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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Paying It Forward in a Small Way

By Tina Cameron

Today was a good day. It has been 4 months and 1 day since I had to put my precious 9-year old Yorkie—Haley Michelle to sleep. I wrote about her in my first blog. She lived longer than she was supposed to according to her vet –she had been in liver failure since the age of 2. However, she ended up being diagnosed with a rare Pancreatic cancer 12 days before I made the painful decision to let her go as she was rapidly declining.

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Haley Michelle

Haley’s birthday was on September 20th and I have been paying it forward since then in little ways to honor her. I donated to a pet charity on her birthday and have been looking to pay the adoption fee for someone. Well, today was the day! I happened to be at the Humane Society in Columbia picking up a voucher for my grand-dog Hanks neutering appointment this Thursday. While waiting I noticed a woman petting and loving on a Pit-bull mix breed dog named Clayton. He is approximately 2 years old. I overheard the woman give her name—Savannah to the lady at the counter and told her she would be back tomorrow afternoon to pick Clayton up. When she went to return the dog to his room, I asked if I could pay the adoption fee for this young lady. I excitedly sat back down and waited for her to leave. I explained about my sweet Haley passing and that I wanted to pay it forward. The two wonderful ladies who helped me were so excited to be in on this secret. They also explained to me that Clayton had been there longer than the other dogs who were already adopted out.

I immediately felt a sense of happiness in my heart for doing this for this dog. I am terrified of Pit Bulls and I know that a lot are put down because of either waiting for their fur-ever home and never getting it or because of their temperament. Last week, I hugged and petted a beautiful Pit at Pet Smart. This was a first for me.

While I was waiting to get my voucher, I could tell that the woman was already falling for this dog and the dog seemed to be so excited for someone to be paying attention to him. After I paid the $35 adoption fee and was waiting on my receipt, I wrote Savannah a sweet little note that will be given to her tomorrow when she returns to pick Clayton up. I wish I could see her face when she picks up her sweet dog. Happy Gotcha Day Clayton!! Wishing you and your fur-ever family nothing but happiness. I know my sweet Haley is smiling down on me today.

If you would like to help The Humane Society, they take newspapers, old towels and sheets. Their address is 121 Humane Lane Columbia, SC 29209. Their phone number is 803-783-1267. Also, if you are a Richland County resident and are having your cat/dog spayed or neutered, you can get a voucher to use to help with the cost of the surgery at Pawmetto Lifeline Spay/Neuter Clinic located on 1275 Bower Parkway Columbia, SC 29212. Their phone number is 803-465-9150. You are allowed 2 vouchers a year. This is a great thing that these two organizations do.

Pawprints on my heart

By Jeanne Reynolds

It’s taken me more than a month to be able to write this. It’s just been too hard to talk about or even think much about. In late July, we lost our beloved cat, Walker.

When I say “lost,” that’s not entirely accurate, because we know exactly where he is: galloping across kitty heaven, hanging out on God’s screened porch, purring loud as a motor boat as an angel’s hand reaches out to pet him.Walker on porch

Like any loved one, he was only on loan to us. But it’s still been so hard to give him back.

I know anyone who’s lost a fur baby has felt this pain. The staff at the animal emergency room – who see it all the time – were especially caring and thoughtful. They sent us a card with sweet notes that bring back my tears even as I read them six weeks later:

“Cats may be small in size but their spirits are large.”

 “Pets are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.”

 “They leave our homes but never our hearts.”

“Some angels have fur instead of wings.”

They also enclosed a printed page with a wonderful message. Maybe it will someday also help you, a friend or a family member with tender paw prints on their hearts.

Our Friend, Our Family

WalkerFolks are born so they can learn how to live a good life. This takes a long time. Pets already know how to do this, so they don’t have to stay as long.

These are some of the things our pets have taught us:

  • Live simply, love generously, care deeply and speak kindly.
  • When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.
  • Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.
  • Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.
  • Take naps.
  • Run, romp and play daily.
  • Thrive on attention and let people touch your heart.
  • Avoid biting when a simple growl will do.
  • On warm days, drink lots of water and lie under a shady tree.
  • When you’re happy, dance around and wag your entire body.
  • Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.
  • Be loyal.
  • Never pretend to be something you’re not.
  • If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.
  • When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Walker on couchAlso on that card was written this note: “Our furry friends never leave us. They run ahead and wait.”

I’m looking forward to our next faux-wrestling match and hearing that motor boat purr again one day, Walker. I know you’ll be waiting.

The Loss of My Precious Haley

This month, we are introducing our new bloggers not only with their posts, but with a video!

Meet Tina:

By Tina Cameron

The loss of a pet is heartbreaking. It doesn’t matter the circumstances; a pet dying from old age; an illness such as cancer or the difficult decision to send them over the Rainbow Bridge to end their suffering–it is just heartbreaking. This is the story of my precious Haley who was in my life for almost 10 years. She loved food, her stuffed animals and stealing my pillow at night.And, unfortunately, was also sick most of her life.

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At eight months old, she had emergency surgery and was diagnosed with Inflammatory Bowel Disease and seizures. At age two, she was diagnosed with liver failure and I was told she would not live past four. I was determined to have her time left with me to be just lots of snuggles, love and any food she wanted to eat. After a few months, we returned to the vet and there was no change in her liver enzymes but, she was still active and thriving, so I decided to change her diet myself since she refused to eat the specialty food from the vet anymore. Within three weeks, her liver enzymes were reduced by half. I was thrilled as was her vet. So, we carried on and still had the occasional Chick-fil-a run.FB_IMG_1510321410447

Year after year she continued to have elevated enzymes and birthdays. In October 2017 her liver enzymes were normal for the first time in 7 years. I was ecstatic since we had just celebrated her 9th birthday on September 20th, 2017. Fast forward to June 13th, 2018 at her next vet visit. She had begun losing weight despite eating like a pig. At the vet, while waiting to be seen, she became lethargic. She was seen right away and after her assessment was rushed for lab work and an x-ray. She had an enlarged heart, a heart murmur, severe constipation, low blood sugar (which explains the lethargy) and with Insulinoma, which is a rare malignant pancreatic tumor that causes low blood sugar, seizures, difficulty walking, and weight loss. She had all of these symptoms. The vet talked to me about options and that quality was more important than quantity.

The next twelve days were a blur as she had to be fed every four hours to keep her sugar elevated. She began to decline rapidly and started distancing herself from me in a way to prepare me for what was coming. On day 12, June 25th, 2018 I made the most difficult decision to put her down and to end her suffering. By this time, she was bleeding and vomiting bright red blood and refused to be syringed fed or watered.

On the way to the vet, we had the windows down, took selfies at red lights, and cranked up Miranda Lambert. She was smiling because I think she knew where we were going. At the vet, her IV was started, pictures were taken, and I wrapped her in her favorite blanket, held her and repeatedly told her through the tears it was okay to go and how much I loved her. The medications were given, and her suffering was over in a minute and a half.

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It has now been four weeks, I am still grieving and missing her every day. My other Yorkie– Peyton Manning is still grieving as well. Pets are our family. So, Haley, please know that you were/are my heart; my chick-fil-a loving, cheese and Pringles crunching loving sweet girl. You brought so much joy into our lives. You were sick more than you were healthy the 9 years, 9 months and 5 days you were on this Earth. You are finally free of pain and can run with all the sweet dogs, cats and bunnies in Heaven. My heart is broken but knowing you are happy and healthy gives me comfort. I will look after Peyton as she is so lost without you. I will love you furever my precious sweet girl.

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.