often you see them with groups of people like nursing homes, hospitals, etc. The owners of therapy dogs do not have the same rights to be accompanied by these dogs in places where pets are not permitted.
Emotional Support Animal: Emotional Support Animals are not required to undergo specialized training. Their primary roles are to provide their disabled owners with emotional comfort. Unlike with service dogs, service dog laws do not allow emotional support animals (ESAs) to go out in public to places dogs are normally prohibited. ESA owners do have certain legal rights in housing situations and when flying, though ESAs are supposed to be public access trained for flight access.
So, now that you know the difference let’s go back and look at the fundraising campaign.
The person is asking for money to get a ‘therapy’ dog for her son. But, a therapy dog works for groups of people. So, what she really wants is either a service dog or an emotional support animal for her son. If she wants an ESA she doesn’t need $7,000 to get a pet. If she wants a service dog her fundraising goal is accurate. BUT, the fact that she is not requesting a service dog but rather a therapy dog makes me wonder if SHE knows what her son needs. She wants her son to “have a forever friend”. That sounds like an ESA to me. If she wanted a service dog it should sound something more like this. “John would benefit from a service dog because the dog would provide physical safety for him and be an emotional anchor. He could be tethered to the dog to prevent wandering away which would provide the whole family with added security”. If the breeder is selling her a “therapy dog” or ESA at a service dog rate then she is getting duped.
Do you see the difference? Once you understand the classifications it’s easy to see that something doesn’t quite add up. So why do I care? Am I just a heartless person who doesn’t want this boy to get a dog? No. I don’t doubt that a dog would help this boy and I DO hope he gets a companion. For me, personally, I take issue with the manipulation they are using. They are tugging on your heartstrings to raise a very large sum of money. If they need help getting a dog for their son be honest about it and say, “dang, money is tight and we really want to get a dog for our son”. Instead they are playing the victim to make you feel guilty. I mean, who doesn’t want to help a child with autism? Aren’t you a terrible person if you can’t help us with even a small donation?
Why and I telling you all this? Because knowledge is power. If you know the difference between service, therapy and ESA dogs you are able to critically asses the request and respond accordingly. Now you can donate with confidence that what you are supporting is the real deal.
For over a year now Stanley has been a canine blood donor. Yes. Dog’s can donate blood. Just like humans, pets with traumatic injuries or with certain medical conditions often need blood transfusions. So, every other month Stanley and I trot over to Wheat Ridge Animal Hospital and he donates blood. And to be honest, I don’t think much about it other than it’s a “good” thing to do.
The other day we received this letter in the mail.
Dec 31, 2016
Dear Stanley and Family,
On Tuesday, December 27th, our pup, Will, had surgery for a liver shunt at Alpenglow Animal Hospital in Boulder. That evening he became unstable with some bleeding and clotting issues. We were very scared.
The next morning we got a call that he had turned a corner and was much improved. We raced to the hospital to see him and were so relieved to get kisses from him.
Above his kennel was a picture of Stanley, with best wishes. At first we weren’t sure what it meant, but quickly learned that it was Stanley who had donated the blood products that helped Will recover.
We are forever grateful that you and Stanley choose to share his good health with other animals in need. Will weighs less than 6 pounds so he is probably not a candidate to donate but we are going to find a way to pay it forward.
We brought Stanley’s card home with us an he will now hang as an ornament on our Christmas tree with all our other human and furry kids.,
Again, thank you for making the effort to help other animals in need.
This letter brought tears to our eyes. We had helped save a life. It means to world to us that this family took the time to acknowledge his gift.
In the hustle and bustle of everyday life it’s so easy to make excuses why you are “too busy” to do something like donate blood. I used to donate blood and haven’t done it in a long time. I’m done making excuses, my appointment to donate is Feb 17th and Stanley is donating this Friday.
Click here to find out if your dog is eligible to be a blood donor.
I'm not usually one to write a "Christmas Letter" when I send holiday cards. This year, however, I did and so many people commented on it I decided to share it with you.
So many Christmas letters are accounts of a year of things “done”. We did this, we went there etc. And that’s great. For me, though, this year isn’t so much about things “done” but rather the theme of “time”.
Not having enough of it. Stopping to capture and remember in crystal clarity a moment in time. Realizing that my life, any life really, is just a teeny tiny drop in the bucket of time. Watching my life radically change in a single second of time. Everywhere I looked this year I was confronted with time.
In July 2015 we discovered that Maverick had cancer. From that moment in time my heart started to hope and weep at the same time. I hoped to give him the best time he had left. I hoped to have more time and I wept at the thought of his passing.
For years Michael and I had a dream to take the dogs (Maverick especially) to the ocean. Oh, how he loved the water. Lake Powell, creeks when hiking, our pond in the backyard, if there was water, he was in it. So, to us the ocean was the big kahuna of water. We were planning a trip in August 2016 but with his diagnosis we moved it up to January 2016. I am SO glad I listened to that small quiet voice that said, “Go NOW! You don’t know how much time to you have left”.
So, we rented an RV and took a road trip to California in January. Standing among the sequoias and coastal redwoods that are THOUSANDS of years old really humbles you and reminds you that your life, however long, really is just a tiny drop in the bucket of time. You come away contemplating all the things those trees have seen. All the changes in the world in their lifetime and all the changes yet to come. I came away wishing I could ask the trees, “What lessons have you learned? What can you share with me?”
We made it to the ocean and I can honestly say that it was one of the best days of my life. I sat on the beach watching my husband play with the dogs and I wanted to memorize every single thing about that moment. The way the sand felt under my toes. The way the sun warmed my face. The sound of the waves crashing on the sand. The way the most important people in my life were having the time of their life. I just sat there and soaked it all in. To every cell of my body I wanted to remember this. Yes, I took pictures and one now hangs in my hallway so that every time I see it I am reminded of the best day of my life. Those precious moments when a long standing dream came true.
In April I watched my niece, Monica; marry a very nice guy, Corey. It was a beautiful wedding and again, I caught myself grabbing a moment to just memorize every detail. Her beautiful smile, his happy laugh, my friends sharing in this wonderful life event. I very much look forward to getting to know this young man much better as time goes along.
In May I took a trip with a girlfriend to Arizona and once again I was reminded of time. Saguaro cacti don’t grow an arm until they are 75-100 years old! While not as old as the redwoods that’s still pretty dang old for a plant! During a hike I saw my first “century plant” which is really an Agave Americana plant. These live 10-30 years and at the end of their life they bloom once and it’s spectacular. Driving through Arizona and seeing the saguaros again made me think “What have they seen in the last 100 years?” So many changes and I’m sure so many things that have remained the same.
On July 5th Michael and I returned home to find Maverick unresponsive. He was alive but just laying there; he didn’t even pick up his head when we walked in. We scooped him up and rushed to the vet. All the time I was hoping…when the x-ray came back we knew the cancer had returned. He had been absolutely symptom free for a year and fine the day before and here he was, dying. One moment, one word and my world changed. It’s amazing to me how easily your mind can disconnect from your body. You can go through the motions of life and be absolutely numb. Our beloved companion, friend, guide, and teacher passed from this world to the next on July 6th. It was the hardest thing I have ever gone through. I miss him so much. We all do. Now, I’m having a hard time sending out Christmas cards that are signed “Michael, Jennifer, Jasper and Stanley” without Maverick. He was such a part of my life, our life, for so long that it seems so wrong not to put his name down. To be 100% honest, quite often it feels like he is just in the other room. Like he keeps walking out as I walk and in and I just miss him. I don’t know if that will change, this is my first experience with a close personal death and it’s all so new to me.
In October my brother married the love of his life. To be honest, I never thought it would happen. I thought he would stay a bachelor his whole life. As I sat in the church I was overcome with happiness for him. I’m not the type to cry at weddings, but at his I did. He waited such a long time to finally find the right person. So many moments of his life he was by himself. To know that he isn’t alone anymore, well, it just made me so happy that his moment in time came that I found myself crying in the pew. It really was a celebration after such a long wait I was so happy to be there to share that moment with them.
I sit here right now, thinking about all these moments of 2016. When you look at them individually you see some that were really wonderful and some that were absolutely crushing. But, when you look at the whole picture you see life. I found this quote about life and it seems to sum up 2016 perfectly.
“Life is amazing. And then it's awful. And then it's amazing again. And in between the amazing and awful it's ordinary and mundane and routine. Breathe in the amazing, hold on through the awful, and relax and exhale during the ordinary. That's just living heartbreaking, soul-healing, amazing, awful, ordinary life. And it's breathtakingly beautiful.”
~L. R. Knost
May you all have a breathtakingly beautiful life.
May is Pet Cancer Awareness Month.
It’s almost a year since I heard those dreaded words. It’s cancer. And you know what? Maverick is doing great! Back then I didn’t know that you could live with cancer and still thrive. Yes, he is slowing down but that has more to do with his age than with the cancer. If you didn’t know he had cancer you wouldn’t be able to tell.
So, how is life with cancer different?
Every day I make sure he eats. He can eat pretty much anything he wants now. My agreement with him is that he can have whatever he wants but he MUST eat every day. Some mornings he wants a peanut butter cliff bar. Some days he wants kibble. Some days it’s red meat and some days it’s chicken. He has really taken a liking to Evanger’s Hi-Bio semi moist dog food and Primal’s freeze dried dinner patties. I have had to try lots of new variety to encourage him to eat. Sometimes I hand feed him to make it fun and that can sometimes get him to eat more. What does he love the most? Bison. When I am lucky and find it in the markdown section at the store I buy all of it. I don’t worry about quantity anymore just that he puts SOMETHING into his body everyday to fuel it.
Every day he gets his medicine. He has four herbal teas that I brew for him every two weeks and he gets a tsp or two of each every day. In addition he gets a thyroid support tincture and a THC tincture. It takes about 5 minutes a day to administer them all but it’s a tiny price to pay. I also give him coconut oil when he wants it.
Every day I celebrate small things. Like the vet being unable to feel any growths during his rectal exam at his last check up. Like him feeling peppy and wanting to play longer than usually.
Every day I play with him. I make time for him regardless of how busy I am.
Every day I say this prayer. (I have actually done this for each of my dogs every day for years. It’s my morning ritual. I put my hands on them, I touch my head to theirs and I pray.)
“Thank you Lord for bringing Maverick into my life, to be a teacher, a guide, a companion and friend. I ask that you bless him with an extra long life on this physical plane so that I may learn all that I can from him. During that time I ask you to grant him more good days than bad, more health than sickness, more happiness than sadness and may he always know how much he is loved.”
May you never hear the words, “Your beloved pet has cancer” but if you do, know that you still have time to make Every Day great.
Christmas with cancer sucks. There. I said it. While Maverick looks and feels great (which I am so grateful for) I hear that little voice whispering “Is this his LAST Christmas?” I know he doesn’t really care about Christmas but everywhere I look I see “love, family, happy” etc and it’s a painful reminder that his time is ticking away. He IS my happy, my love, my family. And if you tell me he’s “just a dog” I will kindly tell you to go f*** yourself. Ok, so that isn’t really kind but I would say it with a smile.
I feel a little foolish and naive. I am sure there are many people who have experienced a difficult holiday season. I know I have had hard holidays-for entirely different reasons. Usually it’s family drama that puts a damper on my holiday spirit. But, this is entirely different. I really have NO holiday spirit. I decorated the house in hopes that the saying “fake it until you make it” would work and it isn’t. I’m still just sad. I don’t want to shop. I don’t want to send cards. I don’t want to bake. I don’t want to do anything. I have been using my work as a distraction but I know that isn’t healthy. I also don’t want to look back and think, “Shit, I spent his last Christmas working too much.” So, I’m in this really crappy place. If I’m not working I’m sad and weepy. If I am working I’m not spending time with him and feel guilty.
“You don’t know it’s his last Christmas”. You’re right. I don’t know. But, again, I don’t want to assume I have more time only to find out that he didn’t and I missed special moments.
In addition, my parent’s health is declining and I think “Will they be with us next year?” If you know me well, you know I am not a pessimistic person. I am realistic though and the truth of the matter is that we all die. I realize this time with Maverick is a gift. A painful journey of love and loss and that this is part of the process of preparing myself to let him go. My heart hopes and weeps at the same time. I hope I get another holiday season but I am weeping just in case I don’t.
For those who are experiencing a hard holiday I hope you know that you are not alone. Not everyone is having a “Merry” Christmas. For those of you who are having a great holiday I hope you are grateful for your happiness.
Be forewarned. This blog may be a bit of a rant. I try to be patient with people. Really I do. But there are just some days that I am human and people annoy me.
The other day I decided to walk all my dogs at once. This is a rare occurance at my house. Why? Well, for one thing it’s not as easy as you think it is. And for my students with only one dog-you have NO IDEA how easy you have it. Even the most reactive single dog is easier to handle than multiple dogs. With each dog you add you exponentially make it more difficult. Our biggest challenge right now is that Maverick has really slowed down. He likes to smell everything and when we walk alone it is a slow pleasant walk. But, when he is with either of the other dogs there is a huge difference in pace. When you have all three it’s even worse. Yes, I can slow the other two down and I can speed Maverick up but I don’t like to micro manage them that way. Plus, the other day I saw Maverick stumble trying to keep up and that just broke my heart.
But, the reason for this post isn’t about Maverick it’s a rant about what happened on our walk. I came home super frustrated. Not because of my dogs-I get it. They live in the moment and they just want to go our normal pace and Maverick was slowing us down. No, I was frustrated with the most of the other people I encountered and one person in particular.
I propose that there should be rules of the road when you are walking your dog. Etiquete that everyone knows and follows. What I see day after day varies greatly. Some days people and dogs are very polite and sometimes they are clueless and sometimes they are just rude.
Here is what I propose:
Pulling off: When another dog(s) is approaching from the opposite direction the human with the smallest NUMBER of dogs should pull off or concede space. When you are driving and arrive at a four way stop if you are the first car to approach the intersection you go first. If two cars get there at the same time, then the car who is in the right is the one that goes first. A similar rule could apply to dog walking. If you are walking one dog and someone has two dogs you pull off to the side. This gives the person with two dogs more room to pass. If you have three dogs and someone has two dogs the person with two dogs should pull off to the side etc. It is far easier to get a single dog to sit politely and wait than it is to get three dogs to do the same. I can hear you now, “But, Jennifer, if your dogs are so well behaved isn’t it easier for you to pull off?” Yes, MY dogs can do this but many can’t plus it is frustrating to always be the one to concede space. Sometimes I just want to walk past a dog and because they can’t control their single dog I have move? Seriously? I have to move my three dogs off the path so you and your ONE dog can walk by? Even though you could have taken the other path and avoided us altogether?
Indicate clearly: Once you have decided to pull off indicate that clearly to the other person. No, you don’t have to stop right then but start to angle your body away. This lets them know where you are going so they can adjust as necessary.
Don’t judge: I can’t tell you how many times I have gotten the “look” from other people when I am out walking Jasper. It was a long hard road to transform him from the barking, lunging, drag me down at the sight of other dogs dog to the dog he is now. Now, he might bark once or twice and sometimes whines. The look you give me when he barks? Yeah, you can keep that to yourself. You have NO idea what we have been through. And that holier than thou attitude you have when you walk by because your dog isn’t barking? Let’s just say that karma is a bitch. He has taught me so much about being stressed out and over threshold on a walk. I don’t expect him to be perfect. I’m not. I love him and I understand him and I know that when he is barking it’s usually because your dog is throwing the equivalent of doggie gang signs his way.
DO NOT LET YOUR DOG GREET WITHOUT PERMISSION: “He’s just friendly!” That may be true. But, maybe my dog won’t appreciate your dog running up to him with the equivalent of a slap on the butt and a “hey, what’s your sign” type of greeting. This could be a whole blog by itself-and probably will be someday.
Poop: Besides just picking up your own I propose that you pay it forward and pick up a poo left by someone else. I will admit that once in my life the dogs surprised me and pooped more than I had bags and I left a poo. I felt terribly guilty and was far from home and had absolutely NOTHING to use. So, I now have poo bags in my purse, in my car console, in my treat pouch and now on my dog’s harness. I found a FABULOUS new poo bag holder. It’s from Molly Mutt and it is a soft bag. It is large enough to hold a driver’s license, a chap stick AND a roll of bags. Because it is soft fabric I don’t mind hooking it to my dogs harness. You could even stuff a few grocery bags in there if you don’t use the rolled poo bags. This is such a great find I will be bringing them in for the holiday show. I know that some people are just rude and never pick up their poo but I like to tell myself that I am helping someone who got caught without a bag.
Ok. I’m done. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest. Your polite dog trainer is back. Now, get out there and walk your dog but remember to be courteous to your fellow walkers.