Goodbye, My Boo


Last week, as many marveled as daylight plunged into darkness during the eclipse, our world plunged into darkness just two days later, as we said goodbye to our sweet BooBoo, one day after her 15-1/2th birthday. We had a beautiful 4661 days together on this planet, yet it will never have been enough.

And I can still barely breathe. I am so deep and raw in my grief, I honestly do not know how I will go on without her by my side. On tough days, I used to look at her and remember both our lives could have ended very differently and that compassion, understanding and kindness always overcome adversity.  I hope I will be able to see that again and remember that she is is the reason I’m a trainer and that she changed the trajectory of my life. We were even one of the stories featured in the book Rescue Dogs: Where They Come From, Why They Act The Way They Do and How To Love Them Well. It’s just so very hard right now.

BooBoo was the one dog…my heart dog…the one that changed my life forever. Her legacy is Rescued By Training. She is the face of my logo. She was the inspiration for it all. And without her I just don’t know how I can go on. I think I know in time I will, but right now, I just can’t fathom how.

Her loss is life altering for me. For the last 13 years I’ve spent more time with her than anyone, even my husband. That’s not anything negative to him – he works, I work…and during the days, Boo spent her time with me. She was not a service dog but whenever she could (and that was most places), she went with me (or us). She was so rarely not with me. My day to day is just not the same. I’d say “let’s go shower” and she would trot off to the bathroom and eat her breakfast in there while I showered.

I’d say “let’s go to work” and she’d go to my office and I’d see clients while she hung out behind me.

I’d say “let’s go to bed” and she’d go to the bedroom. If I was late for bedtime she would stare me down like “helllooo it’s bedtime and you’re late. Let’s move things along!” She would stare and then if that didn’t work she would start to walk down the hallway to the bedroom and then double back like “Are you coming?”

She was my go everywhere, go anywhere dog. When I did in person sessions, she was my helper dog.

Life changed forever when BooBoo arrived. My husband and I arrived to meet her transport van from Kentucky, excited to meet our new girl, this little semi-feral black dog, who was supposed to be *just* a foster. The driver took her out and she immediately escaped into the thick woods. For 9 days we searched, doubting we’d ever catch her alive.  But we did!  Once home, it was clear BooBoo was a fearful dog. She hadn’t been abused (we knew her entire backstory) but she also hadn’t been very well socialized.  Not a professional trainer at the time, I knew I needed to learn more about training fearful dogs. This wasn’t my first experience with a scared dog – our previous dog, Bandit, was aggressive and had bitten 7 people, including me and my husband, both in the face.  But back then I didn’t know how to help him and everything I tried, just made him worse.  I knew I owed it to BooBoo to do better.

So I embarked on my journey. I earned a scholarship to The Academy for Dog Trainers, the “Harvard” of dog training, graduating with honors and devoted to positive-reinforcement, science-based, kind training. My passion for fearful and aggressive dogs deepened and I committed to focus my practice on helping these misunderstood dogs and the people that love them. I empathize with clients who are struggling with the hopelessness, anger, fear, anxiety, frustration and heartbreak that I once had.

BooBoo overcame her fears and was an AKC Good Citizen, a certified Bright and Beautiful therapy dog and alongside Barbo, helped us foster over 50 dogs. She was my helper dog and constant companion. She was the unicorn dog that people always want – great with people, dogs, kids, other critters, traveling, novelty and always up to go wherever we were going.

We shared such a beautiful life together, filled with almost 13 years of adventures, travels, parks, beaches, trails, snuggles…so many snuggles, and so, so, so many Chicken Chips. Boo traveled to 18 states (including on car, train and ferries) and lived in 4 houses in 3 states with us. We fostered over 50 dogs together. But the thing that I will remember most is how deep and close our connection and bond were – stronger than my relationships with most people, honestly. She was my shadow, nearly always with me, whether I was working, with friends, running errands, hanging out, sleeping or traveling.

Every once in a while, a dog enters your life and changes everything.

(photo cred: Becky Oehlers Photography)

This is my favorite quote because it captures everything about BooBoo coming into my life so perfectly. We had Barbo already and I loved him but there was just something so special about Boo. Here she is watching us get married in Manchester VT. It was a small affair but we opted to hike up a mountain so her and Barbo could be there to be part of our special day. So much of lives for the last 15 years has been orchestrated around our dogs, because we wanted them to be part of it all, including our wedding and all of our vacations. Our dogs were never boarded, never left behind. We just planned trips they could come on.

BooBoo was an absolute angel of a dog. She was the most tolerant dog you would ever meet. She put up with foster puppies climbing and biting all over her, she put up with Barbo rough playing with her (she actually liked it and would bat at him to keep it going), she had zero body handling issues, except for not being touched enough!

Barbo and BooBoo…what a pair. They were so perfect together. They didn’t snuggle a lot after the first year or two, except in the car. They shared the highest value treats, chews and pans to lick and were the best of buds when he was alive. But when he passed away, she truly blossomed. She became the sole attention seeker and really enjoyed being an only child.

As she aged we marveled at how incredible she was doing at almost 15-1/2 years old. Even as recently as March 13 she was running through the woods.

But then she had a sudden decline that weekend. It looked to be mouth pain, crying when I gave her medication and not yawning fully. Her mobility decreased rapidly. We worked to get her seen by an oral surgery specialist and ended up driving over 8 hours out of state to a specialist with a board certified anesthesiologist on staff so they could do surgery for what I suspected was a fractured tooth. But on the ride there, she had a seizure in the car.  When we got the dental facility, they didn’t see a fracture and suspected either a TMJ tumor, a tumor behind her eye, an autoimmune issue that affects the jaw or an infection, because her lymph node was swollen.

So we began antibiotics and started to wean her off her pain medication so we could do some steroids. In the meantime she was very unsteady and falling over at times, which we were unsure of attributing to the high amounts of medication she was on or possibly from a tumor or neurological damage from the seizure. She was comfortable but sleeping all the time and couldn’t safely be left unattended with her unsteadiness. We stopped the meds, started seizure medication and she seemed to stabilize.

The autoimmune test came back negative. The oral surgeon suspected it was most likely a TMJ tumor or tumor behind her eyes and as the days went on, her muscle wasting increased quickly – her head bones started to really become prominent and her eye started to have discharge, all pointing to a tumor in her head, behind her eye, which would also account for the sudden seizure in the car.

So in honoring our promise to never let our dogs suffer, we made the decision to say goodbye on April 10. My husband and I firmly live by the mantra it’s better to say goodbye a day early than an hour late.

I would have kept her here forever if I could have. We were hoping so much the steroids would help and she would miraculously rebound and we’d have more time. We know 15-1/2 years is old for a dog her size but we selfishly wanted even more. But it was her time. She was tired. She wasn’t following me room to room. She was struggling to get up and it was hard for her to lie down unassisted. She wasn’t enjoying her food, even her rare wagyu steak. She wasn’t doing her rolls in the grass or her upside down “victory rolls” as we called them, in her bed after a satisfying dinner. But most of all, she was turning down her beloved Chicken Chips more than she was taking them. She was running out of steam.

We were so looking forward to celebrating that 15-1/2 year milestone and not even a month ago it looked so easy that she would sail right into it with no problem. And she made it, but just barely. On her half birthday we went for one last stroll at the park, one of her favorite activities. We already had the euthanasia appointment scheduled but we knew it was time to set her free.

Things really do change in an instant. In less than a month my girl went from running through the woods to gone, just like that. It’s cliche. People say it all the time – cherish every moment. You never know when things will change. But it’s all true. I expected when we would lose her it would be this slow decline of aging, not this overnight, someone switched a lightswitch.

She’s gone. And my heart is shattered into a million pieces and I’m not sure it will ever be whole again. I’ve had losses before, human and animal, but none like this – none that have literally taken my breath away.

Waiting for our vet to arrive.

In her last days we shared quiet moments at home, snuggling and reminding her how much she was loved, thanking her for being the best dog ever and for making our lives so incredible for all the time she was here. She was euthanized at home, outside, on her comfy Big Barker bed, surrounded by flower petals, after a steady stream of visitors came to say their goodbyes. And now there is a void so big in our home that nothing can ever fill.

Through all my tears I will try to remember her absolute joy and big smile when she was running towards me coming for Chicken Chips, or her goofy smile after rolling in the grass and getting all dirty, or her loving gaze when snuggling close in bed.

My life will never be the same without her but I have no doubt that I am a better human for having shared my life with her. She brought so much joy into our lives and to so many others but I know we gave her the best possible life ever. She wanted for nothing, was never told no, unless it was dangerous, and was free to be a dog without fear, shame or punishment. And in return, she was the sweetest, gentlest soul to everyone.

My greatest hope is that one day you are lucky enough to have that one dog who changes you for the better as much as Boo changed me.

I am taking some time off to mourn. Anyone currently scheduled will be contacted. Losing a loved one is hard enough but when you’re a dog professional it’s extra painful to have to work with other dogs during a time like this. I don’t know when I’ll back but I’m hoping in a few weeks, I hope, so if you need help with your dog, please be patient with me. I’d love to help you but need some time right now.  You can schedule a session here.

Thank you to everyone who has reached out, commented, sent cards, left a message of support or sent positive wishes. I’ve read them all. The messages saying how thankful you are to Boo bringing to to training because I’ve helped you and your dogs have been so impactful and really remind me of her legacy here, so thank you so much for those messages in particular.

In the meantime, if you can spare 9 minutes, you can watch this memorial video of Life of Boo, with music composed by my husband, John. Watch to the end.

Give your pups some extra treats from me and BooBoo, for free…don’t make them work for it.

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