Four years ago, I owned a purebred dog.

This was before I owned a mutt, before I got involved in dog rescue and before I knew what a blog was. I’d never even thought about dog agility, starting a dog running business or fostering a pitbull.

But each dog that enters my life really does seem to open a new chapter, and Ace has introduced me to a whole new world with dogs.

Still, my life would not be the same without my golden retriever, Brittni.

Although this blog is primarily related to my mutt Ace, countless other dogs are intertwined throughout my posts including family members’ dogs, foster dogs and readers’ dogs.

Brittni is a dog I’ve failed to write much about.

A good dog

golden retriever

If each dog represents a new phase in my life, Brittni was my high school and college years. She appeared during my freshmen year of high school and died right when I started my first job after college. Just as those years seemed to go by in a blur, Brittni’s life seemed unfairly cut short.

In a matter of days Brittni went from being a healthy, energetic 7-year-old to a deathly ill and suddenly old dog.

Euthanasia and dogs is something I’ve touched very briefly in my dog blog, probably because it’s a difficult subject. Plus, the dog I own is still very young, so I don’t think about the end yet.

The vet’s best guess for Brittni’s illness was an autoimmune disease (autoimmune hemolytic anemia). Basically her own immune system was destroying her red blood cells.

My only advice to other dog owners is to think ahead about the final decisions you’ll have to make for your dog. Don’t wait until shock and emotions play too much of a toll.

A dog’s anxiety

golden retrieversBrittni was the first dog I trained through formal obedience classes. Although I was teaching her, in reality she was training me about dogs, their behavior and the thrill I get from working with them.

The bond she and I formed was very strong, and anyone who’s ever owned a golden retriever knows all about their loyalty, devotion and love.

Brittni challenged me and got me thinking about dogs in a new way. Her many “issues” showed me the importance of socialization and exercise. Brittni was an extremely anxious dog, letting out shrill screams every time we met someone new, visited somewhere new or pretty much every time we did something out of her usual routine.

There’s no way to describe these crying fits Brittni did other than to maybe picture a full-grown husky put into a kennel and having a panic attack, howling and squealing to get out.

I remember one time my trainer was fed up with Brittni’s behavior and said to me in a hushed, scolding voice, “She needs to know that this is not acceptable!” All I thought was: Well, hello! That’s why I’m here!

Many of the suggestions I tried with Brittni did not work: Shaking a can filled with change at her (made her more anxious), leash pops (she literally could not control herself, correction or not) and telling her she was bad (also added to her anxiousness).

What worked best with Brittni was patience, long walks, ignoring unwanted behavior, praising her for being quiet and slowly bringing her to more and more places and introducing her to more people and dogs.

Anxiety or not, Brittni and I got to do a fair amount of traveling and hiking. I will always remember my long walks with her along the Luce Line trail west of Minneapolis and how she would run off leash at my side, never bothering to venture too far. We could walk for miles in all seasons, often going an hour without seeing anyone.

Had Brittni and Ace been around at the same time, I’m sure they would’ve been great friends. Brittni had that classic, happy-go-lucky retriever personality I now see in Ace. And like him, Brittni had an immeasurable desire to please, be with her pack and follow me from room to room.

I just wanted to share a bit about my wonderful and beautiful dog from my past. She helped me get where I’m going today. Thank you, Brittni, “the babe,” you were a good girl.

Please share with me your stories of dogs now gone.

In memory of Brittni

(1998-2005)

golden retriever