Determined

I am determined to get back into blogging.

It has been an extremely busy summer for all of us.

Here are some highlights:
In June, Rogue tried for her UTD (urban tracking dog) title, but wasn’t successful. We learned some important things at the test and we met some new people.

In July, Arizona entered the Maple Leaf Kennel Club’s UKC conformation show and got a group 4th on the Saturday. There were eight different breeds, so it was quite an exciting win for us.

Every week we have field and tracking classes. Arizona is progressing well with field, but she’s still hesitant to pick up any smelly or floppy ducks, so that’s been a bit frustrating. Rogue is doing well with tracking, working on both urban and field stuff. Arizona has also started tracking and is very slowly progressing. She has the ability to do it, but we never know what she’s going to give us at any given moment.

August 8th was a pretty sad day around here. Our long-time feline friend, Logan, unexpectedly passed away. We saw her Saturday, but weren’t too surprised when we didn’t see her or Laya on Sunday because we were moving stuff around, but on Monday morning Huib searched for her because only Laya came out for wet food. Logan loves canned food, so when we couldn’t find her, we were concerned. Huib found her behind a couch. He said she looked really peaceful, as though she had passed away in her sleep. Since her body was still stiff, our vet believes she probably had a heart attack in her sleep and we most likely discovered her within 8 hours of her passing. It was such a shocker!! We had no idea she was unwell 🙁

September was a pretty busy and exciting month for us all.

On the 9th, Arizona tried to earn her WC (working certificate), but instead of performing the drills, she decided to be the class clown – we’ll try again next year. In the land retrieves, she ‘marked’ perfectly, ran straight up to the duck, sniffed a couple of times, and then ran back to me. The judges asked me to resend her, and she ran two perfect land retrieves. When we attempted the water retrieve, she ‘marked’ beautifully, took a couple of steps into the pond, and ran right back. Huib thinks she didn’t like the smooshy bottom. We did finally get her to do a water retrieve, but we didn’t end up earning the title. We had a good time at the test though, meeting a lot of interesting people, so it was worth it.

On the 10th and 11th, we helped out at the Oakville & District Kennel Club’s conformation show. It took place at the International Centre, so it was a pretty big deal. I ran the Meet the Breeds Booth, getting to check out a number of breeds I had never heard of. Rogue worked, while Canyon and Arizona hung out in a crate when it wasn’t their turn to volunteer. Even with the long days, everyone seemed to have a good time.

On the 20th, I successfully defended my thesis. I now have a Master of Arts in Health and Aging degree. My convocation is on November 17th, so that should be fun.

What’s coming up for us?
On the 16th, Rogue will try again for her UTD title. We have tried to practice every couple of days, working in as many challenges as possible, so I’m hopeful we’ll succeed.

On the 30th Cessna will turn 13. It’s hard to believe my spunky little black lab is really a senior citizen. She still goes for 2 or 3 30 minute walks a day with my step Dad and wants to play with the others in the house from time-to-time. She has some health conditions, Hypothyroidism, mild incontinence, some tiny cataracts, mild arthritis, and some lumps, but overall Cessna’s a pretty happy and healthy old gal.

I will sign off for now, but hopefully I will be back sooner than later.

Looking Back

The topic for this round of the assistance Dog Blog Carnival is “regrets.” I chose this topic because in exactly one month it will be 17 years since I was partnered with Phoenix. For new blog readers, Phoenix was officially my second dog guide from Dog Guides Canada, but to me he was my first, and the dog who started it all.

On July 23rd, 1998, I was matched with Phoenix, a 21 month old male yellow lab. He wanted nothing to do with me at first, he just wanted to be with his trainer. Around the two week mark of class, a switch turned and he was mine forever. From that moment in time, Phoenix and I ruled the world together. Even when he retired 7 years later, he was still my constant shadow. No matter how much Huib tried to win his affection, Phoenix would have none of it. When I was home, Phoenix was stuck to me like glue.

We finished my final year of high school together. We completed five years at the University of Guelph and walked across the graduation stage side by side. Along the way Phoenix taught me about unconditional love and the value of true friendship.

It’s true, I’ve had several dogs since getting Phoenix (not all guides of course), but no matter who has passed through my life since July 23rd, Phoenix had and will always have a big piece of my heart.

You’re probably wondering how this all relates to the topic of “regrets.” Well, looking back I have many regrets.

Looking back, I wish I had known about clicker training and that I had not used the choke chain and the harsh corrections that went along with it. It’s true that I stopped using all of this a year or so after getting Cessna, but I still have regrets.

Looking back, I wish I had known about feeding a raw diet sooner. Yes, Phoenix ate raw his final eight months with me, but it took me over 12 years to finally figure out how to end his constant fight with ear infections. It’s true that I figured out his allergies by the time he was seven, but he still got painful ear infections off and on, so I have regrets.

Looking back, I wish I had known the end was near. It’s true he was just two months shy of his 15th birthday when he passed. It’s true that I was not in school or working, so I spent every hour of the day at home with the dogs. It’s true that I fed him all of his favourite human foods, such as pizza, french fries, Kraft Dinner and beef jerky, when he’d eat for me. It’s true that he progressively ate less and less, while sleeping more and more the last month of his life, so I should have known the end was near. But, I have regrets.

I wonder if he would have stayed longer if I had not gotten Rogue. I wonder if he wouldn’t have started to give up if I hadn’t left him with friends for a few days while I took Canyon, Cessna and Rogue to Rogue’s breeder’s reunion. I will probably never know the answer for certain, and he probably would have still passed away, but I have regrets.

According to dictionary.com, regret means to: “feel sorrow or remorse for an act, fault, or disappointment.”

This definition seems fitting. I feel sorrow for the training methods I chose, which caused me to act poorly towards Phoenix. I feel remorse for not acting sooner to stop his ear infections. And, I feel sorrow for possibly causing him to pass away sooner than he might have if I had not chosen to get a puppy.

It’s true that I shouldn’t feel bad for these things, but I still have regrets.

I Wonder…

A year ago you had to leave us.

We know you didn’t want to go, but the Leukaemia was too hard to continue fighting.

I wonder where you are today.

I wonder what you’re doing.

I wonder if Phoenix found you and walked along side you as you entered your new home.

I wonder if we’ll get to see you once we leave this place…

Or is it a place where humans are not permitted entrance…

I wonder if you and Phoenix have found Harley and Thor…

It really doesn’t feel like a year since you left.

But, then it also doesn’t feel right that you’re gone.

Aspen, we miss you SO much!!!

Aspen lies on a pebble path

Aspen at 8 years of age

Until we meet again, rest peacefully our Golden Princess.

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.

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.