Tag Archives: family

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.

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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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Big Kira’s Day

Recently we received the news that everyone with a dog dreads hearing. Your dog has cancer. Our big lovable dog Kira recently started exhibiting some signs of difficulty breathing. It was clear she needed to go to the vet. You hope for the best, while fearing the worst. Maybe it’s just an infection to be cleared up by antibiotics. You refuse to speak the name you fear most as to avoid manifesting it into existence by shear utterance of the words. But once the evidence is before you, you can no longer deny it. Cancer it is

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We were devastated by the news. We cried. We said how unfair it was. Kira is such a good dog. A huge loving, snuggling, 115 lb lap dog who is faithful and kind. She doesn’t deserve this. She deserves to live out her day into old age. No one deserves cancer. Not a single living being. But it is a fact of life and we must make our peace with it. So that is what we will try our best to do.

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Kira has started on medication to help her breath better and it seems to be helping. She seems to show no external sign of the disease that ravages her inside. She will stand with us until she can stand no more. She is determined to be by our side, still following us from room to room, jumping up on the furniture to sit with us. If you didn’t know better you might not be able to tell she was sick.

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We have decided that there is not much we can do for her especially at her age to try to fight the diseased directly. We will do our best to make the best of whatever time she has left with us. In a house full of seven dogs that can often seem too chaotic she is the one who is most often of to the side out of the way being a good dog. It’s hard not to think we haven’t done enough for her to this point. We have only had her for such a short time and it I never enough.

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We will now take every opportunity we can to make each day as good a day for Kira as we can. We will devote whatever time we can to her. When you have a whole crowd of dogs at your house it is hard to decide who gets to go along for what adventures when. But for the foreseeable future every adventure that is there to be had will be an adventure that Kira gets to go on.

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On Sunday we decided to take Kira out to Fulkerson Winery for an event to support a local dog rescue that we have worked with. There was a dog walk through the vineyard and wine tasting at the winery. Kira had a great time on the walk. Just strolling along wither people. She did great meeting other dogs, which sometimes can be overly stimulating for her. She got to go see everyone from the rescue. She loved going into the winery and getting attention from everyone. I think she really had a great time.

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After some time at Fulkerson we took Kira down to Watkins Glen and hung out at Clute Park. Kira got to explore the park and play in Seneca Lake. I think she really wanted to just go out for a swim. She walked out on the stone peninsula with us.  Then we all sat and ate lunch and Kira shared a pizza with us. This was her first trip to this park so I think it as nice for her to get to experience something totally new even at this stage in her life.

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She was a bit tired after the adventure, but I think it is better to get her out and about enjoying life while she can even if she is tired and needs a little time to recover after words. That is how you make the most of the moments you have left together in my book.

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Camping with Dogs

We have always enjoyed camping but we had never taken a dog camping before. That is until we added this fun guy to our family. Caspian presented some challenges so we decided if we wanted to take a trip our only real option was to take him with us. Little did we know the world of fun he would open up to us.

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Caspian

Caspian loved playing in the water at Allegany State Park in NY.

This ball of energy came bounding into our lives in March of 2014 and before we knew it we were taking her camping in July in NH to continue our new tradition.

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Brynn Camping in NH

In June of 2015 we fell for this guy and Paxton became part of our lives. In August of the same year we went camping on the Adirondacks and he came along for the adventure.

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Paxton hiking in the Adirondacks.

 

Tomorrow we take on a new adventure. We are going to Letchworth State Park in NY. We have been there before but not camped there. For the first time we are going to take two of our dogs on a camping trip at the same time. We will be taking Brynn whop has some experience camping and plenty of experience with us and being out and about. Then we are also taking Sammy, a 4 year old Bernese Mountain Dog. We adopted Sammy in March of 2017. He is very energetic and excitable. For some reason we like the challenge of taking new dogs on excursions. This will be a fun and exciting adventure.

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Brynn and Sammy

In addition to camping with our dogs I am running a trail race on Saturday, Sehgahunda Trail Marathon & Relay with some friends. A bunch of us are all camping at Letchworth and then running in races there. So this will be a fun new experience.

 

A Buck’s Purpose

I feel like all the dogs we have had have brought something new into our lives. They have each had their own purpose. Buck and his sister Cami were our introduction to the world of Berners. Through them we have discovered so many wonderful things. We started going to dog shows because of them and that lead to some great days even when we didn’t have them with us.

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In 2008 we attended our first dog show to see the Bernese Mountain Dogs. We have attended dog shows regularly ever since.

I have taken 45,000 photos of dogs at dog shows because of these amazing dogs that entered my life. I have all of these amazing memories thanks to them. I would have never went there and done that without them. They have helped make me the person I am today.

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Buck Loved people!!!!!!!

I on the other hand, not so much. I have always been an introvert. I never want to talk to people I don’t know and I don’t like to be in large groups. I never just walk up to someone to ask them a question or strike up a conversation. I am uncomfortable in most social situations. If I go to a party or gathering I literally pray that there will be a dog for me to pet so I will feel more comfortable.

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Buck did not allow me to sit back and stay in my shell. Buck drew people in. People saw Buck and were drawn to him, and that meant they were drawn to me. Buck was always so happy to see people and have them approach us and say hi. He wanted to be everyone’s best friend. People often stopped to see him and talk to me about him and dogs. Having the conversation be about my dogs and dogs in general makes it easier for me to talk to people. I love my dogs and I enjoy talking to people about my dogs and their dogs.

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It is impossible to take Buck somewhere without people stopping to say hi, so I have had lots of practice getting outside my comfort zone. If we go to the park people stop to pet him and visit. Driving in the car people smile and laugh at his antics. He livens up the day at any drive through window we have to stop at and brightens up the day for the employees.

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When we started going to dog shows to see other Bernese Mountains Dogs like ours it opened up a whole new world for us. Buck allowed us to meet other people who shared our passion for Bernese Mountain Dogs. Even if I went to dog shows alone I would never have dared to approach anyone, but Buck was a conversation starter. It was always all about Buck. We met a dog who competed at Westminster after we met him. We met local breeders of Bernese Mountain Dogs. We went to a gathering of people all who had Bernese Mountain Dogs. I met and became friends with a woman who showed her dogs at one of our regions biggest dog shows. Her dogs are so fabulous. She asked me to photograph her and her dog. At our most recent trip to a dog show we met several members of our regional Bernese Mountain Dog Club and had lunch with them at the dog show. Buck never cared about what was going on as long as he could see people.

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Buck was up for anything if it meant getting to see people. He sat in the rain with us at the 2010 Hickories Circuit Dog Show just so he could be around people.

The more obvious it became that Buck thrived on meeting people the more we tried to take him to where the people would be. We took him to community events where he would always draw a crowd. It was like he had his own fan club.

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Walking down the street with Buck at a community event was slow going because so many people wanted to see him and he wanted to see so many people. He snuggled up against everyone and solicited their touch. Buck was just that bighearted dog that made everyone smile and laugh. Buck loved events on market street in Corning. We would take him and he would stroll down the street just looking for the next person to pet him. His favorite event was probably Sparkle. There was just so many people. It was constant human contact. Pretty much heaven on earth for Buck.

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I never imagined that Buck being at community events had much of an impact other than just for us and for him. but this past Christmas season we went to Sparkle and he wasn’t well enough to go with us, so we took our other Bernese Mountain Dogs. As we were walking around we ran into some people and they asked us about Buck. They said they were going to be looking to see if he was here at Sparkle this year. So maybe Buck touched more lives than just ours out there. Maybe there are many more people than I could image out there with memories of him keeping him alive.

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As Buck got older and couldn’t get around as well as he used to, we desperately sought a way to keep getting him out into the public he loved so much. We knew that even though he couldn’t walk much he would still want to see people. We finally found a garden wagon that was big enough for him. It would take to cars to take him places but it was well worth it to see him happy out in public meeting people. We were able to take him out several times using this wagon.

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Buck enjoying a treat on Christmas.

After Buck’s accident and injuries we were reluctant to take him out even in the cart because we didn’t know how that would affect his leg. When Buck had to go to Ithaca for vet rechecks I made it a point to stop at the park and hang out with him so he could have some time outside. He always loved to go out and do stuff and I wanted him to get as much of that as he could even when recovering. At his last vet recheck the vet said he was really happy with the range of motion in his leg and that it looked like his fractures were well healed. The next day Buck had an acupuncture appointment. He did so well getting around despite his bad leg and was so happy. We decided that since he was doing so well it was a good day to take him to the park. We went home and got his wagon and his sister Kira and we went to Eldridge Park. Buck was so happy riding around in his wagon. We all sat at the pavilion and enjoyed the day for a while. I can’t help but think that there was a reason we took him there that day. It was his last happy day with us. Three days later he was gone.

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Three days before Buck passed he was happy and excited to be out for an adventure. What ended up being Buck’s farewell trip. We just didn’t know it yet.
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Buck’s last day with us. He still had that look in his eye.
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Buck as a puppy when we first brought him home.

 

And They Were No More

Around 10 and a half  years ago we moved into our house and brought into it a pack of four dogs to live with us and be our family. We had grand adventures. There was never a dull moment and now we will fill our hearts with memories once again.

Blake was the first to leave us. Cami was taken by disease. Sierra lived a long life to 16 but still felt to short in hour hearts. Tomorrow we will relinquish Buck and he will return to the heavens after 10 long and glorious Berner years.

I can’t believe that after tomorrow our original pack of dogs that started us down this crazy road will truly be be no more.

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(Left to Right) Cami, Blake, Sierra, Buck