RIP Napoleon

Nappy and Heather

July 2013

My stomach is in my throat, and tears stream down my face as I’m grieving the loss of one of my oldest partners. Napoleon was my first dog, and my sidekick for the last 7 years. He helped me see the love of training dogs and helped me make the dream of owning my own business a reality. He was my demo dog for my clients and my service dog for working through PTSD. He taught me to be softer and how to ‘wait’ for what I wanted rather than to increase the amount of pressure I was applying. He taught me to trust, and he taught me what the human-dog relationship was all about.

The loss of my dog is that of the same as a loss of a child. An innocent, pure soul who we helped become something in the world. My heart is broken, but I feel it all throughout my body. Words are hard to form, and it’s difficult to get anything done. To find the motivation to even move or talk. This is a deep, deep loss and it feels like I left a little piece of heart in the vet’s office.

Milkbone NappyNapoleon lived with my mom since I broke my foot at the beginning of April ’15. She fell in love with him, just like everyone who met him. He was an amazing friend, and I enjoyed doing everything with him. He was an “American Dream Dog” as one of my client’s described him. After he had some training, he always listened, he was spot on with every command, he was 100% off leash reliable, and was polite with other dogs. I used that example with a lot of my clients because I believe any dog can be your “American Dream Dog” once you achieve this type of relationship with them. This won’t take the dog out of the dog, or change who they are.

I feel I have this type of relationship with all my dogs, but the one I had with Napoleon was different and special because he taught me this was possible. He taught me about living a life with a dog is one of the most fulfilling adventures. He was the reason I was introduced to Heather Beck from K9 Lifeline, and that started my entire journey on the path to becoming a dog trainer.
He stuck with me through flooding in my brand new house, the journey of me figuring out how to handle my PTSD, anxiety, depression, and my bipolar swings. He was there when I needed to get away from the world. He always greeted me like I was the best thing since sliced bread. He went through my divorce with me. I used him to help with evaluations and dogs who needed help. I used him as an example for nutrition, obedience, and behavior stories.

CGCnappyJust like all dogs, he has all kinds of happy, silly stories. I’m trying to remember them all, but the hurt is too much right now. Give me time. I feel this in my bones. My muscles hurt everywhere,  my head is going to explode, and my heart is in pieces. I hurt everywhere and all I want to do is sleep. But I have to be strong. The world keeps turning, and he wouldn’t want me to shut down. So, I’m working. Slowly, but I’m doing what needs to be done, and I’m teaching. I may break down in front of everyone, but I’m not stopping.

I don’t hide how I feel very well because it’s exhausting and takes way more energy than just being honest. So I’m being honest. My heart is broken and I’m on a roller coaster of emotions. I’m raw and fragile and I’m not a rock. I can’t be anyone’s rock for a while. I need to take care of me, and I promised I would be strong.

dirtynappyIf I didn’t make the decision, he would hang on as long as possible to be there for me, and he would be happy about it until the very end, regardless of how he felt. Rob told me Nappy would tell me when he was ready, and so I made the decision that as soon as I “heard” that, I would make a decision and I wouldn’t waiver. So, on Saturday night, he showed me. It was really hard all day watching him, and that night, it was unmistakable. I didn’t know if I would see him again when we went to sleep. I made the decision I would call as soon as everyone had a chance to say goodbye.
NappyHappysept2015This dog was very special, and helped me get over a lot of baggage. And maybe, he did his job. He helped me release a lot of things I was hanging onto and taught me how to handle emotions a little better, how to let things go a little faster, and how to teach everything I learned to others. And I absorbed that information, so his job was done and now it was time his soul went elsewhere and helped others learn.

I don’t believe in a Heaven or Hell. I don’t believe in God or Satan. I believe that when we die, pieces of our souls go where we are most needed. Usually to another broken soul, or to a new life. Napoleon has a pure, happy soul. He helped me realize I am also in charge of my own happiness, and external influences shouldn’t affect my happiness. I am in charge of my state of mind, and I can fight anxiety, frustration, anger, and sadness. I can choose to be happy. Right now, I am choosing to grieve the loss of my friend. Don’t worry, Poly, I’ll be happy again.

I miss you so much, and I’m so happy you chose me for a few years to teach me everything. I’m lucky to have had you in my life. You’re so special, and I hope your soul finds peace and happiness wherever it goes.

I love you, buddy.

Nappy 2013

December 2013

This Old Dog

Napoleon, December 2015

Napoleon, December 2015

Napoleon and Mia -June 2012

Napoleon and Mia -June 2012

It’s never easy when your kids are sick and there’s nothing you can do about it. It’s never easy when it’s your dog and they can’t tell you how they feel either. You know they aren’t doing well, but you can’t ask them what’s wrong. Your heart breaks, but you have to be strong for them. They stick with you for everything, and they love you no matter what. You sometimes lash out against them when you are upset, but they love you right after anyway. You teach them how to behave.

So when they are sick and you can’t do anything, it breaks your heart. At what point do you step in and start interfering? In the wild, animals would suffer for days, weeks, months, sometimes years until the reaper finally takes them. It’s “humane” to step in and prevent that from happening, right? Isn’t it? It feels like the “right” thing to do, but you don’t know when it’s the right time to make the call. You don’t know when. Unless they tell you. But listening to them say they are done is painful too. Because then that responsibility is yours alone. You have to take on the choice and make it for them. You would want that done for you, wouldn’t you? To be put out of your pain, or prevent the suffering from getting worse.

The day we brought him home. Fat Napoleon! May of 2011

The day we brought him home. Fat Napoleon! May of 2011

Every time for me is different. This isn’t the first time I’ve been in this position, nor the second or third. I’ve been here a lot. This seems harder for some reason. I’m losing my very first dog. He’s been through a divorce, a horrible breakup, job losses, me starting up my business, the sale of my old home, the purchase of a new one and everything in between, and he’s been my guinea pig for so much that I’ve learned. I made so many mistakes with him, but he was also the reason of why I even got started in the first place. He was my service dog. He got me through an incredibly difficult trauma, but also taught me I can’t use dogs to replace human relationships, and I needed to be strong for him. Weakness in a leader isn’t a good trait. So, I learned to be stronger. I learned how to protect myself, and how to handle my emotions and my bipolar better. I am the person I am today because of what he taught me.

Napoleon and Me

Napoleon and Me – July 2013

I’m watching him get old. Not only just get old though, but literally lose motor function every day. You see it in his eyes. You see it when he looks at you. And I am seeing what he’s showing me. I’m not being selfish here, I’m deciding what I want to do for him. Which course is the right answer for him? What can I do for him to make him happy at this point? The doctor thinks it’s a brain tumor at this point. Called him today and gave him an update on some changes since we started treatment. If it was what we originally thought, this wouldn’t be happening. We thought it was because he had distemper as a puppy. We thought this treatment would help. Every day, I visibly see him getting worse. It’s not a slow progression anymore.

Everybody

Right to Left:
Mamma (RIP), Marshall, Dante, Napoleon, Jinx
Dec, 2014

I want to be fair to him. I want to make the right choice for him. I’m stuck, I don’t know what to do. So I’m getting information. I won’t just give up. I don’t do that. But I want to make whatever decision is in his best interest. And I have a feeling I know the answer, but I’m not ready without all the information. The doctor said to wait until after the weekend so we can see if the new treatment is working. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m waiting. I hate waiting…

Napoleon and Jed

Jed (RIP) and Napoleon, hanging out while I shower.
Jan 2016