Goodbye Sweet Shelby

On September 2nd Shelby passed from complications of kidney failure. When we grieve we process and ponder. It is there that we can see the lessons Shelby brought for us.

Shelby the Scholar

Every dog that comes into our lives arrives with a syllabus for us. It is our job to decipher what lessons they are teaching.

On September 2nd Shelby passed from complications of kidney failure and her household of three Mini Schnauzers, a gaggle of cats, and of course her humans Jill and Linda, too, was left with a vacant spot.

When we grieve we process and ponder. It is there that we can see the lessons Shelby brought for us.

Nobody’s cooler!

She was even tempered, smart and lived her life in the balance. Always up for the walk, she wore the silly hats in class, leapt from the couch for the outside adventures, and happily joined in for the barking at the passing bikes or pedestrians. And, if she were human, she’d always be the first to hold the door for a stranger, or give a hug exactly when it was needed.

Illness plagued Shelby in her last years. Mamas Linda and Jill managed Shelby’s fluids and meds like pros. Coordinating her care was complicated at times – we should all have a medical advocate like Linda. Shelby withstood every prod, poke, new medicine, prescription food, limited diets, and multiple trips to the vet’s with her usual good nature while never getting cranky or snarky with her house mates.

I can see three lessons that Shelby brought for us, perhaps others can see more.

The first was balance – play hard, bark loud, and always be kind to everyone you meet.

Just hanging out

The second was all about taking things in stride, from illnesses, to losses, to changes in the home, Shelby was always good with it all. I know for some, this one doesn’t seem like much. But from my own perspective, this is an almost saint-like quality that alludes me on most days.

The third one was about the connections the Universe often shows us that we dismiss or doubt because there are no double-blind studies to confirm what we see.

  • Shelby arrived at Jill and Linda’s home on September 4th 2004 – her big sister Kinsey’s birthday.
  • She left us on September 2, 2016 – missing her anniversary by two days, and missing Kinsey’s birthday by two days.
  • And, when Kinsey passed away, it was a day before Shelby’s birthday.
Shelby and Kinsey – Party Animals

Remember, in astrological terms, birthdays are not always on the same date on our calendar, but follow the alignment of the planets as they were at our birth. So, who knows…perhaps there’s an even tighter link between Shelby and Kinsey than our calendar shows.

These are the things that make us scratch our heads because we have no good answers for the nature of these connections. However, we can say without doubt, that Shelby and Kinsey had a bond that transcends our mortal understanding.

Shelby will be very missed by her family and all of us who knew her as the sweet, easy-going, gentle soul that she was.

However, she and Kinsey will no longer be missing each other.


RIP Barb

Barb Shea’s life as defined by the gratitude of animals.

For almost ten years, I have had the privilege of being the trainer and behavior consultant for ARF-Beacon and in that time I have come to know Barb Sheabarb-219x300 as kind and generous, occasionally cheeky and opinionated, a soft touch who could see through anybody’s crap, and she always found a way to laugh while navigating the world of animal rescue that is defined by sadness, cynicism and difficult decisions. As the president of ARF, she made the hard choices and took the consequence of conflict for those choices knowing she was right and yet always doubting her decisions. Like all of us, she walked with her internal contradictions, but ignored them as she endeavored to do what was right for the animals of ARF.

I write this with my dog Pinball at my feet,Pinball couch headtilt knowing that without Barb, he and his siblings would not be alive (and probably his mother dog too). I can’t begin to count the number of other dogs and cats who have lived only because Barb started ARF three decades ago.

It feels almost trite to attempt a fitting eulogy of Barb’s life that appropriately honors a woman so devoted to rescuing animals, and so responsible for thousands of lives, both pets and humans; we know the two-way nature of rescue and that many rescued ARF pets returned the favor and saved their humans in one way or another.

Perhaps to honor Barb, we would thank the Universe for her dedication and tenacity, and hope that she can hear the words of gratitude from those she touched.

However, our words are nothing compared to the gratitude without voice that comes from all the dogs and cats saved by ARF. Their thanks floats on the wind like dancing leaves in a gentle fall breeze that will carry Barb from this life to the next, offering her the same comfort, hope and companionship that she offered all the loved and lost animals rescued by ARF.


There are times like today when we have to say good bye to a friend and companion who leaves us way to early, just as life was opening up.

There are times in this life when we have to say good bye after a long and fully lived life… Then there are times like today when we have to say good bye to a friend and companion who leaves us way to early, as we did this morning with Shiloh.

Because of his infectious smile, Shiloh was a great photographic subject. Here are some of his greatest photo moments…

Shiloh recently turned six-years-old and in those years he worked as:

  • A Pet Partner therapy dog
  • Companion for the Ponti family
Service video

Chris’s service dog

Did you say, "Party animal?" Or, "Animal party?"

And, all around goof ball when his other duties would permit.

He was such a regular in the Distract O Doggie class that we will all feel the vacancy left without his smiling face and room filling joy.

As his trainer, I spent a lot of time with Shiloh and there were times that I could almost hear the words he wanted to say to me…

"Okay, lady, just tell me what I have to do for those hot dogs!!!
“Okay, lady, tell me what I gotta do for those hot dogs!!! Really, anything, just tell me.”

Goodbye, Shiloh. You are now free of pain, though we are not.

Bye Bye, Boo

On September 10, 2014 the final chapter in Boo’s long, courageous story came to a peaceful close surrounded by his loved ones.

On September 10, 2014 the final chapter of Boo’s story came to a close.

Lisa-and-BooIt is hard to write of something so painful as the loss of a beloved pet but the loss of Boo is not my own and that requires me to share his passing with all the people his spirit has touched. More than ten years of visiting children, seniors, adults with developmental disabilities and others makes it hard to count how many people loved him, but I know it was probably thousands.

Developmentally disabled with poor eyesight and an awkward gait, Boo was a trooper who was always game for a visit with anyone even in later years with his eyesight completely gone and arthritis making his bearing even more ungainly. Having overcome remarkable odds to be a therapy dog, Boo won the hearts of the people who knew him personally and those who read his story in A Dog Named Boo here and around the world. His fan club ranges from Russia, to South America, to Britain and back home. Boo was the clumsy black and white rescue dog who never wanted anything other than to say hello to and be loved by everyone he met (with some great butt scratches along the way) while reaching across physical limitations and political boundaries.

In both life and in death he teaches us that we are all better when we move through our days with patience, persistence and the understanding that perfect is not all it is cracked up to be—because sometimes it is in our imperfections where our greatest strengths lie.

In his work he brought joy to thousands, speech to Marc and Sister Jean, an understanding to my husband and me that we could be a family, and on the morning he left us he brought us one more gift. As our two-year-old son (who still only has only two or three reliable words and has yet to refer to anyone by name) brought all the pepperonis from his pizza-puzzle toy to Boo, who was resting on his big comfy chair, he pointed to Boo and said, “Boo” each time he tried to encourage Boo to eat the wooden pepperoni.

With this final act we knew Boo had made his mark on the little boy he had waited so long to have in his life and his job was done—he could rest without pain for the first time in a long time.

Happy T(r)ails – A Fond Look Back at 2011

As we head into 2012, we stop to fondly remember all the furry friends who left us in 2011 and touched our hearts on their way past.

Groundhog Day, Imbolic, St. Bridget’s Day, Candlemas, and others all land somewhere on or around February 2nd.

No matter what you call it or what religion celebrates it they all mark a time of renewed life and it’s our human nature to look back on the old as we stand on the cusp of the new.  Oftentimes we are hoping for better yet to come and sometimes we are fondly looking back.

2011 brought a number of losses to the community of doggie folks that I know well and this brings emotions of mixed sadness and joy.

Callie happy in the bathtubThe year started out with the loss of our little eight-week-old Callie – it was a sign of the year to come. However, following her  passing we took in her only brother (and the only one of her litter mates still waiting for a forever home):  Pinball.

Things started looking up at that point, but then the avalanche began.  HEART dogs who had been working in animal-assisted therapy for years or training for the work began to slip away from us:

Vesta who had exchanged her Guiding Eyes career for one in animal-assisted therapy left her family after eleven years. Her devotion and love of her family and work was legendary.

RileyMay12011Then we saw the loss of Riley, a little Wheaton who loved the “paws up” command so much that she passed it onto her Golden sister before she suddenly passed away. She was even remembered by Santa this year when the rest of her pack went for pictures and he asked where she was. Riley’s sweetness clearly touched Santa, too.

The loss of Kinsey – the little Mini Schnauzer who seemed to be born with a power pack Kinsey-and-Elmos-for-blogthat just wouldn’t quit –  came at the end of her battle with a host of illnesses and left a not so mini-sized whole in her human’s hearts.

Hunter-PortraitAs if three were not enough HEART dogs to lose, one of the founding dogs, Hunter, left his family to cherish his memory and all of us the legacy of his work.

Thinking the year was almost over and what more could happen we lost Beau and Maude in quick succession.

Beau was fairly new to animal-assisted therapy but he was a champ. When he and Boo Beauwould visit together at the library the name confusion between the two made for a fun game with the kids when asking them if they wanted to visit Boo or Beau.

MaudeMaude was a seasoned veteran in the world of animal-assisted therapy. Always the trooper, she started fading when her sister Vesta passed and just wasn’t able to rally back to her old self after the loss.

Layla, the chocolate lab who patiently let kids cover her with band-aids – and taught Boo how to wear them, too – left her family and a young puppy she had been training.

TorrieThe lovely Miss Torrie, a white German Shepherd Dog who had been a puppy mill breeding female only to be rescued for a new life as an animal-assisted therapy dog – and one of the greatest testing neutral dogs I have ever met – left her family on Christmas Day.

Now, forty days after the last of these losses we can look back and while sometimes their sadness can seem overwhelming each comes with a stream, and sometimes a flood, of sweet, loving memories.

This is the gift that our dogs give us when they are alive and it is the gift they keep on giving even after they pass. The joy they bring us is so great that even in the wake of the sadness that comes with their passing we are still filled with the joy they leave behind.

Dogs will come to us and they will leave us but the love they bring stays with us always.

As the groundhog pokes his head up today we can hold in our hearts that as the wheel of the year turns and Spring dances before us the love of these animals will sustain us until we can meet them once again and forever.