September 16, 2013

Don't Rest, My Sweet Girl. Run.

Dear Friends,

On Thursday, our precious Kiva passed away. She was 15 years old.

She was happy, alert, active...then, in a very short period of time, she told us she was ready. Calmly and without fear. She died at home, in her favorite spot, as we held her in our arms, together with a wonderful veterinarian who helped her to pass very gently, peacefully, and in great comfort.

She was adored beyond measure, her entire life, from her very first day to her last.

Kiva was diagnosed with cancer at age six. After her surgery, while I worried, she just soared ahead and healed, always her joyful self. During those months, she taught me the most important lesson of my lifetime: to live in the moment. She was a brilliant teacher and her student was a bit slow to catch on, but I learned to truly enjoy each day. Dogs are so much smarter than we are.

She made a full recovery. Hiking the Colorado mountains, swimming in glacial lakes and the Atlantic ocean, road tripping with us to 21 states across the country — she was our constant companion. Of the three of us on long car trips, she was always the best behaved!

Her spirit shines through the puppies she helped us raise for service dog organizations. She had the most gentle way of leading us with love, integrity, and grace.

Just like the pets in your own homes, Kiva was surrounded by love as she grew old. Her happiness inspired me to join The Grey Muzzle Organization. Grey Muzzle is an all-volunteer 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides grants to shelters and rescues nationwide to help homeless senior dogs. Grey Muzzle supports programs such as medical care, adoption, orthopedic bedding, and hospice. I encourage you to take a moment to learn about Grey Muzzle, and consider volunteering or making a donation to help homeless old dogs live their final years, months, weeks, or even days in places of love, security, and peace.

I wish you, and each of your precious paws, all the best.


December 19, 2012

Happy Holidays from David & Ruby!

Hi, everyone! It's snowing in Colorado today and in the spirit of the season, here's a cool holiday card for all of you from David and Ruby!

David is a graphic designer and illustrator with enviable skillz. He rocks the South Park style here with his own style and humor...did you catch the famous Ruby head tilt?!! Each time I see a piece of David's art, I can't wait to see the next one.

He's planning on getting a website together and when he's ready to launch, I'll post the address here. So, stay tuned...!


As you know, I've taken a break from blogging to spend more time with my precious Kiva. She is now 14.5 years old and I am very grateful for the gift of each moment I have with her. I've also been raising our new service pup, Rissie, who has brought pure joy into our lives. Until I'm back to blogging, feel free to come on over to Twitter and visit! Wishing all of you a very happy and healthy New Year!

June 13, 2012

A Ruby Reunion!

When I said goodbye to service puppy Ruby in November of 2010, I knew I might never see her again. Service puppy raisers understand and accept this; we don't know what path the fates will choose for our puppies and that's okay. But like all puppy raisers, I had just one wish...that she would be loved.

A few weeks ago, thanks to Ruby's partner David, I was able to see just how true my wish had become.

Saying hello to beautiful "Service Dog" Ruby for the first time.

David and I had been corresponding since Ruby's placement in December. As the weather turned warmer, we discussed getting together and he kindly invited my husband and me to visit. David and his family were just so warm and welcoming, and we were thrilled to see that the puppy we raised is living in the most loving home we could ever have hoped for.

I'm often asked if service dogs ever get to have any fun. Why, yes! Yes, they do!

Last time I saw Ruby, she was still very much a puppy. And even though she's matured now, she has that same sparkle.

See? I told you she finally grew into those ears!

I know you're wondering...did Ruby recognize me? Yes, I believe she did, and what really made my heart sing was seeing the deep bond she has with David. Just look at the amazing focus she has on him!

I was interested to know what David thought were her most important skills. He said that her assistance in picking up dropped items was invaluable. He also mentioned how much he relies on her strong recall. It's important for any dog to come when called, but it's critical for a service dog to respond to her partner immediately when he gives her the command.

We also talked a bit about the social aspects of having a service dog. Service dogs can help break down social barriers that people with disabilities often encounter in public. That said, it's still so important for people to refrain from petting a service dog while she is working. 

Aside from the fact that petting a service dog without permission disturbs her focus, I feel it's also a matter of respect. When I'm out walking my dog, or while she's laying beside me on a restaurant patio, my dog is an extension of me. That's even more true for a person and a service dog who are working together as partners. Yet, some people just don't respect boundaries.

Back when I was raising Ruby, we were in the supermarket one day and a guy just reached out and gave her a noogie. I was like, "Dude...really? She's not Gilda Radner. And you're definitely not Bill Murray." I thought this would go without saying, but when it comes to service dogs, just say no to noogies. 

No noogies! No matter how cute.

Of course, if you have raised said service dog, and her partner gives you the go-ahead, said service dog may allow you to give her a hug...

and maybe even a smooch.

I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to see our service puppy Ruby all grown up and happy, living with her partner that she adores. Many thanks to David for a great day!

April 11, 2012

Ruby and David Pupdate!

Happy Spring, everyone! We've all finally thawed out after a long, snowy winter, but the sun up here at a mile high can't even compare to the burst of sunshine I just received in my inbox:

Isn't she gorgeous? Oh, Ruby. You are so grown up and so beautiful. And I love your pink lemonade nose!

Ruby's partner David very kindly sent me these photos with a note saying that his girl is getting pretty buff from her daily walks and playing tug of war. She sure is! And at nearly three years old, I think she's finally grown into her giant ears, too!

David, thank you so much for your thoughtfulness in sharing your photos and allowing me to share them with everyone who has followed service dog Ruby's journey.

Seeing you and Ruby together means so much to me. :)

February 14, 2012

Pillars of Strength - A Special Day for "K"

Today, Valentine's Day, the blogging community is sending our love to KB of Romping and Rolling in the Rockies. KB's dog, K, is facing the challenges of osteosarcoma. We hope that our posts will help bring KB strength and peace as she helps her K battle this insidious disease.

I'm never sure if bloggers find each other through fate, or if it's just the luck of web hopscotch. We spring through the links and sometimes land on a page that reads like the voice of a old friend. We make these lucky friendships in our own backyard and across the world, and while we can often only imagine our friends' actual voices (and their dogs' barks), their words are always comforting and familiar.

I "met" KB in November 2010. We both live in Colorado and we don't know each other in person, but we have a lot in common. We're both head-over-heels in love with remarkable dogs who happen to share initials: K and R. Each of us is awed, daily, by the extraordinary beauty of our state. We share a love of exploring mountain trails, snowy and sunny, with our dogs and through their eyes. And we formed a friendship over a toe.

KB's first visit to Raising Ruby chanced to be on Turn-In, the emotional day when Ruby left our home to enter advanced training. It was a scant post, typed through tears as I packed Ruby's things and kissed her goodbye. KB left a warm comment on my blog, helping to soothe the ache as my puppy leapt into the next phase of her journey to become a service dog. In the days following Ruby's departure, I visited KB's blog, Romping and Rolling in the Rockies, and recognized that unique voice of a new old friend. KB is a gifted writer and photographer and I was thrilled and intrigued by her gorgeous photos and clandestine glimpses of wildlife.

I was also concerned to read that her beautiful dog, K, was suffering from an inflammation of the toe that could not be easily diagnosed. Six years prior, my own "K" — Kiva — had a painful and undiagnosed inflammation of her toe. My husband and I had faced a hard decision — whether or not to amputate. We were so confused and so unsure. Amputation seemed extreme, but it was the only way to make a conclusive diagnosis. It was the same decision KB was facing.

Amputation before a diagnosis is a tough leap of faith. KB and I corresponded about the difficulty of the decision, the possible outcomes, the pros and cons, the lingering effects. In Kiva's case, we had decided on amputation and it had proven to be the best course of treatment, revealing a malignancy that had spread in our young dog. After long discussions with her veterinarians, KB also decided to go ahead with amputation. With a sense of relief, we all read the news of K's results — infection — and we watched K heal and romp again. Side-by-side spiritually, our Ks continued to hike the high country, each with a precious paw minus one small member of the team.

I often imagine those two rogue toes, great pals, hopping about in their astral meadow. One daring the other to scamper up the rockiest cliff; splashing together through glacial lakes in a race to the shore. Scoundrels! Chasing each other in the grass, trampling a maze through the wildflowers.

I've been away for a while, spending time with my now elderly K and a new little R, and I've just heard KB's news of K's osteosarcoma. KB shares her treatment plan and K's progress, and her readers and friends send big hugs we hope she can feel. But KB also gifts us with the inspiration of pure joy, photos of her strong, active K romping and rolling through the Rockies every day with glee and abandon!

K's smiling eyes shine through my screen and I recognize the extraordinary power of a dog's spirit and will — the same strength that I saw in my own Kiva as she enjoyed her life despite my worry. It's easier in theory than in practice for their humans, but our Ks have each taught us the same thing: to live each day with grace, exuberance, and the triumph of each moment.

December 19, 2011

It's Official! Ruby Is A Service Dog

One afternoon in July 2009, baby Ruby took a rare break from making mayhem and I watched her sleep. She wiggled her licorice jellybean nose at some terrific mischief in her puppy dream, and I had a thought.

I imagined that someday this three-month-old puppy—the one howling in her crate like a deranged chimp; conquering toys and toes with a mouthful of machetes; my little ringleader who disrupted all the other puppies in puppy classsomeday maybe this tiny firecracker could really become a service dog.

And if that was fate's chosen path for Ruby, this puppy who burrowed deep in my heart, I wanted her future partner to have all of her. Every moment of her fantastic, challenging, hilarious, beautiful puppyhood. So I started writing, and we followed her path, and those hundreds of blog posts led to this one.

Our puppy has found her partner. Ruby is David's service dog.

It seems serendipitous that the news of her partnership should come at this time of year. Knowing that Ruby will live each moment beside the person she loves most in the whole world is one of the greatest gifts I have ever received.

Congratulations, David! And thank you for allowing all of us to share in these photographs of you and your partner. You and Ruby are an awesome team.

Raising Ruby, my first service puppy, was a remarkable journey for me and I'm so grateful for all the friends, old and new, who traveled the path with us. Thank you for joining me in a thousand smiles, a few tears, and then a thousand more smiles.

December 5, 2011

Ruby In Partnership Training!

With my heart so proud of a little yellow service puppy who grew into a beautiful service dog in training, I can now reveal the next chapter: Ruby has entered into partnership training!

Ruby has been matched with David, a 31-year-old amateur graphic designer and MMA enthusiast who has a spinal cord injury. David kindly offered to share the news of his partnership with Ruby to help continue Raising Ruby's mission of raising awareness for service dogs.

David also gave me permission to post this photo. I think they're going to make an awesome pair!

Over the next few weeks, David and Ruby will practice and receive instruction at home and in public. Partnership training is rigorous and there are no guarantees, but it's essential to completely prepare the team and make sure they are well suited for one another.

Many thanks to David for sharing this stage of Ruby's journey with all of us. David, we wish you and Ruby all the best in your training!

October 24, 2011

Raising Ruby in Mile High Dog Magazine

The October/November 2011 issue of Mile High Dog is out and anyone who is interested in service and assistance dogs will really enjoy it. Mile High Dog is stocked in many locations around Denver, but if you need more info on where to find it, just visit the MHD site and drop them a line.

Cover dog, Caitee, is a first responder with a local Colorado police department and she's got a pretty important job. She provides emotional support to victims of violent crimes, including children who must testify in court. As the article explains, dogs like Caitee can work magic on the psyche of a physically or emotionally wounded person.

I'm proud to have contributed a piece on my service puppy raising experience for this issue. If you'd like to know more about Ruby and me, and get a feel for the incredible journey it is to raise a service puppy, just click on the cover image or this link to read our story: Raising Ruby in Mile High Dog.

September 30, 2011

Photo Pupdate: Designated Driver

Still feels like summer here in Colorado! Sunny, 80s, a good time for another round of golf.

Roo's friend is pouting because Ruby got a few pars and won the match!

Sue also let me know that Ruby will be finishing up her training in another location. Paws crossed that Ruby will be placed soon, and many thanks to Sue for keeping us up-to-date with all the wonderful photos of Ruby's advanced training over the past year.

September 6, 2011

We'll Just Have A Salad, Thanks

Here's Ruby and friends just saying "no" to some tempting hot dog tidbits. Service dogs in training learn not to pick up stray morsels of food, so excellent work, you guys! Although when it comes to hot dogs, maybe the Roo Crew is just as tired of BBQ after a long holiday weekend as the rest of us!

September 2, 2011

Service Puppy William & Service Puppy Wrangler Kiva

Hey! Is my boyfriend, service puppy William, trying to sneak a kiss on a Kiva? Aww, Kiva's not really into the mushy stuff, but she couldn't resist your charms, little guy. You got her frolicking a bit and loosening up those old bones, and that does her (and her mom's) heart a lot of good.