Archive for April, 2012

Saying Goodbye…….

Friday, April 6th, 2012


* May 4, 2003 – March 7th , 2012 *

We buried Seth on March 7th, 2012, in a quiet spot beside the pond under an oak tree. He was my best friend. He was loyal, sensitive, loving, kind, gentle, joyful and very special, and the lessons his life and death taught me will continue in my heart forever.

Seth was born on May 4th 2003. July was the first time I saw him when he was loping around the yard of his breeder’s property with one other litter mate. They were the last two to be sold. I loved his kind eyes and his big, big, big feet. I knew he would be a very large Doberman when reaching his full growth.

When I took him home, he was introduced to Kayla, my 11 year old Doberman female who was quite possessive of my time, Scooter, a fun loving Jack Russell and Candy, (another JR) a stray who had given me five puppies the month before. I had decided to get another Doberman because Kayla was old and I didn’t want to be without a Dobie. I also figured since I was dealing with Candy’s puppies anyways, what was one more. So with a total of nine dogs, the next few months were heavy on the fun, lots of laughs and much cleaning of accidents on the floor. Grumpy Kayla spent much time growling at puppies but that didn’t deter them from trying to follow her everywhere and offer her lots of kisses.

As time moved along, the puppies grew up, one was sold and the rest found their spots in the family. They would all run along with the golf cart to help me feed the horses and roll and tumble play with each other at every opportunity.

After the death of Kayla and Scooter, our family was smaller but the bond between Seth and the other puppies was very strong. It was always quite funny to watch Seth think he was a Jack Russell as he swam in the pond and chased squirrels (I was told by a breeder that Dobermans hate water, hmmm) and to see the Jack Russell’s pretend to be guard dogs as strangers visited the farm. I’ve always found with my Dobermans that by the age of four they have become inseparable from me and Seth was no different. Wherever I was, he wanted to be by my side. It was his mission in life to spend time with me. Considering my love language is quality time, Seth filled me up with love. When Gary and I would be together, Seth would always snuggle right between us to be sure he was still close by.

When we started our program for at-risk youth, Seth was always there to greet the kids visiting the farm. His bark would terrify them until they took a chance to overcome their fear and would gather around him for hugs and kisses. Once they befriended him, he would not leave their side. For these often neglected children, he showed them what loyalty and love looked like. Many of the foster children visiting the ranch were taken away from their pets when they left their homes. Seth filled a spot that was hurting for them during that time in their lives.

Seth & Joey

In July of 2009 Seth suddenly stopped eating. Thinking he had an issue with his stomach, I took him to the vet. Within seconds of listening with the stethoscope, Dr. Culbertson informed me that it was his heart. With a feeling of dread, I asked him what that meant. He said his heart was in Atrial Fibrillation, he was in Heart Failure. Knowing Dobermans are prone to Cardio Myopathy and finding out my precious Seth now had the dreaded disease filled me with sorrow.

Thus began our journey of living with and managing this disease of the heart. We made an appointment with a Cardiologist in Gainesville immediately and after his thorough examination of x-rays, ultra sounds and EKG’s the final diagnosis was bleak. The vet told us of the many medications Seth needed to go on and that at most he would have six months. I was saddened and disheartened to hear these words. It was like a death sentence had been issued. As I drove Seth home I cried most of the way…for the years we wouldn’t have together and the loss of friendship that was close. The wonderful thing about animals of course is that Seth did not understand those fateful words spoken over him that day.

When I got home and watched Seth happily playing with his buddies, I prayed for direction for my next step. With all of the many horses and dogs I’ve owned over the years, I have always asked God for help in caring for them when I’ve been lost for knowledge. The bible tells us to pray for wisdom, and so I did. As I prayed for help in this situation, my heavenly Father reminded me that nothing was over and neither people nor animals died until He determined their time. I was to seek more answers and to pray continuously. Immediately, my fear was replaced with faith and I set up my next plan of attack. I made an appointment with UF to take Seth for an acupuncture appointment to see what eastern medicine could offer Seth in addition to western medicine. I also sent out a prayer request for everyone I knew to pray for Seth and we asked God to give us more time with Seth.

At the acupuncture appointment, I was given several Chinese Herbs to help strengthen his heart muscles and help his stomach. He began to eat better shortly after this appointment. Slowly Seth regained the weight he had lost and as the days wore on, he went back to his normal life. As we enjoyed our days with Seth, I knew his time was shorter but I also knew it was in God’s hands. Although it had been suggested Seth be kept on a leash, Gary and I determined this was not the life Seth would enjoy and we would not restrict his exercise in this way. We would rather his life be shorter than unhappy. The dog’s greatest joy was the times they ran the farm with us during feeding morning and night. This was when they knew they had our undivided attention. So time went on, we prayed daily for Seth’s disease to be cured and for more time with him. The six months came and went and still Seth enjoyed normal days, although he was on several medications for his heart.

Seth and his Jack Russells

Two years later almost to the day of his first symptoms, Seth started to cough. Alarmed, once again that the disease was changing, we went back to the vet. He now had water in his lungs. He was put on Lasix to remove the water and we had to be a little more careful of how he exercised. Finally, the time had come where he could no longer run great distances chasing squirrels or following his JR friends. As his heart got bigger, it was no longer able to pump the blood sufficiently enough to remove the fluids and they were building up in his lungs. So on our new schedule of medications, we continued on. Our prayers still brought us comfort knowing God cared for all of his animals.

In October of 2011, we had a medical emergency and took Seth to the University around 3am. I thought this would be it and he would have to be put to sleep. But Jesus our healer was once again with us and after spending the day at the University, Seth returned home once again bouncy and happy and feeling better than he had in weeks. We enjoyed this borrowed time we now had with him. But more damage had been done to his lungs and it seemed even he knew that his activities were now restricted. The hardest part was that his mind and will wanted to do so much more than his body would allow him to do. We could see the struggle he had when we wouldn’t let him run with his friends. He listened to us and we loved him that much more to make up for these changes. The medications once again were increased after this emergency (he was taking 35 pills a day) and our own time became more restricted as we needed to be home more often to give him his meds. It seemed I could only be away from the house for three or four hours at a time before I would need to get back for Seth. In the rare moments I felt a prisoner to him and his needs, my want to nurture and care for him quickly overpowered those thoughts. Daily we thanked God for this extra time Seth was with us because we knew the time was now short. We were given the gift of saying goodbye slowly.

Seth & JR's helping to feed the horses

By February, I took him back to the University for another check-up. They said there were no changes and that all his tests were fine. It seemed we still had months. Yet over the next few weeks we could see his heart fading right in front of us. The Lasix was taking longer to work and it seemed he was coughing more. Finally in the last week, Seth could barely walk from the golf cart to the house without having coughing fits. The dose was already very high, and I was afraid of him suffocating each night. Lungs filled with water from this disease are much like drowning in a pond. He couldn’t breathe comfortably without high doses of medicine. Even though Seth still wanted to do all the things with us he had always done, his body was giving out on him. He tried to still be a watchdog but barking would give him fits of coughing. He rode with us on the golf cart to feed but couldn’t wander around without fits of coughing. And so we knew it was time. From the beginning of the disease I had wondered how I would know when it was time but as that moment approached, I knew that Seth no longer had a quality of life worth living…and although he would keep trying, it wasn’t fair to him when I couldn’t explain to him how sick he really was. As I made an appointment with our vet to come to the farm to euthanize Seth, the tears were falling non-stop. I couldn’t believe the time had finally come to say goodbye. As I went through the routine of our last day together I was so sad. Sad enough that Seth knew something was wrong as he tried to comfort me all day. Even in his distress, he thought only of me. It was our last time to feed together, our last time to play; the last time I would sit on his bed with him and just stroke his soft coat. It was his last ride on the golf cart, and the last time he would play with his Jack Russell friends. It was 7:30 in the evening when the vet arrived. I had spent the last hour sitting on the back deck with him, telling him how much I loved him. I knew I would miss this closeness that we shared but I also knew this was the right thing to do. Seth was suffering with his breathing and I held him as we let him go home to Jesus.

My comfort came from many places. The vet told me Seth had lived longer with this disease than any other dog he’d known in heart failure. He thanked me for taking care of him for so long because many of his clients would have quit much sooner. I knew that the extra time had been God’s answer to our prayers. Although I had hoped He would heal Seth completely, I was grateful to have had the extra time. I knew that I had given Seth more of my presence and love than I would have had he not been sick. You see, I had stopped taking him for granted because I knew the end could come at any time. This was one of those gifts I had learned from his illness. That I needed to love those close to me every day and that time was short and there isn’t always a tomorrow.

I was also comforted knowing that Seth was in heaven with Jesus and I would one day be with him again. Yes animals do go to heaven. The heaven that Jesus speaks of in the bible is a place of unimaginable beauty and scripture is filled with times when God tells us how much he cares for every animal. My God had shown me once years ago that my dogs were with Him. So I knew our time apart was only temporary.

But most importantly, I learned that prayers are heard and that God is in control. Our faith kept Seth with us for far longer than what was normal. He outlived the initial vet’s forecast by over two years. I learned what sacrificial love is in caring for Seth as his needs always came before mine. I now live with a better understanding of what Jesus did for me when he died on the cross so I can spend eternity with Him. His death was the ultimate in sacrificial love. And I learned what it was to be loved unconditionally by a big black and tan dog.

The next few days and weeks were tough for all of us. Seth wasn’t there to greet me at the gate when I came home. He wasn’t taking up most of the golf cart seat as we fed the horses. Seth wasn’t growling at Tyler in their ongoing battle for dominance and Seth wasn’t on his big bed sleeping with Zoe cuddled up beside him. It wasn’t time for his pills every four hours and I didn’t have to rush home to let him out because the Lasix was working so quickly. But mostly, Seth wasn’t there for me to love on when I needed some pet therapy myself. His big brown eyes weren’t looking over the gate to greet me each morning ready to face the joys of the day. It was the first time in over twenty years that there wasn’t a Doberman in my family. Although our sadness and grief was great, I knew Seth was in a place where there are no more tears and no more pain. He is blessed and at peace with his Creator.

Goodbye Seth, you are forever in my heart!

Seth on our last day together

(If anyone has not accepted Jesus a their Lord and Savior or isn’t sure if their eternal destination is heaven, please call or email us to find out more about what happens after death or find a bible based church to attend to learn more about the salvation available to all in Christ Jesus)

(If you are struggling with grief over the loss of those dear to you, I can recommend a wonderful and compassionate Grief Coach to you….please visit