Archive for November, 2008

Of Travis and “T”

I am proud  and excited to bring you our first “Guest Blog”. This is written by our good friend and mentor, Berna Welch. This is a story of heartbreak and grief and how friendship, kindness and a special Golden puppy brought happiness and joy in a very dark time.


Sometimes people come into your lives and make an enormous impact. In my life, two wonderful women from Vermont did just that.  Kathy & Carolyn contacted me seven years ago about potentially breeding their female Golden Retriever, Skeeter, to our Travis.
Kathy & Carolyn train their dogs in obedience, agility, tracking and just about anything else they can find the time to do.  After carefully researching pedigrees and investigating various stud dogs, they asked about Travis, who was a champion with an obedience title and two hunting titles, as a possible choice to sire Skeeter’s litter.
As luck would have it Peter and I had planned a visit with friends in Vermont a couple of weeks later so we invited Kathy & Carolyn to meet Travis while we were there.  To know Travis was to love him immediately.  His magnetic personality made him a favorite of all he met, human or dog, and Kathy & Carolyn were no exception.  Meeting Travis sealed the deal and a rendevous was planned.
A short time later Skeeter was bred to Travis and gave birth to a litter of 9 puppies.  Everyone was beyond thrilled. Skeeter brought great working ability to the pedigree as she was multi-titled herself.  These pups would have great potential!  When the litter was about 3 weeks old, Travis who was 8 at the time, had a grand mal seizure.  It was an extremely hot/humid August day and his temperature was dangerously high.  We immediately cooled him down in the tub and called our vet, took him for bloodwork and observation and put him on a mild dose of phenobarbital.  All tests were negative but a few days later he seizured again.  This was followed by a nosebleed…not a good sign at all.  One week post the first seizure, Travis died on his bed in our kitchen.  The diagnosis was likely a rapidly growing brain tumor.  No words could adequately describe our grief.  I knew I must contact Kathy & Carolyn to te ll them the awful news.  I simply could not speak, and so I wrote the hardest e-mail I have ever written telling them the dog they had so carefully chosen as a suitable mate for Skeeter’s litter was now gone at a very young age and likely from brain cancer.  I felt terrible about it on so many levels.
A few days later I received a letter in the mail from Kathy & Carolyn.  Having been in the “dog business” for as long as I had, I knew this could go very badly.  But people can surprise you, and along with their sincere condolences, they offered me of one of Skeeter and Travis’ pups.  I wondered how this could be, how they could be so generous, so understanding.  I thought about their offer for a few days and made the call.  The answer was YES, I wanted one and I wanted a boy.
When the pups were 7 weeks old my good friend Jeannine Vieten and I made the trip to Kathy & Carolyn’s beautiful farm and training center in Tinmouth, VT.  The pups were darling and there were two boys in particular that caught my eye.  In the end I decided on a puppy we named ‘T” which was Travis’ nickname.
Needless to say it was a very emotional day for all of us.  I went to Vermont fully intending to pay for T because after all, Kathy & Carolyn had paid a stud fee in full for the breeding to Travis.  It was only right that I buy the puppy.  They refused to take payment for him and T has become the greatest gift anyone has ever given to us.  He is now Ch. North Star Pebwin Crossroads JH WC and has made Skeeter, Travis, Kathy, Carolyn, Peter and me extremely proud.
But more importantly, before he became the accomplished adult he is today, he filled our hearts with joy and eased the pain of Travis’ loss.
Thank you Kathy & Carolyn for being there when we needed it most and for helping us to remember that goodness, human kindness and compassion exists. We will be forever grateful for your friendship and for your gift of T.

Pebwin Golden Retrievers
How fitting is it that someone like Berna, who has lived the glory and glitz of a Westminster championship, as well as the renown of a National Best of Breed championship, should write of a very generous kindness that moves her even now. Her many Goldens  and her friends like Kathy and Carolyn have kept her focus on what is most important in her life.. family, friendship, and helping other Golden owners. Thank you Berna for what you have written, all that you do for our favorite breed, and for taking even humble family pet breeders like Barb and I under your amazing wings.

Picking Up Puppies and Last Days of Togetherness

It seems very appropriate with it being Thanksgiving week, to look back on our most recent litter and share some of the heartwarming moments that ended our last adventure. At that time Barb was with puppy Rocky at Tufts Vet Hospital, and I was out of state for a long planned neighborhood guy’s weekend away. So our son Brian and a number of our great neighbors stepped in and helped give away the puppies to their new families.

They all did a fantastic job of it, and even managed to capture the happy faces as they took their new family members home.

Barb and I then saw the last few pups leave the following day.

The really neat thing about our last two families was that Lisa and Suzy were college roommates. They have kept close while raising their families, and they each have had two of our dogs now. While Barb and I knew that the house was going to be very quiet when the last two pups left, we had a lot of fun with everyone at the end. Even mother Emma was able to share in some last minute play with her offspring.

We still had those pangs of emptiness, but since we still had Rocky to nurse back to health, it wasn’t as bad as usual..

And finally, I did promise a few folks who came to visit, their moment in the glare of the internet lights, so here is everyone (I think), who came at the end of our last litter days for their puppy hugs and photos.

In closing, Barb and I wish much Thanksgiving happiness to all our readers, friends, and puppy owners. With the number of very happy smiles in this blog alone, you can see why we feel blessed for the opportunity to do what we do for our favorite animals and their owners. Like mission work, you really do gain much in return when giving of your time and energy to others.

Return Home and Unexpected Casualty

Barb and I, and our son Brian have returned from our Dominican mission trip. Much good was accomplished in the mountainous region where we spent the week. I hope that we were also able to instill some long lasting missionary spirit in the returning 34 health care professionals.

I would like to acknowledge the great efforts of our small village of neighbors and friends who kept our home and animals safe while we traveled.

I had expected to write a much different blog today. However, a momentary distraction at the wheel of my dog van this morning, changed my day off into one of loss and aggravation (all my fault, of course).

I had taken to driving the dogs to the high school instead of walking them there for their runs. With the endless number of squirrels on our walking route, my shoulders were starting to complain about the constant tugging in all directions from the 300 plus pounds of golden energy on the leashes. This idea was working out great, until a momentary distraction from two dogs in the front seat, caused me to hit a concrete curve at the high school. The two airbags deployed, and there were pieces of the undercarriage laying on the asphalt. Seeing radiator fluid dripping down is never a good sign either.

This van is like an old comfortable pair of shoes to me. It has taken many a trip with our children and animals, and has been reliable to the extreme. Its probable loss has left me feeling saddened. While only an inanimate object, it has been a part of dogville here for over ten years.

The dogs and I were fine as we were traveling slowly in the parking lot. I still can’t believe how much damage that curb caused with nary a mark to its own cement skin. As I wait for the insurance adjuster’s call to probably declare the van totalled, I reflect how life is made of all these sudden moments where you would like to get a do over or a mulligan in golfing parlance. Time travels in but one direction, so the girls and I will go back to our usual walks as long as my shoulders hold out.

PS: No sign of Riley’s heat yet for all those waiting for that news.

PPS: To do a guest blog, we need appropriate photos as well as the story. One without the other is not enough to entertain our readers.

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