May 19, 2019

Another Life Transition, A Promise Kept

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dutchy-and-me-on-the-floor-2Much of the work I do with my clients is about helping them to plan for and navigate their life transitions. A life transition can be a happy occasion such as graduating from college, getting married, or embarking on a new phase of life such as retirement. Other times a life transition can be unexpected and sad such as experiencing the loss of a loved one or going through a divorce. I strive to develop long-term relationships with my clients so that I can be there to help guide them and support them through life’s transitions, both good and bad.

Recently my wife and I experienced a very difficult life transition of our own when we had to say goodbye to our beloved dog Dutchess on June 2, 2016. Dutchess came into our lives in 2011 when I brought her to Florida from Indiana after my dad passed away. While my dad was ill, he asked me if I would take care of Dutchess and bring her to Florida. About a week before my dad passed away, I had a conversation with him and I promised him that we (his children) would take care of Mom and the dogs. My Dad’s dog was Dutchess and my Mom’s dog was Sasha (a beagle mix). Sasha stayed with my mom and Dutchess came to Florida with me. You can read Dutchess My Friend to learn about our initial journey together.

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Dutchess was a beautiful Australian Shepherd with a merle coat. Her nickname was Dutchy and I liked to call her Dutchy girl. The way I like to describe Dutchess to people is that she was a force of nature and fiercely independent. She certainly was not an easy dog to take care of. When she first came to Florida, we learned that if you startled her while she was sleeping; she would wake up and come at you in full attack mode going after the ankles. My wife and I got a lot of bites and bruises in the first couple of years she was with us. Fortunately, none of them was serious and did not require medical attention. It helped when we finally realized that she often slept with her eyes open and was not awake when we thought she was. Over time, we learned to navigate around her carefully when she was laying down.

Dutchess was not the kind of dog you could just walk up to and pet. To her everyone was a potential enemy to be watched very carefully. It did not help that she became overly protective of my wife and I. When she first came to Florida, it did not matter if someone was standing ten feet away or one hundred feet away, they were an enemy, and she let them know by barking, growling, and lunging from her leash.

Naturally, people would want to walk up and pet her because she was so beautiful. I met a guy once while out on a walk who wanted to pet her. I told him to stay back because I had just brought Dutchess to Florida and I was not sure what she might do. The guy was positive she was not going to hurt him because she was wagging her tale. Mind you, she was also growling, barking, and bearing her teeth while wagging her tale. He started to put his hand out towards her and she lunged quickly and tried to bite him. The guy jumped back with a stunned look on his face. From then on, every time I saw him he went out of his way to avoid us. That was one of many instances over the years where I told someone not to approach Dutchess but they did anyway. Thankfully, nobody got hurt.

Eventually Dutchess got used to seeing people around on our walks and ignored them if they were just walking by. However, if someone stopped to talk, Dutchess always got ready to protect me. We did get to the point where I could have conversations with people so long as they stayed a good five feet away and did not use hand gestures or move around too much while we were talking.

I enjoyed telling people that Dutchess came from Indiana when she was ten and that she was my dad’s dog. I was so proud to be taking care of my dad’s dog and I spoiled her rotten. She was my connection to my dad and I needed to give her the best possible life a dog could ever want. She got freshly cooked hamburgers, chicken, and salmon (her favorite) mixed in with her kibble. She loved Publix vanilla frozen yogurt and a McDonald’s hamburger occasionally. During the last week of her life, I let her have two McDonald’s plain hamburgers every day. She loved it!

Dutchess dutchy-and-me-closeup-2fell ill the last week of December 2015 and spent New Year’s Eve at an emergency animal facility and then the following week in intensive care at a full service animal hospital. My wife and I spent the next five months in a blur trying to nurse her back to health. My engineering instincts kicked in causing me to want to research and read everything I possibly could about her ailments. I wanted to help her any way I could.

I was hoping Dutchess would get to be with us through one more South Florida winter so we could again enjoy those cooler morning walks together. It was not meant to be and I am grateful for having had her with me for as long as I did. She was fifteen years old and she had a full and wonderful dog life.

Today marks the fifth anniversary of the passing of my dad. I miss you Dad and now I miss our Dutchy girl too. I kept my promise to you and it was an honor to do so.

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