Home is where your Dog is…

On September 7, 2009 a little red/white puppy was born in Kentucky and on October 24th of that same year, his “official” name-tag was ordered before he came home but his name was changed from “Ringo” to “Shepherd James” and it's after me, just like “Clancy James.”  
Shepherd James at his breeder
On November 6, 2009 “Sheppie” came home forever, I thought…
In June of 2011 on the 6th day of the month, as a car pulled down our lane, I sat on the steps of our back porch and held Shepp and cried like a child.  
When the man, who was a retired military officer got out of the car, he stopped and waited for me to compose myself which took longer than I thought, but he understood and waited.  My life had been devastated.  Here is an email I sent out just a few days earlier to my dog people…

It is with great sadness that I write this email..... Beyond our control, we need to find "Shepard James" or "Shepp" (to most of you), a forever home. After much thought and trying every way to make this work, it just won't. Let me explain. Several years ago, we wanted to expand into Red dogs. After we picked up Meg, we needed a suitable mate for her. After much Internet searching and phone calls we found our perfect dog, which was Shepp. Since that time, we have been trying to have Red pups with no success. He would do the deed, but it never took. Last week he went to a fertility specialist in Kentucky and the results were heartbreaking, he was sterile. This is not the problem, we would gladly keep him if that was the only issue. Because he has no testosterone, he is at the bottom of the pack and is getting picked on. It has started a little and it will get worse as time goes on. Even the girls will dominate him. The only solution is to find him a home where there are not so many hormones running around all the time. He can be with other dogs just not so many, and my wish would be that he would be with another one of our dogs, so that is why I am only letting all my dog owners know.

I am not looking for just a home to take him, I am looking for a forever home to love him. If you know me, you also know I am passionate about my dogs.
There has been a lot of thought and discussion at home about this and it is not an easy decision. The hard decisions never are...I love him too much not to let him live his life in peace.
This photo was taken 10 minutes before he went to his new home
Shepp went to his new home and I was left to think and I did.  In my heart I knew I was wrong.  I received a lot of support but several people weren’t so kind and nothing could be said that I didn’t know.  It was the worst decision I have ever made and I beat myself up relentlessly and still do at times.  On November 20, 2011, Elaine and I went to see Shepp at his new home and here is the last paragraph of that blog…

After some good conversation, it was time to go, I just felt it. We all walked toward our car except Shepp. Oh how I wanted him to jump in the car, but he didn't  He stopped with his owner and sat down next to him, just inside the garage and I swear I saw Shepp lean into “him” as if saying to us, “I’m OK, Thank You Dad”.
At his new home during our visit
As hard as it was to leave, I’m happy because Shepp is happy. Goodbye old Friend, I’ll never, never, forget you……I will tell you, it was a long trip back home. Give your dog a hug, we hugged ours, that night……every single one of them, except Shepp...

I never did forget him and even said goodbye to him in my Christmas blogs every year and I knew I would never see him again.  I pestered his owner with emails, some never returned, but I selfishly wanted to know more which was unfair.  I found an old email that had a cell number and I called, and his owner answer.  My heart raced but I need to know he was OK.  They were great and he was moving the family to a southern state to take care of family.  Shepp was going even further, my little Sheppie would be gone forever and I knew it…

An email, July 13, 2014…
I know it's been a long time since we've been in touch.  Shepp is doing well; however, we are not.  Last November we had to move due to family’s health.  We find ourselves in the position to find another home for him.  The weather down here has been an issue for him (he hates the heat!) and the daily thunderstorms are wreaking havoc with his nervous system.  We loathe having to give him the tablets the vet said to use.
We have come to this decision with VERY heavy hearts and of course you all were are first thought.  Please let me know as soon as possible if you would be able to take Shepp back into the fold.

As fast as I could, I hit reply, “Yes” I said and three days later, I was meeting a man that I was three years earlier.  A person who couldn’t speak without a whimper, but I understood so well and waited.  His life had been devastated.  As I looked inside his vehicle, my little Sheppie wagged his tail, picked up his squeaker ball and walked to me putting his head on my chest.  I said “I’m so sorry” Very few words were said because they didn’t need to be said.  His basket full of toys were with him and we went “home” but a retired detective and career military man were in tears.
One day later, his new name tag was ordered and when I pulled his records up on the computer, his old one were still there and I just re-ordered it and a new kennel plaque is in the works.  It’s funny how life works out at times.
Clancy and Shepp
Things are good now because Clancy and the girls have been neutered and spayed and the young ones pay no mind to him except to play…

Thanks to the owners that took such great care of “both of our dog,” Shepp ,and I will forever be indebted to you and your family for loving him and sending me the email.  Sometimes things happen for a reason and people come into our life and help each other with something we don't understand.

Many years from now...

“Hey…who is that?” someone said at Rainbow Bridge “Shepp, I thought your earthly owner was here with you!”  Shepp spoke up, “I’m one of the lucky ones, you see, I had two families that loved me with all their heart”…as he pranced to greet them with his squeaker ball…

Notes and comments from friends…
Good things always come to those who wait and I know there are more good times to come and when things come full circle it was meant to be.
…Shepp left yesterday and I am just beside myself.  I think what bothers me the most is that Shepp has never done anything wrong.  This was my only choice.  We tried so hard to make it work, but it wouldn't. 
…He must have been a great friend. Always ready to do what YOU wanted. Always trying to make YOU happy.  Well, you have done something to make HIM happy. He may even develop some protective instincts for his new family left alone to his own devices.
…Time is a mysterious cure for these situations. Just when you think you can never recover, something happens with a loved one that brings you out of your introspection and sense of loss. I have made my peace that I’ll never get over losing my border collie. My memories of her are like a collection of rare art. At any time, no matter where I am, these memories can be summoned and I’ll go on a little tour of part of our life together. Shepp will be in this place for you. Plus you can still see him if that is what you want.
Something tells me he would meet you at the end of the driveway.
… Before Shepp left, we spend time together and just did guy things.  I would look into his face and it killed me a thousand times.  When the family came to get him, as always, Shepp ran to them, just like he knew them.  I broke down and cried like a child, but I didn't care.  It was truly the hardest thing I ever did.  Last night when I was putting all the dogs up, I called the dogs and most went in as they always do and I couldn't find Shepp, and then I remembered.....At times I feel like my heart will explode, 
I do know it was the right decision, but it sucks.....

An post I never thoght I'd write,
Welcome home Sheppie…  Dad
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So Near...

So Near…
Does it ever stop?…This past Monday, I was getting ready to take Annie to meet Elaine for Annie’s training, and as I was putting Annie in the back seat, Clancy and Doc were also wanting to get in the car and take a ride.  Because it would be a distraction for Annie, they had to stay home and watch the girls at home.  After telling and watching them to get back on the porch, I got in the car and slowly backed up.  After moving about three feet, I heard an awful yelp and felt a bump and KNEW what had happened, I just didn’t know who it was… As fast as I could jumped out of the car, I did.
After Doc’s Heartworm scare, he and I became buddies.  I guess I felt a little sorry for him because his life had been uprooted and has lived in three different states, but he was finally home.  He had fit in nicely and was part of our pack.  Just last week, “just the two of us” were playing on the driveway and I was also talking baby “dog” talk and he was jumping and prancing and giving me kisses.  I do this with all the dogs but this was the first time Elaine had watched me, and from the porch she said “You really love him, don’t you”, “Of course I do” I said, “he’s special, but I also do this with all the dogs” and that very night, Doc got to come inside and watch TV with us and lay on my lap and every night thus far, he expects to come in and he has.  He learned the routine and would jump on the couch and flop over, putting his palls up in the air with half of his 45 pound body on the couch and the other half on me.  I at least got the “head” end where he would drift off to sleep with his mouth open just a little, showing his white teeth and dreaming of great times.  I would rub his lips and brush over his face and he would be oblivious to my touch, but I was not, and it was very comforting to me.  Last week, and in just a few days, we bonded even more.  I don’t know why, except that in my heart, I feel sorry for him going through the pain and medication and not being able to run with the pack but watching from the porch and he was a prince about it while he healed from the Heartworm treatment.  It has happened thousands of times and many times it occurs when you least expect it, and the worst tragedy is when it could be a family member and he was…
As I first jumped out of the car my heart was in my throat and knew what to expect, I saw one of the dogs on the porch and as I looked back at the rear wheel, I saw blond hair on the driveway and knew…Doc had been run over.
As I looked around and even under the car, he had moved and when I looked toward the porch, he was quickly headed that same way.  “DOC” I screamed and ran toward him, “What were you doing?” as I touched and rubbing his chest and legs. His eyes looked normal and were reactive and no blood was visible, anywhere.  I extended his legs and checked for movement and breaks and saw nothing but several skinned spots, all in all, he was fine except a little scared.  I immediately gave him a Rimadyl and he took it for any swelling that may occur but he seemed fine.
Right after putting them on the porch before the accident, Doc decided to lay on the driveway and in just a few seconds, he was on a road to destruction for both of us.   At least 7 of our pups that have left and grown up have been hit by a car and killed, one even in the driveway by a UPS truck.  Dogs don’t experience fear like we do and we need to be aware of it and watch for them.  Was there something I could have done?  I don’t know, but I will tell you, I will give this much thought and plan a course of action.  Last year, My Vet was talking to me and he stated that he once ran over his dog.   Lord knows we’ve been lucky, Dutchess will run toward the cars that come in, once jumping on the car but usually looking for food inside and they all will swarm the cars that visit because they know they will get to play.

Later that evening, after everyone was put up, Doc was waiting on the porch because he loves to stay out, but this night, as I opened the back door, he pranced in and jumped on his end of the couch.  As I sat down on the other end, he walked to my lap and flop over, putting his palls up in the air with half of his 45 pound body on the couch and the other half on me with his mouth open just a little, showing his white teeth and dreaming of great times… and it was…

How lucky we are, I love you Doc…Dad…
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They Played Hard...

We've been around dogs for a long time and at times it seems just like yesterday and sometime a lifetime.  A lot of people enjoy the dogs and being around them but they never know the behind the scenes activity we can have.   This year has been especially busy with dogs that needed to be kept quiet and with BC's it's hard.  In the past, we have had our share of injuries and the one that really got to me, was when Meggie ran into several 6" 3/8 inch steel prongs on a fence right in front of me and collapsed, impaling herself on them.

As I sit here writing, I think of all the things they have gotten into.  Pulling a toenail out and that's pretty gross, lots of bleeding and nothing you can do, breaking a toe is a lot cleaner but requires a cast.  Surgeries are never easy, especially if they are not planned as most are not and it seems like I have been at the Vet’s office more after hours than when they were open, but at least, there is no waiting.  
It always seems like when an emergency comes up and I look at the clock, the Vet has been closed for at least 15 minutes.  Twice, I did get hold of someone in the office and said “I’m on the way” and they waited and I think they understand because that too is a Border Collie thing too.
As I said, this year has been especially busy with odd things that happened.  First, there was Clancy running and brushing his side on a stick, which required two surgeries.
Doc who had Heartworms and was treated, and just this very day, we are nursing Dutchess who has a large cut on her leg along with Meggie who is recovering from a hurt front paw from extensive running and playing.  

All in all, we have excellent Vet care and would trust our Vets impeccable but the problem lies in the recovery with all the dogs.  Clancy was restricted for three weeks, Doc for 10 weeks and Dutchess for who knows long because she was not stitched up and her wound will heal on its own which could be as long as 6 weeks or better.  This would not be as bad if we only had one dog but when we exercise the pack or play ball, the restricted dog can hear us and wants to join in.  It’s very hard to restrict them, especially when they don't understand what you're doing is for their own good.  They do get more attention by being in the house and sleeping on the bed nearly every night. 

If you have been through this, you know precisely what I mean but a lot has to do with the activity level they have.  If you have ever seen this herd of horses run over the dam or through the woods you would wonder why they aren't hurt even more because they are driven.  I once had a person watching our dogs play because he was interested in getting a border collie and after about twenty minutes, he thanked me for my time but decided not to get a BC, he didn't think her could put up with the activity.  They are non stopping, no slowing and preventing them to do the things they are bred and want to is very hard.  If you knows BC’s, you know they are driven in many areas, but when the mean old man puts the cone of shame on, the bandage on your leg, the fun stops…Sorry Dutchess… At the end of any day, they can say “We played Hard” and it shows...
Footnote:  I could be a millionaire if only I could invent something that they can’t get off their body and lick the wound…Ken

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A Thousand Books…

There are a thousand books on how to communicate with your dog and they all say the same thing in one way or another.  While I’m not getting into the book business, I can only tell you what works for me.  Elaine is taking Annie to  training and is starting to communicate with her and I know of a few other people that are also starting some training with their dog.
Again, I am not the expert but I've seen some pretty funny things.  I have told this story a thousand times and even in front of Elaine…She was in the kitchen and “ask” Clancy to go outside…”Clancy, let’s go outside…Clancy come here…Clancy…Clancy…Clancy…CLANCY don’t make me come over there and get you…”  I am upstairs and laughing under my breath at the debacle.  I walked over, leaned over the railing and said…”Clancy – outside” he nearly ran to the back door, right by Elaine.  I walked down with a smile on my face (I know better) and said, He doesn't understand and in short, too many words, wrong order and who is in charge?  Elaine is very good natured (whew) and after I explained it to her, it sunk in.  In some of the reading I have done on dogs, everything leads to usually one thing.  Who is in charge? 
Always watching...
Weather we realize it or not, we are part of their pack, are we in charge or are they?  I believe if you tell them “NO” they will try it again and again and if they get away with something one time out of ten, they rationalize in their mind that they won.  It’s like trying to herd cats or having a room full of two year olds.  Even with Clancy, I need to be vigilant and always make corrections.  He knows I am in charge and I can even give him the evil eye and he will bow his head and look away which is submission but that stubborn streak is always close.
Now the problem…in the pack of the dog world, there is one alpha male and one alpha female, the male being in charge.  In our unicorn, rose colored glass world, we want to treat everything with grace and respect but in the dog world, “they” want to be followers and need to follow us which makes it much better and easier.  Remember in the outside world, the strong is in charge and rules for the furtherance of the pack and species and in our world we should be the alpha in charge.  I remember once going to training and the instructor said to a student, “control your dog” a little confused she didn’t know what to do and the instructor said, “you're in charge, not the dog” and it sunk in.
All dogs want to be the leader, it’s in their nature.  It’s nice when someone takes care of us and provides us with guidance and security and in the dog world, it’s the same but the alpha needs get the respect.  Once we establish our role, theirs falls into place, but we must establish it and hold it.  Remember in the animal world, someone always tries to buck the system and the leader needs to re-establish on a constant basis, we are in their world, not them in ours.
A reserved and shy dog was once staying with us and it was hard to crack her shell.   We were in the family room and one of my dogs misbehaved.  When the correction was made, the reserved and shy dog jumped in my lap, which it had never done.  Why? Because she felt secure and safe, the pack was now established to her and she was no longer confused.  
Most women allow the dogs to control them and I always believe it’s their loving nature, but they can be taken advantage of too.  Usually, if Elaine calls any of the dogs, it’s 50/50 if they will come and if I do, they know they need to obey.  It’s not a man or woman thing it’s a control thing.  We have a female friend that has several BC’s and she is in total control and the dogs mind impeccable, and it shows and the dogs are a delight to be around.  Nearly everything the dogs do is for a reason and to check on how far they can push it.
Remember, it’s a safety thing, you don't want your dog to bolt out the door or get itself into a situation that it can’t control and it depends on you to protect it, just like the alpha of the pack.
Remember, I am not the expert but this works for me, get a good book, read and control and put on your big boy/girl voice.  Life will be so much easier on everyone.  If the correct order is established it’s something they want and need.  I have said it many times…” Someone will be in charge and it does not need to be the dog”  Ken

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Father of our Breed...

With the passing of Father’s day last week, I wanted to mention a special salute to the founder of what we know today as the “Border Collie” and yes, it’s a little late but I thought of it on Sunday afternoon.  Some dog breeds can be traced back to ancient times for thousands of years but the Border Collie as we know it, can be traced back to 1894.   The Border Collie as a breed didn't exist, according to Cimmiekris Border Collies and Shetland Sheepdogs, until a Northumbrian farmer (Northumberland is in northern England, on the border with Scotland), Adam Telfer, crossbred two types of sheep dogs in 1894 and the “father” of our breed was born in September of that year from Hemp's mother, Meg, who was a quiet and very strong-eyed black sheepdog, while Hemp's father, Roy, was a loose-eyed black, white, and tan sheepdog with a good natured temperament.  Unlike many modern border collies, Hemp was a tri-colored dog with only a small amount of white fur on his body.  
Old Hemp, September 1893 - May 1901
The Border Collie as we know it today is descended from Old Hemp. And his style was reportedly different from that commonly seen during his era, as he worked more quietly than other sheepdogs of the time. 
His owner, Telfer, was thoroughly impressed with the dog, once saying Hemp "flashed like a meteor across the sheepdog horizon. There was never such an outstanding personality."
Author and commentator Eric Halsell was also impressed by Hemp's skill, once said of the dog, "none who saw him work ever forgot him... Almost faultless in his work... he was born with such knowledge of his craft that he never required training and went to his work naturally.”   First following sheep at the age of six weeks, Hemp grew to have a great ability to herd. He moved sheep quietly unlike the louder sheepdogs of the era and was far more mild-mannered, although sometimes worked so intensely that he physically trembled and within a few generations his style had been adopted by almost all Border Collies, and became known as the Border Collie style.
Old Hemp got around, and he wasn't all work and no play. Estimates place Old Hemp's offspring at more than 200, due to his stud services being widely sought after and each of the 29 collies that won the Farmers Championship for sheepdogs between 1906 and 1951 were descendants from Old Hemp.
It was surprising that Old Hemp was this talented because his Father Roy was a good dog, but did not possess special talent for herding sheep.  His mother Meg was such an intense worker that she hypnotized herself instead of the sheep.
So you see, all of us that are owners of Border Collies are related in one way or another to a farmer in Cambo, Northumberland UK, a shining example of the breed and will always be remembered as the father of the Border Collie breed.  Our Clancy who Grandparents were born in Selkirk, UK is only 48 miles from the birthplace of Old Hemp.
Our Clancy James...
Most people do not know of Old Hemp but if you own a Border Collie, you are part of a family of dogs that came from good insight and a rough coated, tri colored Border Collie…Old Hemp…

Happy Belated Father’s Day…Ken
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Another Lesson Learned...

These past weeks seems to be the weeks of things learned around the farm.  Three the dogs learned a new trick and I learned a lesson too, and I’m sure I got the biggest surprise of them all.
I have more than one pet and in fact I have eight Border Collies and sometimes, things get lost in all the confusion.  What I am talking about is there is not always time, space and concentration to make everything jell together because of the activity that always goes on and there is just not enough hours in the day.  
Two weeks ago, we were playing ball near the water.  Keely, a guest dog wants to play and jump in, but she always had some hesitation in jumping off the dock.  Now, not all of mine will do this either, in fact only four of them will but hopefully, that will change from what I learned.  I decided to work with Keely, one on one, so early one morning after shutting all the other dogs up in the kennel we walked to the lake and was going to work on jumping.  
Keely's first jump
Usually I keep a Jolly Ball and several tennis balls on the dock just in case I need to make a quick throw.  I picked up a tennis ball and she wagged her tail and I decided to throw it in the water in front of her and to my surprise, off she went after the ball and after all the hesitation for months she did it.  After swimming back to shore and bring it back to me, we did it again and again and I honestly think it’s because there was no competition or stress because of the other dogs.

Katelyn was staying with us for a week and she is a little over 3 months, she is Annie’s pup and was so much fun to watch.  While we were playing in the water, she would never make the lunge or get in.  We gently  sat her in the water, about 10 feet from shore and she swam to the side, we make no big deal of it and she seemed to like it.
Her first swim from the boat
The next day we did the same thing but once in, she didn't swim to the shore, she swam to another dog to play.  She is now a water dog.
Went to see Wilson
Early last week, after I was telling the owner of our Kacie about Keely, they ask “could we work with Kacie on jumping off the dock?”  After thinking about Keely and knowing that no other dogs were around to distract her, we did the same thing with Kacie.  
Kacie, from Annie and Doc
Her favorite toy is a Frisbee and they brought one to play with and after putting all the dogs up, off to the lake we went.  She was a little cautious but curious.  She would run up to the edge of the dock and back again.  At one point, she got between my legs and watched and as we put the Frisbee in the water just a few feet off the dock but right in front of her, I was getting ready to gently nudge her in but off she went by herself, grabbed the Frisbee and came back to us to do again.  Not wanting to push it, we moved the activity to the next day where great improvement was made.  By the third day, she is a champ and that is where I learned “my” lesson.
I will tell you, it is natural for them to get into the water but its how it’s done and if it’s fearful to them and the introduction is not gentle, it can have devastating effects.  I know some dogs where the owner have worked years and the effects are the same.
As all of this was going on, I remembered back to giving Doc his medication and while I had his full attention, I taught him to shake hands in just three attempts and now when I tell him to “shake”, up comes his hand ready for more.   Like children, each dog is different and need different things and attention.  I learned this and have started to give each one of them my undivided attention with their favorite toy and let them be themselves for a period of time.  This usually includes running and playing and focusing on one thing without any distractions from any others.  While it’s good to socialize them, they also need our undivided attention and we all will see a different dog.
Not often, but at least once a week Dutchess will adamantly want in the house for no reason, but “just because”.  Not taking “NO” for an answer she will jump, bark and reach for the door handle.  When I let her in the utility door, she will leap toward the swinging door, throwing it open and hurry her way through.  I have learned that she really doesn't want anything but just to be inside and have attention and usually curl her 50 pound body in my lap and we're both in heaven but she wants individual attention which she gets.

I have learned that I want to do this and have this time just for “us” and not only do I share feelings about the dog, the dog shares with me and we both see a different kind of relationship.   If you have more than dog, make time for each, you might be surprised…While dogs are pack animals, they do want their own attention…trust me…Ken

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The Angels...

Several weeks ago, I received a message asking for help with an urgent plea about a dog that had been hit by a car.  I was included in a loop of messages that had been generated to reach out and grasp at anything or anyone that could help.  It’s usually begging, pleading, persuasion or any means necessary to help in the time of need.  We all do this in some form or another when we are passionate about a cause, and yes, we all have our causes that are important to us but to some, animals and the love and care for them is their passion.
The real heroes are the ones that fight for a cause, for someone or something and usually “what” they are fighting for doesn't have a voice or can’t speak.  A cause is taken up and a stand is taken for what they know is right, to do the unthinkable for someone or something.
In the message, someone found and dropped off a dog at a clinic that needed emergency treatment.  It was found injured on the side of the road and at least they brought it in for help.  No one claimed the dog and it’s not sure if the dog was a runaway, stray or someones family pet.  Because it was a holiday weekend, everyone was getting ready to celebrate Memorial Day and the staff was pretty thin but a call went out for help.  It was serious and an “expert” was needed for a dog that was in great pain.  People were contacted, care was given, x-rays were taken but a special surgeon was needed and that couldn’t happen until the following Tuesday.  
Very serious breaks, compound fractures
It was heartbreaking to watch this story unfold in messages in the private group.  A plea went out to everyone involved who may know someone that could get in touch with a bone doctor but nothing seemed to be working and none were found.  The heroes stayed at the clinic and worked with the staff making the dog as comfortable as possible until the special help arrived.
The right decision is always the hardest decision and as things got worse someone had to make the right decision, which was not good, because of the serious injuries and the great pain the dog was in.  Something that most people don’t think about is the anonymous staff, the rescue people, the complete strangers, and the techs that get involved, also feel the pain and  shed  tears over situations just like this one and will again.  
Someone lost a great Border Collie that day and we'll never know if he was a stray or a pet. We do know, he was loved and cared for by new friends and a new family that he had just met.  They are the heroes that were with him until the very end…when it really counted, doing everything they could for a dog in great need.  
“Gabriel” was the name they gave him and he was laid to rest with most people not knowing  where he is buried. His owner doesn't even know.   I only hope the last thing Gabriel saw were the rescuers' face that loved him, if only for a short time and he was able to feel the gentle hand of comfort that touched him for the last time as he closed his eyes for the final time.  
Gabriel, before he left for home...
People do this because there is a need, someone has to pick up the slack, but make no mistake they are the unsung heroes, with hidden wings, that make our race "humans".  Because of the unseen goodness they do, I am proud to know them.
“Hey…who is that?” someone says as they all  gather together at Rainbow Bridge, as the new human arrives.  “I don’t know their name" Gabriel shouts, "but I remember  they helped me when I was hurt” and it was revealed that the person was the rescuer that did everything in their power to help…and then, many more animals came forward because this same rescuer helped them too…strangers no more...and the circle is complete...

It takes a great love to help a person or a dog that can’t help themselves. Thanks to the Angels that helped Gabriel… May you meet your Angel at the Bridge…God Speed Gabriel… Ken
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