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Griffin's Journey

Apr 15

Kilo is adopted!

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I am thrilled to report that Kilo has found his forever family!  In my last post about Kilo, I described his ideal adopters – has large/guardian dog breed experience (✓), a backyard (✓), is home for most of the day (✓), lives within driving distance of New York City (✓), and another dog would be icing on the cake (🎂).  Sara, Todd, Izzy, and Schuyler (Sky) welcomed Kilo (now Aries) to their family on Monday.  They live in upstate New York in a quiet neighborhood with a huge backyard.  Sara works from home and has reported that Kilo is super helpful around the house with chores like laundry. 😊 Sky, an almost 3-year old Saint Bernard, wasn’t too sure about her boisterous younger brother at first, but she is showing him the ropes and even learning a thing or two from him about playing with sticks in the yard.

In recent weeks, Kilo and I had settled into a good rhythm.  With the weather trending warmer, our morning walks become even more enjoyable and our evening walks after I returned home from work stretched out longer with the daylight.  Kilo’s guardian angel, Kim, loved her afternoon walks with him and always gave him extra attention.  We took two trips out to Long Island – once for a play date with Juniper and another time to hang out with Dad and Donna (I finally got to meet Sparky, the pup that they adopted from Rescue City in January!).  We played lots of fetch, and Kilo made new human and doggo friends.

The first Sunday in April, we headed out for our regular morning walk in Griffin’s park.  It was the first day of Little League, and upon entering the park, we saw families starting to gather.  I reflected on how far we had come together because even just a month earlier, I would have turned around and found a different morning walk route that would have avoided crowds of people.  Instead, Kilo became a bit of a minor celebrity.  A family sitting on a bench was admiring Kilo as we walked by, and the mom called out that he was a beautiful dog.  I turned to smile at her and she exclaimed, “I’ve seen you walking him in the neighborhood.  You have him so well trained!”  I laughed and replied, “You clearly did not see us in January or February!”  The dad and 2 little kids loved on Kilo, giving pets and hugs, when another family walked behind us.  That dad asked, “Is that a Cane Corso?”  It’s rare that people pronounce the breed name correctly, so I was a bit surprised when I replied that indeed he was.  He then asked why I chose that breed, and when I shared that Kilo was a foster dog, the mom warned him, “Don’t even think about it!”.  She explained to me that they had recently lost their pit bull, a large male dog with similar brindle coloring to Kilo.  Their little bog was laying across Kilo while hugging him, and then looked up at me to share, “My dog died, and I miss my dog.”  That broke my heart and I was glad that Kilo brought him some comfort.  And by this point, a small crowd of people had gathered to pet and admire Kilo.  It was so gratifying to see Kilo accepted and loved for the sweet boy he is, a far cry from the early days when people crossed the street to avoid us.

We spent our last weekend together soaking in the sun and eating lots of treats.  Of course, Kilo needed to leave a lasting imprint, chewing off a corner of the quilt on my bed on Saturday morning, which he thankfully pooped out on Sunday afternoon.  On Monday, after 11 weeks together, Kilo met his forever family and rode off into the sunset.  His mom has been wonderful with providing updates that confirm he is exactly where he is meant to be.  Of course I miss him tons – we had to work hard at our relationship which I know made our bond stronger – but I’m starting to get used to my quiet (and clean!) house again. 😉

It wasn’t ever easy, but for Kilo, I’d do it again in a heartbeat.  I love that boy and I wish him a long, happy life with his family. 🧡

Mar 07

Kilo, the Cane Corso

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Meet Kilo, my 2 year old, 100lb Cane Corso (kah-nay core-so) foster pup!  Kilo came to live with me on January 23rd, 5 days after Griffin’s birthday.  He was surrendered to a shelter on Long Island and the coordinator there reached out to Rescue City to ensure that he was adopted by a family that would be extensively vetted due to his breed and size.  We do not have a large pool (any size pool?) of fosters willing to take big dogs, so Kilo came home with me!  Kilo is a gorgeous brown brindle, with shades of espresso, mocha, and café au lait, and a white patch on his chest.  His head is enormous, and he has a solid, athletic body.

The first few weeks with Kilo were extremely challenging.  He is a powerful dog who had poor leash manners, which is quite an issue in New York City.  Due to his looks, many people were intimidated by Kilo and refused to allow their dogs to say hello, which caused a lot of frustration.  He became reactive on leash, regularly lunging at people and dogs.  Walking Kilo was unbelievably stressful, and both his walker and I were ready to give up because he was just so difficult to handle.  We adored him indoors – Kilo is sweet, silly, and smart – but we were at a loss as to how to improve his behavior outdoors.

On February 9th, Kilo and I had a session with a dog trainer who showed me that the prong collar I had been given was put on incorrectly and thus wasn’t working properly (I had stopped using it after 3 days when it didn’t seem to have any effect on his behavior outside and we have since upgraded to a better version).  The impact was immediate and that night I was walking a different dog.  The trainer also taught me how to use a bite pillow and explained that Cani Corsi (how cute is the plural version?!?) need the release of biting and playing tug of war as a means of giving a safe outlet for their protective, guardian instincts.

I now adore walking with Kilo.  I will always need to be vigilant because of his size and power, but he is very well mannered outdoors.  We walk 2 miles each morning, his walker takes him for a 45-minute stroll each afternoon, and I take him out again after work for 15-20 minutes to stretch his legs (and then a final pee break before bed).  We can greet people and their pups without incident, although he will throw a tantrum if he is not allowed to say hello to a dog that passes close by us (we are working on better handling our disappointments in life), but I’ll take that any day over the previous behaviors.  He is unfazed by loud noises, joggers, and bikes.  I took Kilo on a play date last Saturday, visiting Jody and Juniper.  He had a blast running around the huge yard and played so well with Juniper who is one-third his size.  I’ve played fetch with Kilo at our park, but always with a 50 foot lead, so it was heartwarming to see him running and playing without any restraints at all.

Despite his regal good looks, Kilo does have some faults.  When a side door to his crate wasn’t properly latched one day, Kilo ate a shoe, my Kindle, and unbeknownst to me, the fuzzy lining of a Croc that sat in his stomach for 8 days before making its way out the other end (that was a shock to wake up to on a Sunday morning!).  He also recently took a small bite out of an area rug (thankfully, a relatively inexpensive one that I had purchased to give Griffin traction after his surgery).  He counter surfs and thinks my dinner should be shared.  His version of indoor parkour (zoomies) moves furniture.  Kilo is currently blowing his winter coat and my house never seems to stay clean for longer than a day, but hopefully he’ll be done shedding soon.

I joke that Kilo should have been named 45-Kilo (how much he weighs), Goober, or Wiggle Butt.  While he is a LOT of work, he is totally worth it.  He is incredibly smart and eager to please.  Kilo loves people and dogs of all ages, genders, and sizes.  When met with aggression or fear from other dogs, Kilo keeps calm and does not react in turn.  He is a happy boy who loves being outdoors, playing fetch, and making new friends.  I have learned so much about the Cane Corso breed and how to better handle powerful dogs (and how to use a prong collar correctly!), and while I’ll never love the drool of the mastiffs, I wouldn’t shy away from fostering one again in the future.

The ideal adopter for Kilo has large/guardian dog breed experience, a backyard, is home for most of the day (Kilo is currently crated for 8 hours a day while I’m at work), and lives within driving distance of New York City.  Having another dog would be icing on the cake.  Please share about Kilo with anyone you may know who loves the Cane Corso/Mastiff breeds and would love to share their home with this special boy.  Kilo is available for adoption through Rescue City.

I hope the videos below convey the many facets of Kilo – sweet, goofy, and athletic!

Oct 09

When I began fostering Gracie, we thought that her body condition was a result of malnutrition and given the financial difficulties faced by many people due to the pandemic, that was not such a far fetched idea.  After spending time with Gracie, I knew that she had been very loved because of her sweet nature and impeccable manners.  Once we learned that she had cancer which was causing her inappetence, I was convinced that her family had surrendered her because they could not afford vet care.  After Gracie passed, I kept thinking about her family – how they must have been agonized to give her up and not have any idea what became of her.  I was determined to return her ashes to her family and let them know that even though she was not with them at the end, she was loved.  And last weekend, I did just that.

I know the world of rescue is filled with heartache and broken promises.  I wasn’t naïve, but I just felt it in my gut that Gracie’s family had not willingly parted with her.  The head of Rescue City was a bit skeptical and warned me that the outcome might not be what I wanted, but she acceded to my wishes and reached out to the municipal shelter to give permission for them to share my phone number with the family that had surrendered Gracie.  We were busy that morning with an intake of 40 dogs from Kentucky, so I did not hear my phone ring.  Later that afternoon I saw I had missed calls and a message from an unknown number.  It took Gracie’s mom less than an hour to reach me from the time the recue reached out to the shelter.

Lisa and I spoke later that day.  She had simply been provided my number and told I had information about her Bella with no updates.  And so it fell to me to break the news that her beloved dog had passed.  I gave her a brief update of the cancer and osteoarthritis diagnoses, and even through her pain, Lisa kept expressing gratitude that Bella had been loved and well cared for in her final months.  We agreed to meet up the following Saturday so we could talk more and so I could return Bella’s ashes.

October 2, 2021, one month after Gracie passed, was a gorgeous autumn day in New York City.  Lisa, her son (Karl), my friend (Virginia), and I met in the Conservatory Garden in Central Park, at a fountain dedicated to Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of A Little Princess, which seemed a fitting place to honor Gracie.  While I had learned a bit about her story in our phone call, meeting with Lisa gave me the chance to hear the full story.

Bella was born on April 1, 2011 in Texas and came to live with her family when she was 8 weeks old.  Around age 6, Bella and her family moved to the Northeast region, living in Connecticut and upstate New York before recently settling in New York City.  She was loved by everyone who met her, a treasured companion, and sister to a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Kane.  She began losing weight in the spring, which was attributed to her temporarily living with Lisa’s daughter and not being fed the same dog food.  Then came housing struggles that left Lisa with no place to keep her dogs.  She brought Bella and Kane to the municipal shelter asking them to hold the dogs for a few days until she figured out where she would land.  When Lisa went back for her dogs, Kane was returned to her, but Bella was gone.  Shelter staff told her that Bella was severely anorexic, likely had very little time to live, and was sent to hospice.  When Lisa asked if she could contact the hospice to be there when Bella was euthanized (which she assumed is what they meant would happen), they told her there was no way to contact the group that had Bella.  Lisa explained how she tried to put thoughts of Bella out of her mind but kept thinking that Bella would never understand why they never came back for her and was heartbroken that after being with Bella her whole life, she was not with her at the end.

I told Lisa and Karl about my time with Bella, her love of long walks and car rides, her medical issues, that she started eating again, and about her mobility decline at the end.  I gave them her ashes, a paw print, lock of her hair, and printed photos.  Lisa kept thanking me for caring for Bella and I kept insisting that it was my honor to love her Bella.  We laughed and cried, and expressed that despite our sadness, our hearts felt lighter to have this closure.

I don’t think Lisa had the financial means to bring Bella to the vet in the spring when she was losing weight and knowing that it took an expensive ultrasound and biopsy to diagnose the cancer, I’m pretty sure Bella would have died a painful death without an intervention.  It’s distressing that Bella had to be separated from her family to receive a diagnosis and medication that allowed her to begin eating and gaining weight.  And while I know Bella bonded to me and had good quality of life at the end, it does not replace the 10+ years of love from her family.  I keep thinking how lucky I am that had anything ever happened to me while Griffin was alive, any number of family and friends would have stepped up to care for him and keep him in my life.  And I’m so heartbroken that Lisa did not have that same support system in her life.

I’m not sure if I believe that there is always a reason why things happen, but in this case, I’m glad that it was me chosen to care for Bella.  Lisa and I have kept in touch via text since we met in person, and I hope that I can be a support for her if she ever needs it in the future.  And I am ever so thankful that we were given the chance to meet and that Bella is back home with her family where she belongs. ❤

Sep 02

Gracie passed away peacefully this afternoon.  While she had improved in her ability to walk since last week, she never recovered the ability to get up on her own.  Last night she started limping on her front left leg and this morning she was unable to bear weight on it at all.  She was listless, disinterested in food, and had great difficulty toileting outside.  I let the recue know that I thought it was her time and they agreed, graciously allowing me to bring Gracie to my vet this afternoon.  Before that, we took a walk to Gracie’s favorite spot in Griffin’s park where she could see the Hudson River and enjoy the sunshine and cool breezes.

I know I did everything I could to make Gracie’s final months joyful, safe, and loving.  My heart aches for the loss of her gentle, loyal spirit, but in her eyes I could see that it was time for her to go.  My heart also aches for the family that surrendered her in July.  They may not have had the resources to care for her medically, but based on how well-trained and sweet she was, I know they must have loved Gracie very much and not knowing what became of her must be agonizing for them.

As challenging as our time together was occassionally, I do not regret for one second taking Gracie into my care.  And while some common medical issues with Griffin brought up painful memories, I am so very grateful that my experiences with Griffin made me a better advocate for Gracie, including knowing when her quality of life was compromised to the point where I needed to let her go peacefully and pain free.

Gracie met so many of my family, friends, & neighbors, experienced Beaver Creek in Pennsylvania, and took long walks in the park almost every day.  I am thankful to have shared such fun times with Gracie and I will hold her in my heart forever.  May her memory be a blessing. sp_hearticon2

Aug 27

Gracie, the petite Golden Retriever, came to live with me on July 11, 2021 as a foster through Rescue City.  Two days prior, she had been surrendered by her family to the NYC public shelter severely malnourished, weighing only 29lbs.  While understandably needing a bit of time to decompress and adjust to a new home, Gracie showed her sweet, calm, smart, and loving nature from the start.  She struggled to eat even when presented with tempting foods like chicken and hamburger, some days showing interest and most days not.  She was diagnosed with kennel cough and her inappetence issues continued for several weeks.  Through it all, Gracie loved being outside, going for long walks in the park and taking car rides with her inquisitive little nose resting on the back seat windows.  An ultrasound was finally performed on July 29 and one of her abdominal lymph nodes was aspirated at that time.  The pathology results came back positive for high grade lymphoma, a cancer that spreads through the lymph nodes.  It is difficult to pinpoint when Gracie’s cancer might have first presented and the rescue decided to proceed with a course of oral chemotherapy in the hopes of extending Gracie’s life.

On the day of her ultrasound, Gracie started taking prednisone, a steroid which has worked wonders to improve her appetite and overall gastrointestinal function.  She has been steadily gaining weight (up to 36lbs now) and looks like a different dog than the one who came to live with me almost 7 weeks ago.  Earlier this month, she accompanied me to Beaver Creek Farm Cabins in Lancaster County, PA for a week of vacation with family and friends, and thoroughly enjoyed her time at one of Griffin’s all-time favorite places.  Despite the cancer, Gracie has been living a great life and the plans were to proceed with finding her a forever family.

Not today Peanut – that stuffed elephant is mine!

Gracie scratched her back all the way down the hill!

About a week ago, Gracie exhibited lameness and swelling in her right hind foot that was diagnosed as a soft tissue injury and she was prescribed gabapentin for the pain.  She bounced back quickly and was walking normally a few days later.  Three days ago, Gracie woke up with pronounced weakness in her left hind leg – limping, swaying when standing, staggering when walking, and having difficulty getting up and down.  I initially thought that Gracie might be experiencing a delayed reaction to the gabapentin, which can cause ataxia in dogs, especially in their hind legs.  More worrisome, the thought also crossed my mind that her cancer could have spread to her spine.  We made an appointment with the neurology department at the Animal Medical Center (the hospital where Griffin was treated) and Gracie was seen there yesterday.  A physical exam revealed that Gracie was very painful in her left hip and femoral area.  Subsequent pelvic x-rays showed severe osteoarthritis in both hips; the vet said that it was the worst case of osteoarthritis in the hip area that she had ever seen.  Both of Gracie’s femur bone “balls” are out of the “sockets” in her pelvis.  It is unclear if the recent lameness in her right leg caused the condition of her left hip to worsen, but this is a medical condition with which Gracie has been living for quite some time.  Until three days ago, Gracie was compensating well for her condition and our hope is to manage her pain well enough to allow her to return to that level of mobility.  In addition to the prednisone and gabapentin, Gracie will start taking amantadine long term and codeine for the next 5-7 days.  Once she is fully mobile and pain free, we will decide how to continue treating her cancer.  If Gracie does not show improvement to the level of being able to walk comfortably in the next 10 days, we will likely make the decision to humanely euthanize her as her quality of life would be so significantly compromised without the ability to take pleasure in doing the things she loved best.

When I agreed to foster Gracie, I thought I was getting a dog that needed to be well fed for a while.  I did not anticipate that Gracie’s medical issues would so closely mirror Griffin’s – struggles with cancer, inappetence, and mobility.  So many times in the last few weeks I have found myself grieving for Gracie and for me, struggling to stop comparing her experience to my boy’s, and hoping that Gracie would find a forever family that would love and care for her for whatever time she had remaining so that I could avoid the pain of her dying while in my care.  And then a few nights ago while watching a César Milan show, I heard him say, “You don’t get the dog you want, you get the dog you need” and it stopped me in my tracks.  I know I have been a better advocate for Gracie because of my experience with Griffin. I also know that her quality of life is vastly improved from when I first met her because of those advocacy efforts.  And while I’m still trying to figure out what I need to learn from loving Gracie, perhaps it is enough to know that I got the dog that needed me.