The name Allie Smiles came from the fact that Allie did indeed smile. It was always something people commented on whenever they were greeted by our Allie Bear. She was the most perfect dog. From the minute I brought her home and surprised Tony with her in June 2006 she was a source of joy to us all. She was not a normal puppy- she was the easiest puppy I have ever experienced in my life. She was our first family dog and we immediately became “one of those dog owners”. You know…the crazy ones that treat their pets like humans. She was my best friend. Even more fun was that our close friend owned her brother and two older sisters. They all came from the same parents from a breeder in California. The four of them together was really something to see.
Allie was always healthy- no problems- in fact we had just been discussing how lucky we were that she was always so healthy. On Friday, December 12, 2008 it all changed. I’m not sure many would have even reacted to what we did, but I’m glad we did. As an over protective mommy, I noticed she didn’t eat on Friday, very unusual for our baby girl. Late Friday night, she threw up, so Saturday morning we had her at the vet pronto. Our vet who is also a good friend agreed to see her immediately. She was slightly anemic, which meant her red blood cell count was low. We weren’t overly worried assuming there was some reason for it and that a steroid treatment would fix the problem. By Monday we retested and it dropped again. Even though we still weren’t overly concerned since after all she was only 2, we scheduled an appointment with a specialist. We dropped her off on Tuesday morning, the 14th and received the dreaded call at 1pm, 4 hours later. Ill never forget that call. I was told she had Cancer. She had swollen lymph nodes that seemed to appear overnight and a large mass in her chest. When asked if we wanted to move forward with treatment, I did not hesitate in saying yes.
With a 25 week protocol of chemo the chances of remission were high although even if we were optimistic we could have only probably been given another year to two with her. Considering the one week we had- two years now seems like a lifetime now. Telling my husband and son was the hardest thing I have ever done and being a control freak, the utter helplessness I felt was overwhelming. First round of chemo began and we were hopeful while we waited for the lab results to come back and let us know for sure what type and what stage we were dealing with…by Wednesday night she was really sick and lethargic. Thursday morning she was admitted. The doctors and nurses were amazing. I admire their dedication in the face of their challenge. By Friday morning she was dangerously anemic and needed a blood transfusion. We visited her daily and leaving without her each day was tormenting. The results came back and we now knew what we had hoped we would not hear- T Cell Lymphoma which was the worst kind. Unusual still was the fact that this particular type was not following protocol but Allie was fighting hard. The second round of chemo was given and the next 36 hours would tell all. Would she respond? Sunday we received a call after visiting that again her red blood cell count had dropped to 14% which considering the norm is 35-55% is extremely dangerous. For fear another transfusion would cause an adverse affect we gave her oxyglobin which fakes the body out while giving the chemo time to work. By Monday, less than 10 days after her missing a meal, the fight was determined futile. The mass was larger, her numbers worse and we knew it was time to let her go. We went over to the hospital on Monday- and laid with her for what seemed minutes even though it was hours and then petted her, kissed her and held her while she died in our arms, exactly where she should have been. It was one of the most profound moments of my life. She died at 3:18pm- 3 days before Christmas.
WHY you may ask am I telling you this story?
Since her death less than 3 weeks ago I have told this story over and over to people. What I found is most have a similar story… Different, yet the same. One they will never forget from a recent time to when they were a child. As each shared with me I could see the same empty look and hear the same sound in their voice as when I shared mine. And we decided- enough! Our precious babies deserve the same effort and fervor that humans get with regard to their lives. Since they can’t demand it for themselves who else to do it then those that they love and love them and for all the countless times they were there when we came home and were home as well as the unconditional love we received from them. My life will be forever different for having Allie in my life. I know now it was part of the plan all along. My 11 year old said to me “mom-maybe we only had her for 2 1/2 years because God knew we would do something about it”. And so we will…
My sister Paula actually took this on the drive to the vet the morning they had to put her down…she looks great here, but several times throughout the day and for the past 2 mos or so she was in pain because of a pinched nerve, or a tumor in her spine pushing on a nerve, and it was super sad to see and hear. She had refused to eat for two days leading up to this and it really was time--she just had her 16th birthday a few weeks back. I visited Jenna on her last night…she wagged her tail when I came in and Paula said she hadn’t wagged her tail in a long time. She also kissed my face and I just laid with her for about an hour, talking. She was afraid for folks to touch her, because of the pain, so I let her come to me.
The strangest thing happened though: I took several photographs that night, a bunch on my phone…and they were all there when I left the house cause I was reviewing them. When I woke up the next morning, they were all gone…except for one brief video…and I thought it was like her spirit didn’t want me remembering her in such pain…it is the strangest thing how all of the shots disappeared…there was room on the memory card, everything…just so strange.
Paula said she felt an uplifting rush of air when she went to an area that Jenna used to go to a lot in the home and she thought Natalie (her daughter) had her window open, but it was closed…she said it made her feel better and she really felt Jenna was with her. I believe in spirits and know she will watch over Paula…my sister took it really, really hard, that was her baby and best friend….but we are all heartbroken. Trying to focus on how richly blessed we were to have known her.
I leave you w/ a poem that I want in my own funeral brochure…but I think it applies to our furry friends too!
Though I have had to leave you,
whom I love,
to go along the silent way:
nor speak of me with tears;
but laugh and talk of me,
as if I were beside you.
For who knows
I may be sometimes!
I’ll come if I can find the way,
and will not tears and grief
So, when you hear
a word I used to say,
or touch a thing I loved,
let not your thoughts of me be sad,
for I am loving you,
just as I always have.
My Life with Samson
It was April of 2002 and I declared to the Universe I was ready for another dog. And not just any dog…a Rottweiler. It had been 5 years since I had divorced my husband and walked away from him, our home and our two Rotties, Sophie and Moe. He was in a better position to care for them so I left them in his capable hands.
We got Sophie and Moe, two years apart, from a breeder. Dog adoption and dog rescue was not in my frame of reference at the time. When I moved to LA in 2001, I was introduced to dog rescue and slowly started to understand the importance of it. I volunteered with dog rescue groups so I could be around dogs and soak up their energy and love. I also made sure the apartment I lived in was dog friendly because I knew eventually I would have one again.
So in 2002 I was ready. I put out the word and Samson came into my life. The woman who rescued him was calling him John. She had found “John” and a female Rottie running loose in a cemetery in Inglewood. I arranged to meet her and the dogs at that very cemetery. I never thought I wanted a male dog, but when I met him it was love at first sight. He was big, beautiful, and goofy with an extra long spotted tongue. It’s unusual for Rottweilers to have spots on their tongue. It made him all the more special.
I don’t know what happened to him the first 10 months of his life. He was skittish and afraid of men. My guess is that his previous owner beat him and tried to turn him into a mean vicious dog. But Sammy was a love bug. He was never a licker and was somewhat aloof, but he was a great nuzzler. I would often grab the sides of his face, massage his ears and we would go forehead to forehead and nuzzle.
He fancied himself a lap dog. If I was sitting on the floor he would come over and plop himself in my lap, all 100 pounds of him. He occasionally ate library books and always shredded paper towels and plastic bags. If I ever left unwrapped food on the counter it would be long gone by the time I got home. He loved to lay in the grass and chew his rawhides while basking in the warm sun.
What I loved the most was the greeting I got when I would get home from work. He would hear my car pull up, jump off the bed and head to the top of the stairs. I would open the door and he would stare at me through the slats, his whole body shaking. When he could no longer contain himself he would tear down the stairs and run to me barking and twirling, until I gave him a good rub down.
In March of this year, I noticed he was limping. I took him to the vet and she diagnosed him with bone cancer. He had a tumor in his left front paw. The prognosis was not good. We were told it was an aggressive disease and he wouldn’t live long, a few weeks at most. Well rockstar that he is, he lived on another 6 months. We kept him comfortable and enjoyed every moment with him. But eventually the tumor got so big it had nowhere to go but through his skin. He was in pain and we had done all that we could do. It was time.
So three weeks ago we sent him off to the big doghouse in the sky. He is whole and complete now. He can run. He can chase cats and squirrels. He can eat to his heart’s content. I love that dog with all my heart and soul. He was a constant source of joy and laughter. There is a void in the house and his absence is palpable. He will be missed.
We had a special friend today,
And Samson was his name.
Beloved by friends and neighbors,
Gentle giant was his claim to fame.
His mommy rescued him,
When he was just a pup,
Her eyes met his, his eyes met hers,
And then she scooped him up.
He always knew when she came home,
He heard her car horn beep.
His head popped up, his eyes got bright
And off the bed he leaped.
Into the hall, his tail would wag,
He stood at the top of the stairs,
Then like a statue with iron gaze,
Until he could no longer stay.
Then down the stairs he would dash,
Like superman in a flash.
Mommy put her key in the door,
While he waited on the floor,
Then he would dance and bark and whine,
Til mommy hugged and gave him time.
I know he’s in a better place
Where he will be with friends,
So he can chase the squirrels and cats,
And be strong and whole again.
It will truly be a struggle.
We don’t know how we’ll face each day.
We had to let him go we know.
But in our hearts he will always stay.
Memory of Gracie
She was dumped at the pound pregnant with only 2 pups and full of heart-worms by her first owners. (backyard breeders) Then rescued by a group, her pups died, healed her heart-worms, spayed, and put up for adoption. I walked by her cage and read. "Sweet & gentle temperament, timid with most men so must go to a woman ". They said her first owners were probably mean to her cause they used her as a perpetual breeding machine (over-bred) so they could make money. My Big heart melted so I brought her home to live with me and my kitties. It was an adoption SUCCESS story cause my kitties loved her and she loved them. She was as gentle as a lamb but very protective of me and guarded me like a warrior. I had her 10 years and she was 4-5 when I adopted her. Long life for a Rottie. I don't think anyone as ever loved me or saw me the way she did.
My Memories of Cleo
I'll begin with my favorite - Winter 2003-Cardiff Beach
Gloomy, blustery morning, waves breaking 5-6ft.Cleo and I were 3/4 the way south from Chart House when she stopped and looked out to sea. Outside the waves appeared a lone seal. Cleo,immediately dove in the water and after being repeatetly pummeled by the surf-joined the seal!For the next 1/2 hour they played hide and seek!!! With the seal doing all the hiding and Cleo being the seeker. She finally swam in and we went reluctantly home.
This exact scenario was to be repeated for the next month. Three times a week, Cleo and I returned to the same spot and there Sealie was until-that last morning when she found her playmate-dead in the sand. Up until the day she died-Cleo would always hesitate at that same spot with the hope that her friend would return.
You would never get lost running the horsetrails w/ her-she always knew the routes and always lead-occasionally either stopping or crossing right in front of the runners behind-causing a lot of closecalls and mumbling under their breath.
Our monthly trips to Balboa Island with Cleo(10-12yrs.) magically becoming a puppy again-jumping over ropes-off and under docks and she and I swimming out to the anchored boats-the best being the Trimerans b/ we could swim under and through them. Afterwards,we would visit all the bakery's-she dripping wet going straight in for a treat and never a cross word or a shuuuuuw from the store owner-she had that way about her.
No matter where you were-she insisted upon being at our feet.I cooked a lot of meals doing the splits over Cleo! Car trips-her head was always on the arm rest between the two front seats-directing w/ her eyebrows.
She never greeted you without a baby (stuffed animal in her mouth) When I taught spin here at the house, there she was-head next to your pedal w/ her baby.
Everyone who has known Cleo-say she had nine lives and here's why. 2005 Winter Encinitas Ranch Trails
Cleo leading but instead of staying on the trail,she chose to investigate the adjoining field. We were separated by a split rail fence which turned into a solid fence-so she could hear us on the other side. What she didn't know was that at the top of the hill-the remaining fence extended 6ft in mid-air over a 50ft.drop over a dirt trail!!! We had no idea where she went!!! And when I asked the laborers in the field-they all pointed to the cliff!! Of course, I didn't believe them and let them have it w/ a few choice words!!! But there she was at the bottom of the cliff-looking up at me.We rushed domn to her and she slowly(with only a slight bloody nose)walked back to the car.I took her to the Drake center and after an exam and x-ray.They told me her only injury was that the impact separated her her heart from her chest and w/ rest she'd be fine!!!! I owe those laborer's an amends!!!!!
Cleo loved tennis balls, being brushed, she snored louder than Rich and loved my company.
She had a sassy walk and knew she was loved.T his year, we took her to her first snow in Yosemite and she loved it as much as the sea!!!!!
She has only been gone four days...THE BIG C took her from us.
Thank you Cleo for the happiest 13 yrs of my life-
Your buddy Sandi
My Life with Torrey
Watch Torrey and Len in action! Click here for video
In 2000 both my wife and my beautiful Standard Poodle died. I moved from Florida to San Diego to start what I call my third semester. Fortunately, six months later I met another wonderful woman JULIE HILL with whom to share my life.
A void still existed. I missed Daphne my deceased, beautiful, devoted Standard Poodle. I started searching for a new poodle. My wife Julie (my girlfriend at the time) was opposed to getting a dog. She never recovered from having to “put down” her beloved Golden Retriever, Buddy, at age 17. It is difficult to get over the loss of a loving dog and obviously the loss of a long term spouse. Instead of wallowing in self pity as the bereaved widower I decided to “get on” with my life. I am grateful both for the love I had received, and that I am still here to love again. Incidentally, Julie was cool towards Torrey for about a month. The two of them fell much in love. I find both of them irresistible.
My parameters for finding a new pet consisted of not suffering through the puppy stage, but to still find a young Standard Poodle. For those of you who never were blessed to own (or be owned) by a poodle, let me explain some of their unique characteristics. Poodles are among the smartest breed of dogs. They do not smell (doggie odor), nor do they shed. Because of this they are suitable for people with allergies to animals. Unfortunately, they require expensive grooming. Poodles have hair – not fur. The hair grows continually and must be cut. Their relatively high maintenance is the reason they are not often used as seeing-eye dogs.
I saw a For Sale ad in the paper for a four year, old female, black Standard Poodle. I went to see the dog. We immediately had chemistry. I looked into her eyes. This poodle exuded or radiated Love and practically said “please be mine”. The woman was selling the dog because she was getting divorced, moving to a smaller place, etc. I bought the dog. The dog’s name is Victoria’s Secret. We call her Torrey. My Vet assured me that the seller lied about Torrey’s history. Torrey was part of this woman’s puppy mill. Torrey spent much of her time in a cage just making babies for sale. She ate her dinner while lying down. Some of her teeth were worn away from trying to chew through her wire cage years ago. She is so grateful for her freedom and the love she receives.
The basic commands were easy to teach to her. I never taught her to shake hands because I feel woman prefer to give kisses instead. Torrey is an extremely loving being. She likes other dogs, cats, and even squirrels. Torrey very rarely barks. She has not had an accident in the house since the first week we owned each other.
I approached a friend about Torrey visiting a Nursing Home that he owns. He told me that his insurance prohibited it. He was sooo wrong! A few months later I met Susan Vandendriesse. Susan heads the Volunteer Program at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla, CA. They have a Pet Therapy program. Torrey and I signed up. I had to be tested for TB and Torrey had to furnish her up-to-date medical record. A dog trainer was brought in by Susan to evaluate the six dogs being considered. Torrey passed all tests. We both have our badges.
We have been visiting patient for six years now at Scripps Memorial and at Scripps Green Hospital as well as a couple of Nursing homes. Over 90% of the patients welcome her visits with enthusiasm. Here are a few totally true stories I am proud to relate:
One day while making rounds in the Intensive Care Unit (Torrey is the only dog allowed into the Unit) a woman stopped me. She asked if I would have Torrey visit her 22 year old son. The young man was in a coma and hadn’t spoken since his fall. I lifted my 60 pound Torrey up so that the young man’s hand rested on Torrey’s ears. He moved his fingers and slurred the word “Duke”. His Mother cried with joy. She explained that Duke is the name of her son’s dog. After the nurses finished hugging Torrey we went on the rest of our rounds. Incidentally, the young man came out of his coma.
Our rounds at the hospital consist of stopping at the door of a patient’s room and saying “would you like a visit from a Therapy Dog”? Most patients smile and welcome the visit. I find that Torrey automatically starts to enter the room when I ask the question. However, whenever a person says “no thank you” or “not now”, I notice that Torrey is already sitting down next to me at the door. She senses when to enter and when not to enter a room. I’ll discuss Torrey’s clairvoyant abilities later.
I peeked into one room and this young lady about 30 was crying. I apologized and said we would stop back. She said “No, please come in”. She wiped her eyes and started stroking Torrey. She asked if Torrey could come on the bed. This is prohibited, but after obtaining the Nurses permission I hoisted Torrey onto the blanket. She loved the dog for several minutes and told me how she missed her dog and her horse. We swapped stories about horses and dogs. We stayed for about 20 minutes. We left the lady with a smile on her face as she fell asleep. The Head Nurse thanked me for visiting that young lady. The nurse told me that this young lady was just told she had terminal cancer.
I lost two wives to Cancer. I found it impossible at first to visit Cancer patients. Now we go in regularly. Yes, it conjures up horrible memories. However, when I see the joy and temporary relief on the patient’s faces my horror thoughts vanish. I remember how happy my sick wives became whenever a friend or relative brought in a baby to visit. I prefer to focus on that temporary joy Torrey provides. I am grateful that Torrey is able act as a relief valve.
Though one of Torrey’s visit I met Bob Gordon, a Physician at Scripps Green. He (on his own time) conducted research into “dog’s detection of Cancer by sniffing urine specimens”. His work was fantastic and ground breaking. I assisted by raising funds for his work. We received no funding from the Pharmaceutical Industry for obvious reasons. Torrey was not active in the program, but attended the meetings with the various Trainers and their cancer detecting dogs. The Protocol is now over. The results were fantastic.
It is fun to witness the reaction of the Staff to Torrey’s visits. Hospital nurses and technicians are under pressure constantly. Some keep treats in their pocket or desk for Torrey and the other Therapy Dogs. She knows a lot of the staff now. Torrey bounds out of the car enthusiastically when we reach the hospital. Torrey and several staff members hug each other and act like old friends when they meet. Once, this beautiful nurse dropped to her knees while hugging Torrey and exclaimed “I am taking her home”. When I explained that we were a package deal, she declined my suggestion to call Julie for permission.
The Westchester Hospital in New York has now started a Pet Therapy program thanks to my suggestion. I hear great things about it from one of the Hospital’s Trustees. Thanks again Torrey.
Recently a friend of mine (who knows and loves Torrey) needed to go to the Emergency Room. While driving Jack to the hospital I noticed that Torrey was not just sitting next to Jack in the back seat, but was lying across his lap and licking Jack’s hands. You tell me! Torrey and I each had our Volunteer badges on so were allowed into the Emergency Room with Jack. I noticed a Latino man lying on a gurney waiting his turn. He seemed to be in pain. I asked him “Quiere perro”? That was my pigeon Spanish for “Do you like dogs”. He nodded and I led Torrey to him. Torrey and the gurney are the same height. He started stroking the dog. As the patient started to smile the anger or pain lines left his face.
There was one pretty red haired middle aged woman we visited four weeks in a row. She enjoyed talking to both of us. She knew she had a malignant brain tumor. She told me how she looked forward to our visits. She kept Torrey’s picture by her bed. (I hand out wallet size pictures of Torrey wearing her badge. The writing on the bottom of the picture says “Thank you for letting me visit – Love Torrey”). One day this Lady was being transferred to a Hospice. She insisted that the Aides lower the gurney so she good hug both Torrey and I good-bye. It was sad. We had become her friends.
I asked one patient why she kept Torrey’s picture by her bed. She answered “Torrey visits me, she gives me kisses, and she listens when I talk.” Sound familiar?
One constant highlight (besides Torrey’s warm reception in the Volunteer Office) is the reception she receives in the Surgical and ICU waiting rooms. The visitors there are waiting for word about their loved ones. They appear very tense. Torrey’s appearance quickly changes their frowns to smiles for a few minutes. It feels so good to be a part of this.
For 40 years I sold Insurance and Investments. I always felt good when I made a sale. It was a double win. The client won because he saved money, and I won because I earned a commission. Our job in the hospital is a triple win situation, not just a win/win like I just described. The first win is the smile on the patient’s face when Torrey enters the room. The second win is for Torrey. She is a hand junky who never gets enough petting. The patient and staff love petting her. The third win is mine. I love the compliments she gets. Doesn’t everyone like being told their kid is beautiful or wonderful? I call this my Psychic Income.
Now for a few lighter moments away from “work”:
Torrey likes to go out in the morning and bring in the newspaper. She is rewarded with a cookie and I am saved the embarrassment of darting outside in my PJs. We experienced two problems. On Sundays the paper was too thick. She would show up with only part. The other sections were blowing across neighbor’s yards. She did the best she could. Once she wanted to go back outside. When she scratched on the door to come in, we discovered that she had retrieved six of my neighbor’s newspapers. I had to get in the car and re-deliver them to the empty driveways. Hopefully, no one saw me and thought I was too cheap to buy my own newspaper. I now retrieve my own paper, but Torrey still gets a treat. I can’t resist those warm, brown eyes looking at me when she sees the paper in my hand.
Julie and I enjoy the metaphysical world. We enjoy psychic readings. When Torrey and I first adopted each other Torrey had stomach problems. The Vet ran many tests and found no reason for her vomiting. Our friend Elizabeth, a Psychic, told me “Torrey is grateful for your care, but if it isn’t too much trouble she’d like you to feed her half as much - but twice a day instead of once).” We followed the advice. Torrey eats well and doesn’t throw up any more. Another example of her clairvoyance is her jumping up on the bed. She never does so until the morning. I can be lying in bed half awake; when I think – NOT SAY- Torrey can come up now and cuddle. Within moments she jumps out of her bed and into ours. The two of us enjoy the visit.
My two brothers and I grew up together with pets. Both men do not like dogs. I don’t understand it. One married a dog lover and the other married a woman with horses. Neither brother even pets Torrey. Oh well, it is their loss. My wife says they suffer from “E.D”. She means Empathy Deprivation. Torrey greets them enthusiastically anyway.
It is now eight years later. Torrey has passed on. The love she delivered to everyone was very much appreciated. After she died we received over 40 letters and phone calls from people whose lives she touched. Her two Vets were amazed at her disposition.
Two weeks after Torrey died I was still depressed and went to the doctor. He suspected heart disease. I had several partially blocked arteries and needed heart surgery. I was a walking time bomb ready to explode. I completed the surgery successfully. If it hadn’t been for Torrey’s death, I would not have gone to the doctor, and probably would not be writing this now. Three dogs visited me while I was in Intensive Care. Their licks eased my pain more than all the Vicodin.
Here is the final “incident”. We have a metal sculpture of a poodle in our garden. The day after Torrey died; Irises started blooming around the poodle sculpture. We have many irises in the garden, but only those around the sculpture started blooming. I am positive it was she telling us that she was now at Rainbow Bridge. Please Google “Rainbow Bridge” for further explanation.
I am convinced Torrey is/was literally an Angel sent to me to teach me to be a more loving person and to help hundreds of God’s flock. Mission accomplished!
12997 Caminito del Pasaje
Del Mar, CA 92014
Tel 858 259-2666 Cell 858 204-0123
E mail firstname.lastname@example.org
I can remember the day our family was rescued by an adorable four month old. We named him Buddy. His energy took our entire family by storm! Buddy taught us so much over the next decade...He was a loyal companion, baby walker to my daughter, tug of war champion beyond belief, but most of all he was our Buddy!
Friends and neighbors were always amazed that we could walk our dog without a leash, he was so loyal he never left our side. When my daughter was learning how to walk, she would pull herself up on Buddy, grab his tail and let him walk her around the island in our kitchen. In 2004 we decided to add another member to our family, and got a smaller dog, a Westie by the name of Tucker. Buddy was unsure at first, but Tucker and Buddy quickly became best friends. They looked like frick and frack together. Buddy never snapped or bit anyone, he took each day with stride, until the day we found out he had lymphoma.
It was July of 2008, we had just moved into our new house and he began to act a little weird. We had just had him to the vet for shots and a check up and the vet did not mention a thing. My husband and I began to worry because he was breathing heavy and had a hard time even swallowing water. We were not attached to our current vet, so we took Buddy to see a new doctor. The vet did an exam and felt two golf ball sized lumps in his neck. It turned out to be lymphoma. That night we broke the news to our children and that was the first time, I had ever seen my husband cry. Our entire family was at a loss, we were devistated.
Our vet explained to us that we could do treatment, but the ending results would still be the same. The entire office was wonderful to our family through the whole "waiting" process. Our vet prescribed medicine to help with the pain and recommended we switch him to wet food.
Once Buddy was on his meds, he had more good days, but mostly he would just lay by one of us and sleep. By the end of the summer, his condition got worse. He had a really hard time sleeping and getting comfortable. He was not eating at all and began to get confused with his surroundings. I remember one night sleeping on the floor next to him, just petting him to try and help keep him comfortable, the next morning we made the last of many calls to our vet, we explained how Buddy was acting, then I will never forget his words, "I'm so sorry, but I think it's time".
We gathered together in our family room, so the children could say their goodbyes, then my husband took him to our vet for one last time. The staff and vet's were so good to us, they gave my husband as much time as he needed to say goodbye. Buddy left us in September of 2008. We miss him so much and every time we see a Golden Lab mix, we wish we had our Buddy back. Tucker had a really hard time after Buddy passed, he looked for him everytime we went on a walk and he would wimper if he her other neighborhood dogs bark. It's amazing how much animals change our lives. They become one of our family members and their short time on this earth makes an impact on the ones that love them unconditionally. Miss you forever my Buddy!
October 15, 2010 was one of the worst days of my life. It was the last day I thought I would ever see my dog again, she had been stolen from our truck at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. Wherever we went Stella went- never did I think that there was dirtbag so low that would steal a family pet. When we returned to the truck 35 minutes later she was gone. Apparently, the intent of the thief was to steal the truck, something went wrong and the dog was taken instead.
We immediately called the Sheriff; we contacted Del Mar security, called my brother to come help us look for her. For hours we combed the Fairgrounds and had to call it a night as the search for her went into the early morning hours. We didn’t want to leave the Fairgrounds; I thought if she was out there she could smell me and find her way back to me.
We didn’t go back to our home that night, instead we stayed in San Diego so that we could make flyers and get them posted as soon as possible. We checked the local Humane Society and set up schedules with other family members that lived in San Diego to check other shelters in South, Central and North County. Though my friends and family tried to assure me that Stella might have been rescued by an animal rights activist, but I knew deep down someone had deliberately taken her. We setup a Craigslist account so that we could post Stella’s information, and we contacted LostMyDoggie.com to get the word out to all the Vets, shelters, Humane Society, and Animal Hospitals in the San Diego area. We contacted Channel 8 and asked if they were interested in doing a story for us, thinking that someone would see it that either knows where our dog is or who has her. Sunday October 17 our story aired on the news. Immediately an outpouring of good people offered to help us.
I received a phone call from a mysterious man who had seen one of our flyers posted by his place of work. A man named Malcolm, who became our dogs silent champion, her hero. Malcolm asked me how much my reward was, and I told him $500. He offered to increase the reward to $5,000 if I could match it with $2,500. I was embarrassed to tell him I didn’t have that kind of money because in the back of my mind I wanted to post every single penny of my life savings to get her back. We ended up agreeing that $2,500 would be a good start and I changed the Craigslist reward to $2,500.
Malcolm could talk to me in such a way he took me from a level of hopelessness to a level of “I will find my dog if this is the last thing I do!” He talked about his 3 GR’s and how they were just like his children. Stella was my first baby- I have never kept anything in my life for 13 years! I was amazed and honored to have total strangers reach out to help. Just when you think there aren’t many good people in the world, your life is presented with kindness and caring. The good people out there wanting to help us were overwhelming with their support and I don’t think a million Thank you’s to each one of them would ever be enough.
Every tip or lead we received we followed up on. Many nights spent down in San Diego looking for Stella as far south as Mission Valley and north to Oceanside. Each unfulfilled search led me to realize how upside down our family was. Our daily routine had been changed to accommodate our lives without Stella.
After looking at thousands of dogs on multiple websites for 2 months I started to tell myself it was time to get some closure on this nightmare. I told my husband that if we did not find her by January 1, 2011, I would take all her things to the shelter so another dog could enjoy her bed, toys, food, and collars.
On December 23, I received 20 or so emails, from my anonymous friends at Craigslist that were still helping us look for our girl. The emails said that someone had posted to Craiglist “My cousin found a dog, looks like the dog from Del Mar” She is old. 68 days our Stella had been gone and I truly thought this was probably just anther dead end. I responded to the posting with my cell number, and the next day I received a call from a guy who told me his cousin had a friend who gave him “this” dog and that he thought it looked like the dog missing from Del Mar Fairgrounds. After days of asking for a picture he finally sent one to me. One look and I knew that was our Stella, her eyes were so sad, her ears pulled back as if in fear. I didn’t want to freak out the guy on the phone with uncontrollable excitement so I kept it all together, and received further instructions via text messages on where and how to get our dog back.
Monday December 27, I was to meet his “other cousin” at a McDonalds in National City at 12:30 per our agreement. I watched each vehicle enter and leave the parking lot with no dog. Finally, 12:48 a mini van drove into the parking lot with a Stella in the back. Stella was scared, and confused. As soon as I could get her out of the mini-van I gave her a bear hug her and cried out my puppy, my puppy! Without a word I handed the reward money to the “other cousin”; Stella and I got into the back seat of our truck, and my husband drove us home. The ride back to Orange County was surreal.
Tuesday December 28 Channel 8 aired our story on the return of Stella. Another million thanks to Craig McKee, another GR parent. Without his interest in the story it would never have aired.
Stella has been home 62 wonderful, blissful days. Our dog is home where she belongs, 2010 turned out to be the worst year and the best year of my life. Our lives are whole again and it is my privilege to be with Stella from the day she was born until the day she goes to doggy heaven. This privilege will not be interrupted, derailed or taken away ever again.
A special heartfelt Thank you to Malcolm and Debbie because without their kindness, trust, and faith I wouldn’t have been able to get our Stella back. Malcolm and Debbie are truly a blessing to us and to the lives of others that you touch daily. You both are truly benevolent human beings.
Love and blessings,
The Sunseri family
Watch Stella's Journey - Video
This is a story about my best friend. Her name is Sammy. Everyone has had a furry best friend some time in their life, but my story has a purpose a passion and a cause.
I was so thankful to get just one extra day with her for she is a part of my soul. Many people choose the viability of saving a pet, to the cost involved, I can’t fathom putting my little girl to sleep, because I couldn’t afford to keep her alive, or anyone else for that matter. And to me, I am willing to pay a million dollars for the extra time I can spend with her.
I will never forget the day I held Sammy after Chelsea (our first Golden Retriever) gave birth to her. She was such a big newborn that it took two hands to hold her with her little eyes still closed. I knew from the first time I held her she would be my best friend; my big girl, my little trouble-maker and Chelsea’s playmate for life.
Sammy was and still is the most mischievous dog you will ever meet. If there is a place not to be, or something she should not be doing her name is written all over it. Sammy had a mind of her own. She reminds me of me. Strong, independent, childlike, and a trouble-maker. Did I forget to mention not too smart, but very loveable? What more could you want in a best friend? I remember once we were playing with a rubber super ball and all of a sudden the ball was gone. This was the first major trauma we experienced with her. I figured she must have swallowed the ball, and promptly called the veterinarian to find out what to do. He suggested sticking a turkey baster down Sammy’s throat, and squeezing a mix of water and hydrogen peroxide into her stomach. After her third time vomiting up the water/hydrogen peroxide mix, the ball came flying out of her mouth, and went bouncing down the sidewalk. Yes, of course she ran after it to retrieve it and bring it back to me. Sammy must have figured that was a cool ball to play with.
Growing up with my husband the athlete who would run 12 miles with Chelsea, Sammy always wanted to be a part of the group. This was always a sight to see since Sammy is not very athletic and has always been slightly overweight. Sammy always joined in with them, always lagged behind, but never gave up. She always persisted, and did all this with K9 epilepsy. Sammy climbed dozens of mountains, some as high as 11,000 feet, swam in the ocean almost every day, can easily swim through rough surf, she’s also an avid backcountry camper, and does everything with a toy, stick or some sort of something in her mouth. Sammy’s epilepsy never stopped her from doing all the amazing things she has done. All of the adventures this dog has experienced in 11 years are more than most human beings may ever accomplish in one lifetime. . Sammy is the best companion anyone could ever wish for.
In February 2005, Sammy’s face was swollen. We figured she’d been stung by a bee (again). So we took her to the vet and got the real story. Lymphoma.
Sammy was supposed to go through 26 weeks of treatment. Dr Richter at VSH only gave me facts at this point. He says that some animals live 15 months some 2 / 3 years & he has a high success rate in curing animals with lymphoma. The costs were more than we could afford, but we took loans on our 401K’s and went to work to save our girl.
Saturday march 19, our Sammy died.
(Excerpt from my husband) The sad irony is that it wasn’t the cancer which caused her demise. As you read the updates, you’ll find a two week window when Sammy was feeling like a puppy, going for long walks, playing fetch and just being her old self. Since she technically was sick with remissed cancer, I figured that a few extra treats would be in order. I gave both Sammy and Chelsea their favorite snack, T-Bone Steak Bones. They are so happy when gnawing on the real thing. What I didn’t realize was that Sammy had been a bit aggressive in her eating and swallowed a piece of the bone which ultimately severed her intestinal wall, hence the vomiting and weakness of late.
I figured it may have been a chemo reaction or something. Vicky was at a tradeshow in Vegas and I thought she should come home because her girl was sick. She flew home the next morning.
Sammy kept getting sicker, so Vicky decided to take her to the vet just to be sure everything was ok and decided to take Sammy to go potty before the trip to the vet. Sammy collapsed and went into shock while walking to go potty. The neighbors helped load her into the car for the trip to the vet. Sammy was taken right to emergency at Veterinary Specialty Hospital where they x-rayed and ultra sounded her abdomen. The doctors found fluid, diagnosed her with a torn intestine and immediately stabilized Sammy and prepped her for surgery to repair the intestine.
Sammy’s physician Dr. Richter didn’t mince words when he told us that doing surgery in her weakened state was risky, but her only hope. Sammy had been leaking waste products into her body cavity for the past four days, and she was in septic shock. We needed a miracle, but Sammy has had so many miracles in her life, we expected no less.
The surgery lasted three hours, and was successful. Vicky and I spent the night with our girl touching and talking to her, trying to keep her blood pressure up and kidneys working. Sammy remained stable throughout the night, so we decided to allow the intensive care doctors to do their job without us in the way, so we headed home for a shower. The staff told us that Sammy would not be released for 5 days minimum, so it would do her no good for us to be there when she was trying to get much needed rest. We logically agreed, and chose to go to work.. I headed to San Diego Downtown, and Vicky went back to her tradeshow in Vegas.
I received a call at work at 10:15 am with Vicky hysterically screaming to get back to the hospital so our little girl won’t die alone! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I asked Vicky to explain herself. She just wailed that she had stopped breathing and they were trying to keep her alive until I got there so she didn’t have to die alone.
I arrived at 10:35 to find Sammy stabilized and breathing on her own. Her kidneys were not producing urine, so the staff was getting the dialysis machine ready to give her kidneys a rest, so her blood pressure could rise and her immune system could fight off the sepsis bacteria. I stayed with Sammy while a team of five doctors worked to keep her stable.
Vicky called me from the airport to tell me that she had just boarded an 11:05 plane to arrive at 12:15 . She called me when she landed and informed me that she would be at the hospital in 20 minutes and to whisper in Sammy’s ear that her mommy was on the way and just hang on. I told Vicky to say it to Sammy herself, so I held the phone to Sammy’s ear as Vicky spoke.
At that same moment, Sammy’s heart stopped.
The staff immediately went to work. CPR, defibulation, epenephrin, adrenalin. I kept my hands on her the whole time, refusing to let her go. The memory of the dynamics of trying to save her life has been painfully been burned into my mind. I held Sammy tight looking to my father Malcolm Sr. for guidance, as he has been Sammy’s miracle worker and spirit-guide since he died 5 years earlier to the day. The two of them had a bond that has been together since the beginning of time. They are old kindred souls. They were to die together on the same day.
I stood with tears streaming down my face staring at the ceiling hoping for that miracle. The miracle came when my father’s voice whispered that it was over and time to let her be with him on the Manzanita Ridge high in the mountains where Sammy loved to go, and many miracles have come to fruition. But there was something that Sammy had to give to me first. She wanted to give me a gift that I could take to the one person who gave her the most love of all, her true soul mate and caretaker Vicky. He said to me “hold her tight,… heart to heart.”
I looked down to see the team working so hard to keep her heart beating and oxygen flowing. I looked into Dr. Richter’s eyes and knew it was time. I told everyone to stop. I then pushed the wires, tubes, machines and everything out of the way, picked Sammy up and held her tight as I watched the heart monitor read 148 – 130- 80 – 15 then 0.
At that instant I felt her soul enter my heart. It is the most magical loving soul, made up of pure unconditional love. And a gift I can give to Vicky forever. My father let me know Sammy could never let Vicky see her like this…
The death of our beloved little girl is the most painful thing in the world for me, and unbearable for Vicky. I had to deal with the “what ifs” which can drive you crazy. I feel personally responsible for Sammy’s death. What if I wouldn’t have given her that steak bone? Everyone keeps telling me that it’s not my fault and that the bones were given out of love and caring. True, but “what if”? It’s a decision I will have to deal with forever. I never wanted to see my girl go this way. She didn’t deserve such an ugly, violent death. She’s such a sweet and peaceful love.
We all may be destined to have our number come up come what may, but it is just so hard when an innocent life is cut short in the middle of a journey.
Some where there is a lesson to be learned here, and I’m hoping for to be a better person for it. Right now, it’s just a deep encompassing pain in our hearts.