There’s No Such Thing as a Bad Dog

A few weeks ago, I shared a link on our facebook page, that had been shared first by one of my daily reads, Peace, Love & Fostering. The original post was from the blog, Notes from a Dog Walker, and it is probably one of my favorite blog postings I’ve read thus far in our fostering experience. I urge you to head over there to check out the piece. For even some of the most seasoned dog lovers, it just might change your perspective forever.

If there is one thing I could convey to all of you, it would be this… “It’s not how they’re raised, it’s how dogs are managed, that matters most.” A dog with a terrible past can still make a wonderful addition to your family. At the same time, unfortunately, sometimes a dog raised with all of the right tools, whether pit bull or black lab or poodle, will not be successful. Don’t stereotype ANY dog, for ANY reason… it is dangerous, and unfair. Give them a all a fair chance. The Vicktory Dogs & BAD RAP dogs are just two perfect examples of this! These dogs were rescued from the most cruel and outrageous fighting operations. Yet through careful and dedicated rehabilitation, they have become loyal and gentle family companions. If I took the time to list every popular story of a dog fighting victim that went on to live happily with other animals and children, this page would be full.

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I don’t believe that either Georgia or Gaige were ever involved in dog fighting cruelty. Yet if I had a penny for every time someone asked me if my pit bull was aggressive, or had been a ‘fighter’… well, I would have a lot of pennies. And while I don’t like to focus on the negative, I think it is important to note that those questions have come even from those that claim to like pit bulls! The point is, we love dogs because of their loyalty and resiliency. Give them a chance to prove it to us!

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In other news, please check out our facebook page here. We shared a few videos of lucky boy Cash, from yesterday’s post, who has begun his new life! One shows him playing exuberantly with a toy, while the other shows him interacting happily with his new foster sister.

Finally, we are very excited to announce that we have a two-hour training session scheduled tomorrow for Miss Georgia! We will be working with the talented Debby McMullen of Pawsitive Reactions, LLC. Debby specializes in positive reinforcement dog training, as well as management of multi-dog households. She has even written a book on the subject! You can even follow her blog here, and she also maintains a facebook page.  We are planning to focus on Georgia’s issues with overly enthusiastic greetings towards new humans, and also narrow down her discomfort with some other dogs. We are hopeful that we will learn new tools to manage her introductions, and also identify what sort of doggie household she would be most comfortable in. We are anxious to see whether her issues with female dogs are simply a matter of additional socialization, or something that would be best avoided for her comfort level. Wish us luck! We know this will only add to her repertoire of skills and talents, thereby making her more adoptable.

Are you my forever family?

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We hope your weekend is kind to you!

A Dog’s Life

I have a story to share with all of you today, that I am SO excited about! As in, I woke up in the middle of the night to type it out, because it just couldn’t wait any longer.

Some of you may be followers of New York’s Animal Care & Control Urgent facebook page. If you aren’t, you may be ‘friends’ with me on facebook, and have seen the posts I share regularly. Most states or counties have some sort of group like this, but essentially, the volunteers at the shelter run a facebook page dedicated to bringing exposure to all of the shelter’s residents. They will include lengthy write-ups, behavior evaluations, and flattering photos of each dog, in an effort to find them a home, foster, or rescue before it is too late. Unfortunately, this shelter seems to have more problems than most. Rumors of abuse, neglect, and poor management run rampant, and it is said that many of the shelter’s actual employees have no real interest in saving the animals in their care. While this may or may not be true, it can’t be denied that there is a serious problem of animal overpopulation in the city, and the euthanasia list is often extensive. A group of dedicated rescues also team up to help save most of the more promising dogs, but this time of year, funds and resources are limited. More importantly, even the rescues can’t offer much help without dedicated foster families stepping up to the plate.

With that being said, I still peruse the lists most evenings, my heart breaking with each click through the photos. These are mostly good, sweet dogs, that have had a rough path in life. In the stressful shelter environment, the behavior evaluations they undergo are rarely indicative of a dog’s true personality, but still, some rise to the top of the pack, with glowing evaluations and personal volunteer recommendations. Each night, I select a few, sometimes the neediest, and sometimes the most impressive, and share them on my personal page. It could (and has!) been argued to me, that this is a waste of my time. Sharing dogs on my page, every night… I’m exposing them to the same people, over and over. However, I have noticed a funny phenomenon; more and more of my facebook friends are taking an interest, and spreading the posts I share with them, exposing the pups to new faces across the internet, and around the country.

Regardless of the receptivity from the facebook community, this still often feels like a fruitless cause. While I can’t sit by and do nothing, more nights than not, the list suffers a few casualties each following morning. But this week, all of those doubts escaped me because we did it. We directly helped to save a life on the list, and I feel so blessed to have been part of this miracle.

While perusing the list on Monday, I was struck with the largest number (18!) of highly adoptable dogs that I had ever seen on the list at one time. One of these pups was Charlie.

Charlie at ACC

Look at that tongue, the wiggly body, bright eyes, his feet lifting off of the ground in anticipation, and of course, his striking markings! Nevertheless, the shelter gave him an ‘experienced’ rating, and described him as ‘nervous and tense’. Well, duh! Who wouldn’t be, given that environment?! As if that wasn’t enough, they consequently called him ‘extremely exciteable’…. what a conundrum! To me, it was almost like poor Charlie was being set up for failure. In spite of all of this, he scored all 1’s and 2’s on his SAFER evaluation, happily sharing his food and toys with the assess-a-hand, willing to play with the evaluator, and even displaying playful interest in the test dog.

In a rare stroke of luck, not only did Charlie catch my eye, but his post on my page also then caught the attention of my facebook friend K. K was an acquaintance from my Penn State days, as we had shared many of the same Animal Science classes. Originally from NYC herself, K was a regular follower of the ACC dogs, and had always planned to adopt a dog from there once her life was more consistent. The instability in her life was due to the fact that she is dedicating her life to these beautiful animals by pursuing a career as a veterinarian. K is currently in vet school in St. Kitts. So while she fell instantly and madly in love with Mr. Charlie upon seeing my post, she was desperate to find some assistance. Of course, I would have helped in a heartbeat, but our foster spot is (obviously) full.

K stayed up through the night, eventually scheming with our former classmate and her former roommate L. L graciously offered to drive from PA to NYC to rescue Charlie, filling out the appropriate paperwork and fronting the funds, all for a dog that we knew little about. As if that wasn’t enough, L also would foster Charlie until K could find a more permanent solution. It sounds like such a Cinderella story, but can you believe, that it gets better?

L picked up Charlie just in time, and secured him in her vehicle for the long trip ahead. The exhausted pup passed out in the back seat, and slept the whole way to Pennsylvania, seemingly recuperating from his arduous ordeal. Once they arrived, Charlie was a bit nervous and quiet, but L described him as intelligent and kind. He is settling in quietly, but quickly, and while Charlie is being kept separate from L’s female pit for a short adjustment period, he has already attempted to initiate play with her through their containment. He also does well in his kennel, and appears to be house trained. Really, he is a dream adoption candidate, and none of this would have been possible if K had judged him from his evaluation.

Settling in with L

Playing with a chew toy

Charlie will be renamed ‘Cash,’ to mark his new journey in life. His ‘moms’ are both already head over heels for him, and K is anxiously awaiting her return to the states later this month to meet her dream boy in person.

While Cash’s story might sound far-fetched and fantastic, the reality is that this is much more common than it might appear. Another example is a pit mix called “Lola,” now Mellie, who found herself on the euth list in the NYACC system, with a rating of ‘experienced- no child’. Essentially, this can be a death sentence for many dogs. Fortunately, a kind woman saw something more in this deaf little white pit bull, and brought her home to live with her family anyway. Mellie has since proven to be endlessly gentle with the family’s 2 and 4-year-olds, even spending the days of Hurricane Sandy curled around them in bed to keep them warm in spite of power loss.

Mellie

These are love stories. These are family stories. And these are pit bull stories. ❤ Please don’t hesitate to get involved, however small your contribution may seem. You never know what lives will be touched.

 

Wordless Wednesday: Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

..Oooh, girls just wanna have funnn! (You know you read that in a singing voice… don’t lie!)

You all know that Wednesdays never stay wordless for long around here, but I do my best to keep it short & sweet. I spoke in this post about how Gia is quite the little lovebug, when it comes to flirting with the men in our house… or, the ones she meets on the street. Not to call her easy, but let’s just say that our girl doesn’t discriminate!

However, I must say that Georgia can also be a girl’s best friend… and I think I am perfect proof of that!

Playing nurse

Big thanks to Foster Dad for capturing all of these special moments 🙂 Now if only we could get a few with ALL of us in the shot… but that would be some sort of Christmas miracle!

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder?

…Or at least, that is my hope! I could give you a million excuses as to why you haven’t heard from us in such a long time, but I think we would all prefer that I get down to business… let’s talk about the dogs!

It has been a frustrating few weeks, filled with a few leads to prospective adoptive families. Unfortunately, they all ended before they even began. For various personal reasons, none of the families that expressed interest even came to meet our girl! I wish I could say that we have been taking advantage of this time nevertheless, by working on Georgia’s obedience and introduction skills, but with lots of traveling, some unexpected vet visits for Tonk, and changes to our work and personal schedules, we have not been devoting as much time to training as we would like. Therefore, we are biting the bullet and officially pursuing some professional training classes. I am very excited about this. Georgia has so many wonderful traits to offer to a family, but I know these classes will give her the polish that will help someone to fall madly in love with her.

This time of year, I am always especially cognizant of the many blessings that we have been given. It is clear to me every day that the gifts in my life far exceed my requests or expectations. The biggest change in my life this year has come in the form of a little big brown bundle of love, who reminds me every moment to enjoy the little things in life. Georgia takes such delight in tummy rubs, expresses uncontrollable joy over bully sticks, and savors daily walks on the farm with the other dogs. While it will literally break my heart to say goodbye to her, I can’t help but pray that she finds her forever home in time for Christmas. She deserves nothing but the best, and I know that she will make the perfect family so, so happy. Santa, do you hear me? As the year’s first snowflakes drift down and stick to the ground, the best Christmas present I could have is a home for our girl.

 

Bittersweet Part II

Where to start? First, I guess, with an apology! I have been feeling not-so-great lately, the flu bug seems to be flying around here… but that is no excuse for going such a long time without posting! Sawwy 😦 In other news, Georgia serves as a great bed-side nurse!

Second, with the title. I wanted to come up with something a bit more clever, but I figured that this was most appropriate.

Let’s talk about our meet and greet. I have been rolling this over & over in my head… what is the most fair and truthful way to explain our meeting? We drove about two hours with a well-exercised and squeaky clean Georgia girl on Sunday evening. I guess I should start with the positive; the family was wonderful. They lived in the country, and were practically ideal as far as adoptive families go. They were very kind, honest in their application, and eager to add a female dog to their family. They had one well-behaved young son, and a very sweet and submissive, rescued, female pittie.

What didn’t go as well? Unfortunately, Georgia’s introduction to their dog. While their dog was displaying lots of positive body language, it was clear that Georgia was nervous around her. I tried to explain Georgia’s experiences, both before the meeting, and during it. I told them how slowly we had taken introductions between our female, Gaige, and Georgia, and that while she had never gotten aggressive, she was certainly uncomfortable around her. She had lived happily with other small female dogs, but the larger, more active dogs seemed to make her nervous. I made sure to discuss proper ways to pursue a successful introduction between two dogs. While I felt like I had done my best to explain her perspective to the potential adopters, as well as ways to approach the dogs’ introductions, somehow there must have been some miscommunication. I felt like I lost control of the meeting, and the introduction between the dogs was certainly rushed past my comfort point… and obviously Georgia’s. Ugh.

Don’t let your minds run away with you. The ‘breaking point’ was honestly no big deal. Just a little bit of growling and an open mouth… Georgia was not trying to bite the other pooch, or hurt anyone, and it ended as quickly as it started. But she did make it clear, for those of us that weren’t paying attention to her more subtle signs (stiff body language, ears pinned back, straight tail, etc) that she was not comfortable.

I felt so defeated after this introduction. I felt like I had betrayed Georgia by not having more control of the meeting, and allowing it to put her in an uncomfortable position. I knew she was becoming nervous, but I didn’t want to make the adopters feel awkward. I was more concerned with being gentle with the adopters, than I was with protecting our girl’s sanity. After all she has been through, is it really that much to expect that we take intros slowly?

On the ride home, after kicking myself emotionally, Foster Dad was, as always, the voice of reason. He had said a prayer that this meeting would end with a clear outcome; either they would be the perfect fit, or they would clearly not mesh. He certainly got what he asked for! The sweet part of this whole story? We got to take our girl home! She was coming back to a safe place, and we had learned more about what would work best for her.

While this family was fabulous, I think they were looking for more of an ‘insta-fit’ dog. A dog with special needs, or that needed a slower approach to training and socialization, was probably not going to fit into their lifestyle. But that is okay! They will find a great dog to fit their requirements. However, Georgia deserves a family that understands her needs, and will not hold them against her, but look at her training as an opportunity to improve her life and their bond together.

What does all of this mean for Georgia’s future? Well, we could give her a blanket statement that says ‘good with male dogs only’. However, I don’t think that would be fair to her. Of course, she will be pretty comfortable living with a male dog. But I feel confident that given a family that understands her discomfort around females, she would assimilate successfully given slow and respectful introductions. We are going to pursue some time with a local trainer to improve her socialization skills. We are looking forward to the achievements that we know she will make! And of course, we will keep you all posted on the improvements. Thank you for being a part of her journey. We know she wants so badly to make all of us proud!

Bittersweet

I typically do not post on the weekends, but since I skipped out yesterday, I figured that I owed you all one today! 🙂

I will keep it short & sweet, but I wanted to let everyone know that Georgia has her very first meet-and-greet tomorrow! We will be traveling a few hours away to do a home visit simultaneously, so Georgia will have the opportunity to meet the family’s 7-year-old son, female pit bull, and cats as well! I am very excited, as the family seems to be a wonderful fit for our girl. They have experience with pit bulls and the fostering process, and they live on a very large piece of property… perfect for long hikes and family time outside!

Blanket-head

At the same time, I need some help here. I have to admit that I am also a little bit nervous! I have never done this before, and I want to make sure that I show Georgia in the best possible light. For a pooch that can be easily overwhelmed by new situations, how do you other fosters approach introductions with prospective adoptive families? Georgia still has a tendency to jump on new people, although she has improved dramatically in this area. The family is aware of that, and told me that they have the same issue with their other dog! Nevertheless, it still takes Georgia a bit of time to trust, and to really let her guard down. I am worried that she won’t be able to relax enough to show this family her huge heart and sweet personality, which would thus make them fall desperately in love with her! Any advice?

Every day I’m snugglin’

Finally, I am starting to have foster-doubts. You foster families out there have got to know what I mean… she is our first foster, and of course we are attached! However, I find myself worrying more about her than I am about myself. Of course I will miss her, but what concerns me most is the level of trust she has built with us. It took a few weeks for her to truly let down her guard, and now that she has, she is flourishing. I know I may be anthropomorphizing here, but I am just so worried that she is going to feel abandoned by us. That she is going to wonder what she did wrong to make us lose interest in her. More importantly, will this make her take longer to trust her new family? Georgia has been bounced around so much (we are her THIRD foster home!) and I worry that this might be the final straw for her.

I hope that I am just being overly dramatic and reading into this way too much. In fact, I would love it if you would tell me that I am being crazy… Georgia is a fabulous dog, and if she had become best friends with Tonka & Gaige, I’m pretty sure that there is no way we could have given her up. But while they all get along well, and there have been no scuffles, it just does not seem to be a love affair between any of them. I want Georgia to find the perfect home for her, and I do not believe that we are it. I just hope she can find a family that sees her for who she is: perfections, flaws, and all. I hope that they will love her for it, and embrace a lifestyle that can ensure her success.

I could really use some advice from our blogging family right now! How difficult was it for you to give up your first foster? What was your most heart-breaking goodbye? Do you have any tips for successful adoption introductions? And please, tell me that she won’t miss me…

A Love Letter to my Best Friend

You might be expecting this to have something to do with Foster Dad, but this letter goes out to one of the first men in my life; Tonka. With so much focus on Georgia (and she does deserve it!) I don’t often get to explain my relationship with Tonk, which is such a special one. Our story is a long one, but I should start at the beginning. This is what I wish I could tell him…

Dear Tonka,

Our love story started many years ago. It was 2007, and I was completing my last year of high school. You were born to two purebred parents, an accidental mix of a stunning Golden Retriever mama and a strong, sporty brindle Boxer father, on April 3rd. The owner of your mother worked with my own mother. I remember exactly where we were when she told me about the litter of puppies. I told my mom that it wasn’t the right time for me to get a dog, with college looming ahead and my family preparing to move to Virginia (how stupid of me!) but she insisted that we at least go visit. Typically all reason and logic, I will never be able to repay my mother for her persistence. Sometimes mothers really do know best, and she must have known that you were just what I needed.

When we got to the house, 12 coal black pups, with a variety of white markings, were waiting in a lined kiddie pool. I remember the largest, a boy with lots of white, that they called Kahuna. (I am still convinced that day at the dog park in State College, just a few years ago, it was Kahuna you were reunited with). There were a few other families there to pick out their dogs. For some reason that I still can not explain, I was instantly drawn to you. They told me all about your little personality, that you were the pup they pulled from the litter each night to cuddle with them in bed. You would snuggle up against the wife’s face, and sleep peacefully through the night. While my mother hinted towards choosing Kahuna, or perhaps both of you, I insisted that you were the one for me. When she asked me why, I had no real reason. You weren’t the quietest in the litter, nor were you the most confident. I know now that it is because you were meant for me. Stroking your sleek black coat, looking into your deep brown eyes, and watching you explore the grass in your environment… it was instant love.

Tonka’s first day home 🙂

We returned a few weeks later to bring you home. We had a new crate, toys, blankets, food & water bowls, and a red leather collar… everything a pup could ask for. You didn’t cry much on the ride home, content to cuddle in my lap. Your big black paws were SO HUGE, they looked like oversized wheels on a truck… a Tonka truck, to be specific. And thus, your name was born. You were just about the easiest puppy we could have asked for (or perhaps my memory is getting the best of me?). But I do know that you only made one mess in the house while we trained you, and only chewed one pair of old shoes. I couldn’t resist letting you sleep in bed with me at night, and while I know that wouldn’t work for every dog, I still maintain that it was the best decision I made with you.

Baby Tonk

As you got a little bit older, your mischevious side came out… but only when I was gone! If you were alone in the house, I would always crate you for your own safety. But when I trusted other family members to keep an eye on you, you would rebel for having been left behind! You would steal Sarah’s stuffed animals, spreading their insides all across the house, like freshly fallen snow. Your favorite activity was raiding the kitchen cabinets, which I still cannot understand how you opened. Once, you destroyed a brand new loaf of bred… not to eat, just to play. Worse, you would carry the garbage outside and shred it all over the lawn! I can’t recall how many times I had to pick up bits of trash, but I couldn’t get too mad at you. You were just so happy to have me home! I would often return to find you worn out from your antics, sleeping peacefully with the last thing I had touched. Shoes, jeans, purses… you never destroyed my things! I think you just loved having the smell of me nearby when you slept, which you still do to this day! When you were neutered a few months later, your cone would not fit inside of your crate. I made the decision to leave you in my bedroom, out of your kennel. You expressed your displeasure, and broke your good record by chewing my Louis Vuitton scarf and favorite pair of black pumps!

It didn’t take you long to outgrow that stage, and before long, you were the best behaved dog. You went everywhere with me, and were the perfect traveling companion to horse shows, every weekend, all over the nation. Everyone that met you adored you, and they marveled at your array of tricks. The crowd favorite was when you would say ‘I love you!’ clear as a bell. Really, you spoiled me rotten. If only all dogs were as smart and as eager to please as you! You didn’t need much in the way of treats… attention from me was praise and reward enough. You quickly learned specific names of your many, many toys, and would bring to me the exact one I requested. If I dropped laundry going up the stairs, I could ask you to go back, pick it up, and bring it to me. You even learned to open the fridge and bring me juice boxes! You would entertain crowds with your butt scooting across the floor when I asked you to ‘back up’ and your teeny, tiny movements when I then requested that you ‘crawl’ to me. Such a ham… you love nothing more than attention and some ear rubs, or a good cuddle sesh.

A dignified sand moustache

I remember your second Christmas. “Santa” brought you a super-sized red tennis ball, which you opened yourself. When Trevor threw it for you, it redirected and was heading straight for our 8-foot Christmas tree! As you launched up in the air, eager as ever to make an impressive catch, it was almost like you found a way to stop mid-flight. You somehow redirected your mind and prevented yourself from launching into the tree and creating a Christmas disaster. After you landed, you gingerly rose up off of your back paws, and removed the ball from its perch amid the ornaments.

The infamous Christmas ball

When I went on to college a short while later, it was only natural that you would go with me; we were inseparable. In the first four years of your life, I think you lived in 7 different places! For you though, all that mattered was that I was nearby. You learned the confines of the fraternity house we frequented, and would never leave the yard to cross onto the sidewalk to greet passersby. You would sit on the porch, waiting for the boys to come back from class for a game of chase or fetch. For such an active, giant (100 lb) dog, you were always thrilled to go hiking, running, exploring… and especially swimming. At the same time, if I was stressed or extra busy with school, you would keep yourself entertained and curl up as close to me as possible. You never complained if I got busy or was preoccupied… all you needed was me. Every night, you slept in bed with me, finding the perfect spot to curl up tightly against my body.

Helping me study

You were fiercely protective of my roommates and I, and we knew that no one would mess with the big black dog in apartment 633. As scary and intimidated and LOUD as your bark may be, we can only assume to this point that your bark is bigger than your bite… but somehow I know that if it came down to it, there is nothing you would not do for me. Much of our time was spent driving up and down the highways and turnpike, just the two of us, both to travel to horse shows, and to visit my family in VA or Western PA. Often, this occurred during early mornings and late nights.

I remember one such late-night trip, we stopped at a rest stop. As I walked you over to the grass, a man began walking up to us. Naive young girl that I was am, I assumed that he was an innocent traveler, who perhaps needed directions. You, typically so friendly with strangers, wanted nothing to do with this man. The hair on your back raised 4 inches, and you lept out in front of me, between me and the man walking towards us. You ducked your head, kept your eyes directly fixed on his approach, and bared your teeth in a low growl. Your courage delivered with such menace, the man ran off, into the dark woods alongside the road. I will never know what his intentions were, but it is only because of you that I never will. You displayed your bravery yet again when a strange man came onto the farm where I was working for the summer. I was alone on the property, and he began imploring me to drive him to the nearest hospital. You came up behind him, and when he asked if you were aggressive, I told him that you were. He got in his truck and drove quickly down the lane. The police picked him up a few miles later for outstanding attempted theft charges. You don’t bark or growl often, so I know that when you do, you are delivering a powerful message.

On the farm in VA

What I haven’t spoken about, is how difficult my life was when you came into it. I lost my family to another state, hundreds of miles away. I had graduated high school early, and lost my friends to their senior year. I unexpectedly lost my horse Frosty, to another family, and simultaneously was giving up my ultimate passion, dream, and the hobby that defined me as a person. I moved to college early. I lost the security of a stable, family home at a young age, and learned to be more independent than many of my friends who were much older. I went through the eventual loss of a heartbreaking relationship of 6 years. I had become dependent on him as my source of security, and when he betrayed my trust, you were the one I turned to. Towards the end of the relationship, my phone calls were going unanswered… it got to the point where the sound of endless ringing from the earpiece of my cell phone, would send you instantly to my side, prepared to cuddle my tears away. For the first time, my life was uncertain, scary, and unpredictable. The people I depended upon were always leaving me. Through all of this, you were my one constant.

Some say that dogs cannot love, but I know with my whole heart that this isn’t true. I feel your love for me in all actions… the way you choose to be with me over all else. You lay beside the shower for me to finish, or sleep in the kitchen while I cook. You wait patiently yet eagerly at home, for my return from places you can only surmise through sniffs and smells. You roll around on the floor, silly antics just to make me smile. You burrow under the covers when I am sad, and lick away the tears that may fall. Your tail thumps to bring me reassurance. While the others run ahead on our walks, busily searching for adventure, you are the one who returns repeatedly to me, making sure I am alright and following your lead. You would rather sleep squished in bed beside on top of me, than on your own Tempurpedic bed on the floor. It is in the way you embrace the people that I love, and the way you teach and considerately tolerate the behavior of your ‘sister’ Gaige. You patiently ask me to play, looking up at me with a big toy in your mouth. You implore me with questions, paw resting on my leg, and your eyes locked on mine, showing more depth & wisdom than most people I know. When we are driving down the road, you love to sit behind me with your head resting on my shoulder, a metaphorical reminder that you are, and always will be, my copilot.

Co-pilot

Best friends

Your love for me is true, unconditional and unambiguous. It is unparalleled in any of my other relationships. I make mistakes every day that remind me how undeserving I am of this pure love you offer so freely, but yet you give it anyway. There is a saying that goes “I wish the world could see me through the eyes of my dog.” If that were possible, I can only imagine the love and acceptance I would receive from the people around me. As crazy as it may sound to some, I truly believe that God sent you to me as an angel to protect me. Sometimes that protection was from others, and sometimes in my darkest moments, it was from myself. I cannot imagine life without you. You are the brightest part of every day, and my happiest memories.

Penn State pooch

I will never know for sure if the richness of your soul is something you were born with, or rather something that has been enhanced by your environment. Tonka, I may have taught you sit, down, stay… all the basics of being a good family dog. But the things you have taught me have vastly more depth and value. Thank you for making me a kinder, richer, fuller person. You taught me about loyalty, courage, acceptance, and happiness. All this, and you asked for nothing but my presence in return. I will never be able to repay you for that, but I plan to spend the rest of your days trying to come closer.

Love always,

Your Stephy