Tag Archives: love

Josie’s World

If you told me that my adventure would begin with a 6+ hr drive each way to meet two dogs and possibly, just possibly adopt them if all went well, I would never have believed you. But that was what we did and that is how Josie came into our lives. It was one of the best days of my life.

Josie fit right into our home, our heart, and our lives. It really could not have gone any better. Her story was almost like a fairy tale. She came from a sad situation and thanks to other kind souls who look out for dogs she made it into our lives. She quickly adapted and fit into our lives.

Josie was a bit shy and nervous when she first came into our lives and seemed to rely heavily on her sister Little Kira for cues as to how this new world she found herself in was supposed to work. If Kira was OK with the situation Josie would be ok with the situation. She generally hung back but would eventually relax and fit in. She wasn’t the kind of dog that would go running up to people to befriend them, but she loved people.

Josie quickly found comfort in our lifestyle that focused on taking our dogs with us as much as we could. She began to adapt and become more outgoing. There were even times she would much to our surprise really become interested in meeting new people and just want to go up to people she had never met and solicit attention from them. This is something that she did not do when she first came into our lives.

It is hard to quantify Josie’s personality. She is almost two different dogs. The one constant is that she is always just kind of living life on her own terms. She is the quintessential dog who lives life in the moment in their own world. She might be completely oblivious a lot of the time but that is part of what made her so lovable. Out in public Josie is shy and reserved, but calm. She never made a noise. I cannot recall a single time Josie barked in public. At home she is much more animated. She used to howl like a beagle. She gets excited by the goings on outside the house and the other dogs inside the house and will bark with excitement. Josie was our early morning rise and shine warning machine. When she first came to us she slept in a crate because if she didn’t she would wake up and literally trample us in our beds as soon as she woke up in the morning. As she calmed down living with us she was able to sleep without being in a kennel but she was still alerted strongly to our alarms and as soon as they went off she started running around and barking ready to go outside and start yet another amazing day of life. If we slept in too long she would wake us up with barking and pacing telling us, today is a beautiful day to live life, get up sleepy heads. It we tried to ignore her she would eventually get up in bed and give us a good full body massage walking on us and rolling herself all over us until we decided it was a good day to get up after all. It is crazy how that thing you wish you had been able to train your dog to stop doing is one of the things you miss the most once it is gone. I would give it all up to have that 80 lb dog jump up in bed and roll around on top of me with the reckless abandon she lived life especially when she was at home with us.

Unfortunately we lost Josie’s sister Kira early and we were very concerned how this would affect Josie being as shy as she was. After an initial adjustment period and lots of loving she became more confident even without her sister as her constant companion. She continued to be our companion on our various trips from small things like walks in the park, to visits to local breweries to see friends, to hiking at state parks. She did it all and was always so well mannered and easy going. Having Josie with us was one of the easiest dog experiences ever. She was almost no work at all to be with. She was not the type of dog that you had to constantly tell to stop it or anything like that. She was just completely chill and relaxed, willing to go along with whatever we had in mind with no complaints.

I will never get over the effect that our Berners have on people and Josie was no exception. Despite her very laid back personality and the fact she never went out of her way to get attention from people, people fell in love with her. She was always very welcoming of attention from others. People would approach and ask if they could pet her and we always said yes, but noted that she might not even pay attention to you. She doesn’t even sniff the hands of strangers when offered. She just stands there and does her thing. Sometimes she just seems oblivious to the world around her. But in a way that is what made her the perfect dog for our lifestyle. We liked to do things with our dogs and basically nothing fazed Josie, she just went about her business. Children loved Josie and that seemed to be even more apparent in recent months when we brought her to as many events as we could where she would just be around people we knew and loved and seeing the children at these events always wanting to say hi to Josie and pet her just makes you so happy to se the effect that she has on children.

We love to camp and have taken several of our dogs on camping trips, but we have never taken any of our Berners camping. This year we wanted to try to take Josie for a short camping trip to see how it would go. Then we got the devastating news that she had a mass growing on her spleen and a mass growing in her mouth. We were beside ourselves. We had no idea how much time we would end up having with her. We feared the worst. One of our amazing friends arranged for us to be able to take Josie on a camping trip some where local so we could make sure we got to have this experience with our dog that we wanted to have.

This last month we had with Josie was made even more special by all the time we spent taking her out to do things and many of those memories included time spent with our friends and their families. Our friends and family have always been a great source of support and strength in the toughest times and they continue to be now. Josie will live on with us forever in our hearts.

It was always Josie’s world; we were just living in it.

Feeling Failure

I think one of the biggest challenges in life is that from time to time we all will experience this sense of failure. No matter what we are doing in our lives or how well of we are or how much we are struggling there will be times were we just have this sense of could we really be doing any worse than we are. We will question ourselves. We will wonder if what we are doing is even worth it.

There are so many different facets to life and it is difficult to keep all those things in balance on the best of days. We often times are happy to just keep one ball up in the air let alone all of the balls we are juggling constantly. Sometimes it seems like we are spending our whole lives juggling just trying to keep as many balls in the air as we can, and for what purpose. It can often seem like we aren’t making any progress. Life isn’t getting any better. We aren’t’ reaching our goals. So why oh why are we still trying to juggle all these different balls?

We all have families, friendships, and work lives. We have athletic pursuits and hobbies we enjoy. We have creative dreams we want to realize. We are brothers, sisters, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters. We are coworkers, employees, and bosses. We are runners, artists, golfers, writers, and explorers. We don’t have to be trying to invent the next big things or create a unicorn start up or save the world to feel the pressures of failing at life. It is there all the time, ever present. We all have something we aspire to. We want to do the things that we value in our life and we want to do them well. No one wants to feel like they are failing.

Yet, all too often that is exactly how we feel.

One of the hardest things about this feeling of failure is that it often stems from things that are currently beyond our control. There are many things in life that are simply beyond our control. Then there are the things that are more within our purview to control and sometimes we just make mistakes. Sometimes we make decisions that at the time seem perfectly rational and then those decisions come back to bite us later in life, but there is nothing we can do about those things in the here and now.

I think the biggest way to combat this feeling of failure is with acceptance. We have to accept where we are in this moment. We have to accept that it might not be where we ultimately want to be but that is ok. We can only live in the present. We can do the best we can to love the life we are living as we are moving through it. It is not going to be perfect but it is the only life we get.

Once we accept where we are in life and that we cannot change our past we can start to deal with working towards where we want our lives to go. And even that is hard, because it will always feel like that life we always envisioned or dreamed of will never get here. And it’s probably true that the imagined life or the ideal life will never arrive, but that doesn’t mean we have to stop trying to get one step closer to that life. We can live life for the things we love. We can live life for the imperfections and we can revel in those imperfections and know that all the mistakes we make give us yet another opportunity to do something else in our lives.

Live life and enjoy it. Accept the mistakes and embrace failure. It is all part of life. We are humans and we are if nothing else failable and we will fail over and over again, but that is what life is all about. Failing and learning from it and learning how to live with it and love it and make life better because of it.

Today I was really struggling and feeling like I was failing and feeling like I should just give up the things that I push myself to do, but then what be left of life. I decided to process my feelings through writing this post.  

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.

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