Wags n Words Healthy Dogs & Happy Tales

August 5, 2016


We have struggled to write this blog. The nature of our work is that we are witness to the loss of companion dogs and it is heartbreaking and difficult. This summer has been particularly hard not just because of the animal clients who have passed, but also because of the loss of one of the dearest, most generous people we’ve ever known — our veterinarian and friend, Cindy Geisler (at Mercy Vet Clinic).
Cindy, Jillie and Colima

I am particularly saddened because Cindy was the only vet I completely trusted. I let her work on me in a way I wouldn’t allow other vets to even consider. We began working with Cindy 5 years ago and from the moment she did her first chiropractic adjustment on me, I knew she had special healing powers.

There is so much to say about Cindy and so much that’s difficult to explain. She was real. She was genuine. She was honest and compassionate, witty and patient. She gave of herself fully and she was always there when we had questions or needed further explanations. Dezi loved her too and gave her gentle kisses whenever he saw her. When it was my turn for treatment, I just backed into her, waiting for those gifted hands to make me fcindyeel better. She never disappointed.

Gretchen, I think, is the saddest of us all, though. Cindy was more than a vet to her — she was a friend and a mentor — sharing with Gretchen her dream of rafting the rivers of Alaska as well as sharing her knowledge of cranial/sacral work while Gretchen was furthering her own knowledge.

Cindy had such gentle way about her and was so encouraging it was hard not to heed every word she spoke. Once, when I was being particularly difficult and wimpy, she told me to “man up.” I wrote about that in this blog (here) and spent most of my time trying to do just that — be brave and courageous and strong just like she wanted me to be.

In a way, she told Gretchen much the same only she said it like this: Be kind with yourself. Trust yourself and your hands; you are a healer and you must believe in what you feel.

There is so much more I could say, but the tears flooding my eyes, and Gretchen and Dezi’s too, make it difficult to write more about this amazing woman at this time. More to come…when I am able.

And this summer has been a hard one for other losses as well. The losses feel heavy, especially for Gretchen. As a small animal massage and swim therapist, she knows a lot more dogs than I do. And she helps them, too, but dogs don’t live forever so she often has to say a lot of goodbyes.

And these months of summer have been some of the hardest. Some of her oldest and dearest clients crossed the Rainbow Bridge and there is a tendency to let the sadness overwhelm. But instead, we have decided to celebrate the lives of some amazing dogs who were and are loved by some amazing families.


Henry and his flying ears

First, there is Henry. Gretchen didn’t know him long, but she fell pretty hard for this dog with flying ears. She started massage Henry at the Equisports Veterinary clinic in Kingston where Gretchen works two days a week under the guidance of Dr. Christin Finn. Henry had lots of mobility issues and in addition to acupuncture and laser treatments, Henry got and LOVED massages. In fact, he loved them so much, he’d fall fast asleep and Gretchen would have to wake him up so he could get his treatments from Dr. Finn.

As is common with large dogs who lose strength in their hind end, Henry’s front legs, chest, shoulders, and neck were always really tight. The second the massage began, Henry would drop off to sleep, snoring loudly as she worked down his back and his rear legs. Turning him over was a silly event as Henry would stay mostly asleep as she flipped him on the other side. He’d wake just a moment, then the snoring would commence.

There were a number of times when we all thought Henry was ready to cross the Rainbow Bridge, but he lived 5 months longer than anyone expected. I hope his flying ears helped his passage over the bridge smooth and pain free.

Rest in Peace Henry.

IMG_2914Unlike Henry, Bob has been a massage and acupressure client of Gretchen’s for many years. And unlike Henry, Bob wasn’t so sure about body work in general. I’ve written about Bob before. He was an opinionated guy and Gretchen had to work hard to win him over.

Ironically, it took an animal communicator to help Bob and Gretchen overcome their initial difficulties. Turns out, Bob had a certain way he liked the sessions to progress. Gretchen would walk into the house, Bob would bark his head off (his normal greeting for everyone), then he’d lie in his little soft circle bed. Gretchen would start massaging his crippled but strong body and he’d squirm all over the place.

His wonderful mom, who uses an animal communicator to communicate with all her dogs, conveyed that Bob would prefer acupressure first and then massage. Unfamiliar with animal communication, Gretchen was skeptical at first, but she gave it a try – acupressure first, then massage. As if a flip had been switched, Bob went from Mr. Squirrelly Pants, to the calmest, most relaxed dog she’d ever seen. From then on, that’s how their sessions progressed — acupressure first and then massage

Bob’s passing came suddenly and as quite a shock. I know Gretchen misses his sassiness a lot, but I also know she will remember him as a great teacher. She learns a lot from all her clients, but Bob, all 8 pounds of him, taught her more than almost any of them combined.

Rest in Peace Bob. IMG_3053

Second on that list of dogs who’ve taught her a lot is Bella the Chow Chow. Bella was extremely lucky to have a mom who was incredibly attentive and willing to give her beloved companion the best possible care. So much so that Bella not only got massage sessions, but she also got sessions solely devoted to acupressure. Maybe it was because Bella was Chinese that she understood the power of Traditional Chinese Medicine, but no matter what it was, Bella adored her acupressure.

She too, would communicate her needs not through barking, but with this very intense gaze. Her gaze would let Gretchen know that if the pattern of acupressure points she was working were effective or if they weren’t exactly what was needed. And after each session, Bella got her most favorite thing in the world — goat cheese! She loved her goat cheese so much that she’d forget her elderly age and struggles with mobility and pop up at the end of every session like she was three again just to receive that tiny morsel of goodness.

Rest in Peace Ms. Bella.

BrutusGretchen had a number of elderly clients (Bella and Henry among them) and many of them had been through a lot in their time on this earth. Perhaps one of the toughest fighters was Brutus who battled cancer late in his life and was cancer free for many months beyond predictions. Brutus was another of those reluctant clients, but weekly Gretchen would head to his house and provide a combination of acupressure and massage to help him strengthen his immune system and bring some mobility back to his weak hind legs.

Brutus wasn’t so sure about Gretchen’s weekly arrivals. When she entered the house, Brutus would often turn and head the other direction. He wasn’t very fast and could no longer go up or down stairs on his own, so “running away” was never really an option. And after awhile, Gretchen realized that running away was just a game for him, so she went along with it just to make Brutus feel better.

Like most older dogs, Brutus loved the acupressure the most. Yes, he liked massage too, but there’s something very soothing about acupressure that made Brutus (and many of the older clients) feel safe and relaxed. Perhaps it’s the gentle approach – a soft touch to a specific point — or the feeling of a channel opening up and the Qi flowing through more freely — that appeals to the senior citizens. I know I enjoy it immensely, so maybe Brutus did too. Gretchen said Brutus was one of her sweetest clients — so gentle and quiet — and like all the others, she will miss him very much.

Rest in Peace Brutus.


Photo Credit: Gloria Cropper Photography

Perhaps the hardest goodbyes are for those dogs who we’ve known for a long, long time. First among those is Bebe, a border collie who lived to be 16 years old. Bebe was a swim and massage client of Gretchen’s for six years and boy, does Gretchen have Bebe stories galore! When Bebe first starting swimming with Gretchen she LOVED the swimming…she’d walk right into the pool and swim her own laps without any assistance.

Massage was another story. Bebe was pretty arthritic and while massage (and swimming) would help, Bebe wasn’t keen on resting long enough to let Gretchen do her work. After months of swimming together, Gretchen finally figured out how to prop Bebe up on the step of the pool and there, once Bebe felt how wonderful massage was, she’d fall asleep while Gretchen worked on her sore and stiff muscles.

In the final years of her life, Bebe rested in Gretchen’s lap and soaked up every ounce of massage time that she could. I hope that, across the Rainbow Bridge, Bebe can get a massage every day and swim to her heart’s content!

Rest in Peace Sweet Bebe

IMG_9480Another long time client was Chica. Another 16 year old who swam with Gretchen for 6 years, Chica was a Mexican Mutt rescued from the streets of Mexico by her loving mom.

Chica swam with Gretchen because of an injury sustained in an awful fall — her elbow smashed and damaged. Chica loved to swim. And she loved massage too. Most of all, she loved the treats at the end of the massage.

And Chica was a tough cookie. As she aged, her lameness advanced, but still she soldiered on — looking for the perfect squirrel to chase and quietly demanding the best snacks and the most comfortable bed. Gretchen said Chica smelled of campfires — the good kind, where the family gathered round to roast marshmallows. Every time Chica came to swim, Gretchen would smell her head and smile at the scent. There’s a lot she’s going to miss about that girl. A lot.

Rest in Peace Chica girl!

And the final loss is one that impacts me as well. While I heard great stories about all of Gretchen’scarter/mtn massage and swim clients, I knew Carter personally. For four years we walked goofy Carter and his shy sister, Kali, and the three of us became fast and close friends.

Carter was silly fellow. He always wanted to be on the move, walking from side to side so he could smell every scent on the ground. A champion show dog, he could strike a stunning pose, but underneath that Best in Show appearance, was a dog who loved life to its fullest.

When we walked together, Kali and I would generally walk side by side letting Carter pull us all down the sidewalk. He was always on a mission on the way out and then, on the way home, he’d sidle up to me and gently bump his big, spotted body into me as if to say, “We’re friends, right Rubin? We’re like best friends, yeah?”

We were, Carter, and I miss your big, goofy beauty every day.

Rest in Peace you handsome fellow.

As you can see, many tears have been shed at this house this summer. Yes, we’ve had joyful moments in between the losses, but today we wanted to count our blessings remembering those who are no longer here though they live on in our hearts. We will never ever forget any of you.

May you all Rest in Peace,


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July 22, 2016

Brother Druthers

Recently, Gretchen took Dezi and me to visit with Rachel Millikan of Beyond Barking. This almost caused a rift in my parent’s marriage because Rachel is an animal communicator. For some of you, this probably feels like the hokiest thing she could have done, but I’m here to tell you, it was wonderful to FINALLY be heard. I could spend this entire blog sharing with all what we learned from each other (Gretchen, Dezi, and me), but I would rather focus on the events that folded AFTER the communication session.

Let me just say this though: Rachel was fantastic so if you are so inclined, give her a call. It’s really helped our family tremendously.

But back to what I really want to tell you…

IMG_4204…we have adopted another dog. Yep, the dog Blue that I wrote about during the last blog, the dog who lived on the streets and Costa Rica and was brought home by my beloved sister-in-law, Patti, is now living with us.


Like forever.

Like for always.

Clearly, I have mixed feelings about all of this. In our communication session I think I made it pretty darn clear that I have, as Rachel called it, a large energetic bubble. I am very particular about who gets to be in my space. When Dezi came to live with us, he had to learn about my proximity issues, but because I already knew him, it wasn’t too hard to establish my comfort zone with him.IMG_4135

True, as he’s grown older and more unstable, he occasionally stumbles into my zone, but I have learned to be patient with him because he is, after all, my “older” brother.

I also have issues with sharing. Not just food or treats or toys, but pretty much everything — my time, my moms, their affections, my place on the bed, hell my place in the whole damn house. Dezi knows all this and he still loves me. He is very careful not to tread into my space or ask to “share” anything that I deem is mine, which I’ve made clear, is pretty much everything. Dezi is respectful and is not too bent out of shape when I claim what I feel is mine, perhaps nudging him out of his desire to have it too.

IMG_4115Still, when we met with Rachel, I was pretty certain that Dezi living with us was a one time addition to our family. There would be no other brothers for me to contend with.

Boy was I wrong.

This is all made pretty unbearable because the new addition, who they have named Oscar, was, in a sense, a “gift” from my favorite Aunt Patti. I adore Aunt Patti and whenever we visit her, I show my affections for my favoritism by sidling up to her and giving her my most loving sweet eyes so she will give me the undying attention I so deserve.

So for Patti to betray me in this way, to come home from her vacation in Costa Rica with a street dogIMG_4193 in tow, is a bit of a slap in my devoted-to-Patti face.

Oh sure…I’ve heard it all: Oscar is Dezi’s doppleganger; this is a sign from Dezi; Oscar needs a loving and caring home; Patti trusts us the most; he’ll get the best food, exercise, and medical care in our house; yada yada yada. And then it was even more painful when I was misled under the pretense that he would live with us “temporarily,” as a “foster dog” until we could find him a proper home. You know what? That dog wasn’t with us for more than 6 hours before he was all the sudden “our” dog, a member of the family, and an additional “brother” for me!

When this was all going down, I did my best to rally the troops and get Dezi to put his foot down along with mine, but wouldn’t you know it, Dezi fell in love with the little guy. I didn’t have a chance.

IMG_4190Yes, Oscar is cute. Yes, he is affectionate. And yes, he knows how to play to his strengths. Even though he only spoke Spanish, he knew exactly how to woo my moms and Dezi and anyone else who came in contact with him.

I think they should have named him Romeo. Or perhaps Casanova.

Cheeky little thing!

So now I have two brothers when all I ever wanted in life was to be the one dog in a one dog family.

Okay, so I’m not as cold hearted as I sound. I do love Dezi. If I had to choose a brother, it would be Dezi (or Monty). He is the perfect gentleman. He fits his nickname (David Niven) perfectly. He has blended into our family perfectly. And he is perfectly loved by all of us.IMG_4220

But to bring another brother along without so much as a “Hey Rubin, what do you think?” is a bit of an insult. Don’t ya think?

I think my moms know this because they have done a whole lot of stuff to make certain I am not “put out” as they like to say. They take me on separate walks so I can have alone time with them; they put up a gate so I can have my own separate eating space; they made sure my place on the bed was still available and my place in the car was clearly delineated.

And, to be honest, Oscar has been pretty respectful of all the imposed boundaries. Yes, he still wants to play with me — licks my cheek every morning — and he shadows me everywhere, as if to get on my good side by flattering me and emulating me. If I give a full body shake, he does the same. If I bark at a squirrel, he IMG_4097
barks too. If I lie down in the kitchen, he lies as close as he can get without disturbing me.

Everyone says Oscar is a mini-me of Dezi, but I think Oscar thinks he should be my mini-me.


Part of the problem is that I can’t play with Oscar yet. Playing is the way I best learn to accept other dogs. If they chase me or wrestle me, then I know they are ok, but Oscar hasn’t been able to do that yet.

You see Oscar came to us with some major health concerns. He had tick disease to start with or IMG_4135something called ehrlichiosis. The isn’t as serious as Lyme Disease, but it’s still serious. Luckily, it’s treatable but the medication has side effects and so Oscar didn’t feel 100% for the first month of his homecoming.

And he has heart worm. This is serious, but again, treatable through some pretty powerful medications. He is on those for quite some time and this is the main reason we are not allowed to play and romp together. Briefly, the goal of the medication is to help the heart worm die off slowly. It breaks the worms a part into tiny little pieces so they can be absorbed into the body without causing damage. If they die off too quickly or break about in larger pieces, they can cause a stroke and one way that they die off too quickly is if Oscar’s heart races. Hence, we are limited to long walks and no playing chase.

I am sad about this because one of the best ways I know how to make friends is to let them chase me. And let me tell you, this little guy wants to do exactly IMG_4125that! I have to admit that I have been known to taunt him from time to time, but my moms break up any attempt on our parts to play pretty quickly. Oscar keeps trying though. For instance, after a long walk Gretchen let him off the leash when we got into the house. He proceeded to race up and down the hallway with an absolute look of glee on his face. I, of course, jumped in because who doesn’t like a gleeful race up and down the hallway?

So I’m hoping, once the meds are finished (October at the earliest, December at the latest) our playing can commence and our friendship can truly begin.

In the meantime, I am doing my best to accept my new brother.IMG_4167

Dezi, I must say, has tried his best to talk me through it. “I don’t want you to be alone,” he tells me. “You need someone younger in your life to keep you on your toes!” I know he’s just saying this partly because he is so in love with Oscar, but partly because I know how much he loves me.

I’ll be honest. It’s gonna be hard when Dezi crosses the Rainbow Bridge. I have grown to love this wise old man. Rachel, the animal communicator, called him a light and I think that’s a perfect description of him. He has brought light into our lives and I am going to miss his sage counsel and steadfast friendship.

IMG_4207But I don’t want to think about that yet. I need Dezi to be with me now as we transition Oscar completely into the fold. Dezi has been holding his own of late, but every day, I can tell there’s a little less life in him, a little less spark. He sleeps a lot and only rallies when he knows a meal is served. He goes on walks with us, but they are much shorter and much slower these days and that twinkle in his eyes is fading, growing more dull as the weeks pass.

I have grown to love Dezi like a brother and he tells me that, in time, I will grow to love Oscar the same way. I think he may be right, but I’m not sure I’m ready to admit it yet. And I think that’s only fair since I’m a dog who never wanted one brother let alone two.


Perhaps this is my lot in life — to face the things I never thought I’d enjoy and find out that I really enjoy them. Well, at least I know who to thank — Dezi. He has been the light who has shown me the way and for that I will always be grateful.

For now, though, I must breathe deeply and realize that Oscar is here to stay. Gretchen tells me that IMG_4224it’s my job to teach the little guy how to be a dog in the United States. She tells me that he has lived his life on the streets and many of his behaviors — barking at other dogs, for instance — was his way of surviving. I need to show him that other dogs can be his friend, that drinking water out of a bowl won’t harm him, that we pee outside the house (which he’s pretty good at), and that when we say “forever” we mean forever. Gretchen tells me that this is an opportunity for me to be the wise, older brother like Dezi was for me.

It’s not a role I’m completely comfortable with, but she says, given enough time and if I’m super patient, I will come to love Oscar as much as I’ve loved Dezi. Hard to believe, but I have to admit, she hasn’t steered me wrong yet.

We’ll see. Stay tuned for more Oscar and Dezi updates and when you have a moment, send me some courage, okay?



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