I know, I know…it’s been a long, long time since you’ve seen my paw-printed words on this page. I don’t know where to begin to tell you about everything that has happened since January and so I’m inclined to just move forward…
…only I can’t.
You see, while there have been wonderfully good things that have happened to us, there have also been some sad and sorrowful things as well. Time has marched on, but the in-betweens of ever second have been filled with difficult moments.
Dogs do not live forever. I always knew this, but recently, I’ve been made painfully aware of it. What I didn’t really think much about is that people don’t live forever either and while our people friends are all still doing okay, we have had a few scares around here. And those scares have really changed our lives in so many ways…too many ways to fully explain, but I’ll do my best.
It all started in October of 2013 with the loss of our first sweet friend, Ms. Aspen. We got a phone call while we were in Hood River, Oregon so Gretchen could complete her Acupressure courses with Tallgrass Animal Acupressure Institute. It was a cold morning and we’d just returned from a walk when the phone rang. When Gretchen saw who was calling, she immediately got teary-eyed. I’d met Aspen a couple of times and she was a sweet girl, but she was more special to Gretchen than to me. Still, I felt the loss through Gretchen.
Then January rolled around and so many dogs we knew crossed the Rainbow Bridge…it was overwhelming. Super overwhelming.
I wish I had hours and hours to pay tribute to them all, but I will do my best to convey our sorrow at their loss:
Aspen: Gretchen provided swim and massage therapy to Aspen for a few years. Aspen was always happy to get the in pool, but at first, she wasn’t very excited about the massages. She’d had back surgery years before and while she’d done well post-surgery, arthritis set in and Aspen’s back felt more like a chopping block – stiff and hard — than a normal back — soft and supple. But after weeks and weeks of work, Aspen finally gave in and pretty soon was asking for the massages.
Aspen’s health, unfortunately, declined quickly one week and while her devoted and loving mother did everything she could to help Aspen, she had to let her go. It was painful and awful for everyone and though I only knew her for an occasional walk, I could tell she was an exceptionally wonderful dog — very loved and very loving. More importantly, though I know she meant a lot to Gretchen and her sadness is mine now.
Lilly: I will admit that I tend to get a bit reactive whenever I see a pitbull. Gretchen and I have had many, many discussions about this and while she’s tried to work with me about “my issues” I still tend to be reactive. I don’t think I would have been this way, though, if I’d met Lilly because I think Lilly and I had a lot in common. She was stubborn, true, but she was also very sweet. She knew what she wanted and she used her charms and girly ways to get it. She lived to be 16 years old and every minute of every day she was determined to make her mark on the world.
Gretchen worked with Lilly in the pool and even in her senior years, Lilly only wanted to swim. She was not inclined to relax during the massage. She’d tolerate it, but she’d rather just go go go and so she’d slap her paw on the water and demand another few laps. The one “in” with Lilly was the use of acupressure. Once Gretchen mellowed her out a bit with the acupoints, Lilly would relax in her arms and allow the massage. Gretchen learned a lot from Lilly and to this day misses her tremendously.
Chelsea: I never got to meet Chelsea, but from all that Gretchen told me about her, I wish I had. Chelsea also lived to be 16 years old!! A very different dog than Lilly, Chelsea had her own brand of stubborn determination. She was a Border Collie after all so perhaps I don’t need to explain more.
In her youth, Chelsea was Border Collie through and through. She herded people, she ran like a speeding bullet, and she let everyone know she was boss. Most importantly though, Chelsea was her mom’s constant companion and Gretchen misses seeing Chelsea as much as she misses seeing her mom. Chelsea was also a massage and swim client and Gretchen tells me that no other dog she knew was as appreciative of the work than Chelsea.
Buddy: We don’t have a photo of Buddy, but we wish we did. According to Gretchen, Buddy was a strapping fellow. I saw him once. I was in the car and he was pulling his mom down the street toward the pool. He was a big, big guy — lab and pit bull mix — and from what I saw from the car, he could have pulled a semi-truck down the street without a problem.
Buddy lived on the beach, but despite this, he did not like swimming. But he was an amiable guy so he’d walk into the pool and reluctantly swim. Not so with the massage. The massage was all Buddy really wanted and he’d closed his eyes, laid his head at the side of the pool, and let out big sighs with every stroke. Buddy suffered two knee injuries, endured two successful knee surgeries, but in the end, fell to cancer. Gretchen tells me that sometimes she dreams about Buddy running on the beach with a big smile on his face!
Aisha: Aisha’s story has been well documented. She even has her own Facebook page! She was a rescue who endured a horrific life on the Olympic Peninsula and then taken in by the Kitsap Humane Society. There she met her family who took her home and loved her beyond measure. Aisha suffered many wounds (physical and psychological) in her past and that’s why she came for swimming and massage. She didn’t like swimming or massage much at first, but she was such a gentle, forgiving girl, she warmed up to it quickly.
Despite Aisha’s horrible history, according to Gretchen, Aisha was beyond wonderful — her heart was big and open and she was so trusting it was hard to believe all that she had endured. And Aisha was one lucky gal. She ended up in a home that provided top quality care for her that included not just swimming and massage, but reiki and acupuncture, wonderful food, and more attention and love than any other dog I’ve known. Aisha too succumbed to cancer, but her glow is still felt far and wide.
Zoey: Now that I start thinking about it all, I see that many of the dogs who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge lived to be quite old. Zoey, for instance, was another 16 year old wonder dog and though her mom wanted her to live to be 20, Zoey unfortunately didn’t make it that long. She was another swim and massage client who even in her elderly years could swim and swim and swim. Her endless energy was only matched, Gretchen tells me, by her silly personality.
Zoey was slow to warm up to people, but once she and Gretchen established a friendship, Zoey was always thrilled to see her. She was also, I’m told, quite a talker and announced her presence (and desire for a cookie) vocally and musically. Zoey, too, was loved beyond measure and is missed terribly by everyone who knew her.
Daisy: I had the good fortune to meet Daisy at Aqua Dog Spa. Daisy was not a client of any kind. Nope, she was a friend and just like Lilly and Chelsea and Zoey, she lived a long time — 17 years old! Wow! Daisy was a lucky girl not only because she had her pal, Jackson to go adventures with, but she also has a wonderful mother who used all her skills as a massage and swim therapist (and overall knowledgeable dog woman!) to give Daisy the absolute best care. Daisy got the finest of foods, the grandest of adventures, a chance to swim whenever she wanted to (though she never really wanted to, if you can imagine that), and the most amazing healing modalities any dog could hope for.
Nippy: Nippy was our neighbor and in the end, a dog walking client. I met Nippy many times and he was aptly named. Nippy introduced himself with his loud voice and if I got close enough, he’d try to nip me. But once we walked together, Nippy was perfectly fine with me as long as he got to be out front. All the dogs I’ve mentioned have been lucky because they had such loving families. Nippy’s family was no exception. They entered him in Wiener Dog competitions, they drew pictures of him, and they pranced him around the neighborhood like the Prince he was.
Gretchen walked Nippy after he had a series of seizures. His family had to be away all day so it was our job to check in on him and take him on his princely walks. Boy, could that guy run! Even medicated and weak from seizures, he shot out the front door ready for action. Unfortunately, he succumbed to liver failure and though the neighborhood is a lot quieter, we sure miss seeing that little guy on our outings.
Henri: And finally, it is with great sadness that I write about Henri, the one dog of all of them that I knew the best. Henri was a West Highland Terrier and while I thought I knew that breed well, Henri was nothing like any Westie I ever knew. He was a clown. Okay, a lot of Westies are clowns, but he was a gentle clown who didn’t have one single bossy bone in his body (unless it was meal time!). I know some of you will see “bossy” as a negative word, but Westies are supposed to be bossy so it comes with the territory and I accept that.
Henri, though, didn’t get the message. He acted more like a lab — always eager to please and full of such playful energy it was difficult to keep up with him at times.
Unfortunately, Henri was born with IMHA — a complex illness that is a bit too much for my doodle brain to explain. Henri battled the disease with the same playful energy he used every day. He never let the disease get the best of him and even though he’d tire and struggle, whenever we showed up for a walk or he came over to stay, he was chipper and happy and so so eager to be my friend that I had to remind myself that Henri wasn’t well.
I must admit, I’m gonna miss that little guy – in fact, I have. Since his passing last month, we’ve spent extra time with this sister, Bella. She is sad and so we’ve tried to be there for her to provide her canine companionship. Hanging out with Bella is fun, but both of us get sad every once in awhile when we realize that Henri would have enjoyed our adventures as much as we have.
To all my canine pals (mentioned above), I hope the crossing has been gentle and your arrival on the other side met with the wagging tails and happy barks of all those who have gone before you.
As for the humans — well, our lives have changed these past six weeks with the illness of our dear friend Ann who is working very hard in the hospital to overcome an as of yet undiagnosed illness. While she works at recovery in the respiratory rehab facility, we have taken in her partner, Jan, and their little dog, Albert. No one knew how this arrangement would work out nor did anyone anticipate that six weeks later the arrangement would continue, but I must tell you that the results of having another dog here have been of benefit to me.
You see, over the weeks I’ve come to see Albert as my new little brother and having him here has been a wonderful experience for me and my whole family. We do just about everything together and though Albert and I are very much alike (slightly reactive), we have a calming effect on each other and everyone is amazed by this. In fact, I let Albert do things I’d never let another dog do. He sleeps on my bed with me, he shares the couch with me, and when he gets into my personal space, I don’t mind at all. This not like me!
I’m not sure why Albert has wormed his way into my heart, but he has and though the circumstances aren’t the best (his mom still being in the hospital), I’m glad we have each other.
So there…all caught up on the in betweens and now I hope to be better about keeping up on the in betweens to come.
In loving memory of all the dogs who’ve graced our lives!
Gretchen and Rubin