Friday, July 21, 2017

Lessons From Bravo at the end Part One

Back in late 2016 we had a scare with Bravo.  He quit eating, he was less tolerate with everything, he seemed older, slept more, and struggled to get around.  We did quite a bit of testing but nothing really solid came forward.  Quite honestly I thought he was done then.  The only thing I knew even then was there was NO WAY IN HELL I was going to let the scientific community PRACTICE medicine on this dog.  If they KNEW what was wrong and they could help me fix it OK but no one was gonna dig around in him in a exploratory way.  At 11 and after ALL THIS DOG HAS DONE.....HE HAS EARNED THE RIGHT TO NOT SUFFER!  I caused him enough suffering by ignoring alerts or not being able to fix my BG fast did every other human that walked into his world that had something wrong physically or emotionally with them.  Dr Bravo was on it and all he ask in return as he aged was a cookie.  If you denied him that cookie......your luggage, purse or back pack would suffer for it!  At that point I decided to use vets to ease the pain, but treated him with other more eastern methods.  Energy work, essentials oils,  various supplements, vitamin b shots, acupressure and acupuncture, a few pet psychics, a WHOLE LOT OF PRAYER.  But it I was then that I knew my time with him was limited.

I watched as he would put his game face on when people would come over or if his vest was on.  Stubborn to the core HE WAS PISSED if I left him home.   His nose slobber is still on my front window.  He wouldn't let ANYONE else see him struggle.  By George he could do it on his own 4 feet or he wouldn't do it at all. I saw it get worse as time went on but I would try something else.  For a bit a new thing would work but at times he would sleep so soundly that i would go check to see if he was alive.

About 2 weeks ago he started throwing up and with diarrhea off n on.  Both had traces of blood in it at times.  I treated it as I always have but it wasn't helping.  Last Friday I called and made a appointment but couldn't get in until the 25th. I ask to be called if they had a opening.  Over the weekend we did public access with new families in town...again Bravo refused to not go but watching him he was off BAD.  That night while we were sitting around everyone observed him VERY unstable on his feet and struggling to breathe.   I dropped to 52 and HE MISSED IT.  Bravo might miss a 80 once in a blue moon but he was   gonna be making me pay for not listening by 75 in a big way.  Normally I would have been sporting CLAW MARKS, every shoe, every bringsel, every toy, and mostly likely every vest and leash he could get his teeth on for that! I dropped low 2 more times over night and he slept through all of them.  While I was waiting for one of the lows to come up in the middle of the night I curled up with him and cried.  I told him him I PROMISE I WILL NOT YOU SUFFER that when it is time you either tell me or give me a sign that you are ready and no matter how damn hard it is I will help you get out of this shitty physical world and move to a new place.  He sighed very deeply and rested his head on my legs and fell back asleep but his breathing was very irregular.

Monday morning the vets office called that they had a cancellation in the afternoon.  I had a commitment that I could not get out of at that time so I ask my friend Kristi to take him but to call me when they knew anything. They called and the vet was very concerned but didnt quite know what to make of it.  Bravo had MANY fatty tumors on him but there was at least one I had ask Kristi to point out.  She checked it and was very concerned that it was cancer.  When it was stuck it bled badly.  She ask what I wanted to do.  I stated to her "THIS DOG ABOVE MANY OTHERS HAS EARNED THE RIGHT TO NOT BE USED TO BETTER SCIENCE"  "HE HAS SAVED MY LIFE AND MANY MANY OTHERS I WILL BE DAMNED if we are gonna put him through a bunch of testing and prodding" " I also am sure in my heart he wont survive it".  She ask to run some routine minor blood testing and said she was sending home anti nausea drugs, some pain meds, and some anti inflammatory drugs.  She also gave shots before leaving the office so he would be comfortable that night.  When the drugs hit his breathing became VERY unstable.  I watched as he worsened right before my eyes. Again most of the night me and him had some heart to heart conversations.  I told him I don't want you to go but I know you are going to soon.  I told him I didn't want him to suffer and hurt anymore on my behalf or anyone else's.  I raged at God to (NO OFFENSE HERE) take ANYONE or ANYTHING else in my life but leave me Bravo.  I begged Him to leave the only solid rock I have known alone. I got silence which pissed me off even more.

Tuesday morning it was painfully obvious it was a greased slope that we were on.  I tried to remain positive but when he turned his nose up at french fries at lunch I knew how greased it was.   Tuesday afternoon the vet called. His blood work showed several things but the most worrisome was he was SEVERELY anemic.  Again being a good vet she laid out all of the options for me. Again I said YOU ARE NOT GOING TO ADD TO HIS SUFFERING!  She said the anemia was to the point that he could just lay down and not wake up.  SHIT SHIT SHIT SHIT I then got very direct and to the point about options of how to best proceed.  She offered many thoughts and said to call when I had made a decision.  This conversation all took place while I was standing outside of my work.

I returned into my job and told my coworker (who has shared her lunch with Bravo for the past 11 years) what the vet said.   I couldn't hold the tears in.  Every time I opened my mouth my heart was in my throat.  She told me to go home....I replied if I go home it wont help.   No matter what I did tears kept flowing and words just stopped in my throat.  My co-workers grand daughter, Kenzie who is 9 and Ava who is 12 kept coming over and touching my arms and shoulders.  Kenzie told Ava "I have never ever seen KC cry".   She came over and hugged me.

Bravo who normally would have been pushing me slept through it, barely moving for anything.  His breathing becoming even more erratic.

I have had the honor, pleasure, and at the same time the heart ache of helping many others through times such as this with their beloved pets.  I have often thought that I wished humans were as compassionate with each other in end times as we are with animals. It has never once been easy but I have never questioned the belief that they will tell you when it is time if we will only listen.

When we got home I sat out side on Gilligan's Island (my deck) and he laid at my feet.  You can think I am crazy at what I am about to say but I heard in Bravo's voice (kinda think Sam Elliot) very clearly in my head... MOM I HAVE TO GO HOME!  I replied..."YOU ARE HOME NUT BALL"  Again "MOM I HAVE TO GO HOME...I AIN'T LEAVING YOU.  I AM JUST CHANGING FORMS.  THIS BODY SUCKS!" I sucked in my breath an said "Well can I make it easier for you in anyway?" He replied " BIRDS, CHEESE, AND MAYBE A FRENCH FRY OR TWO".  So I called my friends the Erickson's and off we went.  For those of you that know Bravo well, you know that only my BG ranked above water and birds.  You could see him want it SO BADLY.  He even got a wee jump off the shore of about 3 feet.  SO PROUD HE WAS OF THAT BIRD!  SO PROUD!  He carried it over and laid in the grass with a big ole chessie grin in between the grimaces of discomfort.

We returned home and around midnight we laid down on the floor with him between me and Ava. He rested his head on my side for about 3 hours. I cried and argued with God some more.  At one point I stopped rubbing his ears and he took his big ole paw and requested more.  Around 3 am he struggled to his feet and whined at me, so we got up and went outside.  He threw up the french fries and cheese he had earlier in pool of RED bile.  I could only hear the squirt of diarrhea.  He stood there in the moonlight with his head handing low, looking weary and defeated. Again I heard his voice in my head..." Sorry you had to see me like this".  I cried more and then yelled at God more...because I knew my time with him in the world was at it's end and that I had to help my best friend.  Needless to say I slept no more. He did but it wasn't a restful sleep it was one struggling to stay here but wanting to leave.

I made the call to the vet as early as I could.......but lesson from Bravo at the end......Live hard and full.  Enjoy the birds, cheese, and french fries!  Jump as far as you can and when you are done...SPEAK LOUD AND CLEAR.  But above all, even love cant stop death in this world but love can ease the pain in the end.

Lessons From Bravo

For those of you that don't know...Bravo passed away this past Wednesday....MY HEART AND SOUL are shattered.  I am struggling to find my voice, so in attempt to get this out of my head where it is slowly driving me nuts...maybe sharing it in writing will help

In the last 2 years to just death I have lost my mom, my sister, and 2 close friends.  Dealt with some horrible illness and disease in other family members and close friends and continue to do so. Watched a close friend go off the deep end and got a dirty needle stick at work as well as personal health issues.  I have held strong, keeping my head down and one foot in front of the other. My motto has always been IT IS WHAT IT IS AND IT WILL BE WHAT IT IS SUPPOSE TO.  I know I can't stop most things in this world...but I can sure do my best to keep my corner tidy!  

I am not given to emotional outbursts usually.....irritation yes sometimes... but most emotions I keep in check.  Tears are few and far between in my life ...not because there wasn't reason but because they don't usually fall.  I generally grit my teeth  and just move forward to do my best.  But losing Bravo ...well quite frankly I really would like to go with him.   I won't but I would like to.  This dog was NOT A PET......HE WAS NOT A FUR BABY....HE WAS TRULEY THE BEST THING EVER IN MY WORLD.  If you have never depended on a dog to save your may not grasp the depth of what I am saying.  As a T1D my BG's are rarely damn many variables to get perfect control of a imperfect body.  Knowing know I don't feel anything with a low BG or a high BG except irritable and thirsty which I usually am anyway. This dog alerted on average of 4 to 6 times a day...saving my bacon more times than I can even count.  He has walked devotedly by my side through some serious shit!  He knew me better than I knew myself and while he was a dog...I truly believe he was a guardian angel that took dog form just to watch over me....but he took that job to a new level and included over 200 more Tattle Tail ( families, not to mention countless families which working as a therapy animal, and ALWAYS loving most anyone who came across our path.  If Bravo didn't like you.....I didn't bother trying to change my opinion.  HE KNEW.  For those that know me.....I am damn hard on guardian angels...Trust me I wear them out...even God has to send in new recruits to watch over me.   But 11 1/2 years ago he sent me one that I could love in the physical world and I will never ever be the same and at the moment I feel shattered and feel like I am wandering in the dark.   

I KNOW PEOPLE CARE.  I KNOW PEOPLE GRIEVE DIFFERENTLY.   I KNOW most want to help ease what I am feeling......but the only one that has ever touched that deep in my heart is Bravo.  I don't let people in that far.  Don't take me wrong  I care about all in my life and I do my best to show it...but people BLESS THEIR HEARTS are SO DAMN COMPLICATED!  Humans use way to many words.  Animals just are!  They communicate CLEARLY  but they do it with out saying a WORD and their ACTIONS always follow their intent!  They are most incapable of telling a lie.

I can hardly breathe.  I am numb.  I can't sleep. Everywhere I look I see Bravo. I hold the door open waiting for him to come in.  I call the other dogs by his name.  I even curled up in his dog bed for a bit last night.  Honestly I might be losing my damn mind!  This is not normal to love a dog as much as I did him..hell I am not sure it is normal to love a human as much as I loved him.   I have other dogs to help fill the alerting role that he left but THEY ARE NOT BRAVO.  They are both amazing dogs and you would be  a fool to not be proud to be owned by them.....but yet my heart cant take them in any further right now.

I decided to revive my old blog.......I haven't written much in a long time.....spending to damn much time at funerals, hospitals, and putting out brush fires.  I havent figured out if I can change the name of this blog yet......but know you are about to get a load of new posts titled LESSONS FROM BRAVO.   I have to get this out of my head so that perhaps I can rest and find the energy to move on.

For now I am stuck at this moment.......

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Blog is Moving!

Please go to the following website:

It is under construction but is coming along!  All of the blog posts have been transferred!

See you there!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Written by a friend and fellow DAD owner

This was written by a friend of mine who has an amazing DAD name Gracie that she self trained and a T1 daughter.  Here is the link to the original post and it is reprinted here with her permission  Thank you Shana Eppler!

I am not a blogger....I'm a quick poster. However, something has been bothering me that I feel I need to address.

Many people read about Gracie and other DADs and automatically think "I want that!" Gracie is a life saver. She is a blessing from God, BUT having a DAD is big responsibility. It is a 24/7 job. Having a DAD means checking more often.....getting woke up more at night....dealing with a DAD that's alerting while dealing with a low/high child. It's a lot to have on your plate. It's not all fun and games. It is work.

I researched DADs before I put down a deposit with a breeder in early October 2009. I knew my puppy would not be coming home with me until April/May 2010. I had a 7 month wait. I went to DAD conferences. I talked to trainers. I read every book on dog training that I could get my hands on. I read about different training methods. I talked to diabetics who had DADs. I picked their brains. I took notes and took notes. I practiced teaching obedience to our family pet. I planned ahead.

When Gracie became ours on April 30, 2010, I was prepared as best as I could be. I had a plan. I took May through the end of August off and did nothing but train 24/7. I had Gracie on a training schedule. I trained her multiple times a day on obedience skills. She watched every single blood glucose check at night and during the day from night one on. She went everywhere we went. Every moment was a training opportunity.

I am finding that many people see the end result and jump in feet first having no clue what they are doing. They do not do their research. They do not ask questions or take notes. If they do ask questions, they hear what they want to hear. Often they ask questions and then do just the opposite. They see what they want and act on it without thinking, and then they are surprised when things don't work out the way they thought it would.

Talk to people who have DADs. Talk to several people who have DADs that actually alert at night and during the day. Pay attention to their advice. Listen to what they have learned....what they have lived through. Listen to the breeds they recommend. There's a reason why some breeds work better than others. Listen to the training advice they give. They have been there, done that. They know what works and what doesn't.

I guess the point I'm getting at is prepare yourself. Put just as much effort into researching DADs and training a DAD as you put into researching and learning about diabetes. Take it slow. Educate yourself. You'll be a lot better off in the end.

Well said Shana!

It Takes Everyone

I was driving to work and thinking about what all goes into a diabetic alert dog.  The amount of training, the amount of teaching, the tears, the fears, and all the different ways it can be done.  I came to a very simple conclusion...IT TAKES EVERYONE being committed. Not just the diabetic, but the diabetics family, friends, and trainers.  NO ONE does this alone and when they try to do it alone they often end up just that alone.  There are a million ways to train a dog and if you ask any trainer THEIR WAY IS RIGHT.  We by nature want to control dogs...we want to control diabetes as well... with neither of them does that work real well.  We can teach, bend, mold, respond but both have MINDS OF THEIR OWN!

It takes everyone bringing SOMETHING to the table and US BEING OPEN to that to make the full picture come together. The thing is it isn't a still picture it is more like an ongoing movie or video.  People, places, and ideas come and go all the time.  We interact, we laugh, we love, we share, and we go on living our "picture".   My "picture" is not your "picture" is sometimes a shared screen but we are each separate.

In my dog "life" I have had the PRIVILEGE and HONOR to be around some pretty amazing trainers in their own right.  John M., Amy G., Robert R., Edie S., Evelyn S., Mary Ann N., Anne I., Gosia S., Tom and Katie Q. and I am sure I missing A LOT.  As much as I admire them and like how they train I am not them.  I can only borrow ideas and methods and mold them into methods that are useful for me.

In my diabetes "life" I have Kim M., Amy G., and a WHOLE SLEW of wonderful diabetics who are from all around the world and online.  I can admire each of them.  I think they do amazing jobs of dealing with the diabetes....but I am not them.  I have to take bits and pieces and borrow them to manage my own diabetes.

In my DAD "life" there are the breeders of my wonderful dogs, but there is also all of the wonderful teams that challenge me each and every day to think outside of the box.  To find solutions to problems to help others.  Shana E., Trista H. Charity R. Craig F., and Theresa F. are but just a few who have pushed and molded me and my ideas around DAD's.  They all live with diabetes in some way.  They all get the diabetes....but even more than that they are MY FRIENDS!  They are the get down and dirty..thick and matter what happens I love em kind of friends.  There are so many DAD teams that I work with and know of that I cant even begin to list them all but all of them come to mean something very special to me and each one of them has brought my a gift of learning something new about our 4 legged friends!

Now having said all of that......IT HAS TAKEN EVERY ONE OF THE ABOVE PEOPLE AND ALL OF THE ONES THAT I FORGOT TO MENTION for me to be who and what I am.  For my dogs to be who and what they are.  Our dogs and ourselves are at this moment the sum of all of our previous experiences and every one of those experiences.

So for those of you who are just starting this journey never ever discount and information that you may hear, see, or experience!  It may not apply to this dog but somewhere down the line it will apply to another dog.  See each interaction as an opportunity to learn more and don't forget to thank your friends and family!

Saturday, June 2, 2012

This Just Came out in the American Cheapeake Bulletin!

Bravo was born in McCammom, ID on December 2, 2005; I received him as a gift from Steve and Sharon Parker of Sunshine Kennels early in 2006. I didn't plan for him to remain with me, I had another home already lined up for him when he turned two. I had trained and competed with Labs and simply wanted to see if my training practices had advanced enough to train a Chesapeake Bay Retriever. I had no clue that when this brown bundle of fur came into my home that my life was about to be forever changed.

As a pup Bravo was a funny little joker, full of joy and happily bringing laughter to whatever situation we were in. Before he was a year old I exposed him to as many new experiences as I could.

Bravo had *heart* and he always tried. He occasionally made wrong choices, but as long as he put forth effort and tried I was happy. Working with him, I realized that Chessies are not for everyone and they are definately not for a novice trainer!

At 12 months of age Bravo passed the tests and became a registered Delta Therapy Dog. We volunteered at Aspen Ridge Rehabilitation Hospital working with a therapist and patient. Bravo took people for walks, pulled wheelchairs and played all sorts of retriever games. We would help stroke victims practice speech by having them give him commands, other times he would lay quietly as patients re-learned to move their limbs to pet or brush him. People will often do things with and for therapy animals that they won't do for their Doctors or nurses.

His registered name is Fetch Express Bravo Zula SH, CDX, RN, NAJ. He also jammed a Qualifying stake at the only AKC Field Trial I entered him in. He is an accomplished dock jumper with a personal best of 23' 7" in Big Air (broad jump) and 6' 10” in super vertical (high jump). Bravo has twice been nominated for the AKC ACE award (Award for Canine Excellence) in 2010 and 2011.

In 2011 Bravo won the K9 Hero of the Year Award at the Soldier Hollow Sheepdog Classic in Utah. He was also in a Cabela’s commercial and he is the Cover Dog of the 2012 Cabela’s Lab calendar. (Yes, a Chessie is the
cover dog - I am not sure if Cabela’s knows that or not, LOL!)

Bravo is also my hunting partner, he is an incredible waterfowl and upland hunting dog. He has more ribbons, medals and plaques than I have wall space for. While all of this is amazing and shows what an incredible dog he is, there is one more skill that I would gladly trade every ribbon, medal, and plaque that we have received for. You see, Bravo is also my Diabetic Alert Dog (DAD).

I am a Type 1 Diabetic with hypoglycemic unawareness. My pancreas does not produce enough insulin and I do not realize it when my blood glucose drops too low. Bravo alerts me to my low levels as well as my highs. He first alerts me that there is a change happening; I then I ask “What is it?” and he either waves a paw at me for high blood glucose or he bows for low blood glucose. Bravo has allowed me to remain active doing the things that I love.

While Bravo has brought hope and comfort to me, he has also brought hope to others with diabetes. People see him in action and become driven to improve their own lives with a trained DAD dog. He helps teach both the diabetic and their family how to properly handle dogs. He also alerts the family if *their* blood glucose is too high or too low. Bravo has alerted countless people with diabetes in elevators, in airplanes, at sporting venues and in Doctors offices. Basically anywhere there are people, Bravos' nose is at work.

At a recent Diabetic Alert Dog Conference, Bravo was working with a teenage diabetic while I was instructing a class. This young man is anxiously awaiting his own Diabetic Alert Dog but is currently on a waiting list. Suddenly, Bravo began alerting him that his blood glucose was getting low. He quickly got his meter and checked his blood, it confirmed the beginning stages of a low blood sugar. A dangerous low was avoided for this young man.

This is HUGE in the life of a diabetic! With tears in their eyes his parents came up and said "That is the most incredible thing we have ever seen! We know that when we get our own dog that will be common, but this moment with Bravo will always be special for our son and for us - he gave us our first real time alert to a low blood sugar."

Bravo helps me train other dogs to perform this much needed service through playful competition and the goal of being first to inform the diabetic of a low sugar. He misses very few low or high blood sugars on me and he is a perfect example for other dogs to learn from.

Bravo’s alerting has caused us to be disqualified in a few competitions, but I truely don’t care. He has proven that his number one job is to tell me when my blood sugars are off no matter what he is doing or where he is. The "nose" knows, and he tends to be about 15 to 30 minutes ahead of the blood glucose meter, 30 to 45 minutes ahead of a continuous blood glucose monitor.

Here are just a few of his more memorable alerts from the last year - I was judging an AKC test in OR. and Bravo alerted to me from over 400 yards away. While out hunting, he refused to retrieve downed birds until I fixed my blood glucose. Bravo alerted while we were receiving an award at the Soldier Hollow Sheep Dog Classic. While running an agility course, he suddenly stopped, came across in front of me, and would not let me move because my blood glucose had dropped dangerously low. Another time Bravo was inside the house while I was out doing yard work when my blood glucose dropped rapidly. He could not get to me, so using his nose he raised the window a bit farther and pushed out the screen. He then ran to me and alerted. There has not been a day in the last few years that he has not had to alert, and he averages five alerts a day.

His story is a testament to what an amazing breed the Chesapeake Bay Retriever truly is. Bravo is a very talented dog, my own personal guardian angel and my hero! This dogs' dedication and service to me is above and beyond anything that I have ever experienced in my life. I am so humbled, honored and truely blessed to have him in my life. My heartfelt thanks to Steve and Sharon Parker for the wonderful gift that has literally saved my life!

Here a few of the local news links about Bravo…

And Bravo has his own facebook page!

I also try to keep up with a blog about Bravo, DAD’s and diabetes!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

I am starting a team up for our JDRF walk. I would like to invite any of my DAD and dog friends to join my team and help raise funds and awareness of diabetes and DADS. If you would like to join my team you can sign up on the link below. If you just want to come walk that is great to. Let me know ASAP if you are interested cause I want to have matching t shirts made up. The theme is "COWBOY UP...."

If you want to donate to this wonderful cause that would be great as well!