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.

14566433_10208125020296446_5011894762803074804_o

Our Darling Dolly

Dolly

2014-10-24-12-26-21

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

505

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.

329

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.

326

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.

338

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.

DSC_0109

Cinder

 

Cinder

2014-10-24 12.26.04

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?

2014-10-24 12.25.41

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.

2014-10-24 12.26.21

Bringing Cinder Home

Changes and Challenges

Cinder & Dolly

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.

13902545_10202097436833510_1761612090826013555_n

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.

received_10203470036004748

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.

2015-03-15 17.11.03

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!

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!

dsc_0105

Our Cinder (adopted two years ago at age 8)

sydney

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!

15193436_10209565755074001_7417177876429610464_n

The wonderful King – Miracle Dog #00

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

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!

To Honor Tito – Miracle Dog #328

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 is a post directly from the Miracle GSD Network. They’ve graciously allowed me to post it, along with photos. Several people over the past couple of years have asked me who or what the Miracle GSD Network is. It’s definitely WHO. Miracle was started by a group of people who were incensed to find out how many German Shepherd Dogs (GSDs) were being euthanized in California shelters. They made a pledge that they would form a network of caring individuals who would get as many GSDs out of these high-kill shelters as possible, and get them to legitimate rescue organizations across the country. Over the years, Miracle has grown to a network of many people who have taken these dogs into their rescues, been foster homes for the dogs, adopted the dogs, and/or been donors. The core group is still in place and responsible for keeping the lines of communication open and doing the “heavy lifting.” The Miracle GSD Network has a Facebook page where updates and happy stories about the Miracle Dog alumni. https://www.facebook.com/groups/310605105708097 . There are always more dogs to get out of high-kill shelters. I, for one, am so grateful that Miracle GSD Network exists. It’s thanks to them that we have our beautiful Dolly (Miracle Dog #307).

Here is a tribute to one Miracle Dog – Tito #328

Few dogs have tugged at our hearts more than Tito, with his wonky head and his sweet demeanor. We knew the moment we saw him back in March 2014 at the Downey Shelter in CA that we needed to help him. Luckily, the wonderful Thulani program for seniors and hospice dogs saw the same thing we did in him, and stepped up to help, and Tito became Miracle Dog #328. We are sad to report that our Tito went to the bridge about a month ago. He had a GREAT end of life with his adopter Morris who took fantastic care of him. Morris sent us this wonderful Tribute, so we could all get a glimpse at Tito’s life for the past 2 years. RUN FREE AT THE BRIDGE SWEET TITO!

tito

A Tribute to Tito

2002 – March 18, 2016

He didn’t look exactly the way you’d expect a Shepherd to look, but he had a way about him. He was rescued from the L.A. County Animal Shelter in Downey, and I identified with him right away. Having spent most of my life in that general area, I knew there were some rough areas in that vicinity. He had been an “owner surrender” because they thought he had had a stroke and wanted him to be PTS. He actually was suffering from the benign condition known as “Old Dog Vestibular”… which NEVER occurred again! I often wondered what his life was like before the Thulani program.

He had a way about him. He wanted to be friends right away, and we were, from the beginning. He wanted to fit in with the rest of the pack: another male GSD, a male Chihuahua, and a two-legged couple, and he did, with ease, by watching the other dogs and learning the pack’s routine, expectations and the tricks they knew.

Early on, we battled with a few of his health issues, especially stubborn ear and urinary tract infections. In due course they were resolved, but in the interim he was confined to the laundry room to minimize the impact of “accidents”. Before too long he “promoted” himself, quietly and without adieu, out of the laundry room and into the kitchen. By then, his first infection had resolved, and we said he had promoted himself to Sergeant. Then there was a relapse, and another round of antibiotics, and, at last, a complete cure – he promoted himself into the dining room. Now, we said he had promoted himself to Captain.

When the pack came into the house in the evening from their day outside, and the door to the house was opened to him, he was oh sooo happy to come inside. So, he picked-up an alias of “Happy”. I wondered what his life had been like before Thulani… was he ever allowed inside? Scars on his hind feet and elbows, where fur refused to grow, suggested he might have spent many, many days lying on a concrete slab somewhere.

People often commented on how gentle and sweet he was – he was – all 90 pounds of him! He just wanted to fit-in and be with the pack. He had a way about him. He was “Happy” during our two years with him, enjoying camping trips with the pack, and especially his morning constitutional walks, sniffing here, peeing there, lagging behind but enjoying every foot of the 1/2 mile walk.

In his last 4 weeks, he developed a paralysis of his hind quarters. It had been gradually coming on for several months, showing its face as a dragging of the left leg, but in that last 4 weeks, it developed into a full paralysis, including a fatal inability to urinate – if you don’t urinate, you don’t live. He never complained – he was a trooper!

Probably his favorite time of the day was when the pack was gathered close together to watch TV at night. My legs would reach-out, and my feet nudged old “T”. His head would pop-up, and he would look at me to say “what’s up Dad?”, then flop back down to luxuriate in the comfort of his bed! He had a way about him…

[Our sincere thanks to Miracle GSD Network and Thulani for bringing Tito to us!]

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!

Quick Update on Two Favorites

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!)

DOUBLE THE HAPPINESS, DOUBLE THE LOVE – From a Post by the Thulani Program

Shelter photo of Lucky and Sugar

Shelter photo of Lucky and Sugar

So good to see these two going to a place where they will be loved the rest of their days!

So good to see these two going to a place where they will be loved the rest of their days!

Super seniors Sugar T. and Lucky T. were abandoned at the Moreno Valley Shelter (CA). Their prospects were not good. But then the Miracle GSD Network and the Thulani Program teamed up to save them. Not only saved, but they almost immediately moved into a forever home with Kaylee and her dog Marta. As you can see from the photos, Kaylee got a double helping of ‘wonderful’. As the representative from the Thulani Program left her house, she let them know that tomorrow was going to be a ‘spa’ day for these two seniors—brushing, combing, manicure, pedicure, and more. Sugar and Lucky never even waved goodbye, so engrossed in their new home that they could not pull themselves away.

Lucky T & Sugar T so happy at their new home! Didn't even waive goodbye

Lucky T & Sugar T so happy at their new home! Didn’t even waive goodbye

A senior German Shepherd is designed to be low maintenance, loving, and a spectacular companion. Just imagine what two of them can be! Everyone can fit a senior German Shepherd into their lives, and the benefits are amazing. So many people first take a senior in because they feel sorry for it, but then find out that the dog gives so much that they end up the big winners.

Happy Lucky & Sugar

Happy Lucky & Sugar

Going to be Loved for the rest of their days!

Going to be Loved for the rest of their days!

Furever Home - At Last!

Furever Home – At Last!

I LOVE happy endings!

I LOVE happy endings!

We can attest to that as we have adopted two seniors in our lives – Sydney and Cinder. Sydney was with us only 4 years, but she gave us so much love. Cinder just turned nine and has been with us just a few days over a year. We hope to have many more years with our wonderful, senior girl.

Our beloved Sydney with Dad. This was the day we brought her home!

Our beloved Sydney with Dad. This was the day we brought her home! She has since gone to the Rainbow Bridge, but was much loved her final years.

Our current senior, Cinder! (You can read her story in an earlier post!)

Our current senior, Cinder! (You can read her story in an earlier post!)

Remember, I really love to hear your comments. Just click on the “Comments” 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!