Wednesday, September 8, 2010

THEY LEFT PAWPRINTS ON OUR HEARTS....

........and we are forever changed.


[I started this blog some time ago. I had decided to do a post about all the dogs we have loved and said goodbye to in our family, and how each one changed us.

But the list of goodbyes was so long, I started feeling sad, and I put this post into draft and left it alone. Tonight Stephanie and I were chatting, and I told her this. She said, "I know the partings are sad and I am teary about it right now, but what we have to remember is the funny things, the happy memories, the love they brought into our lives, and then it isnt so sad at all."

So I decided to dust off this draft and maybe even wing it into the blogosphere. Because, even though it is sad, it is a testament to our loving them -and they us - and the fact that we have been forever changed by having them in our lives.]

Loving dogs involves heartbreak. So when I was showing my daughter, Stephanie, my blog titled "The Dogs In My Heart" (July), and she asked, "What about Snoopy, don't forget Snoopy," I
realized there are a lot more dogs in our hearts than the ones we are presently living with. I decided to do another post about the many dogs we have loved and said goodbye to in our family.

Since Stephanie, myself and my sister are all avid dog lovers - and dog rescuers - the list is long. This blog will not be without tears. But those pawprints.........those dear loopy smiles.....how they changed us!

I am going all the way back. Above is a little black lab called Dinky, who was my buddy from earliest childhood. A more loyal, devoted little fellow you couldnt imagine. Above, we are outside our small farm, Twin Acres, in the Kelowna Mission. But not too long afterwards, the family moved to Vancouver, for better work opportunities for my dad. Dinky came with us. But he did not enjoy living in the city, on a busy street, with all the noise and the confinement. I remember kids would come up and down the lane, pointing toy guns at us and going "Bang, bang" and this made my dog nervous. He would growl and bark, trying to protect me from a perceived threat.

One day my mother told me, Dinky was going to have to go "away", because he might bite someone. A neighbor had complained. I went to school one day. When I came back, he was gone. I noticed my mom watching me carefully, likely watching for signs of grief. By then, with all that had happened in my short life, I was skilled at numbing myself to emotions that were too painful to be borne. I slid Dinky into the closed room where I kept the pain. But I felt guilty for years afterward, that I had never cried for him. (I'll cry for him now.)

I was sixteen before I had another dog. Tippy was a rescue, on her way to the SPCA if I didnt take her. I'm sure my mom didnt need one more creature to worry about and feed, but she said I could have her. I was a lonely teenager, and I remember lying on the floor doing my homework, Tippy lying beside me, my arm around her. One day, when I was walking her, she started running and playing with another dog. They suddenly darted into the road, and both were struck and killed by a passing police car. I was in shock as I watched the car hit, and her body fly in an arc off to the side of the road. The policeman took us to the vet. He came out of the back room and handed me Tippy's leash and collar.

My mom let me stay home from school the next day. I bless her for that; she knew how much it hurt.

Hushpuppy was given to me when I was nineteen and about to get married. He was a smart little Pomeranian, who would stand on his hind legs and dance around in a circle for treats. We didnt teach him that; he just began to do it. We were living by then in Alert Bay, a small island off the east coast of Vancouver Island. Hushpuppy disappeared one day; just gone. Maybe stolen, maybe hunted by a predator. He was in the yard; then he was not. I was right inside the house.


Years later, there was Grady, rescued from the SPCA by my sister. Here she is with my three oldest kids, Lisa, Jon and Jeff. Grady was a hilarious Irish setter that I just adored. Soon after she joined us, we moved to Sechelt, where I was running a small general store on the ocean. Grady cracked people up, all along the beach because she chased - not birds - but the SHADOWS of the birds along the sand, pouncing on them, digging, flabbergasted that she couldnt get her paws around them. Sometimes I would see her with her tail slowly wagging, observing something closely on the floor in the storeroom. Looking closer, I'd see she was watching a bug, and smiling gently. When our cat had kittens, Grady helped her deliver and care for them. Grady was so gentle she would play with our bunnies, hopping around the yard with them like a gigantic, stiff-legged red rabbit. Hilarious dog.

She loved running along the beach, but she always ran away, traveling through the native reserve. We got some phone calls saying if she continued, they were going to shoot her. Right at that time, a man with acreage offered to take her.

At the time I was hugely pregnant, running a general store from six a.m. till midnight, at the same time caring for my three young children, and dealing with an alcoholic partner. I did not want to tie her up. Running free on acreage seemed the best solution for her, heartbreaking as it was for me to let her go.

One more dog put behind that locked door of pain and loss. I saw Grady some months later, with her new owner. I didnt let her see me, so as not to upset her. She was listening to him intently and I could see he had trained her well. She looked happy, and I knew she was all right.

It was quite a while before I was ready for another dog. I was raising four children on my own - enough creatures to feed and take care of. But Stephanie had always wanted a dog. So when she was seven I got her a sheltie - spaniel cross. Steph named her Snoopy; it's not my fault:)

Snoopy was a dear little dog, who fitted right into our lifestyle. She was very smart, and grew very compassionate over the years. When I first moved to Tofino and was trying to secure housing for us, Jeff and Snoopy stayed with my mom temporarily in the city. Jeff was just getting ill then, and he and Snoopy clung to each other. Jeff says she really comforted him during that summer he was so ill.
Once Snoopy joined us in Tofino, she loved being on the beach, having the freedom of a wooden deck to lounge on. After city life, this was dog heaven. However, on New Year's Eve, I was alone in the cabin. Snoop was out on the deck. I heard a scuffle and, looking out, I saw two dogs stuck together and one of them was Snoopy. They both looked up at me, startled, locked together. I closed the door tactfully, hoping they would figure out how to disengage. Not a long time later..............


Snoopy did not like being a mother. She was seven by then and was not amused by the situation. I had to make her feed the babies. She would look at me with an aghast expression, like: "How did this happen??!!" Steph and I loved the puppies though. They were adorable. I'd come home from work, and call, "Puppers! Come on, little puppers!" and the herd of little feet would run after me across the floor while I made them their food.

When it was time for them to go to their new homes, I cried my eyes out. By now, I for sure knew how to cry!


The little one in the middle was my favorite. She was Snoopy all over again and if I had had secure housing, I would have kept her. But we had to move every few months for a while, and it was impossible. I gave her to a friend to be sure she had a good home. But that friend had a young child and couldnt manage training a puppy. She gave her away; the puppy was stolen from the second home. Months later I saw her, on Vargas Island. She looked like she was having a hard life. I know humans have it tough on this planet. But my heart goes out to dogs, such devoted loving creatures, so at the mercy of their "owners". I can be stoic at all that happens to humans, but turn into a puddle when I hear of a fur being who has been mistreated or has passed away. No creature is as devoted, as accepting, or as unconditionally loving.


Snoopy had a few more good years at the beach, but when she was thirteen, she grew ill. Looking back, I think she may have had cancer. She seemed to be having bowel problems, and sometimes seemed to suffer. She got visibly weaker, and her hind end started giving out. I had to carry her up stairs. I didnt want to wait for a crisis situation, since we were two hours from a vet. I had to make a hard decision, to spare her more suffering.

I drove home that day with just her collar and leash, and laid them on the shelf. I had rescued Pup just a few months before this. Pup sniffed them delicately. He knew she was gone.
Steph loved another dog, a Springer spaniel called Quincy, right around this time. He belonged to Steph's then boyfriend. It broke Steph's heart when Quincy died and she says she would like to have another Springer spaniel one day. Quincy had the softest heart and seemed more human than dog. Big brown droopy eyes and slobbery kisses. A sweetheart! I have photos, but this format wont allow me to insert one into the proper place in this blog. Frustrating.


A year or so after Snoopy died, Pup and I flew north to spend a winter in Kitimat with my sister, who lived there then. My illness had hit, I had just sold my trailer, had surgery pending and didnt know where to go. I took a time out with my sister to re-group. Pup was part wolf; he loved the north. He loved the snow so much he never wanted to come inside. I walked up and down the street many nights calling him, trying to get him to come inside. It was freezing out there. His wolfish nature really responded to the climate, and the scent of other wild things on the air.


This is little black Oliver, who was my mother's dog until Mom died, who stayed on with my sister, Lori, and her retriever Fletcher. Lori was visiting me when she spotted Fletcher on the beach, walking in a long line of puppies. Fiona was pleased to find a good home for one of them. Fletcher stayed with me at the beach sometimes, and was a devoted nanny to Snoopy's puppies.


Up north, the three dogs hung out together. They had a habit of going for a walkabout every morning, then returning to hang in the yard for the rest of the day.

One morning three dogs headed out. Only Pup and Fletcher came back. Little Ollie, with his short little legs, did not. Lori and her partner searched the woods at the end of our road, on snowshoes. There was no sign of him. We feel he must have been picked off by a predator. The bigger dogs were fast enough to get away. Ollie would have been in the rear and was more vulnerable. It is horrible to think of such a brutal ending to his little life.
Fletcher and Lori moved back to the island, some months after I returned here. Fletcher died two years later, of a cancerous mass in her abdomen. She was such a good girl, and went on many walks with Pup and I in Pup's younger years.

This is little Hope, my daughter Lisa's once in a lifetime dog. When Lisa got her as a newborn puppy, she named her thus because she said "Every house needs a little Hope." Hope had Attitude. She was feisty. Somewhere I have the cutest picture of her, smiling. Lisa dressed her up, and did her hair in little bows. She was a fee-fee foo-foo dog who loved being fussed with.

Lisa's kids were very careful about not letting her get out the door. But one of their friends didnt close the door quickly enough one day and Hope ran fast, Lisa running behind her, right into the path of a car. We buried her in my back yard. Pup, who, huge as he is, had been her playmate,
lay down alongside her grave and stood guard. He knew. His eyes understood the loss we were all feeling.

My daughter, Stephanie, has been a dog lover and a dog rescuer. Since she has been on her own, she has rescued a handful of wonderful dogs and has given them a second chance, a ton of love, and turned their lives around. If she had the funding she would have a Canadian version of Dogtown going on. It is her dream: to rescue, rehabilitate and give new lives to abused and abandoned dogs.

This means she has also gone through some very heartbreaking goodbyes. This is Roy, above on a visit with me and Pup. Steph rescued him from a drug dealing owner who beat him. She loved him from his prickly wariness into the most great-hearted dog she has ever loved. When she gained Roy's trust, his devotion was so huge that one day he pushed a slightly ajar window further open and, unimaginably, leaped from the second floor onto the concrete driveway, walked the two blocks to the store where she worked, and wandered inside looking for her. Miraculously he was not injured. She never left that window open again.


Roy began to have some problems with his stomach and would sometimes yelp in pain if someone lifted him. We thought he might have arthritis. But on Christmas Day one year Stephanie called to tell me that she had to put him down - on Christmas Day - because a tumor inside his throat had burst and he was suffering.


It broke her heart to lose him. But she rescued him from harshness and loved him into a new life. The two of them were inseparable. She has his ashes in a shrine in her living room. He was a special dog, and he definitely changed our lives.

This is Dawson. Stephanie missed Roy so much, found the apartment so empty without him, that a few months later she adopted Dawson as a puppy. She wanted a dog who would be with her for a long time, so this time got a puppy instead of an older dog.

However she hadnt taken into account the amount of energy a (very soon huge) wildish puppy would have and the amount of time and exercise he would need. Steph ran him before and after work, but the time alone when she was working was hard on Dawson. After about a year, she asked if I would take him for a while.


He loved running with Pup along the forest trails, plunging into the creeks and ponds, having another dog for company. When Steph saw how much fun he was having, she knew she couldnt give him that, and much as she loved him didnt want to bring him back to confine him in an apartment again. With love, she knew she had to let him go to where he could have a happier life. He found a new family who lived on acreage out at the lake, where he could run free, where there were children to play with, where he was better off. We heard that for one month he carried around the stuffed animal that I gave him when he left. That broke my heart. But then he was all right.


The next time Steph rescued a dog, it was Abby, seen above with Little Man Chase, who still lives with Steph but who is now nine years old and slowing down. Abby is the shepherd mix on the right. Steph found her when she was visiting the SPCA. Over the course of one month, Steph visited. At first Abby would stay far back in her cage, would growl, would not respond. Staff told her Abby was unfriendly, that none of the staff could enter her cage without her being muzzled and restrained. She was likely going to have to be put down, was considered unadoptable. But Steph said, "Just give me some time."

Every day she visited, greeting Abby, talking to her. After one month, one day Steph came in and Abby wagged her tail. Steph asked to be let into her cage. The staff was hesitant. Steph insisted. Abby responded well to Steph and Steph took her home. Staff hugged her as they left, thanking her for giving Abby a chance at a better life. Abby and Steph adored each other and Abby had her runs morning and evening and Steph's company all her non-working hours. But she wasnt good alone. She really needed another dog.

In time, Steph met James, who had a husky named Sabre. Amazing how the universe works.
They met when Sabre caught Steph's eye and she bent to pat him, saying "What a beautiful dog!" In time, they rented a place in the country where the dogs had freedom and room to run. All was good, so they brought home Little Man Chase, another rescue from the SPCA.

All was good for a couple of years. And then it wasnt. There was a traumatic breakup, the more traumatic because, when Steph returned to the city, she knew she couldnt take Abby back to an apartment in the city. It broke her heart once again, but for Abby's sake, she left her on the ten acres with her buddy Sabre and just took Chase with her.

It has been a few years since then and three months ago, Steph began to dream about Abby. A few weeks back, she phoned James to ask "Has anything happened to Abby? I've been dreaming about her." James paused, and she knew. James said it gave him a chill when Steph asked that , because right around that same time, Abby had died. She had visited Steph in dreams to say goodbye.
This is how strong the bond is. This is how much our dogs love us. They love us forever. No matter what.













Before Steph and James moved to the country, Steph kept noticing this adorable little puppy tied to a tree in a yard not far from her place. Day after day she passed, the dog would be tangled around the tree, Steph would untangle her. There was never any water, never any food. The house was a known crack house.

One day it was raining. Winter rain, lashing and relentless. The little pup had no shelter, was all tangled up, again no food or water. Steph couldnt stand it. She left a note for the owner, saying she had the puppy and was caring for her. That she was willing to buy her, or keep her, if the pup was not wanted. Left her phone number. No call came. Steph thought the puppy was safe, another rescue.
Then the police came to the door. The puppy had to be returned, or Steph would be charged with theft. James approached the owners, offered to pay whatever they wanted, a thousand dollars even. No deal. James was forced to return the puppy. The next day it was tied to the tree again. No water, no food, no shelter. It ripped Steph's heart out. She railed to the SPCA at the unfairness. SPCA must have visited. Soon the pup was at least inside the house, which was an improvement. Steph started going to work by a different route. A year or so later Steph saw this puppy with a homeless person on the sidewalk. When she approached her, the puppy snarled at her. This gentle sweet hearted little pup had been ruined.

So that's the list, folks. All these special creatures came into our lives and then were gone. We changed life for them, as most of them were rescues....and in turn they changed life for us.

This has been about dogs we have said goodbye to and, Pup still being alive, I have not told you much about him in this post. That post is coming and it will be the hardest goodbye of all. He is fourteen now, and his hind end is giving out. He sleeps flat out most of the time and there are times he seems to be having pain he cant tell me about. I am going to ask the vet for guidance soon.
I know the unthinkable day is coming when I will have to make the decision to end his time upon this planet. I want to spare him suffering, not wait too long till he is in distress or crisis. I owe him that. I have been grieving this loss for two years or more already. He has been my dog of a lifetime, the one I have loved the most, the one who got inside my soul and took up the most space in my heart. It is coming: The Hardest Goodbye. I am trying to get ready, but there is no getting ready for that one. No getting ready at all.

5 comments:

  1. You were right, it is hard not to tear up! I love my furry, four legged friend. He is my best friend, always there for me. I try to be there for him! You are a generous soul to have done so much for your extended family! I declared we were getting a puppy when our daughter was 3 yrs. old.
    Military family or not, it was time. I knew this beagle would bring us closer together and weave magic around us! He has, lots of outings, even in our boat, many walks, a few times lost, and a lot of crazy, happy moments. I never have seen a dog who like pillows as much as this one! They all have their own unique personalities~ Thanks for sharing your extended family with us! xXx

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  2. I love the photos of you precious family sharing time with the furry
    members~ What a good looking group!
    xXx

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  3. I love this post about your dogs...family. Animals do touch our hearts so and we learn so much about ourselves as well. I know animals have enriched my life.

    You have inspired me to tell about the dogs in my life at some point, although I don't have as many as you :)

    happy day!

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  4. Oh my goodness, Sherry...I don't know how I missed this post! I knew you were working on it in draft, but didn't know you'd published it! I'm afraid I can't read it all in one go...had me bursting into tears pretty quickly, but I will come back to finish getting to know the other dogs. Such a lovely and fitting tribute to these much-loved family members!

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  5. They reach right in and settle in a place deep inside, don't they. So many loves, so many goodbyes.

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