A Year of Magic and Loss

2010 was quite an emotional roller coaster for our family.  We not only added a new puppy to our household but also said goodbye to our 17 year-old canine matriarch.  The latter being our one certainty at the beginning of 2010, limited time with our “heart dog” and senior citizen Big Sandy. 

To say that Big Sandy was a special, life changing dog was an understatement.  She was the first dog that I trained and managed entirely with reward-based methods.  We started out as the dog/handler team that most needed extra help in training classes, we became the team that excelled at everything. Big Sandy was the first dog that I felt that magical connection to that only positive training allows which ushered me into a career as a dog trainer and later a Tellington TTouch Practitioner.  

Over the years, Big Sandy became my class demo dog, my animal assisted therapy dog, my freestyle dog, and an integral part of my growing business for nearly 9 years.  I had heard other trainers talk about their most beloved canine companions as their “heart dogs” and I finally understood what they meant by that.  By the beginning of 2010, Big Sandy had retired from her active life, and we were focused on supporting her failing kidneys and limited mobility.  Perhaps in preparation, I found myself starting to grieve.

Somewhat surprisingly, my husband and I also made the decision at the beginning of 2010 to adopt a firecracker of a puppy named “Jet”.  Jet was and is an ideal performance prospect with high drive for dog sports to match my high expectations.  From the moment she entered our home, the energy shifted from waiting for death to bombastic life, front and center. 

Yes, we were definitely burning the candle from both ends, managing a puppy and a dying, older dog.  And, we managed it all very well, thanks to the great advantage of my husband and I both working from home.  Thanks to Jet, we dwelled less on what was coming and concentrated on what we still had…time together.  On a warm, quiet morning in the fall, Big Sandy died peacefully in her own bed.  It was as difficult and aching as I knew it would be and a little piece of my own heart was gone. 

In the weeks that followed, I found myself dwelling on how different Jet was was than Big Sandy.  What an unfair thought!  In those moments, I had to take a reality check.  Had I forgotten that Big Sandy was the most challenging dog I had worked with?  And that it took time, effort and commitment for that connection with her to occur.  It was my commitment and positive training that helped Big Sandy blossom into the confident, adaptive, social dog she became. 

So now I find myself at the beginning of a new year and a new journey with Jet, appreciating her as her own special little being and knowing that the true magic between us is just starting to click.