Tag Archives: bernese mountain dog

2 Years Is Not Enough

About two years ago my wife and I did something I never dreamt we would do. Our affinity for shelter and rescue dogs grew over the years. We volunteered at the local shelter. We fostered dogs and cats. We began adopting dogs from our local shelter and volunteering there. We enjoyed helping our local animals. We also fell deeper and deeper in love with Bernese Mountain Dogs. Then our love of shelter dogs and our love of Bernese Mountain Dogs collided when we discovered a bonded pair of Bernese Mountain dogs looking for their furrever home and we fell in love. The only hiccup was these dogs were all the way out in Ohio. What is a person to do?

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You do what your heart tells you to do. We drove at least 12 hours round trip to adopt a bonded pair of Bernese Mountain Dogs. I don’t know if it was fate or meant to be or what, but when the rescue tells you that these two dogs are very shy and probably will take time to warm up to you so be prepared for that and then you get there and these two adorable dogs run right up to you and want nothing more than to snuggle then if nothing else it is a good sign that you made the right decision. This is how Little Kira came into our lives.

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When we take her places and she meets new people they of course want to know her name. When we tell people her name is Little Kira they always look a little in disbelief as if to say “You call this little”. But she became Little Kira because we had previously adopted and adult dog whose name was Kira and our new dog was also well into her adult years and her name was also Kira. We did not want to change either of their names as I’m sure they had become accustomed to responding to those names and the last thing I would want was to create something else for our newest family member to adjust to. So we devised a way to distinguish them from each other and our first and larger Kira became Big Kira and our newest addition became Little Kira despite not being so little herself, but she was little in comparison to big Kira. As Little Kira became more adjust to us and us to her she eventually became affectionately known just as Little and she responded to that as well. I think when you have an 80 to 90 pound dog and her name is little that just endears you to her even more.

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I think Little Kira was one of the most affectionate and loving dogs we have had, other than our other Bernese Mountain Dog, Buck. She simply adored people. She loved attention. She wanted nothing more than a hand on her back to pet her. She would do whatever it took to get some time with a human. Anywhere we took her she tried to sidle up to strangers to solicit a few strokes on the head or back. She would lean in and just stay there as long as the person was willing to stay in contact with her. She didn’t care if it was me or my wife or a complete stranger. She wanted to make that human connection. There was no stronger an instinct for her than to seek out some human companionship. I don’t know if that comes from being a rescue dog who unfortunately spent too long with very little human contact or if it was just her natural affinity regardless, but it is one of the qualities that made her unforgettable.

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Did a mention that she also had the most adorable eyes. The skin around Little Kira’s eyes was so droopy that her eys almost looked diamond shaped. I would never contend that Little would win any beauty pageants but she had the sweetest most soulful eyes. Her eyes looked like the eyes of a wise elder that had so much knowledge to impart. I’d like to believe that I was able to absorb some of that wisdom she had to share. I hope I currently embody the lessons she had to pass on to us.

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When you adopt an older dog you know you inevitably will not have a long time with that dog. This is especially true with a breed like Bernese Mountain Dogs which do not have a long lifespan on average. Little Kira was around 6 years old when we adopted her. When you adopt an older dog you do it because they deserve to have the last few years they have left be happy and full of joy. One thing is for sure when you adopt a senior dog they give you their best. They know that you came for them. They know that you were their last best hope for the golden years to be bright and for them to have the life they deserve and they will shower you with so much love. You will never regret adopting a senior dog.

 

We were fortunate enough to have her for almost 2 years. Little spent the last few months of her life struggling through cancer. We did everything we thought we could to help her be comfortable. There is no manual for this. You navigate this minefield with your heart and your gut. You do what you feel is right and you do what you think your dog would want for themselves. You try to make decisions without regret and without too much second guessing. Nothing ever feels right but you do your best and in the end you make what you believe to be the most compassionate decision you can. When that life you cherish so much, the life of your faithful companion begins to dip more into suffering than joy, when there is more time spent in pain than in fun, when there is not enough energy to enjoy a day out getting petted by all the humans then you know you have made the decision that must be made. You say goodbye. You spill all the tears. You kiss the nose and say your goodbyes. You promise to never forget.

I’ll miss you sweet Kira but I will never forget you.

 

 

 

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Sammy’s Time With Us

There are dog lovers and there are crazy dog people. More and more I feel like we fall into the second category heavy on the crazy. When most people bring a dog into there lives it is with the thought of how how great it would be to incorporate this dog into our lives and share our life with this dog. Sometimes though that is just not how things pan out and we have had several dogs come into our lives where that is the case and Sammy was one of them.

I don’t think most people being a dog into their lives thinking this dog is going to upend every aspect of my life and cause me to change everything I do from the most mundane to the more complex aspects of life. But we seem to do that time and again. Its not that we like change and struggle and challenge, its that we love dogs and we cannot bear to let a dogs life fall to the whims of chance if there is something we can do to help that dog out.

Sammy came into our lives under some unusual circumstances. Sammy’s parents had medical circumstances that prevented them from being able to care for Sammy despite their desire to do so. Sammy ended up in the care of his veterinarian. Coincidentally that is where my wife worked. Also Coincidentally my wife had previously worked on dog training with Sammy and his owners when he was younger.

While Sammy was at in the care of the veterinarians my wife and I would go down and take him for walks because we lived close by. When it became clear that Sammy would not be able to go back home we began to take steps to find Sammy a new home. We contacted rescues and other organizations in an effort to find him a new home. We were in discussions with a rescue in Ohio to take him there and a local rescue that thought they might be able to place him. On the day that we were to head to Ohio to start Sammy on his journey to find a new home we heard from the local rescue that they would work to get him adopted if we would be willing to foster him. What to do?

Of course we agreed to foster him. We knew that because of Sammy’s history and some of his behavior issues he could be a difficult placement but we thought that having Sammy stay at our house in the interim was the best solution. He already knew my wife and had been getting to know me. Why make him go through yet another transition.

We found out relatively quickly despite the initial appearance of getting along that Sammy did not like our dog Mojo. So this was going to require constant supervision and management and separation of those two dogs. Sammy also had some issues with strangers coming into his territory. He loved us and loved people in general but he did not like it if people he did not know showed up in his space. We also learned that Sammy had some pica issues. He would eat lots of inedible objects. We had to start learning how to manage these issues. This required a big change in our life routine for both us and our other dogs.

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After agreeing to foster Sammy we started to think about things differently. Sammy clearly loved my wife. He seemed to remember her from his training days. It was just completely evident from the way he followed her around and responded to her the he adored her. We had six dogs at the time and had recently lost our 10 year old Bernese Mountain Dog. We had been doing what we considered to be the “responsible” thing and had not been planning to add another dog to our mix any time soon. But just seeing how Sammy and my wife were the perfect pair in so many ways I couldn’t not suggest to my wife that maybe we should just keep Sammy. Surprisingly my wife hesitated. She was trying to be “responsible”. After all keeping Sammy was not going to be an easy feat.

After Sammy had an altercation with one of our dogs we thought he got along well with we started to think maybe him staying with us was not the best plan and maybe we needed to find him a different home that better suited his needs. We had support from other organizations trying to find suitable matches for him. We spoke to multiple people who were expressed interest in opening their homes to Sammy, but none of them quite worked out.

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The experience of living with a dog that you are actively trying to find a new home and interviewing potential adopters was a new experience for me and quite stressful at times. Just hoping and praying that something would work out in Sammy’s favor created this inner turmoil.

After lots of discussion we decided our house was the best place for Sammy to be. And this decision meant a lot of different things for our life. We had to completely dedicate ourselves to managing the situation.

Having Sammy meant spreading ourselves around a lot more so that we could spend time with each of our dogs now that even more of them could not all be in the same rooms together at the same time. It meant closing a door here before you could open another door there. It meant painting a window black so he couldn’t see his arch enemy Mojo. It meant never leaving anything lying around that he could eat. It meant careful interactions when we had visitors. It meant caution and vigilance when he was around the other dogs he seemed to get along with. It meant always worrying you would forget something and something bad would ensue. Sammy was a good dog but a very anxious dog. We loved him and tried to do as much as we could do for him.

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Despite the other issues Sammy had he was in many ways a perfect dog. He had great leash manners. He was the only dog we had that did not pull on a leash when he was walked. He was super affectionate. He loved to climb up on his humans and snuggle. He wanted nothing more than to be petted. We were even able to take him camping, although that did have its adventurous moments.

Sammy slept with us every night. He loved sleeping in bed and would roll over on his back. I think it was his favorite part of the day. A little over a week ago Sammy began to eat a little less each day. He also began to vomit periodically. But his behavior remained unchanged. He seemed to be the same energetic happy dog he had been. Then Thursday he didn’t eat any food which he never does. Then Thursday night he vomited multiple times.

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It was obvious at this point that Sammy needed to go to the vet. Friday we took him to the vet hoping for the best but fearing the worst.  X-rays revealed a mass that was expectes to be an obstruction. The decision was made to have surgery to remove the obstruction. Durring surgery it was discovered that what showed up on the X-ray was not a blockage but a large intestinal mass that was likely cancerous and was inoperable. Our vets are amazing and took the time to explain everything to us and answer our questions. We were even able to see exactly what we were dealing with.
We were able to go to the vets office and say our goodbyes to Sammy while he was still under anesthesia from surgery. We were able to be there with him when he passed on into the next realm. I don’t know if he knew we were there or could hear us talking to him and feel us touching him but i hope that he could.
Knowing full well how difficult Sammy could be at times and his penchant for eating things I had been quietly steeling myself for the day when this time would come. It did not make this particular outcome easier, but i think i was ready for it in a way. Not knowing what Friday would bring I said my goodbyes to Sammy Thursday night when he was still wagging his tail, snuggling me, and looking into my eyes.
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 Having a dog like Sammy requires a lot of commitment and at times sacrifice. All the little things you give up or change when you have a difficult dog. Sammy’s death was obviously sad and hurt but there is this other stream of thoughts that creep into your mind saying things like “know I can have my life back.” or “Things will be so much easier now.” The selfish feeling thoughts about how this animals death will make your life easier eat away at you a little bit. You feel like a terrible person. This is when it is great to have amazing friends to talk to that have also had experiences like this and assure you that these feelings are normal and that you are not a horrible person for thinking those thoughts. Another part of what makes this loss so hard is with all the changes we made to our life to accommodate Sammy as it starts to get back to “normal” everything you are now doing differently makes you think of him. So that loss stays fresh in your mind and your heart as you realize how much he changed your life.
We did not have Sammy in our lives for long but he was a true force to be reckoned with and we will miss him.

Little Kira

Sometimes in life you get some bad news and your are not sure it can get any worse. But then to your dismay it gets even worse. Literally twice as bad as it was before. How do things like this happen?

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Two weeks ago our gentle giant Big Kira was diagnosed with cancer. That hit us like a sucker punch. Totally unexpected. Now we had to take Little Kira to the vet for an ultrasound of her bladder. We had been treating her for what we were hoping was some type of bladder infection for several weeks. However, as the infection persisted despite treatment our vet recommended we take Little Kira to get an ultrasound to see if there was a mass or something else going on with her bladder.

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Little is such a good girl. She was in and out of her ultrasound in no time. Unfortunately, that is where the good news ended. There was definitely a mass in her bladder. It is most likely cancer.

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I called Debby and told her the bad news. She met me in Ithaca and we made a day of it for Little Kira. We had fun exploring Stewart Park. She is such an easy dog that loves everyone. As soon as we arrived at the parka gentleman approached and wanted to say high to Little Kira. She nuzzled him for some head scratches and the kind man remarked about how sweat a dog she was. Little played in the water and saw some new sights.

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After that we headed over to the dog park, which is always an odd experience with her. She is a very good dog but doesn’t care to leave our side much. She doesn’t go play with dogs. She is good with them and says hi in the typical dog way if other dogs approach but she doesn’t seek them out. She will go over to other humans at the dog park to be petted but only if we are near by.

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We sauntered around the park enjoying basically a nice casual off leash walk. Just appreciating the nice day and the time we have with our girl. We just want her to be happy in whatever time she has with us and she is a happy girl. She enjoys life and enjoys being with us.

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After the dog park we went and explored a little more of Alan Treman park along the waterfront. Little whined and signaled it was time to go home. We pilled back into the car and headed for home. In spite of the terrible news we had a good day with our dog and I hope she had a good day with us. I only hope there are not too few of these days left for us.

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A Dog Day Afternoon

Today was a day for the dogs. Up in Ithaca the Ithaca Dog Fest was going on. That means that the Reynolds clan is headed to Ithaca to enjoy some 4 legged companionship. The event did not disappoint.

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We took Josie and Little Kira with us on this outing. We had such a good time. There were many dog related vendors there. There were also many different Shelters and Rescue groups there which is always great to see.

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Best of all was all the dogs. So many dogs. And there were tons of people who wanted to love on Josie and Little Kira. They did not have any problem getting all of the loving they desired. Crowds of people just waiting to pet them. It is a dogs dream come true. After walking through he event we just went and sat in the shade under a tree. People continued to stop by and share their time with Josie and Kira. They can never get enough. There is always more love to go around.They are such good dogs. The make it easy.

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Then after the Dog Fest broke up we headed over to the Ithaca Dog Park to get some off leash time. Dog park for Josie and Kira means time to lounge around. They are so funny. They rarely go much more than 10 feet from us. They just wanted to sprawl out and relax. They aren’t phased by the other dogs. They did actually try to play once, but couldn’t really seem to figure out how that worked. They did love the pools. And apparently they also love picnic tables.

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There were also many other cute dogs there. No question about it it was a good day.

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Sammy

I was able to get outside and take a few photographs of our new foster dog Sammy.

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Sammy, our newest foster dog.

I also found the below about why we rescue dogs. I didn’t write it and there was no citation to it.

The Reason (to you from all your rescue dogs)

I would’ve died that day if not for you.
I would’ve given up on life if not for your kind eyes.
I would’ve used my teeth in fear if not for your gentle hands.
I would have left this life believing that all humans don’t care
Believing there is no such thing as fur that isn’t matted
skin that isn’t flea bitten
good food and enough of it
beds to sleep on
someone to love me
to show me I deserve love just because I exist.
Your kind eyes, your loving smile, your gentle hands
Your big heart saved me…

You saved me from the terror of the pound,
Soothing away the memories of my old life.
You have taught me what it means to be loved.
I have seen you do the same for other dogs like me.
I have heard you ask yourself in times of despair
Why you do it
When there is no more money, no more room, no more homes
You open your heart a little bigger, stretch the money a little tighter
Make just a little more room…to save one more like me.
I tell you with the gratitude and love that shines in my eyes
In the best way I know how
Reminding you why you go on trying.

I am the reason
The dogs before me are the reason
As are the ones who come after.
Our lives would’ve been wasted, our love never given
We would die if not for you

#rescue #shelter #adopt #foster #volunteer #savedogs.

Bernese Mountain Dog at Wine Country

I am in the process of sorting and editing a large number of dog photos from 2016 right now and I am in a section of Bernese Mountain Dogs. This dog looks so happy I just had to share the photo.

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Bernese Mountain Dog at 2016 Wine Country Circuit Dog Show.

Doggy Photo Bomb

Josie decided to photobomb the mini portrait photo shoot I was having with Little Kira in our yard. I called Kira towards me because I wanted to get some photos of her in motion and Josie decided she would join in on the fun.

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