Category Archives: dogs

Seize The Day

We recently did something that from the outside probably seemed rather rash to most people. We woke up one day with no immediate plans to get a puppy and the next day we had added a new puppy to our family. While it was sudden and unexpected it was not exactly unplanned. It was less rash from inside our little bubble than it may seem for anyone seeing our updates on social media.

We recently lost our dog Josie. She was an older dog and even before we found out she was sick we had been discussing what life would be like after she was gone. We just knew with the combination of her breed and her age the odds were not good that she would be with us a whole lot longer. We have always lived our lives with dogs as a main focus of our lives. We often let our hearts lead us into situations that maybe a more rational thinking person might not take on. We have fostered and adopted dogs some of whom have been hard cases. We wouldn’t take any of it back for a minute, but it can make life more challenging and lead to sporadic disruptions. We often didn’t have plans for how we wound up with dogs we just did what our hearts urged us to do. After everything we’ve been through, especially all of the recent loss we wanted to have a plan for our lives with dogs.

Josie was a Bernese Mountain Dog, the breed we had fallen in love with. She was out last Bernese Mountain Dog. We knew that we really wanted to have a Bernese Mountain Dog in our lives as much as possible. So we began to think about what made the most sense for us. While we loved adopting older dogs the heartbreak of the very limited amount of time you get to have with them and the huge tears that loss leaves in your heart was just too much for us to go through again right now. We decided that what we really wanted to do was to have a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy to raise as our own. A dog that with all good fortune would live a long and healthy life and have many long years to spend with us.

Even when you are a puppy there is still time to stop and smell the flowers.

We began to think about what the process would be to bring a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy into our home from a reputable breeder. We began discussing this with our friends who have experience with the breed itself, people who have gotten their dogs from responsible breeders, and with people who have experience with breeding dogs. It seemed like in the best case scenario it would likely take at least a year before we would have a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy in our home after losing Josie. It was not really what we were hoping to learn but it is what we were willing to do to do what we believed was best for dogs. We would have loved to have had a new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy sooner, but we wanted to go through the process that would hopefully lead to a good outcome for us as individuals as well as a good outcome for dogs in general. We were always looking to help dogs in shelters and rescues and were open to that possibility but what are the chances that a happy healthy Bernese Mountain Dog puppy is just going to wind up in a shelter or rescue and be available to us?

The answer to that question is, as it turns out surprisingly high, at least in this one instance. My wife is connected to I don’t even want to know how many shelters and rescues on social media. She is always showing me cute dogs that would love to come live with us, or cute dogs that we should “just go visit”. I have fallen for that trick before. Then surprisingly one Saturday my wife shows me a post on social media. There is a 15 week old Bernese Mountain Dog puppy available at a rescue. This dog was not available at just any rescue. This puppy was available from the same rescue where we adopted our girls Josie and Little Kira from. So we knew them and they knew us. It was kind of stunning and a little hard to process.

My wife asked if she should inquire about the puppy. I said yes, inquire about the puppy and find out as many details about him as you can. I was skeptical that a perfectly happy and healthy dog, a puppy especially had just magically landed right in front of our eyes at a rescue. It seemed unlikely. It seemed too good to be true.

Colton found this old Kong Wubba toy we keep outside for the dogs to play with and he loved it.

After a lot of messaging back and forth with the rescue it seemed like the puppy was healthy as far as they could tell. He was neutered and up to date on his shots and ready to be adopted. He was just waiting for someone to come get him. Being familiar with the rescue we knew we could trust their information and they knew they could trust us to provide a good home for this puppy. It really just came down to a matter of logistics. Could we actually make getting a puppy work right now? Could we make arrangements at home that would be good for a new puppy? After a lot of frantic discussion and messaging we thought that we could. Could we actually go to get the puppy? See that is the other trick. The rescue is 6.5 hours away in Ohio. So that is an entire days worth of driving to meet and adopt a dog. That part actually turned out, purely by coincidence to be the easiest part of the equation to solve because it just so happened we learned this information on a Saturday and we had nothing going on, on the next day, Sunday. We could actually just go get him the next day with no problems. The next issue was what would we do when we got him home. We didn’t want to go get a puppy and bring him home just to leave and go to work literally the next day. Fortunately one of the best aspects about my work is that I have a good amount of vacation time and work is pretty flexible in letting me use it. So we decided that if we got the puppy I would take the week off and stay home with the dog to help him get adjusted to his new home. Then what about after I went to work? Thankfully through our frantic messaging we were able to find friends who would be able to help us out watching the puppy during the day. We thought we had everything we could anticipate covered.

So then we just had to decide. Were we ready to get a puppy? Is anyone ever really ready to get a puppy? Were we ready after losing our last dog so recently? I honestly wasn’t sure if I was ready in just about every way. Even though I know it is what we ultimately wanted. I generally like to be a little more deliberate about things. This might be the fastest we’ve ever had to make a decision like this. A puppy in a rescue wasn’t going to last and we had to decide.

So, we told the rescue that we are in. We wanted this puppy. We woke up early Sunday morning and headed out to Ohio. After a long drive we arrived at the rescue and reunited with the amazing owner there who allowed us to bring Josie and Kira into our lives. We met this tiny (well not so tiny rally, 35 lbs) puppy that we wanted to bring home. And we met the rest of the permanent residents, the owner’s dogs. It was so nice to be in a house full of dogs. They all wanted to meet these new humans who had arrived, especially the darling puppy. After spending time getting to know the new puppy and talking over everything with the rescue and asking all the questions we could possibly imagine we said our goodbyes and began the long journey back to New York to bring our new Bernese Mountain Dog puppy home. He was amazingly good on the ride home. You would not have even known he was in the car. We got home got home and did meet and greets with the puppy and our current dogs, Mojo and Brynn, which went amazingly well. Then we crashed to sleep.

Monday the real adventure started. Working with the new puppy to get him all settled in and adjusted to his new home and new routines. The plan for me was to get up early at 5 AM just like I would on a regular work day and get the puppy used to starting his day off with us. The biggest goal was to get the dog used to th routine of going out to go to the bathroom at regular intervals as well as getting used to spending some time in his kennel which he would have to get comfortable with at least for a while when we are at work.

Spending a week at home with the sole purpose of taking care of the dogs, particularly the new puppy was a totally new experience for me. It was very different than my normal routine even on days I am off or otherwise on vacation. I think it may have been a more difficult transition for me than it was for the puppy.

Really loves the Wubba.

Monday was a really fun day for the dogs. We spent time letting them get to know each other outside. Brynn really, really wanted to play with the puppy. The pupy wanted to play too but was not entirely sure of what to make of Brynn. Her antics are a bit out there at times. She is loud and constantly in motion when playing. Once Brynn and the puppy got to know each other and knew they wanted to play it was on. Brynn went into full on zoomies mode. She was scampering all over the yard from one end to the other and then in circles around the puppy and Mojo as the puppy tried to make any sense of this game and attempted to follow along with Brynn. The puppy obviously could not keep up with Brynn but seemed to be having fun. Brynn was having more fun than I had seen her have in a while. She loves puppies. After all the fun in the yard Brynn was tuckered out and slept most of the afternoon.

After a day or so we arrived at a decision on a name for the puppy. We decided to name him Colton. My wife came up with that name and I liked it. It was a good name and could also be shortened to Colt. It also reminded me of a park I like in PA, Colton Point State Park.

Then Colton discovered sticks.

So, not only was the new puppy arrival overwhelming for the humans it was hard on the dogs as well. While Brynn loved the dog she was not used to exerting herself at that high level to try to play with a puppy and she ended up with some type of injury and she was content to sit on the couch and didn’t even bother me while I was using treats to work on training with the puppy. So I knew she was not feeling well. Brynn ended up on medications for her injury. Now I was taking care of a brand new puppy and working on training and managing energy and behavior, but I had to take care of an injured dog and make sure the puppy did not accidentally hurt the now injured dog that previously wanted to play and that the puppy continued to want to play with. This was not a contingency I had planned for and was a difficult tight wire to walk. Thankfully Brynn has recovered and is currently feeling much better.

Then Colton discovered big sticks.

With our dogs we try really hard to stick to force free positive reinforcement training in the Karen Pryor style. While we had worked on training with all of our previous dogs at times it had been a while since we had really done much focused training on behaviors our dogs really needed to learn. It was hard to get back into that routine. The treat bags and clickers we retrieved from the cupboard where they have been for a while. I spent most of each day wearing a treat bag and with a clicker in my hand working with not just the puppy but our other dogs as well. Helping Colton to learn and refreshing prior training with our older dogs. They were all so well behaved when it came to training. No fighting over treats or anything. I knew that our other dogs still had quite a firm grasp of training basics like sit etc. at least when at home so I was hoping working with all of them at once that Colton would not only learn from me but would learn from observing the other dog’s behaviors as well. Colton is very food motivated which is very helpful in training. I spent one morning sitting in the living room with him cutting up treats and having him sit and rewarding him with the yummy stinky treats when he did as asked. But what he really wanted was to jump up on the table and gobble up all the treats at once. But he didn’t do it.

Colton has quickly learned sit and is in the process of learning skills like leave it, drop it, and loose leash walking. Being a toothing puppy he really wants to chew just about anything from coffee tables to ay pair of footwear you take off but do not immediately put out of reach. He really likes to chew toys we give him but quickly becomes bored and wants something new to chew on like a hand, foot, or maybe a face. You have to keep a stream of constantly new distractions in front of him.

Colton has been great but our current dogs are a true blessing and really make this possible as they adjust easily and put up with all his nonsense reasonably well.

One reason we decided that while unexpected it was actually a good time of year to get a dog was because it was the time of year being fall going into winter where we would not be particular busy with vacations or other spring and summer adventures. We would have more time to have a new addition to our lives and help him adapt. It would also be cooler outside so it would be easier to have all the dogs outside to play and expend energy than it might be in the heat of the summer. The downside is that it is getting darker and darker earlier and earlier. So It is currently a challenge to get outside and play with the dogs after work because it is essentially dark when we get home.

Also found a ball out in the yard.


Brynn has been remarkably well behaved with the new puppy, especially when outside playing. Brynn loves her toys especially her balls for fetching and chewing. She has a tendency to guard them jealously. However, much to my surprise with this new puppy she has been remarkably patient and willing, however reluctantly, to share her toys at times. I can go outside and throw Brynn’s ball for fetch and she can obviously get to it and retrieve it before the puppy, but then she has to bring it back and put it down for me to throw it again. This is when the puppy strikes. As soon as Brynn puts the ball on the ground Colton rushes over to claim it for himself. Brynn has an expression on her face that clearly signals she disapproves of this, but she allows it. The fact that she even allows the new dog near her toy let alone to take the ball from her, often without even growling or making a noise is huge. We have had to stop playing fetch with her at times around other dogs because she becomes too excited and protective of the ball. Watching the dogs behave appropriately with each other makes me so happy.

Colton has also become very fond of Mojo. I am not sure Mojo knows what to think of him. Brynn is our only dog that in Mojo’s 12 years has ever actually wanted to play with him. Colton loves him. Colton will run right up to him and back at him and bounce around trying to get him to play. Mojo will run and Colton will give chase. Mojo will bob and weave and dodge Colton trying to avoid having to play with him, but never behaves aggressively towards him and sometimes gives in and actually plays with him. Colton also has found the fact that Mojo’s idiosyncrasies require him to wear a leash even when outside in our fenced yard fun. Colton has picked up the end of Mojo’s leash and dragged him across the yard by his leash. Luckily he seems to e mostly over that now.

All kinds of toys in this yard like a Jolly Ball.

One thing I have been trying to do with Colton as a way to help him get exercise and help him get used to walking with me and staying with me is to take him for walks along the inside perimeter of the fenced in yard. He trots right along with me for the most part. If he gets distracted and stops I stop and wait for him and then we resume our walk as soon as he remembers that is what we were doing and runs back over to me.

At this point things are going about as well as one could hope for when adding a new puppy to a house already full of animals. No serious behavior or health problems have presented themselves. Nothing more trying or frustrating than regular puppy behavior, which I mean can be very trying at times, but it is hard to stay mad at this little fluff ball for long. We are so in love with Colton. Even though this is not where we expected to be with dogs in our lives right now we have fully embraced this new journey as you really have to if you are going to bring a puppy into your home and do right by him. I am sure I will be sharing more about him here in the future. If you want to follow along in Colton’s adventures I created an Instagram account for him and you can follow along at colton_rescue_bmd : https://www.instagram.com/colton_rescue_bmd/

Last Night With Pups

Tonight is our last night with the four foster puppies that we are fostering through the Chemung County SPCA. These are four of the dogs they transported up to the shelter from the south. We spent the evening playing outside for a while and I was able to capture some photos. Help me support the Chemung County SPCA by buying one of these prints from my website for prints at KRNaturalPhoto prints and I will donate 50% of the cost to the SPCA. Also join us at a fundraiser for the Chemung County SPCA on June 30th at Four Fights Distilling in Corning, NY. Thank you for all of your support.

What I learned from Paxton

I wrote this following the previous post about Paxton in 2016 and I am sharing it with you now, as I recovered this when I recovered the previous post.

I think one of the most important aspects of life in learning. If you have gone through life and haven’t learned anything you are missing out. Learning comes in many forms. I don’t just mean learning through formal education. There is plenty to be learned through life experiences.

Learning can be fun and exciting. We can learn new skills and learn about things that interest us. We can enjoy what we are doing when we learn. This is a good form of learning.

There is also learning that comes through our mistakes. Sometimes we mess up. It is inevitable. This is where it is critical to learn. No one wants to make the same mistakes over and over and never learn from them.

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Learning from our mistakes is not usually fun. Screwing up can be psychologically devastating. It can feel like a real setback and maybe it is for a time. But if you learn from your mistake you can change the meaning of that mistake and while it was terrible at the time you can help it to become a strength for you personally.

I made a critical mistake with my dog Paxton, which caused him to bite me.

The actual physical act I committed that initiated the bite was a mistake in and of itself, but there was more to it than that. I made other mistakes along the way. I think one of those mistakes is taking on too much. I have a lot of passions and goals in life. There are things I care about and it is important to me to accomplish things that are related to my beliefs. However, everyone has limits. We cannot do everything that we would like to. We can’t be involved in every project or task or endeavor that we feel is important. When we do this we risk burnout and that is when mistakes are made.

I am now learning that I have been heaping more and more on my plate regardless of the consequences. Most of which are relatively insignificant in the grand scheme of things. But the consequences of my simple behavior towards Paxton were devastating.

I am a husband with a full time job, a part time photography business who has been writing his dissertation, while caring for 5 dogs and three cats of his own and also caring for 2 foster dogs. Perhaps it should be no surprise that something slipped. How does one balance all of those things without every dropping a plate?

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So, one thing I have learned is there comes a point where there is just too much and we must learn to recognize that point so we can say no and stop heaping more tasks on our plates. We must choose the things that are MOST important and focus on those and leave some things for others to do. We cannot do it all ourselves and that does not make us bad people. It makes us human.

I have also relearned a lesson that I seem to be frequently reminded about. Having a dog that has any type of behavior issues and working with them to keep them safe and keep the humans safe requires constant attention. Take your eye off the ball for a split second and you will get hit in the face, metaphorically or in my case literally.

We have been working with Paxton for close to a year with very few incidents. We have been careful and taken precautions to protect ourselves, our other dogs, and to protect Paxton. We were managing his behaviors and working with him on his issues. We paid attention to Paxton and were aware of his issues. All it took was one second where I was not thinking, for whatever reason, to ruin all of the work we had done. This is the challenge with dogs with behavior/psychological issues. You can work with them and everything can be fine but if you make a mistake you will have a setback. Sometimes that setback has dire consequences.

Learning from our mistakes is important and hopefully I will learn all of these lessons and never forget so that I never have to repeat this ever again.

Love is not conditional.

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Paxton

About 2 years ago we had to say goodbye to our dog Paxton. The whole situation rocked me in a variety of ways. I wrote a piece about him as I have about many of our dogs after losing them. However, I could not bring myself to go back and edit this piece to make sure it conveyed the message I intended. I was too emotional to even re read the words I had wrote. It sat in the abyss waiting to see the light of day. A year after we lost Paxton I wanted to publish the piece I had wrote as a remembrance of him on his anniversary but I could not find the post anywhere. I couldn’t remember where I had stored the writing. It’s part of my curse. Complete lack of organization. I was devastated to not have that writing anymore. As his 2 year anniversary approached I once again began to search for my writing about him and some how I was able to find it. So now around his 2 year remembrance I am posting this unedited piece that I wrote after the incident that preceded us saying goodbye to Paxton.

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One of my first photos of Paxton

I love dogs. Dogs pretty much run my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Sure, having as many as 7 dogs (The number of dogs we have right now and the most we’ve ever had at one time.) all in one house, some ours and some fosters, can be challenging at times. It can be stressful and frustrating but it also has tremendous rewards.

It’s been a long time since my wife and I actually sat down and decided that we wanted to get another dog. Dogs just seem to find us. If you are a dog lover I bet you can relate. Dogs just spontaneously show up in your life and become family.

When you commit to having dogs its a lot like deciding to have children. You make changes to your lifestyle to make sure you can provide for your dogs and give them the life they deserve. This is the case each time you decide to add another dog. You evaluate what you will need to do differently to accommodate this new family member and you do it.

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Sometimes a new family member may have some special needs. They may have some sort of physical impairment or some sort of psychological condition that requires more than just the normal amount of consideration in ones daily routine. We seem to have been “blessed” with many such dogs in our family.

Sometimes you don’t know you have a special needs dog on your hands when you first bring them into your home (Mojo our husky who we can’t really pet) but at other times you are fully aware of the issues you are taking on (Caspian who had behavior issues).

When we decided to go meet Paxton at the shelter I didn’t really know what to expect. I wasn’t necessarily looking for another dog, but he seemed to be a model citizen with us and our dog we brought along so we brought him home. Once we were home with Paxton we set about learning who he was.

We learned quickly that Paxton had some degree of separation anxiety as he broke out of multiple kennels and had some mild destructive tendencies while we were away. He was very tolerant with our dogs even our two that barked at him incessantly when we had him around. He became best friends with our dog Brynn. All Paxton wanted to do was love us and be loved by us.

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We tried as hard as we could to show him how much we loved him and he was never short on affection for us. He was never short of kisses and snuggles. He slept with us every night we had him even on a camping trip.

As we worked with Paxton we learned more about his anxieties. He did not like small children, so we made sure to avoid them. He was OK being around large groups of people durring community events but he ddid not like having one or a few people suddenly approaching on a hiking path. Keeping him moving with a “Let’s go.” cue worked wonders for him.

We learned that putting collars on Paxton was something he did not enjoy. Using treats we could lure him into putting his head through a wide open collar and then let go. Then we could tighten it after it was on him. You could see in his body posture that he did not really like to have a person reach over his head or even reach out to his head to be petted. He has a momentary hesitation and tension displayed in his body. His tail stops it constant wriggle and he tenses and cowers down ever so slightly. So approaching him in other ways is always preferable. Occasionally something would spook Paxton and he would become very barky and defensive towards one of us, but he could always be called off and settled down in a short period of time.

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It can be challenging to learn to treat one dog differnetly than all the other dogs in your home.

Being a dog lover is difficult. You want to help every dog. You try to help every dog you can. And sometimes that leads to mistakes.

We recently brought a new foster dog into our home and we adore her. However, she is an 8 month old puppy and has not yet learned to sleep quietly in her kennel throughout the night. This has resulted in some nights with less than ideal sleep. Our morning routine changed.

This combination of change and sleep deprivation probably contributed to me making a mistake. I fed Paxton as I always do. He knows to go to his kennel to eat and I give him a “wait” cue and he waits while I place his food dish and eats when I release him from his “wait”. He is a pretty fast eater so sometimes I am still in the room with him when he finishes eating and I will give him a quick scratch and pet before I leave the room and go on about the rest of my dog care and work prep morning routine.

For some reason this morning I did something different. I did something I have never done with Paxton. I pretty much broke all the rules of human to dog interaction, especially when interacting with an anxious dog.

Paxton finished eating and jumped up on the bed and sat, waiting to be petted. I walked over to him and stood directly in front of him, towering over him. I placed both my hands on his shoulders. I then proceeded to lean over him to try to give him a kiss on the head. And that last part was too much for Paxton to bear. I invaded his space too much. I put too much pressure on Paxton with my behavior. Paxton responded to `my intrusion into his personal space by biting me in the face.

It happened in a flash. Luckily my wife was right there in bed and responded immediately to put Paxton into his crate and then we left the room.

My wounds required me to see a plastic surgeon to stitch my lip back together in two places, as well as a few other wounds requireing sutures. Thankfully I was not critically injured.

My thoughts turned immediately to Paxton. Once I knew I would be OK Paxton was the only thing I could think about. I do not blame Paxton for what happened. The blame lies solely with the human. I still love Paxton. I did not know where to go from here.

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With my stitches I could not allow Paxton to continue to sleep in our bed because he is pretty active and loves to like faces and I couldn’t risk the stitches being compromised or risk infection. Paxton had to be penned up in the furnished basement.

My wife and I debated what to do.

There seemed to be no good option.

Paxton’s behavior seemed normal after the incident. He wanted to interact with me and my wife the same as always. Paxton still trusted me despite there terrible situation I put him in.

Unfortuantely, my interactions with Paxton changed. I saw every tension in him. Every time he hesitated I hesitated. I couldn’t trust him. At least not right now.

The options for Paxton are limited:

1.) Surrender him to a shelter: At a shelter with his bite history and his size and unfortunately his breed, he would not likely be made available for adoption and would probably be euthanized. And maybe that would be the most responsible thing for a shelter to do. And I will not pass off my responsibility to make that decision to the shelter, which will do their job. It is my responsibility to make this decision and my responsibility to be there with Paxton when the time comes.

2.) Surrender him to a sanctuary: The biggest concern if this were an option would be what kind of quality of life would he have there. I am not willing to drop him someplace that I don’t know what their reputation is and how they interact with animals that are there for the long term. I don’t have the resources or contacts to know of any reliable sanctuaries that would be willing to take a dog knowing he is not going to be adopted and care for him for the next 10 years. I am only really familiar with one true sanctuary and that one is literally thousands of miles away.

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3.) Keep Paxton and continue to manage his behaviors: While I am not completely opposed to this option it does not seem like the most responsible thing to do. If it were just me I would possibly do it and I am sure my wife would say the same thing, but considering we need to look out for each other’s safety and well being this doesn’t seem realistic. We also have to think about those around us. We do not have a fenced in yard. And while Paxton has never shown any indication that he would run off or run up to people it is always a possibility and people getting hurt trying to retrieve him would be my responsibility.

4.)  Euthanize Paxton: I hate this option. I do not want to do this. It breaks my to even think about this. However, I think this may be the most responsible option. It protects the safety of my wife and the others in our community. It would ensure that Paxton does not end up somewhere that he may spend his life suffering.

Paxton biting me is like letting the genie out of the bottle and you just can’t put it back in.

Do I think Paxton is a danger to bite someone in general, No. Do I think he would bite me again if I did the exact same thing, yes.

Prior to this incident I was never worried about the possibility that Paxton might bite me or anyone for that matter. Now everything has changed. I don’t know if that is fair to me or fair to him but that is the reality.

This one incident just colors everything else that can possibly happen now. The specter of another bite will always be lingering in the back of my mind.

I can’t risk having that happen to someone else. If my dog bit my wife or someone else the way he did me I could never forgive myself.

I just don’t know that there is any other option that makes sense. There are no good options here. There is no happy ending.

Life can be so unfair. I am angry and distraught. The cost of loving a dog is that your heart can be ripped out of you and that can happen in the most unexpected ways.

I love this dog and I know he loves me. I made a stupid mistake and now it will cost him his life.

I know that no mater what we decide to do there will be people out there who see other options and have other opinions about what we should do and that is fine. This is a situation that has no clear cut answer. You just have to consider all the variables and do what you personally judge to be best. Then you have to live with it.

I think this is a decision one has to make with their head and not with their heart. I think that the only responsible thing to do for all involved is to euthanize Paxton. It tears my up inside to say that. It is NOT what I want for him. It is not what he deserves. The main factors that are leading me to make this decision are his general anxieties and anxiety with being handled in certain ways and his occasional defensive barking episodes directed at us. Perhaps the most influential aspect is how the bite itself happened. While I am sure there was postural body language indications that I should have noticed preceding the bite to indicate that I should stop, there was no obvious warning sign that a human no matter how inexperienced would recognize as a clear warning not to proceed with the behavior. There was no growl or bark preceding the bite to warn me. The bite itself was not just a quick defensive nip to stop me so he could escape either. It was something more serious than that which eludes description by me at this time. I think these circumstances are what must guide my decision.

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I think to do anything else under these circumstances is to invite disaster.

Perhaps people in different circumstances with different resources, different connections, and different skills might come to a different decision but this is the only one that I can come to in my circumstances.

I will never know if this was the right decision, but it is the decision that I have made and it may haunt me for the rest of my life. My actions that caused this situation will serve as a lesson that I will carry with me forever.

It might be easy for some people reading this account to conclude euthanasia is the obvious answer, but when it is your dog that ends up in this situation it changes everything. You love your dog and your dog loves you and I feel like I have betrayed my dog by creating this situation where this now has to happen.

Paxton has been such a happy, exited, playful, and loving dog. When I think of dogs being euthanized because of a dog bite I think of aggressive, uncontrollable, and unmanageable dogs that pose an obvious and immediate danger to people. I do not see Paxton.

The wounds to my face caused by the bite were serious but they are already healed. They are not the most serious wounds I will carry with me from this. My heart has been wounded and I fear it will never heal.

If anyone else has had to wrestle with a terrible situation like this please feel free to share your story in the comments. I would appreciate the  support and community of others.

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This Run Almost Didn’t Happen

Training for an ultra marathon has been a lot of work. The first race I’ve ever done any official training plan and I picked a doosey. The have been challenges along the way, but today was a big one.

Today was the closest I have come to not running at all on a day that my training plan has me scheduled for a run. I was mentally exhausted after a long day at work. I was hungry. I was tired. I just needed to eat and sit for a minute.

I nuked some rice and beans and ate it quickly. Then I just wanted to sit back and close my eyes for a minute. My eyes were burning and my brain was buzzing. Just closing my eyes would help everything settle down.

As soon as sat back my loving dogs swarmed me. Three of my dogs laid on anf around me. Theu snuggled up with me and nearly put me to sleep. After about an hour I was able to pry myself off the couch and change into running clothes.

I got in the treadmill and started running. I needed some motivation for running and REI Presents: How To Run 100 Miles https://youtu.be/iC7Lh4opLsc was spot on.

#1. It Helps To Have A Friend Along

#2. It’s Going To Be A Struggle At Times

#3. You Have To Put In The Work

#4. Eventually You Have To Start The Race

#5. Commit

#6. You Have To Keep Moving

This might have been the perfect movie to watch durring a struggle of a training run.

Then I watched some Jam Jam and some Ginger Runner. They helped get me through.

Today was supposed to be speedwork but after 2 miles at 10 minute miles I tried to speed up to 8 minute mile pace for 1 mile but I just didn’t have it. I was too sore and tired from yesterday’s workout. At about 2.5 miles the combination of the big TV, the space heater, and the treadmill managed to blow a fuse. So I had to get off the treadmill and reset the breaker. It took every ounce of willpower to get back on the treadmill.

The next 4.5 miles were a mental challenge. Being on the treadmill where I can literally stop any time I want with no negative consequences is a real challenge to keep going when it gets tough. Boy did I want to stop. With one mile left I was literally chanting out loud to myself “One more mile.” Over and over until I was done. But I did get it done.

It’s not always easy but it is always worth it.

Rottweiler Agility

I love photographing dogs doing things they love. One of my favorite things to photograph dogs doing is agility. There are so many different angles and changes of direction when a dog is running an agility course that it can be difficult to follow and get good photos throughout the whole course. I am always really happy when I can capture a whole sequence of photos that show a dog moving through an obstacle or series of obstacles.

 

When most people think of agility dogs they think of smaller dogs that are known more for their nimbleness and speed. What I really like is to see non-stereotypical dogs running agility. I love seeing a big dog not normally associated with agility moving  through a course with grace and speed that you would never imagine.

This Rottweiler was so much fun to watch. Clearing hurdles with ease. Running through tunnels that it seems are too small to even fit through. Turning and banking and moving across the course in team with its handler. It is always amazing to watch dogs do what they do.

 

Kira The Gentle

Kira came to be part of our family in a funny way. I had been volunteering my time at the Chemung County SPCA to photograph the dogs and cats there that are available for adoption. I love just about all the dogs that I have worked with there. But when I photographed Kira there was just a connection. I went home and posted her photos online and I half-jokingly commented with the photos that someone better go adopt her before I do. We were not looking for a dog at the time and despite the connection I felt with her I was not seriously thinking about adopting her. At this time my wife, Debby, was working at the Chemung County SPCA and shortly after I photographed Kira she said she thought she really liked Kira and maybe we should adopt her. And that was all it took. I was fully on board and Kira went home with us.

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Kira at the Chemung County SPCA

Kira might have been the perfect adoption for our family. She was just the right dog for us. We have always had multiple dogs in our home and adding another dog to the mix can be complicated. Kira was the perfect fit. She got along fine with all our other dogs. She didn’t need to be crated. She didn’t cause any problems when left alone in the house. She might have even been too well behaved for us. We love to sit with our dogs all snuggled up on the couch and we had to teach Kira that it was OK to get on the furniture at our house. One thing I did learn quickly is that Kira was not a dog to let off leash. One day shortly after she came home I unhooked her from her leash thinking we’d just walk the few steps to the door and into the house. Wrong. She bolted across the yard and down the road. Luckily she was a big dog and I caught her pretty quickly. And that is how our lives together began.

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It’s really tough when you adopt an older dog. There is this ever present feeling of uncertainty. You never know what to expect. While nothing in life is certain, when you commit to an older dog you know that there is a god chance that their best days may be behind them and the life you experience with them might be short and limited. It is something that you try not to focus on but it is a consideration. We tried to make the best of things with Kira and for the most part she was healthy and loved to do all the things that any other dog would love to do and we tried to get her out there doing as much as possible.

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She enjoyed walks, and hikes, and going to events with us. She loved us and loved being with us. We tried to give her the best life we could and she ave us everything she had until her last day. It’s hard not to feel like it was unfair that we had such a short time to spend with her. She was such a loving and comforting dog. She didn’t want to do anything but sit with you. The only thing on Kira’s agenda was sit with my humans. Be with my humans.

Kira at Seneca Lake
Kira at Seneca Lake

It’s funny now thinking back on our time with her, that there aren’t many crazy stories to tell about her because she was just that kind of dog that didn’t require much. She didn’t do crazy things. She was just mellow and melted into the background of the home. She was the calm one. The one that waited her turn and when all the other dogs were done she would approach to get her turn with you and be petted and loved on. When you lose a dog like that you have lost something special. A dog that didn’t require any extra work. A dog that was just there for you and accepted whatever you had to give. I think that my favorite memory of her is after finishing my first half marathon Debby and Kira were waiting for me at the finish line. She was there to cheer me on and support me just like family does.

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It’s odd how much an impact it is or a void that can be left by the quiet and calm presence of one dog when they are no longer there. There isn’t this huge dog who quietly saunters down the all to my office and nudges my hand while I work so I will pet her and then lies down quietly on the floor while I work. I won’t have that warm heart just a few feet away as I type or edit photos anymore. There is more room in my office now, but I would give anything to be crowded again and have to type one handed.

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I spent the last week we had with Kira wanting to get some photographs of her. But as a photographer I have this need for the photos to be perfect. Even if they are just personal photos that I might be the only person to see them. I still want them to be nice. I want the photos to be as good as they can be and I want my dogs to look good in the photos. So I kept putting off taking photos until I had time to get out my cameras and lashes and take some nice indoor portraits of Kira so that I would have really nice photos to remember her by. Then one night I decided to lie on the floor with her and just snuggle her. It was then I decided I needed to just take photos now and capture the moments as they were. The real moments that we had together. Because we never knew how much more we would have. I am so glad I made that decision. I took photos of her with my cell phone two nights in a row and then she was gone. If I hadn’t taken those photos I would not had any images to remember her in her last days by. So don’t wait for it to be perfect. Don’t wait for the best possible circumstances. If you have an opportunity to create memories do it now while you have the chance. You never know if you will have the opportunity again.

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Coming home from work to find that Kira had passed was not how we wanted it to go and it might have been one of the hardest things I’ve experienced. But, Thankfully we have amazing family and friends that when we shared the news of Kira’s passing were so supportive and loving. There really are no words to express how grateful I am to have all these people in my life. I don’t know how we would get through the times like this without them. So many people shared words of compassion with us and told us exactly the right things that any dog lover needs to hear in these tough times. We also have the most amazing vet who took the time to talk to us and share her thoughts and kind words with us. Knowing that she didn’t believe that Kira suffered meant so much to us.

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In the end Kira died at home the way she lived. Without fanfare and without drawing attention to herself. She died peacefully and in a way that we didn’t have to make that most terrible decision that any dog owner has to make. In hindsight I believe Kira was hanging on those last few days for us. She still got up and followed me to my office even though it was obvious she was laboring. And that was when we knew it was time. But she had other plans. For the last few nights once we knew the time was close, before I went to bed I got down on the floor with her and whispered in her ear. I told her I loved her and if it was time for her to go tonight that it was OK and that she didn’t have to hang on for us. And that is what she did. Once we were gone for the day and she didn’t have to be with us anymore she could leave us for the last time. The hardest part is just not being able to be there in the last moments and say goodbye.

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