Geronimo, the Bernese Mountain Dog Mix

Geronimo was a loving gentle giant.

Geronimo, a Bernese Mountain dog mix, was a loving, gentle giant.

Geronimo! The Gentle Giant.

Geronimo was quite large, weighing in at over 180 pounds, but he was a sweet natured boy. We had some wonderful walks together and many “chats” on the back porch where Geronimo and his feline side kick named Ash would hang out.

But the most memorable occasion (for both of us) was the time his “mom” and I decided to take him to Pucci to get his nails trimmed. Pucci was located just a block away and we both thought it would be a breeze to get the giant dog into the car and over to the doggy salon. Neither one of us were prepared for what happened next. Because of Geronimo’s immense size, we thought it would be better to use my low-riding convertible to transport him. Armed with determined wills we attempted to stuff Geronimo into the back of the convertible. And that is when the trouble happened: midway between the pushing and the shoving, Geronimo got stuck! With back end outside my car and front end inside the car he could go no further. There was no budging him, not even an inch!

Geronimo’s veterinarian’s office was directly across the street. I placed a call to the vet and asked what we could do. Unfortunately, the doctors were all either at lunch or with patients. Both Geronimo’s mom and I looked at the sad spectacle in front of us, neither one of us knew what to do. Then we had the brilliant idea of luring him out with treats. I placed the treats directly in front of his nose while mom pushed Geronimo’s back end in an effort to move Geronimo towards me. And that is when the gentle giant emitted a series of rather menacing growls. We both stopped immediately.

By this time I am thinking that I will never regain the use of my vehicle again. At the very least, I’d have to wait until Geronimo lost a few pounds before reclaiming it as transportation. I looked down at the hapless victim and felt for him. Thankfully, good fortune decided to smile upon us when Geronimo’s mom’s sister emerged from the house with leash in hand and a resolute look on her face. She grabbed the non-business end of Geronimo (the tail-end portion of his body that was sticking out of the car) and began pulling him out. Well, Geronimo would have none of this and began scrabbling to get out and within moments the hitherto stuck dog was set free!

You can’t imagine the look he gave me! As if to say, “How could you?” I’d betrayed his trust. I was crushed at the thought that he would never view me as his friend again. But Geronimo was a forgiving boy and the next time I saw him he was his happy tail wagging self again.

Geronimo, I can only tell you that you are missed very, very much. Your mom and all the people who knew you will always remember your sweet, loving smile and your wonderful disposition. I know that you are free from pain now and you are limber and able to run through the meadows at Rainbow Bridge. Take care my friend, until we meet again.

Elvira, the Donkey

No one knew how old Elvira was but we guessed that she was probably close to 30 years old.

No one knew how old Elvira was but we guessed that she was probably close to 30 years old.

Elvira, the Donkey

When I first met Elvira she was with her ever present sidekick, Billie the goat. Elvira was inherited (along with Billie) by the new owners of the ranch. They informed me that the mammoth jennet was probably about 15 years old. I took one look at her and knew they were terribly misinformed. Elvira was at least 25 — if not older!

Regardless of her age, she still had spirit. Despite her advanced years she carried herself well, except one very important problem. Her movements were curtailed by a pronounced limp that stemmed from her forefoot. I immediately suspected something serious.

Indeed, it was serious. A visit with the vet confirmed that Elvira’s problem was chronic and serious. It wasn’t long before her hooves began curling upward, giving her the appearance of wearing elf shoes. It was already difficult for the old girl to move around and these hooves made her movements even more painful and cumbersome. Despite all of our efforts, we could not find a farrier to come out for a donkey. It seems no one wanted to tackle this job! And even if we had found someone, I am not certain that Elvira would have stood still for it!

The best I could do was help her by giving her phenylbutazone to get the inflammation and pain down to a manageable level. She began moving around much better and within no time the rocky soil was working its magic on her hooves. As the hooves filed down her movements became more spirited and she appeared to take a new interest in exploring the ranch.

Then one day Elvira did not appear at feeding time. My search found her laying under some cedar trees, Billie, her ever-present sidekick, standing guard over her. I encouraged her to get up using some carrots as bait. After many faltering attempts she managed to get up on her feet again. Throughout the course of the next few weeks, this scenario repeated itself over and over again. I spent many cold nights over at the ranch checking on her, bringing her hay and water in the barn so she could be comfortable.

It appeared as if Elvira’s body was failing her. The phenylbutazone was no longer doing its job. She was already on a high dosage, one that could affect her internal organs, but the vet increased her dosage. Unfortunately she did not respond. It was obvious that her pain was constant. Despite the fact that navicular disease is not common in donkeys, Elivira appeared to be the exception. Worst of all, this syndrome had been going on a long time. There was very little we could do, except try to make her comfortable.

On December 11, 2008 Elvira departed this world, Billie, her constant companion, never left her side. This was probably one of the saddest days of my life and the memory of this beautiful girl still lives on at the ranch. Sometimes I almost see her, grazing off in the distance. And, I swear, that there are times I think she is braying a greeting at me.

Elvira, we all miss you, especially Billie who was totally alone. A new goat companion named Lola is now keeping her company. And a welcome surprise came in the form of a little kid named Charlie who arrived this spring.

You are now at Rainbow Bridge — galloping with the other donkeys and I am certain you have a new sidekick goat who shadows you everywhere you go. We miss you and love you Elvira, you will live on in our hearts.

In Memory of Gunner

Gunner was the largest Golden Retriever I have ever met, here is lounging on the kitchen floor.

Gunner was the largest Golden Retriever I have ever met, here he is lounging on the kitchen floor.

One of the most rewarding things about pet sitting is meeting so many wonderful animals. Gunner was no exception. He became one of my regular boarders and fit in very nicely with my animal “pack.”

He was probably the largest Golden Retriever I have ever met, weighing in at over 130 pounds! He was also seizure prone, which meant lots of medications and always being on guard with him.

Gunner was only five years old. He succumbed to a major seizure early this summer (2009). It was a sad day when I found out that Gunner was no longer in this world.

I will never forget you Gunner, your sweet smile and the nice long walks we took in the meadow together. You are now at the Rainbow Bridge playing with all the other fur kids who went before you. I can’t help but wonder if you and Smylee hooked up together. If so, I am certain that you both are racing at full gallop in the meadows.

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