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Heart Pawing Tales Mar 2010

Loveable Leo
By Teresa Boring

My Leo is 200 pounds of pure love. After a long day, nothing is better than to be greeted by him as I pull into my driveway. He is your ‘typical’ St. Bernard in looks and naturally affectionate — and a little clumsy and lazy too! What is unique is how we found each other — it was fate, an act of God.

One late night, I was coming home from work. On my thirty-minute drive I usually watch for deer. Instead, I had to brake for a thin, matted silhouette standing in the road. This was no deer, but a huge dog. My vehicle didn’t phase him even after I honked the horn. Then he moved, right up to my door.

I cracked my window and uttered a few words to him, before driving on. I couldn’t get the dog off of my mind. I arrived home and doubled back to take him some dog food. He was still there and very appreciative of my gesture. I vowed that “if he was there tomorrow,” I would check his condition in the light of day and perhaps take him home. On my way to church that next morning I scanned both sides of the road but no dog.

On my way back I did the same and I found him. He had taken up residence on the porch of a farm house, just lying there as though he belonged. The property was for sale and I took the number from the sign. Later, I called the owner and inquired about the dog. “Please take him, I will never sell the house with that stray around,” begged the owner of the home. That was all I needed to hear.

By day’s end, “Leo” had found a home on my farm and in my heart. Six years have passed and he is a huge, beautiful part of our family. My neighbors refer to him as King Leo. In the words of one, “He looks regal as he lies on your front porch.” He is the perfect combination of companion, guard dog and goof. He is vetted, well groomed, and continually loved by many.

Leo has been diagnosed with Cardiomyopathy and we are experiencing some new challenges. After first hearing the prognosis that his heart is beginning to wear out, tears filled my eyes and my heart truly ached. I researched his diagnosis and I am doing everything possible to keep Leo healthy. Medications rolled in a slice of ham have become an appetizer for his daily meals. On the days when Leo doesn’t feel ‘up to par’ or when he is retaining water, I can easily tell. Overall, most days are good for Leo and he enjoys life.

In our six years together, he has made a lasting impression on my heart and on my friends and family. Leo is one-of-a-kind and I am blessed to have found this diamond in the ‘ruff.’


Auggie the Rescue Dog and Loyal Friend

By Adrienne Cox

A few years ago one of my mountaineering friends took me hiking at Mt. Pilchuck in Washington, along with Auggie, an Autralian Sheep Dog. It

I was dressed in shorts and a T-shirt and I managed to keep up with my friend. On our descent, I lost my footing and skidded down toward a 1,000 foot cliff that we had scaled earlier. While tumbling, I hit a tree to break the fall before I eventually stopped.

Suddenly, Auggie came running up and grabbed my shirt sleeve. She growled and whined and pulled me toward a clusters of fir trees. It took me almost an hour to catch my breath and regain the confidence I needed to continue descending. From that moment on, Auggie stayed with me, pushing right up against my right leg — literally ‘glued’ to me all the way down the mountain.

Ever since then, whenever I go to my friend’s home, Auggie will howl and jump and kiss me. She has not forgotten our ordeal and she stays right by my side. She looks at me with loving sweetness to assure me that I’m safe with her. Auggie is older now and sleeps more than she used to. Her eyes are sunken beneath her gray hair and she walks with stiff gait.

When I visit Auggie, I pet her head gently, hug her bony frame and kiss her every time I visit her. Then I thank her –- again — for saving my life!

Dusty’s Compassionate Intuition

By Nancy Zuhlke

Photo courtesy of Nancy Zuhlke

This is a story about my certified therapy dog, Dusty, a Golden Retriever. We visit a nursing home together every Saturday and Sunday. We do Therapy Dog visits in memory of my mom who passed away at age 97.

Dusty and I became very close to two ladies who were good friends before being placed in the nursing home. One Saturday, one of the ladies had her family by her bedside and the daughter told me that her prognosis was not good. Dusty especially loved her and she often gave Dusty a treat and clapped her hands as Dusty chewed it.

The following weekend, the woman passed away and her good friend was told of her death just before we arrived to visit. The surviving friend was on a couch sobbing. As we walked toward her, she held out her arms to us and cradled Dusty as she cried and cried.

Dusty was as still as a mouse, with her head on the woman’s lap. Occasionally, Dusty lifted her head to kiss the woman on the face. The woman kept saying “I have lost my best friend; I love you Dusty!” This continued for over ten minutes. The woman told me that she just didn’t know what she would have done had Dusty not arrived at that exact time. As she began to compose herself, the woman thanked me profusely. She said she needed someone to cry on and to hold and that Dusty was there for her.

During this episode, an aide walked up and presented the deceased friend’s blanket to the woman, a gift from the family. What’s strange is that Dusty absolutely loves this particular aide and usually runs up to her, wagging her tail like crazy. This time, she ignored her and stayed glued to the sobbing woman, her tail completely still.

We miss our friend, the woman who passed away. I realize now that, as Dusty comforted the grieving woman, she also smelled the deceased woman’s scent on the blanket. It is strange but, looking back, Dusty had been unusually quiet before we had visited the nursing home that fateful day. It was as though she knew the loss was coming. Dogs do sense sadness and comprehend such things in their own special way.

A Canine Miracle

By Captain Rob Rafalke

Thanks to our three-year-old Chocolate Labrador Retriever, Isabelle, our neighbor’s three-year-old son began to talk. It’s a remarkable story.

Since my retirement, I have taken Isabelle on long daily walks throughout our neighborhood. Besides long walks, Isabelle loves the water and playing ball. As we would pass one particular neighbor’s home, their son Sal would run to the front door and wave. One day, Sal was playing in their front yard with his mother and we stopped to talk. Sal was very excited to see Isabelle. During our visit, Sal’s mother mentioned her concern that he had not begun to talk yet and their numerous visits to a speech therapist had not helped. From that day on, Isabelle and I made it a point to stop.

One morning, Sal began to say “Izzy” over and over, which came as a complete surprise to his mother. As the days passed, Sal slowly began to talk. His mother, along with their therapist, owed it all to Isabelle’s visits. As strange as it may sound, Isabelle was able to communicate with Sal. He formed a special bond with Isabelle and is doing very well today.

Once, during a shopping spree with his mother, Sal spotted a yellow tennis ball. He pointed to the ball and said “Ball Izzy.” He insisted that they buy it and couldn’t wait to give it to Isabelle later that same day.

Isabelle continues to share her unconditional love to us and to everyone she meets.

Who’s the Boss?

By Dan Fell

Last Christmas we traveled from our home in Indiana to Connecticut, to visit my parents. My wife and I arrived with our two dogs, a Golden and a Newfoundland. All of the visiting adult children arrived with their dogs.

It has been a tradition for our family to take our dogs for a long walk in a meadow behind our house after Christmas morning festivities. Our canine group included my two dogs, my father’s Golden and a Terrier mix, my brother’s Doberman, and my other brother’s Boxer and Husky. All of us headed out for the meadow and spent three or four hours walking through the fields and splashing through a brook that meandered through a meadow.

On our way back to the house — with seven tired dogs — we all thought it might be fun to go to a movie. We asked our mother if she would watch the dogs while we went out and she agreed. Six of the dogs curled up for a nap in different spots in the living room. My Newfoundland, as was her usual habit, went upstairs to take a nap by our bed.

After about an hour-long nap, the Terrier got up and began to play with the Doberman. Before Mom could react, she heard a growl from the top of the stairs and my Newfoundland came stomping down the stairs and into the living room. Then she went over and bumped the Doberman with her chest and made her lie down and did the same to the Terrier. As my Newfoundland left the room she looked over her shoulder and gave them all a warning sound not to move. She made two more trips down the stairs to keep them in their ‘places’ until we arrived home from the movie.

The Dangers of Xylitol

By Fran Wright

We have a beautiful year-old Cairn Terrier that has become a great part of our lives; however, like any puppy, Cricket is constantly exploring and getting into trouble.

Three weeks ago a Sugar Free Chocolate Mousse Jello Cup fell out of the refrigerator while I was rushing around to make dinner. I did not look to see what had dropped, telling myself I would do it as soon as I placed things on the counter, but I completely forgot. While my husband and I were eating our dinner, I heard a crunching plastic sound being chewed. I got up to check for Cricket and found her behind a coffee table, eating the mousse. I panicked and grabbed the plastic cup, finding it empty. Cricket had eaten the entire cup of mousse, along with the foil lid.

Our immediate fear was the chocolate and what it might do to her. I called our Cairn breeder, who happened to have some of the same mousse in her refrigerator and she was able to check the ingredients. She quickly advised us that the second ingredient listed was Xylitol, which can be deadly to dogs. Two sticks of sugar free gum with Xylitol can kill or cause brain damage to a thirteen-pound dog; Cricket weighs just under ten pounds. Our breeder asked us to induce vomiting right away and rush her to the closest emergency animal hospital.

To make a long story short, Cricket was given immediate care and kept overnight with an IV. The IV treatment continued the next day at our regular veterinarian’s clinic. Cricket was required to have several blood tests for several days, to make certain she was completely out of danger. Needless to say, this episode was very expensive.

Neither our breeder or other friends with Cairn Terriers knew that there was Xylitol in sugar free puddings. I have since learned that it is also contained in sugar free gums, toothpaste and cough lozenges. We have now gotten rid of all sugar-free products that contain Xylitol in our home.

Xylitol is sold in large quantities. My concern is that this product is being sold as a sugar free substitute for baking, without people being aware of its dangers. If someone is baking, their dog might beg for a taste and be given a nibble. Then, if the dog becomes ill, no one will guess what is wrong. Barking Bulletin Readers, please be aware that this can be extremely dangerous if your dog ingests it!

All the Hugs I Need

By Janice Elange

Before my husband passed away this last September, he had a habit of always surprising me with a hug. Several times throughout the day, when I would be busy at the sink or making the bed, he would come up, grab me and give me a hug.

Since his death, Shadow, my German Shepherd — out of the blue — runs up to me when I am sitting down, puts his paws in my lap then gives me a big kiss. He can be busy playing or sleeping but just suddenly does it, just as my husband did.

When Shadow does this, it makes me think of my husband. I always give him big hug as I would when my husband hugged me. I think this is my husband’s way of saying “I am still here with you and thinking of you.”

My Canine Medicine Alarm

By Sandra Broom

I have a wonderful Havanese dog, Hampton Prince of Peace, known as “Hammy.” The Havanese breed makes wonderful, quiet companions and they also have a very special gift of being known as ‘healing dogs.’

Hammy had been with us for about two months and one day he just started jumping up on my leg and then running down the hall barking. Finally, after watching him do this a few times, I thought I should find out what he wanted and what was going on at the end of the hall, where the bathroom is.

I walked into the bathroom and there he was with his paws up on the medicine drawer, barking non-stop. He sat there waiting, wagging his tail.

I looked around, opened the drawer where my medications are, closed the drawer and looked at Hampton again. Then I began to feel a migraine headache coming on. I quickly took my meds and started to cry; Hammy knew but how did he know? When I turned to go into the bedroom he was already sitting on the bed. He had pushed the sheets down and he was sitting there with my other two dogs, waiting for me. Usually, when my husband comes home, all the dogs bark. On that day they didn’t make a sound, they lay around me and they stayed there until my migraine passed.

Although my migraines are rare, now I listen to Hampton and always follow his lead, for I now know that he has this special talent!

My Special Love, to the Very End

By Penny Dinsmore

Kuwi, my Golden Retriever, was my best friend in the entire world. He had the most beautiful red coat I had ever seen. We first acquired Kuwi in October 1994 and he was my dog from day one, the love of my life. At the time, he was four months old and we lived in an apartment. Kuwi had had all the proper training and was a well-behaved dog that was very excitable.

Over the first year, it was pretty clear that Kuwi was to be my dog. I had never met a dog so excited to see and be with me as Kuwi was. He loved the rest of the family and our other pets, but he was my dog. When I was pregnant in the winter of 1995, he would lay with me on my stomach and on the couch. I have been a diabetic since childhood and Kuwi just knew if something was wrong and would not leave my side. Even after the baby was born, he would know, coming around a blind corner, just where she was and he would jump over her or stop.

Over the years, we acquired more pets and more kids but no one ever took his place. Kuwi knew when you spelled ‘CAR RIDE’ exactly what it meant and he would wait by the door to go out to the car. He learned, over time, when I would be home from work and he would wait by the door five minutes before I arrived so he could be the first to greet me. Kuwi would protect me and block anyone from hurting me. He would listen to me, he slept with me each night and would not move even if there was no room for my husband.

In 2005 Kuwi was diagnosed with terminal cancer. MSU said that without treatment, he was expected to last only two to three months. And yet, we saw no major changes in Kuwi. He was as active, loving and agile as on most given days. He was never down as long as I was there. He still walked up the steps each night to sleep with me until I went to sleep. No one could tell he was sick.

Kuwi became more attached and protective of me over his last year. I believe he knew. He was diagnosed in October 2005 and did not pass away until September 2006. His veterinarians believed it was because he did not want to leave me and he was staying as long as he could.

The night Kuwi passed away was like any other night. He went to bed with me and waited until I was asleep, then went downstairs to die. I awoke in the middle of the night — knowing something was wrong and I was right — he was gone.

It was the hardest day of my life to lose Kuwi. He is still greatly missed and loved and no one will ever replace him or will have his place in my heart.

Roxy Still Remembers

By Carol Naegele

Tucker was our 14½ year-old Golden Retriever/Cocker Spaniel mix. She looked like a Golden on short legs. Tucker was the dog our children, Ryan and Teddi, grew up with and she is the ‘family dog’ they will always remember.

When our daughter was a senior in high school she wanted, more than anything, a small dog to call her own. Long story short: welcome to the family – Roxy Kennington Naegele! Roxy was by far the cutest Shih Tzu in a litter of seven puppies.

We were concerned that Tucker might not be as welcoming to Roxy as the rest of the family. But we followed our veterinarian’s advice and, little by little over the course of a week, Tucker and Roxy met face-to-face. They quickly became best friends.

Roxy would ride on Tucker as they explored the house together. At the time, Tucker was ten years old and it was like watching a senior citizen and a toddler at play. Roxy soon learned her limits but she also learned what Tucker liked – such as licking Tucker’s ears, over and over again.

College-bound Teddi worked hard, saved her money, and convinced us saying, “Momma, you will need something to do and someone to talk to when I go to college next fall.” Actually I had waited twenty years to regain a ‘grip’ on my life and I was looking forward to getting a long list of projects completed now that both children would be away at college. But it was hard to say “no” to Teddi and Roxy.

Last Christmas Tucker and Roxy received ‘best friend’ charms for their collars. By Easter, Tucker’s health was failing quickly. We talked it over with our children and decided that we needed to make a decision that was in Tucker’s best interests, not our own. It was tough, but on April 6, 2010 we had Tucker put to sleep. She was buried wearing her half of the ‘best friends’ charm.

One Sunday, my husband and I packed a picnic and went to see our daughter at college. Since it was Mother’s Day we took Roxy to see her ‘Mom,’ our daughter. We found a great spot along the river in Knoxville, TN and soon other folks arrived with their dogs. The first family came with a Golden Retriever and a Black Lab. Roxy barked and barked until they disappeared out of sight. My first thought was that Roxy would be barking all day, simply because many dogs came and went.

Later, it was not until the Golden and the Lab came back into sight that Roxy barked again, and then it dawned on me: Roxy thought the Golden was her best friend — Tucker. Roxy remembered and was calling to the Golden as if to say, “Tucker, it’s me! Come play with me, Tucker!” Roxy continued to bark until the family drove off. In retrospect, I wish I had taken a moment to share our story with them.

My ‘empty nest’ projects are still not completed and we all miss Tucker very much. Every evening, Roxy spends time sitting in my lap ‘talking’ to me as no other dog ever has. If you are the owner of a Shih Tzu, you certainly know what I mean!

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