Category Archives: Annie

Meeting Precious

This week is Puppy Mill Action Week (click here for more information), what a perfect time to recap my experience last week when I met Precious.

Precious is the namesake of Annie’s rescue group. In December of 2014, the rescue arm of the Newfoundland Club of America was notified that there were “several” dogs ready to be surrendered due to the death of a commercial breeder. Commercial breeders operate puppy mills and sell their puppies online and to pet stores. They consider their dogs to be cash crops and have little regard for the care and well-being of their breeding dogs.

Volunteers were assembled and arrangements were made to travel to rural Michigan for the pick-up.  When the volunteers arrived, they were overwhelmed by what they found.  They expected to pick up a handful of dogs, they discovered about 100 dogs living in deplorable conditions with obvious signs of neglect.  The weather at that time was harsh, sub-zero temperatures and lots of snow.  The dogs were outside in wire pens, their only shelter was a couple of unheated open sheds.  They were all underweight, dirty and matted, many with lesions and sores on their bodies. The scene still haunts the volunteers who were involved.

Eventually, 44 Newfoundlands were surrendered. The breeder’s son was in charge of the operation and he was reluctant to surrender them all at once.  He auctioned the young and healthy dogs and released the remainder to rescue over the course of six different trips. The final pick-up happened in early January 2015 and Precious was the last dog to be handed over.

She was dragged out of a dark, unheated building and put into a traveling crate. She had very little hair left on her body (remember this is still the middle of very brutal winter conditions) and she curled up into the fetal position and hid her head. She didn’t have a name or papers and had been completely ignored.  The volunteers decided to name her Precious, because every life is precious and everyone deserves a name. She spent the next 3 months under constant medical care, slowly showing a few signs of improvement, before she was placed with her current family.

Let’s fast forward 3 years to the Newfoundland National Specialty last week.  Precious was there with her 3 Newfoundland brothers who have been instrumental in her recovery.  It’s been a long road to recovery for her with many ups and downs but the best word to describe her is miraculous. She is still shy, but she ventured out for several quick meet and greets with other Newfoundland owners who have followed her story and cheered her on from afar.IMG_6907Her human mother Sue and I have communicated several times over the last couple of years but we have never met.  She was incredibly kind and supportive after Annie died. Precious and Annie shared a similar skin condition. They both used the same medication that brought them relief from constant itching and discomfort so I was happy to send Precious the remainder of Annie’s prescription.  When we finally met, I immediately started shedding uncontrollable tears.

We sat and talked for quite a while.  She shared a bit of the experience of the multiple trip rescue and I learned a few more details that I didn’t know.  I was always worried that Annie was surrendered to one of the last pick ups, having stayed on the property and watched members of her pack be taken away to the unknown.  The whole experience must have been so scary for all of the dogs but Sue thought that Annie was in one of the early pick ups and for some reason I found that to be a relief. She was careful not to overwhelm me with information, she and I both knew I wasn’t ready to hear all of it, but I hope sometime in the future I will be. My goal with Annie was to march in the Rescue Parade at The National, and I was there without her and it broke my heart.  Sue very graciously invited me to march with her and Precious but I declined, that was their moment to share, I would watch and cheer them on.

The next day, I met Precious and we had a lovely moment.  She, like Annie, was eager to take a treat from me but she watched me carefully as I talked to her.  Her eyes darted about from side to side, surveying everything around her, making sure the situation was still safe.  Annie always did that too and I forgot about it until I saw Precious do the same thing.  She reminded me so much of Annie, it was almost overwhelming but I loved meeting her and seeing how well she is doing.  Her fur is full and covers her body.  It also  looks like Annie’s, not solid black but black flecked with white hairs.  She had a sweet expression on her face and a beautiful white blaze on her chest.  She is petite and looks happy and healthy.IMG_6908IMG_6909The fact that Precious could be at a big event like that is a testament to the love and support she has received from her family.  They were very careful with her, letting her meet just a few people at a time and making sure she wasn’t overwhelmed by her surroundings.  She really enjoyed meeting other dogs that were there, which makes sense since she came from such a big kennel and she has always found safety and comfort in the company of the dogs in her family, especially Henry.  Henry is her rock, she will snuggle up next to him when she needs a little extra boost.  He is always with her when she goes outside, she won’t do that by herself.  IMG_6904Those few minutes with Precious happened right before I packed up the car to head back home and were the perfect way for me to end my first experience at The Newfoundland National. Seeing her reminded me of Annie but unlike the day before, I smiled as I thought of her because I felt so lucky to have had her in my life.  Annie was the sweetest dog I’ve ever known and we were meant to be together.  I wish she didn’t have that horrible experience before I found her but the last years of her life were her best years and certainly some of my best years as well.

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Annie 6/7/06-1/12/18

Nothin’ but Newf!

Have you ever wanted to see a Newfoundland Dog up close? How about 500?

Yes, you read that right, last week, almost 500 Newfoundlands and their owners gathered at the Newfoundland National Specialty in Frankenmuth, MI.

The National is a week-long celebration which is much more than a typical dog show. It includes working events such as carting, obedience and rally obedience. There are parades honoring living legends (Newfoundlands 10 years old and over) and rescues.  Special recognition is given the Top 20 conformation and Top 10 obedience dogs as well as to Versatile Newfoundlands, who have earned an AKC championship, an AKC obedience title, NCA water rescue dog title and NCA draft dog title. That’s just a few of the events on the weeklong agenda!

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Obedience and grooming were in the blue and white building, vendors were lined up in the big tent on the left and the main show ring was in front of the big white tent.

In short, it highlights the many different aspects that make the Newfoundland Dog so special.

This year I attended for the first time. Winn and I arrived Monday night and stayed through Thursday afternoon.  We were entered into two Rally Intermediate trials with the hope that she would get her title while we were there.  The requirements for the title are three qualifying legs under two different judges.  We earned the first two legs the previous weekend, so we just needed to do well in one of the two trials to accomplish our goal and we did! On Tuesday morning we scored a 93, got second place and earned the title.IMG_6746.jpgMy daughter met me up there to cheer me on and after getting our ribbons, she and I were able to wander around, enjoy many of the other activities and explore the cute town of Frankenmuth. The working events were scheduled at the beginning of the week and we watched friends in the obedience and rally rings and also observed the specialty carting event.IMG_3008IMG_3023We had a picnic lunch, went to Bronners the World’s Largest Christmas Store and got milkshakes and ice cream to celebrate our success in the ring.IMG_6773IMG_6818IMG_6809I don’t know a lot about conformation showing, but I really enjoyed watching the puppies in the ring.  Who doesn’t love watching puppies?

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6-9 mos. puppy dog Hotel California Tender Ebony
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6-9 month old puppy dogs
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6-9 mos. puppy dogs
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4-6 month old beginner puppy
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12-15 month old ThreePonds Boatswain
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9-12 month old Sugar-Mtn’s Pray For Peace

The planning and coordination that went into this big event was incredible and I was amazed by the spectacle of it all.  The amount of gear that gets hauled around for the show dogs is mind boggling.  When Winn and I go to a trial, I bring a soft crate, a chair and a bag with snacks, water and something to read.  That’s nothing compared to the crates, tables and grooming tools that accompany the conformation dogs.  There was a separate washing station set up near the hotel and then the dogs were moved into their reserved grooming spaces to be finished. Wire crates, which are very heavy, are used in the grooming area because they are more secure and frequently one owner is traveling with multiple dogs.  This ensures that they are safely secured while the attention may be on another dog.IMG_0688IMG_6880In between our trials, I walked around with Winn to chat with several of our friends who were there but I also found myself just watching it all in amazement.  I met some new people, stopped to watch some grooming in action and spent some time with this beautiful brown boy (who was at Westminster last year) and his owner.  There were very few brown Newfoundlands there and she sought us out and introduced herself.  She loved Winn and took us around the room to meet her friends and fellow brown Newfoundland lovers.

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GCH Royal Flush Davos of Bogmist nicknames Pupachoo, Chopsy  and Chop-Chop

I had such a good time on this trip and Winn was a terrific traveling companion.  She can still be a little shy when meeting new people so I passed treats to those who wanted to meet her and she figured out pretty quickly that meeting new people is tasty.  I made a funny observation while there: owners tended to offer the treats from their open hand under her chin; handlers held the treat between two fingers above her nose. The difference made me smile every time. IMG_6854 Winn was great in the hotel.  She figured out the elevator really quickly, knew right where our room was and loved to hang out on the balcony and watch everyone coming and going through the parking lot.  She ate well and slept hard. We did hear some barking from time to time, but she never made a peep.  She was the perfect hotel dog.IMG_3026IMG_3040On Thursday morning we met up with her breeder.  He and his wife arrived late the night before and this was the first time we had seen each other since pick up day when Winn was 10 weeks old. He was showing Winn’s big sister Bertie on Friday and he set up her crate next to Winn’s.  The two girls hung out together for a little while.  It was so nice to see him with Winn, she’s changed a lot over the past year!IMG_6879IMG_6900My only regret is that Annie wasn’t with us.  My primary interest in going to Newfoundland National was to march in the Rescue Parade with her and I figured if I was there with Annie, I might as well bring Winn along and we could participate in Rally.  I also knew that having Winn by her side would make Annie feel more comfortable.  It really hurt to be there without her, but I brought the honor flag I made at the Blogpaws conference and attached it to the bag that I carried around with us.  While Winn and I were competing, Annie was right there next to Winn’s crate.  It did bring a little comfort, feeling like she was there in spirit.  I never would have thought about going if it wasn’t for my desire to celebrate Annie and how special she was.IMG_3030.jpg

Tomorrow’s post is about Precious, the namesake of Annie’s rescue group. She was there, I spent a little time with her, and she marched in the Rescue Parade. She proudly represented the 43 other Newfoundlands that were rescued with her, many of whom are no longer with us.

 

 

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.