In loving memory . . .

IMG_1639 On June 10, 2015 Bear “Puppy Chow” Haley passed away peacefully, surrounded by people she loved. She was twelve-years-old in human years, but around ninety in dog years.

Bear was born on July 1, 2002 in Flora Vista, New Mexico to a Blue Heeler and a Beagle. Her parents were unable to take care of a litter of five puppies, so Bear and her siblings were put up for adoption when they were two months old.

Though her first three siblings quickly found homes, the days came and went, and Bear still waited. That’s when Jason and Laura Haley came into her life, welcoming her into the family she would be part of for the remainder of her nearly thirteen years on this earth.

Bear developed an early taste for fashion, with a particular affinity for Laura’s shoes. She also loved the written word, once attempting to devour a hardback copy of HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE in a single day.

Though she never graduated from obedience school (despite her parents’ regular threats to send her there), Bear knew every trick in the book. Except stay. And heel. Oh, and she wasn’t very good at drop it. And she only came when wanted to. Other than that, she quickly learned shake, roll over, play dead, and speak. She could also count to ten. She loved food, walks, food, playing fetch, food, her people and mostly food. She hated fireworks and swimming. And cats.

As she got older, Bear settled into a routine with her family. She loved to hike and camp, and her family always slept better knowing Bear was on guard. She enjoyed the company of other dogs, as long as they went home when she was done playing.

Bear eventually welcomed several siblings into her home: two human children named Vince and Shelby who she loved dearly. She was less welcoming of her canine sibling Kona, and her feline sibling, Sprocket. In fact, she probably would have eaten them given the opportunity.

For most of her life, Bear held down several careers, including, but not limited to guard dog, river dog, obnoxious dog panting and whining in the back seat because she hated car rides, cat and rabbit chaser, lizard de-tailer, and eater of all things, even broccoli, but especially New York strip steaks that were left on the floor by unexpecting grandparents.

During her last few years, after a leg injury received while bravely defending her backyard from the yappy dog on the other side of the privacy fence, she slowed down, taking up residence mostly as a doormat, and an obstacle to trip over in the kitchen. She remained an eater of all things until her final days.

After a brief illness, compounded with severe arthritis, Bear’s family made the painful decision to let her go. Her last few days of life were full of laughter, love and plenty of tears. In fitting style, Bear’s final meal consisted of ice cream and waffles.

Bear is survived by her human parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and siblings, as well as Kona and Sprocket. She was preceded in death by dozens of squeaky toys, countless plastic bottles, several pairs of shoes, and a couch that she swore had a squeaker buried somewhere deep within its stuffing.

Bear will be greatly missed by all who knew her. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to your local animal shelter. Or better yet, go take a dog for a walk.

We love you Bear. And you will never be far from our thoughts.

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Knowing When to Say Good-bye

I’ve often heard that the hardest part of having a pet is saying good-bye. Dogs and cats become part of our families. Part of our lives. Yet they have tragically short life spans, and all too often, we are forced to say good-bye to those animals that have worked their way into the deepest, softest parts of our hearts.

And while saying good-bye is awful, in some ways, knowing when it’s time to say it, having to make that decision, can be much, much more difficult.

My husband and I got Bear when she was only eleven weeks old. We had both had dogs while growing up, but she was the first dog to join us in our new lives as a family. After receiving word from our landlord that we were cleared to have a dog, we both played hookie from our college classes and set out to find the perfect dog for us.

We spent the entire day on the hunt, visiting multiple animal shelters. We were about to give up when we came across an ad for Beagle/Blue Heeler mix puppies. My husband had his mind set on a beagle, so we called the number in the ad. The puppies were nearly fifty miles away, in a town we’d already visited once that day. But we jumped back into the car and made the drive anyway. An hour later, we were dog owners.

Bear's first night home

As young — and admittedly naive — college students, we made our share of mistakes when it came to raising a puppy. She chewed up more than one pen, leaving the carpets of our rented apartment spotted with black and neon pink. She chewed up several pairs of shoes. Always mine, and always only one from each pair. And on what was probably her worst day, she chewed up a newly released, hardback copy of HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE.

But despite the hiccups, Bear grew into an amazing dog. She loved to play fetch and go hiking. She learned tricks as quickly as we could teach them. And when we brought our firstborn son into our home, she watched over him, made him laugh, and cleaned up his messes.

It’s been twelve years since Bear came into our lives, and sadly, the time is coming when she will have to leave us. As we get closer to her thirteenth birthday, her arthritis gets worse and worse. We’ve known for some time that her days are numbered, but it’s a hard decision to make.

Last summer, Bear tore her ACL. She was never quite the same. Her hips have gotten weak, and she falls down frequently. But she is otherwise healthy and there are days where I still see a flash of the puppy she used to be. Days like this morning, when she rolled onto her side, and playfully tried to grab my hand as I brushed her. While I don’t want her to suffer, I also don’t want to take her from this world before she is ready to go.

I’ve spent a lot of days and nights lying awake, and I’ve already shed gallons of tears in anticipation of losing Bear. I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m crying now as I write this, while she sleeps peacefully at my feet. All I can hope is that when that day comes, when she reaches the point that it’s harder to be here with us than to be without us, we will recognize it for what it is. And we will be strong enough to let her go.

Bear and our new puppy Kona

An Interview with Steph Davis

One of the cool things about my freelance job writing for the local newspaper is that I get to meet people that I wouldn’t otherwise. I’ve interviewed and talked with lots of really interesting people through the last few years. Last week the editor emailed me and asked if I could interview Steph Davis. Steph is an internationally known, professional rock climber and a twice published author. I was excited about doing the interview, but nervous too.

Steph is basically a rockstar in the rock climbing community. She has been the first woman to free solo several routes that would make many climbers quiver even with ropes. After an incident in 2006, her life began to unravel. Her major sponsors pulled their sponsorships, her marriage was falling apart, and she found herself unable to enjoy climbing anymore.

So Steph did what any rational, sane person would do. She jumped out of a plane. Steph’s memoir, Learning to Fly, was released on April 2, and it’s all about her learning to face her fears and put her life back together through skydiving and BASE jumping. The book itself is a great read, and after sitting down and talking with Steph, she’s an amazing person. Even though I had a terrible cold that probably made me sound like I was dying, she sat and talked with me for almost two hours.

We talked about getting her book published, her new career ventures in town, and dogs. Because who doesn’t love dogs? Steph was even kind enough to give me the name of her literary agent to see if he was interested in my current novel-in-progress.

If you’re interested in reading more about my interview with Steph, you can check out my article by clicking the title of this post.