Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Farewell, Baby Girl

Ten years ago David was volunteering at the Longmont Humane Society, and we had just moved into our first home with a yard. He came home one day telling me about a nice dog he'd met. I asked him yesterday what attracted him to her? He couldn't say exactly - "she was just so darn cute". Apparently we have the same taste in dogs. I remember going to visit her after work the next day. I got there before Dave, so I went back into the kennels to take a look. First thing I noticed was this friendly young dog who immediately rolled to her back asking for a belly rub -- even though there was no way I could reach through the gate to do that. I looked at her kennel tag, and it said Autumn. I asked to take her out on leash, and by the time Dave got there it was a done deal as far as I was concerned.

It was a little bit of a rocky start, bringing her home. She had been a stray, and so had several neuroses we had to figure out. The fear of loud noises and vehicles were obvious - as she would trip you up on a walk scrambling to get as far away from passing vehicles as possible. The fear of feet was a little more vague, until we realized it was feet with shoes on them that really scared her. She was so timid it was several days before we saw her break into anything faster than a walk -- but then it was a frenzy of energy, tail tucked under as she zoomed around our parking area.

A sweeter, gentler dog we have never met. She loved people and attention - from where ever she could get them. Her standard greeting was the roll-over-and-rub-my-belly request. We called her a belly rub lush. A favored move was me on my knees and her sitting up with her paws on my shoulders. Forehead to forehead I could then rub the belly. *bliss*

She was quite the cuddler too. I remember watching entire TV shows and movies sitting on the floor with her lying between my legs or even leaning up against my chest. Saturday mornings it was typical for her to come over and sit by my side of the bed and stare at me... until I raised the covers. She'd jump up, but I swear her feet hardly hit the bed before her legs were folding underneath her and she'd be perfectly curled up in the crook of my arm. And then snoring soundly within just minutes.

Since we were both working we knew we wanted a companion for her. 6 months after bringing her home we met another dog at the Humane Society. Knowing she was shy with other dogs, we paid three separate visits to the new dog before Cisco joined our family. Even after three visits she hadn't paid much attention to Cisco in the introduction yard, until finally we were all standing around and she just swatted him a good one on the head with her paw. Ok, he's a keeper! We still kept them in separate yards while we away at work -- until the day Dave returned to find Cisco had jumped the fence into Autumn's yard. So much for that, we decided.

Cisco has ever been the clown. "Wild Man" is one of his many nicknames. Just his crooked ears makes people laugh. Autumn, though, always brings out the 'awwws' in people. Her soulful eyes have this tractor beam like pull... 'You want to pet me, I know you do.'

While they both like to sleep in sunny spots, it was Autumn who I saw snoozing in our bedroom up at Deer Trail one day. We were already working on the plan to start up the ranch, and we were looking for a name. Something that conveyed fun, had a western type theme, attractive to kids... I walked by and asked how my sun puppy was doing. Wow - great name, I thought, if only it could be adapted to horses. Thus Sun Pony was born.


Both Cisco and Autumn are approaching 12 years old - such is our best estimates. While it seems clear Cisco is going to charge right on through to the end of his life, Autumn has been slowing down. Her hearing and sight were fading. We knew when she could no longer hear the dinner bowls being filled that her inattention was not just selective hearing. Last year our vet removed a number of tumors, at least one of which was malignant. A few months ago she started really favoring her left hind leg. Our vet suspected bone cancer, and referred us up to the Animal Cancer Clinic at the CSU Vet Hospital. They took more images and agreed. But also found that it had spread to her lungs. They offered to let us enroll her in a clinical trial for a new chemo / pain management therapy for the bone cancer. Which, of course, could do nothing but attempt to slow the progress of the cancer, but also try and relieve her pain. In doing so we had to take her off of one of the pain meds she had been on. This seems to have been quite a blow. Despite tripling the other medication she had, she was back to not sleeping at night. We were now taking turns sleeping on the couch since carrying her up and down stairs didn't seem viable anymore - even without regard to Dave's back troubles.

But we persevered, hoping that their reports that this new therapy would be helpful would pan out. The study was to run a 2 month course, with Autumn receiving an IV treatment for 5 days on week 0, 4 and 8. Monday was to be her first treatment. Dave took her up there, met with the doctors, and decided to pick her up later since they needed to observe her for several hours. He called me just after lunch to report that they had x-rayed her leg again, and had found a fracture. We don't know when it happened, it could have been during the car ride up that morning, or it could have been just her trying to get around this past weekend. They said the bone had gotten so brittle that there was no hope that it would heal. Amputation just didn't seem logical to us, since we knew the cancer had already spread to her chest. And so we made the excruciating decision to drive up there and say good bye.

There is just no way to prepare for this. Even given the months of warning that we knew it was coming - we certainly didn't know it was coming yesterday. We took Cisco up with us, but there was no obvious sign he understood. He greeted her, and then wandered the room and whined as he always does when short on patience. I'm still trying to see if he's acting normal or not, but since I know we certainly aren't acting normal it's probably ridiculous to even wonder.

We've spent a lot of time today reviewing old pictures. Since half of her life was during film-camera days, it's been quite the trip down memory lane as we haven't pulled out the photo boxes for years. Pretty therapeutic, actually. We've found so many pictures that there were far too many for the blog. So we put up a separate slide show page for those of you interested in looking through them.

We'll leave you with these two photos. Close to being the first picture of Autumn we ever took, and the last. The first, along with those above, were taken on a hike with Dave's parents, while they were visiting. The second was taken last month while she was out in the kennel yards.

Brainard Lake, September 1998

At Happy Tails, April 2009

And so concludes her tale. Autumn who was dubbed our Baby Girl the day we learned that we could pick her up from the Humane Society. We got her Labor Day weekend, which is our wedding anniversary. The first time we had to leave her alone in the house was to go out for our anniversary dinner. I'm certain all future anniversaries will include a toast to the pup who brought so much to our lives. We will always love and miss you, Autumn Gold.

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Blogger Leslie said...

Oh Monica...I'm so sorry.
Autumn was so sweet and it's obvious she was well-loved and cared for by the both of you. Thank you for sharing your photos and beautifully written tribute to her.


5/20/09, 12:23 AM  
Blogger Uli said...

Monica and Dave, I am so sorry! It must be so hard to let a dog go after such a long time - no matter how long you knew it was coming.
So sad that you couldn't even start the treatment you were hoping might help her...

I loved looking at the photos! The one with Monica and her in the snow made me smile! And she looked so embarrassed in the one with the flowers on her head - so cute! :)

Big hugs!!!

PS: I hope all goes well on the 27th - in case we don't hear from each other till then...

5/20/09, 2:03 AM  
Blogger Neil said...

Monica & Dave, a sad time for you both but you know that you gave that animal the best of love and care; that is the best any of us can do for any animal especailly those that become part of the family. You have some happy memories to look back on, celebrate a life's race well run.


5/20/09, 6:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am so sorry for your loss. Autumn was a terrific dog and I always enjoyed playing with her when I visited.

May you find peace and love in the memories you cherish.


5/20/09, 8:04 AM  
Anonymous Brian said...

Andrea and I will really miss Autumn as well. I was reminded of the weekends we spent watching her and Cisco at the Lee Hill house. She was always such a sweet dog to spend time with. Best wishes to you, Dave and Cisco in this difficult time.

5/20/09, 10:14 AM  
Blogger Ginger said...

I miss her and share your sorrow. Her sweet soul is always with us. I loved all the photos of your life together.

5/20/09, 7:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Monica and Dave,

I'm so very sorry to hear about beautiful Autumn. Thank you for sharing your memories of her, it had me in tears.

I can tell, by looking at her pictures and reading your words how deeply you and Dave loved her. I'm of the belief that once you have loved it never really leaves you...she will always be in your hearts.


5/20/09, 8:33 PM  
Blogger Birdie said...

Monica and Dave,

I'm so sorry. I well remember giving Autumn long belly rubs, even from my bed as she blocked my exit with her rollover. I awoke to dog eyes sending me rays of hope. Autumn lived a glorious life with you; you gave her everything a dog could possibly want, including unconditional love. I know she returned it tenfold.

5/23/09, 9:02 AM  
Blogger Monica said...

Thank you, all, for leaving such thoughful comments regarding Autumn. Birdie, your's made me laugh with the "as she blocked my exit with her rollover." Yes, she liked nothing better than to get in your way to make you pause and talk to her. I think it was her signature move.


5/25/09, 3:25 PM  
Anonymous Jen R. said...

Thank you for sharing your story of your sweet Baby Girl. I'm so sorry for your loss Monica & Dave.

5/26/09, 9:18 AM  

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