A Tribute to those Dogs Who Were Loved & Lost

After posting my entry to commemorate Phoenix’s 14th birthday, I began thinking about all the dogs I have known who have joined their friends on the rainbow bridge and decided to take a moment to recognize them. If I have forgotten anyone’s dog please send me an e-mail or leave a comment and I’ll make sure to add them.

Whitney & Madison
I met these two wonderful goldens for the first time when I went to pick out Aspen at her breeder’s home in Hanover, Ontario. Whitney was already retired from breeding, but Madison was pregnant with her final litter and due in just over a month’s time. They were such friendly souls and loved having us come into their home. Whitney passed away about 4 or 5 years later at the age of 12 and Madison passed on about a year or so ago at the age of 12. Both girls passed away during the day while they napped in their favourite spots on the front deck in the sun. Doris wrote me a month or so after each of them passed on and to hear her sadness made me realize how special these dogs were to her.

I met this wonderful boy for the first time when he was about 12 or 13 (not completely sure). Nelson was a hearing Ear Dog who devoted his life to serving and unconditionally loving his handler. He went absolutely everywhere with his handler and when he became ill, she did everything possible to keep him well. Most dogs tend to retire after the age of 11 or 12, but nelson was a trooper and continued to work until his illness got to be too much for him. Nelson’s handler was so distraught when he passed on, but she always knew he would watch over her and began the tough process of getting a new partner.

I never got a chance to meet Pockets, but through windows messenger became good friends with her handler. Pockets was a Hearing Ear dog like Nelson, but instead of being a smaller dog, she was a medium sized black Labrador retriever. Pockets became ill pretty suddenly, having developed some lumps that were found to be cancerous. She lived for about a year after her terminal diagnosis and worked the entire time. Pockets was also a loyal and devoted friend, even when she wasn’t well she insisted on helping her handler in any way possible. Pockets passed away in her handlers arms, they had gone to visit a family member and while trying to walk to the house she just laid down on the lawn and fell asleep in her handlers arms forever. Hearing this story made me cry and hope that Phoenix will leave me in a similar manner – on his own terms.

I met Luther about a year after his handler first brought him home. Luther was a big, goofy yellow Labrador retriever from guide Dogs for The blind. Luther and his handler were inseparable, they taught one another so much about life. He knew many skills that weren’t taught in school and gave his handler an unconditional love that would never be forgotten. I got to see Luther throughout his working years and was amazed to see the bond him and his handler possessed. Luther retired around the age of 10 and a new guide was brought in to take over his duties. Luther and his handler still maintained their bond, but sadly a year or so after his retirement Luther was diagnosed with cancer and passed away shortly after.

Darwin and his handler graduated with me and Phoenix in 1998. Darwin was about a year and a half older than Phoenix, having been with a handler previous to our class who became ill and could no longer use him. Darwin and his his new handler were perfect for one another, the woman had not had a dog before so Darwin’s experience gave him the confidence most of the others in his class did not yet have. I remember being given a chance to walk with Darwin and giving him back to the trainers with a big no because he had a sway to his walk that made it hard for me to walk and I just found him to be too slow. His handler had a gait that most of the other dogs found to be difficult, but Darwin took charge and they became a team. Darwin was not the greatest dog for his handler, but at the time he was what she needed – a loyal companion who would teach her what he could and guide her safely through life. Darwin became ill around the age of 10 and was diagnosed with throat cancer. His handler tried to do everything possible to make him better, but he passed away pretty quickly after being diagnosed. It took his handler about a year and a half before she decided it was time to return to Dog guides for a new partner. She was matched with a wonderful female black Labrador retriever named Cyder, who her handler thinks was sent to keep her safe by Darwin.

I met Nutella for the first time in May of 2006 when we went to pick up Amber and teal from their breeder’s home. Nutella was a big female chocolate Labrador retriever who had to be the centre of attention. I got to see her a bunch more times over the next couple of years as we became friends with Catherine, aiden’s breeder. I will always remember how Nutella would continually bump my hand or arm to be petted, even if I had already been petting her for half an hour and just wanted to take a bit of a break. She would always be at our sides and tried her best to keep up when we went for walks in her favourite places. Nutella was stubborn and independent-minded, but she was Catherine’s loyal companion. Nutella lived to the ripe old age of 14. She began slowing down around the age of 12, but with the help of anti-inflammatories and supplements she kept on trudging along until it got to be too much. Catherine finally made the tough decision to let her go, but before heading to the vet she made a stop at Nutella’s favourite spot. They spent a while there together before getting back into the car and heading to the vet, Nutella fell asleep forever in the back seat. A small memorial was held in the backyard that evening and she was laid to rest in one of Catherine’s many gardens.

I met Annie in the summer of 2006 when we took Cessna to visit her puppy raisers. Bob and Velma do not know how old Annie truly was, but she joined their family a few years before they fostered Cessna when she wandered onto the beach at their cottage. They had put up flyers and asked neighbours about her, in case her owners were looking for her, but no one called or came so they welcomed her in. annie began slowing down around 2007, but with surgery to remove her lumps and anti-inflammatories she was able to comfortably live another couple of years. Bob and Velma had to finally make the tough decision to let her go in the summer of 2009 when Annie began having too much trouble getting up and down and when her lumps were coming back even worse. On her final trip to the vet, they gave her an extra dose of Metacam and the vet gave her the injection in the back of the truck where she fell asleep on her blankets and pillows that had been laid out for her.

I met Baron for the first time in 2004 I think, when he was first beginning his service training. I met him again in 2007 or 2008 when I began volunteering with K9 Helpers. At this point Baron was just about 10 and due to health issues was beginning the retirement process. His handler was finding it hard, but she began working with her new partner in the winter of 2009. Baron came to meetings once in a while, but his handler was careful not to let him overdo it. I’m sure he would have stayed by her side day and night if he could, but his heart was not good so she needed to be careful. Sadly Baron’s heart gave out one evening in 2009 (I think) and he crossed the rainbow bridge to join his friends.

I only had the chance to meet Bear a couple of times, one of them being in 2004 at a Dogs In the Park square dancing demonstration. I do not know much about Bear and his life, but knowing his owners I’m sure he had the life of a king. Bear was about 15 (I think) when he passed away from old age.

Jazz was a big male black Labrador retriever hearing Ear dog. I only got to meet Jazz a few times, but will always remember his spirited personality. Jazz got ill suddenly around the age of 7 and passed away within a week. Shortly before his death his handler learned he had a tumor that was causing a blockage in his digestive track and could not be safely removed.

I met Cooper when Phoenix was about 3 years of age. Cooper was a dual Hearing Ear and Special Skills dog. I didn’t really get to see much of Cooper after our first couple of meetings, but saw him a year before his death when he attended our first Walk for Dog guides in Guelph with his handler. It was so amazing to see what she had taught him and how much he had matured over the years. She had him take his own saddle bags off and give them to her before I could give him attention and then had him put them back on before they left. He was spoiled and loved by his handler, she actually wrote a beautiful memorial for him that we read at our third Walk for Dog Guides. Cooper passed away in his sleep a few days before our second Walk for Dog Guides in 2008. As far as I can remember Cooper was diagnosed with cancer in 2007 and had gone through all the available treatments, but he just couldn’t get it to leave his body.

If tears could build a stairway
And memories a lane

I’d walk right up to rainbow bridge
And bring you home again

Rest In Peace our canine friends, you are all missed and will never be forgotten…

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