Diary of a Dog Walker: Sorrow to Joy

by: dear occupant

Mon Feb 18, 2013 at 13:04:12 PM EST



To tell you that I look forward to going to work everyday would be an understatement, that this fifty eight year old beat the odds and found work that I love in this economic environment so hostile to anyone older than fifty..let's just say I'm darn lucky. Being unemployed for two years I was so desperate I would have taken almost anything just to earn a paycheck again, but I stumbled into something special.

More about that in the next diary.

There are numerous benefits attached to this job, some more obvious than others. As an animal lover I'm surrounded, as an outdoor verse cubicle person I'm in my element, all of them. I'm doggedly independant and have been mostly self employed my entire life: I check in, collect keys and I spend the entire day without supervision or anyone looking over my shoulder. I will sometimes walk up to 10-12 miles a day, add to that climbing stairs and riding my bikes during the warm months, I'm very fit and have to purposely eat to maintain weight.

The not so obvious benefit is my exposure to so many dog breeds I was unfamiliar with. In an odd sense it's akin to a free long term test drive, seeing a dog everyday I pick up quirks and traits that are inherant in certain breeds, invaluable information that a potential dog owner needs to know before choosing a new pet.

My wife, Ms. O and I had a dog when I began working here and after eight months I had no idea this benefit would be so important so soon, but it was. Our 14 year old Black Lab/ Great Dane mix Lexie was suddenly diagnosed with inoperable cancer so we had no choice but to let her go.
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dear occupant :: Diary of a Dog Walker: Sorrow to Joy
Lexie was Ms. O's dog before we met, she gladly took her from someone who after less than a year, decided she had no room in her life for this wonderful dog. Ms. O is a lover of Great Danes and this dog fit the bill without all the health issues and short life spans that plague the breed. Lexie lived to be 15 1/2.

They were inseparable. If you knew Lexie, you'd know why.

She was Buddha like, an old soul who never complained and never made a sound. Graceful for a dog her size, at almost a hundred pounds just under 4 feet tall, most times you might not even know she was in the same room. This attribute made Lexie a more than relaxing mainstay in Ms. O's classroom, she teaches violin and viola to children from 3 years old until they graduate high school.

She founded this Children's Academy at a major university over 20 years ago and there have been hundreds of kids who have visited with Lexie once or twice a week for most of their lives, including parents. Everyone knew Lexie, she was universally adored.

The prospect of losing her was devastating but Ms. O, true to her dedicated nature did some research on the most humane and most importantly, comfortable way for Lexie to spend her last day with us. She found a vet whose entire practice involved at-home final services because Lexie was never enthused about going to her vets office, it always made her anxious and that just didn't seem fair if there was another alternative, so that's what we did.

I will answer any questions and fill in the details but suffice it say, the experience for all of us was as much as you could possibly hope for under the circumstances. Lexie layed in her favorite spot in the bedroom and she slowly, peacefully went to sleep with us right there with her. The difficult part and something I hadn't considered until the vet began to arrange the stretcher, was for him and I to take Lexie down the 3 flights of stairs to his van which was in our parking lot. I had to absorb this sudden reality and steady myself because I was shaking a bit. It scared me a little, I didn't want anything to go wrong, didn't want to tarnish the dignity of the moment.

I have to be honest, taking her down those stairs was one of the most difficult things I've ever had to do. The vet and I steadied each other, I'm not sure he'd ever done that before either but we brought her down perfectly. All our neighbors and so many of Lexie's friends were grouped around the van waiting to say goodbye. It was a tearful and emotional scene that I'll never forget but in the end, as difficult as it was it was the right thing to do. Lexie was family.
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A few months passed and I realized that spending so much time with so many other dogs, was helping me immensely. There was no sudden dog void in my life. Not so for Ms. O, she would still come home and cry herself to sleep and I felt helpless to console her. We would talk a little, mostly I would listen to her memories, sometimes the favorites again and again. There is a point as a grieving pet owner when you maybe allow yourself the thought of having another pet, explore the possibility of opening your heart again. It's a delicate and precarious place to be, even more so when a partner might need the suggestion at some point.

Is it time now, should I wait a little longer?

That point came one night when Ms. O said definitively that she did not want another large dog, so I took a chance and told her about the 2 Puggles I was walking. I'm also a medium to large dog lover but these Puggles were just bending my heart; they're cute, managegeably sized and really smart so we went hunting for a rescue Puggle after she met the two I walked.

We are rescue people but Puggles are a very popular and expensive breed. It took us weeks but we finally tracked one down in Indiana, on a farmette just south of Indiannapolis. The couple were rescue volunteers and foster parents and their Puggle was rescued along with hundreds of other dogs, from a huge puppy mill that was raided by the ASPCA and shut down.

This Puggle was cool with cats, we have 2 and he was also cool with geese and ducks too. The story we were told was that twice daily 2 geese, a duck and her ducklings, their cat and the Puggle would take a walk single file on a narrow path through the woods. When we arrived at the house, we saw the tail end of the animal conga line entering the woods.
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My daughter, Little O wanted to meet her first puppy so she took the drive with us. It was a lovefest at first sight and the joy in the car on the drive home between Ms. O and Little O was unbelievable. They named him Scout before we reached Chicago.
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Here's Scout, his first day at home.
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Incredibly the foster couple asked nothing for Scout so we gave them a sizeable donation for their rescue group and left as friends.

Puggles are a cross between Pugs and Beagles, Scout has more of the latter. He got along well with the cats but he was a busy little puppy and for months he found things to occupy his attention, like 3 pair of prescription glasses that never seemed far enough out of reach. He seemed lonely and more than a little needy so...

'Honey, I think you should meet this French Bulldog I'm walking.'

So she did and off we were on another adventure, this time to Wisconsin an hour north of Somewhere. We met a woman who Ms.O spoke with that very morning whose story seemed a little sketchy at first but the pics of this Frenchie she had, demanded that we pursue this beautiful 8 week old pup. French Bulldogs rescue puppies are impossible to find and if you do, they are out of reach expensive. After spending the entire day talking, exchanging pics of Lexie and Scout and being assured we were not breeders, the owner called and said we needed to meet that night, a weeknight. So we took the long drive from Chicago after work.

I have no idea where we were, it was past midnight and below freezing and she wanted to meet us at an old, abandoned gas station. She showed up with the puppy bundled in blankets and the rest is history.

Here's Gigi, her first day home.
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Fierce Gigi.
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Comedian Gigi.
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Tag.
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Timeout.
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Weary.
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Travelers.
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Inseparable.
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JOY.
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h/t to Ms.O for all the pics. (2.00 / 20)


time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


can I fierce this... (2.00 / 9)
100 times???

Tell Ms O that the photos are WONDERFUL... and that the Joy was totally eminating from them.  :)


[ Parent ]
hi K. i'll be sure to tell her tonight, thanks. (2.00 / 8)
She is the O family official photographer after all.

This certainly is a happy bunch of woozles and pooties. Gigi is the queen of course and whenever one of the pooties steps out of line which they deliberately do often, she dispatches Scout to do her bidding.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


[ Parent ]
You are very lucky... (2.00 / 8)
...to have them all as part of your family. I think our best times when I was a kid were when we had a dog, three cats, and various rodents and fish. And Mom, bless her, wasn't an animal lover. But she coped because we kids loved our critters. :-)

There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

[ Parent ]
after Lexie passed we had my one pootie, Willow. (2.00 / 8)
she's 14 now but her and Lexie were quiet buds and she was lonely. CC said it best downthread,

'I keep an open mind and wait for fate to make the connection.'

well fate jumped into my car during a snowstorm, Penny
and then the rest of the story unfolded. i know if we had unlimited space and resources we would have more dogs probably. maybe we'll wait until we transisition down to the farm.

my daughter has our four pets and two dogs at her moms house. my mom was an animal lover too, our homes were always filled with fish, turtles, birds, cats and dogs. some of my best childhood memories are of my animal friends, i'm glad you got to enjoy a life filled with pets too.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


[ Parent ]
I've wanted a dog for a long time, but... (2.00 / 8)
...I've always lived in apartments that don't allow them. Then a couple of years ago I found out that I qualify for a service animal exemption. Then I learned that my cross-the-hall neighbors have a dog, which I don't know whether they've cleared with the landlord or not (really none of my business, but...).

So I decided I'd open my life to one of my own, but then this hip thing came along and I've had to put that plan on hold until I'm able to take walks. I love ALL dogs, but I'm not really the tiny dog type, so I'll probably get a medium-small one that won't feel too cramped in my small living space. If wishes were horses (hah!) I'd adopt a nice Lab or Golden Retriever, but I'm perfectly willing to compromise with a smaller pooch. I guess that's one reason why your diary spoke to me so much. :-)

There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)


[ Parent ]
i didn't know about your hip issue slksfca, i'm sorry. (2.00 / 7)
One of the reasons i stressed  how near impossible it was to  find the two breeds we longed for is for folks like you. I think we were exceptionally lucky and very determined but it certainly is possible.

Many of my client's dogs are rescues and both yellow and black lab rescues, seem to be in abundance. we have several Retriever/ Lab mix dogs too. I think when you're well and ready it's quite possible you will find exactly what you want.

Knowing now you CAN have a dog might be good healing motivation, if you need it. Get well and keep us posted.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


[ Parent ]
{{{ dear occupant }}} (2.00 / 6)
I think you're right about the healing motivation thing. I'm so looking forward to sharing my life with a doggie friend!

There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

[ Parent ]
{{{slksfca}}}} (2.00 / 6)
I wrote my comment to you before reading your diary, your words touched me in that deep place. I might need some time to respond if that's ok. In the meantime...

Welcome to our Purple Place.
We are better that you're here.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


[ Parent ]
Thanks so much. (2.00 / 6)
No need to rush, in fact I'm going offline for now. Time to eat dinner and then get as comfy as I can in front of the TV. :-)

There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

[ Parent ]
Dogs change everything (2.00 / 13)
I have been "between dogs" since 1995 when I left my two dogs with my ex-husband, something that helped him weather our divorce (and something that convinced my mother that, yes I was serious about leaving). When Mr. Carolina and I settle here in NC permanently later this year, it will be time to head to the local shelters and look for a canine friend.  

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.


-- Oscar Wilde


they certainly do CC. (2.00 / 13)
we share a similar story about leaving a dog behind after a divorce. my ex and i got Jack, a shephard mix from Anti Cruelty Society a few years prior, i had to leave him because i just wasn't in the frame of mind to care for him as he needed and Little O had grown attached too. he recently passed a few months ago, he had a great life in that house. he was 14.

it's funny that my preference in dogs as an owner is toward the smallish to medium size now. i wanted a lap dog, one that could easily jump on my chest on the couch and lay there without crushing me. :-)

do you have an idea what kind of dog you'd pick now?

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


[ Parent ]
I'd be looking for something medium-sized, dear occupant (2.00 / 12)
My past dogs were in the 60-70 pound range including Shadow - the vet described him as a "shepherd-collie-setter-retriever mix". He came from a local animal shelter and lived 17 years after we got him mostly grown.

Shadow Moosehead Lake

and Chelsea, an Irish setter - golden retriever cross who was the litter-mate of our neighbor's dog and in need of a new home due to... you guessed it: a divorce

Chelsea scanned photo

Anything in this size range would be fine, maybe a little smaller. I keep an open mind and wait for fate to make the connection. In the mean time, I am content with Molly whose ancestry appears to be from the plush family. Here she is at our place in NC:

Molly

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.


-- Oscar Wilde


[ Parent ]
geez, Shadow looks exactly like my boy Jack. (2.00 / 9)
the mix is almost identical, really beautiful pup CC. Molly looks quite regal in that pic, that snout is impressive.

'I keep an open mind and wait for fate to make the connection.'

that's our philosophy too. one of our cats jumped in my car during a snowstorm...yeah, fate is a thing, isn't it?.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


[ Parent ]
Shadow was an interesting case - he had been taken in (2.00 / 10)
by a local pound before being transferred to a no-kill shelter because he seemed to be "someone's" dog. He evidently escaped around July 4th, probably due to fireworks, which freaked him out. He was very calm otherwise, trotting around behind me. Loved being in any sort of transportation - cars, canoes, motor boats, kayaks. Once, he tried boarding a seaplane that was docked at Moosehead lake!

One thing was weird though. When we got him, he would not bark. No matter what appeared out the window or at the door. Nothin'. This is a deficiency in a watch dog, but we figured, maybe there's something he knows that we don't know.

One Saturday morning, I was scooping up a bunch of newspapers to take to the recycling center. Shadow scooted out of the room like a bat out of hell. Hmmm... evidently he must have been beaten with a newspaper for barking?

My ex-husband and I decided that we needed to re-teach Shadow how to bark. We got down on all fours by the window, and when a person, dog, or other critter of interest came by, we'd bark. Shadow looked at us as if to say "Yikes! You guys better watch out, or someone's gonna smack you on the snout!". Eventually, he learned it was OK to bark, and OK to be a dog.


I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.


-- Oscar Wilde


[ Parent ]
good on you for teaching him to bark again. (2.00 / 9)

LOL, but you've given me a dayful of visuals of you two at the window and the dog looking at you, probably with his head tilted, 'Huuh?'

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


[ Parent ]
LOL (2.00 / 8)
Molly whose ancestry appears to be from the plush family.

I have one of those too. Her name is Betty Furness. ;-)

She was given to me last year by a friend from the Orange Place, after I'd bemoaned the fact that my life can't accommodate a dog right now.

There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)


[ Parent ]
slksfca, Molly and Betty Furness are just as real as they (2.00 / 7)
need to be. Remember: it's never too late to have a happy childhood!  

I never travel without my diary. One should always have something sensational to read in the train.


-- Oscar Wilde


[ Parent ]
I certainly agree! (2.00 / 7)
And even though my childhood was a pretty happy one (including plenty of dogs and cats!), I don't mind having a second childhood. :-)

There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

[ Parent ]
Thank you (2.00 / 11)
I love your dog diaries, and love the three stars of this diary. What beauties.

We too chose to have our dog euthanized at home last fall, and it was the best experience possible for the same reasons you wrote. The vet was so compassionate and spent some time in advance talking about the procedure and allowing us to arrange it however we liked. However, with all the advance preparations, the end part of carrying her out to the vet's vehicle after was never mentioned.

Luckily, I had a friend who had recently had to do the same with her dog, and she warned me about that part. Still, it was the most difficult part of the whole thing - carrying her out and watching the car drive away.


thank you via, i like writing them too. (2.00 / 10)
i wonder why they don't prepare you for that part. maybe it would dissuade some folks, i know we still would have gone ahead with the arrangements but it definitely would have helped me be better prepared.

Scout and Gigi are quite the couple. i knew he would attach himself to her immediatley, we took him to Wisconsin when we picked her up and he was beside himself.

his uber attentive nature meshes with very well her maintenance requirements. Frenchies have a lot of excess skin folds, they tear a lot and all those spots especially under their eyes have to be cleaned quite regularly which he does. many Blond Frenchies have really dark stains under the eyes to their snout, she still looks exactly like the day she came home.


time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


[ Parent ]
Aw geez, and me, a pootie person all filled up. I put off reading this (2.00 / 8)
for as long as I could and am so glad I finally did.  I love dogs, we just have too many pooties to add a dog to the mix.  So I'll live vicariously through your diaries.  

"Pin your money to your girdle and don't talk to strangers."  My Grandmom's advice when I went away to school.  I don't wear a girdle and have never met a stranger.  Sorry Grandmom!

NB, i find it's less expensive to live vicariously. ;-) (2.00 / 9)
I do that these days with other people's gardens since i no longer have a yard.

I'll continue to enjoy writing these as long as you continue to enjoy them, seems like a good deal for both of us Nannyboyz.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


[ Parent ]
I'll tell you what, when my hubby's gorgeous lillies bloom I'll (2.00 / 7)
post photos of them for you.  Every summer Asiatics, Orientals and Formosans fill our yard.  I think you'll enjoy them.

"Pin your money to your girdle and don't talk to strangers."  My Grandmom's advice when I went away to school.  I don't wear a girdle and have never met a stranger.  Sorry Grandmom!

[ Parent ]
oh please do NB. (2.00 / 7)
Tulips being my unquestioned favorite bloom, Lilies are a very close second. my yard and every yard i designed for clients included  Lillies.

they are spectacular plants, i'll look forward to the pics.

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


[ Parent ]
I loved reading every word. (2.00 / 8)
And looking at the splendid pix. Thanks so much!

There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

you are very welcome slksfca. (2.00 / 7)
these diaries let me unwind a little, not be all serious all the time and share a little of my life with our group.

thanks for sharing Betty with us, she has an impressive snout too.;-}

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


[ Parent ]
LOL (2.00 / 7)
You must know how much I admire snoutage. ;-) Thanks again, dear occupant. I look forward to your next post.

There are, in every age, new errors to be rectified, and new prejudices to be opposed. ~Samuel Johnson (1709-1784)

[ Parent ]
Great diary. Enjoyed it. (2.00 / 7)
Euthanasia is an overlooked part of veterinary care.  It didnt take me long to figure out that a lot of time in private vet practice is spent on euthanasia considering my patients lifespans.  in my time in practice I have made a lot of changes to the way I handle it (both for my patients and clientsbas well as personally).  Our practice does do house calls for it.  Very important IMO for big dogs with trouble walking, older clients and cats.  
I am glad you found someone to come over to your house when it was Lexie's time.  Such an important thing - letting them go peacefully.  
Thanks again for the diary.

Jk2003 it was Lexie's vet who made the suggestion (2.00 / 6)
to Ms.O, knowing how little Lexie liked going to his office. he is a great old skool practitioner and one who i could easily imagine in a small town, he still takes good care of our brood.

being that this vets' entire practice was house call based, i guess the veterinary field has undergone a rethinking on euthanasia. i doubt we'd do it any other way when the time comes again to make the decision. i have to say that it was no easy task for the vet either, he was visibly affected. i just could not envision myself doing that job everyday and i applaud all the veterinarians who keep our pets healthy. i'm sure it's a rewarding but not easy field to be in.

thank you Jk2003.  

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


[ Parent ]
Beautiful diary, Dear O (2.00 / 3)
The pictures of Scout are precious, as are those of Gigi.  Those ears!  Love 'em!  :-)  Actually, they're all precious.  I had a Shepherd/Labrador mix when I was a kid, huge dog appropriately named Bear.  Miss him.  We're a pootie family now; Mr. A is allergic to dogs.  Looking forward to more diaries and pictures. :-)

sorry for the late reply A. (2.00 / 3)
hey, nothing wrong with a house full o pooties, at least you don't have to walk them in weather like this. Bear is such a great name, i walked a Labradoodle named Moose. i'm sure there was a reason for his name, i just couldn't figure it out. ;-/

Scout has turned out to be a Giant Puggle, he's taller than the breed standard. i actually think there's some Shephard in there somewhere, his face markings are Shephard. that's the wonderful surprise you get for choosing a rescue, you can never really be sure 'till they've grown. Gigi is pure Frenchie and honestly one of the prettiest i've seen, she stops people in their tracks when we walk her.

i'm more familiar with folks being allergic to cats, Ms.O is, are dog allergies common?

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


[ Parent ]
I'm not sure which is more common (2.00 / 3)
We're both actually mildly allergic to cats, but it's manageable so long as we wash hands after petting/playing with them and keep the house vacuumed etc.  I don't have any issues with dogs, but Mr.A after a couple of hours ends up with red itchy eyes, runny nose, scratchy throat etc. - friends of ours have a greyhound rescue and they're so short haired, there's not a lot of fur or dander around, but it still causes him issues.  Then again, he's allergic to a lot of the tree pollen too, so maybe he's just weird ;-)  He'd have to be to stay married to me.  :-)

[ Parent ]
What a wonderful family you have! (2.00 / 2)
I waited to read this diary, so I could sit down and really enjoy it. Reading your diaries always takes me on a much needed vacation. You always draw me right in.  

"Hair on fire complicates the decision of how to deal with the knot in your knickers while clutching your pearls with both hands." ~ wordsinthewind

thanks Khloe. (2.00 / 2)
My life isn't all politics all the time so writing these 'time out' type diaries gives all of us a chance to refresh for a few. And these days, who wouldn't want a free vacation? :-)

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


[ Parent ]
Beautiful diary, as usual. But I do have a question (2.00 / 1)
that I hope is OK to ask. I really don't want to be the fart in church here, but when you wrote of the woman whose story of the bulldog seemed sketchy, do you think it was because the dog was, perhaps, taken surreptitiously from someone who may have been abusing her? Or could this have been a dognapping?

In re-reading your account, I am convinced that you did your due diligence with this dog. The woman seemed to want to be sure that you would not use her for breeding. A real dognapper wouldn't give a steaming pile WHAT you used her for.

Every day, my friends in rescue pass along posts of lost and found pets.  It is so heartbreaking to think of where some of these animals may have ended up.

A couple of other tangential issues (not with your diary, but with pets in general:

Why is there no national database of lost and found pets? No one who lost a pet could possibly check each and every rescue and shelter, even within his or her own state.  There are some websites for lost animals, but even then you could spend a lifetime looking through them.

And this: Does anyone know of a company that would implant GPS enabled microchips into pets? Seems to me it would save a lot of heartbreak, and might even help police to convict dognappers, identify dog-fighters, etc.

Hope I wasn't out of line.  I may or may not have gotten out of line with a lady at my doctor's office yesterday who was so proud of her Yorkie-Pug-Shih-Tzu-Whatever-Cute-Little-Dog    who was having her THIRD litter of puppies, because "Oh, we didn't have any trouble getting rid of the puppies."  

Coming at this from the rescue point of view, I am sure that there is a special place in hell for people like this.  Rant over.  


sorry i didn't see this comment til now mideedah. (0.00 / 0)
no she wasn't a kidnapper or a thief, she just had a long tale of woe that changed a few times during the conversation with Ms. O. i guess 'flaky' might have been a better word. to us it seemed as though she was somehow disappointed with the dog, why, i couldn't tell you. we were concerned that after the long drive she wouldn't show, but she did.

our vet routinely puts GPS chips in new pets as long as the new owners are ok with it, i think it's pretty standard these days at least in Chicagp. Scout and Gigi are chipped, not the cats, they never leave the house.

it's heartbreaking to lose a pet whether they wander off or are taken. i've never had it happen but i feel for those who have, it's awful not knowing.

and thanks for the kind words mideedah, they'll be more diaries soon, i've got some stories to tell. :-)

time...it seems to move so slowly until that day, when it doesn't.


[ Parent ]
Thanks for answering, DO. Your dogs appear to be (0.00 / 0)
boon companions already. TThey will never replace the last dog you loved; but they are here to make memories of their own, and build their own loving, trusting relationships with you and Mrs. O.

I will check with my vet about GPS chips.  Most of mine are microchipped, but not GPS'd.


[ Parent ]
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