Category: Blog

“This blog contains Cheryl Cornett’s personal stories and experiences with dogs she has come to know and love. Cheryl is a dog trainer in Bradford, NH.”

Picking up the Pieces

There’s pain. I miss him terribly. The hole in my life is huge. Sometimes, out of the blue, it hits me: “THIS IS IT, he’s NEVER coming back” and I feel my heart start to pound; it’s hard to catch my breath. I feel like the grief is going to sweep me away and I struggle to repeat the mantra I learned so long ago with Bess, “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.” Or, at least I try to, through the tears. “Why?” I whisper, “Why?” There is no answer.

spinone puppy
Enzo, 7 weeks old: so many hopes & dreams

There’s anger. I have lost three remarkable dogs in three years; one with each year. And the only one I am truly at peace with is Finn. He was 13 and had lived a rich, full, healthy life. He had never known an unkind hand, had never missed a meal. I feel robbed by both Bess’s death and Enzo’s. I didn’t have nearly long enough with Bess. Even though I know she had five wonderful years with me, she deserved more. And Enzo. Enzo wasn’t even four years old. He was in fact, three years and 7 months… to the day. I sometimes rage. It doesn’t help.

Then, there’s guilt. Should I have waited longer? Was there more I could have done? Did I really, truly exhaust all possible routes? Was there another medication I could have tried? And then I remember back to that horrible day: September 19, 2020. He cluster-seized so badly I had to administer rectal diazapam in order to stop the seizures to get him into the Jeep for transport to the emergency veterinarian. I don’t remember getting there. I just remember them coming out to whisk him away. It was COVID and I could not go with him. They took my boy and I remember being alone in the parking lot, sobbing uncontrollably… thinking I would never see him again. He was going to die and I would not be there with him.

And that’s the memory I flashed back to when he first seized after over six glorious, wonderful months–that’s what took control of my thoughts–the fear and the helplessness I felt that day, the violence of the seizures and what they did to him. The pain, my pain at not being able to say, good bye. And the abject terror that he would die alone, without me. When the clinic called and told me he was finally stable, when they told me I could bring him home… I was overjoyed, relieved, and so very thankful. When he saw me, he made this odd, heart-wrenching moan and flew to me. The vet tech had to let go of the leash. I dropped to my knees and just hugged him. He was worn out and looked like hell, but he was alive. We leaned into each other and all was right in the world.

That night, as I sat beside him on the floor while he lay, exhausted, on his bed, his magnificent head on my lap, I made a promise to him, a vow. I promised him that when it was time, it would be on OUR terms. I promised him we would take our last walk together and savor it; it would be a lovely, long one. We would share the last of the French Vanilla ice cream he loved for post-seizure. I promised him we would chat and I would stroke his glorious, velvet ears and laugh at his gigantic slippered feet. I would fluff out his ridiculous eyebrows and he could lay his water-soaked beard on my lap. There would be treats, no pain and no fear. He would know I was by his side. I promised him we would be together when it was time for good-bye.

So on April 20, 2021 when he had two grand mal seizures with a 5-minute respite between them, I told him I hadn’t forgotten my vow. But we still had time. Three days later, he had three grand mal seizures, but since they were spaced a few hours apart, I told him we still had time. But did we? I wasn’t sure. I asked the Universe for more time. I demanded more time. We had plans. We were back tracking in the fields and learning tricks for the Advanced title. He’d finally nailed “back up”. Yeah, it was crooked and wobbly, but when that boy backed up, he swaggered! He had panache. We’d worked hard on that trick and we were both damn proud of it.

And then a few minutes past midnight, on the morning of April 26, they kept coming… and coming. And I knew our time was up. I prayed I had not waited too long. I prayed for a respite before the vet arrived. And my prayers were answered. We had seven and a half hours together, free of seizures. We had our last, glorious walk… and I was able to keep all the promises I had made to my beloved boy. Every. Single. One.


Barba Bagnata’s Ragazzo Dolche CGC, TKI, NW-TEAM 1

ENZO 09/26/17 – 04/26/21

We lost. Epilepsy won.

In time, I will find solace in the memories of the 204 glorious, seizure-free days we were granted before the Monster came raging back and took you. But right now, I am shattered.

Bess and Finn will be there waiting for you. Until we meet again my wonderful, kind, funny, sweet Boy; I love you.

I love you xo

Happy New Year!

Two dogs sleeping together in a circle.

Welcome to 2021! And good-bye to 2020. What a year! A roller coaster ride for sure, one for the history books, absolutely! Yet here we are; we made it! I would like to thank you all–for your patronage, your support, the virtual hugs, the very real love, and the laughter.

It’s been quite a year: I said good-bye to Finn after almost 13 years of companionship, walks, and games of fetch. Aoife became very ill and underwent a complicated emergency spay that shook me to the core. Had it not been for Annie Glaser and Jane Messineo Lindquist, I might have lost her; pyometra is not something veterinarians consider in a dog so young. Then, I nearly lost Enzo to a series of cluster seizures so severe, I had to administer rectal diazapam in order to get him into my Jeep for transport to an emergency clinic. Twenty-four life-time hours later, against the odds, he came home.

It’s been quite a year: Enzo and I recently celebrated Day #100 without a seizure. Even in my dreams, I had never considered such a miraculous thing possible for him. Aoife has earned her AKC Novice Trick title, her NACSW ORT title, as well as her Novice titles in Exteriors, Vehicles, and Containers from USCSS (United States Canine Scent Sports).

Yes, it’s been quite year: the ups, the downs, and all that was in between. Many of you have experienced loss and heartache as well; then you turned around to find the bright, the shining and the good in your lives. We shared our sorrow, our triumphs, and our trials. We managed and grew and learned to be patient. Yes, better things are coming; but that is fleeting too. As a very dear friend said recently, “It’s all temporary.” Life ebbs and flows.

Happy New Year friends, and thank you. I leave you with this lovely wish written by Neil Gaiman, “I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.

With love, Cheryl, Enzo, & Aoife xo

Nosework with a Bull Terrier

Anyone who knows anything about me knows I get into the gear: tracking gear, hiking gear, nose work gear. Other women do shoes. I do gear. When Enzo and I started out doing field work for gun dog foundations, his harness and my bait bag were a matching deep plum. My field whistle was a complimentary shade of violet. Oh yes. We were a vision at that hunt clinic. Fake it till you make it or dress for success? (I’ll let you decide.)

It should come as no surprise to you that when Aoife and I started nose work, I immediately began researching the gear. There is a lot: tins, tubes, odor, containers, putty, sticker dots, lines, harnesses… I was in my glory! My instructor also said it would be helpful if Aoife had a separate harness, strictly for nose work. It would act as a cue, a signal to her what the expectation was, what behaviors she should perform. Liken it a school uniform versus Saturday play clothes. It would help set the stage.

I got right on it. Julius K-9 makes some very nice back clip harnesses. Light, comfortable, well-designed, with loads of fun colors to choose from, and–as if that wasn’t enough… the very best part?? You could order TAG LINES! YES! I know! Right?! I spent hours playing around with words. I’d seen some fun ones out there and I was excited to tag my girl. I finally decided on “Nose 2 Search”. That beautiful Bull Terrier nose, the play on words, my love of numbers and math. Perfect! Then, we had our first trial.

I signed her up with Performance Scent Dogs. I thought them to be the most beginner friendly. There was also a training center within an hour’s drive offering monthly trials. Tova Training dates back to Bess’s Barn Hunt days; my memories were of great people, loads of laughter, tons of fun. I wanted to make sure our first experience was a positive one–I knew I would get it there.

The day dawned- I loaded up the Jeep with the necessary supplies, plus some, and headed out. I had entered all three TOT’s (target odor tests for Birch, Anise, and Clove) as well as Containers and Distance. The nice thing about Performance Scent Dogs is that even if Aoife missed on her TOT’s, she would still be allowed to run. It simply would not count towards her title in that element. (See what I mean about “beginner friendly”?) No matter what happened, she would be allowed to run a search.

TOT’s ran first and when directed, we entered the building. I could see the area where twelve metal folding chairs were arranged in rows of 4 by 3. Underneath one of those chairs was a tiny tube holding 3 q-tips scented with Birch. Aoife’s job was to tell me which chair had the hidden tube. I had no doubt she would find it. We had trained and practiced for this. She loved nose work. I was excited; grinning from ear-to-ear as we made our way to the start box, where the judge and time keeper stood waiting.

And that’s when Aoife noticed… PEOPLE! Her delight simply could not be contained; she was absolutely, positively OVER-JOYED and made a beeline for them both. Dear God. (People? We had not trained for people.) It was all I could do to hold on. As I death-gripped the handle on her harness, my girl hopped, spun, bounced, whined, and wagged her entire body in a vain attempt to jump on greet the judge. Fabulous, she pointedly ignored the small white freight train trying to steam roll greet her and asked if I had any questions. I shook my head. I was instructed to search when ready. I attempted to get Aoife settled (not happening), focused (perhaps? a little?). Then, I quickly stood up from my hunched over position and cheerfully called, “Aoife, Search!” She promptly boomeranged backwards, straight out of the search area, directly toward the judge. I grabbed onto her harness handle and dragged led her over to the rows of chairs. She continued to twist, buck, and twirl, all in an effort to say hello to ‘her’ people. Red-faced, breathing heavily through my mask, and with glasses fogging over, I once again attempted to redirect her to the chairs. She vaulted sideways, knocked two chairs a-kilter, bounced up on me and made for the judge again. Winded, sweating, bent over with my back in spasm, I circled her and hung on for dear life, praying for the madness to end. Then, Aoife stilled, head twisting to one side, and gave a cursory nose touch to one chair. I yelled “Alert!” The judge boomed “YES!” as she broke out into gales of laugher. Hobbling out of the search area with my joyous companion, I seriously contemplated a new sport and wondered if there was any Advil in the glove box.

Aoife went on that day to not only Q in both containers and distances, she earned first place as well. But I have put away the “Nose 2 Search” patch. Perhaps when she’s older? Maybe. But honestly? This one suits her style MUCH better.

White Bull Terrier with nose work ribbons
#slapstick #comedycentral #neverdull #wouldn’tchangeathing