The first Christmas

Hi friends,

The first Christmas –

If you’ve lost a furry buddy, I’m so sorry. The first everything without them is difficult. Constant reminders of them no longer there.

For some of you who have only started to begin this difficult process, I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s never easy. My heart aches for you.

During the Holidays, it can be emotionally draining. As you pull out the stockings, the holiday décor. Everything is clouded with memories. I get that – I lived that.

For me, December 19th is also a day I struggle with. It’s an anniversary of something I wish never happened. December 19th, 2013 will mark a year since we lost our best friend Newton to Kidney Failure.

December 19th, followed so closely by the Christmas holidays could potentially be the worst week of my year. It has potential for me to crawl into my jammies with a glass or two bottle of wine and not surface again until the New Year. However, ask yourself as I have – is this the way you want to live?

Throughout the year, I can usually get past these moments by thinking about all the amazing memories and things Newton taught me. Knowing I’d do it all over again, if given a choise also helps.

Choosing the higher road is easier said than done – I realize this, it takes constant and strong control of your thoughts and emotions. 

During the Christmas holidays, I’m taking the time to raise a glass with my Mr. and think about all the amazing memories with Newton. Although only with us for a short time, he left enough memories to last us our lifetime.  I’m choosing a different path – I’m choosing to honor these memories with happiness.

In addition this year, I’m taking a friends advice. I’m honoring Newton’s memory over Christmas by sponsoring a rescue dog. I’m taking the money I would have normally bought him Christmas presents with and giving to one in need.

I’m working with a local rescue organization. They post a list of their adoptable dogs, and a wishlist for them. This could include everything from dog beds, to special feeding needs, treats and toys to annual veterinary bills. It really helps put things in perspective. Needs vs Wants.

This year, I chose to donate in Newton’s honor.

Meet Enzo!

enzo

He’s with a wonderful Foster family currently, who I get to go and meet this beautiful little Puggle this weekend when I take over his new dog bed. Enzo also had an ear infection at the time of his rescue, so I helped cover the costs of his ear treatment. He lived with two older people who had to move into an assisted living home and sadly couldn’t bring Enzo with them. They didn’t have any family that could take him. So he is at a wonderful rescue organization in Halifax, NS right now. I have no doubt that he will find his forever family very soon. Until then, eat, sleep and be happy with your wonderful Foster family Enzo (including two other pug mixes!).

I know tons of rescues around have this type of program. If you can’t donate to a dedicated dog, donating financially or with your time can be especially rewarding – for all involved.

Some other advice this Holiday season – stay busy. When you’re not busy –  Choose to life the life your furry buddy taught you to live.  

On the worse days – Choose to try and be the person your dog thought you were. I think it’s a pretty darn good tribute all in itself.

 dog thinks

Hang in there,

Dailyspro

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Puppy Therapy 2.0

Dear Friends,

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.

Obviously I had treats in my hand :)
Obviously I had treats in my hand 🙂

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.

Not so much....
Not so much….

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.

Ivana and her pups
Ivana and her 3 beautiful  pups

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.

me and puppy
Photo cred – W. Bennett

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.

puppy hand

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.

puppy face
Guinea pig nose 🙂

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.

Thanks for reading,

Dailyspro

One month has passed….

Dear friends,

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.

Newton's Berner family
Some of Newton’s Berner family
Newton's brother and sister
Newton’s brother and sister

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.

Newton with my sister's dogs
Newton with his other sisters

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.”

– Unknown

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 ?

Newton kneading his dog bed

So I was going through photos and letters containing thoughts and favorite moments for Newton’s memory book I’m making. I came across this gem and my fiance suggested I share it. It’s a video that makes both of us smile every time we watch it, so we hope you enjoy!

I actually saw a post by The Daily Golden, a blog I read daily, called “Does your Golden Retriever Purr?”. Well between purring Goldens and kneading Berners, we have a few confused pups on our hands 🙂 Amazingly adorable  – make sure to check her site out..

I’ve heard that bottle fed pups do this from time to time. I’ve never seen it before Newton, he also could have been confused as we have two cats in the house that completely ran his show.

Newton only did this with when he laid on his dog bed with his favorite stuffed toy (a porcupine) in his mouth. Whatta man.

Newton – I hope there are lots of dog beds and stuffed toys (especially porcupines) where you are now buddy 🙂

xoxo

Dear friend, I will see you again

A letter to Newton

A great day
Another one of our great days.

Yesterday I sat with you, holding you as you took your last breath and went over the rainbow bridge. Your tail still wagging as we told you over and over what a great boy you were. Forever thanking you as you’ve done your job better then we ever could have imagined. You exceeded our expectations, you showed us what real and pure love feels like. A love without judgement, a love without anger or any of the petty selfish emotions we humans dwell on. To lose you so soon, is completely unfair.

I can still remember bringing you home a little over 2 years ago. You were so full of life, giant paws and soulful eyes, with the a lack of coordination that never ceased to amaze us.

Your giant heart quickly captured ours.

You have the most gentle and kind nature, especially since you considered yourself a 100 lb lap dog. To know you, is to love you. I see the emotions of people around us now and know that you were loved by many.

I sit here numb, but the tears still pour down my face. My only solace is that we kept our promise to you from my first letter and promise to you.

My beautiful brave dog, you were my best friend. We saw you peak and fall too quickly and all in the same week. Your stoic nature would never allow a whine or a groan to escape, I think you knew it would break me. Your wonderful vet friends all tell me you never suffered a moments pain from this terrible disease. When we made the final walk into the vet, you still greeted all with tailwags and affection.

While I don’t believe you felt pain, you were very uncomfortable the last night we were together. You stood in the same place, and would not move even as I did. I’m so very sorry that you suffered even a moment of discomfort. I realize now with clarity from your Grandmother that you may have been afraid and uncertain. I am so thankful that she told you what to expect to try and ease your uncertainty.

We brought you home 5 days before and tried to give you, your perfect day, everyday. We tried to wine and dine you with concoctions I have watched you dream about for two years. Your dad took you on your favorite walks. We knew we did not have time to give you everything as you deserved, I wish we did.

After we visited with your original family, it seemed like you had seen everyone that you loved most in the world: as your grandparents, your brother and sister, favorite aunts and uncles & furry cousins came to visit, wrote encouraging words and sent all their love. You were now waiting for us, you knew it was time.

Please forgive me dear friend, as we made the decision that we could not stand to see you suffer. This shattered me, you never deserved an uncomfortable moment. We needed to grant you a peaceful exit, surrounded by those you love most. I will be forever grateful to your Grandmother, as she told you what I forgot to, she told you what to expect after. All the friends that were going to meet you, that you wouldn’t be alone. I told you you were loved, that we will see you again, that it would not hurt. She thought of you and told you what I forgot.

Please forgive me as I know you would not want to be the dog you were so shortly about to become. This was the hardest decision we’ve ever made in our lives. Please know that it was not an easy one to make.

All these books, websites and people tell me to write, so I shall. Because, dear Newton, I know you know all these emotions and thoughts, but you deserve to hear them. I’ll tell you my weird and deeply personal secret – I believe you were the daily food for my soul.

The separation and loss I feel cannot be computed into words. Even as I try, the sadness rips into my core. You were what my world revolved around. Your daily schedule was also mine. I’m at a loss on how to move forward. What to do next. You were our first true love together. Your dad and I love each other, but we’ve never loved something together so true.

I am truly thankful that your dad spoiled you as my back was turned, he let you enjoy the foods I was so desperate to keep away from you. He did what I was unwilling to do – he spoiled you with food. We both spoiled you with love. The house is so empty without you. Your favorite places are now vacant, I can’t even look at the backyard.

Anatole France once wrote, “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened”. I believe this accurately describes everything we are going through, and why.

Dearest friend, you’ve given us more then enough memories to last a lifetime and in only 2 short years. Yet you’ve done more then most people have done, you’ve changed your dad and I into better people. You’ve taught me life lessons that I think it’s only fair that I share with you.

So here you are.

Life Lessons from my best friend

1. It’s ok to stop and smell the roses every once and awhile, even the smelly ones.

2. Give hugs and smiles – often

3. Always tell the ones you love, you love them

4. The forever optimist you are – Look at the world with eyes wide open

5. Love big

6. Practice patience and be kind to others

7. Appreciate great food

8. Love the outdoors. Every time I walk our favorite trails, I will picture you happy beside us

9. Give everyone you meet a chance, they may surprise you

10. Don’t ever go to bed angry

These are things that I will take with me forever, as you have changed us into better people. It does not help the deep hole of loss that I feel as you left us for your better place. I know that I will need time. I thank you for absolutely everything, I appreciated you and loved you every day of your life. My day will not feel complete until I see you again and get my daily hug from you.  In case I never told you, those hugs were my favorite.

Please know that you will be forever remembered. I will miss you all the days of my life. Thank you so much for everything you have done. You’ve done what many others can only hope to do, you’ve left a legacy.

You loved all you met, big or small, furry or human. I promise to visit all your friends often, and spoil them with affection that I know you will send their way. Your dad and I will visit your favorite places, and remember you as we do so. I invite you to come with us as we do this, and any other time you like. In fact I look forward to it.

This letter doesn’t even begin to describe everything. Forgive me again as I cannot start to move forward until I say a tearful goodbye until the next time we meet. I picture you now like the photos below. Happy in your favorite places and fields full of wonderful adventures, a world full of cheeseburgers and bellyrubs. I selfishly ask you to wait for me, until I can meet you next. For you will be the most wonderful greeter that I can ever imagine. Go and enjoy your peace, as you so deserve it. Run in the fields and play with your furry friends.  Please visit me often in my dreams, as I will always welcome you with arms wide open.

Forever yours,

Mom

I will always picture you here.
I will always picture you here.

Newton newton 4 newton 3 Newton 2 newton 1

A Promise

Newton
Newton

I found out yesterday that our wonderful gentle giant of a dog has chronic renal disease (CRF). As it turns out he was dealt some bad kidneys at birth, we found out they are abnormally shaped which has lead to his disease.

I took him in for a routine teeth cleaning yesterday and I ticked the box to get his bloodwork checked. Our vet called us later on that day, I thought to tell us we could pick him up. I was not expecting what she said in the least. See Newton always has been a bit on the lazy side, every since he was a pup. He hasn’t exhibited any of the signs as listed below, except for excessive water intake. So it shook the ground I thought was stable and threw me for a loop.

Chronic renal failure is one of the most common diseases seen in older dogs, right up there with arthritis and cancer.

Unfortunately, by the time most dogs show signs of kidney disease, much of the irreplaceable tissue needed for good renal function is already destroyed.

Many pet owners mistakenly think that as long as their dog is peeing a lot – often more than he did in his younger years, in fact – his kidneys are still working well. In fact, the opposite is true.

A dog with developing kidney disease will feel the need to drink and urinate more in an effort to keep his body free of waste – a job his kidneys once did with a whole lot less effort. This cycle of over drinking and over urinating will work for a while, but eventually, no amount of water will be enough to get the job done.

By the time your pet starts showing other obvious signs of illness, for example lack of appetite, weight loss or low energy level, significant irreversible kidney damage has occurred. (Thanks http://healthypets.mercola.com for this descriptive).

My heart is shattered. I am still in shock. He’s on an IV to try and increase the functionality of his kidneys until Saturday. Best case scenario is that he lives for 3-4 more years with meds and a special diet (yay!). Worst case is that he won’t live another 6 months.

Everything about this is unexpected. As an owner of a pet under 3 years of age, you do not expect to have to think about these kinds of things, this soon. I’m at the angry stage of my acceptance. He does not deserve this, the prodding the procedures. One thing I will never accept is for him to be in pain. So far, he is not.

As most pet owners can understand, He’s my best friend. Where I go, so does he so it’s hard to think about a parting. You know this will happen eventually, but not before your story together has had time to develop.This has been a very difficult time for us, this period of not knowing. Friday is when we’ll have a definitive answer of how long my loving giant has with us and how far his progression is.

To help me cope with this, I turned to writing. I wrote my very best friend a letter and made a promise.

My promise

It’s with the heaviest of hearts I write this.

Today I was told you weren’t perfect.

To me, you still are.

The doctors aren’t sure if you’ll live 6 months or 4 years.

I want you to live forever.

I visited you today in your sterile temporary home.

I missed you and cried when I saw you. I could not hold it together.

I thought of everything you’ve given me over the past 2 years, and as I looked into the kindest big brown eyes I promised you:

You will never suffer or be a prisoner of your own body for my selfish reasons.

You have always treated others with the gentleness and tolerance I can only admire.

Therefore, I pledge to you, my very best friend, that whether you live for 6 months of forever:

You shall be treated with respect.

You shall only be treated with love.

You, my gentle giant deserve only the best. You’ve given me so much. You’ve been the keeper to my secrets, my shoulder, my confident, my jester, my soldier, my love.

My favorite moments are when you sneak up and give me hugs as I’m tying my shoelaces, letting me know you understand I’m leaving, but not forever.

What am I to you?

I can only be more.