Category Archives: Dog Rescue

Owen has crossed the Rainbow Bridge

Two weeks ago I helped Owen cross the Rainbow Bridge.  He suddenly developed peripheral vestibular syndrome and the world was spinning around him.  He lost his ability to walk, he stopped eating, he was disoriented, and while there was a chance he could recover, recovery would involve him being hospitalized to start, and a lot of rehabilitation.  With his other conditions (hip dysplasia, arthritis, degenerative myelopathy and Cushing’s) Owen’s vet felt very strongly that his quality of life would be diminished to the point that he would likely be suffering.   But more importantly when you tied all his issues together and looked at them, it seemed very likely there was a brain tumor causing them all.  I agreed it was time to say good-bye.  Below is the e-mail I sent to the group I volunteer with, the group that brought me Owen.

Meanwhile, I will continue to share Owen’s Bucket List – remembering him and all we have done together still makes me smile.


Words I always knew I would have to type someday, but it doesn’t make it easier.  Forgive the novel, but it is Owen’s story, and I just need to share it for those who didn’t know him, or us.
I still remember Owen at his first clinic.  He sat in the corner with David, Maria and Erica, so unresponsive and sick he went back into the van.  I told you all not to send him home with me then and there.  The next clinic he was with Bryan, so shut down you had to pet him a few times before he would notice.  That was the clinic I brought him home – that is completely David’s fault.  I stopped for a cheeseburger for him on the way home and he refused to eat it.  Granted, he refused to eat hamburgers for a while and the joke was that he heard he was a hamburger intake and wasn’t going to fall for it, because he knew what it meant.  It took him a year to learn to enjoy cheeseburgers.
Owen has been a fighter from the day I got him, and well before that.  How he managed to survive as a stray I have no idea, and don’t really want to know, but this dog continually amazed me with his independence, and heart.  I suspect he would have gone on fighting if I let him, but, I had to make a decision.  A long time ago I promised Owen I would not let him suffer, and he was suffering.  Owen came down with peripheral vestibular syndrome, and the likely cause was a tumor.  While there was a chance it was idiopathic and he could rebound, it would require hospitalization, and his balance would always be compromised, and with his other health issues it was likely life would be a struggle.  His life was already starting to be a struggle – he had been wanting to go on shorter walks, he wasn’t rolling over for his daily belly rub as easily, and he was panting more and more.  Plus, the vestibular syndrome was getting worse, not better, and that is not usual, and not a good sign.  Yesterday Owen didn’t want my help getting up even though the world was spinning, today, he let me help him.  That is not Owen.  Dr. DeVries initially had me come in to talk about treatment, but when he saw “Handsome,” he told me if this was his dog, he would not ask him to go through treatment, and I had to agree.  So today I told Owen he could stop fighting, because he wouldn’t have on his own.  He went to the bridge with his head resting in my hands.  As hard as it was, it felt right, and Dr. DeVries agreed, we’re both glad I gave it a few days to be sure.
Owen had major mobility issues from day one, hip dysplasia, arthritis, ACL issues and later degenerative myelopathy – on top of all his allergy and digestion stuff, and then the Cushing’s.  When his vet told me Owen had probably lived most of his life in pain and didn’t know life could be less painful, I broke down, and promised Owen that was going to change.  I always knew my time with Owen would be limited so I created a bucket list for him.  He and I did a lot together – he hiked many trails, got his CGC and touched a lot of hearts – as the neighbor told me last week, you can just look at him and know he is a good dog – he was.  He visited the kids I work with, he adored my Grandfather, and he was Aaron’s first dog (and he set a high standard).  And he taught me oh so much – I thanked him for all of that.  The only dog I’ve worked with that was returned from a placement for being too good.  But even when he was returned because the adopter felt she didn’t deserve him I fought the inevitable for a bit and didn’t accept what Owen knew from the start – we belonged together.
I am attaching some pictures, because it is me, and I have to.  The first is his picture from NYC.  One with his buddy Kate who we saw at the vet’s yesterday for his final visit, which I do not think was a cosmic coincidence, then two in the Adirondacks, one from my parents house a few months ago, and then one from just two weeks ago of him surveying his yard, along with a few of my favorite face shots.
Thank you for pulling him from NYC, even though I thought you were crazy at the time for bringing up one more emaciated senior shepherd.  He got his cheeseburger, but thankfully his life did not end there.  And , I kept my promise – he got lots and lots of belly rubs.

Owen’s Bucket List

A few months ago I read a bucket list made for Dory a dog who spent most of her life tied to a barn, with an old cushion and water she shared with the rats.  The family wanted to make up for all the things in life she missed out on, and it was sad and beautiful and wonderful.   And I realized my own dog needed a bucket list of his own.

Owen, then called Max, at the CACC in NYC

Owen was picked up as a stray from NYC, was diagnosed as geriatric and emaciated, and was going to end his live in a busy, overcrowded shelter.  Except he didn’t.  Instead his picture caught the eye of two people I will forever be grateful to.   They decided that Owen would be pulled by Peppertree Rescue with the idea that if he got better he would find a home and if he did not get better then at least he would have a nice bed to sleep in, and a big greasy cheeseburger before he crossed the Rainbow Bridge.  They wanted to give him the chance to end his life with dignity and that is why I love Peppertree Rescue.  But Owen’s life did not end, instead he is living a second life with me.  And we are both lucky to have that chance.

Owen, his first week with me.

Once I adopted Owen I started a mental list of all the things I wanted Owen to do, and all the things he had done that I was happy he got to do.  It started getting too long to remember in my head, and the fun of achieving those small goals was too much to keep to myself.  So I am sharing it, and will be sharing pictures of several of his experiences.

Owen’s Bucket List

Being a Dog

  • 1. Be off leash, in a field – DONE
  • 2. Steal a hot dog
  • 3. Go hiking – DONE
  • 4. Go for a car ride with his head out the window
  • 5. Have a yard of his own
  • 6. Have a companion dog
  • 7. Play with another dog – DONE
  • 8. Play with a toy
  • 9. Play in the snow – DONE (kind of)
  • 10. Play with a kid – DONE
  • 11. Snuggle on the bed
  • 12. Chase something
  • 13. Make a paw print

Fun and Adventure

  •  14. Run for the fun of it
  • 15. Go hiking off leash – DONE
  • 16. Go camping
  • 17. Go the Adirondacks – DONE
  • 18. Climb a peak – DONE
  • 19. Go to three state parks
  • 20. Go swimming – DONE
  • 21. Ride on a boat – DONE
  • 22. Go on a road trip – DONE
  • 23. Go to a bonfire – DONE (kind of)
  • 24. Win a confrontation with the cats.
  • 25. Get a picture in front of the Christmas tree
  • 26. Go trick-or-treating – DONE
  • 27. Visit a farm
  • 28. Visit a nursing home
  • 29. Meet cows

Being Spoiled

  • 30. Have a birthday party
  • 31. Have a Christmas stocking of his own
  • 32. Go to a dog friendly restaurant
  • 33. Stay in a dog friendly hotel/motel/Bed and Breakfast
  • 34. Have his portrait taken professionally
  • 35. Have his story told
  • 36. Talk to an Animal Communicator
  • 37. Do breed analysis.


  • 38. Have a steak, all to himself – DONE
  • 39. Eat a cheeseburger – DONE
  • 40. Have a big old marrowbone – DONE
  • 41. Have ice cream
  • 42. Have a birthday cake

Being a Good Dog

  • 43. Get his canine good citizen – DONE
  • 44. Get his therapy dog certification
  • 45. Tell the CACC he is okay, and thank them


  • 46. Enjoy a roaring fire on a cold day
  • 47. Belly rubs, lots and lots of belly rubs
  • 48. Get a massage
  • 49. Get reiki
  • 50. Be pain-free

A Lucky Dog

I said good-bye to a good dog today.

About a year ago I met him after he lost his first owner, the man whose house he was born in, and whose house he lived in alone, waiting for a rescue group to take him.  That rescue group was us.

In that year I watched him overcome anxiety, I watched him adapt to change, I watched him live in several foster homes.  He played on the beach, he chased tennis balls, he made a lot of friends.  He battled cancer and crabs.  He protected us all from cars and bikes and announced his presence at clinics with a booming bark.  He was not the easiest dog to place, but he was a dog I will never forget.

Today I met him at the vets’ office.  I brought him a sausage biscuit from McDonald’s and an error in my own order provided him with bacon and eggs.  I think fate stepped in there.  I hugged him, I shook his paw which he offered in exchange for bits of bacon.  I told him he was the best boy and a wonderful dog.  I gave him lots of belly rubs and fed him lots of treats.  I laughed at his antics and told him he was too smart when he realized that barking led to more bacon, and I cried.

Through tears I stroked his fur and told him that soon he would be running like a puppy.  I told him he needed to go find his owner who was waiting for him.  I told him to look for the woman in the green volunteer shirt who would help him if he got lost.  I told him I was happy he had always had love, and I was sorry we did not have more to offer him.  And then he crossed the bridge, being hugged by the woman who loved him for the last three months, the woman who gave him his final home.  They were face to face, her hand on his heart.

And then I comforted her.  I told her I was grateful she gave him these wonderful final days, and that he left the world loved.  Not every dog has that.  He truly was a Lucky dog.

Sir Lucky
1999 to 2012

Rescue can break your heart

When people think about dog rescue they think about finding homes for dogs without them.  It is happy and rewarding and wonderful.  But there is another side.

Sometimes rescue is looking at a 12 year old dog who is becoming unpredictably aggressive.  A year ago he was sweet, the best boy in the world and completely trustworthy, and now he is attacking people in his home.  Most of the time he is the same old boy, but then something happens and he is not the same dog, but why?  Is he ill?  Is his thyroid malfunctioning?  Is his mind wandering?  Is there something we can do or is it time to send him over the Rainbow Bridge and reunite him with the owner who has already passed.

Sometimes rescue is looking at a 2 year old purebred German Shepherd who is everything a German Shepherd should be: smart, loyal, sweet, eager to please and happy.  But who has been taught that her job is to protect her home.  She is a wonderful dog who cannot be trusted with people coming in and out of the home – but could she be taught a new behavior?  Could she learn to trust people?  To welcome visitors?  Or will she always be a danger?  Can we invest the time, the energy, the love, the tears to give her a chance?  And what if after all that she hurts someone?

Sometimes I want to be an outsider again and think dog rescue is all about finding homes for dogs without them.

The Need for Reform

A few weeks ago there was a hoarding situation locally.  A woman had over 20 animals in her home.  Neighbors complained of the noise and the smell and called the police because they suspected she was running a puppy mill.  I would love to say the story ended there, but she refused to let the police in.  This means the police had to leave to get a search warrant.  In the meantime this woman moved the dogs.  This is not uncommon, a hoarder moving dogs to a friends, another property, something to lessen the charges or at least keep some of the animals.  Unfortunately this woman moved them to a storage unit.  The dogs were caged with no ventilation, no water, no food and no air conditioning, in a hot storage unit, on a hot day.

Thankfully the dogs were discovered quickly (thanks to a chocolate lab who heard them barking and went to investigate), and they were taken into custody.  The dogs were given medical care and safety – foster homes were lined up and waiting for the DA to give the go ahead.   Homes were even lined up, but the dogs were considered the property of the woman since she had not signed them over.  She wanted them back, the woman insisted they were loved, and the son said they were his dogs and he did realize what his mother was doing.

This woman was not unknown to the rescue community.  Local organizations had taken dogs from her when she got overwhelmed, people had reported her for selling sick puppies, and there was no doubt the animals were neglected.  It was a proud moment for me to be a part of an organization that was asked to help, and that offered up to take dogs if homes were needed.  Again, I would love to say the story ended there.

But meanwhile, the woman was asked to leave her home, and she kept fighting for the dogs.   The public rallied around the dogs, their pictures were on the news and everyone wanted one.  Things were looking bright for the dogs, a lot of organizations and ACOs were stepping up with information to prove neglect on the part of the woman, and it was becoming hopeful that the dogs would not return to the woman.

And then there was a twist.  The woman returned to her empty home and she killed herself.

This makes me feel a lot of things.  First, I was relieved that the dogs did not have to return to her care.  But then I wondered, what drove her to that drastic move?  Did she do it out of shame?  Did she do it out of fear of jail?  Or did she do it because she had nothing else to live for?

The news article said she loved the dogs and was distraught at losing them – were they her reason to live?  What about her son who was claiming he had no idea what was going on?  Were the dogs all she had, did they give her purpose?  Was it a misguided love that caused her to hide them in inhumane conditions?  The fear of losing them, of losing what she loved?  I cannot help but feel sympathy for the woman.  She did not deserve to own the dogs, but it was clear she was not doing it to be cruel.  This situation makes me even sadder then I was before.

And it makes me want to cry out for reform.  Not for harsher punishments for animal abusers, or for laws that make it easier to convict them, although there are reasons for those.  I want support.  I want support for the animals, support for the people who find themselves sick and overwhelmed, hopeless and scared.  People were aware this situation was going on, and if there was a way to get this woman the help, get the dogs the help, well, I wonder if more lives could have been saved.  This woman clearly was mentally ill – but I know from working in human services that help for those with needs is not always available.  What if this woman was offered counseling when the dogs were taken?  What if she was offered counseling the first time dogs were taken?  Would the pattern have stopped repeating?  Would she still be alive?

So yes, I call for reform.  I ask for counseling for those with problems like this woman, hoarders, abusers – focusing on not stopping a situation but preventing them from happening again.  And preventing them from getting worse.

Chew Review: Chew-a-Bulls

With Owen’s old teeth I have been exploring the easy to chew chews, but ones that are not so easy they disappear in minutes.  Avoiding poultry really limits my options, and I usually am left to beef or lamb based treats.  Owen loves bully sticks so I decided to give Red Barn’s Chew-a-Bulls a try, which I got at PetSmart.


The Chew-a-Bulls are ground of bully sticks, mixed with potato starch and a few other items, like liver, which they use to coat them, and eggs.  They are grain free while being good for the teeth and supposed to be a pretty hardy chew, but easier to chew then a regular bully stick because they were ground and reformed.  I thought it would be the right match for Owen, Owen heartily agreed.  When given the Chew-a-Bull Owen took it right to his bed and began chomping away.  It did not last as long as I would have liked it to, maybe 15, 20 minutes, but he really enjoyed it, as you can tell by the blurry photos.


Unfortunately he enjoyed it a bit too much.  Owen is not a counter-surfer, and not a dog to steal food even if it is left on a plate in front of him.  But for the Chew-a-Bull he made an exception.  I came home to discover he had gotten the package off the table and consumed a second one.  He was quite pleased with himself, although I will fully admit it caused some havoc to his digestive system the next morning.


I am not sure if they are worth buying again, they were not long lasting and seem a bit too processed to rest easily in Owen’s system.  His teeth can handle something a bit harder so it will be back to bully sticks, but I do think an older dog would appreciate them as an easier way to get the bully stick experience.


Chew Review: Antler Chewz – Senior Chewz

Senior Chewz by Antler Chewz

I bought this chew on a whim.  Owen is a picky eater, and a picky chewer and he has bad teeth to boot.  So things like a marrow bone, which he loves, can be too tough on his teeth.  Bully sticks and rawhide are a bit hard for him, but he loves them so I do give them, but he is more inclined to carry them around the house hiding them from the cats then chewing on them.  And things like a piece of beef jerky are gone in less then five minutes.  I did not have high expectations for this Senior Chewz made by Antler Chewz, but seeing as the store promised to take it back if he did not like it I had nothing to lose.

I have heard amazing things about Elk antlers, and antlers in general.  Dogs enjoy them, they hold up to heavy chewers, they are great for a dog’s teeth, they do not smell, they are pretty clean, they are a natural source of vitamins, they are naturally shed and pretty much a responsible, renewable resource for toys.  However, knowing they were so hard and sturdy meant that they probably were not a good fit for Owen, who has bad teeth and would have trouble chewing on it.  Which was why I was so excited for the Senior Chewz made by Antler Chewz.

The Senior Chewz is essentially an antler split in half, exposing the soft, easier to chew inside.  The inside reminded me of pumice and was soft enough for me to sink my nail into (my vet’s instructions for how I know if something is soft enough for Owen).  I learned later that this is called  the antler marrow and full of vitamins and nutrients.

Mmmmm, antler marrow.

I unwrapped the chew and handed it to Owen, expecting him to walk away.  He surprised me and grabbed it and quickly took it to his bed and hid it.  After a few minutes of surveying the land and making sure the cats would not steal it, he left it.  I thought that was that and figured if he had not touched it by morning I would just return it.

My chew, no cats allowed.

Wouldn’t you know he came back in fifteen minutes and started chewing.  He loved it and while the marrow was easily crunching the antler itself was holding up nicely.  I was quite excited to find this new treat for Owen, and I bet he was as well.

Almost gone . . .

For now I’ll stick with Antler Chewz because I can easily pick them up at my local pet store (Benson’s on Wolf Road in Colonie).  However, a quick search showed many options for split antlers, from different sizes to different species.  I would like a bigger size as I think the 6 inch is a bit small for a dog Owen’s size, and I heard that different parts have more cartilage, and are therefore offer health benefits to dogs with joint issues.  But overall I am very pleased with the Antler Chewz product, and so is Owen.