Dutchess, not again…

Picture this, you’re sitting upstares in your office and hear your wife cleaning up the kitchen after dinner.   Clang, crash, clink, and I ask myself “wonder what she is doing.”  She has got to be moving the refrigerator and doing some major cleaning, but we’ve only had a light dinner, and then the light came on in my brain because I have been here before… Dutchess!  

As fast as I could navigate through the dogs near me, who by the way thought I am playing and try to run interference, so it was a struggle.  There she was, face looking down but her eyes looking at me.  There she is backing up trying to pull “My” food with her, and she knew, really knew she was in trouble.

Not Always...
"Dutchess” I shouted, but she never batted an eye the whole time but kept chewing and looking but only faster as I got closer.  Just about the time I was in arms reach, she took her last bite and walked away.  “Suger,” I said (not really) how could you do that again.  With every ounce of brains, I can’t seem to control her food antics or control her food.

Dutchess is not skinny by no means, she looks heavy, but she has a lot of hair and her waist narrows where it should, but can she be that hungry?  Lord only knows, and she has been like this her whole life trying to get that extra piece of kibble.  We only feed the dogs in the kennel because they sleep in the house.  On many occasions, after being let out of her “pad,” she will go to each open door just to check if they left a snack for her.

After eating the things in the kitchen and doing a little research, I knew what I had to do.  I grabbed the bottle of peroxide and a 20 gage syringe minus the nettle.  Elaine and I walked toward the kennel, and usually, Dutchess follows us, but when she saw what we were carrying, she turned around and went the other way.  “Dutchess – come”  nothing, but we had to put her on a lead. She knew what was coming.  Once all of us were in the kennel, she went to the corner, but she was lead back to me, and the deed was done. 

 It happened with much fussing and holding, and she even bit the end of the syringe off.  Dutchess seems to be immune to this, and it doesn't always work which once led us to ride her around in a hot car which did the trick.
We were successful this time, she expelled all the things that needed to come up, but it wasn't without a fight.  What I will never understand is that she will never learn and how strong her drive to counter surf is.  The other thing that amazes me is that the next morning, she gallops up the stares and buries her head in my lap, licking my hands and face and giving “me” sugar like nothing happened at all.  She must be looking for a snack…   Ken

It’s Time to Tell the Story…

On April 6, 2008, our first litter of Border Collies that was ever born on the farm arrived.  Molly and Clancy bred on Valentine day in 2008, and I knew the pups would be filled with love just like their parents.  Abbie, which was from that litter had a very rough start and was returned to us just a few months from a family that didn’t know how to care of a Border Collie, and we got to keep her for a week and love on her until another home could be found.

8-15-2008, her first return to us, bath time.
We found her another home with kids to play with and many things to do where she would be in heaven, and she was.  Nearly a year later, we got a call about Abbie.  A family situation had come up, and they could no longer keep her.  Everyone’s hearts were broken because they loved her so much, it was unavoidable.  Several days later, Abbie was back at the farm and fit right in.  That first night, I was laying on the bed and talking to Elaine.  Abbie jumped on the bed and laid down close to me.  In just a few seconds, she scooted herself into my arm and put her head on my chest and licked my eyebrows.  Elaine watched and said, “She is your dog, you know that don’t you?”  “I do now, and she will never leave,” I said, and she was here until she left this world.

Abbie was always playing, running and spinning in circles.  She was full of energy and zest in everything she would do.  She loved ball, Frisbee and would find things for me to throw and set them by my feet as I walked, even moving.  She loved to play and would place the ball in front of the mower as I cut grass and would also stand beside the discharge and wait until I got off and threw it.

On a day in November in 2015, I found multiple knots around Abbie's neck, and I suspected the worse.   The following Tuesday, I made a journey along with a trip to Louisville with Abbie.  The road trip only lasted for part of the day, the mental trauma will last my lifetime.  Abbie had inoperable stage 4 cancer and was dying.   Everything was confirmed at the Oncologist’s office in Louisville from a complete exam along with many tests.  Since my “hunch” something is “just not right,” my life has been and is upside down at the very least.  I would never have expected a dog in her prime, full of health and energy fall to such a devastating disease but I soon found out I was wrong, so very very wrong.  

The following morning, I couldn’t sleep and got out of bed.  I called Abbie, and off we went walking through the woods at 4 am.  There was little or no moon, but the wind was slightly blowing through the tree, and it was dreamlike.  She led the way to her favorite spot at our lake, mostly because of it’s one of her play areas.  This time, she walked onto the dock and waited for me.  I sat down on a step, Abbie curled up into my lap and licked my face.  I cried like a child most of the time, and she stayed by my side wondering what was wrong, trying to fix me in her own way, little did she know, I was trying to fix her but I couldn’t.

The one thing I wanted for her is that she at least one more summer so she could play in the lake which she loved.  We decided on a plan of action which included chemotherapy and tried to get her immune system to respond and fight, and it did.  When she was checked after a long round of Chemo, she was in remission… we had some time.  All I wanted was it to warm up so she could play in the water.  As summer approached, she was ready, and for nearly 30 months, she was free of the disease.  I wondered if they made a mistake, somehow.  Little did I know, it came back with a vengeance… Abbie’s Vet always said it would, but I didn’t believe him.

In the first week of April, just 3 days before we were leaving to go out of the country for 3 weeks, I noticed Abbie didn’t eat her morning breakfast for last few mornings, Abbie never skipped a meal.  She gets two supplements for her immune system flown in from Australia which was important.  As a precaution, I took her to the Vet for bloodwork and a recheck the next morning.  She ate snacks at the office and acted typically, and her physical exam seemed normal, but the blood work would tell.
That evening, Abbie seemed unsteady at times and even stumbled down the stares.  It was a long night, packing for our trip kept us busy but I was worried.  The next morning she followed me but was still unsteady on her feet, and the Vet called.  “The cancer is back in full force, she is in renal failure, and her organs are shutting down, and her calcium level is through the roof.”  I knew it was terrible, but it will get worse.  Elaine was at work, and I called her and told her it was time to let Abbie go.  I called a friend for a ride and waited for her, giving Abbie everything she wanted, but mostly it was love and attention.  Abbie still wanted to be with me and would struggle to walk, and in just an hour, she was down, she couldn’t walk with her back legs. 

I knew there was a task to do and I had to do it, her grave needed to be dug.  She couldn’t walk so I carried her and placed her on top of Clancy’s grave.  Five feet away she watched me as I dug.  Every shovel full of dirt was both a physical and mental burden, but I kept going.  When it was finished, I carried her to a pallet on the driveway that I had placed for her.  I laid down beside her and with what strength she had, she scooted up to me and put her head on my chest, and licked my face as she always had, but this time she licked away my tears. 

When my friend pulled into the drive, as all the dogs usually do, they ran to greet her, and little Abbie tried too, but this time she was dragging her back legs, something I will NEVER get out of my mind.  I quickly scooped her up and carried her to the car.  Elaine met me at the Vet's office, and as we said our goodbyes.  I kissed her nose one last time holding my face to hers and took her last breath.  Abbie was gone, she had crossed over.  After enough time and everyone was cried out, It was time to take Abbie home to the farm.  As I rode in the passenger's seat, I held her like a baby and stroked her fir and held her tight.  When we got home, I ask my friend to please understand but “please leave.” Which she did.  I took her to her new home, placing her on the blanket along with her favorite Frisbee and even a ball.  I brushed her, cutting some hair to be placed with Clancy’s, kissed her one last time and lowered her.  As usual, the dogs were around and watched but being on their best behavior.  Abbie was placed behind Clancy, her Father and will be next to Molly, her Mother when that time comes.

Abbie's last photo, she is sitting on Clancy's grave, watching me
Abbie was the only dog that I was first and last to touch in their life, I was there at the beginning and until the end.  The rest of the day was a fog, and I really don’t remember what happened after I buried her.  As odd and silly as it may sound, I didn’t want to take a shower at the end of the day but did.  My face had her saliva on it where she licked me and when we were riding home, as pets usually do, her blatter released on my lap through her blanket and that was the last physical remains I had of her.
She is sorely missed, and things have changed dramatically with her being gone.  No-one brings me a ball or Frisbee and my bed is a little less crowded.  Everything has settled down a notch, and I don’t get my face washed as much.  I am so grateful that we had the time we did and as the Vet once said, “Everyday is a gift.” And it was…   

Daughter and Dad, together again
"Hey Dad, I'm home" "I knew you were sick and when you were coming, and I waited," said Clancy  "I sure miss the water, and my Frisbee" Abbie said.  "Come with me, you've never seen anything like this"  Clancy said, and as they walked toward the sun, Abbie whispered to her dad, "Will he be Ok, he was so sad, and I loved to lick his eyebrows?"  "He'll be fine, we'll see him soon."

As I said when I wrote Clancy's story, I do this not to make you sad or feel sorry for me, I write to help me heal and remember once again, Rest in Peace my little Abbie Dabby Doo...  Ken


Image result for reath of flowers for memorial day

All of us will “go home” at some time, it’s inevitable.  I remember when I was a kid, we drove for what seemed like days to visit my Mom’s family in the country for “Decoration Day,” which is also called Memorial Day.   It was an annual trip that we took to decorate the graves of family members that had passed before us.   As kids, we had such a good time, and it was a whole weekend of fun, excitement, and things I had never seen before.  There were 13 children in my Mom’s family of which my Mother was the youngest. We were the city folk side of the family, everyone else lived near the homestead.  We would drink out of a well, ride cows and even ride on a drag on the back of a tractor through the fields.  

When we would visit, we would stay at Aunt Maggie’s house because it was the only home that had indoor plumbing, something that I took for granted at our own home.  On Sunday after decorating the graves, we would gather at the homestead for the giant potluck/pitch in dinner.   I remember that if we needed to “go,” we had to go to the “barn” to do our business, which as a kid, I thought that was pretty cool.  All in all, it was a great weekend, and I got to see my many cousins and play in the fields and get dirty.  We always brought home fresh eggs and homemade butter, something my Dad said always reminded him of his youth when he was a boy.

Several weeks ago, and with the help of Google Earth, I went back home to the farm my mother grew up on, and sadly, everyone had passed-on some time ago.  Not knowing the address except for RR2, I scowled the location from a satellite.   Low and behold, I found it, I saw the farm, and I was thrilled.  Things had changed and my mind flashed back to when I was 12 years old.  I will always remember the well that we got the water from by dropping a rusty galvanized bucket down a hole and cranking it up for some cold, clean water and going to the bathroom in the barn.  When I expanded my Google Earth search, I also visited the graveyard where we went to decorate the family graves.  With the technology today, I was at the very spot and could even rotate my view to see the graves of my family.  There is no one left to have a reunion, and it’s sad, and my visit was bittersweet, but I did enjoy it and the trip down memory lane.

Abbie and Clancy
As for this Monday, Memorial Day, remember to honor the men and women of our armed services who gave everything for us but remember our past pets too and the funny, cute and loving way they loved us.  Take a minute to look into your present dog's eyes, stroke their fur and assure them that they are everything to us because someday before we know it, it may be too late, trust me, I know...  Ken

How did this happen?

This was something that just crept up over time, and it has gotten worse over time.  It started years ago when we would put the dogs up for the evening and when it was time for bed.  We were lucky enough to have a kennel with heat and air that always had the best interest of the dogs in mind along with their comfort.

Molly wanting in
I do know how it happened and it was Elaine’s doing.  Every night we would keep several dogs inside with us and while the others slept comfortably in their own area.  They had food, water, heat/air music and even a monitor.  This worked well until it was Elaine’s time to put them up, we would take turns.  When she came inside, the dogs followed her back in, and I ask “what happened?”  Making perfect sense in her mind, she couldn’t decide because of their sad eyes.  “I couldn’t do it,” she said, and I usually agreed, but it changes our household in several ways.

JoJo found her pillow
I would say that our house is dog-friendly, almost too much in a couple of ways and it started nearly five years ago.  As a rule, it’s not a problem or concern, and they all have their spot.  Dutchess is on the table or begging for food, Doc is checking Shepp out and following him around.  Meggy is under my desk, and Molly is in “her” bed.  JoJo and Dahlie love their human beds and run to get their “spot.”

Guess who
Everything has developed into a routine.  Every morning, Elaine will sit on the couch in her bedroom with Gabby who will go back to sleep with her, and they will ponder life and snooze.  I’m an early riser and take the dogs that want to go out, but most will stay on the bed waiting until Elaine gets up.  Night time is always a piece of cake and rather than saying “let’s go to the kennel” not it’s let’s go to bed.  The dogs will separate, and half will go with Elaine to her bedroom, and half will stay with me where everyone finds their space, and I will tell you, the beds are full. 

At least I have a little room
Many changes have taken place doing this, we have a vacuum cleaner on all three floors which is frequently used, but someone needs to tell Elaine you have to empty it.  You don’t go up or down the steps with things in your hands because they will try to race you to see who is first.  You shut the bathroom door when you’re visiting, and you don’t eat with Dutchess, offering her anything or she will be in your lap.  When you get a bedtime snack, you make sure you have enough for each dog who will form a semi-circle in front of you and watch every bite you take and many other things.

This is what it's about
Dogs can change your life for the better or make it worse, and I have looked the other way several times, but there is nothing better than to sit with a dog next to you or sleeping on your pillow at night.  I wouldn’t have it any different…  Ken

Getting knocked down...

Most of us run into adversity every day, and at times we deal with it, but sometimes it’s not so easy to deal with.  I have experienced this first-hand many times seeing it in my dogs and in my personal life.

As most of you know, Doc is going blind.  To see him, you would never know it because he still gets around and does the things he wants to do.  He has such a pure heart and is full of love.  I’ve said many times that Doc will love you until he knocks you down, which is true.  I have noticed some subtle changes in his behavior and things he does because of his blindness, but he seems to muddle through which I have been told he would learn to do. 

He can see in the daylight much better than when a room is dark.  Just last night, when I sat the remote for the TV down, they jumped up and ran to the door because they think they are going outside.  Doc jumped up too, but he ran into the wall.  He got up, shook his head and repositioned himself and got back on course, which he made.  Sometimes life is like that, and you need to reposition yourself when you get knocked down, it’s hard, but usually, it’s a lesson well learned and not forgotten.
I’ve seen this all the time with most of our dogs.  You watch their ways and see them adapt to changes.  My pack is getting older, and Molly and Dutchess are approaching 13 years old, and it is showing.  Mollie does the best at getting around now, and where Dutchess would be in every activity, I see her now sitting and watching as things go on around her, she has lead a pretty hard life.

But what do you do and how do you deal with life changes?  My take is to treat them unique in their separate needs.  With Doc, he seems to need more company with me and all of the pack.  Where once, he loved to be outside and hang on the porch, including sleeping outside, he has changed.  Now, he wants to be inside and even sleeps on my bed every night.  If he’s on the porch by himself, he will now bark to come inside and will lay by my feet.

Several days ago, I was outside just with Doc.  I was cutting the grass he was in heaven, not because of the mowing, but because he was free.  He would run circles around the house and always end up back where he started.  His hair was flowing in the wind, and he seemed to be smiling as he was running, even stopping to cool off in the lake.  He had quite the day.

When you get knocked down by that wall, get up, shake your head and reposition yourself and at times, it’s hard, but you’ll be stronger for it, I know...  Ken

Our Trip...

As I sat on a plane traveling west at 40,000 feet over Ireland heading home and while sitting next to a window, I pondered my life and Clancy and Abbie.  I took another kind of journey several years ago, and while it was in the works, I never sensed a thing, much less ever thought it ever possible.  The view from the window was speculation but gave me a sense of smallness in a vast world, making me feel so incompetent in a world of wonderment and how small we really are.

Late last year, some friends of ours moved to England and purchased a house in the charming town of Great Malvern.  It has been well established for a thousand years or more and is full of history.  Our friends also own two of our dogs, Xena a Daughter of Clancy and Molly and Jack a Grandson of Clancy.

As we were looking for a vacation for the fall of the year, I came across a transatlantic cruise that was traveling to the Azores, Ireland, France and finishing in England.  When our friends were leaving the states to go to England, goodbyes were said, and the statement made “if you’re ever in England, come and see us.”  I laughed inside knowing it would never be possible, timewise or financially or so I thought.

The 1st of April, fate had its way.  All the cards came together, and we booked the trip, how did this happen? No way could we swing a 3-week vacation in several foreign countries much less travel in areas we never knew about, finding someone to watch the dogs, Elaine’s work schedule and getting someone to care for Elaine's aging father, it's not going to happen, but it was not my decision.

Abbie had been in remission from her cancer for 30 months and was doing great.  In fact, just a week from our departure date, I posted that she had had a birthday and how well she was doing, but in following three days, she had passed.  She was buried here on the farm just two days before we left for vacation.  Going through the usual customs that we do for our dogs when they cross, I brushed her and clipped part of her hair and collar and placed it in safe keeping.

As we left on the trip which was very timely, I took a small bag that was only aware to me of its purpose and knew what I needed to do.  I kept this secret to myself not because I didn’t want Elaine to know, I just couldn’t talk about it, and I would embarrass myself trying, I’m very emotional about my dogs.  Just a few days before the cruise ended, early one morning, I went to the salon and had my hair cut.  For some reason, I had been determined to let it grow since early last year.  When in the chair, the stylist was surprised I wanted it cut and ask several times, “you sure?”  My only request is to keep a braid of it. And I did for my mission.

After settling in at Malvern Hills and deciding what to do while we were there, I also requested a trip to British Camp which was very close to where we were staying so early one morning we were off on my mission.  The day was vibrant, and in the early morning, you could see the beauty before us, even telling our host, “this is spiritual,” and it was.  After hiking through switchbacks and looking at the sights, we finally climbed to the area that was meant just for us. 

Our host knew what was coming and she laid back giving me plenty of distance, and I took out the small bag that contained the hair of Clancy, Abbie, Oreo, Elaine and myself.  The wind was fierce heading directly due North toward Clancy’s birthplace in Selkirk UK.   I took out the fur, smelled it one last time, kissed it and released it watching it travel to distant places.  It was very bittersweet, comforting, and I felt my heart tugging again.  I watched their fur sail into the heavens while it was carried long distances.  After I was finished, I turned into the northbound wind turned my face to the heavens and wept like a child, I miss them so.

Jack and Xena with me.
During every vacation since Abbie got sick, we have had a plan in place for her in case she got ill while we were gone and never needed it.  Abbie’s birthday was just a week or so before our departure, and again we worried, we were on borrowed time. Only three days before we were to leave, I had blood work done, and she got a clean bill of health but without the results which were due the next day.  I knew something was wrong even before the Vet called and he confirmed it.  The cancer was back.  Abbie went downhill very quickly, faster than any dog I have ever seen.  Later that day, she crossed the bridge to be with her dad, Clancy.  It's only fitting that Abbie traveled with us to England, you see, her heritage is also from the United Kingdom too.

British Camp has it all; a 365-degree view of all of the surrounding territories and heavy in history.  It has had castles, Romans, battles and has been fought over by many cultures but today it is owned by the public, never to be changed and space to walk your dogs where sheep are allowed to graze on the hills.  It also has the fur of Clancy, Abbie and Oreo which is always present in spirit with the greats of history that is there. 

It’s hard to leave some things behind, and as we were leaving England at the train station, our host said “I will visit,” and I know she will.  I took my last look toward then and felt that I left part of me too.  I don't know why I am so passionate about the dogs, and I'm sure you have wondered that also about yours.  They give so much and need so little, but when their bright fire burns out, nothing shines as brilliant, and it's not replaceable and never will be.  Do I believe in fate, Maybe if things happened once ever so often, I don't know, but in my world, I see it all the time through my dogs and the rescues we deal with.  Everything came together for this trip for a reason...    Ken

I'm Free...

I was born nearly 4 years ago, and as soon as I was old enough to be on my own, I went to a house in the country far away, I was free from my litter mates and sharing my food, but I was free to explore my new world.  I was with a man who was not so nice and tied me to a post in the yard with plenty of chain.  I saw the kids getting on the bus and later that day, I saw them come home.  They were having so much fun running and playing, and I loved to watch, but I had to guard my little house and couldn’t leave, at least that's what I thought.  I even got to sleep in it, it was nice except when it rains, I kinda got wet and cold.

Several Summers and winter came and went, and I was taken from my chain and went for a car ride.  This was my first one, I was free.  I went to an inside cage in a huge building where lot’s of dogs were barking.  They were all unique, and some would go away together after being there for a few weeks.  Some man would hang a big “X” on their kennel door in the morning, and by afternoon they would find a new home because they never came back, they were free, but I had new friends to bark at that very afternoon.

Sometimes I would lose my balance and fall over, and when I would come to, I didn’t know where I was, but things would clear up, and I could walk again.  I saw the Doctor, and he would give me some pills, and then I didn’t do it as often as before, but I remember I would shake a lot and run in place on my side.  They said I had seizures.
“Heartworms” I’ve never heard that word, and I heard from the friendly people who were talking next to my cage, the people who would feed me my food.  They were looking at me but seemed very sad.  Maybe someone was sick but and the next few days were a whirlwind and I got to see the Doctor again.  The man with the cards with the big “X” was walking down the aisle.  “Pick me, Pick me,” I said, “I want to leave I want to be free, I’ve been here almost 4 months, Pick me!” 

I had to go to the dog hospital and got a couple of big shots in my back, something about that Heartworm word.  It hurt, and no one would let me run and play but then I never really knew how to do that, but I wanted to try.  “Where am I going, I didn't have an "X" on my door?” I wondered when they put me in a car driving me to something called Indiana.  The lady that took was so lovely, I miss her.

Oreo with friends at the farm
“WOW,” I said when I got out of the car.  No cages, lots of room, trees, fields and LOTS of dogs to play with.  I can play, play with other dogs on grass all I want to, is this heaven?  I’m free!  I slept in the house anywhere I wanted to and even went outside and walked and explored everytime I wanted to, but this was short lived because a GREAT home with my buddy Jessee was waiting for me and we played. 

Oreo with Jessee
We had so much fun, and they took such good care of me, I was free, what I always wanted, but I got very sick.  Going to the dog hospital I had so many seizures, and I was so hot because my temperature was 106 and in a coma, I was lucky because some dogs don’t make it when it gets that high.  When I came home, I was confused, I didn’t know where my doggy door was, and I didn’t know where I was at times, I needed special help.  I even became mean to my best friend Jessee, I couldn't help it.  I wasn't as free as I once was, my mind was foggy, and I couldn’t think.  

Elizabeth, my friend in my new home, was so much fun, they were with me all the time and could take care of me.  Life was good until one day it happened, I don’t know why but it did, and I don't know what came over me.  I couldn’t think, and my mind went blank I couldn’t function.  I went back to the farm.

I met my old friends and got to see my human friends and slept in the bed again.  The next day, we drove to the Doctor, I remember being hugged and loved on, things are fuzzy and confused but a face I have seen many times was right next to my face, he was always at the farm.  I heard the words "I love you" I shut my eyes, and I was free… Thank you!

"I know you, I smelled your smell at the farm, have I meet you?”  “Only in spirit until now, I’m Clancy.”    "Am I in heaven?"  

Oreo and I went to the Vet I once worked for in Louisville.  She rode on the front seat, and I rubbed her head and body the whole way down.  She was put to sleep in my arms, and I was with her until the end, I stroked her face and hugged her through it all.  I brought her home, and she rode next to me again.  She is buried here at the farm just a few feet from Clancy,  Ken…