Remembering Golden Mully

Golden Mully with her Favorite Red Ball

We featured Golden Retriever Mully at one of our foundation’s contests over a year ago. She was one of our winners, but sadly has now left her Mom’s side, losing a battle with Myasthenia Gravis. Her life started out RUFF due to a deformed leg/amputation and ended RUFF, but Elizabeth sure hoped she gave her special Golden girl a happy life in-between.

Click here to again experience her story, and share in her Mom’s memories with a wonderful video.

Lessons in Loyalty from Golden Retriever Friday

Dr. Michael Fox runs The Washington Post’s “Animal Doctor” blog, and the following letter today from a reader was a truly inspirational lesson on the amazing bond that exists between man and dog.

Dear Dr. Fox:
Your recent column about how a “dog’s devotion to master can lead to the grave” is similar to what occurred with our golden retriever more than 20 years ago, when my husband died at 46 after a four-year battle with cancer. During my husband’s illness, Friday lay beside his bed, provided support when my husband walked and never left his side. Friday obviously knew that something was wrong. He was devoted to his master.

Before my husband became ill, he was a senior sports-and-news cameraman for a major TV station. Because of the nature of his assignments, my husband’s work hours were unpredictable. Regardless of the hour, Friday always knew when my husband was headed home. He ran to the front door, wagging his tail, and he sat patiently until my husband’s car pulled into the driveway.

After my husband’s death, which took place in a hospital, Friday sat at the front door all day, every day, whining and waiting for my husband to return. He stopped eating and wouldn’t leave the front hallway. He refused to play with our children, whom he loved, because “guard duty” was his only purpose. He left his post only when he needed to be walked. My heart was breaking for this dog.

After one week of watching Friday’s vigil, I decided to help him understand what had happened. Hesitantly, Friday left his post and got into the car with me. His car behavior was unusual: He paced from window to window, looking everywhere for my husband. I drove to the cemetery, and we walked together toward my husband’s grave. As we got closer, Friday pulled away from me and ran directly to the grave. He lay down atop it, closed his eyes and just stayed there, quietly. I didn’t try to talk to Friday or disturb him. He needed to grieve, too. After an hour, Friday got up and walked over to me, using his mouth to hand me his leash. He was ready to go home.

On the way back home, Friday lay quietly in the back seat. After we arrived home, he kept kissing my hands as if to say “thank you,” and he never again sat by the front door waiting for my husband to return home. He now understood. Although obviously sad, his behavior returned to normal around the children and he began eating again. In time, he healed, as did we.

L.B.J., Lake Worth, Fla.

Click here to read another powerful tale about a Golden Retriever and The Bond.

Softening the loss . . . . .

I recently discovered innovator, Patricia Moore’s, Soft-Hearted Products, a wonderful company that provides a way to soften pet loss by offering something that could be held close. Few things linger in our minds like the loss of a companion animal. Now, you can wrap your arms around a Soft-Hearted Pillow and hug the memories.

While this option may not be for everybody, it definitely is is a supple, huggable way to capture the love and tenderness that pet parents feel for their animal companions in a secure, yet soft, embraceable warm alternative.

Each year over 44 million pets are cremated with remains returned to bereaved owners in generic tin containers. “Now with my Soft-Hearted Pillow when someone suffers the loss of their pet, they’ll have the comfort of something soft to hold and keep close-by,” says Pati Moore.

Learn more at http://bit.ly/softenloss.

Writing in a vacuum

My third newsletter has lots of fun and serious articles. You do not want to miss it. REALLY.

But, besides a handful of people, no one has bothered to check it out (yes, webstats are great things until you find out no one is paying anything you say any mind). It’s kinda like contests I put together to GIVE STUFF AWAY that no one bothers to enter …. oh my :0)

Maybe for the next issue I need to hide a secret word or image somewhere in the issue and tell folks the first person to find it wins something.

My spirits were buoyed, though, when I received this post from a Golden breeder (with some English Golden Alfie relatives no less).

Dear Rochelle, You could not have described more perfectly your newsletter: “Sometimes laughter, sometimes tears. But always food for the soul.” I laughed at the start, and I cried at the end—and yes, so much food for my soul.   Thank you for sharing it! — Sincerely, Felice Haggerty www.gazngoldenretrievers.com

I also read a lovely thank-you by a hurtin’ Kelley Baldwin, just having lost her Golden girl Chaser on June 19th. But, she may not count since she was one of the wonderful authors who contributed articles for the issue.

Through the wonders of social media a few months ago, I met the founder of Land of PureGold Foundation. The foundation promotes the human-canine bond and responsible pet ownership, and also funds cancer research and treatments for working dogs for animal-assistance therapy, search and rescue, etc.

Rochelle first contacted me after reading one of my columns, which featured my Chaser. She wanted to reprint it in Pet Talk, her foundation’s newsletter. Of course, I said YES! Just a few short weeks later, she returned the favor by providing us with a great resource – http://www.tripawds.com/ – after learning about Chaser’s osteosarcoma diagnosis.

As if Rochelle hadn’t helped us enough…she continues to amaze me. In this month’s foundation newsletter, she included a two-page feature on my Chaser. Others will read about her journey and her life. It is ways like this my Chaser will live on. You can read it here (pages 7-8).

I love Kelley’s Life Like Mine blog, as her writing is always so spot on. She needs to be writing for some comedy shows. She really is that good. And, I was thrilled to see at her blog another tribute to Chaser, just stumbled upon by her hubby.

Even after she’s gone, our Chaser continues to surprise us. … It’s the website for the Veterinary Speciality and Emergency Center. We took Chaser there for her eye exams. I guess they decided she was beautiful too.

We always joked she could have been a movie star. However, it was enough she was a star in our hearts.

Sadly, I suspected this.


I’ve been watching the news online to see how things were going with the Stephen Huneck Gallery since Stephen’s tragic departure. I think many have been worried about whether the gallery, dog mountain, and the chapel would survive. And, I know many people just cannot understand how with his international notoriety there has not been an art benefactor to come in and provide aid.

I’ve also been worried about his wife Gwen and his employees, who saw this wonderful man as part of their family. Here is a Jan 14th update that I just discovered from Charlotte Albright on VPR News.

At the time of his death, Huneck was apparently despondent about having to lay off all his employees, and feared losing his land, home, and business in the wake of the economic downturn.His close friend and assistant, Will Eason, says a newsletter had gone out to 4,000 customers asking them to help keep the company afloat, but it brought no financial help.

Now, ironically, the orders are pouring in faster than employees, working now without pay, can fill them.

(Eason) “We’re so overwhelmed with orders right now, I mean that is excellent. If it’s one thing I knew Steve liked, it was to have orders coming in. He liked having his business do well. And if he could call down to the shop, he would ask if everybody’s working. ‘What are ya’ doing? Get to work.'”

(Albright) But Eason and three other employees are working through intense grief.

Eason says his burly, jocular, unorthodox boss automatically made memories for anyone who met him. Which may explain why Dog Mountain’s Facebook page is flooded with condolences from all over the world.

Even Huneck himself was surprised by the popularity of the Chapel, as he told VPR in a 2007 interview.

(Huneck) “And who would have thought that this place would be such a huge national and international draw? I was on the cover of Life Magazine and they said that Dog Mountain, where we are right now, was one of the six places in America that you had to visit before you died.”

(Albright) Now, ironically, it’s a place where people may pay their last respects to him.

But the future of his business and home is still uncertain. Staffers say there’s very little cash left, and they worry about his wife, Gwen, who is still in seclusion.

A Letter of Love … Remembering Stephen Huneck – Updated 3x

A Stephen Huneck Image for the Ages

I am so filled with sadness, but it cannot compare to what Gwen Huneck is experiencing. She is the wife of the incredibly talented and recently deceased artist, Stephen Huneck. I have always felt a bond to this man, even though we have never met. A lover of both Golden Retrievers and Labs, he had been diagnosed with the same disease that took my father’s life in the span of 3 months.

In 1994 Stephen was diagnosed with Adult Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) after falling down a flight of stairs. He actually had to be brought back to life and was in a coma for two months. Doctors were not hopeful, but with the help of his wife, Gwen, Stephen had a full recovery. He had to relearn everything from how to walk to how to sign his name. And, he kept carving away, creating the iconic images, such as the one above, that will be forever linked to him.

I have carried Stephen’s one-of-a-kind line since I created my foundation’s store as he was the first artist to provide me with special pricing given the mission of my foundation. He knew that his angel images were quite popular, and especially so for my organization due to dealing with cancer and bereavement issues.

I remember being so excited about his newest *Golden Retriever* creation that came out last year, entitled “Goldens Rule“. Most of his art is Labrador Retriever themed, but he had been very busy coming out with new breed art.

Goldens Rule by Stephen Huneck

Recently, Stephen began making changes to his pricing and throwing sale after sale. He even was giving away gifts with every purchase. And, he had put up information at his site about selling his home, the Healing House, at Dog Mountain. Obviously, this horrible economy was effecting him and he was trying everything possible to hang on. I just didn’t know how serious the situation had become …… until I received an email from Gwen Huneck detailing Stephen’s taking of his own life.

When I was in private practice I mainly worked with youngsters experiencing anxiety, depression, and learning based disorders.  Only once did I work with a young man who successfully committed suicide, and it was solely to perform a cognitive & personality assessment. I have never forgotten that youngster, who in fact, had a Golden Retriever. It is very hard to know you have done  everything possible and yet still be unable to alter such a negative course of events.

It is with great sadness that I share with you the news of the death of my Husband, Stephen Huneck, Thursday January 8th. Tragically Stephen took his own life. Stephen had been despondent for some time now and was being treated for depression.

Like many Americans we had been adversely affected by the economic downturn. Stephen feared losing Dog Mountain and our home.

Dog Mountain

Then on Tuesday we had to lay off most of our employees. This hurt Stephen deeply. He cared about them and felt responsible for their welfare. I could see how devastated he felt and tried to reassure him that the most important thing to me was that we were together. I told him how much I loved him, that he had accomplished so much in his life he should feel proud not ashamed.

I said how, I was constantly being told by visitors to Dog Mountain how much they loved his artwork. They also told me how meaningful the Dog Chapel was to them and how grateful they are that Stephen had created it.

Stephen with his guy Artie

Stephen and I discussed his feelings of despair and he said he would be seeing his psychiatrist the next day and would talk it over with her.  He seemed to be looking forward to his session. He got up early Thursday morning to go see her. Stephen drove to the doctor’s parking lot and while parked in his car, shot himself in the head.

I wished I could of reached him some how. Stephen gave so much love and joy to the world through his warmth and openness as a person and a great artist. I hope he will be remembered as that joyous soul.

On the last page of the “Dog Chapel” book Stephen wrote “you too can build a chapel, in a place that’s always open in your heart”

Please remember Stephen in your hearts.  Yours truly, Gwen Huneck

Stephen and Gwen Huneck with Golden Retriever Molly

_________________________

The video below, from 10 months ago, is so tragic when you realize that Stephen is speaking about his wonderful life and all that he feels he has been able to do, even with respect to giving back to charities. He did much to help others in need. It did make me smile at one point, though, when Stephen called himself a hippie. I could see the sweetness and lightheartedness as he smiled at the remembrance of those times.

________________________________

UPDATE:
I received this note from Golden pal Leann in Rhode Island:
Though his art was fun and unique, that place Rochelle, is something you never forget once you have seen it.  A doggie heaven on earth with those beautiful green rolling fields for a good ole back roll and scratch, hiking paths for running and 3 ponds for a great dive in and dog paddle along the hiking route.  What a guy, he knew what our fur friends would love and created  it.
Leann also provided a photo slide show from her experience at Dog Mountain. Just click here.
_____________

UPDATE 2

Too much sadness. Even though Stephen was surely suffering and trying to stave off great despondency, he continued to provide love and more via his annual summer dog parties at Dog Mountain. This video is from August 3, 2009.

_____________

UPDATE 3
Please check out my continuing tribute to Stephen, recognizing his making a difference for so many others in need. Just click here to learn more about his Chasing Away K9 Cancer.

Remembering a Gentle Man with a Golden Heart

Ed Eames and his wife, Toni, with Golden guide dogs, Latrell & Keebler

Sadly, the Assistance Dog Movement has lost one of our greatest champions. IAADP’s President, Co-founder, Ed Eames, Ph.D. passed away on October 25, 2009. It is hard to believe that it has been seven years since meeting Ed and his lovely wife, Toni. Although Toni has been blind since birth, Ed lost his sight at age 42. He very much relied on Toni’s skills and access, and along with her deep love for him, this allowed him to flourish in his second, non-sighted life.

An adjunct professor at CA State University-Fresno, Ed spent his career teaching and doing anthropology research at NY’s Baruch College and previously at Temple University. His doctorate was earned at Cornell University with his research based in India.

Ed obtained his initial guide dog from the Seeing Eye and met Toni in 1985 while writing his first book about the assistance dog field, A Guide to Guide Dog Schools. She joined him as wife and co-author of that project. Their second book, Partners in Independence: A Success Story of Dogs and the Disabled, was drawn from their award-winning column of the same name, published for ten years in Dog World Magazine.

Ed is the kind of person who has exemplified the adage, When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.And, it was Ed’s enormous heart and sweet manner and concern for others that endeared him to so many. It was simply impossible to resist this man’s charms once you met him. He just had that kind of effect on folks . . . . and dogs as well.

Ed was a true Golden Retriever lover and one knew that any Golden in the Eames household was one lucky dog. We all know how special our first entry into the Golden world can be, and Ed’s relationship with Kirby, his first Golden Retriever guide dog, was quite unique. Here is Dr. Eames with his Kirby, a Golden who amazingly went on to earn an AKC Companion Dog Excellent title.

However, Kirby’s claim to fame occurred when bone cancer necessitated the amputation of his left front leg, yet did not keep him from continuing his guide dog work. The telling of this courageous story, Kirby, My Miracle Worker, earned Ed a Maxwell award from the Dog Writers Association of America.

Go to my site to learn more about Ed’s story.

Dr. Wolfelt’s Companioning vs. Treating – Updated

Alan D. Wolfelt, Ph.D., C.T. is an internationally noted author, educator and grief counselor. He serves as Director of the Center for Loss and Life Transition and is on the faculty at the University of Colorado Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine.

Dr. Wolfelt is the author of When Your Pet Dies: A Guide to Mourning, Remembering and Healing. Affirming a pet owner’s struggle with grief when his or her pet dies, this book helps mourners understand why their feelings are so strong and helps them overcome the loss. Included are practical suggestions for mourning and ideas for remembering and memorializing one’s pet. Among the issues covered are understanding the many emotions experienced after the death of a pet; understanding why grief for pets is unique; pet funerals and burial or cremation; celebrating and remembering the life of one’s pet; coping with feelings about euthanasia; helping children understand the death of their pet; and things to keep in mind before getting another pet.

Best known for his model of “companioning” versus treating the bereaved, Dr. Wolfelt is committed to helping people mourn well so they can live well and love well. His 2009 book, The Handbook for Companioning the Mourner: Eleven Essential Principles, is partly a counseling model and partly an explanation of true empathy, exploring the ways companionship eases grief. For caretakers who work with grieving people or for friends and family just hoping to stay close, 11 tenets are outlined for mourner-led care. These simple rules call for understanding another person’s pain, listening with the heart rather than the head, not filling up every minute with words, respecting confusion and disorder, and relying on curiosity rather than expertise. We love his Companioning vs. Treating model:

  1. Companioning is about honoring the spirit; it is not about focusing on the intellect.
  2. Companioning is about curiosity; it is not about expertise.
  3. Companioning is about learning from others; it is not about leading.
  4. Companioning is about walking alongside; it is not about leading.
  5. Companioning is about being still; it is not about frantic movement forward.
  6. Companioning is about discovering the gifts of sacred silence; it is not about filling every painful moment with words.
  7. Companioning is about listening with the heart; it is not about analyzing with the head.
  8. Companioning is about bearing witness to the struggles of others; it is not about directing those struggles.
  9. Companioning is about being present to another person’s pain; it is not about taking away the pain.
  10. Companioning is about respecting disorder and confusion; it is not about imposing order and logic.
  11. Companioning is about going to the wilderness of the soul with another human being; it is not about thinking you are responsible for finding the way out.

UPDATE: Learn more here and now also get a PDF attractive printout of these 11 tenets.

UPDATE

Missing my sweet Golden Darcy

Friendship Darcy Makena AX AXJ CGC—or Darcy Girl as I often called her—is no longer by my side. She lost her battle to fibrosarcoma on February 12, 2006, and honestly, I haven’t been the same since.

This is the adorable image that fills the screens of two 21-inch flat screen computer monitors that sit on my desk. It is a photo that I took of an 8-week-old sweet but spunky, mind-of-her-own, haughty, loved by all, beauty of a girl. It is the most appealing Golden Retriever photo I have ever seen, bar none. And, it will probably always be that way.

I try to remember this image instead of the look of the cancer that took her life and literally ate away at her beautiful face and well-being from the inside out. And, I know I need to be thankful for the time I was able to share, with a soul so sweet, that it shined from the inside out.

I just entered this photo in Luke’s 2 Dogs, 2,000 Miles 2010 Cancer “Can’t Keep a Good Dog Down” Calendar Contest. The contest honors and recognizes dogs who have been touched by cancer. Luke is actually walking from Austin to Boston with his two Pyrenees Mountain dogs, Hudson and Murphy, to bring attention to canine cancer.

You can support this organization and honor my Darcy with your vote at the same time. Just click here.

Kennedy AND his dogs … Grieving all the way around

I got to meet two of Senator Kennedy’s dogs three years ago during a second tour at the White House with my Senate pal, Patty Kennedy.
I had originally visited the US Senate in 2000, helping Patty with the publicity of her incredible book, Bailey Bymyside: Golden Lessons for Life (to see some of the lessons from the book, click here).

Senator Kennedy’s dogs were being walked by staff members as he was, of course, busy doing the people’s work. I was told that the Senator brought his dog to work about once a week. And, he brought a tennis racket as well so that he could hit balls for his dog to retrieve and bring back to him.

In the May 2006 Boston Globe Interview, Making a Splash, reporter Susan Milligan speaks to folks not really knowing Ted Kennedy, despite 40 years in the Senate and speeches galore. For, it was when you could catch him playing fetch with his dogs that one could really see him come alive. How disappointing it was that I was not able to see him do just that with his dogs.

Follow the senior senator from Massachusetts, known for beating up tobacco lobbyists and conservative Supreme Court nominees, into his Capitol Hill office – the inner office, the one decorated with a framed, handwritten note from John F. Kennedy as a child, with pictures of Edward M. Kennedy standing alongside Martin Luther King and past presidents – and he quickly morphs into 8-year-old Teddy Kennedy. “Do you know how much I missed you? Do you KNOW how much I missed you?” Kennedy coos at Splash, his Portuguese water dog who has been awaiting his owner’s return from a Senate committee hearing. Kennedy bounces a tennis ball, sending the large, curly-haired canine running around the bustling office before settling comfortably next to the senator.

It was endearing to hear him interrupt the interview to ask Susan if she wanted to see a trick. But, as we all know, our dogs do not always perform on command.

Splash, Susan would like to see the ball, if you would show it to her. Can you show me the ball? Will you show me the ball? Splash. Please. SPLASH. Will you show me the ball? Come on, come on, show me the ball. Thank you. You know I want that ball, and you know I want that ball now. SPLASH. Please. Now you know I want that ball, and you’re not going to give the ball to me? Come on, come on. Look. Show it to ME. Where are you going with that ball? Why are you teasing me? You know I want that ball more than anything in the world. Well, I guess you won’t let me see it.

I was happy to know that the good Senator was enjoying his last months by immersing himself in what he loved best — being by or on the water . . . with his beloved dogs by his side.

I only worry about how Splash, Sunny, and new puppy Cappy will handle his absence, as dog lovers do understand that dogs go through a grieving process as well, as expressed here by behaviorist Jean Donaldson.

It seems implausible that dogs, who bond so strongly, would not feel really bad when someone they’re close to disappears. Now, whether they have the accompanying cognitions that so complicate human grief is something I’m less convinced of. I know people whose dogs have struggled with the loss of a family member (people and dogs), becoming depressed, anxious, lost and rudderless. And I can see how this could be compounded by changes in routine brought on by the grieving process of remaining family members.

And, I am sure that Kennedy’s dogs will be missed on the hill, as he was never hesitant to utilize his furry companions in every aspect of his working life.

Now, lobbyists, staffers and other Hill dwellers say they mourn not only the passing of Kennedy but also he end of a unique chapter in Capitol Hill’s canine history. With their black curly hair, floppy ears and bouncy gait, Kennedy’s dogs became a part of the lawmaker’s nearly 47-year Hill tenure.

Kennedy’s Senate office always had water bowls and tennis balls on hand. Major legislation was hammered out as White House officials patted fuzzy heads and threw balls during meetings. The dogs were known to snooze under committee room tables.

“It’s like the end of an era,” said Kennedy’s former judiciary committee general council David Sutphen. “I find it hard to believe you’ll have another senator with a dog who comes to meetings all over the Capitol. It’s kind of the closing of a chapter.”

A very sad day . . . Dog Loving Senator Ted Kennedy has died.

I hear that the Obama family fell in love with Senator Kennedy’s Porties, so inspiring their bringing Bo into the family. I got to meet two of Senator Kennedy’s dogs three years ago during a second tour at the White House with my Senate pal, Patty Kennedy. I had originally visited the US Senate in 2000, helping Patty with the publicity of her incredible book, Bailey Bymyside: Golden Lessons for Life (to see some of the lessons from the book, click here).

Senator Kennedy’s dogs were being walked by staff members as he was, of course, busy doing the people’s work. I was told that the Senator brought his dog to work about once a week. And, he brought a tennis racket as well so that he could hit balls for his dog to retrieve and bring back to him.

In the May 2006 Boston Globe Interview, Making a Splash, reporter Susan Milligan speaks to folks not really knowing Ted Kennedy, despite 40 years in the Senate and speeches galore. For, it was when you could catch him playing fetch with his dogs that one could really see him come alive. How disappointing it was that I was not able to see him do just that with his dogs.

Follow the senior senator from Massachusetts, known for beating up tobacco lobbyists and conservative Supreme Court nominees, into his Capitol Hill office – the inner office, the one decorated with a framed, handwritten note from John F. Kennedy as a child, with pictures of Edward M. Kennedy standing alongside Martin Luther King and past presidents – and he quickly morphs into 8-year-old Teddy Kennedy. “Do you know how much I missed you? Do you KNOW how much I missed you?” Kennedy coos at Splash, his Portuguese water dog who has been awaiting his owner’s return from a Senate committee hearing. Kennedy bounces a tennis ball, sending the large, curly-haired canine running around the bustling office before settling comfortably next to the senator.

It was endearing to hear him interrupt the interview to ask Susan if she wanted to see a trick. But, as we all know, our dogs do not always perform on command.

Splash, Susan would like to see the ball, if you would show it to her. Can you show me the ball? Will you show me the ball? Splash. Please. SPLASH. Will you show me the ball? Come on, come on, show me the ball. Thank you. You know I want that ball, and you know I want that ball now. SPLASH. Please. Now you know I want that ball, and you’re not going to give the ball to me? Come on, come on. Look. Show it to ME. Where are you going with that ball? Why are you teasing me? You know I want that ball more than anything in the world. Well, I guess you won’t let me see it.

In the February 2006 Washingtonian article, Love Your Pet: A Senator’s Dogs, you can see how lucky the Senator’s dogs, Sunny and Splash, are.

Senator Ted Kennedy’s dogs, Sunny and Splash, have quite a life. They wander the halls of Congress most days, spend summers on Cape Cod, and play ball with one of the country’s most powerful senators.

The Portuguese water dogs each have their own talents: Splash is the faster runner, while Sunny, pictured here, is a stronger swimmer. “She can stay in the water longer than you can walk,” the senator says.

The dogs often can be found under the senator’s desk. Sunny mainly sleeps, although both dogs have been present at many important meetings. “Splash sat through the markup for the No Child Left Behind bill,” Kennedy says.

Splash, the older of the two, has achieved some fame of his own. He won Best in Show at a Virginia dog show.

The 2006 book, My Senator And Me: A Dog’s Eye View Of Washington, D.C., is a lovely children’s book that highlights his guy, Ch. Amigo’s Seventh Wave (nicknamed Splash). One gets to follow Senator Kennedy and Splash through a busy day in D.C., from press conferences to meetings with school groups to committee discussions to a floor vote.

Kennedy’s introduction to the political process is clear, informative, and loaded with child appeal, in part due to his choice of Splash as the fun and furry narrator.

The Whole Furry Family

The Whole Furry Family

I was happy to know that the good Senator was enjoying his last months by immersing himself in what he loved best — being by or on the water . . . with his beloved dogs by his side.

I only worry about how Splash and Sunny will handle his absence, as us dog lovers do understand that dogs go through a grieving process as well.

Honestly, it is hard to believe that we will no longer hear that recognizable New England voice, speaking out for one and all. . . . “the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die”

Animal Hospice: An important part of your pet’s lifeplan

While folks make light about Twitter (you can see my Tweets here), it is amazing the folks you can meet and the information that you can learn there. It was actually Twitter that allowed me to meet Dr. Jaime Glasser Merrifield and learn about the emerging and incredibly important veterinary field of animal hospice.

Dr. Jaime Glasser Merrifield DVM MS, of hospice4animals, is quite passionate about end of life care for our companion animals.

I practiced Veterinary Medicine for a long time before I knew about Animal Hospice. I struggled years with trying to find the most gentle ways of touching and treating older animals that were in pain. I spent many years trying to read and communicate with others about euthanasia and it is a sacred and heavy responsibility to decide on and to assist. I spent many of my working hours counseling pet parents  about their choices and options. I had a comfort room like a living room where I could talk quietly and let parents and kids spend the night with the ill animal members of their family. I began to understand that some folks just did not feel it was their right to euthanize their pet, and I helped those animals be as comfortable as possible until their time came to leave our world. I had practiced Animal Hospice for many years without knowing it existed. No matter what your beliefs are it is wrong for each Vet, each pet owner and each animal to go through this re-inventing the wheel. It is wrong we are left feeling alone with these wonderful/terrible questions. Animal Hospice needs to be as much a part of your pet’s lifeplan as good preventative care and good nutrition. Hospice needs to be a part of every veterinary practice or Veterinary Hospice Practitioners be available everywhere.

And, she would like her new hospice4animals blog to be a “a comfy place to discuss end-of-life issues about animals, remember your pets, learn about and discuss palliative and hospice care for animals, and keep in touch with the veterinary movement for hospice for animals”. Check out her newest posting: “Why is it so hard when a pet dies?

Dr. Jaime is very excited about an upcoming event that she believes is as important for the general public as it is for care-giving professionals. The Second International Symposium on Veterinary Hospice Care at U of California at Davis, is being held on September 5-7, 2009 (Pre-Symposium Field Trip on Sept 4th to BrightHaven, an holistic animal sanctuary and pet hospice). The symposium is being hosted by the University’s School of Veterinary Medicine—home to the largest public veterinary program in the country.

Based on human hospice models, veterinary hospice addresses the needs of people who wish to care for their dying animals in the comfort of their own homes—under the guidance and assistance of veterinarians and a professional, qualified staff. By training caregivers to provide comforting palliation for their pets and by offering extensive support services as well as effective pain management, veterinary hospice gives dying animals and their people the opportunity to spend meaningful, quality time together before the pet’s final journey. By compassionately closing the “circle of care,” veterinary hospice honors the human-animal bond, never losing sight of either the companion animal or its caregiver in the total equation—and ultimately serving both in the best possible manner.

A partial list of topics that will be covered by the symposium’s speakers includes:

  • How human hospice is now embracing veterinary hospice care
  • The value of homeopathy in veterinary hospice care
  • Animal hospice and traditional Chinese medicine
  • Veterinary technicians and veterinary hospice care
  • The role of the professional pet-sitter in veterinary hospice care
  • Pet death care and caring for the grieving pet parent
  • Operating an animal sanctuary and pet hospice
  • The “sacredness of dying” in veterinary hospice care

It is definitely not too late to sign up, so go check it out and pass on this message to your friends and the companion animal loving community. Just click here.

Ben and Golden Jake . . . finally reunited

Oh my. I just read the following story on one of my Golden Retriever lists (h/t Sandy). It is simply amazing … on so many levels — clearly a story that refuses to leave one’s consciousness. I will simply cling to the desire for Jake’s perceptions to have been spot on.

BEN AND JAKE by Debra Easterling

Ben and Jake were inseparable.

Sure, Ben loved me. We had been married thirty years or more. But there was a bond between him and that Retriever tighter than a three-ply cattle rope.

Every night like clockwork, my husband, Ben, would come home at 6pm, shake off his boots, and hang up his coat while Jake danced back and forth. He’d always be rewarded for his performance as Ben stooped to rub his ears. The grateful dog would then immediately run to our room, pick up Ben’s slippers as if they were as fragile as egg shells, and then he would bring them to Ben’s big easy chair.

Once the fuzzy slippers were snug on Ben’s feet, Jake would walk around in circles until he found just the right spot beside Ben’s chair. It was always the same spot, but the dog relentlessly made a ritual of settling down.

After the evening news, Jake would take his place beside Ben at the dinner table. He didn’t beg for food, like other dogs. He merely rested his golden head on Ben’s lap until my husband was through with his meal. With the dishes washed and dried, Ben would stagger into the hallway and find Jake waiting beside the chair, leash in his mouth, waiting for their nightly walk.

Without fail, Ben would say sweet terms of endearment to his buddy as he again donned his coat and boots. No matter what the weather, the two of them would head out to embrace the elements together..

Last year about this time, a drunk driver drove his truck into Ben’s path. My husband did his best to veer the bus out of the way, but there wasn’t enough time. Ben and three passengers went to live with Jesus that night. I lost the only man I ever loved and his passing was extremely hard. I was grateful we had no children to break the news to, but there was Jake.

The poor thing couldn’t understand why Ben didn’t come home. He waited at the door every night at 6pm for a month. Ben never came in to rub his ears. There was no one to dance for. I walked him every night, but he only sat at edge of the property, waiting and watching. Jake barely touched his food. He never joined me at the table. I tried to make him feel better every once in a while by placing some of Ben’s clothes by his old chair, but Jake preferred to sleep now by the door. Jake spent many evenings with his big yellow nose poised on the doorstop, whimpering in his sleep. I thought my heart would break.

Last night was the one year anniversary of Ben’s passing. I didn’t bother to cook a meal. Food had little appeal. Even with Jake by my side, I felt so alone.

Then suddenly, promptly at 6pm, Jake jumped to his feet and ran to the door. He danced back and forth wagging his tail, whining like a puppy, full of glee. He dipped his head, and then he bounded to the top of the stairs, grabbed the slippers, and raced down to gently lay them at Ben’s chair. Jake then walked in circles, over and over again, until he found the right spot, and laid himself down.

Naturally, I thought the poor old dog had finally lost it. His grief caused him to recreate his nightly ritual. I bent down to pet sweet Jake with the intention of whispering comforting words into his floppy ears.

As I did, I found that my darling Ben had come back for his faithful friend so they could both live with Jesus. The two of them went for a final walk to embrace the elements together.

A Sad Farewell to Angus

Great Dane Angus "Gussie"

I received this very sad letter from Anna Nirva, the fine lady who is behind the wonderful organization and weekly tips from Sunbear Squad.

We had to euthanize our senior Great Dane Angus yesterday. He suffered from advanced stomach cancer, and we didn’t know that until yesterday. We noticed that he had a round stomach even though his appetite had waned during the past few weeks. But he wasn’t losing weight. We thought he had a bladder infection. I mention it because of your work to support cancer research in dogs.

We are grieving, but at the same time, in a corner of my heart, I’m feeling joyful for his life and our lives together. The house feels so terribly empty though. I know you understand.

Here is his Dogster page. I updated his page and diary today.

Anna wrote a heart-wrenching memorial for her beloved big guy, but here, I’d rather reproduce his truly amazing “Arrival Story”. I’d like to be honest and say that I would have been able to commit myself to such a needy fellow, but it truly takes someone with incredible fortitude to show such devotion. Anna takes in the saddest cases in her rescue work and I often wonder how she manages to keep her positive attitude. I am just thankful that there are strong people like this, out addressing the continuing plight of animal abuse and neglect.

We heard about a youngish Great Dane at the Coulee Region Humane Society in La Crosse that was suffering from mange, ear infections, and was emaciated. (A college student had surrendered him when he moved into a new apartment that didn’t allow dogs.) We thought he was sweet and took him home and continued his meds. He also had a case of “happy tail” and vomited his food up almost daily AND had loose bloody stools. We tried several brands of kibble, and several courses of antibiotics, and then one day he bloated, requiring surgery. WHAT A FRIGHT.

He survived, and we decided to try a holistic veterinarian. GOOD DECISION. We went to Rising Sun in Viroqua, Wis., and food allergies were diagnosed. We were advised to stop all antibiotics and stop feeding kibble, and embark on a diet of whole foods. We bought a freezer, a food processor, and learned a whole new way of feeding and IT WORKED. Over a period of a year, Angus’ skin allergies cleared up almost completely. The ear infection left him with permanent dizziness, though. He reels and sways like a drunken sailor on his soft bed.

Anna's hubby Terry, Angus, and Greta

Nothing more important than family …. furry or not

Micky and Loki

He may have thanked his dogs in his Golden Globes acceptance speech, but he brought his beloved Chihuahua, Loki, to the awards ceremony at the Venice Film Festival in September. ''Loki is the love of my life,” he told The New York Times.

Mickey Rourke’s beloved Chihuahua, Loki, died on Monday night at the age of 17. Micky provided this heartfelt statement: “Loki is deeply missed but with me in spirit. I am very blessed she fell asleep peacefully in my arms.”

The Wrestler star strokes Loki on an Italian TV show in November. In a recent interview he said that he likes little dogs because you can hold them close, smell their fur and feel their hearts beating.

The Wrestler star strokes Loki on an Italian TV show in November. In a recent interview he said that he likes little dogs because you can hold them close, smell their fur and feel their hearts beating.

Does one dog know when another is dying?

In July 2007 I posted about an 8-year-old Golden Retriever Rescue named Max. It was a wonderful story of a dog due to be euthanized at a shelter who is now living a life of luxury.

Yesterday, I received this sad update from his mom Cindy.

Max went to The Bridge on October 6, 2008. His health had been declining since March/April of this year and despite blood tests, x-rays, and ultrasounds, the vet could not put a finger on it. Max didn’t have the same energy he used to, but he was still the same wonderful loyal loving dog. He was at least 10 years old when he left us.

When we first brought Max home, our older Golden Tipper Emily (now 15½-years-old) disliked him immensely. Eventually, he wore her down and she allowed him to kiss her nose and snort in her ears whenever he wanted. Max absolutely adored her. However, she always remained aloof and was The Queen Max knowing better than to try and sniff her butt! And, she certainly never would have touched him on purpose. Until that last evening.

Max laid on his blanket in our living room all afternoon and evening the last day he was with us. During the evening, Tipper Emily laid down next to him (she’s on the right in the photo) and stretched her legs out and touched Max’s paws. They stayed that way, touching and looking at each other, for a long time that evening.

Was she holding his hand and telling him that it would be okay? It still brings on the tears to look at that picture. Does one dog know when another is dying? I definitely believe Tipper Emily did!

We miss our Maxwell tremendously. And, Tipper Emily is still looking for him around the house and yard. I don’t think she’ll ever admit it, but I think she secretly liked Max!


Remembering Golden Retriever Cracker

Award winning rescue dog dies
By Gavin Lonergan, Mourne Observer

AWARD-WINNING rescue Dog Cracker has died in Newcastle, at the advanced age of 14, after a short illness. The golden retriever, who had lived and worked with his owner, rescue dog handler Neil Powell, was specially trained for disaster work and helped locate survivors and victims of the Izmit earthquake in Turkey in 1999, which killed over 45,000 people.

Mr Powell told the Mourne Observer that the death of Cracker would leave a “big gap” in his life. He said: “I’d had him from he was eight weeks old, having gone over to England to collect him and his brother specifically.

“Cracker was a very special dog. He’d had a sore leg for the past three weeks and the vet told me it was broken and the calcium had been eaten away by the cancer. “But not once did Cracker let on, or growl or complain. You would not have known. He was that type of dog. “He will be greatly missed,” Mr Powell added.

The Search and Rescue Dog Association (SARDA), of which Mr Powell formed the northern branch, described the dog as one of the “heroes” of the Turkish earthquake in 1999.

A statement said: “For his untiring heroism during the rescue effort with the UK Search and Rescue team, Cracker was awarded the PDSA Gold Medal Award for Gallantry and Devotion to Duty. “He had to endure six months of quarantine following that deployment but had since been involved in many search operations throughout Ireland. He was also later awarded the Golden Borneo Award Gold Medal in 2000 for his heroism.

“A real gentleman of the doggy world, Cracker will be sorely missed by us all but especially by his owners, Neil and Kate Powell.”

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Here is an article of Cracker’s earlier work in Turkey.

Rescue worker speaks of Turkish ‘horror’
UK: Northern Ireland, BBC News, August 23, 1999

A search and rescue volunteer back from the Turkish earthquake has been describing the scenes of horror in the disaster zone. Dog-handler Neil Powell from Newcastle in Co Down searched wrecked buildings at two villages in the Instanbul area with his dog Cracker, a golden retriever.

Neil Powell: “Everybody was dead.” He said: “It was just devastation, it was absolutely dreadful.”

Once there, hopes of helping to find and rescue survivors were quickly dashed. He said: “Where we were, everybody was dead”.

Like some others he was critical of building standards in Turkey which he believed had contributed to the death toll, now feared to be as high as 40,000. “The builders were cutting costs, making an awful lot of money. They were using sand from the beach as well. The concrete was just being scratched off.

“As a result of that my dog, who has now been whisked away to quarantine, suffered terrible problems with inhaling cement dust from the work.”

Mr Powell and Cracker are part of the UK-based Canis organisation which trains rescue dogs for work in disaster zones all over the world. After their latest assignment the pair face being separated for six months as a precaution against importing rabies to the UK.

He said it was “very tough” on both him and the dog and he hoped that special arrangements might be made for rescue dogs in the future.

Mr Powell said it was still difficult to speak about the scenes of distress as he worked with grieving relatives in an attempt to recover their dead. “I have been involved in the Lockerbie air crash, recovering bodies there, and in various other places, but this was the most horrendous thing I have ever seen.”

Click here to see a video of Mr. Powell and Cracker – “Life returns to normal for rescue worker.”

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

Jai and Randy Pausch, and their children Logan, front left, Dylan and Chloe.

Jai and Randy Pausch, and their children Logan, front left, Dylan and Chloe.

On April 9th, we initially shared the post below about Dr. Randy Pausch. A professor at Carnegie Mellon University, he inspired countless students in the classroom and many others worldwide through his highly acclaimed ‘Last Lecture” (shown below). Sadly, Randy lost his battle with pancreatic cancer today, his being only 47 years of age. He died at his home in southern Virginia.

I had been following Randy’s blog where he posted various updates, but suspected there was something up when he had not posted in almost a month.

June 26th, 2008: Slow, but continued recovery — I continue to slowly recover. Chemotherapy has a cumulative effect, so it takes longer to recover the deeper one gets into this. Our current thinking is that more chemotherapy may not be wise; at this point, almost all potential chemotherapies may potentially make me so weak/sick that even if they were to slow the tumor, it would not be clear it would be the right tradeoff.

We are currently narrowing down some immunuotherapy-based apporaches that would presumably come with little or no side effects. More news as that proceeds.

Today, I found the following sad updates:

July 24th, 2008: The cancer is progressing — A biopsy last week revealed that the cancer has progressed further than we had thought from recent PETscans. Since last week, Randy has also taken a step down and is much sicker than he had been. He’s now enrolled in hospice. He’s no longer able to post here so I’m a friend posting on his behalf because we know that many folks are watching this space for updates.

July 25th, 2008: Randy died this morning of complications from pancreatic cancer. The CMU news story is here

For a great article on his life and legacy, read In Memoriam: Randy Pausch, Innovative Computer Scientist at Carnegie Mellon, Launched Education Initiatives, Gained Worldwide Acclaim for Last Lecture.

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Randy Pausch, the writer of the quote above in the title of this post, has just had his book published, The Last Lecture.

A lot of professors give talks titled “The Last Lecture.” Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can’t help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn’t have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave–“Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams”–wasn’t about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because “time is all you have…and you may find one day that you have less than you think”). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.

You can also learn more about this inspirational man by clicking here.

And, for Randy’s own personal day-to-day updates click here.

Below, you can actually experience Carnegie Mellon Professor Randy Pausch giving his now famous last lecture at the university Sept. 18, 2007, before a packed McConomy Auditorium. In his moving talk, “Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Pausch talked about his lessons learned and gave advice to students on how to achieve their own career and personal goals.

calling all angels — updated 3x

We originally published the following update from Carolyn Scott and Rookie on February 27, 2008

I have received so many emails of support and prayers I feel blessed. Thank you all for taking the time to write and keeping us in your thoughts. Rookie is doing GREAT! He greets me with a smile every morning as he leads me to kitchen for his breakfast. : )

As many of you know Rookie was diagnosed with a spindle cell tumor on his right leg near his elbow a few months ago. Since Rookie was about to turn 15 I decided to have my vet remove the tumor but I didn’t want to put him through any further treatment. My vet removed the tumor and I happy to report there is no sign of it returning.

At this time I decided to cancel my seminars and not schedule any others for awhile. I just couldn’t be away from home at this time. Then about a month afterwards, when I woke up, I found Rookie completely paralyzed in both rear legs. I was devastated and thought this was the end BUT Rookie had other ideas. I took him to the vet where she x-rayed and explained to me he had arthritis and some other problems that were probably causing the paralysis. Our floors are tile with very little carpet and he could not walk without falling. I decide to follow the vets recommendation and put Rookie on bed rest for awhile with meds to see if he improved. Well, by golly he perked up and was a happy camper every day during this. After a couple of weeks he was able to master the tile and even throw in a few spins.

I have to admit I have been depressed a time or two but I have realized that Rookie is happy every day. So I decided to live in the moment as he does and do the same. I feel I have been so blessed to have this extra time with my sweet boy. His attitude is amazing everyday. The other day I let him out to roll in the grass by the pool and the next thing I knew he got this wild look in his eye and headed straight for the pool. Rookie loves to swim but even in Houston thewater in a pool can be very cold at this time of year. I almost wasn’t able to stop him from jumping in. : )

Like I said, Rookie loves life and doesn’t realize he is 15 years old now. I am hoping it will warm up soon here and he can take a swim and once again enjoy one of his favorite activities.

Thank you all for your continued support and prayers. I cannot begin to express how much they have meant to me. Rookie will always be a eternal puppy with thoughts of freestyle, rolling in the grass, eating and swimming in our pool. He thinks everyday is his best day and I am trying hard to do the same.

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Sadly, I now have a new update regarding our beloved boy, Rookie.This weekend Carolyn contacted me to let me know that she would be helping Rookie to cross over to the Rainbow Bridge on Monday. She asked me to pray for her to have the strength and courage needed to let go.

Carolyn and her hubby Randy helped Rookie over the bridge at 3:00 yesterday. Today, Carolyn let me know that she was not up to writing anyone about this traumatic event. Her heart is breaking, and understandably, she is overwhelmed with feelings of sadness. She truly needs your prayers and support right now, and specifically requested that I link to the following video featuring the Jane Siberry song, Calling All Angels.

I have included the words to this special song below

Calling All Angels

Santa Maria, Santa Teresa, Santa Anna, Santa Susannah
Santa Cecilia, Santa Copelia, Santa Dominica, Mary Angelica
Frater Achad, Frater Pietro, Julianus, Petronella
Santa, Santos, Miroslaw, Vladimir and all the rest

a man is placed upon the steps, a baby cries
and high above the church bells start to ring
and as the heaviness the body
oh the heaviness settles in
somewhere you can hear a mother sing

then it’s one foot then the other
as you step out onto the road
how much weight? how much weight?
then it’s how long? and how far?
and how many times before it’s too late?

calling all angels, calling all angels
walk me through this one
don’t leave me alone
calling all angels, calling all angels
we’re cryin’ and we’re hurtin’
and we’re not sure why…

and every day you gaze upon the sunset
with such love and intensity
why it’s … it’s almost as if
if you could only crack the code
then you’d finally understand what this all means

but if you could … do you think you would trade it in
all the pain and suffering?
ah, but then you’d miss
the beauty of the light upon this earth
and the sweetness of the leaving

calling all angels, calling all angels
walk me through this one
don’t leave me alone
callin’ all angels, callin’ all angels
we’re tryin’, we’re hopin’, we’re hurtin’
we’re lovin’, we’re cryin’, we’re callin’
’cause we’re not sure how this goes

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UPDATE

This special montage is a tribute to the most unique 15 year partnership of Carolyn Scott and her beloved Golden Retriever, Rookie. Arguably, the most famous canine freestyle team in the world, Carolyn and Rookie’s love for one another has been cheering millions through the many clips that have circulated over YouTube since Dave Mintzer originally digitalized the famous routine from a videotape Carolyn had provided us several years ago. Little did we know that our posting of that video would bring so much joy to so many, actually even bringing soldiers in Iraq to tears.

Learn about our nonprofit foundation’s documentary film that is based on this special union.The film celebrates the human-canine bond and how it was critical in their overcoming adversity, given Carolyn’s polio and more. It is being produced for fundraising purposes by the Land of PureGold Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit providing cancer treatment grants for working dogs and funding research in comparative oncology, the study of cancers that occur similarly in people and companion animals.

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UPDATE 2:  JULY 23, 2008

To Rookie,
The only pain or sadness you ever brought me…..was the day you left me.

I miss you.
Carolyn

Because You Loved Me by Celine Dion

For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see
For all the joy you brought to my life
For all the wrong that you made right
For every dream you made come true
For all the love I found in you
I’ll be forever thankful baby
You’re the one who held me up
Never let me fall
You’re the one who saw me through through it all

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ‘coz you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

You gave me wings and made me fly
You touched my hand I could touch the sky
I lost my faith, you gave it back to me
You said no star was out of reach
You stood by me and I stood tall
I had your love I had it all
I’m grateful for each day you gave me
Maybe I don’t know that much
But I know this much is true
I was blessed because I was loved by you

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ‘coz you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

You were always there for me
The tender wind that carried me
A light in the dark shining your love into my life
You’ve been my inspiration
Through the lies you were the truth
My world is a better place because of you

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ‘coz you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

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UPDATE 3:  AUGUST 1, 2008

I want to thank each of you that sent cards, gifts, emails and called with words of sympathy and support for me and my family during this very difficult time. I especially hold dear your individual stories of how Rookie touched your life.

The pain of his loss persists but the thought of how special Rookie was to each of you continues to bring me comfort.

Carolyn Scott & Family

Remembering Therapy Golden Retriever Inker

It is a always a sad day when I learn about another one of our special Golden souls losing their battle with cancer. I just received this note from Doreen Rinaldo, one of the people who put together the “Friends of Inker” campaign to help raise funds for his treatment.

Hello Rochelle, I am very sad to report that Inker passed away today in the loving arms of Pat Dobson. Inker continued to make visits to the patients and employees at Trinitas Cancer center up until one week ago. The cancer just suddenly spread everywhere, and it was time to end his suffering. Thank you so much for the support and encouragement that you bestowed upon Pat and Inker. He was such a special, loving boy, and he will always be remembered . . .

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Here is an earlier post from only a few months ago when we were able to help in the Friends of Inker effort.

inker2.jpg
Inker receiving a chemotherapy treatment

We are so happy to announce that Inker is a recipient of our of our Foundation’s Working Dog Cancer Treatment Grants.

inker22.jpg This is Golden Inker showing off the shirt that he wears when he does his therapy visits to help human cancer patients at Trinitas Hospital in Elizabeth, NJ. It is obviously quite inspiring.

I simply love it. It is just the perfect way for Inker to show empathy. Mom, Pat Dobson, had a great idea when she decided to have this shirt created for her boy.

inkcin.jpgThis 9-year-old dude is from New Jersey and has been working at hospitals, going twice weekly for 2 years now, actually having visited nearly 900 patients. Sadly, he was diagnosed last month with lymphoma and is now receiving weekly chemo treatments.

I love the part near the end of the clip when Inker plants a wet one on Newscaster Cindy Hsu (the reason for her smiling face).

Click on Inker below to see a wonderful video clip of this boy in action.

Honoring Golden Retriever Belle

Thanks go to Tim Golan who just wrote to me.

Belle made it past her 17th birthday. Quite a story for a dog that was abandoned at nearly 9. I met her at an agility trial after losing my 14-year-old golden a few months earlier. I spent the day with her and took the pictures. This was in the summer of 2001. I still have her pictures and story displayed at home.

Around age 9 Belle was hit by a school bus, losing her left front leg. Her owners abandoned her; whereby Kris rescued her and taught her how to walk on three legs. In this video she is recovering from pneumonia and cannot walk. A vet contributed the wagon and a painter contributed the exquisite artwork. At nearly 17 years old, Belle was “eating hamburgers, hot dogs, cornbread with fresh blueberries, spaghetti, and grilled ham and cheese sandwiches”.

Belle was certified by TDI and Delta and labeled as an “awesome Team”. She gave much hope to hospitalized children who had lost limbs. They witnessed Belle hopping carefree through the halls and rooms and realized they were not alone.

Grieving family fetches son’s dogs from Iraq

peter540.jpg
Sgt. Peter Neesley holding puppy Boris

We learned about this story from author, Greg Mitchell, who has been pursuing stories about non-combat American deaths in Iraq. Greg is the esteemed editor of Editor & Publisher, the journal of the newspaper business which has won several major awards for its coverage of Iraq and the media. He has written eight books, his latest just published today: So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits and the President Failed on Iraq.

books.jpgIt is often said that a free press is the watchdog of democracy, insuring that the conduct of our leaders is examined with a critical eye. This makes Greg Mitchell the watchdog of watchdogs, his weekly column “Pressing Issues” over the past five years intensely scrutinizing the coverage of the Iraq war, the media’s views of the credibility of the Bush Administration, and such related topics as 9/11, the war in Afghanistan, and the CIA Leak Case.

Actually, back in 2003, Mitchell was one of the few mainstream journalists to question the grounds for war, this book providing a unique history of the conflict from the hyped WMD stories to the “surge.” It is a must-have book for anyone concerned with how we got into Iraq and why we can’t seem to get out.

kidss.jpg
This photo shows Neesley on a visit to his nephew’s 4th grade class in Grosse Pointe Farms, the school’s newsletter, describing it this way: “Sergeant Peter Neesley, uncle of Patrick D., visited Richard Elementary while home on leave from Iraq. Sgt. Neesley led the school in the Pledge of Allegiance and visited several classrooms answering questions from our inquisitive students. Thanks for spending valuable time with us Sgt. Neesley and don’t forget to write and keep in touch. Thanks to all the men and women in the armed forces. We are so proud of you!”

According to Greg, this is how the discovery began.

Peter Neesley died in his sleep on Christmas Day in Iraq last December but the dogs he rescued there live on, miraculously, back at his home in the USA. I’m proud to say that I had at least a tiny something to do with it. I wrote about Sgt. Neesley’s passing right after Christmas, both at Editor & Publisher (which I edit) and on my blog, when few knew about it. I also printed a photo of him taken recently with a group of kids at his old elementary school. The outpouring of response I received from friends (near his Michigan home and scattered) and family was incredible. Through their postings, many were able to get in touch with each other. He was clearly quite a young man, someone who hailed from a very well-off area who had a lot of other choices in life but joined the military.

But the story didn’t end there. It turned out that all of these people, and more, soon learned, from my writings or elsewhere, that Peter, 28, had saved and cared for a couple of dogs over in Iraq, and they were now in peril. So his family and friends, with the help of media and local groups, launched a campaign to rescue them, again, and bring them to the U.S.

dh.jpgAn AP story revealed: “In e-mails and phone calls from Iraq, Neesley talked about how he came across Mama, a black Labrador mix, and Boris, her white and brown spotted puppy, while on patrol in their Baghdad neighborhood. One of Mama’s puppies was later killed by a car, so Neesley and his friends built a doghouse to shelter the animals. Photographs show Neesley feeding the dogs and kneeling next to the red-and-white doghouse and Boris walking along the cracked sidewalks of Baghdad.”

iraqdogs540.jpg

After he died, “Still grieving, the family decided that they would honor Neesley’s wishes and try to bring the dogs home to Michigan. ‘To have something that they can hold and touch and care for that Peter cared about, that’s the whole thing,” said Julie Dean, his aunt.”

After four weeks of work, and the help of the Iraqi Society for Animals, the dogs recently arrived in the U.S.

Carey Neesley said her brother decided to re-enlist in the Army in 2005 after learning that one of his friends was killed in Iraq, leaving behind a wife and two children. Protecting others was part of his life, she said. “He didn’t want another young man who had a wife and kids at home to die,” she said. “He’s always had such a strong sense of family and protecting those who can’t protect themselves. Caring for a mother and her stray puppy, why would you ever think to do anything else?”

My own small role concluded when the well-known Banfield Pet Hospital office in Portland, Ore., contacted me saying they wanted to offer free lifetime care to the two dogs, at one of their local hospitals in Michigan, and asking me to put them in touch with the family. I contacted Julie Dean and last week the offer was accepted and announced. Peter, at least, would be happy about this.

ira.jpgYou can also hear a 4 minute NPR “All Things Considered” Feb 19th report with Sgt. Peter Neesley’s sister, Carey. In this AP photo by Paul Sancya, Patrick Neesley is petting Boris as his mom, Carey, holds him after arriving in Grosse Pointe Farms, MI, from Iraq. She has indicated that the dogs are slowly adjusting to their new environment.

Neesley says both Mama and Boris are “very sweet and very mild-mannered dogs,” but Mama is used to having to protect her pup, as well as her food and territory. “So we’re just kind of trying to ease her into the fact that she’s safe and sound here, and nobody’s going to hurt them,” Neesley says.

The dogs also have to adjust to the Michigan winter. “They’re not used to the cold and especially not the snow,” Neesley says. “I have to carry the puppy out in the snow; he will not go. He goes to the bathroom right away and wants right back in the house.

“I think they’ll adjust. You know, right now, their coats are very thin because of the weather in Baghdad. And I think, you know, [once] their coats get a little bit warmer and they get used to it, they’ll be OK, but I think right now it’s a shock.”

Neesley says the family is thankful for all the help they got with the dogs. “They’re tremendous dogs, and we are so fortunate to have them and so grateful to everyone who played a part, down to the soldiers who were caring for them on the base, you know, making sure they were safe and fed until we could get them,” she says.

The family still keeps in contact with those soldiers, Neesley says. “There are two in particular … who were very concerned about the dogs’ welfare, and were very close to Peter, and we exchange e-mails,” she says. “I think part of what we’ve learned from all of this is that there are so many good, kind people in this world. There really are.”

Memorial for Government Police K-9 Golden Retriever Austin

We recently brought you the story of Golden Austin, and now have updated information about a “Celebration of Life” memorial that will be held in Austin, TX on March 6th.

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imageWhen the AKC has announced the winners of the first Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE) in 2000, Golden Retriever Austin, owned by Officer Jim Minton, of Austin, Texas, was their Search and Rescue recipient.

A classic Cinderella story: A bedraggled stray is turned in to the Greater Houston Golden Retriever Club’s rescue program and, after a few twists of fate, becomes an honored search-and-rescue dog. Austin’s inspiring story culminates in his work at the site of the Texas A&M bonfire collapse that killed 12 people and injured 27 others.

According to his handler, Officer Jim Minton, Austin was one important working Golden.

Austin has been on overseas assignments three times and one trip involved us being evacuated out of the region by the U. S. Customs and DEA air wing. This was after thugs had placed a $30,000 price tag on Austin to kill or kidnap him. This is nothing unusual. Drug dogs working the border often face the very same threat.

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Austin himself was found and rescued as a puppy from the woods east of Houston, Texas, by hunters. He was then turned over to a Greater Houston Golden Retriever Club’s rescue program , where Texas Hearing and Service Dogs purchased him and provided testing and training before donating him to the Austin Police Department in January 1999. Austin has since been trained to rescue people. On

October 28, 2000 Mayor Kirk Watson proclaimed that date “K-9 Austin Day” for the City of Austin. On November 11, 2000 Austin was inducted into the Texas Animal Hall of Fame.

Austin was certified in Tracking, Cadaver, and Chemical Biological Detection. After Jim retired from the Austin Police Department, where Austin was on the job from 1999 to 2004, he and Austin began working at the Federal Level specializing in Chemical-Biological Detection (2004-2008). Jim Minton, a Senior Law Enforcement K-9 Handler/Instructor and Senior K-9 Chemical-Biological Specialist for U.S. Govt. and U.S. Military Response only.

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A Very Sad Ending
Police K-9 Austin died on February 16, 2008 in his loving handler’s arms. He had been rushed into emergency surgery due to having developed bloat, and managed to survive the procedure. However, shortly after waking up his vitals deteriorated and as Jim so desolately said:

Austin looked at me, wide awake and alert, took a deep breath, exhaled, laid his head down, I kissed him, monitors started sounding, and Austin left this cruel world.

Jim has indicated that there will be a special police K-9 memorial service for this 10-11 year old hero. And, he shared this heartfelt message with me on February 21st:

Rochelle, thank you so much for the kind words. I don’t know how much more of this excruciating pain I can endure. I know other people hurt just like I am when they loose a Golden. So I’m not doing the “poor me” thing. But Dammmmm this is killing me. He and I were together for more than 10 years nearly 24 hours a day / 7 days a week.

I’m sure Greg and Carrie haven’t told you, but they have been absolutely totally 100% percent sweethearts. They trusted me enough to allow their Golden “Pippy” to come home with me the night of the day Austin died. Pippy slept in bed with me and was spoiled rotten for nearly 24 hours. The only stipulation was, I had to bring her home the next day. I called the next afternoon and tried to convince Greg that they said just bring her back next year! LOL But he was too slick and caught on! (Actually my friend called for me) My voice would not work from my crying so much.) I must tell you, I had already planned on staying in a hotel room that night because the pain was just too much when I tried to go home. However, Carrie and Greg being considerate and giving as they are, allowed me to sleep in my own bed with a very loving Golden.

This was so sudden and unexpected. Running and playing just 24 hours prior to his death. I must tell you, At one time, 3 veterinarians and 7 vet techs were working on Austin all at one time. They fought to save his life for nearly 18 solid hours. You can only imagine the tremendous invoice! No big deal as I say. It’s only money. They were given unlimited financial authority and CPR was authorized during surgery of needed.

I just found out today that the U. S. Department of Defense is sending a flag that was flying in a war zone in Iraq the day Austin died. A couple of guys I helped with on some special training just prior to their deployment managed to make this happen. They both petted on Austin throughout the entire 2 weeks of training. Another flag is coming from a U. S. Embassy overseas where we were assigned for a short time on a specific assignment. In short, Austin has a following. Hell, I should have run fro President when he was around. But, even though it’s getting exciting, it does NOT bring my baby home.

You can learn more about Austin’s story at his page at our foundation’s site. Just click here.

Honoring SAR and Chemical-Biological Detection Golden Retriever Austin

imageWhen the AKC has announced the winners of the first Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE) in 2000, Golden Retriever Austin, owned by Officer Jim Minton, of Austin, Texas, was their Search and Rescue recipient.

A classic Cinderella story: A bedraggled stray is turned in to the Greater Houston Golden Retriever Club’s rescue program and, after a few twists of fate, becomes an honored search-and-rescue dog. Austin’s inspiring story culminates in his work at the site of the Texas A&M bonfire collapse that killed 12 people and injured 27 others.

According to his handler, Officer Jim Minton, Austin was one important working Golden.

Austin has been on overseas assignments three times and one trip involved us being evacuated out of the region by the U. S. Customs and DEA air wing. This was after thugs had placed a $30,000 price tag on Austin to kill or kidnap him. This is nothing unusual. Drug dogs working the border often face the very same threat.

tog.jpg

Austin himself was found and rescued as a puppy from the woods east of Houston, Texas, by hunters. He was then turned over to a Greater Houston Golden Retriever Club’s rescue program , where Texas Hearing and Service Dogs purchased him and provided testing and training before donating him to the Austin Police Department in January 1999. Austin has since been trained to rescue people. On

October 28, 2000 Mayor Kirk Watson proclaimed that date “K-9 Austin Day” for the City of Austin. On November 11, 2000 Austin was inducted into the Texas Animal Hall of Fame.

Austin was certified in Tracking, Cadaver, and Chemical Biological Detection. After Jim retired from the Austin Police Department, where Austin was on the job from 1999 to 2004, he and Austin began working at the Federal Level specializing in Chemical-Biological Detection (2004-2008). Jim Minton, a Senior Law Enforcement K-9 Handler/Instructor and Senior K-9 Chemical-Biological Specialist for U.S. Govt. and U.S. Military Response only.

aaafc.jpg

A Very Sad Ending
Police K-9 Austin died on February 16, 2008 in his loving handler’s arms. He had been rushed into emergency surgery due to having developed bloat, and managed to survive the procedure. However, shortly after waking up his vitals deteriorated and as Jim so desolately said:

Austin looked at me, wide awake and alert, took a deep breath, exhaled, laid his head down, I kissed him, monitors started sounding, and Austin left this cruel world.

Jim has indicated that there will be a special police K-9 memorial service for this 10-11 year old hero. And, he shared this heartfelt message with me on February 21st:

Rochelle, thank you so much for the kind words. I don’t know how much more of this excruciating pain I can endure. I know other people hurt just like I am when they loose a Golden. So I’m not doing the “poor me” thing. But Dammmmm this is killing me. He and I were together for more than 10 years nearly 24 hours a day / 7 days a week.

I’m sure Greg and Carrie haven’t told you, but they have been absolutely totally 100% percent sweethearts. They trusted me enough to allow their Golden “Pippy” to come home with me the night of the day Austin died. Pippy slept in bed with me and was spoiled rotten for nearly 24 hours. The only stipulation was, I had to bring her home the next day. I called the next afternoon and tried to convince Greg that they said just bring her back next year! LOL But he was too slick and caught on! (Actually my friend called for me) My voice would not work from my crying so much.) I must tell you, I had already planned on staying in a hotel room that night because the pain was just too much when I tried to go home. However, Carrie and Greg being considerate and giving as they are, allowed me to sleep in my own bed with a very loving Golden.

This was so sudden and unexpected. Running and playing just 24 hours prior to his death. I must tell you, At one time, 3 veterinarians and 7 vet techs were working on Austin all at one time. They fought to save his life for nearly 18 solid hours. You can only imagine the tremendous invoice! No big deal as I say. It’s only money. They were given unlimited financial authority and CPR was authorized during surgery of needed.

I just found out today that the U. S. Department of Defense is sending a flag that was flying in a war zone in Iraq the day Austin died. A couple of guys I helped with on some special training just prior to their deployment managed to make this happen. They both petted on Austin throughout the entire 2 weeks of training. Another flag is coming from a U. S. Embassy overseas where we were assigned for a short time on a specific assignment. In short, Austin has a following. Hell, I should have run fro President when he was around. But, even though it’s getting exciting, it does NOT bring my baby home.

You can learn more about Austin’s story at his page at our foundation’s site. Just click here.