It’s Friyay!

We are so excited that the weekend is here!

Our girl is coming home for the weekend and she is bringing five friends for a sleep over.  We love our girl and her friends always give us lots of extra loving attention. YAY!

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Maisie loves to pose for selfies!
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Winn is always a kisser!

Winn has just finished her first heat. YAY!

Today we plan to go for a nice long walk, our first in over three weeks and tomorrow we will get back into the pool. It feels like ages since we’ve been swimming.  DOUBLE YAY!

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We might even get some special homemade treats since we are all so happy that we are able to resume our adventures.  YAY, YAY, YAY!IMG_6837What are your plans for the weekend? We hope you have some double yay moments too!

weekly photo challenge: tour guide

We live in Evanston, IL which we think is a perfect location!  The border to the south is the city of Chicago and the border to the east is Lake Michigan.  The majority of the lakefront is open to the public with a walking trail, parks and beaches. We spend a lot of time there, all year round. The beginning of our walk always starts on the south end and we walk past two beaches, kayak and sailing racks and a playground.

The mid-point of our walk up the path brings us to a beautiful duck pond, the motorized boat launch and our favorite place on earth, the Dog Beach!

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If we don’t stop at the dog beach (a decision we never agree with), we find ourselves on the beautiful Northwestern University campus.  It has its own beach and sailing center as well as many spots to stop and enjoy the Chicago skyline.

If you ever find yourself in Evanston, we would love to show you all of our favorite places!

via Photo Challenge: Tour Guide

Annie’s special powers

“Fall in love with a dog, and in many ways you enter a new orbit, a universe that features not just new colors but new rituals, new rules, a new way of experiencing attachment.” -Caroline Knapp

I found Annie shortly after my youngest went off to college.  The so-called empty nest seemed very empty and I had an overwhelming need to nurture.

Annie was one of 44  Newfoundlands that were surrendered from a commercial breeding operation after the owner died.  They were what was left of an unethical breeder that had been in business for many, many years.  Hundreds of dogs were produced without regard to health standards and issues involving their hearts, eyes, skin, joints and cancer were passed on with each litter.

The breeding dogs were neglected in every way imaginable.  They lived in filth, didn’t receive veterinary care, weren’t fed or given fresh water appropriately and never received human companionship.

If ever there was a dog that needed nurturing, it was Annie. She was guarded, fearful and seemed to have a broken spirit. We took it one day at a time.  I always approached her slowly, quietly and gently.  I gave her the time she needed to learn to trust and understand what our relationship could be.  When she was ready, our relationship began to blossom and we developed an unbreakable bond.NewfGirlsWeb-39

I wanted to make up for lost time and give her the best life possible.  I also wanted the world to know about her, she had been hidden away and neglected for too long. I turned to social media, it was a safe way to introduce her and tell her story without subjecting her to the stress of actually meeting people.

I have been overwhelmed and humbled by the loving reception Annie received from so many.  I was able to capture the many facets of her personality in photos and our instagram account took off. On the day she left us, we had reached 3500 followers and the messages of love and support were abundant and incredible.

We have made so many friends this way and even though we haven’t met the majority of them, we keep up with each other, sharing moments, trading stories, offering advice and celebrating the love for our dogs.

I also started writing her story and that was the beginning of this blog. One of our first followers was Theresa and her black rescue dog Sammy.  She read Annie’s story (Annie’s Second Chance) and followed along with each new post, often times commenting.  She fell in love with Annie and helped me celebrate her progress as time went on. She immediately reached out to me when Annie died and we shed tears together from afar.

Last week I got a card from her and I had to pause a moment before I opened it.  I knew that she genuinely grieved for Annie and I was so touched that she was sending her condolences.  When I opened it I was completely overwhelmed by what was inside.  She had donated a bed and cover in honor of Annie to the shelter where she had found Sammy.98BF0706-C9E1-41C7-AAA0-B4B907B7C3E3

Annie had never had a bed of her own before she came to our house.  When we set up her crate and put in the fluffy liner, she snuggled right in and sighed.  Her crate was her safe space, we called it her turtle shell.  When she was nervous she would curl up inside, when she was feeling confident, her chin and paws would poke out of the front.  When she was waking up, she would start to rub her nose and face into the bumper. When she was feeling really good, she’d plant her hind feet on the back wall and roll her back around in the softness.  Safely tucked inside her crate on her favorite bed was the only time she ever exposed her belly, that never happened anywhere else. She was in that bed when she fell asleep for the final time, and took her bed with her for eternity.

How could Theresa know that was the perfect item to donate in honor of Annie? Even though they never met, she knew Annie, she cared about Annie. Is is possible that Annie sent her some sort of message, knowing that she would receive it? Did Annie tell her that every dog deserves to have a bed of their own?

I ask this because I think Annie sent me a message.  The day after she died, I was a complete wreck.  I didn’t sleep the night before.  Bedtime had a very specific ritual, starting with getting Maisie and Winn upstairs first because Annie wouldn’t go up until they were already in our room. Annie would go up when she was ready, and I would go up behind her, then she’d wait for me to turn off the lights and we’d walk down the hall together into our room. Annie would snuggle into her Big Barker bed and I would administer her eye drops then give her lots of kisses on her face.

That first night without her was so hard and I was so sad the next day.  We had some good friends stop by in the evening and they did their best to distract me from my grief.  I was sort of drifting in and out of the conversation when suddenly I smelled Annie near my face.  The medicine she had been taking made her breath smell sweet, it was very distinctive, and it was overpowering.  I was startled but tried not to show a reaction.  I glanced around the room and within the next few minutes it happened again, the second time not quite as strong and the final time softer still like she was just brushing past me.  I think she was telling me she was OK, and was with me.  This would always be her home, the place where she found love and happiness.

I know it sounds crazy and I can’t really explain it, but I also can’t prove it didn’t happen. The day after Annie died, a woman reached out to me and wanted to make me a card to celebrate Annie.  Ann and I have never met and normally I would turn down an offer, but for some reason I thought yes, I would like to have a card to put with my Annie memories. We traded a few messages, she read Annie’s story on the blog and pulled some pictures off of Facebook.  She told me she had to set it aside, she felt like she was getting signals from Annie and the next morning she changed the format, and traded out some pictures.  It was so beautiful and when I received it I immediately thanked her.  She told me which pictures she put in at the last-minute, and both of them were taken at very special moments that Annie and I shared. Ann felt that Annie told her they were special to her and needed to be included in the card. Unexplainable yes, but I also can’t prove that didn’t happen.

Annie brought so many people into my life. Because of her experience,  I educated myself about proper breeding practices. I never would have found Winn and her wonderful breeder if I didn’t first become aware of the horrors that so many dogs go through at the hands of unethical breeders. Connie and Tracy taught me about the Newfoundland Club of America, how to fit a draft harness and that chickens and dogs really can get along.  I met Ashley through instagram and she introduced me to the North Central Newfoundland Club and encouraged my participation in the water and draft tests.  Pam and I also met through instagram and now support each other at Rally Trials in the area. So many people embraced me with their condolences through messages, cards and gifts.46FFA318-80F9-4E39-92E7-5F80BE7CDA05

Annie was very, very special. She was unlike any other dog I’ve known.  She was subtle but she was an excellent communicator. It didn’t take long for me to understand her cues and what she was telling me.  She was always nearby and even if she wasn’t in the same room, I always felt her presence and knew where she was. I miss her terribly, but I still feel her presence.

I’m so glad I was able to share her final, glorious, senior years with the world. Thank you to all of our friends, near and far, who fell in love with her too.

“No animal I know of can consistently be more of a friend and companion than a dog.” -Stanley Leinwall

P.S. After I put the final edits on this post, I went upstairs to take a shower.  When I came back downstairs, Winn had swiped the cards from Theresa and Ann and shredded them all over the floor.  I think she misses Annie as much as I do.NewfGirlsWeb-66

 

Two years ago…

I met Annie and we brought her home to be a part of our family.

At the time, it was clear that she was nervous, scared, withdrawn, suspicious and very reluctant to come with us.  I understood that she had been through more than any dog should, but I didn’t fully grasp the depth of her trauma.IMG_0837I knew in my heart that we were meant to be together, and I was willing to give her the time and patience that she would need to feel comfortable in our home, but after a few weeks with very little change, I began to suspect that she would never let herself bond with us.

But then she did!

Very slowly, she started coming towards me voluntarily.  She’d follow me, join me in another room, greet me at the door, plop her head on my laptop and nudge my elbow for an ear rub.  All such normal behaviors for a dog, but major signs from her that she was beginning to trust us.IMG_2462I learned so much from her about resilience and forgiveness. Her demons never fully left her, but she was able push them aside and allow herself to learn about a new way to live.

I learned so much about myself.  I never knew that I had the level of patience that was needed to make her feel comfortable. I never knew that I could feel so much empathy. I never knew that I could be so dedicated and committed to doing whatever necessary to help her heal.

And it was all so worth it!

She was a remarkable dog. So sweet, so loving, so gentle.img_2913 She loved to eat. She’d come running when she heard sounds in the kitchen. She made so many discoveries and never turned down a taste of whatever we gave her.img_2870 She loved to walk along the beside me. At the beach, we would walk up and down the water line while Maisie and then Winn ran around, played and splashed with other dogs and each other. I was never worried about her being off leash, she never left my side when we were out.IMG_0332She loved to sleep. She would nuzzle up in her crate along the bumper of her bed, rubbing her face and letting out little sighs.  That was the first bed she ever had, in her whole life, and she loved it so much. She fell asleep for the final time in that bed and it went with her.  It seemed right that she should have her beloved bed for eternity. img_2888Last year, I wrote a special post for Annie’s gotcha day. I was so happy that we had made it to the one year mark.  A couple of months ago I was fully confident that we would have at least another year with her.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t in the stars, but the time we had together was so amazing.  I treasured every day with her, and every milestone was celebrated.  I really feel that she gave me more than I gave her.  I’m a better person for having her in my life and our relationship will continue to shape my relationships with my other dogs. Annie was very, very special and I’m so honored that she chose to love me and trust me and that I was able to show her that life could be good.  She was so happy, even in her final moments.  She kissed me goodbye and I knew that she was content and that she left this world feeling safe and loved.

Happy Gotcha Day Annie! I wish you were still here but you will always be in my heart and be remembered on this day that changed our lives, January 31st.

 

a shared life with our very large dogs

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