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  • Writer's pictureMindy Schwartz

Puppuchinos in Heaven

One of my favorite quotes is from Agnes Sligh Turnbull, “Dogs' lives are too short. Their only fault, really.” I have repeated this quote when I’ve offered sympathy to friends who have lost a treasured companion, and when one of our own precious dogs has left us.

But while those words spoke to me when one of our dogs passed, the truth is that their lives were relatively long. Max was around 13, Toby was 12, Zack was 11, Nicky and Rocky were each older than 14. The passing of our sweet Wrangler at age 5 just seems cruel and unfair.

Wrangler came to us from Canine Companions. He was the second puppy we welcomed at 8 weeks old, with the goal of helping him become a life-changing service dog for someone who needed his assistance.

Because our first Canine Companions puppy was a handful, I had jokingly told the puppy program manager that next time I wanted a mellow pup. Of course, mellow labs and goldens are few and far between, but Wrangler, a white lab/golden mix, was one of that rare breed.

He loved the opportunity to sniff the ground as we walked, but I think he could have happily skipped the actual walking. Wrangler enjoyed having the neighborhood dogs come to visit, but he mostly watched while our other dogs played with them. He preferred to sit on the couch with the humans and cuddle.

As Wrangler got older he grew more fearful. He’d freeze in the car, and he refused to get in elevators. Once when I’d parked on the sixth floor of a building, he was so afraid to get in the elevator that I walked down the stairs with him and then had to walk the six flights back up when it was time to leave. 

Canine Companions "Puppies in Training" usually leave their puppy raisers when they are around 18 months old, and go on to advanced training. At advanced training the goal is to get them ready to graduate and go on to spend their lives helping someone who needs them. Because of his fear issues Wrangler was evaluated and it was decided that he wasn't meant to be a service dog. We were offered the opportunity to adopt him, instead of going to advanced training Wrangler became our beloved pet.

Wrangler flourished as a pet. He loved our yard, and would fearlessly run up and down the slope behind our house. He was happy hanging out with our other dogs, Rocky and Alma, and when Rocky passed away, Wrangler and Alma became a team of two

In April of 2023 Wrangler began to turn his nose up at his favorite treats. He happily ate new biscuits when they were first offered, but after a few days he rejected those, too. We started to see the same pattern with his food, even when we cooked “human” meals for him. His blood tests and x-rays were normal, but by mid-May it was clear that something was terribly wrong, It turned out that Wrangler had a very aggressive and untreatable cancer, and on May 24 we said goodbye.

After our dog Nicky passed away in 2017, I learned that a litter of Canine Companions puppies had been born on her birthday, July 10. I asked for one of the puppies from that litter. Now, each July 10 I will try to draw some comfort from the hope that Nicky and Wrangler are celebrating their birthdays together. I believe that they, and Rocky, who loved them both, will be sharing puppuccinos (cups of whipped cream) in heaven. 

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