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The Third Worst Day Of My Cowgirl Life

Gypsy Cowgirl Journal Entry #3.

In order to live the life of my dreams, I had to end the life of my dogs.

Paisley was 11, and starting to slow down as the lab in her had provided an abundance of energy her entire life. The Labrador breed designation is truly only a guess, mixed with the sure markings of a rottweiler. As a rescue she was advertised as a “rottie/shepherd cross” of which sounded like the most perfect combination to guard my new farm where I lived alone out in the boonies after a nasty divorce.

As she grew from a pup into a personality all of her own, it quickly became clear the only way she would be guarding the farm would be by licking an intruder to death and would become easily distracted by any shenanigans with the toss of a ball, of which would keep her coming back for more, and more, and more. A retriever she was, through and through.

I’ve made a lot of controversial decisions throughout my life but always had the ability to roll with and through them. But when Grizzly came into my life 7 years ago I actually laid in bed that night wondering “wtf have I done.” Grizz was also a rescue, but with a real rescued past. Off the reservation of Northern Saskatchewan we have no idea what was done to him, but it was bad. Scared doesn’t even come close the word to describe how he felt about doorways, stairs, bathrooms or vehicles. He felt most at home outside under the deck, and when bedtime came I simply couldn’t let my new puppy sleep in the sticks so in I would bring him – literally kicking and screaming for dear life, across the doorway to the kitchen.

He would proceed to hide under the table or in his kennel and the adopters advised me he would never be a dog that would cuddle, come in the house, go for car rides or the likes. I was just grateful to give him a home.

But as time wore on, unconditional love truly prevailed. Grizzly turned into a couch hog cuddle bug with me, yet remained deathly afraid of all first time things. Several Sunday trips to the small town gas station for a soft serve ice cream cone waivered his apprehension of car rides and after a few weeks, if I left the truck door open for any reason, inside I would find him, just waiting to go to the store. But any other new life experience was a traumatic one for my Grizz boy. Any new set of stairs, any new doorway, any new house, any new anything was an absolute overstimulation to his nervous system for his entire life.

Wary of people always, you would see him try, but could never fully commit to give his heart to anyone but me. Men especially concerned him, as did quick footed children. He was further plagued by hyperthydroidism, which after about a year of chasing symptoms we were on the path to health, at the cost of $2 a day medication. He was worth it.

As they aged they both started to get a little hitch in their giddy up so we added daily joint supplementation to their diets. Between the two dogs we hovered around $5 a day on top of their general feed and care to keep them comfortable.

When I finally made the decision to sell the farm and live life as a gypsy cowgirl, I knew instinctively deep down that meant the trail had to end for my beloved dogs. Weeks later, waves of feeling like the worst woman in the world still wash over me.

My future on the road was uncertain. Where I would be staying, for how long, there were so many variables and unknowns, but the only thing for certain is that everything would be new for Grizzly – and he would hate it. I moved him one time to our new home that I was now selling – and he had spent three days sleeping in the truck until I forced him through the garage door, and then the back door, and then the patio door. No new doorway ever got easier for him to cross and god forbid that first time I had to get him downstairs to the tub for a bath.... I had known for years that if nature began to call Paisley home, that Grizzly would have to go at the same time.

I didn’t come to the decision lightly. In fact my decision to uproot and leave has been prolonged for years because of the feeling of responsibilities to my dogs and 3 miniature donkeys. I repeatedly told myself that I could never go to Arizona unless I had a place that I could take all three donko's with me, and each summer committed to practice trailer loading them. The latter is an important point, since it took three grown adults to get Patron in the trailer to move him to my current farm (that's a story for another day).

I also explored many an avenue for alternative options, but the rescues were full after the post-covid puppy run had worn off. I spoke to a friend from a rescue who had house sat for me and she confirmed it would be a hard if not impossible mission to find Grizz a “unicorn home” that was without children, men, the budget to upkeep his meds, and had acres of land for him to chase off coyotes to earn his keep.

The call was put off for weeks. I spoke to almost no one about it. And then out of a well-intended but overshared conversation, the new owners of the farm called three days before "the day" and offered to “give it a try” to see if Grizz and Paise fit in with their family.

A wave of relief had washed over me. Maybe, just maybe, my dogs didn’t have to die (or, I didn't have ot take responsibility for it). But after some additional digging and difficult questions, it came to light that although they would be loved, they would no longer be inside dogs. There were new pets that would live in the house, and after having had free run of the doggy doors to come in and out as they pleased from play to rest, and always being invited to sleep on the bed - they would become outdoor dogs at the same home that they had known and loved every part of. I had to call it off.

You see the driving factor behind making this decision was that my dogs would never have a bad day. Yes, it was absolutely too soon, before their time. But on the other side of the coin as rescues, they had already enjoyed 7 and 11 years of a second chance.

A fundamental value for me as an animal owner is above all to prevent any suffering. For me, a week too early is better than a day too late. As I mentioned in blog 2, Boo, Batman and Sniper were eternally rested during my time at this farm. Boo and Sniper were sudden onset (a stroke at 16 and a kidney infection at 15) and were immediately, without prolonged testing or medical intervention gently assisted to their ethereal spirit form without a second of additional suffering. Batman was a harder call, having started showing signs of slowing down. Odd cat growls late at night, decreased care in his grooming, and a little bit of a limp. It took about two weeks for me to know that the good days were going to come to an end, and he was gently released from this life without knowing insufferable discomfort.

I can say without any shadow of a doubt, that Grizz and Paise left with a lifetime of good days. Maybe Grizzly would say they were at least less bad 😊

The pain of that decision and their last day will never go away. As I keep growing around the grief, I can maintain a sense of functionality until I see a mirrored mannerism in another dog, or flick back to a photo on my phone of them being just the goodest dogs.

Some may not understand my decision, and others maybe hate me for it. But that’s the crazy part of this gigantic rock we are spinning on in the middle of infinite space – is that no one knows the whole story or can live our lives for us. Perhaps I was selfish and should have waited until their time came more naturally, which could have been a year, or 10.

In thinking of the later, I reflect back to this line from a podcast a friend shared with me that said: “the price of your new life is going to come at the cost of your old one.”

I do believe we all come to this earth with our soul contracts pre-determined. And there's a great big life out there for each of us, that can be reached only by making one painstakingly difficult decision after another.

When I meet God, I'll know whether this was the right one.

- Addy

Thanks for reading my gypsy cowgirl blog series. A little different spin from my typical content on Prime Equine, this series covers the behind the scenes journey of living life as a nomad. How long it will last, depends on how long I live like a gypsy! Watch your inbox next week – my next email is going to share a little more information on my new home on wheels!

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Leslie Carlson
Leslie Carlson
Aug 19, 2023

Well stated. You were very strong to make this decision.

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