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.
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