Dogs Leave Paw Prints on Our Hearts

by Tina Michelle Cameron

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Fluffy

I have owned 13 dogs in my life. All of them have touched my life in their own unique way, but some have left their paw prints on my heart forever. My Nanny gave me a dog when I was nine-years-old. He was a tiny ball of white fluff, so his name became Fluffy. He was a Cock-a-Poo. He was my everything as a child and would play hide-and-seek with me and my brother. He would cuddle with me at night and was there to comfort me if I had a bad day.

He went missing for two weeks when I was a teenager. My family and I searched and finally found him on a truck that had just been brought in to the animal shelter—he was already being adopted when I heard his bark over the other animals. He was also hit by a man in a van and suffered fractures in his back. At times, he was unable to walk and would have to be hand-fed and carried out to the grass to use the bathroom. He bounced back after about two weeks and became the same energetic Fluffy.

When I was in college and married, he was the bright spot in my life and my heart. I got into a disagreement with my husband (now ex) about Fluffy having an accident in the house during a time when he was having pain in his back. I left for work and came home that evening and found that he was missing. I searched for him for months and found out later by police that there was a cult that had taken over 100 animals and sacrificed them. My heart still breaks to this day over this. He was 13 ½ years old, and my heart was forever broken. I will never forget him.

After Fluffy crossed over the Rainbow Bridge, I promised myself I would have more dogs, but that I would never get that close to another one again because my heart could not take it. Well, I could not keep that promise. Each dog I have owned since Fluffy has touched my heart and made me fall in love with them. Molly the golden retriever, AC and DC the yellow lab brothers, and Greyson the Dalmatian all brought joy to me and my two sons. However, my heart did not know how bad it could break over the loss of a dog until my sweet Yorkie, Haley Michelle, had to be put down on June 25th, 2018.

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Haley in her bed.

My first blog last year was about her. She was almost 10 years-old when she passed and crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. I became her mommy when she was a 2 lbs. 4 oz puppy. She was healthy until she turned 8 months old and developed Inflammatory Bowel Disease and ended up having emergency surgery. She had issues with this every few weeks, but it eventually got to where she was only sick every few months. That is until she turned two and was diagnosed with liver failure at one of her regular check-ups. I was told unless she went on oral chemotherapy everyday for the rest of her life, she would not live past four years old. The chemo pill was $60 a day, and as a single mom who had two sons to put through college, there was no way I could afford this. I researched her condition and changed her diet, and her elevated liver enzymes started dropping. They were still abnormal, but better. She continued to have numerous other health problems throughout the years but was still a happy and playful sweet girl.

 

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Haley

Fast forward to June 13th, 2018—my sweet, spoiled, dress-wearing, hairbow-hating, cheese-eating dog was 9 ½-years-old and began losing weight. Despite eating like a pig, I could feel her bones. I was absolutely floored and devastated when I took her in thinking it was her liver failing her and was told she had pancreatic cancer. I don’t remember a time when I have cried so much. I took her home and checked off as much as I could on her bucket list. Twelve days later, I made the hardest decision ever to end her suffering. I remember that terrible day as I sat in this room alone with her and the vet staff, holding her and telling her I love her more than anything. I am still mourning her loss, and so is my other Yorkie, Peyton. I have her buried in a small garden in my backyard. I still call her name by accident at times and can still remember her ear-piercing bark.

 

She will always hold a special place in my heart as will each dog I have ever owned. Dogs are not just pets; they are family, and they have a way of leaving paw prints on our hearts.

 

Hank-Dog

by Tina Michelle Cameron

In October 2017, my son Hunter and his friend saw a puppy running down a busy street in Rock Hill, SC. My son was a senior at the time at Winthrop University living in a fraternity house, so the last thing he needed was a dog. Well, he showed up the night before Thanksgiving with this precious surprise that I knew nothing about. He named him Hank Williams, Jr. (he did spend 3 weeks posting flyers, taking him to be scanned for a chip, and looking for the owner without luck).

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My first thought was “no.” Then this sweet dog came into the den to meet me and my other dogs and proceeded within a minute to mark his territory on my cloth chair in the den. That put another “no” in my mind. I am so thankful that my son was able to save this poor puppy from being hit from a car or put into a bad person’s hands. After spending Thanksgiving with him, I was in love. My son understood the responsibility of having a dog, and since he was a student without a job, I agreed to help him pay for the dog’s needs. Hank is a Beagle-German Shepherd mix and was 8 months old when he was rescued off the street.

Fast forward to June 2018 and having to put my beloved Haley, my older Yorkie, to sleep.

My other Yorkie, Peyton, became extremely depressed and would not eat or drink. My20181225_105439 son suggested that I keep Hank for a week or two while he finished his summer job before moving to Charleston for graduate school. Peyton was not too happy at first, but they eventually started playing a little here and there. I decided that when Hunter started grad school, it would be best if Hank stayed with me to let him get adjusted with a school schedule. Plus, Charleston apartment rentals are expensive and even more so with a pet. He reluctantly agreed. Hank’s bark is rather loud, and he needs a backyard for the space to run and chase squirrels and birds and just be a dog.

Hank has settled in nicely at my home, and now he and Peyton have a love-hate relationship. She is 6 years older than him and is still suffering from depression from losing her best friend Haley. For the most part, she loves playing with him; however, he never slows down. He is 90 miles an hour, wide-open 24/7. I wish I knew the story of his first 8 months. My heart tells me he was abused because when you go to pet him on his head, he cowers down like you are going to hit him. This breaks my heart. He is the sweetest, craziest (sometimes most annoying) dog, but he has brought joy to my home.

His favorite play time is 3 a.m. every single morning—nudging me in the face with his toy all while standing on my stomach. Peyton and Hank both suffer from separation anxiety which is a challenge, but they comfort each other by snuggling is his large crate when I leave.

I am so proud of my son for saving this poor, scared dog, and even though Hank can be a handful at times, I love his sweet hugs and puppy kisses, and I love that he and Peyton are best buddies. Here are some pictures of Hank and Peyton- enjoy!

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The Joy of Pets

By: Stacy Thompson

I’ve been a rescue mom for many years now, and I have brought into my family too many dogs, cats, hermit crabs, fish, gerbils, etc to count. Anyone who has ever had a pet may have multiple reasons for sharing their space with something other than a plant or a human, but know that there are many more reasons to get a pet, beyond the obvious:

  • Pre-wash—No need to rinse a plate when a slobbering tongue can take care of it!
  • Electric blanket—Mounds of fur much warmer and cuddlier than anything requiring a plug!
  • An ear…but no mouth—Pour your heart out with no judgment and no talking back!
  • Alarm clock — Best way to wake up in the morning!
  • Alarm system — To secure the perimeter and warn of impending doom (real or imagined!)
  • Foul weather warning—Retreat to the walk-in closet when the clouds appear!
  • A reminder to take naps—We all should take naps, multiple naps…
  • Validation that sometimes just walking back into a room is an event—Even if you just left two minutes ago.
  • Knowledge that there is pure joy in simply running around a yard…not to reach a destination, but because it’s there.
  • Reminder that even though that squirrel may never be caught, it can still be chased— or, although some goals may never be realized, they can still be chased.
  • Unconditional love

Learning from our pets

By: Jeanne Reynolds

Walker & Ryder

I have two cats (hang on, you dog people – it gets better). Walker and Ryder are named in honor of two prestigious international golf tournaments (the Walker Cup and the Ryder Cup – yes, my husband and I are both golf nuts), not their preferred mode of movement.

In fact, Walker has always run at top speed everywhere he goes, including up and down stairs. That changed earlier this year when he developed diabetes. The disease weakened his hind legs so he walks a bit awkwardly most of time now. But lately I’ve noticed him picking up the pace, even tackling the stairs now and then. Yesterday he raced the length of the house twice for some invisible reason, clomping along the wood floors with the grace of a miniature furry elephant.

How different his approach to life is from Ryder’s. Like Walker, we got her as a teeny, weeks-old kitten from the shelter and she’s lived a life of love and luxury for years. Yet she still shies from my hand when I reach to pet her, hides from strangers or really anything out of the ordinary and hates any change to her routine. She’s sweet and affectionate when it’s her idea, but otherwise she’s pretty much, well, a cat. Whereas Walker, I believe, is really a reincarnated dog who follows me around and enjoys meeting new people.

Walker & RyderBecause of this, we’ve started taking Walker with us when we visit our weekends-for-now-retirement-for-later home near Beaufort (on Cat Island – go figure) and leaving Ryder at home. It’s steps from the marsh with huge windows and a large screened porch, interesting new smells and lots of birds and other wildlife to observe. It seems like cat heaven – and Walker is loving it, while Ryder, sadly, is missing it. (We did try, but she spent the entire visit flattened under a low piece of furniture and bit us when we tried to load her up to return home.)

I don’t know why they’re so different, but it makes me wonder: Am I more like Walker, going for the gusto despite his limitations, or more like Ryder, afraid of change and more comfortable in a known, if cramped, space? Some of both, I suspect.

How many times do I forgo an adventure in favor of the familiar? Order the same dish, wear the same four outfits over and over, run the same route around my neighborhood, get the same haircut every time? Of course, there’s value in knowing I’ll enjoy my entrée, my clothes will be comfortable, I won’t get lost and I won’t look (too) bizarre.

But what might I be missing in life by settling for the routine? It’s something to think about.

And also: Am I secretly a dog person?

I think I’ll ask Walker.

Monte & Misha

By: Shannon Boatwright

Ah the love of pups. The things we do for the animals we love. It’s an interesting, exhausting, yet beautiful thing. They can make for such an enormous undertaking of responsibility, yet they can bring such joy. Those odd, hairy, stinky animals that pee, poop, poot, slobber, barf, bark and cost lots of money….yet, so many of us adore these creatures and can’t live without them. 😉

Countess Misha & Count Monte

Countess Misha & Count Monte

Our precious Monte, a cocker spaniel like no other, an incredibly special dog that seems to sense when his loved ones are down, stressed and/or need love, a dog with qualities that I’ve never seen in any other dog…is such a unique little beast. He’s named for the Count of Monte Cristo. Which means naturally, he needed a Countess. 😉

New Pals

New Pals

We promised the kids we’d get Monte a friend. The kids were worried about him being home alone, and we agreed, though the thought of taking on another animal was daunting. A dreaded event on many levels, to be honest. But, I didn’t want to be a parent that makes empty promises, so I knew it had to happen and if it was going to happen, it had to be over the summer, because there’s no way this teacher could survive getting and training a new pet during the school year.

So it happened, the hubby and I were running errands in Harbison and we decided to stop by Pawmetto Lifeline and check out their pups and program. You know, just “check it out.”

The 1st time we met our lil Misha

The 1st time we met our lil Misha

Did we adopt a puppy that day? Of course. Yea, go ahead, insert the chuckle. We took the tour and saw this one puppy in the window. The darlin’ little thing was sound asleep and wouldn’t wake up for nothin’. I felt compelled… I needed to see this particular puppy’s eyes. So we had to get someone to come let us actually meet that ‘puppy in the window.’

Happy

Happy

And, yes, that l’il German Shepherd mixed breed dog looked into our eyes and grabbed ahold of our hearts. After a little playdate in one of the Pawmetto Lifeline meet and greet rooms, we were done for.

When you attempt a Selfie with a wild pup!

When you attempt a Selfie with a wild pup!

(I must interject here that the people who work at Pawmetto Lifeline are exceptional. They truly have a passion and love for animals and it shows. We were very impressed with how thorough they are and how well they take care of the animals. Truly impressive program they have there.)

The interesting thing about our experience is that we were specifically looking for a special friend for our Monte and come to find out, the Pawmetto folks were specifically looking for a family who had an older pet, because when this baby girl was rescued on the side of the road, it wasn’t until she was with a foster family’s older pet that she felt safe, came alive and began to thrive. And most ironically, our l’il pup was featured on the news that very morning. They thought for sure we’d seen her on TV and come to adopt her. Yet we hadn’t seen a thing, not even the features of her on Facebook. We simply stopped by chance and were led to this pup! And I’d like to think for a reason. It was fate.

Misha Puppy Love

Misha Puppy Love

Then came the challenge of naming this little girl. The Hubby and I knew we had to have a cool and special name for this incredible pet. A name that could somehow match Monte’s unique name. We could tell this puppy had a spark in her eyes, something really special about her, and spunky for sure. After going through a slew of ideas, my man suggests “Misha”… it hit me… brilliant, that’s it! One of my favorite dancers EVER is Mikhail Baryshnikov. My college dorm room door was covered in pictures of him. His nickname is Misha. He used to have a perfume of the same name that will always be one of my favorites. That was it. It was decided. Our precious rescue would be named Misha…Countess Misha. A beautiful Countess for our Count.

A precious pup present...

A precious pup present…

When I was a little girl, my first puppy ever, was given to me with a bow around her neck on Christmas morning. It was a kid’s dream come true. I’ll never forget it. So it gave me great joy to be able to present my own children with our new pup (that they just knew we’d never get!) in a wrapped box with a bow around her neck. Of course they were overjoyed, shocked and thrilled that we’d followed through with our promise and had finally gotten Monte a friend. (Maybe even as much as I was!) Fortunately, they fell in love with Misha instantly. We all did. And although Monte’s world has been completely rocked, I see the joy in his precious cocker spaniel eyes when he plays with her. She’s a wild, mischievous rascal! Let’s just say, her true colors have certainly come out now that she’s in a comfortable, loving home! We’re just praying that her smart German Shepherd genes shine and she’ll train easily. One forgets how hard it is to have a puppy in their home until they’re in the midst of it!

My sweet little girls

My sweet little girls

One more special addition to my story here before I close…

We knew our Miss Misha was special and certainly a force…I seem to have a knack for choosing pets with lots of personality! But one day, my son and I were sitting on the floor playing with our crazy l’il countess and my husband, says, “Look! A heart!” Sure enough, on her little belly, a perfectly shaped heart. How in the world we’d not noticed it before, I don’t know, because she loves to lay at my side and have me rub her belly. But, it was a most lovely discovery! It’s quite brilliant actually – this puppy, our little Countess, has a heart on her tummy!

Misha's Heart! Do you see it?

Misha’s Heart! Do you see it?

Meant to be indeed. She is in a home full of love and happiness, she has a best friend now, a Count to be clear 😉 and though she is a handful (what Countess isn’t?!) we adore her and she is a fabulous addition to our family. A huge shout out and enormous Thank You to Pawmetto Lifeline. They really do fabulous things there. I am proud to be a supporter of them and so thankful that we found our Countess Misha in their care.

Here’s to Monte and Misha, may they have a long life together, full of joy and fabulous fun in a loving, happy home, surrounded by those that absolutely adore them.

Growing Up With Pets

By: Brady Evans

I never thought our cat would be as obsessed with our baby as he is. I mean – we’ve got three dogs. Aren’t dogs the loyal, loving ones? Aren’t cats the aloof, distant ones?

growing up with pets

The dogs are cautious around the baby. They take note of him and move on to a place of quiet or safety. The cat down right invades the baby’s space. While I’m nursing Benjamin, the cat sits in my lap. While I’m changing diapers, you can find the cat on the edge of the changing table. While I’m playing with the baby on the living room floor, the cat overlooks us.

Lots of people rehome their pets when babies come home from the hospital. It could be a permanent rehoming or the type where indoor-kitty became outdoor-kitty and indoor-doggy became outdoor-doggy. We’ve done none of that.

Raising children with pets is already doing great things for our son. He already smiles at the animals and experiences the joys of having pets. He reaches out to feel their warmth and has learned to “pet nicely” by touching with a single finger.

growing up with pets

He already is learning the responsibility of pet ownership. I think. Maybe. He witnesses me care for the horses daily and I narrate our activities in the barn. BabyCenter.com just sent me an email saying our 10 month old understands more than we think 😉  But in truth, there will come a day, sooner than I think, that Benjamin realizes that sometimes you have to take care of others’ needs before your own.

Our cat is 6 years old. I am sure Benjamin will be 10 years old or more when we say goodbye to our fluffy friend. It is horrible to think about but that’ll be another lesson we can thank our pets for instilling onto our baby.

Pets provide a lifetime of lessons in their short lives – lessons of happiness, responsibility, and tenderness.

One Cat Away

By: Crissie Miller Kirby

In keeping with the animal theme that we have seen of late, I figured I might as well fess up…

I have become the crazy cat lady.

Ok, maybe I haven’t completely become the crazy cat lady, but I’m pretty close and I seem to be getting closer with time. I have no shame. I love four-legged animals.  Puppies are cute, but a kitten will suck me in. Every. Single. Time.

Truthfully, any cat will suck me in. I would take in every single stray cat if I could afford to do it. If love could feed them, I would have far more than I have now. Our number of cats, for several years now, has been three and I was adamant. No more cats.

Well, until I saw this on a friend’s Facebook page . . .

Adopted cats“This is Teenager Tom, formerly known as Tom Kitten. (My husband) recently caught all the neighborhood strays and got every one of them fixed with the helpful low cost at Pawmetto Lifeline. Tom is a lovely but skittish boy, has had all his shots, but the female cats don’t like him and smack him if he tries to eat or get any attention. He is used to small dogs. Will you help me find Tom a home? I don’t want him to go to just anyone. I am thinking of asking for a $20 donation to Pawmetto Lifeline for him but if I know the person I would be just fine with giving him to you.”

You need to understand something here – my first cat, when I was very young, was a white male tomcat named Snowball. He was a scruffy, scraggly-looking critter, but I loved him and carried him around everywhere. I’ve had more cats that I can count. I can wrangle a stray kitten like a boss and barely wince when they bite me or leave a menacing scratch on my arm. When I was pregnant with Pierce, I owned a male tabby cat named Beau who was the most loving cat (He was also the biggest cat I have ever owned, weighing in at 26 pounds).

Unfortunately, after getting sick numerous times over a few months, he was diagnosed with severe kidney failure, from which he was unable to recover.  I swore that one of my next cats would be a male.  Life happens and I didn’t fulfill that promise to myself for over eight years.

Childhood pet

So, I was sucked in by a handsome face and the fact that I wouldn’t have to fight off tiny claws and sharp kitten teeth in the middle of the night. So, we went and undertook the task of trapping this cat because he wasn’t too keen on being picked up and taken to a new home. But trap him we did, and we took him home.

Cat

He is christened Thomas Rhett Kirby – keeping his original first name, but changing his middle name to be called name to “Rhett” to fit in with the Dixie and Scarlett that we already own.

At first, he spent all of his time hiding in my bedroom closet, all of us too afraid to let him out into the general craziness of my house. Afraid of what the other cats would do. Afraid he would run out the door. Afraid that utter chaos would ensue. He was skittish at first and would only allow us to pet him for short periods. The littlest noise sent him running for the depths of darkness beneath my dresses.

But, over that first week or two, things began to change and he began to venture into other parts of the house. First my bedroom, then the boys’ rooms, then to the den and kitchen, and then, finally, into the mudroom where the other cats are fed.

Rhett after his arrival at his new home

Rhett after his arrival at his new home

Nowadays, Rhett splits his time between eating, sprawling on the floor begging for someone to pet him, weaving himself between our arms and legs whether we are standing or sitting or lying in the bed, and playing chase, tag, and hide and seek with the new dog, Knight (another story entirely).

Proof positive that a little bit of love by a crazy cat lady really can go a long way.