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.

Emmett

“UNTIL ONE HAS LOVED AN ANIMAL, PART OF THEIR SOUL REMAINS UNAWAKENED”

“He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader. He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat
of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.” –Unknown

Two weeks ago I received some very sad news. My friend Kelly’s Special Skills dog, Emmett, had passed away. Emmett was a four year old cream colour, standard poodle. He was raised by friends of mine and then ended up being placed with another friend of mine, Kelly.

Emmett was an amazing boy. He was smart. He was deviant. And he was an absolute sweetheart. He had had some issues with having to have his knees both replaced one year after the other, but he seemed to be healthy in all other ways.

Two weeks ago everything changed. He had gotten a cold which turned into pneumonia. For most dogs, this sort of thing wouldn’t be fatal, but unbeknownst to Kelly, Emmett had Addison’s Disease.

Since Emmett’s death, Kelly has begun to learn all she can about the disease and has joined an online support group. She hopes to educate others on Addison’s Disease and help save at least one dog’s life.

Emmett, you were one special dog. You were loved by many. And will be missed by all. I hope Phoenix and Cooper met you along your journey across the rainbow bridge and that together, you will all care for one another as we cared for you.

Gone six Months

I can’t believe that, six months ago, Phoenix passed away.

It’s still hard. I’m still grieving.

I’d give anything to hear him snoring beside me or shuffling around the house at night.

But, I know he’s happier. I know he’s healthier. And I know he made the decision to go.

Phoenix was just two months and eleven days shy of his fifteenth birthday, so I feel guilty wishing he didn’t have to leave.

I know I was blessed to have the opportunity to enjoy Phoenix’s company for so long, but I still wish we had a little bit longer.

There are so many things I would have said to him. There are so many things I would have done with him.

I feel guilty for saying this. I feel selfish for wishing this. But, Phoenix and I were a team. We were partners. We were friends.

I won’t stop missing him. I won’t stop thinking of him. I won’t stop remembering him.

Even though time passes, the memories of my loyal friend stay near

The times I laughed. The times I cried. The times we spent together.

Rest In Peace my faithful friend. You will forever remain in my heart.

Fifty Three

Today would have been my mother’s 53rd birthday. Unfortunately though, as mentioned in this post from September, she left us at 39.

I often wonder what life would have been like for my mom if she had not gotten diabetes at the age of 11.

Would she still have become a nurse?
Would she have had me and Brandi?
Would our step-dad still be in our lives?

I often wonder what mom would be like if she hadn’t passed away at the age of 39.

Would she still have her long, thick, dark brown hair? Or would it be predominantly grey.
Would her and our step-dad still be together? Or would their paths have taken a different route.
Would she still live in a small apartment in Aurora? Or would she have bought a house in the country.

I often wonder what life would have been like if she had not left us so soon.

Would I have taken the same academic paths?
Would Brandi have had such a rough time growing up?
Would I be with Huib?

It’s days like this, when I stop and wonder, how different life could or would have been if we were celebrating mom’s birthday with her, instead of just remembering.

Even though you’re not here physically, I know you’re here in spirit.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Yesterday

Yesterday would have been Phoenix’s 15th birthday.

Since he’s not here to celebrate with me, I thought I would post some pictures from the 13 wonderful years we spent together. Many, you will have already seen, but I thought I’d also try and add a little story to go along with them.

This picture was given to me by Phoenix’s foster family. Alice, his foster mom, told me that Phoenix’s favourite place to sleep was behind her, in this pink chair. She said that in the mornings, Phoenix wood eat his breakfast, go out for relief, play a bit of bowl hockey and then take an hour nap. She said that as he got bigger though, he began to take up more and more of the chair, until finally, she had to find another place to sit.

Phoenix joined me in my final year of high school. He was probably the most popular student in our year. Everyone seemed to know his name, and at times I’d have random people come over to give him a treat. I think his favourite class was spare though, because we would usually meet up with a friend to go outside and play fetch or leave school to walk around the mall. Unlike Cessna, Phoenix loved to go shopping.

Phoenix and I joined Huib in Vancouver, when he attended a conference. I had a friend come along so that we could tour the universities and visit some of the sights. I think the funniest story of that trip, was when Phoenix met another guide dog. I had been talking to a woman on the web and decided to meet up with her. Phoenix was so happy to see Hula, that he got a little too “excited”. I was so embarrassed!

The only other memorable experience from that trip, was probably when I got to feed a real seal in Victoria. There is a spot where you can go out onto a dock overlooking the Pacific Ocean and feed the seals some fresh fish from a vendor. I held the piece of fish over the edge of the dock and Phoenix watched intently, as a big, fat seal appeared, and took the fish.

Phoenix was always so proud of new “clothes”. He would prance around the house, showing off his new item. It didn’t matter if it was a new bandana, collar, coat or saddle bags, he had to show them off. It also didn’t matter if just Huib and I were home either. I have some other funny pictures of him dressed up, but I’ll have to get Huib to help me find them, to post at a later date.

When Phoenix retired, I knew he wouldn’t be happy just staying at home, so I decided to have him certified as a therapy dog. Phoenix loved visiting with all of the residents at the long-term care home we were assigned to. Unfortunately, school got in the way, and we had to resign after just a year of volunteering.

Phoenix loved going on walks through the conservation area behind our Guelph condominium. He had fun sniffing and investigating, while his buddy Aspen got into any puddle she could find. Luckily, Phoenix hated mud and puddles, so we never had to worry about giving him a bath after a walk.

Phoenix was never a big fan of puppies, but he also had a great deal of patience. When Aiden was really, really young, he used to follow Phoenix around like he was a celebrity. It took Aiden months, but Phoenix finally warmed up to him.

This picture was taken while they were both in “time out” for doing things they shouldn’t have. Phoenix had decided to eat a skeletonized bird carcass, while Aiden wouldn’t stop trying to raid the cooler of another beach-goer.

Phoenix was always food obsessed. He would do absolutely anything for food. When he ate, his bowl was clean within seconds. When I offered a treat, he grabbed it out of my hand. His favourite toys, were anything that had to do with food, so we used to search high and low for new treat dispensing toys. I think by the end, Phoenix had five different balls that dispensed treats, and four different kong products, we could put cookies into. Rogue has since inherited his beloved toys.

One really bad habit Phoenix had, was rolling around in the sand after he was all wet. I used to try so hard to keep him clean, but he always ended up outsmarting me.

Phoenix always loved swimming. He would swim so long, that we’d actually worry about him drowning from exhaustion. As he got older though, he found it more fun to just stand in the shallow parts, cooling off.

We had quite the scare in December, when Phoenix had an acute onset of Idiopathic Vestibular Disease. We honestly thought we were going to lose him, but were blessed to have him with us eight more months.

Last year, we weren’t sure Phoenix would be with us to celebrate his 15th birthday, so we had quite the party. My sister and step-dad came over and we all (dogs included) had pizza (gluten-free for the dogs) and cupcakes.

I had the pleasure of spending 13, wonderful years with the most wonderful teacher, helper and friend. Even though we had our ups and downs, I would never change a thing.

Phoenix always lived his life on his own terms, so it’s fitting to think, that he left this life on his own terms.

Though I still miss him every day, I know he’s happier and healthier in his new home.

Rest in peace my mellow, yellow, fellow.

Gone 2 Months

It’s hard to believe I said goodbye to my faithful friend two months ago.

Things around the house are now beginning to change from how they were when Phoenix was here. I didn’t want to change things right away, but know that it’s healthy to start moving on. It’s just so hard to put his things away, and to remove some of the modifications we had made for him to get around easier, like extra carpet runners.

The dogs also seem to be getting back to their regular selves. Aspen isn’t moping around as much and Cessna is not as clingy.

I know we’ll all have our moments of wishing Phoenix was here, but it is nice to see that we can all move past our loss. I know this is what he would have wanted. He will always be in our hearts and the memories will never fade away.

I’ll leave you with a link to Avril Lavigne’s new song Wish You Were Here. Phoenix absolutely loved her music, so it’s kind of fitting that she would release this new song which says exactly what I’ve been feeling.

For those of my readers who are deaf or hard of hearing, here’s the lyrics.

I can be tough
I can be strong
But with you, it’s not like that at all

There’s a girl
Who gives a shit
Behind this wall
You’ve just walked through it

And I remember all those crazy things you said
You left them running through my head
You’re always there, you’re everywhere
But right now I wish you were here
All those crazy things we did
Didn’t think about it, just went with it
You’re always there, you’re everywhere
But right now I wish you were here

Damn, damn, damn
What I’d do to have you
here, here, here
I wish you were here.
Damn, damn, damn
What I’d do to have you
Near, near, near
I wish you were here.

I love the way you are
It’s who I am, don’t have to try hard
We always say, say like it is
And the truth is that I really miss

And I remember all those crazy things you said
You left them running through my head
You’re always there, you’re everywhere
But right now I wish you were here
All those crazy things we did
Didn’t think about it, just went with it
You’re always there, you’re everywhere
But right now I wish you were here

Damn, damn, damn
What I’d do to have you
here, here, here
I wish you were here.
Damn, damn, damn
What I’d do to have you
Near, near, near
I wish you were here.

No, I don’t wanna let go
I just wanna let you know
That I never wanna let go

(let go, let go, let go, let go)

No, I don’t wanna let go
I just wanna let you know
That I never wanna let go

(let go, let go, let go, let go)

Damn, damn, damn
What I’d do to have you
here, here, here
I wish you were here.
Damn, damn, damn
What I’d do to have you
Near, near, near
I wish you were here.

Damn, damn, damn
What I’d do to have you
here, here, here
I wish you were here.
Damn, damn, damn
What I’d do to have you
Near, near, near
I wish you were here.

Phoenix, there’s nothing I wouldn’t do to have you here…

Gone 13 Years

It’s hard to believe, that just thirteen years ago, my mom was still a part of my life.

I know I’ve written about the death of my mom before, but I don’t think I’ve ever told the story of who she was.

Denise was just 39 when Juvenile Diabetes took her away. She was the mom of two teenage daughters, and the wife of a man who to this day, has never stopped loving her.

During her short life, Denise was a devoted, caring RPN (Registered Practical Nurse or Registered Nurse’s Assistant) at the York Central Hospital in Richmond Hill, Ontario. She worked on the geriatrics unit, and provided smiles and laughter for all patients and staff she encountered. To this day, her best friend, a fellow RPN, still misses her dearly.

In 1988, Denise injured her left foot while assisting a co-worker with transferring a patient from one bed to another.

It’s hard to think, that just ten years later my mom would leave us forever.

She was such an inspiration.

Such a loving person.

Even though my friends did not get a chance to know her as well as I did, her death still really effected them.

She loved to laugh.

Loved to tell jokes.

Loved to be surrounded by friends.

But, most of all, she loved her daughters.

It is for this reason, that Brandi and I still strive to keep her memory going.

And every day we hope, that we are still living up to her hopes and expectations.

Coincidental Timing

On Sunday, it will be 13 years since my mother passed away. This anniversary has gotten me thinking about how each time I’ve gotten a new dog guide, someone special has left my life.

Mom passed away two months and two days after I was matched with Phoenix. She had a chance to get to know Phoenix, and thought he was the perfect dog for me. She enjoyed sharing her banana Popsicles with him, and would even offer to babysit if I had to go somewhere alone. She did not share this sort of relationship with Gryphon.

Granny passed away a month and fifteen days after I was matched with Cessna. She also got a chance to meet and sort of get to know her. She thought Cessna was a little rambunctious, but saw potential for a great worker.

Then recently, Phoenix passed away two months and a day after I picked up Rogue. He showed her a patience I had not seen him ever offer another puppy. He let her lick his face. He let her nap on top of him. He let her clean up crumbs he had dropped. And, I’m convinced he left her with a level of wisdom and maturity, I’ve never seen another five month old puppy possess.

Maybe it’s a coincidence, but it’s really got me wondering if I should stop getting new dog guides.

Please let’s hope I’m wrong.