Author: Cheryl Cornett

Finnegan Moose

2007 – 2020

An easy, gentle, good natured boy. And the pain from saying good-bye to this beautiful old soul is enormous. I knew it was time; the rational part of my brain fully understood that this is the kindest act one can do for such a beloved dog- to be with him while he is gently eased from this world into the next. But my heart… oh my heart.

He was nearly 13 years old. My Chocolate Chunk. My Sausage Clown. My Finnegan Moose. He was my mountain, my rock, my ‘easy’ dog. He was my first hiking buddy, my first snowshoe companion. My first clicker-trained dog. He was my boy.

chocolate labrador retriever

I know he lived a great life- we are near a lake, so he swam and played fetch in the water often on hot summer days. We live on a dirt road in a rural area and have access to nearby woods and fields. So we hiked and took long, leisurely walks at least twice a day- early in the morning and every afternoon when I got home from school. I remember once when he was young… 9 months maybe? We happened upon three moose. They were blocking the path we would have normally taken to return home- a 5 minute walk from where we stood. I stopped cold- Moose can be unpredictable and I couldn’t tell through the trees if this was a Bull Moose with females or if they were all females. I wasn’t going to get closer to find out. Finn was up ahead and I think he spotted them the same time I did. He stopped dead, then turned to look at me. He was off leash. I bent down and started backing away, calling softly for him to come. He did. I was late for work that morning because we had to double back. That afternoon I stopped at our Feed Store and procured a Bear Bell. From then on, he was never without one, jangling merrily on his harness.

He was the first dog I ever owned that I found a dog walker for– eight hours was a long time to be left all alone. He quickly graduated from his crate and had full run of the kitchen because he was so trustworthy and well-behaved in the house. But was he perfect? Hell no. I still have a glasses case he customized with adolescent teeth marks. My mother-in-law is missing a perfectly good trowel that he stole from her gardening tote and ran off into the woods with–we searched high and low and never found it. I had to buy her another one. My husband made and installed a gate at the base of the stairs leading up to her in-law apartment above our garage. This, because Finn would climb up there to uproot flowers from her lovely pots that she had placed so carefully and artfully around her deck. I remember gardening out front, on more than one occasion, only to see him go flying by, clods of dirt and mangled marigolds hanging from his mouth. I’m not sure when we realized a gate would be cheaper than replacing her potted plants every 3 or 4 days, but I think it was soon.

He was the first dog I ever signed up with for formal dog training classes. I wanted so badly for him to earn his AKC Canine Good Citizen title. Did he? No… I simply could not tamp down his exuberant “jumping up to meet you” greeting when he was young. I should have tried again when he five years old…or was he six before he could finally sit calmly when greeting people?

He was my student dog when I enrolled in CATCH Canine Trainers Academy. By then he was nine years old. He was the first dog with which I used a clicker in order to shape a behavior- he had a glorious dead retrieve. He was an eager team mate and we had fun learning together. For one of the classes, I was to teach my student dog sit, down, recall, recall with distraction, sit/stay with distance, leave it, and go to mat from 5 feet away. Some of the behaviors he knew, but many he did not. As a family pet, he hadn’t been formally trained for any distance, distraction, or mat work. The day came for our evaluation. I was ready. He was doing an amazing job. My heart was bursting with pride. Then came our final behavior: recall past a distraction. The evaluator had me put Finn in a sit/stay and walk about 20 feet away. Then, she sprinkled kibble on the floor. Not a lot. But. Kibble. That was food. He was a Labrador Retriever. You know what happened. He came. He did. But first he hoovered up all the kibble. I was allowed a second go. My evaluator kindly asked me if I would like to take advantage and try again. Grinning and shaking my head, I replied, “No, he doesn’t need seconds, thank you.” She burst out laughing. We got a 94% and I was good with that.

I was blessed beyond measure with this dog. I am so very grateful to have had all those years with him. Yes, they flew by far too fast, but ohhh the memories. I have such wonderful memories. Thanks buddy; I love you. xo

No Answers

but she threw us a life line.

Spinone Italiano at the vet

Let me just start by saying the ride down to Massachusetts for Enzo’s neurology appointment wasn’t any where near as bad as I thought it would be. He held it together for a solid hour before he began to unravel. In an effort to appease him and take his mind off the ride, I played with the windows. We had started the journey with them up, the AC at full blast, and the radio on. Now, I rolled the front windows halfway down and the back windows all the way down so the novel smells could blow right in. He drew in deep, sniffy breaths and seemed somewhat mollified. Ten minutes from our destination though, he let out one loud, explosive bark as if to say shout, “Enough of this!” I assured him we were nearly there.

When I opened the back to let him out, he waited patiently to be released. I noted that despite my best efforts, a new seat belt would be necessary… (how? when? oh never mind.) I offered him a cool drink, but he was more interested in the sounds, sights, and smells in the parking lot. Once he was acclimated, I called the number I had been given to let them know we had arrived. Due to Covid-19, I would not be meeting the neurologist in person, nor would I be allowed inside with Enzo.

The vet tech who answered the phone had a kind voice and I had spoken to her twice, briefly, the day before. She wanted to double check some information and I began to panic… I had left Enzo’s seizure journal at home, knowing I wouldn’t be allowed in and knowing that my vet had faxed all his records here. She assured me there was no problem and they had indeed received all his records, but verification of all his medications and the dosages of each was needed. I calmed and answered her questions. Then she asked, “So, is there anything you’d like us to know?” “Yes,” I said softly as my throat closed over. “I want you to know how much I love him.” I could tell my answer wasn’t expected, but after a moment’s pause she responded, “I will do everything I can to make sure this exam is as stress-free for Enzo as possible. I promise to take very good care of him and I will bring him out to you directly as soon as the doctor is done with him if he’s anxious or upset.” I closed my eyes and nodded my thanks, not trusting myself to speak. It was only later that I realized she couldn’t see me.

When she appeared to collect him, he greeted her warmly, like an old friend. She was delighted and told him what a good, handsome boy he was. (All true.) He was fitted with a hospital collar, much like the bracelets we humans don upon admittance to a hospital. Then with absolutely no hesitation what-so-ever, he trotted briskly off with his new friend, stumpy tail wagging, not a care in the world. I grinned through tears. Such a good boy– I’d had visions of the tech wheedling, cajoling, and possibly even having to pull him along. I had been so worried–about so many things–the travel down, not being able to give him his breakfast in the morning, not being with him, on and on. This jaunty boy was a balm to my heart.

Thirty-five (long) minutes later, my cell phone rang. It was the tech calling to inform me that the neurologist had completed Enzo’s exam and would be phoning me shortly. She then asked if they could take pictures of Enzo for their Instagram page- he was having a ball, charming technicians and doctors alike. I laughed heartily. Of course they could take his picture, and if he was having such a fine time, he was welcome to stay inside, where it was cool until it was time to leave. Outdoors, the temperature was rising and it was getting hot. I got off the phone, grinning from ear-to-ear. That boy.

I had an informative and thoughtful conversation with Dr. Weiss. I liked her style. She was sensible, thorough, and compassionate. There was a warmth in her voice as she laid out the options, then her recommendations. For instance, although an MRI was an option, she did not feel it was warranted as she was 99.9% sure his epilepsy was genetically based; therefore, it would provide her with little, if any, useful information. She felt the same was true for the spinal tap. The only viable option she felt justified in making at this point in time she told me, was medicinal.

She was also blunt: Enzo’s seizure disorder is severe. It’s not going to get better. In fact, in all likelihood as he grows older, it will get worse. But for now, she feels he is an excellent candidate for pulse therapy. His next seizure, (and there will be another one) instead of immediately giving him a dose of his phenobarbital, I will immediately administer a medication called clorazapate and then again every 8 hours for 3 days. The goal is to stop the clustering. The goal is one seizure and one seizure only in a thirty day cycle. She feels this protocol may be able to provide that for Enzo.

I am glad to have the new information, even though some of it was hard to hear. I take comfort in knowing we have a therapy that may bring relief. It’s a life line, and I’m holding on fast….

My Destination Dog

is on a journey…

Many of you have read my posts with regards to Enzo and his epilepsy. It’s been a very tough week; he’s experienced three grand mal seizures in two days after not even a week’s respite since the last one. I am sad, anxious, and scared. We will be traveling two hours to see a canine neurologist on Wednesday. He is no longer responding to the medications.

We had a wonderful, successful 53-day stint back in April; I thought we’d found our Nirvana. But it was not to be. He seized. Three days later, again, just one. Seventeen days- one again. Twelve days, now two. Twelve days once again with two back-to-back; he was once more clustering. During this period of time, there were several trips to the veterinarian. Extensive blood work was performed, a full-blown physical, and two of his four medications were adjusted. He continues to seize and we cannot get past seven days.

Every once in awhile, I reminisce, thinking back to when we first started. Such high hopes. Such joy working with and training and being with this boy. We had plans! We were going places! We initially started doing field work in the hopes he would earn his NA title through NAVHDA. When I discovered he was gun-shy, we turned to tracking training. I took it for granted that he would earn his AKC Tracking Dog title and his AKC Canine Good Citizen title, I didn’t care which came first. I hadn’t a care in the world. I was clueless as to what the future actually held for us.

Now, he lays behind my chair- completely worn out from both this morning’s seizure and the post-seizure medications he’s been given on top of his regular dosages. I had a destination in mind when I got Enzo. Then I realized that we weren’t going to wind up in Italy as planned. I adjusted… perhaps Paris? (I wrote a blog about it.) Now, I’ve come to understand this is a journey. There is no destination in mind anymore. I will simply be grateful if he’s able to live each day in peace, free from seizures. I will be thankful to have him in good health. I will be happy (and so very blessed) to have him be by my side for many more years. If it’s not too much to ask, and you have a moment, please say a prayer for this wonderful dog. He means the world to me.

A Story of Peace in a World Gone Awry

I haven’t been keeping up with my blog. I haven’t felt much like writing. I haven’t updated my business’s website to add Aoife as our ‘newest employee’. So much has changed so quickly. These are strange and scary times now so it’s hard to carry on as though the world is normal. Because it’s not.

It began to shift on its axis in early March when two of my clients requested their training package be put on hold. One explained that her husband traveled internationally for work and didn’t want me exposed to anything he might have inadvertently brought back with him. I appreciated her thoughtfulness. Another explained she was nervous and wanted to see what would happen. I appreciated her honesty. But then, one of my clients texted to say she was in quarantine, awaiting her test results because her patient had tested positive for Covid-19 and was in the ICU.

And then, literally, just like that, my business world fell apart. Governor Sununu announced a “stay at home” order. I had to email all my remaining scheduled clients that we’d be in a holding pattern until further notice; however, if they wanted a refund for any remaining sessions, I understood and please let me know. Every single one of my clients opted for the hold… two of them even emailed back to say, “We’d like to prepay for our next session, in an effort to sustain you.” I was deeply touched.

Now at home, I continue to keep the same schedule I had when I was seeing clients. Early mornings I walk my crew. Next, there’s some light gardening and yard cleanup, then I head off “to work”. (Translated, this means I climb the stairs to my sewing room.) Finn is left in the kitchen, Aoife, her x-pen, per usual. But Enzo gets to come with me. He’s a low maintenance co-worker, either curling up in a ball or laying stretched out on his side, snoring softly at times, while I stitch and listen to my audiobook. Then, somewhere between 11:00 and 11:30 we “head home”– down the stairs to be greeted joyfully by the other two. Out into the backyard we go to stroll and jump and potty and sniff. Then, back inside for lunch and training.

Enzo with quilt

This has worked out exceedingly well. I have finished a quilt I started, then put aside in order to make a baby quilt, when I learned my daughter was pregnant. I intend to keep going with this plan and finish the few *cough* okay, several kits I’ve ordered over the past few years. It feels good to be productive. It’s also satisfying to complete a project. But. Yes, there’s that but…

But it still feels surreal. It’s still feels different. Something is off. A friend said, “There’s nothing to look forward to…” and at first I didn’t understand what she meant. Now, I do. I was looking forward to Aoife’s first ORT (odor recognition trial) in May with the National Association of Canine Scent Work. It was cancelled. I was looking forward to Aoife’s first trials in AKC Scent Work, Novice Interiors and Novice Containers in June. It’s been rescheduled tentatively for late fall. I was looking forward to Tracking with Enzo and all our friends at the Tracking Club of Massachusetts. I had high hopes of getting him certified this summer, maybe even entering a trial in the fall. But, as with everything else, all practices been put on hold- and there’s no definitive end in sight. That’s unsettling.

And I miss my clients. I miss the dogs. I miss the laughter, the joy, and the camaraderie that goes hand-in-hand with teaching, training, and working towards a goal. But most of all, I miss the stories. The stories I told at night at the dinner table– the funny ones that made us laugh because a client became the squirrel and her dog went running back to her. The happy stories that split our faces with grins from ear-to-ear because there was a break-through in training and Tonka pranced happily over that bridge that had terrified her. I even miss the sad stories because they made us pause, think, and reflect.

Stories can help us to be kinder, more thoughtful people. They aid learning and give depth to our lives, teaching us what it means to be human, humane, and alive. These are strange and scary times, but if we share our stories with one another, I think… no, I believe that we will make it through this to the other side. Our stories will help us to frame the journey and give meaning to the experience. I hope and pray Dear Friends there’s a happy ending to your story.