Each year we dedicate an issue of Connections to our pets. This year’s issue consists of a collection of stories, three of which were grouped into a feature story. Here they are on-line for your conveneince, but we encourage you to read all the stories in this month’s Pet Appreciation issue of Connections, in resident’s mailboxes the first week of July, as well as on-line.
I can remember the first time I saw you. I had two kids in the backseat, fast asleep, and a one-month-old in an infant carrier. Tony was out of town writing a book with colleagues in Austin, and I only had a few minutes to make my choice – it was between you and two littermates. We were at a farm in Woodinville, and I was eager to bring you home. As three puppies ran around the farm, I was given some nail polish and asked to choose the puppy I wanted by marking a tail with nail polish (since you all looked alike). How could I have known, as I marked you up with a hot pink stripe that I had picked the perfect companion?
In the first 48 hours of your new life in Issaquah, I had moments of sheer panic and terror. What had I done? While you were an adorable creature, you also required regular midnight and three a.m. bathroom breaks. I had an infant who also required regular nightly care and toddlers who started to gain steam in the early hours. At first, I fantasized about giving you back. Maybe I had made a huge mistake. My heart had yearned for a dog for years, and dogs had always been a fixture in my life…but in those early weeks, as you chewed through wires, toys, floorboards, and more. I had moments of doubt.
In the weeks and months that followed, you learned so much and became a full-fledged family member. Thanks to a seriously amazing dog trainer, you learned 50 verbal commands in two weeks. You were not going to solve mathematical problems, but you were so easy to train: you were motivated by positive attention, by food, and by love. You expressed it in so many ways: palm-nuzzles, head-nudges, or paw-shakes.
In the many years that followed, you looked after your “pack” in sickness and in health. You offered your quiet, undemanding presence when we needed it. You watched and waited and wagged while we embarked on the circus of family life. You welcomed many new animals to the house: goats, bunnies, birds, and kittens who came into our lives as foster animals, or as permanent family members.
For the next nine years, you were my rock. Our rock. Ever faithful, never judging, always present, you watched us all navigate the highs and lows of family life. You saw tantrums (we all had them), you witnessed dance routines (we all had them), you licked our physical and emotional wounds. You were many kids’ “first dog experience” and you behaved graciously through mostly innocent (and occasionally unpleasant) interactions. I had to explain things like: “this dog is not a horse, she is not for riding” and “the best way to approach a dog is to hold your hand out” and “she is licking you to tell you that you are in her pack.” And, “you may not poke my dog with a stick” and “please don’t throw pebbles at her eyes.” You never held a grudge, and were magnanimous to a fault. You taught us so much!
In the past year, we have watched your fur grow white around the eyes. Your pace has slowed down dramatically, and bless you, you finally worked out how to use body language to indicate your preference on walks (as in, I’d rather not walk past the end of the street, thank you very much). Your lumps and bumps have been examined and we know that our earthly time together is limited.
So, in these last months here with us, please know that your life mattered and you will be the dog by which we measure all others! You have been a part of our lives for so long that it is hard to imagine life without your sleepy sighs, without your weight on our feet. Thank you, sweet Tully, for gracing us with your loyal, sweet spirit these past years.
Love Teresa, on behalf of the entire Cowan Family
Tully Cowan 2006 – June 22, 2015
Truitt, Kish, Leo and Rudy aren’t human, but they are regular hospital volunteers at Swedish Issaquah. As certified Pet Partner therapy dogs their weekly visits brighten the days of hospitalized children, infusion patients, staff and visitors.
Though their appearance and personalities vary greatly with breed, all display a calm and loving demeanor. They seem to know where they’re most needed, and their human partners are quick to invite interaction.
Truitt, sporting his long, silky silver and white Sheltie coat, entertains with a variety of energetic tricks. Sturdy English Bulldog Leo prefers to chill out by splaying all four legs on the hospital’s cool floors. Kish’s brown, curly, woolen Labradoodle coat is cotton-puff soft, while Rudy, the red Rhodesian Ridgeback, is sleek as can be. In spite of his enormous size, Rudy has no qualms about hopping up to share a seat with someone who wants to snuggle.
Whatever their approach, the opportunity to enjoy their canine company and scratch their furry heads is good medicine at Swedish.
Information about certifying an animal through Pet Partners is available at www.petpartners.org. If you and your pet are already certified Pet Partners and are interested in participating in Swedish’s program, contact firstname.lastname@example.org for further information.
Katie Matthews had been looking for a new apartment because her family recently relocated from Houston, TX to work in the Seattle area. Her family moved to Bellevue; Katie and her service animal, Cowboy, went in search of a place nearby to call home.
Katie desired a home where she could have mobility without assistance and fell in love with all that Issaquah Highlands has to offer. During her home search, Katie came across Discovery West, the new apartment complex opening this July next to Swedish Hospital on Highlands Drive. She immediately fell in love with the community feeling of Issaquah Highlands. The area gives her the mobility she had been searching for with amazing services, restaurants, shopping, and easy access to nearby medical facilities at Swedish Hospital.
Katie was in a transitional living program five years ago which taught her to live unassisted and she will have all the mobility she needs because of her beloved dog, Cowboy. Cowboy has been Katie’s service animal for two years. Cowboy is among the select service animals adopted through Service Dog Inc., who adopts shelter dogs and teaches them to become service animals. Out of 4,700 dogs reviewed by the adoption agency at Service Dog Inc., 100 dogs were adopted, and only 19 of the 100 dogs made the final cut to become service animals.
Katie is excited to join our community once her new home is ready for her move-in. She is already looking for ways to volunteer in our area. We welcome Katie and Cowboy to our community!
I’ve been passionate about animals ever since I could remember. As I grew up, I noticed that I was a little more passionate than others. Sometimes, when I’d go to someone’s house, I would pay more attention to their pet(s) than the actual people that lived there! Not to mention I would be mesmerized by a chipmunk, squirrel, or any other wildlife in my backyard. (Still am, I might add!)
I received my first pet, a gray kitty named Lady Princess, when I was around eight years old. She was my cousin’s, but my cousin was moving and could no longer care for Lady. I was thrilled to have a cat of my own and loved her more than I loved myself! Later I had two more pets in my life: another cat appropriately named Kitty, and a rabbit named Shadow which my family always called Bunny.
Unfortunately, they all passed on. I was really upset when my parents said they didn’t want another pet in the house. I always had a special bond with animals and I craved it. For me, having a pet was essential to growing up. They were always there and listened to me when I had a good or bad day. My pets loved me no matter what and they never judged me for anything!
Eventually I got married and moved into an apartment, and then I had the freedom to get a pet of my own! My husband, David, and I went to the Seattle Humane Society in Bellevue and adopted a big, fluffy, orange tabby. We named him Aslan after the character from Chronicles of Narnia (we’re a little nerdy!). Aslan couldn’t be a better fit for me! He’s such a snuggle bug and greets me at the door when I come home from work. People always ask me if I’m a cat person since I’ve never owned a dog, but I would have to say that I’m both. I love ALL animals!
Originally, growing up, I wanted be an artist and considered going into the gaming or movie industry to create 3D animations. But, like many, my career choice changed and decided I wanted to do something that I was REALLY passionate about: work with animals. I started getting my feet wet by volunteering at the Seattle Humane Society with their Run-Dog-Run program. Twice a week I take a dog for a refreshing five kilometer (about three miles) run! I absolutely love caring for those dogs. They seem so happy to get out of their kennel for a bit to stretch their legs. Volunteering at the Humane Society inspired me to look for a job to continue caring for animals. I took a huge risk in my life and quit both my jobs to hunt down that perfect job to kick start my career with animals.
Every time I went to the pet store to buy food for Aslan, I always walked by the grooming section. I thought that it looked like so much fun to do and dreamed of doing it! At the time of applying, none of the pet stores were hiring groomers, but they were hiring cashiers. To me, that was good enough and would at least get my foot in the door. About a week after applying I got a call from Petco to set up an interview. At the interview they told me that even though I applied as a Cashier they were also hiring Groomers! I told them that I was very interested and they hired me on the spot. I couldn’t be happier at my job as a Groomer in training at the Sammamish Petco! I’ve never had a more rewarding job. I love working with and meeting all the dogs and their Parents. I may expand my career further to become a Veterinarian for exotic animals. I’m a firm believer of following your dreams. If it’s meant to be, things will fall into place!
See the July issue of Connections for more pet-oriented stories.