Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

A loving tribute to two beloved dogs

Pippin was 7 years old when we adopted him. I remember he cried the entire 1 1/2 hour trip home from the fosters.
He never really enjoyed riding in the car. 
Pip was a shy, quiet, atypical Brittany. He did not like being outside, had a passing interest in chipmunks and never ever pulled on the leash. 
 To build his confidence we did obedience classses and he went all the way to AKC good citizenship level. 
 At 9 yrs. he developed laryngeal paralysis and after two failed tie backs, we opted for a tracheostomy. He had another 5 1/2 yrs before we lost him to a seizure in March of 2015. I do not think a sweeter dog ever existed.

In June of 2015 , enter Saylor, age 12, and full of Brittany energy, confidence and love. Saylor was home from day one. No adjustment period necessary. He was ours and we were his. I must admit, however, that I am his “MOM”.
 You would never guess his age. He runs around the beach, does his job of pulling on the leash when we walk, and jumps in the air to go for a ride in the car. He loves going for rides. He is the best friend and companion anyone could want. 
 Saylor will be 15 yrs. old in April and, until recently, he has been in the best of health.
A few months ago I noticed a swelling in his jaw. Thinking it was a bad tooth, I went to the vet to have his teeth cleaned and to removed whatever tooth was the problem. 
Unfortunately the swelling is a cancerous mass. We learned this for sure when Saylor had a mouth bleed. 
To remove this thing, Saylor would have to have major surgery to remove his bottom jaw. With his age, a stage 3 heart murmur, and the fact that the tissues would not heal because it is cancer, we are leaving him in peace. At 14 yrs and 10 mos., he wants for nothing. My husband and I, however, want many more years with this smart, funny, ever loving boy.

Monday, January 22, 2018


Eight weeks ago, our two year old Brittany, Zip, was hit by a truck in front of our house at 6 in the morning.  Although it was too dark to see precisely what happened, my husband and I got to Zip within 10 seconds of impact.  He could not bear any weight on his front leg and kept collapsing to the ground when he tried to walk.  I assumed the leg was broken, and we rushed him to the Emergency Veterinary Hospital 35 minutes away.  He was quiet on the car ride and did not appear to be in pain.  
They took him in right away.  A vet came and spoke with us shortly thereafter, saying she had done a quick exam, was going to take him for full x-rays, and that she suspected a brachial plexus avulsion, a term I had never heard.  
How I react to a medical crisis is to gather as much information as possible.   Sitting in the waiting room, I got on my phone and soon learned that both humans and animals have a brachial plexus.  It is a bundle of nerves located in the armpit that control function to the arm or, in the case of a dog, the front leg.  In dogs, the injury most commonly results from a motor vehicle accident in which the dog is thrown.  When he lands, the leg is bent back at an odd angle and essentially wrenched; and the nerve bundle is stretched and in some cases torn.  
Zip was extraordinarily lucky because he did not have any other injuries or broken bones.   But he had no feeling at all in the leg and could not bear any weight.  The vet kept him overnight for observation.  A different vet examined him the next day and also believed he had an avulsion.  He was kept an additional night so that he could be seen on Monday morning by the Hospital’s surgeon.
I did a Google search on the surgeon and read his extensive credentials.  Dr. Benson is a board certified veterinary surgeon who is specially trained in orthopedic and soft-tissue surgery.    He has been working as the emergency hospital’s surgeon for the past 15 years.   It was very helpful to know his background, and I was happy to have such an experienced specialist for Zip.
After Zip was examined by Dr. Benson, he suggested exactly what I had learned in my research…..that we wait 4 weeks to see if Zip regained any use of the leg.  Nerve regeneration is exceedingly slow.  The possibility also existed that Zip’s nerves were severed and function would not return.  Dr. Benson put his odds of recovering function at 30%.  We scheduled a return visit in 4 weeks and went home with Zip.
We then consulted a skilled canine physical therapist who began cold laser therapy treatments throughout the next four weeks.    In addition, we did range of motion exercises, massage, and hot and cold treatments on the leg and shoulder.
I continued doing online research on brachial plexus avulsions.   Zip’s leg was completely flaccid, could not bear any weight, had no deep pain reflex, and he dragged his foot so that the top of the foot faced the ground and the pad was up.  I learned that often this injury results in amputation.  
I was shattered by the thought of him losing his front leg.  One of my biggest joys in life comes from being active every day with our two Brittanys and watching them run and hunt.  My husband and I are retired and spend a lot of time with our dogs.  We do our own training.  We belong to a bird dog club so we can train and hunt year round.  The day Zip was injured was the final day of pheasant season in our State, and he and I had a wonderful season.  He was the dog of my dreams, and I was looking forward to many more years of hunting with him.  How could a three legged dog run or hunt?
Early on, I leaned on close friends for strength to get through this; they listened to all the thoughts swirling in my head and offered a shoulder to cry on.  I also belong to several Facebook Groups for Brittany lovers.  I post often, and Zip is well known in these virtual communities.  At first I was hesitant to open up publicly because my husband and I were both dealing with guilt around the accident.  None of us can keep our dogs safe 100% of the time, but we thought that we failed Zip by letting him out loose that morning; and we felt responsible for his injury.  My fear was that I would be chastised by others.  Despite my initial hesitation and after talking it over with my close friends, I did share Zip’s story on Facebook and received a flood of support.  I was overwhelmed at the outpouring of encouragement and love that was offered and didn’t receive a single negative comment.   To this day, the support I receive is unending and has helped me tremendously.
Zip’s odds of retaining the leg weren’t great, and I am a realist by nature.  Because I didn’t personally know any three legged dogs, I searched for information online.  First I found a website with a wealth of information for tripawds (the preferred term for three legged dogs), such as how to make the house easier for Zip to navigate by covering hardwood floors with anti-fatigue or yoga mats, elevating his food dishes, and purchasing a particular type of harness with a handle in case he needed assistance with stairs or getting in and out of the car.  I put up a baby gates on the stairway to the second floor so he could not fall down the stairs.
Then I again turned to Facebook and joined two groups for tripawds.   I put up my first post, introducing Zip and asking if anyone had gone through this injury.  One of the first responses I received was from a woman who has a German Shorthair whose leg was removed 5 years earlier as a result of the same injury.  She shared stories, videos and photos of her dog running and hunting.  We messaged back and forth, and she helped begin my healing process by showing me what is possible for Zip.
I read posts written by others whose dogs had or were facing amputation.  It was so helpful to read about others’ experiences.  I saw many photos of incisions, which took my fear of the unknown away.  I learned about pain management and the recovery process.  I was in awe of all the videos showing three legged dogs running, playing, and doing exactly what four legged dogs do.
Four weeks went by, and we saw no improvement in Zip’s leg.  We went to our appointment with Dr. Benson.  He examined Zip carefully and spent a lot of time with us, answering all our questions.  His recommendation was to remove the leg.  He told us about several tripawds he knows that compete in hunt tests against four legged dogs and regularly come out on top.  He assured us that Zip would have a quick recovery because he is a muscular athletic medium size dog at a good weight and already had adjusted to life on three legs.
Next I made an appointment with Zip’s regular vet, who I respect and trust.  She carefully examined Zip and concurred with Dr. Benson’s assessment.  She spent time reassuring us how well tripawds manage.  Her recommendation was to keep doing what we do now with Zip…..exercise him every day year round and keep him in top condition and not let him get overweight.  She believed that he would live a long healthy life and quickly be back in the field hunting.  So both vets recommended amputation.
Back I went to the internet, doing another thorough search of the injury, making sure I didn’t miss anything.  I read vet journals and sifted through the technical language.  On Facebook Tripawd pages, I talked with others whose dogs had the same injury.  Some had waited as long as four months for signs of nerve regeneration and tried different bracing and bandaging techniques to protect the leg which were ultimately unsuccessful and resulted in the skin breaking down and led to infection. 
Zip continued to be his usual energetic self on three legs, playing with our other Brittany, racing around the yard, going on walks in the woods, and staying ever alert for the presence of squirrels in the yard.  I was amazed at how well he did.  However, I also watched Zip bang his leg off of every stair he went up or down.  He banged it on the kitchen cabinets, on the doorframe as he went in and out.  Sometimes he would step on the floppy leg with his back leg and trip.  We received a foot of snow, and the leg further slowed him down since it dragged in the snow.  Because his leg had no feeling, the risk of injury was high.
Finally I took my newfound knowledge, all that I learned from others, what I observed myself, and what I felt in my heart and scheduled Zip’s amputation surgery for seven weeks post-injury.  I felt 100% confident that it was the right decision for Zip, and I was confident in Dr. Benson’s skill.
Surgery was last week; it went well, and he is recovering beautifully.  

And now I have made it my mission to help other people who are newly facing the loss of their dog’s leg by sharing Zip’s story and showing others what is indeed possible.   Dogs live in the present and only know ability, not disability.  

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Sweet Charlie

Just a note to let you know that Sweet Charlie crossed the Bridge early this evening.  He had been sick for about a month and we were not able to get to the bottom of it. Charlie came to us from MN about a year ago, and had thyroid cancer surgery shortly after his arrival.  He was just a super and good-natured Brittany and friend. We will miss him terribly.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Saying goodbye


This is the email I dreaded writing.  We sadly let Hampton go yesterday.  We truly can't thank you enough for connecting us with him nine years ago (almost to the day).  We have been blessed to have had him in our family and as you might have expected from this beautiful pooch, up to the end his spirit was full of life and happiness. He shared that with absolutely everyone he met.  He has enriched our lives beyond belief.

I have attached our annual Christmas card as we wrote it as a tribute to him.  We finished it on Tuesday and for Hampton it was another great day from among the 3303 he shared with us.  We went to one of his favorite spots for an hour-long hike. He had spring to his step and spent a ton of time sniffing everything - I believe on pursuit of deer; one of his favorite activities.  On Wednesday morning he woke up and we knew that the end was nearing - one of his back legs was not working.  The side effects of the prednisone had taken it's toll making it really hard for him to breathe. 

So we made the best we could of his last day and a half.  He had many visitors from our family and friends including several of his best dog friends.  He shared a marrow bone with one - even showing his true personality.  He snuck up on his buddy Scout and traded his empty bone stealing the one Scout was working on as that one still had some meat and marrow in it.  He always did that, so it was nice to see.

Yesterday morning I made him a breakfast of filet mignone and eggs over easy.  He loved it and gobbled it up. We took him on a very short walk in the woods then back home.  Out Vet came to the house and Hampton passed on in the comfort of his own home. If you believe in signs from heaven I'll share this one:  as Hampton was relaxing and letting go, the random playlist of soft music we had going started playing Eva Cassidy's rendition of the song "Somewhere over the rainbow."  The timing was just perfect as it let us know that he was passing over the Bridge to meet up with our first Brittany, Axle.  We miss him terribly, but have many happy memories, pictures and videos of him, so that will bring us comfort. In addition to our Christmas card I have attached a couple of photos.  One of him watching me paddle a kayak and the other from the first Brittany Bash we attended.

Thank you again for all you do for the many Brittany's you place in their forever homes.  We are proud to have been one of those homes for one of the best dogs to have walked the face of this earth.



So, we thank all of you for being such a great support to us and for loving Hampton too!  Our holiday wishes for you…May your days ahead be many, may they be filled with good health, wonder and joy and may you be blessed with an infinite amount of happiness and love.

Merry Christmas, 2016!  With love, Russ, Sue and Hampton       pastedGraphic_2.png

Friday, October 21, 2016


As per the contract I signed on Jack in November 2014, I am writing with great sadness to let you know that our sweet boy was put to sleep this afternoon.  When we adopted him we discovered that he had a greatly enlarged spleen.  Our vet thought that Jack would not be with us long; in fact she called it "doggie hospice."  We were lucky enough to have him for almost two years, and except for a short period of time when he turned into "naughty dog" on prednisone, he was a delightfully sweet dog.  He took a shine to my husband, who has retired so he is home all day, who reciprocated Jack's devotion.  He slept with us until recently when he was too uncomfortable to stay in one place.  He enjoyed roaming our yard, and although he never mastered leash etiquette, he liked going on short walks.  Our other dog taught Jack to bark at things, with his deep throated barks accompanying the higher pitched barks of Rosie.  What a pair they were!

I have included a picture of Jack that was taken about a month ago.  We will miss him terribly.  I just hope he knew how much we loved him and how glad we were to include him in our family.

Sincerely, but sadly,

Sunday, May 1, 2016

It is with such a very heavy heart that I bring you news of our little Birdie's passing on Tuesday, April 26.  For three weeks prior to that we began a fight which sadly she just couldn't win...  We learned that her time was short due to congestive heart failure but hoped that medication might ease symptoms and help sustain her happiness. Sadly, pneumonia set in and sonograms/bloodwork also showed that her liver wasn't looking well at all.  We could see her happiness and spirit fading and knew that even with further testing, poking and prodding that we had little chance of keeping her comfortable.  My husband and I worked tirelessly to ensure we weren't cutting her life short before making the most difficult decision of our lives.  It has rocked our household and I think it will be quite a long time before the aftershocks are gone.

Birdie was able to be with us for her final moments, in her home, in her little bed feeling safe and loved.  

I want to thank you all for being so helpful and supportive when we brought Birdie home.  She was the matriarch of our home for the past two and half years.  Not only was she a rescue, but she also rescued us.  Yes, one of THOSE...she was life altering.  Wonderful.  Wise.  Simply happy.  Therapeutic.  Larger than life.  We miss her dearly and will continue to love her beyond all boundaries of time and worlds.  

Thank you for making it all possible for us.

Many hugs to you!