The Final Lesson

Run free, my friend. Thank you for everything.

“Risa” Veteran MF-GrCH Dancing Cavy’s Pain in the Butte W-FDM/MF MF-M Vet InS/E R-FE/N PCD BN RAE RL1 (AoE) RNX CA TKP CGC WCX3
January 10, 2004 (?) – October 9, 2018

It’s hard to believe over 12 years ago I brought you home from the shelter. Twelve years together and it still wasn’t enough. You’ve left a huge hole in my heart that will never be filled. I cannot believe you are gone.

When I started looking for my first dog, I wanted a dog who could go anywhere and do anything. I wanted a dog to get involved in dog sports with (specifically agility). Your listing on Petfinder sounded like a perfect match. Like you were exactly what I’d been dreaming about. My disappointment was immense when I was told you were no longer available. . .only to be replaced by sheer joy when they realized you were there at the shelter instead of in your home. I drove 3 hours just to meet you. My mom told me she knew the only way you weren’t coming home with me was if you bit me. You had perfect half prick ears and the most wonderful smile. I knew it was meant to be. You were mine. You were always supposed to be mine.

I took you home and you were not the dog I had dreamed of. I knew you were afraid. I knew you were going to be some work. You were a challenge. You were always a challenge. I was completely in over my head. I thought I knew dogs. You showed me how little I knew. I was frustrated. I didn’t know how to help you. But I wanted you. I wanted you to be happy. I wanted to figure out how to help you. So I did. I reached out to friends. I signed you up for training classes. I have no idea how I ended up in the clicker class but I know our journey would have taken a different path if I hadn’t. It was the way I was supposed to go.

Training classes were always a blast!

Despite your fears, you excelled at training. You loved it! I wanted to do more so I signed you up for freestyle despite my reservations about the sport. I didn’t want to do it. You were a rock star in the class and changed my mind. Freestyle was always your sport. You loved to perform. You were a ham. You lit up the stage. Our bond together was showcased every time we walked out into the performance space. So many times we danced together. As a team. As one unit. Demos. Competitions. It didn’t matter. We were one out there on the dance floor.

You dabbled in other sports as well. Rally, Rally-FrEe, obedience, agility, barn hunt, nosework, herding, and lure coursing. Lure coursing was your natural love. Running was your favorite activity and this was a great outlet for my beast. You’d drag me out onto the field barking and acting all crazy. I loved watching your pure speed after that plastic bag bunny. The absolute joy on your face. Lure coursing was for you. Rally was for me. And freestyle was for us both.

Together, we overcame a lot. You grew more confident and less fearful. You beat the odds and became a success in dog sports despite your dog reactivity and fears. You survived cancer (mammary carcinoma when you were 9). You survived a slipped disc and IVDD diagnosis at 12 and still continued on in dog sports afterward. Your gastrointestinal tract was a mess for your entire life yet you thrived. We didn’t give up.

You were my teacher and I tried my best to be a good student. You taught me so much. Not just about dog training. Not just about reactivity and fear. Not just about raw feeding, homecooked meals, or quality kibbles. Not just about cancer, gastrointestinal issues, back problems, and other health concerns. You taught me about life. You made me realize who I wanted to be and how to be a better me. I saw much of myself reflected in you. Like we were two souls intertwined.

But you didn’t just teach me. Your guidance extended beyond just my life. You helped me raise foster dogs. You helped raise Kyu. You helped me fulfill my dream of being a dog trainer where I’m constantly spreading the knowledge you taught me. You taught our lure coursing operator how to help others catch their dogs after a run when the dog didn’t want to be done because you never wanted to be done with lure coursing and I needed to get you off the field! You taught your vet about the multitude of pain management options available. You have been the ripple.

We’re all fortunate to have known you, Risa.

You lived in three states. You walked in the Beartooth Mountains. You swam in Long Island Sound!

You were practically famous. You were featured in the newspaper several times. Your photographs and personality populate several books. You’re even in a couple dog training DVDs!!

I knew I was going to have to make a hard decision at the end. One last lesson I needed to learn. I tried everything I could to keep you comfortable and happy. But my options ran out. You hurt too much and I couldn’t ask you to stay. I knew it would only get worse. . .and there was nothing else I could do. I tried my best to spoil you over your last days. I stuffed you full of your favorite foods. I took you out to sniff and enjoy the world even though it was hard for you to get in and out of the car. I know it was the right choice but it was the hardest one I’ve ever made in regards to your care. How can I ever thank you enough for everything you’ve been to me? You were with me through my entire adult life. Through several moves and lay offs. Through good times and bad. You were my rock. . .and I was yours. I will continue to pass along all the knowledge gained from a lifetime with you. I will never forget you. I miss you so much. What I wouldn’t give to massage your neck ruff again and bury my head in it. How I miss your kisses on my chin and your amazing smile. You were my heart. And I will love you forever.

About Jamie

I'm just a traditionally-trained artist with interests in dog training. I currently teach classes at the local obedience training club (tricks, freestyle, and Rally-FrEe) and I also teach classes professionally for an organization who helps veterans train their own service dogs.
This entry was posted in Aging, Back Problems, Canine Freestyle, Dog Sports, GI Issues, IVDD, Lure Coursing, Obedience, Rally, Reactivity, Thoughts, Training, Veterinarian. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *