Would Have Been

Aspen as a very cute, fluffy puppy

Aspen at 3 months

A side view of Aspen looking out onto a lake

Aspen at 7 years of age

Aspen lies on a pebble path

Aspen at 8 years of age

Today would have been Aspen’s 10th birthday.

With all my heart, I wish she was here to celebrate this milestone.

I wish she was here, to eat a cupcake made especially for her.

I wish she was here, to show off a new collar or bandana bought specifically for her.

I wish she was here to carry around and play with a toy bought just for her.

Instead, we’ll have to settle for remembering the good times we shared with an amazing golden friend who cannot be here.

Happy 10th Birthday Our Sweet Golden Girl

If It Should Be

2013 seems to be the year for losing our doggie friends to cancer. Since losing Aspen, we have learned about the passing of four other friends: Martin, Bosley, Felix, and just recently, Harley and Lotta.

Felix, a male black lab with his handler.

Harley, a big Rottie/german shepherd cross wears a colourful birthday hat.

Picture of Lotta, a big female yellow lab.

As a little tribute to our canine pals, we thought we’d post this poem:

If it should be that I grow weak,
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then you must do what must be done,
For this last battle cannot be won.

You will be sad I understand,
Don’t let your grief then stay your hand,
For this day more than all the rest,
Your love for me must stand the test.

We’ve had so many happy years,
What is to come can hold no fears,
You’d want me not to suffer, so
The time has come, please let me go.

Take me where my needs they’ll tend,
And please stay with me to the end.

Hold me firm and speak to me,
Until my eyes no longer see.

I know in time that you will see,
The kindness that you did for me.

Although my tail it’s last has wagged,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.

Please do not grieve it must be you,
Who had this painful thing to do.

We’ve been so close we two these years,
Don’t let your heart hold back it’s tears.

– Author Unknown –

Until we meet again, take care of one another.

Phoenix Loved Avril Lavigne

Last night after Huib left for work, I started listening to Hits 1, on Sirius/XM Radio.

Avril Lavigne has a new song out, called Here’s To Never Growing Up. It began playing as soon as the station tuned in, and I started thinking about Phoenix.

Don’t get me wrong, I think about Phoenix a lot, but hearing Avril made the memories come back stronger.

Phoenix loved Avril. He’d be sleeping on the couch (before he went deaf of course) and as soon as an Avril Lavigne song came on the radio, Huib said Phoenix’s tail would start wagging to the music. It was so strange!

It’s hard to believe he’s already been gone for a year and nine months.

Both Phoenix and Aspen were such a large part of our family. It’s hard to put into words how much their deaths have effected us.

Aspen has only been gone two months, so the pain and tears are still quite fresh, but we still miss Phoenix.

i hope they are running through fields, chasing leaves and enjoying crab apples together.

this is a picture of Phoenix and Aspen from 2007. Phoenix is standing with a very muddy Aspen in the wooded area behind our former condo building.

I hope they both know how much we love and miss them each day.

I also hope they know that they don’t have to worry about us, they did enough of that while they were still with us.

And to think this post all started from a song that came on the radio…

A Letter To Aspen

To Our Sweet Golden Girl:
It’s been a month since we had to say goodbye.

Thirty-one days since we learned the terrible news that would take you away.

I still can’t believe you’re gone…

i still expect to hear you moan and groan while I’m preparing breakfast, lunch or dinner.

and I still walk slowly through the kitchen, making sure I won’t trip over, or step on you.

But, I don’t hear your noises anymore…

And, I don’t find you sleeping by the kitchen table or in the living room chair.

Even though you never asked for much, the house still seems too quiet.

In a couple of months you will have been ten…

but Leukaemia took you away.

And you’ll forever be nine years old.

Thank you for allowing us to be a part of your life.

You made us laugh…

You made us cry…

And, most importantly, you gave us memories that will forever remain in our hearts.

“Wounds heal in time, but they always leave scars.”

Isn’t that so true…

Rest Peacefully Our Golden Princess

On Thursday, March 14th, 2013, at approximately 3:30pm, we said goodbye to our Golden Princess.

Aspen stands in a blanket of fallen leaves.

We didn’t know Aspen was seriously ill. We had decided to take her to see Dr B because she didn’t seem to be herself and she was beginning to refuse her meals.

On Monday, Aspen was wrestling with rogue.

On Tuesday, Aspen only finished half of her turkey wing, so we thought her jaw might be sore from chewing beef bones and icicles, so Huib gave her a can of salmon instead, and she slowly ate it.

On Wednesday, Aspen seemed uninterested in interacting with anyone, and was hesitant about eating both her breakfast and dinner. I decided to brush her and look for any abnormal lumps or sores, but found none. I did notice that her heart seemed to be beating a bit quicker than normal, but I thought it might have just been her hatred for being groomed. but, I sent Huib an iMessage and he suggested I try to make an appointment with Dr B.

Thursday morning we woke up really early and piled everyone into the Orlando. aspen seemed tired and was panting a bit, but again, we weren’t too worried – it was 3am. when she went to jump into the back of the Orlando though, she didn’t quite make it and Huib had to help her – this made us worry a bit. On the drive, aspen sat up a few times and panted, but she always laid back down and didn’t seem distressed. when we arrived in Guelph, we let everyone relieve themselves and Aspen did both, so we returned to thinking it was going to be okay.

As soon as Dr b entered the examination room and saw Aspen lying on the floor, panting, she said she was concerned. She checked her heart rate, her temperature and listened to her lungs before she told us she didn’t feel it was going to be happy news. she was worried about Lymphoma and tumours on her spleen, but when she shaved her abdominal area to do an abdominal aspiration (to check for blood), she found unexplained bruising, and began to worry about anemia. she took some blood and sent it off to be tested.

She asked us to stay in the examination room with aspen until the test results came back because she wanted aspen to remain calm and relaxed. We sat with her for three hours, taking turns sitting on the floor to pet her.

When the test results came back, it wasn’t good news at all. We had known something was wrong from the way Aspen had begun to have more and more difficulty breathing and getting comfortable throughout the day, but we were hopeful that Dr b could do something to help her.

Aspen was diagnosed with a very aggressive case of Leukemia.

Close up of Aspen from our walk along the closed road near our house.

Dr b told us that Aspen’s white blood cell count was through the roof and her red blood cell count was beyond being anemic. She felt that Aspen wouldn’t make it through the night, let alone through a chemo treatment. She said that if we decided to try chemo, she could have aspen in for a round in the evening, but we all worried that she may die on the treatment table. It was so hard to get all this news. We were in complete shock and felt helpless. We worried about giving up too early on our golden girl, but we worried even more about putting her through a treatment that could either kill her or cause her pain and suffering that wouldn’t even end up giving her back any semblance of a life.

We sat for two hours with Aspen, talking about the options and spending as much time as we could with her, because deep down, I guess we already knew what our decision was going to have to be.

By 3:00pm, aspen was having more and more difficulty breathing and getting comfortable. She was so warm and it was heartbreaking to watch her struggle. at 3:20pm, we told Dr B that we had decided to let Aspen go. she felt we were making the best possible decision.

Aspen sits in front of a flowering apple tree.

Huib and I sat beside aspen, while Cessna, rogue and Canyon laid around us. Dr b began inserting the anesthetic and Huib said aspen passed before she had even finished inserting half of it. We feel as though she must have been ready to go. her body was just having too much trouble fighting to stay alive.

I meant to tell our blog readers about her passing sooner, but her sudden death has left us in a state of confusion and disbelief. It just happened so suddenly, that we are having trouble coming to terms with it all. We know time will heal some of the wounds, but we still keep wondering if there is something we missed or something more we could have done.

Rest peacefully and chase all the leaves you desire our Golden Princess. You and Phoenix are back together and I know you’ll both take good care of each other.

We all miss you little girl, and the paw prints you’ve left on our hearts will never be forgotten.

Married 7 Years

As of about 4:30pm today, Huib and I will have been married for seven years.

It’s hard to believe so many years have already passed, but then, as the saying goes “time flies when you’re having fun”.

I’m so lucky to be married to the most amazing man I know.

Words really can’t adequately express how amazing he is, so I’ll share 7 things that I love about him:
1. His willingness to listen. he may not always be good at listening to something I ask him to do, but he’s an amazing listener when I need a shoulder to cry on.
2. His mutual love of most chick flicks. Many of my friends have to bribe their significant others to go watch a chick flick, but Huib volunteers to go watch one with me. I’ll even find him crying at a particularly sad part, like at the ending of The Notebook.
3. His abundance of patience. Unlike my Mom, Huib’s only patients aren’t just located at work. The dogs and I can be pretty demanding at times, but he seems to take it all in stride.
4. His ability to put up with my extended family. Most people wouldn’t put up with such a dysfunctional bunch, but Huib seems to find their antics almost entertaining.
5. His ability to make me laugh even when I’m sad. No matter how I’m feeling, Huib always has something witty or completely corny to say that will cause me to smile.
6. His down to earth nature. I have a tendency to jump feet first into things, but Huib is the complete opposite. If I want to do something that he isn’t so sure about, he seems to know the right questions to ask that cause me to truly think the situation through before acting.
7. The fact that he loves me for me. No matter what others may see as my flaws, Huib loves me for me and says he couldn’t imagine me being any different.

I wish I had some recent pictures to share of us together, but we seem to only take pictures of the dogs.

Happy Anniversary My Love!

It’s been an amazing ride so far, I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

He Said It Was Time

As mentioned in an earlier post, the topic for the 9th round of the Assistance Dog Blog Carnival is “Moments”. From the first moment I read the topic, I knew what I had to write about. Even though it isn’t a happy moment, it’s a moment that I feel needs to be written about.

The moment I am going to write about, is the moment I knew it was time to say goodbye to Phoenix, my second dog guide.

Since the first day we became a team, Phoenix has always lived his life the way he wanted. If Phoenix didn’t want to do something, then he made sure I knew exactly how he felt about me asking him to do it. if Phoenix wanted to do something, then he made it completely clear to me that it was going to happen or he’d try his darnedest to make sure it did.

Phoenix and I worked well together because we both had a stubborn streak and we both knew how to keep the other one guessing.

Seven years after we were matched, Phoenix began to make it clear to me that he wanted to retire. I tried to convince myself that he was just being a big baby about the winter and that he’d be back to normal in the spring/summer months, but when things didn’t improve by May, I knew he had made his decision.

Phoenix retired on May 13th, 2005, seven years after he had begun working.

Phoenix settled well into retirement from the start. If he saw me take Cessna’s harness from the leash rack, he immediately ran over to the couch for a nap. When we arrived home, he was always waiting with a toy or his metal bowl at the door, wagging his tail. He took well to having Cessna take over his role as my guide and he seemed to enjoy his new job of being the protector of the house and Aspen’s babysitter. When we fostered Aiden and Reece, Phoenix taught them about respecting their elders and as they grew, he began to play with them and to keep them in line when needed. When we moved to Northeastern Ontario and brought Canyon into our home, Phoenix seemed disinterested in interacting with him, but he also didn’t seem upset about his arrival.

I sometimes wonder if maybe Phoenix felt as though Canyon would be able to take over as my protector since he was a boy, or if maybe he was just too old to care.

About two months after Phoenix’s 14th birthday, I came home to find him in horrible shape. My step dad had been watching him for me, and said that he thought he had had a stroke. We rushed Phoenix down to the vet thinking the worst, but hoping for the best. During the entire seven hour drive, I held Phoenix’s paw and told him how much I loved him and that it was okay to go if he needed to. When Dr B finished examining him, she said he had an acute onset of Idiopathic Vestibular Disease, and that if I had the time and patience, that I could get him back to normal within a couple of weeks. This was the best news I’d ever heard and devoted the next month to helping Phoenix with his rehabilitation. He ended up keeping a bit of the head tilt associated with IVD, but he regained all other function.

From that experience, I began learning about the raw diet and how it could possibly give me more time with my old boy. Phoenix had dealt with ear infections our entire twelve years together, so Dr B felt that a more natural diet might be the answer we’d been looking for. I started Phoenix on his raw diet around the middle of January and within weeks noticed a drastic difference in his level of shedding and saw that he even had a bit more spunk and energy at times. We spent the next few months together without any health issues. He seemed to be aging well and I was starting to tell myself that I may have a year or more with my faithful companion.

In June we picked up a spunky little caramel lab, we named Rogue, and Phoenix did his usual shunning of the youngster. I knew it would take time for him to get used to her, and that she would need to learn to respect his space, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how quickly she began to understand his boundaries.

About a month after picking up Rogue, Phoenix began to refuse his meals. He had never refused to eat, so this change really began to worry me after the second day of him doing this. We were unable to get him to Dr B for a couple of weeks, so I stayed in constant contact with her by phone and e-mail. She suggested different ways of getting him to eat, and sometimes it worked, but most times it didn’t. Finally, after three weeks of Phoenix barely eating, she told me to give him anything he’d take and not to worry about his allergies or about if it was any good for him. Again, sometimes it worked, but most times it didn’t.

On August 10th, 2011, we headed down to Guelph. We stayed with friends for the night and then took Phenix and Rogue to see Dr B.

As soon as Dr B saw Phoenix she knew it wasn’t good. She said that she’d run tests and give him pain medication if we wanted, but that she felt he had already made his decision. Dr B felt that Phoenix was tired and just wanted to go, but needed me to help him. Huib and I had both decided on our way to her clinic that we would do whatever she suggested, but from Dr B’s words, we knew it wasn’t what she suggested, but what Phoenix wanted.

On August 11th, 2011, at 1:20pm, Dr B gave Phoenix the medication that would help him leave us peacefully. Rogue, our 4 month old caramel puppy, laid against him while Dr B administered the injection and I held his paw and Huib stroked his head. Rogue stayed curled up against Phoenix for close to 5 minutes after Dr B had checked to make sure he no longer had a heart beat, and then got up, walked around him sniffing every part of him and then walked to the door and turned to look at us, as if to say “it’s okay, he’s gone now”.

It is this moment in time, that will remain with me forever.

The moment I said goodbye to my old friend.

The moment I realized that his spirit would live on, within my new friend.

The moment I knew he’d be with me forever in my heart and in my memories.

Farewell Our Berner Friend

I have some sad news to share.

Our friend Jesse of Berner Tails, has left to cross the Rainbow Bridge.

Jesse had been ill for a while. he had eaten something that his stomach did not agree with and the vet could not figure out how to help him.

Please take a moment and give his blog a visit.

Hard To Believe…

1 year ago, I said goodbye to my faithful companion.

12 months ago, I said farewell to my number one sidekick.

52 weeks ago, I said so long to my best friend.

365 days ago, my confidant took flight.

8760 hours ago, my teacher left my side.

525,600 minutes ago, my pal went to join our friends and family who left before him.

31,536,000 seconds ago, my life changed forever.

No matter how many dogs enter my life, Phoenix, you will always be missed and never forgotten.

The lessons you taught me, and the unconditional love you provided, will always leave a smile on my face.

Rest in peace my yellow friend.

Remembering Endora

Once upon a time in the sunny state of California, there lived a little female yellow Labrador retriever named Endora. Like other dogs before her, this little lab was preparing to make a difference in the life of a blind individual. She studied tons. She worked hard. She knew there was someone out there who needed her, and she was determined to make her mark on the world.

In September of 2002 Endora waited patiently in the kennels of Guide Dogs for The blind to be given her assignment. She had been pulling all nighters, trying to get the commands firmly implanted in her memory, she knew her time had come. There had to be someone in this class that needed her expertise.

Meanwhile…

In Nova Scotia, a determined young woman named Lynette, was boarding a plane bound for California. Lynette’s first guide dog, Aries, was not cut out for the job, so after years of trying to make the partnership work, she made the tough decision to retire Aries and give her to her parents. She knew it wasn’t going to b easy getting a new dog, but she also knew Aries was happier as a pet, so off she went.

Like Cessna and I, Endora and Lynette were a match made in heaven. They were matched both in size and determination. They had their struggles, and they had their disagreements, but from the beginning it was hard to believe they had not always been a team. Lynette found it hard, at first, to put all of her trust in this little power house, but almost immediately Endora showed her how wonderful it could be to work with a guide dog. She guided Lynette with confidence, and with care. she took her job seriously, and glared at anyone who dared to try and distract her.

Unlike Aries, Endora took her responsibilities to heart – this was what she was meant to do.

I met Endora shortly after Lynette brought her home and almost immediately nicknamed her the little snobby American Princess. She had no qualms about coming up onto the couch and cuddling with me, but if I had something to say, there was no way she was going to listen. Endora made up for her small stature in attitude. If Endora didn’t want to do it, then she wasn’t going to do it.

When Lynette texted me to say that Endora was not well, I was almost in tears. I couldn’t believe it was time for Endora to leave us. She was only 11 years old and still so full of life. But, I guess someone had other plans for our American Princess.

On March 19, 2012, Endora left this world to make her mark on another. From what the vet could determine, she was full of cancer. She had developed a lump around the bottom of her rib cage that was, at first, just a fatty tumour, but at some point it changed. Endora began licking and chewing at the lump, causing it to become severely infected and without immediate vet care, had gotten too out of hand for her poor body to handle. The vet thinks the infection is what caused her rapid decline, but that she had most likely developed the cancer months earlier. We’ll never really know if she could have been given a little bit longer, if it had not been for the infection, but I guess we should just try and be thankful for the time we had to spend with this amazing little yellow lab.

I will always miss her “bear rug imitation”.

When Endora was upset about something, she’d lie on the ground with her head lying flat between her paws, so it looked like she was a rug instead of a dog.

I will miss our games of tug.

Endora was an amazing tug of war player. She’d not only tug with all her might, but start growling and barking like she was about to eat the hand of whoever was on the other end. During one of our many games of tug, I actually had Aspen barking and growling at Endora because she was worried I was in danger lol! Aspen is such a big suck, but she will try her best to defend her family.

I do not normally develop such a strong bond with my friends’ guide dogs, but for some reason, Endora will always be special to me. Maybe it was her attitude that reminded me of myself. or maybe it was her fierce determination that inspired me. I’ll never know for certain why Endora left such a mark on my heart, but I do know that she will never be forgotten.

Rest in peace my little American Princess friend. Take care of Phoenix for me and remember that you guys will always be in my thoughts.