Heartbreak Times Two

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

It’s never easy to say goodbye to a beloved family member. For many of us, the loss of a dear four-legged “kid” is as heart-wrenching as any human loss. You may wonder why I haven’t been authoring my blog for so long. Here is a large part of that reason.

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Our Darling Dolly

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It’s incredibly hard for me to even think about this, let alone write about it; but I’ll give it a try.

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Dolly

You’ve read about our Dolly girl in several previous posts. Without reprising all of that, I’ll give you a synopsis of how Dolly came to be with us.

We really weren’t looking to adopt. We had Bear and Sydney who had established a relationship over almost three years of living together. Bear had driven poor Sydney (who was a senior when we adopted her) a little crazy with his youthful shenanigans, but they had reached a comfortable status quo. Bear was a couple of weeks shy of his first birthday when we adopted him and Syd was a senior, but it worked. Sadly, though, Syd was slowing down quite a bit and Bear really needed someone to play with. Syd wasn’t a viable candidate for that anymore.

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Dolly – The Face I Couldn’t Resist

One evening I was reading posts on Facebook, when up popped the photo of the most adorable, fluffy, white, German Shepherd Dog I’d ever seen. Jim had always said he would like to have a white GSD female sometime. Here was the cutest face on the planet and she was coming to Michigan. I knew in my heart that she absolutely must come live with us. She would be the white female Jim had wanted and the playmate Bear needed.

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Dolly’s Intake Photo

I put the wheels in motion. I started writing to Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue (the organization that she was coming to all the way from California). I went to their website and filled out all the paperwork. “Dolly” (as she had been named by the rescuers in California) had been pulled from a high-kill shelter by an organization called Miracle GSD Network.

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Dolly Pappas – Day One!

After the Miracle Network checked over our application and followed-up with our references, we were approved to adopt Dolly. Sydney, Bear, Jim, and I piled into the car and drove to meet Dolly. Everyone got along beautifully, and Dolly became part of the family. Honestly, though, she was already firmly in my heart.

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Cinder

 

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Cinder at Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue

As you probably recall from previous posts, we adopted Cinder from Southwest Michigan German Shepherd Rescue in 2014. (See previous post “Cinder(ella?)” She had come to the rescue in exceedingly poor shape. She was nothing but skin and bone and her toenails hadn’t been trimmed in ages. Basically, she was a mess. Kristin at SWMGSR immediately went to work to get “Sinder” healthy. She called us as she knew we had experience with adopting seniors and had recently lost our most senior girl. Would we consider taking on another senior?

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Cinder’s Poor Feet on Intake at SWMGSR

After the requisite spaying (and – in this case – nail trim), we rode out to meet “Sinder” with our Dolly (who had been adopted in April of 2014) and Bear (adopted July of 2011). Everyone seemed to get along well, so we signed the paperwork and Cinder (immediately changed her name to match her coloration) came home with us.

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Bringing Cinder Home

Changes and Challenges

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Happy Days – Cinder & Dolly at Miracle/SWMGSR Reunion – Summer 2015

Sometime in the fall of 2015, we noticed that Dolly seemed to be “dragging” her front feet a little. She still would run, but she seemed to knuckle under frequently. Our vet thought it was possible that she had banged her shoulder into the dog door and was experiencing some weakness due to some minor nerve damage. He also cautioned, though, that we might be dealing with Wobblers’ Syndrome if she didn’t improve over a little time.

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Dolly in Doggles for Cold Laser Treatments

My earlier blog posts went into great detail about Dolly’s challenges with Wobblers’ and her brave struggles.

Life has a way of throwing hard, curve balls at you. How you respond to adversity sometimes tells you more about yourself than when things go well.

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Earlier this year, Cinder started a swift decline. Her mobility became very compromised. She had difficulty getting in and out of the house. Walking for her was exceedingly difficult. She was obviously in quite a bit of pain. She didn’t even want to eat. We tried everything the vets recommended, but Cinder was telling us she was done. With a great deal of sorrow, we allowed our big girl to end her pain and suffering and go to the Rainbow Bridge in peace.

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Only a month later, our Dolly dog started to experience very similar problems. Her Wobblers got to the point where she was unable to control any portion of her mobility or her internal organs. We tried helping her with a sling – which worked for a while. Within that short time, though, our Dolly gave up. She couldn’t be coaxed to eat anything. (Dolly had always been such a “chow hound.” Undoubtedly, this was due to her tough life on the streets of California before she was rescued.) She wouldn’t even try to rise. I still get a huge lump in my throat and my eyes tear uncontrollably when I remember the sad, pained look of surrender in her eyes. Once again, we had to make the decision to let her go.

It’s never easy to lose a family member. To lose two in the space of a few short weeks is almost too much to withstand. Our poor boy, Bear, was very sad and confused; but we know that he had an even better sense of the degree of the girls’ conditions and illness than we did. Letting them go was the hardest thing to do, but it was also the ONLY thing to do. Allowing them to suffer was never an option. Cinder and Dolly will always have very special places in our hearts. We will miss them until the day comes that we join them again across the Rainbow Bridge.

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Leave a Reply” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about.

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

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Life is Short, Live in Dog Years

Life is Short, Live in Dog Years

I will be back soon. We just lost two of our precious dogs (Cinder on Feb. 2 and our darling Dolly on March 29). This story is wonderful, touching, and beautiful. Please enjoy. I did – through my tears.

Ruffwear Blog | News, Events & Adventures

Life is Short, Live in Dog Years

Story and Photos Contributed by Ruffwear Ambassador Mallory Paige, in loving memory of her adventure pal, Baylor the Dog.

I used to say a dog’s short life was the hardest part about making them your best friend, but now I know it’s actually the biggest gift. My dog, Baylor, taught me that.

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For 12 years, Baylor and I did everything together. As a tiny puppy he followed me from room to room, unable to relax unless we were snuggled up together. He went on his first road trip at just 11-weeks-old and was irreversibly convinced he was the size of a chihuahua.

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He wasn’t perfect, and that’s what I liked about him. Years of never getting into anything were intermixed with moments of gobbling down an entire carrot cake, shredding a wicker wastebasket and methodically eating an entire rock garden.

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He was an…

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Chasing a Dream: Runaway Wildcat – How It Began

Chasing a Dream: Runaway Wildcat – How It Began

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Runaway Wildcat – The Dream Who Came True

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

Anyone who has known me or followed my blog for a while knows that horses have always been an extremely important part of my life. I’ve often said that when one is born in Kentucky, the very first inoculation is one which ensures love of horses and bourbon. The love of horses kicked in very early with me, and some of my earliest memories are of horses – most specifically, thoroughbreds.

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Me with Alysheba – Lane’s End Farm – May 1989

Without completely rehashing earlier blogs, Jim and I spent a few years in the thoroughbred breeding and racing business. While we loved the horses and everything about being around them, the business end was not kind to us. As I’ve often said, “If you want to make a small fortune in horse racing, start with a big one.” Let’s just say, it didn’t end well.

One of the brightest spots about loving horses is that you can meet some of the most wonderful people on the planet. (Yes, the flip-side is true, too, but we will focus on the good.) One of the best people I’ve ever known I met many, many years ago through the early days of computer networking – on Prodigy. My dear friend, Peggie, and her family became extended family of mine. We talked nearly every day on the telephone. She lived in the heart of horse country, near Lexington, Kentucky. Her love of horses and racing and mine dovetailed forging an amazing bond. She went through the many ups and downs of the horse business with us. She exulted with us over wins and cried with us over tragedies.

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Keeneland Inside Sales Pavillion – From Keeneland.com

In September of 2009, I got a call from my friend. She’d been battling cancer and had been quite sick, so it was something of a surprise to hear from her. She said she’d gone to Keeneland to go to the yearling sales hoping it would lift her spirits. I thought that sounded just like her. Go see horses (especially young ones) = feel better. She was actually excited about one she saw there. He was from Michigan! (We had moved to Michigan in 2003, and had been out of the horse business for many years prior to that.) The thing about this colt was that he had a nice pedigree – especially considering that racing in Michigan had become all but non-existent (and, sadly, still is).

She said he was so incredibly pretty, well-built, and kind. Her big hook was that he had three Triple Crown Champions in his pedigree. Citation, Seattle Slew, and Secretariat (THAT almost got me), along with a couple of descendants of Northern Dancer – the preeminent progenitor of thoroughbreds in the current era, all figured prominently in his pedigree.

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Didn’t I want to reconsider having horses? Didn’t I want her to buy him for me? I was laughing because my never-give-up friend was so excited about something. I assured her that owning a racehorse (especially starting with a baby) was just not in the cards. I did promise her, though, that I would keep track of him to the best of my ability. I wrote down his hip number (that’s how they catalog horses in the sale), his pedigree, who had bred him, and followed his sale (for $10,000 to a gentleman from California).

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Hip Number Example (NOT Runaway Wildcat)

In 2010, a 2-year-old horse named Runaway Wildcat started showing up as readying to race in California. Sure enough, it was the colt from the sale. Everything matched.

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Leave a Reply” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about.

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

Champ’s Story – Miracle Dog #306!

Champ’s Story – Miracle Dog #306!

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

 

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Champ with Santa 2016

 

This Beth Miller Erman’s wonderful story about her Miracle Dog, Champ. I love these stories and can never get enough. Champ’s story is especially powerful for me because he is Miracle Dog rescue #306. Our sweet Dolly is #307! I hope you feel the same. It’s especially sweet to share these wonderful stories of love and triumph during this, the Christmas season. Enjoy!

“I lost my first German Shepherd, a smart and loyal black-and-cream girl named Lindy, in July 2010. I felt like I had lost part of my being when she died. We still had my husband’s two dogs when she died (we are a blended family), but it wasn’t the same. She and I had made it through 13 years together. Well-meaning people would tell me about other German Shepherds that became available, but I wasn’t ready, but I knew that I would know when the right one came along.

 

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Champ on Yellow Blanket in the Park

That happened in mid-April 2014, when Serendipity German Shepherd Dog Rescue posted a photo of a couple of their rescues lying on a yellow blanket in a park. One was named Champ, and he had the classic GSD head tilt in the photo. As soon as I saw that picture, I knew he was the one. Serendipity was looking for a foster or adopter for him since he was in boarding at the time. By this time, we had lost all of our dogs and one of my cats, so I asked my husband if he would consider fostering Champ. He said yes, and we went to meet Champ at the kennel the following weekend.

 

Champ was very anxious when we met him and didn’t really want to be petted. He ran around the enclosed yard, and we played ball a bit. He was way too thin, missing some hair and needed some TLC. We were approved for adoption, and brought him home May 1, 2014.

 

My husband and I have had many dogs in our lives, but none of them were like Champ. High-strung and anxious didn’t begin to describe him. He reacted to every noise, every movement outside of the window, didn’t have very good leash manners, and was extremely reactive with other dogs. Even at a low weight, he was strong enough to pull me down. We couldn’t have people come to the house because he was so aggressive. We had our dining room chairs lined up in front of the front windows to keep him from going through them. I had to barricade rooms of the house to keep him from hurting my elderly cat. The whole neighborhood was afraid of him. After 10 days, we realized we were in over our heads with this one. We contacted a local dog training group that offered behavioral evaluations and had a one-hour evaluation. We were recommended for a class (appropriately) called “Dogs with Issues,” but it wasn’t set to start until fall, and we knew we couldn’t wait that long. We tried another trainer, but her style and Champ’s issues weren’t a good fit. The volunteers at Serendipity were always available for help and even came over to watch Champ’s behavior themselves and offer recommendations. We were pretty much at the end of our ropes when we learned about Casey Ray St. Louis Dog Trainers. One of the Serendipity volunteers who had helped us with adopting Champ suggested them, and we went to talk with Casey. Champ showed his true colors at the meeting, and we agreed that a two-week Stay & Learn, followed by weekly group training, would be the best thing for all of us.

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Champ with Beth! He Needed a Job

 

It didn’t happen overnight, but Champ is a very different dog than he was before we started training with Casey’s team. We have missed only a handful of group training classes in 2.5 years because he needs the structure and socialization. He is still reactive, but we are able to control him in those situations now, and it’s at a significantly lower level than all-out Cujo like he was in 2014. He is often the star of the class. We even did a 6-week agility class, and it was as if he was born for agility. He mastered it really quickly. To continue that, we take him to local playgrounds when children aren’t present and let him go up the climbs and down the slides. There is no playground he can’t conquer!

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Champ’s Chillin’ Now!

 

Emotionally, he has really come around. It took about 6 months with us before he wagged his tail, and probably 18 months before he would sit down next to one of us on the floor. He’s not much of a snuggler, but he does love to be petted and groomed.

 

If I could share one lesson from our experience with a rescued GSD, I would say to be patient. I was frustrated early on because I didn’t think he was catching on to things quickly enough, but I did not take into account his emotional scars. Once I realized that he needed to learn things on his own time schedule, build his confidence and learn to trust us and other people, it made things a lot easier. Looking back, it’s been such a joy to watch him blossom. He lets people pet him now, loves kids, especially toddlers, and is a happy, healthy dog. He’s not perfect, but he’s perfect for me. I’m grateful to the Miracle GSD Network for saving him and for Serendipity GSD Rescue for bringing him here for an opportunity for a new life.”

What a terrific story! Thank you, Beth, for sharing. It’s amazing what you’ve accomplished in such a relatively short time. We who have had the joy of having a Miracle Dog (or other adopted rescue) don’t know exactly where our dogs have been prior to rescue or what their lives were like. The best we can do is to give them time, consistency, and strong love to help them learn that their lives are forever changed and that they will never need to be afraid again.

 

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Leave a Reply” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about.

 

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!

Rejecting the Will of the People: Wolf Hunting in Michigan

Rejecting the Will of the People: Wolf Hunting in Michigan

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This is a real departure from my regular blog posts. I am doing so because I feel very strongly about this subject. I have gathered signatures. I have written and made phone calls – as have thousands across the state – to our supposed “representatives” and kept up steady pressure in the state. Still, the Michigan Senate has turned a deaf ear to the citizens of Michigan and have sent SB 1187 which authorizes wolf hunting to the State House for consideration. This Legislature is Fast-Tracking this legislation to benefit some very well-oiled outfitters and outsiders who have only a financial stake in a new hunting species.

I want to share my response to “my” Senator in Lansing regarding his vote FOR wolf-hunting in Michigan. For those of you who don’t know, the population of this very-necessary predator – which helps to maintain the balance of nature – is exceedingly fragile. The Michigan DNR’s estimates of our state’s wolf population have been steadily declining since 2012. There is no scientific justification for opening up this small population of an ecologically vital species to cruel and unsporting trophy hunting and trapping.

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From “Keep Michigan Wolves Protected” website

In the 2014 general election, Michigan voters soundly rejected two referendums on the trophy hunting and trapping of the state’s small population of wolves. And in late November 2016, a three-judge Appellate Court panel unanimously rejected an unconstitutional law that was rushed through the 2014 legislature to circumvent those citizen votes on wolf hunting.

Additionally, a federal court upheld a lawsuit by The Humane Society of the United States and other wolf protection groups, which charged that the 2011 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to remove federal Endangered Species Act protection for wolves in the Great Lakes region — and opening them up to cruel shooting, trapping, snaring, and even hounding by packs of dogs — was not warranted. Wolves were returned to federal protection, where they remain today.

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From: “Keep Michigan Wolves Protected” website

Even with the well-documented information above, the Senate of the State of Michigan voted to authorize the “Natural Resources Commission” (a political group with no scientific base) to set wolf hunting dates. Not only does this run counter to the expressed will of the populace, it runs against everything that science has been trying to convey.

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Here was my response:

Please convey to Senator Hune that I have grave concerns that he has become more concerned about being in lock-step with the party than listening to the concerns of his constituency. In my many years of following government and politics, I have found that those who maintain their seat without opposition tend to lose touch with the people they are supposed to be serving. I fear this is becoming the case for a man who went to Lansing as a young person who wanted to make a difference.

I am disappointed in his vote for this measure. It appears as though there is another power-grab in place to circumvent the will of the populace. Again, this will plunge the state into another debacle where Michigan will look anti-environment. This is very sad. For a state with the abundance of natural beauty to come out against the very wildness that makes it so appealing to many (and, not incidentally a very important link in the balance of nature) is counterproductive.

In Praise of Adopting Senior Dogs

In Praise of Adopting Senior Dogs

If you’re reading this in email or on Facebook, click on the title! It will take you directly to the blog (an easier viewing page.) If you’re already in my blog, WELCOME! (One more hint: If you click on any of the photos in the blog, they should open up in a browser window so you can get a better look!)

This amazing post was written by Tuesdi Woodworth, one of the founders of Miracle GSD Rescue. (Check them out on Facebook.) We have adopted two seniors in our over 20 years of welcoming rescued German Shepherd Dogs into our lives. We wouldn’t trade our time with Sydney or Cinder for anything!

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Our Cinder (adopted two years ago at age 8)

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Our girl Sydney (gone to the Rainbow Bridge) adopted at age 8

As Miracle GSD Network closes in on our 800th Miracle Dog Rescue, we are proud to say that approximately 100 of them have been age 7 or older. At the same time it saddens us. We wish we could help more of the seniors – but to do that we need to help people understand the joy of adopting and fostering them – these dogs are passed over time and time again, because “It would be too hard to lose them so quickly.”

November is “Adopt a Senior” month. Almost all of the rescues that Miracle partners with have seniors in their programs. Wonderful seniors that are just…..WAITING for a home. And waiting. And waiting. They (and WE here at Miracle) would love to help more of them, but they cannot do it without more fosters and adopters! Everyone always wants the rescues to help the seniors and they get emails and messages by the dozen about it. But how can we save more when they can’t find them homes? When they know they will be there for months and months, because so many people pass them over because they want young dogs. It is just….WRONG. We have to somehow convince more people that adopting a senior is a wonderful thing! Your time with them will be extra special, even if it is a little shorter. How do we convince you? We thought by sharing the story of Miracle Dog #00 – King – might help!

I am sorry that this is going to be long – this is something I am really passionate about it. Please, Please – take the time to read it! I hope that we can convince even ONE person to adopt/foster a senior.

First – All of us at Miracle GSD are so grateful to the fantastic rescues that we work with! They all do their best to help senior dogs when they can, but they all have the same problem…convincing people to adopt them. People want puppies. People want “young” dogs. The Rescues can’t save nearly as many seniors as we would like them to. They simply don’t have space. Seniors tend to stay at the rescue longer, most of the time they can only have one or 2 in residence – as they could be there for months until adoption. That space would turn over multiple times in the same time period with younger dogs. So – they have to be careful. Their hands are tied. When a senior dog ends up in the shelter, it rips all of our hearts out. Yours, too! We all scream for help, and beg rescues to take them. SO – we ALL want these dogs safe, and we all agree they are SO deserving. If that is the case, then WHY aren’t we all ADOPTING OR FOSTERING THEM? Obviously, there are some valid reasons people cannot help a senior. Maybe they have a dog that is not dog friendly and can’t take another. Maybe they can’t afford some of the medical care that might be needed – mobility drugs or that sort of thing. Maybe they live in a home with lots of stairs just to get into it. And of course there are other good reasons.

But do you know what we hear most of all as a reason? “I would take him if I could, but I just can’t do it because I would be too sad that they would leave me too quickly- I couldn’t take it.” Now THIS- this is NOT a valid reason. That comes from fear, and it is selfish. Harsh words, I know. But hey – I can remember saying them, myself a few years ago – so I get why someone uninformed might think that. (Boy was I uninformed, then!). Let me tell you my personal story.

I’ve had German Shepherds, raised from pups, for over 25 yrs. Also rescued greyhounds for the same length of time. A few years ago, when our greyhound passed, we went back to the rescue to adopt another – they had several available under 2 years old. We had a GSD pup at the time, our second, and he was about 6 months old or so. Well – we got there, and they brought out the first girl to see us. OH MY, was she sweet and beautiful. She was a lovely golden color, and so soft and sweet. She slowly ambled up to us, gave us kisses, and went to lie on a bed, I loved her! They said “This is Tillie. She was adopted from us, and her owner died, so she has come back. She’s 8 years old.” MY HEART SANK. EIGHT? I said, umm we said we wanted a dog under 2. He said, Oh – I know. I just wanted you to see her because we really need to find her a home. We will go get another, younger one. He left Tillie there, looking at us, while he brought out the next one. She was adorable, too, and about 2 years old. Fearful, and tiny. Typical greyhound rescue that had just arrived from the track. We will take her, we said. But we kept looking over at Tillie. This beautiful, soulful girl. We just could NOT walk out without her. So we took both dogs. What a fantastic dog Tillie was! We NEVER even thought of her as a senior – she was just a quiet, fun loving presence in our home. She was with us about 3-4 years when she took ill, and we were unable to save her. How I cried when she went, but I knew we had given her a great life. We still had the GSD, now an adult, and the other grey. It never occurred to us that we had done anything special – and again we never thought about her being a senior.

A few years later, my GSD Hobie contracted a fast spreading cancer. He was only 7 years old. The last GSD I had had from puppyhood had lived 14 years, and died of old age. I did everything medically that I could to prolong Hobie’s life, but he died at 7. The weeks before he died (and I knew the end was coming) we did a ton of stuff together, a bucket list of sorts, and the time was super special. I savored every minute because I knew he was not going to be there soon. It was awful when he passed. But I knew I had given him a great home.

So I found myself dog-less. Ok for a few months while I grieved. During that time, I started to see more and more German Shepherds on Facebook popping up needing rescue, mostly in California. I had NO idea this was going on! I am in Maine – we don’t have thousands of dogs in shelters. And a GSD in a shelter would be very rare. I was blown away by what was happening around the country, which until then I hadn’t been aware of! And amongst all those dogs were seniors. Sweet, elderly, beautiful dogs betrayed. I had been planning on getting another GSD pup….but…..the more I saw these dogs, the more I thought – maybe I should help a senior dog. It might be easier – I wouldn’t have to housetrain a pup, run home from work to let them out…etc etc. The idea kept growing, and I kept seeing more and more of them. So I decided. I WOULD do it. I would save an OLDER dog that was on death row! So I did – with help – save a senior dog that was euth listed from a shelter in CA. I won’t go into the mechanics of how that was done here to move the story along. I was so proud, and excited. I had to wait a couple of weeks for his transport, and I was telling everyone here at home about it, and they almost all were asking me “Why would you put yourself through this again! You lost Hobie just a few months ago, and this is an old dog! He won’t be around for long and you will be heartbroken again!” And I kept saying – I will be OK. I am doing a good thing for this dog. I am saving his life! I’d thought and thought about it.

So – King arrived. The shelter estimate was 10 yrs old, I believe he was younger. 8 maybe. He seems to be around 12-13 now. He’s slowed down but he is still pretty active. I’ve had him longer than I thought I would. Can I tell you the JOY that this dog has brought me? He bonded to me the second he saw me. That very day. Don’t let anyone EVER tell you an older dog won’t bond with you. Don’t let anyone EVER convince you that you can’t train an older dog. I’ve checked adoption apps and done interviews for rescues and I have had people tell me that they don’t want an adult dog because of those very reasons. I’ve had them tell me that they want to have a young dog to grow up with their children. I DO understand this, I DO. But how about teaching your children some empathy, too, around this important issue. Imagine bringing a senior into your home, and teaching your kids the value of that – having them grow up with that kind of compassion for older animals? You know how I said when my Hobie was dying, I had a few weeks that were very special with him? We did bucket list sort of things, and the time was super special. With King – we live every day like that since the day he got to me. Because I don’t know how much time he has left, so from the day he arrived – our time has been special! That is how it is when you adopt a senior! And King is responsible for saving HUNDREDS of lives himself, because HE was the reason Miracle GSD Network was formed – his story brought our group together! He started it all! We call him Miracle Dog #00.

Seniors give SO much, and you need to do SO LITTLE in return. Seniors are easy. They are grateful. They fit into most households and packs easily. DO NOT BE AFRAID! When I lost my first GSD at 14, I was devastated. My heart was broken. When I lost my second GSD at 7, I was devastated. My heart was broken. When I lose King, I will be devastated. My heart will be broken. BUT – THIS time will be a little different. There will be a SWEETNESS, too. He would have been dead 4 years ago, if I hadn’t rescued him. Didn’t he deserve those years? I know his last 4 years were better than the prior ones he had lived. And he would have died in a cold, unforgiving place after enduring the crappy life he had been served up – would that have been fair? Because he was old? NO – I gave him something, and he gave me – and the rescue community something. So THIS time – with the sadness will be the sweetness.

Adopting a senior is a joyful experience, not a sad one – you will NEVER regret it. I promise. I would, and will, do it again with no hesitation, until there are no more abandoned seniors being euthanized in shelters. Adopt or foster a senior! From a shelter OR a rescue! If you adopt or foster a dog from a rescue then you are giving them space to save another – you are saving a beautiful life! Please consider it – you can make a wonderful difference in the life of an old dog!

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The wonderful King – Miracle Dog #00

You can read more about Miracle GSD Network here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/310605105708097/

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Bourbon School

Bourbon School

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Being a Kentucky-bred, it’s only natural that I would have an affinity to two things – horses (and those of you who have read my blog over the years know that this is true of me) and bourbon. I’ve said before that I suspect that the first inoculation given at birth in Kentucky involves the development of love for horses and bourbon. While it seems that the love of the equine was immediate, the appreciation of bourbon took some time to acquire.

My heritage (as I have recently learned) is Scottish, and Scotch whiskey was the first brown liquor I developed a taste for. Part of my college education was in London, England where I learned to drink Scotch. It was an integral part of my education.

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It wasn’t until I was in my very early thirties that I decided it was time to learn more about bourbon. I was so incredibly lucky that my first foray into bourbon was on a recently-introduced, single-barrel bourbon called Blanton’s. Why was I drawn to this particular bourbon? Take a look at the bottle. Seriously! It was the horse and jockey.

Since both my husband and I have ties to Kentucky, we became very interested in the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. For those who haven’t previously heard of it, the Kentucky Bourbon Trail is a program of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association to promote the bourbon industry in Kentucky. (More about the Bourbon Trail – but keep it brief as it will be in a later post.)

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In early April, Woodford Reserve in Versailles, Kentucky held its “Bourbon Academy.”

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The Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby

Master distiller, Chris Morris, was the professor and there were roughly 30 eager pupils.

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Master Distiller Chris Morris

First, we learned a little about the history of Woodford Reserve. It was originally known as Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, but they began distilling whiskey in 1780 on the banks of a glorious stream. The water is so clear and so pure due to the limestone, it was a natural location to start distilling. The distillery building was erected on site in 1838. It is actually the oldest of all the distilleries in the area, although it was closed for quite a while. Brown-Forman bought the property in 1993 and refurbished it to bring it back into operation. The Woodford Reserve brand was introduced to the market in 1996.

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THIS is the water that makes Kentucky Bourbon GREAT!

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Oldest Building on Woodford grounds – with the barrel delivery system

We started out, by learning about charring the barrels. The amount of char on the inside of new, American white oak barrels is critical to the taste and quality of the bourbon which comes out. We did our own “char” by building a fire inside a barrel. It was a little too windy, but the visual was sufficient to give a greater understanding of how many different levels there are in making a really top-notch bourbon.

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Young Mash – Tastes like Breakfast Cereal

We got to stick our fingers into the developing sour mash. It was amazing the difference in the tastes between the new mash (like a bland breakfast cereal) and the final vat (seriously getting sour and looking on top like someone’s pizza). We saw the gorgeous copper stills and learned about how the process of successive distillations makes the clearest, highest quality distillate. Notice, I didn’t call it bourbon yet. At the point where it comes out of the still, it is just alcohol – or “white dog.” It’s the aging in the oak barrels that turns pure alcohol into bourbon and gives it all those marvelous flavor notes.

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Aged Mash (almost ready for distillation)

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One of Woodford Reserve’s Famous Copper Stills

We learned all about the flavor wheel in an exercise, led by resident chef, Ouita Michel (a James Beard Award nominee). Who knew there were so many different flavors to discern in bourbon? We got to taste different nibbles of food paired with bourbon to see how the flavors changed. I had never thought about considering pairing food with bourbon and how different bourbons would go better with certain food items, but I sure learned a thing or two about that. I’m absolutely rethinking Thanksgiving dinner pairings. I think a good bourbon would pair beautifully with all the flavors in turkey and dressing. I absolutely know that bourbon and pecan pie are made for each other.

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The Woodford Reserve Flavor Wheel (Who knew?)

There was also an exercise about being able to recognize different scents in bourbon as well as taste. It was really nose-opening to smell a cotton ball in a glass with different esters on it and to try and discern what the smell was. One of the funniest responses was “my grandmother’s couch.”

We had an outstanding lunch and got to sample several different bourbons and Woodford’s bottled version of “white dog.” All of the bourbons were from Brown and Foreman’s stable of bourbons. Jim and I both favored Woodford’s Double Oaked – a relative newcomer to their offerings.

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All Related – Yet SO Different

Upon graduation, we each got our own bottles of Woodford’s flagship Reserve. These were very special bottles as they have our names and graduation dates etched right into the bottles. What a nice touch!

If you ever consider taking the one-day course, I would emphatically tell you to go for it.

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Such a Beautiful Place to Go to Class

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Leave a Reply” link and let me know what you think. Also, let me know if there’s something you’d like to hear more about.

Looking Forward to “Seeing” You Here Next Time on Colmel’s Blog!