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Saying goodbye to my angel

I had planned on using the entire week on the Dogster Behavior & Training blog to talk about bringing a new dog or puppy into your household. I hate to interrupt the flow of topic this week, but found that there was a far more pressing topic I wanted to share with you all.

This past weekend, I lost my Saint Bernard, Monte. He would have celebrated his sixth birthday this coming weekend. Not two full weeks ago, he was diagnosed with a congenital spinal abnormality which unfortunately crippled him quickly. Each day for the last two weeks it seemed as though he aged a full year.

This past weekend, he could not take more than two steps without falling down and whimpering in pain. I knew then that he would never again romp playfully with us or other dogs, would never again play bow without pain, walk, toilet, or hike without assistance. Even eating a Kong was painful for him, so I held his last Kong as he finished it eagerly and enthusiastically.

We had scheduled an appointment with the neurological specialist at Cornell, but they couldn't get us in until July 15th and there was no way I could let him be in that much pain for that much longer. We celebrated by giving him lots of lamb, barbecued chicken, chocolate chip cookies, hugs, and a permanent release from the pain that had wracked his body for a full fortnight.

I am very lucky in that I have an amazing vet. She traveled to our home this past Saturday so that Monte's last minutes could be in the safety and comfort of his home.For Jim, Mokie, and I, this was a wonderful, unbelievable gift.

Four and a half short years ago, my husband and I rescued an 18 month old, emaciated, behaviorally and physically unwell Saint Bernard. Over the course of our journey together, I learned about positive training, holistic health care, species appropriate diet, about compassion and kindness and empathy and forgiveness and patience and teamwork.

I wanted to share with you my tribute to Monte, one of the world's most incredible dogs. My eulogy to him is Ode to Boy, and his story is one I would like to share with you and all dog owners.

Shortly after losing Monte, i was overwhelmed by an outpouring of support on Facebook. Holly, "mom" to dogsters Jasmine, Hugo, and Ernie, posted a beautiful picture of her three pups thanking Monte for the influence he'd had on their lives.

Unbelievably, dozens of these tribute pictures began popping up. People from all around the world saying that Monte's life had touched their hearts also and somehow improved the way they lived with their dogs. Maybe they learned to laugh when they wanted to cry. Maybe they learned to forgive themselves or their dogs for mistakes in a training session. Maybe they understood that the time we have with our dogs in our life is so short that, when all you are left with is memories, you should try to make them as close to 100% joyous memories as possible. These are the lessons Monte taught. Here is a slideshow of the images we've received from friends around the world:

I remember a while back reading "Everything I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten." As a dog mom, everything I needed to know I learned from Monte.

In tribute, I have created "Project Monte." Ode to Boy: Tributes to Crossover Dogs will help me carry on his legacy through sharing the stories of the dogs and trainers that inspired pet parents to adopt modern, dog-friendly training techniques. All crossover trainers and pet parents are invited to offer tributes to their crossover dogs, you will find submission guidelines here.

You can find Monte's memorial stroll on Dogster by searching "Thank You, Monte" in the strolls.

Thanks to all of my friends on Dogster, in the positive training community, and elsewhere for your support.Truly, his love was big enough to encompass the world, and many of you are proof.

I miss you, Monte. Run free now, angel.

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