There’s something to be said about being a doggie mama.
It’s an identity.
I can’t tell you how many times someone has remembered me because of my dog. I know they have no hope of ever remembering my name.. but my dog? Always! My feelings weren’t hurt. I’d prefer him too – look at that FACE!
I adored being “Newton’s mom”. The name itself implied an ownership and and truly personal relationship – meaning I was his, and he was mine. How much better does it get then that?
The same is said in reverse. I know most of dogs around our neighborhood by sight, I’d probably know most of their names and MIGHT even know which house they belong to. However, to tell you the names of their humans could be a downright impossible task if I was ever asked. I’d cheat and look for the last name on their mailbox and then add a Mr or Mrs in front of it – cheating?? Never 🙂
I have a few friends that do not understand this reference to “Doggie mama”, “Fur-child”, “Grand-puppies” and “fur-babies”. They don’t believe in the wonderful world of doggie daycare, socialization or playdates for creatures with four legs. They automatically raise their hackles and call me out on it. I don’t fight them on it – but really why can’t I be considered a doggie mama? I don’t fully understand this nerve that I’ve hit – maybe because I don’t have kids? I do have friends who have kids and adore their dogs – and even have said in the past – “I have 5 kids, whether they have two or four legs is irrelevant”. Love this gal.
So in trying to get to the root of the issue as it’s hard for me to see the other side – Is it because I’m putting my dog on the same level as their child by putting them in the same category as “child”? I’m not trying to say that raising a dog is exactly like raising a child. There are MANY differences, I get it. There are also similarities too. Gone are the days where a dog is JUST a dog. Taking into consideration what being a mother means, why can’t we call ourselves “mamas” or “papas”? It is indeed a giant job, a huge undertaking that I know all of you understand. When you decide to bring a dog into your life, It’s a vast spectrum encompassing love, patience and understanding. Why can’t you be considered a mama if it’s in reference to rearing a dog?
To me a mother is the woman who raises you, who is there for you to comfort you when you are sick or hurt, the woman who laughs with you, who cries with you, who loves you, even when you aren’t exactly lovable and forget all the hours, days and weeks of training. I’d do all of these things for my dog, again and again. In the end, as a dog mama or papa we ultimately have to make the toughest final decision of all, and place their needs leaps and bounds beyond our own.
“There are many definitions of the word mother, and many are applicable. Only those with “closed eyes” can’t see that there are many meanings to “mother.” A person who gives birth is a mother. A person who raises a child is mother. A person who loves and cares for a child is a mother…etc. Mother Theresa was a “mother” to thousands of poor children. It is not an all-or-nothing word….it is a spectrum.”
As most of you know, I love being around dogs, but there’s just something about being a doggie mama that really feels right. Nothing quite prepares you for the first burst of pride when your dog is FINALLY behaving out in public and someone compliments you on your dog. Or you see your dog land a trick you’ve been training for OR you see your dog do something that’s amazingly sweet and unscripted – like this:
It’s something I feel only a parent can feel – whether it has two or four legs is, as a friend said, is irrelevant.
Parental pride and love, people, is a thing of beauty.
Enjoy being a doggie mama (or papa), as it goes by all too fast. I can’t wait to become a doggie mama again – I might just get it embroidered on a sweater 🙂
I’ve been neglecting my writing this past week! My apologies.
We’ve had a rough month to say the least – maybe 2013 isn’t my year?
So mother nature has commanded Spring to open the floodgates of thawing Canadian ground, heavy rains and general muddiness.
It has caused THIS to happen in my basement….
Oh did I mention my fiance is gone for the next two weeks?
I’m an “independent woman” and can handle this… right? Right!
Needless to say, after making sure the water had been drained, I escaped for some much needed cuddle time with the puppies!
So, my basement floor is being ripped out, the drywall is going to be replaced and a NEW floor is going in! WAHOO – retail therapy 🙂
Maybe this :
Could turn into this?
Ohhhh, or this?
Or my personal fave, this:
As long as we’re having a bit of fun and wishful thinking – which do you prefer?
Newton would have loved the last choice – he LOOOOOVED being groomed. It’s been 3 months today that we’ve lost him, and I still miss him every single day. Today, thoughts will be had, words will be spoken, and he will be wonderfully and still tearfully remembered.
Even though this is a difficult day, I’m choosing not to write about how sad this is. As sad as I am, it helps to concentrate at our task at hand. We’ve decided to look at the positive in this disaster clean up. Starting fresh is my motto for this year, so I suppose it’s fitting that this decided to “spring” up on us now (haha – pardon the pun).
Some other great news. I have a new boarder with me for two weeks. His name is Kobe, he’s a Golden Retriever/Lab mix. He’s still being socialized to the cats, he finds them a bit terrifying. So they are kept separate except for the few instances I’m around for corrections. Stay tuned for a post all about Kobe!
I personally think he has Rottie in him as well, but his mom refuses to believe it…. So sad when I see such a wonderful and powerful breed have such a bad rap with people.
Nonetheless, he’s a great snuggle buddy. I can’t wait to try out training techniques to see what he responds to!
I know I’ve been a bit all over the place with this post, I promise to put a bit more effort into the next one! Anyway, stay tuned for the next post – which I promise will not be weeks away!
It’s because I was busy with my first boarder – this sweet pea!!
Yep – I said boarder. I’m in the animal biz somewhat “officially” now as a one-dog -at-a-time kennel/boarding facility. I made the waiver and dog info forms, had a lawyer review and we’re here! We have the space, a fenced yard and the time – so why not?
Merit’s an 8 year old Golden Retriever with a heart full of gold (sorry for the age disclosure dear Merit – its just a number anyway!).
We started by having a trial day two weeks ago to see if she got along with my two rescue cats.
Since we’ve opened our home to accepting boarders, I had an overwhelming response. My March and April are almost completely booked up. I do only take one dog at a time as I still work my 9-5. I want to ensure my full attention is on our new friend.
We have a kennel/crate area set up in one room and require a trial day ahead of time to ensure the dog to get along with cats.
As most of you know, we’re not open yet to owning as we’re still healing. This, like dog walking at the Shelter, is a great option with staying connected to furry friends. My Mr. and I agree, it’s amazingly nice to have a pup around again. We’ve agreed that fostering is a good next step for us, at some point 🙂
We’ve taken time this week to reflect on how our Newton would have loved her. Her gentle and loving nature reminded me a lot of him.
Merit’s also won over my Mr. He’s been home off work from Thursday until Monday, and spending most of his time with her. Here’s the evidence he’s found love with another woman 🙂
We’ve had a ton of fun this past week. We’ve learned a lot about ourselves, spent more time outside (as naturally Merit prefers two walks a day, with a longer off-leash hike on the weekends) and tons of puppy snuggles. Proving our theory that “fur-therapy” really is the very best kind.
I’m going to change the pace and write something that will hopefully give you happy tears for a change – Imagine!
This weekend I had the pleasure of volunteering at an Adopt-a-thon. PetSmart and SPCA teamed up all weekend long to host PetSmart – NB’s first ever Adopt-a-thon – How exciting! We paired experienced SPCA volunteer handlers with an adoptable dog to create an interactive experience. There were also four SPCA cats up for adoption – you should see their adoption space, there’s even a play space in the back!
PetSmart partners with non-profit animal shelters like the SPCA to create an interactive space for adoptable animals. Plus, they get tons more animal lovers coming through naturally. Our hope was to expose these little fur babies to a great experience and more – people who may be interested in giving them their forever home.
I believe PetSmart is only in Canada/US. Here’s a bit of background for my European/Aussie peeps! They are an all-in-one pet warehouse where they welcome you to come shop WITH your pet! Some locations may also have some of the following: Grooming, Overnight boarding, Training and Doggie Daycare. I’m usually all for supporting the little guy – i.e. small business, but I love me some PetSmart!
Back to the Adopt-a-thon!
To reduce the amount of returns completed like a Wal-Mart customer service desk, we ask a lot of questions up front. After all, we hope for a forever home, not a weekend stay.
Temperament testing sheets were available
Vaccinations were up to date
Volunteers were on hand to call references immediately (including 3 non family members and current/past vet contact)
Training: PetSmart trainers were present to speak to potential owners about helpful hints on whatever concerns they had. They also volunteered to help socialize any new adoptees to any new furry brothers/sisters.
Second thoughts? We were urged to tell people to think it through, take the night to think it through or bring their families in for a second visit.
Financials – PetSmart had these savvy sheets that outlined financial costs associated with dog ownership.
Spaying contracts – As all the dogs had been neutered we did not require spaying contracts to be signed.
We were ready. Doors opened, and it was time.
Meet the dogs
I had a lovely 8 year old German Shepherd named Chance – appropriately named! His family had him for 8 years before surrendering him due to moving. A sad story, and one seen too often.
Chances new parents saw him, and we took him for a walk outside together. I heard their story. They only adopt Senior’s, and call themselves the “Golden Oldies”. They’re mission is inspiring. They adopt Senior dogs and cats and give them a safe and happy place to live out their golden years. How AMAZING is that?
Chance had never lived with other animals before. They currently owned a 9 year old Bernese Mountain dog (*sigh*), a 7 year old Shepherd mix and 2 cats (14 and 16 years) on 20 beautiful acres of country space. Once we called their references, including their current vet, Chance went home with them. The lovely couple brought all 3 dogs in later the afternoon for a bath, so we got to see him again. Who doesn’t love a SPA DAY! They said Chance went into the house, sniffed everyone, grabbed a football and jumped up on the couch to have a nap.
Enjoy your new home my friend!
This little lovebug is 3 year old Lab/Retriever/Shepherd mix Mishka. Mishka’s been with us since November. She’s a sweetheart, with the focus and smarts of a Shepherd. What a terrific combo.
Mishka was found as a stray. Posters were put up, she was announced on the radio and a profile was made on the SPCA website and Facebook page. No responses. During testing, we found she can be slightly reactive to other dogs, but appeared fine other then that.
Mishka’s new family had been looking for a puppy. When they came in for catfood, they took home more then they had initially planned on. The connection they had was instantaneous. They’re references checked out, they had budgeted appropriately and their vet gave a glowing report! Mishka was adopted!
They also bought adult training sessions for Mishka to start working on her reactive nature, starting this week. Wins and tail wags for all.
I know I’m not supposed to play favorites, but too bad – he’s it!
This dog has a better resume then I do! Pepsi is also our longest resident. He’s been with us since June 2012. He had been microchipped and spayed – proving he had been taken care of once. His family was contacted and they said they do not have the time/energy and did not want him back. He found the shelter a highly stressful environment and was put into a Foster home in December. Pepsi has come a LONG way. He’s extremely social and loves people and big dogs.
One small fault – Pepsi tries to herd anything smaller then him – it’s the Border Collie in him. What a great agility dog he would be!
-Border Collie/Lab mix
– 3 year old
– High Energy
– SMART! This dog learned sit, sit/stay for 10 mins, down, paw, dance, crawl and beg in the matter of a 2 month span.
Pepsi did not get adopted, but is still looking for his forever home. I added him into the mix as I adored working with him and I wanted to showcase how amazing Foster Care can be. What a difference to the anxious dog I met months earlier.
These were the three dogs that I worked with during Saturday/Sunday. There were many others in attendance – Here are just a few others!
I’m proud to say that all in all, 8 new furry family members are sleeping in warm new beds as of Sunday. Meeting all these families first hand, I have no doubts that they will be amazing parents. It was an amazing experience to participate in.
I know all over Canada and the US, most PetSmart’s are partnership with a local Animal Shelter of their choice.
If you’re interested in participating – please do not hesitate to contact your local PetSmart to find out more.
Thanks for reading !
*If you’re interested in any of the other dogs listed, please see monctonspca.ca for more information!
When your family loses a pet, your ENTIRE family loses a pet. Not just your two footed bi-ped members, but your furry four footed ones as well. The purpose of my writing today – a friendly reminder to take care of your furry friends (as well as yourself) during this very tough time.
I’m ashamed to say that when we first lost Newton, I was so lost in my own anguish that I forgot this all important thought.
Of course, I kept up with their daily routine and was a good parent – but not a present one. I was stuck in a self-centered sad bubble of a life for a little while. Thankfully I went home to my parents at Christmas time to drink a lot of wine and cry heal. This was a change of pace for Stewart and Frankie and they got a ton of attention they so deserved.
2. a cause of distress (as an unsatisfactory working condition) felt to afford reason for coplaint or resistance
Obsolete, so final and definitive. Exactly how I felt.
The point I’m getting at is that for those first few weeks, I was lost. I was grasping for reason, some semblance of normalcy. I’m not beating myself up about this, as I was learning my way. Nonetheless what I should have been was a better, and more present Momma, to the two wonderful fur kids I still had.
To help give you some understanding of our story, I’ll share a little bit about my two lovely fur-kids.
The story of Stewart and Frank “the tank”
Stewart has always been the more resilient of the two. We had him from around the 4-6 week mark of his life. He literally found us and chose us to be his.
Stewart’s always gone in the car (LOVES it in fact), he’s gone on road trips, spent time with other members of our family, goes with us on our week long summer getaways. My point – Stewart has always surprised us with his acceptance of change.
In case you don’t believe me…
Most importantly, when we introduce new members into our family, he stays as cool as a cucumber. Here are some pictures of his first minutes with both new family members.
Frankie on the other hand, does not deal well with change.
We adopted Frankie almost 3 years ago when my fiance and I were volunteering at the SPCA. We were looking for a furry friend for Stewart, and found Frankie. He had been named “Gadget”. He was born and lived all 10 months of his life thus far in the kennel at the SPCA. We fell in love with him instantly. We found out that his hind end muscles had never developed properly, and he was left unable to jump, sprint or walk in a straight line. We chose not to be sad about this fact, it was just Frankie.
We like to think that as Frankie ran face first into the plexi-glass when he first saw us, he was giving us a sign… I mean COME ON… A cat trying to jump through fake glass to get at you?
We got approved for adoption and took him home almost immediately. Once Frank the tank was cozy, he showed us he does not like his routine disturbed. He’s actually kind of a jerk sometimes (albeit, our own lovable jerk). Wherever we went, he marked his territory by seeking out each and every corner of his new temporary home and hissing at it (obviously terrifying all the spiders lurking in the corners). Even so, I considered Frankie my little lovebug from the start, he snuggles whenever and wherever he can.
We both cheered him on as his back legs developed muscles over time. As he eventually learned to jump and run stairs for the first time, we were witnessing milestones really.
However, due to his temperament and aversion to change, I believe he was affected more then Stewart by Newton’s sudden departure from our lives.
During those first 2 weeks home, anything I saw of Newton’s made me burst into tears. I took everything that was “his” and placed it in the spare bedroom and shut the door. I couldn’t look. I noticed Frankie’s change immediately. He snuck around the house, my own personal “velcro”, then would let out what I can only describe as “yowls of death”. I thought something was seriously wrong with his health.
Then I had a thought.
I brought back out one of Newton’s dog beds. Immediately he curled up and stayed there for almost two days, leaving only to eat and use the litter box.
“I’m a terrible person for not trying this sooner”, I thought to myself. I lifted him off the dog bed and “traded”. I brought out one of Newton’s old blankets, which I folded and tucked into a basket. Four weeks later, Frankie still lays in his basket, with Newton’s blanket inside. He lays beside the couch from 7:30 pm – 11 pm every night while I watch terrible reality TV. He does not come to bed with me like he used to, but I know he’s content where he is. There are no more “yowls of death”, and he acts like his happy self. Frankie still cannot run a straight line to save his life, but what really do you require that skill for?
The main thing is he’s back to playing with Stewart, inquisitive about new visitors and eating normally. So, why did all this happen?
My cat was grieving.
I’m not writing to make you sad, even on such a topic. I’m sharing this with you all to hopefully learn from my mistakes. I should have been aware earlier on, and helped make the transition for all in our household, as easy as possible.
Cesar Milan writes,
“A dog that has lost a companion may show signs of emotional distress with a lack of appetite, aloof behavior, or even be demanding of attention and affection. We have to remember that when a living animal relates to another for a long period of time, they do develop relationships; they do create habits, routines, boundaries and even rules around each other. When suddenly one of the ‘partners’ is no longer there, the dynamic changes.”
“Though it may seem an odd question, how are you responding to the loss? Cats are sensitive to changes in human emotions, behaviour and routine. If you are upset, your cat will respond to this and may become anxious, depressed, agitated or physically unwell.”
Of course I was a mess! Not a hot mess at that… A cat is never “just a cat” and a dog is never “just a dog”. They are important members of your family. An important part of ours abruptly went missing, we were not whole. I was anxious, depressed, easily agitated and did not go back to my normal routine of work, gym, dinner, family pet time. Things had changed, and I had too. How could I not expect my furry friends to pick up on this? We needed to find a new normal. So we are picking up the pieces.
If you’ve lost a furry friend, I’m so very sorry for your loss. There is no time limit for grief. Take all the time you require, but make sure you do not get lost in it. Do not let it define you. Whether you like it or not, you will have to find your new normal.
My advice to you, should you go through this terrible ordeal, is observe your other pets’ behavior. Sometimes I’m sure what they need is to feel some semblance of normalcy – just as you do. Just as important, is to ensure you take care of yourself in this difficult time. I’ve offered suggestions that have helped me here. I should have also added to ensure that you give your pets some extra TLC. It’ll make you both feel better, after all snuggles never hurt. Do not feel bad if you find your feelings of grief do not subside. Know there are many groups and professionals available and ready to help.
First of all, if you are reading this, you’ve probably either lost or are losing a furry friend. Please know I’m very sorry for your loss. It is never easy. Take solace in the fact that you gave them a great life, and don’t be too hard on yourself. My post today is dedicated to discussing a multitude of ways to commemorate your best friend.
Everyone is different. I know as I go through my own grieving process, I’m looking for ways to continue to keep Newton near and dear. We were a one dog family, we went from arranging our entire day around Newton to nothing. I was lost. In the beginning I don’t mind admitting that I was desperately searching for anything that I could hang on to. There are still days that I want to stay in my jammies, listen to some sad tunes and down a bottle glass of vino. I’ve found a better way (for me). Most of you who follow my blog know I started working with the SPCA again after losing my best buddy. Being around dogs who need so much, allow me a new routine that makes me feel necessary again. They give me strength, love, laughter and a purpose when I felt I had little.
These are not ways to ease grief, only time can do that. Instead, when you’re ready, and are looking for a way to commemorate your furry friend – this list may be helpful. Find something that speaks to you, and represents your lost companion and your bond. It can be very therapeutic.
First of all ignore those people who say, “It’s just a dog”. Thoughtless words. In my opinion, they will never understand so do not waste your time with them. They do not belong in your process.
Commemoration – Let me count the ways
1. Write a Eulogy, it helps to think back and remember all the great times. Trust me, you’ll go back and re-read this.
2. Have a ceremony. We have yet to have ours, but it will be coming. I want to spread Newton’s ashes in his favorite places, and we have to wait until Spring in order to do this. I’ve been told it helps, especially little ones, with closure.
3. If your a writer, write a letter. I wrote and then shared mine here. If you’re an artist, paint. If you’re into music – write a song. Another blogger friend is having a ring designed to represent her pup and their bond. I thought that this was beautiful. Any form of expression is healthy.
4. Plant a tree. Most dogs love being outside. Plant something that is representative of them, that will bloom every year and give you a beautiful reminder. Some people even plant a flower, bush, tree or garden in a spot of significance. If you need a little inspiration, check out a blogger friend’s project – “Gardens for Goldens“. They’ve taken their project to a whole new level!
5. Store the memories somewhere, including photos, a favorite toy etc. I decided to make a picture book that has all photos of Newton, in all stages of life. I wanted a place that I could go back and remember all the good times. Further, I’ll be getting close friends and family members to sign it and include a favorite memory. I’ll be bringing this out on those sad, dark days. If a photo book isn’t your cup of tea, Modern dog magazine has some pretty exceptional ideas here. The blog, My wonderful life, has another list of unique ideas here.
6. If you know your pet is terminal or have little time together left, make a list. When we found out we were losing Newton, we made a list of everything we knew he loved. The vet thought we would only have less then a week left with him. If he was up to it, we wanted to try and fit everything he loves into this 6 day period. We were lucky, he was never in pain and he was able to do many of these things. It was a celebration of his life for 6 days.
My entire point, make your days all epic days.
If you all haven’t seen this wonderful video of a man who gives his dog, who has cancer, his last epic meal. It’s touching, and a real tear jerker. Amazing to watch if you’re able.
7. During the time you would normally spend together, keep yourself busy. If you had a specific time that you would walk together, make sure to do something else. These can be the saddest times if you’re alone. Finding something else to do can make this easier.
8. Try something I call “Fur Therapy”. Whether it be visiting another cat or dog, boarding a friends fur-kid or volunteering at your nearest shelter, it can be extremely therapeutic. If you’re an animal lover, animals may be healing for you. I know this has worked amazingly well for me. I’ve also been boarding dogs on weekends for friends and family members and volunteering. It has given me a purpose.
9. Read Jon Katz’s book “Going Home“. He speaks about something called the “Good Life”. A wonderful notion which I think would give most solace. Read more on my review of this here. If you’d like a quick snapshot – here’s a excerpt from Going Home.
11. If you need, reach out to people who understand. There are a multitude of pet grieving groups. People who are in these groups will not judge, only listen.
12. Cry when you need to. There is nothing wrong with it.
13. Write a list of everything you learned from your companion. It’ll make you sad at first, but then extremely thankful they were ever a part of your life.
14. This one may be too early to mention, but I’m going to put it out there. When you’re ready, welcome a new furry friend into your lives. This is best way to celebrate a life. Practice everything your lost companion taught you. This could take a few months, or even a few years. When you’re ready, you’ll know. Grief does not have a time limit.
This is a difficult road to take. I hope you’ll find the above list helpful. If any of you have any other ideas, please comment below. I look forward to hearing about them and sharing them with others who are going through this terrible time.
I’ve gotten so many responses back from so many of you. It shocked me at first. The support many of you have shared, I’ll be forever grateful for. This process is the hardest part of being a pet owner. Know that you are not alone. We are lucky to have them in our lives at all, they always leave far too early. If you haven’t seen the link going around, check out A dog’s purpose: According to a 6 year oldhere. It’s a beautiful thought.
Grief is a powerful thing, do not lose yourself in it. There will come a time when you remember the great times, and tears do not fall every time. Until then, I hope some of the above helps.
My fiance and I took another visit to the now two week old Bernese Mountain dog puppies. It was his first time returning since we went to meet and discuss a home for our Newton, 3 years prior. We once again were received with face licks, body wiggles and Berner smiles (From the dogs, not the breeder – haha). After an little while chatting with one of the breeders and snuggling with the 2 week old puppies, we went to a friends’ surprise birthday party.
My mind however lingered on the Berners. I know there’s a long wait list for puppies, so when we arrived home we talked. We talked about our readiness, our commitment, our finances, our time, and of course Newton. As you can imagine, I talked the most. What came out of our chat was that we believe we’ll be ready to welcome our arms up after our big three week trip to Europe in July.
While Newton still has my heart, I think I’m able to share what bits are left. Waiting for a bit longer will also give me more time to work on what I need to.
I need some more time just to honor and remember Newton. It may sound strange, but I feel as if I’m giving him a disservice if I stop what I’m doing now. Also, let’s be serious I could not have a new puppy or dog and leave for 3 weeks. Thank you to my Mr. for making me realize this. There is just NO WAY. Even though we’d have fantastic support, I’d constantly be thinking of everything I was missing out on! If it turns out to be a rescue or a puppy, we need to reintroduce consistency. Leaving for 3 – 4 weeks is exactly the opposite!
I also took my Mr. to the SPCA with me yesterday. He met my new buddy Rusty. Rusty is super sweet, but very timid to strangers and anything new. He’s like the 80 year old woman next door that peeks out from behind her curtains, curious about what’s going on but wants his door closed for protection against life. We’ve developed a special relationship – in the dog runs, he runs into my arms full speed and turns last minute and collapses in them. Always giving me face licks in the process. I really need to work with him on the full speed ahead tactic 🙂 We worked with him meeting my Mr. (new people!), going past with his tail high and wagging, and ears up, rewarding him the entire time. He also went to meet my Mr. once free in the training room all by himself, sniffing his leg and hand, allowing my Mr. to even reward a head pat or two. What a good boy!
Then there’s Des. You’ve met Des before, she puts me through my paces every single freaking time. Walking her is a workout. I can’t even try and manage her until she has run out her energy. We take her to a dog run, play “catch the snowball” and run the excitement out of her. Then we get to work on her resource guarding. Des is like the grouchy old man of my little pack that likes HER things. “Silly youngsters”, I can imagine her saying, “Keep your paws off my stuff!”. She has been letting me slowing get closer to her as she holds her tennis ball. Today she looked at me while holding her tennis ball with her tail wagging, I rewarded her with a butt scratch. She dropped the tennis ball at my feet. PROGRESS!!
So we came home and took one more step forward – We filled out the applications for both the SPCA and the breeder. We want to be ready in case we find the right rescue or the right puppy or dog for our family after our trip. We wanted to get started early as I know some people who have been waiting a year or two for one of their Berner puppies. There are a few reasons for this, first of all, they do not churn out puppies like a puppy mill. Secondly, they only breed dogs that pass their pen/hip score clearances and eye exams. This helps weed out early hip/elbow displaysia and the eye/health issues that Berners are prone to. We’re going to fill out another form for the Bernese Rescue Society of Canada after our trip.
I’ve discovered three things throughout this process so far.
1. I never want to be just a single dog family again. Ideally I’d like to welcome our arms in July/August to a new furry friend, then keep our eyes and ears open shortly after for another.
2. Filling out both forms was both exciting and gut wrenching *sigh*.
3. Our retirement plan will be to Foster dogs 🙂 Long term planning at it’s finest, we’ll see – maybe we’ll be ready before!
There was a guilt that I felt about moving on to another dog that I knew would be there, but still did not feel comfortable. Newton will forever be a part of me, this I know. I’ve said this once, but I believed he was the daily food for my soul. Sounds dramatic, but true nonetheless. I am trying to consider this next step a tribute to him. A testament to him, making us better owners and dog lovers. Newt would want us to be happy, living life to it’s fullest as he did. Our lives are the happiest and richest when we have a furry friend by our side. Until July, we’ll keep taking it day by day, week by week, month by month.
I did it, I crossed another hurdle. See, I’ve been avoiding places that remind me exclusively of Newton. You know the places I mean – the places I went only because of him.
As some of you have been following, my grieving process has been a roller coaster of emotions. I hope I’ll stay on this positive high for a while this time.
To give you a bit of back story, we bought Newton from amazing co-breeders. One of them lived close to us in Moncton, the other 2 hrs away in Saint John. The last time I had been to visit her partner in Saint John, it was so she could meet and interview us for our new puppy (almost 3 years ago). I was close by for work, went out on a limb, called her up to let her know I was in the neighborhood. She invited me and I went.
The only comparison I can make is it was like “pulling off the band aid”. I was so nervous driving there, so different from how I felt the first time driving up the driveway with my fiance. Unsure, with different nerves, and a different perspective.
All that changed when I walked in and was instantly greeted with tailwags and face licks – by four beautiful Bernese.
I had met most of these dogs before. What I love about dogs, and particularly Bernese in general, is their sensitivity to human emotions. The dogs did not leave my side. I think they sensed how much I loved and appreciated them all, most likely recognizing that I needed them near. What I had thought was going to be a 15 min visit just to pop in, chat about fall litters and give updates, turned into a 3 + hour visit. We sat there, two crazy dog ladies, discussing our love for the breed, how each one was doing and how we both were doing.
I sat there completely covered in long black Berner hair, with two attempting to sit on my lap. I know had a ridiculous crazy smile plastered all over my face. This was the happiest I’ve been in a while.
Funny facts about these lovebugs – they all have zero sense of how large they actually are. I’m convinced they all think they’re Chihuahua size.
Halfway into our visit, she asked me to wash my hands and took me into the back room, I wasn’t sure what to expect. She said she had something that would instantly make me feel better. She was right.
One of her most lovable Bernese, Ivana, had just had puppies 5 days before. Refer to my post “Puppy Love” if you need a reminder of my love of puppies. BERNER PUPPIES?? Even better.
I remembered Ivana from my visit almost 3 years before. This is her second litter, and she makes such a wonderful mother. She did not mind me snuggling with one of her young pups in the least.
My heart melted. I thought constantly of Newton, but could I be sad while looking down at this little furry peanut? This new 1 lb puppy could not hear, could not see, couldn’t use the washroom by itself or even regulate it’s body temperature yet.
During the next hour I learned how amazing a mother’s natural instinct is. Ivana (mom) taught me how to burp one of her pups after feeding. The breeder showed me how Ivana regulates their body temperature, stimulates them to use the washroom and cares for each and every one of them. She talked about the next steps, what she’s looking for in a family for each one of them, and the vet visits that were coming up way too fast.
I then learned that this little girl I was holding was most likely going to a wonderful family in my hometown of Nova Scotia. How amazing is that!! I might see her again.
As I came home and reflected on this day, I realized I had been scared to go visit them. Now I realize how much joy they brought me. Newton would have loved these visits. I promised in my letter that I would visit his friends often and send his affection their way. I realize that through living up to this promise, it’s helped me take yet another step. I thought seeing other Bernese would sadden me, remind me of what I didn’t have anymore.
I realize now, that was silly of me. Of course these visits don’t make me sad. Newton loved them all. How could I be sad about that?
I needed this visit to help gain perspective. I’m so happy that I “pulled off the band-aid” and did it. What I thought was going to be just a step, turned into a wonderful visit with old friends – both human and canine. It reminded me of the simple things in life, and what my fiance wrote about shortly after we lost Newton,
“What I realized is this. Pets, Animals, Dogs, Newton… are generally simple beings. They eat, sleep, play… and love. You. In world that is totally messed up; the desire to acquire; be promoted; to be successful; our pets make life so very simple. Its easy to love them, to humanize them. In grand scheme of things, they dont care how much money you make or what your title is. They just want to be around you, and you want to be around them.”
– kudos to my fiance
Great words to live by. As I go through my own process of grieving, I’m thankfully reminded by Newton’s memories & other furry friends to stop and enjoy simple pleasures. Quit complicating the issues at hand, enjoy great things, stop dwelling on the bad. I’m thankful I’ve included many dogs in my life so they can remind me of this. In this case, it was taking the time to enjoy snuggling puppies and furry mommas alike. Appreciating a helpless newborn, the simplicity of what life can be like. Eat, Drink, Sleep, Play and Love, what amazing things we can learn from our canine friends. I celebrate that Newton helped form me into the dog crazy that I am, encouraging me to pick up the phone and make the call, which led to this wonderful visit.
It’s been a month without Newton. I had a difficult time this weekend focusing the good times we had- and there were many. As time grew closer and closer to the one month mark, I found myself retreating into sadness. This was not an anniversary to celebrate.
I miss him.
I find myself opening up in baby steps, but unable to make the leap. Maybe I’m rushing this. He’s left such big shoes to fill that I’m not ready to put another dog up the challenge – yet. I’ve discovered that as far as I’ve come, I am still not ready to bring another life into ours. I know I will someday. For now, it’s not fair.
When we are ready, I know I’ll be open to the right rescue or another Bernese from the same reputable breeder that we got Newton from. The reason, friends, that I would go this route again is when Newton fell ill, I relied on my support system. This system housed close friends, family and also Newtons’ breeder.
She’s been there for every single step in his life. In fact, the night before we said goodbye to him, we went to visit her, along with Newton’s brother and sister. It was one of the best decisions we made. Almost like he was waiting to say goodbye to his Berner family, a family he had spent so much time with.
We cried together as Newton greeted all with happiness upon his arrival, knowing it was going to be his last visit. He didn’t let on how bad he most likely felt, until he was home. We’ve been lucky in the fact that when we went away, and were unable to Newton with us, he went and stayed at his original Grandma’s house with his furry brothers and sisters. We were also lucky that our support system included my sister, her fiance and their two dogs, whom I know he also shared a very special bond with.
Since we said goodbye, the breeder(s) have taken it on to find out more about the disease, sending his slides to the leading Pathologist in North America to find how more about his particular form of disease: If early detection is possible, how to save Kidney function earlier, any preventative measures, and scientific trials that may be available should it happen ever again. All of Newton’s littermates are having ultrasounds and urine tests as preventative measures. In conclusion, even after going though everything, I still believe in their breeding program. They will only breed dogs with good hip and elbow scores (reducing chances of early hip/elbow dysplasia), eye and blood work clearances. They are trying to better the breed. As I truly love everything about Bernese Mountain dogs, their sweet temperament most of all – If they can be healthier & longer living then all the better. Our Newton was a lemon that slipped through their program, he was our lemon though, and as one of my friends like to say –
“Although Newton was a lemon, he made the sweetest lemonade”.
This is not to say I do not support rescuing a dog from a shelter. If you read my blog, you know these are the only two types of programs I support. The rescue dogs I work with now are helping me heal in little pieces. I definitely do not consider them a “second choice” as they’re truly wonderful in their own right. Further, I feel like I owe it to them to give one (or many more throughout my lifetime) of them a home one day.
It comes down to a connection and I believe – the timing. If and when I’m ready, if the connection is there, they will hopefully become a part of our family. I’m open to either way. Perhaps both, if the time is right.
There is a guilt that sets in when you start to even think about moving forward, I wasn’t quite as prepared as I had hoped. I don’t want to replace Newton, and that’s kind of what opening ourselves up for another dog feels like. My head wants to move forward, never forgetting but continuing forward momentum. My heart is another matter, still deeply entrenched in the grief of losing him. In short friends – I am still not ready as these two pieces do not align.
I will be ready one day, and I can’t wait to experience life with a dog again. Many parts of our life feels empty without one. Newton however, as many of your dogs are, was much more then “a dog”. He was my companion, my confidant and fellow adventurer. There weren’t many places we went, that he did not follow (or lead in some cases). I felt that I understood what he was “saying” or feeling, with just one look at his face. I knew how he would react before it would happen. I trusted him in most any situation and with any person. In short – he was what some people call a “heart dog“.
“Every now and then, a very special dog comes into your life and changes the way you think about things forever. Sometimes these dogs don’t stay very long. Sometimes they’re not even your dog, but leave footprints on your heart, nevertheless.”
Newton was also our first dog together. Which could be one reason why the bond built so deep. I’m not worried that we won’t love another dog. However, I’m wondering, Is there something different about a first dog that does this to a person? Is this bond possible with every dog you have? Or is it only a small percentage of dogs in a persons’ lifetime that you will have this with?
I like to think, if you’re open to it, the bond will happen building on the first connection. For now, I’m not open – but I’ll get there.
I’ll leave you with something that makes me smile, and think of Newton every time I’ve had many people send me this particular link to this youtube video! I’ll leave you on a happy note. Friends, In case you haven’t seen this one – What’s cuter then this puppy and a lemon ?