Happy Heavenly 16th Birthday, Shadow

Sweet Golden Girl

You came into our lives on December 7, 2004, and you reunited with Callie on August 25, 2019; but like Callie – and Radar – you will always be in our hearts.

This is not meant to be a sad post. It is a celebration of the years you were with us; years that were filled with love, joy, fun, and laughter, as well as tears of devastating sadness. Your presence made all our lives better, just as Callie’s and Radar’s – and Kissy’s before you – did. You all taught us so much that we could not have learned without you.

Today would also be Callie’s half-year birthday. You girls came to be exactly six months apart and came into our lives exactly six months apart. And the bond between you is eternal. It always gave me such joy to witness that bond on a daily basis. It’s one of my favorite memories.

Together in Life and Spirit, Forever

So, Happy Birthday my sweet Golden Angel. I will always love you (and your sisters and brother). Thank you for always watching over Ducky for me.

ACE Free Work, Ducky & Me

*ACE stands for Animal Centred Education, and is a program conceived and built from the ground up by a British gal by the name of Sarah Fischer.

To greatly simplify and shorten a long and complicated story, Sarah has been doing free work with many different animals for several years in an attempt to find reasons for their unwanted behavior, including reactivity and/or sensitivity to many things, people, and other animals. She also uses Tellington TTouch body work to introduce handling but ACE includes Free Work and detailed observations which give clues to a dog’s sensitivities. 

I first learned  about ACE and Free Work from my friend, Janet Finlay, who owns and operates Canine Confidence Academy in the U.K. and provides online learning as well as person-to-person workshops (up until the pandemic shutdown and will start again as mitigation makes it possible). I’ve taken several of Janet’s online courses over the years since we adopted Ducky, including the current (ongoing) one – Your End of the Lead 2.0 (an updated version of her original course by the same name) – to help me deal with Ducky’s reactivity. The courses also include private communities/forums where those of us taking the course can share our videos and stories without fear of judgment and form valuable alliances with other guardians of reactive dogs.

In some ways, Free Work for dogs is similar to beginner nose work; but instead of hiding treats, you put them in full view of the dog. Generally, we use a variety of surfaces, enrichment toys, etcetera, as the “course” layout so that the dog gets sensory information through its feet, nose, eyes, ears, etc.  Once the course is set up, you invite the dog to explore it.

If possible, video the session (so you can watch later to pick up on those things you might miss) while the dog is exploring and getting the treats and observe her/his movement and posture, noting things that they like, nervous system responses, preferences (with respect to the direction they move in, objects they interact with, etc). Don’t include items in the course that you know are concerning to the dog, or remove an item if the dog appears to be wary of it. And, importantly, observe without any expectations as to the outcome.  (Believe me, that last part takes some practice!)

The great thing about Free Work is that you don’t have to buy any special equipment – you can use whatever items you already own. And you can lay out just one or two items, or four or five, with enough room for the dog to move freely around them. (If your dog is super sensitive or tentative to her/his environment, it’s probably better to start with only one or two items so as not to overwhelm them.)

For Ducky, I needed a space where I could give her the freedom of eating her breakfast away from the main source of her anxiety – her “Daddy”. And, because she was so anxious at times that she wouldn’t eat out of her regular food bowl, I got out some different lickimats that I’ve purchased over the last couple of years. At first I just laid out the lickimats on the floor of my “office”. Then I experimented with different heights – like a 12-pack of toilet paper, an overturned Amazon box, and an agility cone (with the lickimat bowl inverted over it). Over the last several months, this has become Ducky’s preferred way to eat her breakfast. 

The ACE Free Work not only gave me a way to relieve Ducky’s morning anxieties enough for her to eat; but it also gave me a learning opportunity. While observing her movement around the room via the videos I posted, several of my course mates (and Janet) started picking up on clues that she had some definite areas of bodily discomfort. When those clues were pointed out to me – in addition to the clues I was picking up on myself – I saw something that greatly concerned me: that Ducky might have cruciate disease in her left hind leg. As you know from an earlier post, that didn’t turn out to be the case; but she does have dysplasia in her left hip and we now have options for relieving and managing the pain.

So, with all that said, if you’re interested in learning more about ACE Free Work, I suggest checking out Sarah Fisher’s website: http://www.tilleyfarm.org.uk.  There is a private group on Facebook, as well, called “ACE Connections” that you can ask to join.

Happy 8th Gotcha Day Ducky!!

It’s hard to believe you’ve been with us for eight years! I remember that first day like it was yesterday.

Ducky on Adoption Day

You were so darn cute! Even though you were – as Dr. Steve named you a week later – a “little wild child”, you had stolen our hearts that weekend we fostered you.

Callie and – especially – Shadow didn’t know what to make of you. You had turned their calm, quiet lives upside down and inside out that weekend. And it took them a few days to figure out you were here to stay this time.

You drove us all to distraction at times. As far as Shadow was concerned, your first day at A Dog’s Day Out was the best birthday present I could ever have given her. 🤣 You came home too tired to be a pest.

After Daycare

Fast forward less than three years, and you helped Shadow, Daddy, and me through our grief over losing Callie to the lymphoma. And three and a half years later, you helped us through saying goodbye to Shadow as she reunited with Callie.

You were thrilled to have a friend again when we added Radar to our little family. He became your best friend and brother almost overnight. You two had a blast together every day.

Losing Radar to the heartworm disease just a few days after his third month with us had begun was devastating. All three of us were in a fog of disbelief, of confusion, and of heartache. I still get leaky-eyed sometimes when I think of our Golden Angel Boy. But you came to our rescue again. You helped us lift that fog.

These last several months you’ve been dealing with those hind-end issues. You poor girl. You are so stoical. Thanks to the Your End of the Lead course (YEL 2.0) that I’ve been taking – especially the community of likeminded folks who helped me pick up on your clues – I was able to realize you needed veterinary attention. Dr. Steve, Dr. Simpson, and the entire staff at Sunrise Animal Hospital has been wonderful – no surprise! – in their care of you and teamwork with me to get you feeling better. Your issues have decreased substantially and continue to improve daily.

A few months ago, I wrote a post where I called you my little earth angel. And that proves to be true every minute of every day. I don’t know what I would do without you, Ducky. I don’t want to know. You – like your sisters before you – have become my canine soulmate. I (and Daddy) love you to the ends of the universe and back.

Our Sweet Baby Girl

So, here’s to you Miss Ducky! My sometime wild child and always loving baby girl. ❤️🐾❤️🐾❤️🐾

We’re Homebound (Mostly) But Not Quarantined

First of all, let me assure you that we are all well and as safe as anyone can be during this pandemic.

A lot and almost nothing has been going on around here since our last post. Ducky’s been going back to daycare a couple or three times a month since the middle of May, depending on her mobility issues. And we’ve pretty much become homebodies to a greater extent than we ever were in the past.

Hubby’s dementia-induced alternate persona – who I named Poindexter – has been here off and on since the pandemic caused a short-lived shutdown here in South Carolina, causing a great deal of anxiety for poor Ducky. As if that weren’t enough……

At the end of May / beginning of June Ducky had an allergic reaction to something which caused a secondary skin infection. Poor girl. To top it off, the vet felt she might have some arthritis starting up in her left hind leg. We had put her on Carprofen for a couple of weeks, which helped a bit; but once we took her off of it (because of the antibiotic she was on for the skin infection), the slight, intermittent limp started again. So back on the Carprofen for another week, along with her then-current joint supplement.

In July we had to have a new commode and sink installed in our only bathroom, causing a great deal of anxiety for poor Ducky on a day when she couldn’t be at daycare because of her mobility issues.

It was also in July, while I was doing ACE Free Work with Ducky – a topic worthy of its own future post – that I noticed she was leaning forward and favoring her hind left leg quite a bit while eating her breakfast every morning. When it only seemed to get worse as the week wore on, I sent the vet a video. I was afraid she may have some cruciate disease, in addition to the presumed arthritis. He was concerned enough after watching the video to suggest taking some X-rays.

Thankfully, the “rads” showed no sign of cruciate disease in either hind leg. They did, however, show that the left side of her pelvis had not completely formed as she was growing from puppyhood to adulthood. As a result, her left hip has some dysplasia. Thankfully, there is very little arthritis in the joint at this point. With a new course of Carprofen, some Gabapentin, and continued use of joint support supplements she started doing better. I had to change supplements, though, because I noticed – once she finished the Carprofen and Gabapentin – that the ones I’d been giving her weren’t working as well any more. So, back on the Gabapentin until she moves from the initial dosage to the maintenance dosage of the new supplement. I *think* that it’s starting to work already; but I won’t know for sure until we stop the Gabapentin.

So there you have it – our last 4 or 5 months in a few paragraphs. I’m working on the free work post, but I need some input from friends (in the UK) who know more about it than I do. Trust me, though, it’s a great way to have fun with your dog and learn more about her/him in the process!

Happy 8th Birthday Ducky!!!

Today is my baby girl’s birthday. My earth angel. My rock.

Happy Birthday Sweet Girl! Daddy and I – and your guardian angel sisters and brother – love you completely and unconditionally.

We’ll have to delay your birthday walk at the park until tomorrow. But you don’t care which day we go as long as we do go.

We’re joining the Thankful Thursday Blog Hop because Ducky is at the top of our “grateful for” list.

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My Sweet Earth Angel

That’s exactly what Ducky is to me. An Earth Angel. She has seen me through the loss of her two older sisters and her slightly younger brother.

She’s a happy, sweet girl most of the time. And a sassy, loving girl all of the time.

She misses having a playmate; but there’s no doubt she thrives on being the center of our attention.

Ducky owns a huge piece of my heart. She’s my baby girl, my little sweetie, my sassy-pants, my little stinker, my “Ducky Doodle Demon Dog” and lord-only-knows how many other nicknames.

I love this little girl wholeheartedly and unconditionally. And I thank God every day for letting me be her “HuMom”. ❤️❤️❤️

Radar’s New Purpose

Each dog has a purpose. Isn’t that what the book and movie said? Radar’s purpose with us was to help us all heal from the loss of his sisters and to fill empty spaces in our lives….

Hubby keeps asking “when are we getting another Golden?” I keep saying “when the right one comes along.” Right now my heart still hurts from the sudden loss of this sweet boy….

Ducky needs a new playmate, another brother, companion, friend. And I’m seriously open to getting her one. In fact, I promised her that we would get her another one. WHEN Callie, Shadow, and Radar find us the right one. I’m sure they will at some point. Hopefully sooner rather than later.

I miss all my furry angels. They were each special to me for different reasons. But this boy?

I have to admit that there was something extra special about him. Maybe because he was the latest one. Maybe because Ducky accepted him so easily. Maybe because despite whatever he went through in his “previous life”, he was still trusting of humans, loving, and easy-going. Maybe all those things plus some I haven’t thought of yet. Whatever the reason – or reasons – he was the perfect fit for all three of us and we miss him every minute of every day.

We’ve gotten back into our old routine of not having a set routine, and gotten comfortable with it; but I would gladly give up the old routine if it meant having Radar here with us, happy and on his way to being healthy. But that’s not going to happen.

We will always miss Radar, just as we will always miss Kissy, Callie, and Shadow. There’s an emptiness in our little corner of the world that he was filling while he was with us.

Now it’s up to Radar to help his sisters find us another boy to welcome into our home and hearts. His new purpose is to send us a new boy to pick up where he left off. Not to replace him (because no other dog ever could), but to carry on his mission.

He Changed Everything

“Every now and then a dog will come into your life and change everything.”

Radar was that dog for us.

Now before you say something like “what about Kissy, Callie, Shadow, and Ducky?” let me tell you that we still love each of our furry angels and our little earth angel and always will. Each of them holds her own special place in our hearts. Each was and is a source of joy and unconditional love, and always will be. They all came into our lives as puppies and we watched them grow into wonderful adult dogs.

Radar came to us as an already full grown adult dog so we didn’t get to enjoy his puppyhood. But when we first met him, it felt as though he had known us all his life. He was doing the Snoopy happy dance from the moment he saw hubby get out of the car. He gave me his paw and let Ducky “check him out.”I knew from the very first moment that Radar was meant to be with us for the rest of his life.

Radar’s previous life will never be known to any of us. He was found wandering the neighborhood of a friend of his first foster mom. It’s anyone’s guess how long the poor boy had been on his own. YET, he was happy, joyful, gentle, sweet, and full of love for every one who took him in, cared for him, and showed him any amount of kindness. No amount of shyness to this boy’s demeanor. He was an equal opportunity lover of humans and other dogs.

So what did he change?

Well, for one thing, he was the first male dog I’ve ever had. I grew up with female poodles; my own first dog (Kissy) was female; and all three dogs hubby and I have had before Radar (Callie, Shadow, and Ducky) were/are females.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against male dogs. My brother’s dog, Boozy, is a male and our granddog, Max, is a male. I love them both. I just stuck with what I knew from my life so far. Females. When we took Radar in as our foster-to-adopt, I had no idea how Ducky would act with him once he came to live with us. But Radar needed us, and we all needed him.

There was something special about our boy. Whatever his previous life was like, it didn’t rob him of his joy of life, his love of humans and other dogs, or his innate sweetness. He was pure joy. Even his heartworm disease couldn’t completely take that from him. He tried his best to wag his tail when he saw us in the ER clinic exam room that awful, heart-shattering day.

And me rescue an adult Golden Retriever instead of getting a puppy? A few years ago I’d have said “no way!” Radar – along with my lack of enthusiasm for house training another dog – changed that too. I wanted another Golden but I wanted one closer to Ducky’s age. Radar was such a special boy that I can’t see myself getting another dog who doesn’t need a second chance at life. While at this point in our life we can’t emotionally deal with taking in another unhealthy dog, we do want another Golden who can keep up with Ducky and become her best friend, companion, and loving sibling.

And ten months ago – when Shadow first reunited with Callie – I didn’t think I could even foster another Golden before a year had passed. I was even hesitant to put in our adoption application at first. But when we met Radar, I knew he was meant to be with us for the rest of his life. During those two months plus that he was with us, he helped me heal from the loss of Shadow, Callie, and Kissy. Oh, I still miss them – and always will – but the pain isn’t as sharp.

And he did something else to my heart. He opened it to letting him join Callie and Shadow when his time came so that we could give another Golden Boy a second chance at a happy life. My heart still hurts from the pain of losing Radar so suddenly. But I know when the time is right he and his sisters will send us another Golden Boy to whom we will open our hearts and home. Another Golden Boy who needs us as much as we need him.

We’re joining Brian’s Home Blog for the Thankful Thursday blog hop.

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Christmas Cactus for Radar

I can’t believe it’s nearly a week since Radar joined Callie and Shadow in Heaven.

Anyway, last Sunday after church hubby and I made a quick stop at our local grocery store. As we walked towards the bakery, we stopped at a tabletop display of Christmas Cactus plants. There were red ones and these white and pink ones. Hubby and I both needed cheering up, so we bought this one in memory of our boy.

More of the flowers have bloomed since Sunday. I like to think it’s because Radar likes our choice and is giving us a sign that he’s okay. I can just imagine him wagging his tail as Callie and Shadow greeted him at the Rainbow Bridge. That tail of his was almost always wagging! He was such a happy boy!

We are going to do our best to make this Christmas a merry one. Callie, Shadow, and Radar would want it that way. The last few years we’ve had a rather quiet Christmas without Callie. And until Radar came along in October, I didn’t feel much like celebrating without our sweet Shadow as well. But Radar brought so much joy back into all our lives that we have to find a way to keep that feeling alive. Radar and his sisters would want us to be at least cheerful.

Radar is back home now. I’m not one for setting up shrines, but his ashes are in this beautiful wooden box. And we also have this clay paw print.

Our boy – Ducky’s most special friend – is back home and I know his sweet, happy spirit is nearby. And I know Radar will help Callie and Shadow find us a new friend/brother for Ducky. The three of them know what we need and I trust their judgement. When all the hustle and bustle of the holiday season is over, we’ll have our 3 Golden Angels actively start the search for our next Golden Earth Angel.

So, as Radar’s Christmas Cactus blooms, we will take it as a sign that he is, indeed, here with us. And we will celebrate the joy of his life with us along with the true meaning of Christmas.

Gone Too Soon

Hubby, Ducky and I are devastated. Our sweet foster boy has gone ahead. He joined our family on October 4th and on December 7th he joined Callie and Shadow in Heaven. Sweet, loving Radar. Ducky’s best doggie friend and brother. She loved Callie and Shadow dearly; but Radar was her most special friend. He tolerated her antics and she willingly shared her toys and our attention with him.

He was our boy. He was our first-ever male dog, our friend. He was an equal-opportunity lover boy. He loved hubby and me equally.

He learned quickly that “Daddy” is the soft touch and buddy; and “Mommy” is the cook, nurse, teacher, nurturer, and friend.

Radar fit into our little family perfectly. He was gentle with Ducky, played with her, shared his toys with her, gave her space when she was feeling “snarky”, and let her get attention from us when she felt neglected.

He loved us humans equally. He loved to stand, sit or lay down between our chairs so we could both pet him at the same time. Loving on him was therapeutic for both of us. And he knew he had his “fur-ever” home and family. He trusted us and we trusted him. I had plans to work with him to earn his CGC (Canine Good Citizen) title after he finished his heartworm treatments. And possibly therapy certifications. He had the perfect personality/temperament for both.

Our boy is gone. Our special boy, Ducky’s most special friend. Ducky is as heartbroken as we are. The price of love.

Radar will always be in our hearts. Our love for him and his for us will help us help each other to heal. Ducky, hubby, and I will heal. Radar’s spirit – like Kissy’s, Callie’s and Shadow’s spirits – will always be nearby. He and the girls will watch over us. They will send us another friend to love and welcome into the family when the time is right.