Be Seeing You, Randi

Randi was my longest lived Flatcoat.  She remained very active and healthy until just recently and I am thankful for that.  Yesterday, we had to make the singularly difficult decision to euthanize our beloved pet.  The emergency clinic placed her in a cardboard coffin for us to take home.  As always, we allow the other dogs to see the body of the dog who has died as it seems to help give them closure.  They have all been very anxious since Randi took a downward turn last week and we wanted them to know she is now at peace.  Our dogs typically spend a few moments sniffing the body of their friend then move along – except Patty.  She has stayed at the graveside of every dog who has died, keeping vigil until they are completely buried and we all go back inside. Watching Patty grieve for those who have passed helps me with my own grief.  Pets are family.

patty4patty5patty21We love and miss you Randi.

Randi, September 29, 2002 - December 30 2014

Randi, September 29, 2002 – December 30, 2014

In Memoriam: Dr. Sophia Yin

Widely popular California veterinarian and behaviorist Sophia Yin tragically committed suicide on Sunday.  From her obituary in the Sac Bee:

Dr. Sophia Yin, a veterinarian and internationally recognized pioneer in the field of animal behavior as it relates to training pets, died Sept. 28 of suicide at her Davis home, according to the Yolo County coroner’s office. She was 48.
Dr. Yin taught animal owners and trainers to reward animals for positive behaviors as they occur and to remove rewards for bad behavior. In addition, she developed and promoted “low-stress handling” techniques for treating and working with animals in veterinary clinics, zoos, shelters, groomers and other care settings.

It’s not uncommon for caretakers to put the emotional well being of others, including animals, first. But you can’t take care of anyone else if you don’t take care of yourself. It’s not bad to put your needs first. In fact, it empowers you to make sure you are able to care for those around you.

If you need someone to talk to, call 1-800-273-8255 anytime, day or night to talk to a trained counselor. You can also chat online.

Please feel welcome to share thoughts regarding Dr. Yin’s life and work in the comments.

In Memoriam: Faye Hunter

If you were following the wave of Southern indie bands in the 80s, Let’s Active was one of your listening staples.  Let’s Active co-founder, co-vocalist and bass player Faye Hunter influenced at least one of my high school friends to start playing bass and I’m sure there are many other female bassists out there who would say the same.  Her musical clout was epic.

In addition to being an influential musician, Faye Hunter was also more recently a live-in caregiver for her mother, a Beagle owner and a devoted friend to animals.  She regularly posted photos on Facebook of the donkey sanctuary near her home in Advance, NC where she volunteered:

faye and donkey I

Faye Hunter with child and donkey (via Facebook)

Faye Hunter with child and donkey (via Facebook)

Faye Hunter with child and donkey (via Facebook)

Faye also posted many shots of her beloved Beagle, Toby:

Toby (via Facebook)

Toby (via Facebook)

Toby (via Facebook)

Toby (via Facebook)

On June 25, Toby died and Faye posted the following on her Facebook page:

Please promise to run free and happy in doggie heaven, my most precious and good and adored little Toby. You suffered so much early in life, but once you found my house you were safe and showered with kindness and love. I love you, I love you forever and always, and my heart hurts. R.I.P.

and on July 2:

It has rained every single day since my Toby left us. In my heart it has too.

Faye died on July 21, 2013 at her home, a victim of suicide.  An obituary in the Winston-Salem Journal indicates she wanted any donations made in her memory to go to The Elephant Sanctuary in TN or an area animal shelter.  Let’s Active co-founder Mitch Easter told NC public radio:

“She was definitely artistic, but every bit as much as that she was a deeply kind person and she was an animal person,” Easter said. “There wasn’t a single animal of the face of the earth that she wouldn’t try to help if it needed help. She was just a great person, a really great person. Very distinctive, bright, interesting person.”

Faye and donkey (via Facebook)

Faye and donkey (via Facebook)


If you need to talk to someone, call 1-800-273-8255 anytime, day or night.  You can also Google other help centers.

Be Seeing You, Roger Ebert

To my mind Roger Ebert, “film critic since time immemorial”, did his best work in the last years of his life, after losing the ability to speak.  In this 2009 installment of Roger Ebert’s Journal, he wrote about his childhood pets and how he longed for decades to have another dog:

Every time I see a dog in a movie, I think the same thing: I want that dog. I see Skip or Lucy or Shiloh and for a moment I can’t even think about the movie’s plot. I can only think about the dog.  I want to hold it, pet it, take it for walks, and tell it what a good dog it is. I want to love it, and I want it to love me.


I want to make its life a joy. I want to scratch behind its ears, and on its belly when it rolls over. I want to gently extend its tail so the dog can tell it’s a fine tail indeed.

Mr. Ebert died today at the age of 70.

Still from the 1996 film "Shiloh".

Still from the 1996 film “Shiloh”.

In Memoriam, Because the Humane Society of Memphis & Shelby Co Won’t

At least two of the dogs slated for killing by the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby Co were apparently killed there on Tuesday.  The HS has remained silent on the killings of Joy and Truffles and in fact has been posting adoption photos on the group’s Facebook page, as if that’s the most newsworthy thing happening there.  No mention of the poor dogs needlessly killed and no photos of them either.  I didn’t personally know either Joy or Truffles but their lives mattered.  They were loved, even if they did not know it at the end because the people who should have been advocating for them killed them instead.  So here is a little memorial for both dogs.  They deserved so much more but the least we can do is to remember them with love.

Joy, a dog at the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby Co, reportedly killed on Tuesday. (Photo submitted by a reader.)

Joy, a dog at the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby Co, was reportedly killed on Tuesday. (Photo submitted by a reader.)

Truffles, pictured as a youngster, was reportedly killed by the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby Co on Tuesday.  (Photo submitted by a reader.)

Truffles, pictured as a youngster, was reportedly killed by the Humane Society of Memphis and Shelby Co on Tuesday. (Photo submitted by a reader.)

The person who fostered Truffles while she was growing up sent me a note today that read, in part:

She changed my  life. Before we fostered her, I was scared to death of a pit bull. She opened my heart to the breed and showed me how big their hearts are.  I was never fearful of Truffles.  With her floppy ears and feet that were too big for the rest of her little body, she was funny to watch and all she ever really wanted was someone’s full attention.

If only the hearts of those at the so-called Humane Society were half as big as a dog’s…

In Memoriam

Tonight, as President Obama represents the nation in mourning the tragedy in Newtown, CT, I am sharing a couple photos of the brave women who gave their lives to protect the children in their care.  Our public school teachers are national treasures and the 6 women who died on Friday in Newtown also happen to be heroes.

Rachel Davino in a screengrab from the Hartford Courant website.

Rachel Davino in a screengrab from the Hartford Courant website.

Victoria Soto in a screengrab from the Hartford Courant website

Victoria Soto in a screengrab from the Hartford Courant website.

Be Seeing You, Emily

Somehow our home became filled with old dogs. Flatcoats have a shorter than average lifespan due to a small gene pool that is riddled with cancer. In a few months, Linus and Patty will turn 7. Two of their littermates have already died of cancer. Their half-sibling Randi is 10. Surrey the Beagle is estimated to be about 8. At age 2, Mulder is our only dog who can genuinely be described as young.

Emily was already old, though still very spry, when we adopted her 9 years ago. Her health deteriorated in recent years with her heart murmur worsening as she grew blind and deaf. She lost the ability to navigate her way around the yard by following her normal paths. Then she lost the ability to find her way around the house. Finally, all she could manage was to walk in little circles.

We had to carry her to her food bowl twice each day, carry her outside to potty, carry her back inside where she had to wear a diaper since she would no longer ask to go outside to potty. Lately, I have searched her for any hint of recognition but found nothing. It was heartbreaking to hear her soft cries and to be unable to comfort her – not only was she terribly startled each time I tried to gently approach her, she did not seem to recognize me or take any comfort in my touch. She seemed like a vacant shell.

All my previous dogs have had cancer and I’ve had to euthanize them despite their appearance of otherwise good health. Emily was the first dog with whom I’ve ever experienced old age and dementia. It was not a situation where she was terminally ill but rather a quality of life issue that we had to consider. I feared that without some clear medical diagnosis, I would wait too long or decide too soon. But then, those are normal doubts which I know I’ve had with other dogs and I’m sure many of you have had as well.

With Graham, the decision was sudden and even though she was 13, I was vastly unprepared. With Emily, I feel like I’ve been preparing for some time. It was the first time I ever scheduled an appointment for euthanasia as opposed to the more usual trip to the emergency vet at 2 in the morning. But of course it’s still a very difficult thing.

Emily taught me so much, especially about the behavior of tiny dogs. She was fiercely independent until her mind failed her and even then, her body obstinately refused to be in harmony. We love her very much and I know she loved us in her own very special way. We will miss you Emily.

We buried Emily in the yard yesterday, next to the still fresh dirt from Graham’s grave. She looked very peaceful and sweet and it was a blessing to see her that way once more, even in death. She hadn’t been “present” in a long time and I am grateful to have seen her seemingly at peace one more time.

This is a photo from 2007, taken after we just woke up from a nap on the couch:


Thank You Marcial Rios-Aguilar

Cat #0952341 at NYC ACC Manhattan, as pictured on PetHarbor.

Cat #0952341 at NYC ACC Manhattan, as pictured on PetHarbor.

A 53 year old man named Marcial Rios-Aguilar risked and tragically lost his life trying to save this cat from a tree in the Bronx at 3 a.m. on Monday.  Mr. Rios-Aguilar fell from the tree and died before he could help the cat.  Firefighters arrived on the scene and got the kitty out the tree.  Sadly, the cat was sent to the Manhattan pound where, statistically speaking, he has a good chance of getting sick and/or getting killed.

This story is yet another example of why we need a safe haven for homeless pets.  And I really don’t want to hear about the so-called irresponsible public “forcing” pound workers to kill animals.  A member of the public died trying to save this cat.  I don’t think it’s too much to ask that public employees do their jobs and actually shelter pets in need.


A Death in the Family

After 13 beautiful years of love and laughter, we had to suddenly say goodbye to The Best Beagle today.  There was time for one final walk in the sun and lots of sniffing along the way.  She never suffered.

As Billy carefully placed Graham in the hole he had dug in the backyard for her, Randi laid down on the pile of earth and placed her head at the edge of the grave.  Surrey attempted to pull the blanket in which we had wrapped Graham’s body out of the hole.  We all grieve in our own ways.

My heart is broken but I am resolved to commit myself to remembering Graham with joy, which is what I believe she would want.

The Best Beagle, 2007.

“Whenever you visit my grave, say to yourselves with regret but also with happiness in your hearts at the remembrance of my long happy life with you: ‘Here lies one who loved us and whom we loved.’ No matter how deep my sleep I shall hear you, and not all the power of death can keep my spirit from wagging a grateful tail.” – Eugene O’Neill

1 Year Old Dog at MAS Plays Ball, Falls Over Dead in Her Cage Days Later

During the months of January through April of this year, 75 animals died in their cages at MAS.  This week, another pet was added to these atrocious statistics.  She was a young and happy black Lab who appeared healthy on Saturday when local advocates visited her at the pound.  They asked if the volunteer stalking escorting them would take her outside.  Once out in the fresh air, the young dog was happy to play ball with the strangers.  The play was supervised by both the volunteer and the interim director.  The 3 bags of treats bought for the dogs were not allowed to be given out.  One of the advocates asked if the treats in the MAS lobby could be fed to the dogs instead but that request was also denied.  The dog’s photo was taken so that she could be networked and within days, a rescue was lined up for her.  She was to be pulled today.  Instead, she was reportedly found dead in her cage on Wednesday morning.

Apparently more re-training is needed.

Happy young dog playing ball at MAS on June 9. She was found dead in her cage on June 13. (Photo by Jody Fisher.)


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