Today is a mixed emotion day: Faith, 11-year-old Airedale and my long-term buddy, had to be put to rest due to quickly diminishing health. It’s a mixed emotion because, first of all, it is extremely sad to lose a dog and I feel for Arlene & Stewart, Faith’s tremendously committed pack leaders. It’s an extremely hard decision to make and one that came after long discussions and thoughts on how to best honor Faith. In the end, we have to do what is best for our companions and this is the best decision possible – we all don’t want Faith suffering and/or embarrassed or scared by her health issues at her end of life.
At the other end of the emotional/human side is the celebration of a life that had an extremely bad start for 9 years, then was rescued and fostered by some folks and eventually adopted by Arlene & Stewart who gave her a life better than even her foster family. I met Faith through a contact because Faith had fairly significant dog aggression issues (for the full story click this post: "Having Faith in Faith") so rather than rewrite that post, I want to tell you about some of her escapades.
Lisa had a ton of old videos on her phone of Faith playing with a friend’s puppy with 2 other dogs. Faith taught me a valuable lesson about dog aggression and where it comes from. In her particular case, it came from being the puppy mill mom she was for 9 years – only crated, never really out around other dogs except to mate, and always correcting and directing puppies. Her dog socialization was strictly keeping the peace all of the time, and lots of rules/boundaries/limitations. If anyone else gets too close canine moms will become very fierce and will protect at all costs. But they are also fierce pack leaders with their own pack.
Faith was still an anomaly because she would correct small & young dogs with the same ferociousness as adult dogs… but not always. As an Airedale, she “soft mouths” dogs but very quickly and suddenly with a certainty that she meant business. Faith would also welcome dogs at Kamp K-9 with extreme interest but in a way more playful mode than originally demonstrated with the beach pack (she bit 5 of 6 dogs in the first hour, including Koa from behind!). However, I still used Faith a number of times to play with younger dogs because she knew how to manage their energy better than any human could in a balanced way. I wanted her to pay it forward, and she never disappointed.
As you might remember, I had Faith with me during our television appearance that included Koa and Redford. Faith actually stole the show in the studio: she napped while we all did a meet and greet with the on-air talent but when she came on the set in front of the camera she kept watching the big monitor right behind us. When they put up a picture of me walking a large pack she apparently wanted to go, too. As they broke for additional information Faith wandered off the set and behind the monitor to see where the pack was and when I called her back she returned to the set in time for the camera to return to us. But all you could see was her butt because she kept staring at the screen/“looking out the window”.
If you have ever been on the set of a live TV show, there are a lot of distractions and things have to run rather quickly. It’s a lot for humans to process if you are not used to it, but a huge job for dogs. Everyone at the station and behind the scenes enjoyed having them around. Since I knew that all 3 of these guys were going to do well and I wanted a cross section of ages so that people could see that old & young dogs can be calm. In my mind, Faith stole the show with displaying her intense interest in wanting to walk with the pack and acting younger than the young boys.
We got to see Faith one last time the night before she went running across the Rainbow Bridge into the waiting excitement of fields dogs that have gone before her (don’t correct the little ones, Faith!). She was excited to see Lisa and I but you could tell she was not feeling the way she wanted to feel. Her hugs were the same, she leaned her head against us the same, but obviously she felt tired. She even struggled to her feet on her own to walk us out as we left. As sad as that can be, we saved the sadness until we left because with her we celebrated a life well displayed and recounted the things that made us rejoice in her life with all of us. How could you not?
So, thank you, Faith, for teaching me new things about dog psychology and instinct. Thank you for helping me pass this information along to other dog owners. Thank you for showing me that doing the right thing with your dog will give you the desired results. Thank you for the snuggles and the hugs. Thank you for loving all of the humans you ever came into contact with because we all loved you very much. Thank you for your searching eyes looking for approval when you wanted to know if what you were doing was okay. Thank you for listening when we said it wasn’t okay.
The biggest THANK YOU with an outpouring of love and respect goes to Arlene & Stewart for staying CONSISTENT in their goals, their work and their unwavering love for a dog that had a hugely bad start. But because of her last 2 years with them she had the life she deserved with owners whose flood of love and commitment is what we all strive to do with our dogs. I have been honored to have worked with you guys and honored to work with Faith, but I’m most honored and humbled by your commitment and dedication to helping Faith in her life with you.
Rest in peace, my curly friend; we will all see each other again one day… And for everyone else, stay consistent with your goals and be Pack Leaders like Arlene & Stewart.