Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Consider Adoption As Your Option

Our big beautiful Bear...

Eight years ago this big gentle soul became a part of our family.. When we first moved to Northern Michigan, we rented a home and could not have a dog... We had lost our beloved dog "Gunner" a few months earlier.. We both missed him terribly and looked forward to adding a new dog to our family...

When we purchased a house a little over a year later, we knew one of the first things we wanted to do was find a new dog... My husband really wanted a full blooded puppy, but he was working a lot of hours and I knew that would mean I would basically be house breaking it..Being self employed, I would be home to do this, but wasn't thrilled at the prospect..

He found quite a few ads for puppy's and called on them, trying to decide which one he'd like to go see.. But something kept telling me to go visit our local animal shelter in Roscommon, Michigan.. I dropped in one Saturday after John had left for work, but it just happened that most of the animals had been taken to a pet adoption show in the hopes of finding them new homes..
Bear and Tomi relaxing on the screened in porch

A gal that worked there, named DeeDee asked me where I lived... When I told her, she said she'd driven by our house quite a few times.. She asked if I had other dogs...when I said no, she said a dog named "Sad Sacks" might be a great fit for us.. She introduced me to him, but he was busy barking at a dog in the pen next to him and didn't appear to be very friendly.. She told me he really wasn't that loud normally, he just didn't like other dogs and didn't like this new dog housing next to him..

I kind of had my hopes set on a blond lab.. I'd wanted one for years and had hoped there might be a similar dog waiting for a home here at the shelter...Sad Sacks was black with  brown on his muzzle and legs. He was a Lab mix, but also German Shepherd...He wasn't really the color, or kind of dog I was hoping to find and after looking at the other few dogs that had remained behind, I thanked her and left, thinking that wasn't a very successful trip...

But from the time I left the shelter, I kept thinking about Sad Sacks.. I couldn't get him out of my mind.. When John got home from work, I told him about my visit and about Sad Sacks.. He didn't seem very interested, but I couldn't stop thinking about him .. The next day I talked John into going to the animal shelter with me....

DeeDee wasn't there, but all the animals, that hadn't found new homes, were back, so the shelter was pretty full again. Sad Sacks wasn't barking, but instead seemed very afraid of John and hid in the back of his pen..
John found another dog he was interested in, but the woman working told us she wasn't sure, but she thought someone else had already called about taking that dog... She suggested we call in the morning and talk to DeeDee...

After thinking about Sad Sacks again all night, I called as soon as they opened.. DeeDee asked me if I'd thought any more about Sad Sacks.. I told her yes, I had, a lot, but he just hadn't really impressed John much because he wouldn't come to the front of his pen..She started telling me what a special dog he was and that he spent his days in the shelter office with her.. She told me everyone there was very attached to him, but he had been there for 6 months because he just didn't like other dogs.. She had taken him home at one time, but he kept fighting with her other dogs, so she had to take him back to the shelter.. He had been brought in as a stray, but was completely house trained and very well mannered.. They had named him Sad Sacks because he looked so sad...She obviously loved him very much, and just the fact that she was trying to find a home for him rather than keep him there at the shelter where she could see him everyday shows what a loving person she is...Our shelter is a no kill shelter, so Sad Sacks could have spent the remainder of his days there...
Our sweetheart...

She suggested I bring my husband back in again and see if we couldn't get a different reaction out of Sad Sacks..But once there, it was the same thing.. He was very friendly to me, but seemed afraid of John.. That bothered John, as he loves dogs, and didn't want a dog to be afraid of him... I still had this tug on my heart about Sad Sacks, but at the same time, I wanted to find a dog for both of us, not just for me...

The dog John had been interested in had been adopted by someone else...We walked around petting all the other dogs, but none of them grabbed our hearts.. As we were leaving,  DeeDee asked if we were sure we didn't want to consider Sad Sacks.. I'm not sure why she was so sure we were meant for him, but she certainly did! She suggested we wait in the shelter office and she would bring Sad Sacks in to see us..

I was all for it, but waited to see what John thought.. He agreed, so we went to the office and sat down to wait for them to bring Sad Sacks in...He walked in the office and immediately went over to John, put his head on his knee, looked up at him with those big brown eyes, and John melted.. He said " can come home with us.."

Sad Sacks knew who he needed to butter up... To this day, John discusses the smart move Bear had made and thanks him for being so wise..
Smile for the camera Bear :o)

It was a tearful goodbye, as DeeDee started crying as she told Sad Sacks goodbye, and seeing her cry made me well up with tears... In some ways I felt terrible about taking Sad Sacks away from DeeDee, but I also knew, for whatever reason, this guy was suppose to come home with us..

DeeDee has stopped by to visit on occasion, though, and brought presents and treats. Bear still sleeps with a green blanket she brought him.

Shortly after he came to live with us, we realized he didn't look sad anymore, and we decided we needed to rename him.. We tried a lot of names, but nothing seemed right, until we thought of "Bear", since he looks a lot like a Michigan black bear... It was the one name he seemed to like and took to right off the bat, so he was officially renamed Bear...
Always willing to share his bed..

About a month after he was here, I decided to buy him a new collar.. I picked out a red one, since red is my favorite color... I still remember the day I took off his old collar and put the new one on.. He leaned against me and smiled.. He actually smiled at me... He looked so happy, and I instinctively knew that he knew he was staying...

We discovered he had many fears, some we suspect, may be from someone who abused him. I have an art studio in the backyard, but Bear will not go in it.. He will also not go inside the travel trailer.. He was afraid to walk on the 4' wide walkway between the house and garage and also does not want to go inside the garage.. We suspect someone may have locked him in a small space and left him there..

He is also very afraid of rain and thunderstorms.. One day we had an unexpected, very heavy rainstorm in the afternoon.. John had gotten all the window air conditioners out to put in various windows, but hadn't had enough time to put one of them in before having to leave for work in the afternoon.. I suddenly realized the air conditioner was sitting on the ground in the pouring rain, which I didn't think was probably good for it, so I put on my rain coat and ran out to cover it up.. Bear ran out with me, between the house and garage to get to it, and stood there "helping" me cover it with plastic to protect it from the rain.. We were both soaked to the bone by time I got done and once back in the house, I grabbed a couple of towels to dry us both off.. What was amazing about this is that Bear was so afraid of not only the rain, but of walking between the garage and house, yet he ignored his fears to help me... That's the kind of loyal friend he is...

Another time, I was standing out in our screened in porch just as it was getting dark out.. Bear leaned against my leg and growled.. I couldn't figure out what in the world he was doing, he never growled at anything, but he kept pressing against my leg making this low growling noise.. I kept looking outside and finally spotted what he saw.. A big black Michigan bear was walking down a back driveway into our yard.. When it heard Bear's growls, it turned and went the opposite way...

When he first came to live with us, he was checking out all the rooms.. He seemed to be reading my "I love stitchin" sign.. He must have thought, ahhh...that explains all the material!
A few months after he came to live with us, my oldest son came for a visit.. He ended up coming down with strep throat on his vacation, and not feeling well, he laid down on our couch to take a nap. Bear had been afraid of him up until this point, but seemed to instinctively know my son wasn't feeling good... He went over to the couch and very slowly put one paw up on the couch, then another, then climbed up and laid down next to Jess, as if to take care of him.. My son is a big guy, over 6' tall, so Bear really had to snuggle to stay on the couch..They've been old friends ever since...

Bear loves cats and has become both of our cats very good friend...They often sleep on his bed with him or near him..
Rascal feeling safe with Bear under his chair to protect him.
Tomi and Bear sharing a nap..

It's now been 8 years and he has been such a gift to us.. He is sweet, kind, loving, polite and a loyal member of our family...

I can't imagine our lives without Bear in it these last 8 years.. He is very attached to me and tends to follow me no matter where I'm at in the house or in the yard.. The only room I don't let any of the animals in is my sewing room, so when I'm in there working, Bear lays in front of the door waiting for me to come out..

He's laying at the foot of my recliner right now, waiting for me to finish up and go to bed, where he sleeps on his bed right next to me.. But despite being a mama's boy, he loves John just as much..

The connection to John was not as instant as it was to me... We don't know any thing about his history, but we suspect there was a woman who loved him and a man in a baseball cap that abused him.. For the first couple of years, he seemed afraid of John when he had a baseball cap on, or when any of our sons were here visiting wearing baseball caps, he seemed afraid of them.. It took John months of convincing Bear he would never hurt him before Bear really let down his guard..

One night I was doing some laundry when I noticed our cat flying out of the screen in porch just as Bear ran into the room growling.. There's a sliding glass door between the porch and our house..I hurried over to the room and flipped on the light, and to my amazement, a HUGE black bear was sitting on it's butt looking in the screened in room.. I think it was just people watching, it didn't seem like it was up to anything, but Bear did not like it there.. He ran to the screen, barking and growling.. The bear didn't like that and started growling back, and boy did it have a big head, big mouth and very large teeth!!! It reached up with his very long claws and ripped some of the screen.. I was standing there yelling "Bear, come here.. get inside"..Finally Bear came to me, I grabbed him, slid the door shut and by time I looked up, the bear was walking away..

It did occur to me later that the bear may have thought I was inviting him inside since I was saying "Bear get inside". lol... After that, we enclosed the bottom half of the screened in porch just to be on the safe side!

I think that is when John and Bear really bonded.. John worked 2nd shift so he wasn't home at the time.. When I told him what had happened, he praised Bear up and down for protecting me and our home.. From that time on, the two of them became the best of friends....

John now refers to them both as two old men as they sit around consoling each other over all their latest aches and pains...
As he got older, he enjoyed being covered up at night..

We didn't know for sure how old Bear was when we adopted him since he was taken to the shelter as a stray...Now, 8 years later, he has a white face, white paws and unfortunately, Hip Dysplasia... We've been through many bouts of ear infections with him before we realized they were being caused by food allergies. We went through one all natural, organic dog food after another before discovering the raw food diet, which finally put an end to his ear infections.. It's also been great for his hip problems, keeps his weight down and most importantly, makes him happy.. I give him a supplement of Glucosomine, Chonditrine and MSM every day, plus a dog aspirin in the morning and late afternoon.. Bear always had kind of oil fur, he shed like crazy, chewed on his paws, as I mentioned, repeated ear infections and had your typical doggie odor.. But after a few weeks on the Raw Foods Diet, all that disappeared!

All of this seems to be helping, but we can still see the aging process taking hold... We know he must be in pain at times, but this big beautiful boy never ever whines about anything...
Bear loved to be tucked in before his bedtime kiss goodnight... 

Despite Bear's dislike of other dogs, he and my daughters Dachshund became instant friends about 3 years ago, which surprised all of us.. Last year, my daughter and her family found out they were going back to Germany (my son in law is career military and this is their 3rd tour in Germany).. Because of situations beyond their control, they were not able to take Champie with them...

Champie came to live with us and he and Bear became the best of friends, always together, no matter what. We brought Champie back with us after a visit to Georgia to see Ronda and family before they left for Germany.. Champie had slept in a dog crate at night for much of his life, so we left him in his dog carrier for the first night since he was in a new, unfamiliar place..

First thing in the morning, Bear went to Champies carrier wagging his tail and looking very happy.. We could almost read Bear's mind.. It seemed like he was saying "I've got so much to show you little guy. Let's get started"... Wherever Bear is, that's where we find Champie.. We do believe the two of them are soul mates..
Two very handsome dudes...

We recently put down new wood flooring, which proved to be hard for Bear to maneuver at times, so we have strategically placed carpets here and there to help him get around... John built him a little food stand to hold his dog dish up higher so he doesn't have to put pressure on his hips bending down to eat.. We will do anything to make his time left on earth as comfortable as possible...

He's been on many adventures with us... I often travel alone to visit with our grown kids who live in various states and Bear always goes with me, my protector and companion... I remember on one trip, on the way home, I was getting tired so looked for a Best Western hotel for us to stay for the night, since most of them allow pets.. I got a room with 2 full beds, and when we walked in, Bear sat between the beds looking back and forth between the two.. After a few moments of contemplation, he jumped up on one of them and settled in for the night..
Our last vacation together.. Bear and Champie slept in the van head to head..
Bear giving Rascal a little pep talk...We're almost home.. Hang in there..

Bear never gets on our beds at home, but whenever we travel with him, he seems to feel it's his vacation too, and that means he gets to sleep on the beds.. That always makes us laugh.. No matter how many times we tell him to get off the bed, he just waits till we aren't looking and then back on the bed he goes.. Yet he never, ever does that at home!

It's getting harder for him to travel now with age, but we recently purchased a new van with cargo seating for traveling so we can hide the seats away and create a big, comfy bed for bear to stretch out on..

I miss the days when Bear and I would go for long walks down paths in the wooded areas surrounding our homes. But because of his legs, we now just take him on short walks to exercise his leg, no longer taking the 45 minute walks we used to have...

I've learned a lot about life from Bear.. I realized that adoption is absolutely the best option! Just because a dog ends up in a shelter does not mean it's not a wonderful pet.. Animals end up in shelters for a lot of reasons, and your best friend may be waiting in your local shelter right now, waiting for you to show up and take him/her home...

We had a preconceived idea about the color and kind of dog we wanted... I realize now that is so crazy! If we had held out for the exact dog we wanted, we would have missed out on one of the most wonderful relationships of our lives..

I also realize that animals in most shelters do not need to be "pitied", as if they are living a horrible existence.. The employees I've met in our shelter treat these animals with love and care.. They work in shelters because they love animals, and hope these furry baby's will all find a loving home of their own, sooner than later...

If you are looking for a new pet, please consider visiting your local animal shelter before making a decision..  

Your best friend just might be there waiting for you...

August 13, 2013

My heart is broken this morning. I have known for a long time that Bear's journey on earth was coming to an end. His black and brown muzzle is now pure white, and he was obviously feeling his age.. I have been trying to prepare myself for this for a couple of months now, but nothing can prepare one emotionally.

Bear was acting unusual last night.. His breathing seemed labored and he seemed a bit confused. Something told me his time had come and Bear would be going home.. I'm blessed that I had time to tell this wonderful friend goodbye, and how much I loved him and appreciate our 8 wonderful years together..

Yesterday he had a bowl of popcorn as an early afternoon snack and when John went to Mcd's for a coffee yesterday afternoon, he bought a McDouble to add to Bear's dinner bowl, two of Bear's favorite snack foods! We're so happy he got both of these yesterday...

He passed away in his sleep, very peacefully.. My husband and I have had a day of tears and sharing all our wonderful memories of Bear.. We buried him next to our little garden pond in the yard where Bear always liked to lay in the sun..

Rest in Peace My Friend
I will miss you dearly for the rest of my life
Until we meet again...
The last picture I took of Bear. He and Champie were sharing the Den bed...

My sister, Sara, sent me this:

Just this side of Heaven is a place called Rainbow Bridge.

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here,
that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge.
There are meadows and hills for all our special friends
so they can run and play together.
There is plenty of food, water and sunshine,
and our friends are warm and comfortable.

All the animals who had been ill or old are restored to health and vigor;
those who were hurt or maimed
are made whole and strong again,
just as we remember them in our dreams of days gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing;
they each miss someone very special to them who had to be left behind.

They all run and play together,
but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. His bright eyes are intent;
his eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to run from the group,
flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster.

You have been spotted,
and when you and your special friend finally meet,
you cling to each other in joyous reunion, never to be parted again.
The happy kisses rain upon your face;
your hands again caress the beloved head
and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet,
so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Then you cross Rainbow Bridge together........