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Dog's Life: Lifestyle
Love, Loss and the Gift of Old Dogs
Dillon abandoned dog
Its been a rough few months around here with a great deal of loss. I remember in January and February sitting with the dogs one evening after work and knowing that 4 of them were likely not going to be around much longer. Three of the four were past ten with a variety of age related issues. Tyra was the youngest at only about 6 but Great Danes have one of the shortest lifespans of any breed and she suffered from wobblers disease and other serious issues common in the breed.    The first to go was our dear old German shepherd Dillon who we took in with another dog, Molly, when their home burned in the Valley fires. Dillon was old and frail when he came to us. He was in liver failure, heartworm positive and had advanced hip dysplasia. He had 5 good months with us before his issues took a toll and we had to say good bye.  Exactly one week later, 13 year old blind pit bull Patty had declined to the point we couldn’t keep her comfortable and our hearts broke again. Patty came to us at age eleven as part of a felony cruelty case and we had 2 ½ wonderful years with her. Patty was perfection in dog form. She had a gentleness, presence and wisdom I had rarely seen even with 30 plus years of working with dogs.       I was feeling incredibly fragile when Paul and I got home from the vet after letting Patty go. Two dogs in one week was heartbreaking and overwhelming. We walked in the door and our sweet Tyra was down and in distress. She had been failing for months and in fact several times it had seemed as if she would be the first to go. Tyra had wobblers disease, common in Great Danes and we had been having to help her up for months. She had nerve damage, intermittent incontinence, weakness and other ongoing  issues. I was usually able to help Tyra get up but at 120 pounds it wasn’t easy and that time I couldn’t get her up at all. After trying several times with no success I knelt beside her and took her big beautiful head in my hands.  I knew it wasn’t fair but I couldn’t help it. I’ve never been one to prolong the inevitable for my own needs but I was crushed with sadness and I struggled to breathe as I looked into her sweet brown eyes. “Sweetheart, I can’t do this. Please give me more time. You have to hold on a little longer for me. Just a week,” I begged her. ”Please, I just need a week to pull myself together”. We held each others gaze for a moment and then with Paul’s help we were able to get her up and moving.      Tyra actually rallied for several months and it was a daily struggle but she still had a lot of joy in that time. We monitored her quality of life on a daily and often hourly basis, constantly weighing her comfort and happiness against the inevitable. We kept in touch with her vet, tried acupuncture, pain meds, anti-inflammatorys and more. In the past week it finally came to the point that her bad days outweighed the good and we knew we had to let her go. The vet came to the house and she slipped away in her own bed surrounded by those who loved her.    The pain is still sharp and raw and the tears are quick to spill but that is the price of love. The greater the love, the greater the pain. And dogs are so worth it. So incredibly, amazingly worth it. I could have easily spared myself the agony of loss by just not taking them in. But how much richer my life was by knowing them. How sweet was the time I spent with them. And not only did they bring such precious love and joy to my life but what would have happened to them had I not taken them? Certainly there are worse things than a humane end in the arms of caring shelter staff, but how much better to be embraced by someone who loves you deeply and fully. Every dog deserves to take that last breath in the arms of someone who loves them so much that the tears flow but the sobs are held back until the last heartbeat to spare them the worry of seeing your grief.   
Culture: Tributes
Goodbye, My Friend

The happiness, the laughs,
his barks, the baths
all he took with him.

The sorrow, the pain,
the tears, like rain,
left our hearts dull, lives dim.

The smiling eyes, the golden fur
tail wagging, heart pure
forever we remember him.

Culture: Tributes
Beau: Through every season, he was there

He died peacefully cradled in my arms, the last sound he heard being my voice speaking to him softly: “It’s okay, buddy, it’s okay…” We had been inseparable for almost 20 years and in those years experienced a lifetime together.

Like so many good things often do, he came into my life unexpectedly. Arriving home from work one day, my wife announced she had something she wanted to show me. From the car she produced a small black furry bundle and sat it down in the floor. The bundle, a black puppy.  She told me she had found him that afternoon wandering outside the school where she taught. “He was running around with some other stray adult dogs, just like he was one of them,” she said hopefully. Unsure if I was ready for another dog, I watched dubiously as the energetic pup set about inspecting the place, sniffing legs of chairs and peering into the kitchen. When he came over to inspect my shoe, I reached down and shook him playfully; he immediately latched onto my pant leg and began to pull vigorously. “OK”, I thought to myself, all doubts immediately swept aside, “I guess you’ll do.” 
      
Thus began a new, sometimes stormy chapter in our lives as a family. Beau would be a house dog by necessity, spending a great deal of time indoors. This took some adjustment. Not liking to be left alone, he frequently took his revenge by attacking various inanimate objects in the house. Always an inveterate hater of stuffed toy animals – the mere sight of them brought blood to his eyes - he once decapitated the head of a large decorative fabric rabbit belonging to my wife, ghoulishly arranging the ears and eyes around the living room floor. Mostly, though, he went after my things. Having already eaten several of my sweaters that first year, he decided one day to go straight for the jugular by dragging out a box of my favorite paperbacks, ripping it open, and vigorously chewing up several volumes, presumably those titles he most disliked. Gave a whole new meaning to “dog-eared.” Weighing less than 15 pounds and no bigger than a breadbox, he was nonetheless always up for a fight, regardless the opponent’s size. As such, I was forced on more than one occasion to quite literally drag him from the field of battle before being mauled to death.  On another occasion, I had to pull his head out of a hole as he attempted to follow a rodent into its den, his jaws snapping and a crazed look on his clay smeared face.

With all that said, I now come to what I really wanted to say at the start. Never was there a more faithful companion or better friend than this little mixed breed terrier we called Beau. Through the many years we spent together, through the ups and downs of living, the illnesses, the accidents, the happy times and the sad, he was always there for me. Regardless of my mood or the season, blind to the vicissitudes of my sometimes selfish and thoughtless behavior, he remained steadfastly committed to me, seeing me through every crisis and every disappointment. Days when things weren’t going well, his antics, like the black birds in the Robert Frost poem, had a way of lifting my spirits and so “has given my heart/A change of mood/And saved some part/Of a day I had rued.”  That was my dog Beau, always coming to my rescue, far more than I ever came to his. In providing him a home and shelter, he returned the favor a thousand times over through his devotion, his patience, and, above all, his good company. After all this time I still miss him and sometimes dream we are together again walking in some green open space. Humorist Will Rogers once said that if dogs don’t go to heaven, then he wanted to go where they do. Oh yes. Yes.    

News: Editors
So Long Jon Stewart
It's been good to know yuh

As at least half of the world knows by now, tonight is Jon Stewart’s final night at the helm of the Daily Show. I must admit that I get choked up just contemplating what we’ll do without him.  Accolades, reflections and perhaps some Fox-directed gibes, have been pouring down on him, so it’s hard to add much more. Except that I really want to thank him again, and the writers, producers, staff and all the office dogs, for letting me share one whole day with them in 2012. That will always be one of the highlights of my Bark career. Being invited to “do the Daily Show dogs” was quite the honor for us. And being given free rein to use the show’s set with our photographer KC Bailey, including excited dogs being able to sit in his chair and climb up on to the desk (leaving a few scratches here and there), and then allowing me to trail along for the day, poking into offices, chatting with all the people behind this amazingly creative show, well, you probably can guess it—how much more fun could there be?

Jon Stewart is a man with a big heart and a wise head who gave us endless hours of insightful entertainment and now what might he do? In a recent interview with his wife, Tracey Stewart, whose delightful book, Do Unto Animals comes out in Oct., she let us know that the family is about to grow a little furrier and feathery when they add an animal sanctuary to their New Jersey homestead. She also revealed one of Jon’s secret passions—but you gotta tune into our fall issue to find out what that might be! Let’s also hope that he’ll follow in the footsteps of Sen. Franken—another dog-loving comedian/politico—and make a play for public office. Who knows, there might be a future opening in his state’s governor’s office.

But for now I just want to add our “thanks for the memories” to Jon Stewart for all that he has given us and wish him and his family the best in their next chapter. And yes, the tears are now flowing.

 

 

Culture: Readers Write
My Doxie Girls
Unexpected death brings new beginnings for one family.
Left: My beloved Tessie Center: Rosie with the co-pilot, Jackie, who carried Jolie on her lap the whole trip. Right: Jolie

She was a long hair mini dachshund and we did not know exactly how old she was. I do know that when I first rescued Tessie eight years ago, she could not see or hear well, but she sure could smell another dog a mile away. She was so energetic, happy, loved her walks, food and lots of people attention.  I thought she was quite young.

On December 22 while I was getting ready for work, Tessie and I did our usual routine of breakfast and outside for her. After she ate her breakfast and jumped around a bit, she just lied down on the floor and could not get up. I could see something was very wrong and rushed her to the emergency pet hospital at 6:30am but she died in my lap on the way.  

I was devastated and in absolute shock.  It was a good thing I was on vacation for two weeks because I did not stop crying for four straight days. I was obligated to cook dinner for my children and their friends and in looking back it was good short term distraction. While I shopped for dinner, I cried all through the store. I would run across people that cried with me as they remembered their lost pets.

I guess perception is everything; I thought I had about 10 more years with Tessie.  We now realize that she was most likely 6 or 7 years older than we thought. That would have made her 13 or 14 years old.

As I was lying in bed grieving, I started looking on PetFinder.com for dachshund rescues. I decided to rescue another dachshund because I understand their quirky and stubborn personalities. In honor of Tessie, I decided to rescue a senior dog.

Even though my friends and family kept telling me to wait, I just could not. It was just too painful and I knew that I wanted to have a dog in my life at all times. I was still able to go through the grieving process even though I was looking for another rescue. I did everything to get out of my heart, went to the animal shelter and dropped off items they needed for the shelter dogs, and took long walks.

I contacted Phyllis Van Boxtel, rescue director, of Recycle Love Dog Rescue to enquire about a little red dachshund mix that was apparently dropped off at a shelter by someone who could no longer take care of her. I was not sure about it, but it made me feel better just to find out more about her. Her name was Flower.

I live in Northern California and was in no shape to fly or drive to San Diego (400 miles) to pick her up. When I told this to Phyllis she said it was not a problem and they would fly her to me. I asked how much this would cost and she said it was free as she is affiliated with a company called Pilots n Paws who flies dogs for free to good homes. I could not believe it! So I just went with it, filled out the application and sent my adoption fee in. Sight-unseen I agreed to take her.

Three days later, I drove to the Palo Alto municipal airport and waited in a little building near the tarmac for the plane. Once landed, I was able to go out and greet them when they opened the airplane doors. It was amazing!

I renamed her Jolie Fleur (pretty flower in French).  I’ve now had my little Jolie for 3 weeks. She is doing very well and taken me on as her person.

I believe my little Tessie led me to Jolie as I do believe she was trying to tell me something before she died. She was clingy and not her usual self for a few weeks before she died. Her signs were so subtle and I didn’t notice because she did not appear to be ill before she died.

I know that eventually I will go through a grieving period with Jolie because she is older. I don’t know how long we have together, but I am going to make it the best time I can for her.

It is worth rescuing senior dogs. They are so lovely and really know when they are safe and loved.

I would like to thank the following people for making this miracle happen: Phyllis Van Boxtel of Recycled Love Dog Rescue. Angel Pilots of Pilots n Paws. Luke Freeman for taking all the photos and being my best support of the Day! Thanks Luke, you are a trooper.

I am so happy to know that there are so many human angels still helping and loving the innocent animals that do not have a voice of their own and cannot defend themselves. 

Culture: Tributes
Farewell Sebastian
A tribute to my dog.

Sebastian Dog.

He loved adventures and Christmas presents.

I loved the weight of his tiny body resting on my lap, and the sound of him walking on the hardwood floor in the morning.

He had a mind of his own, but knew when to listen.

Foster dogs now fill the space he once did, on an endless rotation as long as they need, using the things that once belonged to him.

He runs and plays in spirit along side them in our home, and he is never far from my thoughts and heart.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
A Sweet Good-bye

Just about every Monday morning finds me at the local off-leash dog beach with a group of dogs and a friend or two. It is such a welcome break from my demanding and stressful job as an animal control officer. The dogs I see at the beach are beautiful, happy and loved. Old and young, large and small, they are having a blast getting exercise, playtime and social interaction. It’s a delightful change from some of the heartbreak I see at work.

On a recent beach day I came across a scene which touched me deeply. A couple stood looking out at the ocean. Between them was a canvas stretcher with a handle that could be pulled across the sand. There was a thick dog bed on the stretcher and a very old dog lay flat on the bed. I paused for a moment, gazing at the gray muzzle and alert but cloudy eyes of the old dog. One of my dogs came up and before I could call her, the two dogs sniffed noses. The old dog was unable to even lift his head, but I could see that he was aware of what was happening around him and seemed to enjoy the interaction. I called my dog and apologized to the couple for the intrusion.

The dog and his people were calm and accepting and I continued on my way with a lump in my throat. I’m guessing that this was good-bye and that the people wanted the dog to have a last visit to a place he loved. To smell the salt air and feel the sweet ocean breeze.  It was so obvious that this dog was adored, cherished, beloved. I teared up at the thought of what was coming and yet, in my world, I found it to be a beautiful scene. I’ve seen the old dogs, abandoned and alone in the shelter. I’ve held those unwanted dogs and tenderly stroked their gray muzzles. I’ve told them they were loved and kissed them as they drew their last breath.

This is what every dog deserves, I thought, as I took a final backward glance at the little family. All three were gazing out to sea.

I would love to hear how readers have made good-bye special for an adored companion.

News: Editors
Do Dogs Grieve?

When Andrew Sullivan’s Beagle, Dusty, passed away a couple of weeks ago he wrote a very moving piece about her at that time. Now he is writing about how his other Beagle, Eddy, has responded to this loss. Again, in a very touching, observant manner.

“Her demeanor shifted to sadness and quiet. She didn’t just leave her food around to eat at leisure; she stopped eating in the morning altogether. It was almost as tough as getting her to eat in the evening as well. On walks, she trailed behind, moving slowly, tugging at the end of a long leash, as if not really wanting to go anywhere. It happened after about a week – perhaps because that was when it became unmistakable that Dusty wasn’t just away for a bit – but was, in fact, never coming back.”

I certainly believe that dogs can grieve, as well as possessing the full range of emotional expression as we have—it just might be more difficult for us to translate theirs. As another post on Sullivan's The  Dish site noted:

"The 17th century English philosopher Anne Conway argued that the differences between humans and other creatures were “finite” differences—differences of degree and intensity. There is no infinite difference between creatures that makes another’s form of life wholly and eternally incomprehensible. Whoever can’t see that something sort of like “justice” functions in the animal world, Conway argued, “must be called completely blind.”

A few years ago when Bark’s “founding” dog, Nellie (a Beagle/Border Collie mix) died, Lenny, our 14-year-old Terrier, went into a tailspin. I feared that he too would soon leave us, dying of a broken heart. Like Sullivan’s dog, he stopped eating and simply wouldn’t respond to my attempts at consoling. It didn’t take me long to realize that Lenny missed having a pack mate and there was little that a human substitute could do. So we quickly decided to get him, and us, another dog. That is when our rescue Pointer, Lola came into our lives, and turned out to be the magic pill for Len—not only did he perk up almost immediately, but he seemed to drop years in a blink. It wasn’t that he liked Lola all that much, but she added a necessary foil for him to maneuver around. He had a new motivation to live and since Lola was more concerned with “environmental matters,” as is the wont of sporting dogs, he got to trail after her in those pursuits. He went on to live another 4 years, and passed away in my arms at 18.

I’m sure that you too have experienced this, not just a dog grieving for the loss of another dog (or other family member), but how a new dog can provide just the right antidote to the “other” dog.  Let me know your thoughts.

Dog's Life: Lifestyle
NCIS Episode Inspired by Hawkeye
Loyal Navy Seal’s Dog Remembered

Last week’s episode of NCIS was inspired by Hawkeye, the dog who led the family into the funeral of his guardian, Navy SEAL Jon Tumlinson, and remained by his coffin throughout the ceremony. The photograph of Hawkeye lying on the floor by the coffin, taken by Tumlinson’s cousin Lisa Pembleton, has been admired by millions of people.

In the episode, a dog named Dexter, who is trained to detect landmines, and his Marine handler save a young boy from being killed. The boy is chasing after his soccer ball, which sets off a landmine. The dog and the Marine guide the boy back to safety, avoiding an additional landmine. Immediately after the boy is safely hugging his mom, the Marine is shot and killed by a sniper. Dexter lies down next to the fallen Marine and stays there, just as Hawkeye remained by Tumlinson’s coffin.

The episode reminds us all of the sacrifices made by members of the military and their families. It is dedicated to working military dogs and their handlers.

News: Editors
Lady Day and her Mister

July 17, marks the anniversary of the 1959 death of Billie Holiday. Her life was a hard one: a childhood of bitter poverty and early sexual abuse; an acute sensitivity to the all-pervasive racism of her time; a series of difficult relationships with controlling, exploitative men; an eventual downward spiral of depression, addiction and broken health. Among the things that gave her joy and an amazing vitality despite her troubles, music was, of course, the most important—her profound connection to jazz brought her the respect and adoration of audiences and fellow musicians alike. Another was her faithful and requited love of the series of dogs who were her companions throughout her life. We don’t know how or when she found her first dog friend, but anecdotes crop up throughout her biography. Lena Horne recalled that when the two jazz divas were together, they usually talked mainly about Billie’s dogs; “her animals were her only trusted friends.” There was the beloved Standard Poodle who, on his death, was wrapped in Billie’s best mink coat for the cremation, and the Chihuahua puppy she fed with a baby bottle in her New York apartment. Perhaps her most elegant companion was the handsome Boxer, Mister, who accompanied her to glamorous Harlem nightspots—places where he surely would not have been allowed if his mistress were anyone less remarkable than Lady Day.

NPR did an interesting story today about trying to find her final Resting Place—notice the little porcelain dog on her headstone.

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