Thursday, July 25, 2019

The Game Hannah Made Up

Besides playing tug with the soft rubber toy and catching it -- after she learned to catch popcorn -- Hannah made up a new game.  Sadly, I don't have a video of us playing her game but I'll describe it.

Hannah would bring the toy to me and offer it to play tug.  We tugged for a bit but if it got boring and she let go first and I got it, I would have her sit and tell her to catch, then toss it to her.

She would await the toss.  Usually she caught it and we'd play tug again.  But there were times when, instead of catching it and playing tug, she would use her nose to bounce it back to me.  The first time it happened I was totally surprised.  Really, Hannah, you can do that?!  She was teaching me a new game.  Her aim was pretty good, too, because I rarely had to run after it.  Sometimes I could predict when she would bounce it instead of catching it -- there would be the slightest twitch of her nose.  Other times I had no idea whether the ball would come back to me or she'd catch it.

Occasionally, once in a while, we would toss the ball back and forth several times in a row without anyone catching it or it dropping to the ground.  I was always surprised and impressed that she was able to do this and that she'd made up the game herself.  We called it bounce-n-catch.

Airedales are so creative!

How I love Hannah and loved having her as part of my life!


Monday, July 15, 2019


Hannah loved these soft, rubber, squeaky toys with long tails.  She seemed to like the white ones best but sometimes we bought other colors.  She went through a lot of them through the years.

She liked to chew on them to make them squeak, bounce them, and play tug with them.  But two can only tug for long before getting bored and the game's over.

She'd been with us a few months when I thought this toy might be a good way to teach Hannah a new word.  I tossed it into the air toward her and said, "Catch."  It bounced off her muzzle onto the floor and she looked at me with a puzzled expression.  She may even have thought, "Why are you throwing my toy at me?"

It takes time and some repetition to teach a new word or command, so I tossed and said "catch" again, with the same result.  No matter that the toy was super soft and wouldn't hurt her, I didn't want to keep hitting her with it so we stopped.

I always thought dogs inherently knew how to catch but they don't.  I suppose many dogs learn the command as puppies but Hannah hadn't.

A few days later I was eating popcorn and realized it could be the perfect way to teach "catch" because it was so lightweight and would also be appealing to Hannah.  I called her to where I was, had her sit, and said "catch" as I tossed a piece of popcorn toward her.  It landed on her muzzle -- and stayed there.  I think her eyes crossed as she tried to see it.  I lifted it off and gave it to her.  I tossed again and the same thing happened, at least six or eight times.  By that time, she was panting and waiting for me to give her a piece of popcorn to eat.

I suddenly realized that I should just try tossing the popcorn into her open mouth.  If my aim were good enough and it landed in her mouth, I hoped she would get the idea of what the word meant even if she hadn't technically caught it.  I missed a few times and she ate the popcorn when I handed it to her.  Finally, once, the popcorn landed in her mouth.  She looked surprised, and then I saw that she'd made the connection between the word "catch" and what it meant.  Catching suddenly became a fun game. 

From then on, if we had popcorn, Hannah believed that she should have popcorn, too.  It was one of the few foods she begged for.

We always shared it with her.  And if we bought fresh popcorn at the store, we were careful to save her some.

No matter how happy a memory is, it can be sad to recall it knowing there won't be any new memories.  As always, I'm missing Hannah.


Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Talking to Hannah

I have a friend whose husband claimed there was no sense talking to a dog because dogs couldn't understand words.  He didn't know Hannah.

Hannah learned commands, of course, and she also seemed to understand more words and language than I ever purposefully taught her, though I don't know how.  Perhaps it was because I talked to her throughout the day, telling her what I was doing, where I was going, what was going to happen next, what I was thinking.

When we rode in the car I learned that if I told her, "Hang on, Hannah, we're turning left (or right)," she would lean against the turn so she wouldn't lose her balance. 

When we were leaving I would tell her whether we'd be back in a little while or we'd be gone for half the day, or most of the day.  She settled in differently depending on which I said.  Eventually, we began giving her a kong with peanut butter when we were going to be gone most of the day.

During the last year or two year she lost most of her hearing except for very loud sounds.  It was hard because she could no longer hear my explanations of what was happening, or what was going to happen next.  She couldn't respond to any commands unless she could see hand signs.  I didn't mind having to get her attention by petting her but I felt sad for her because she seemed so isolated from the general conversation in our home, as if she'd been left out.

Her last day was the hardest.  When she woke up she couldn't move even enough to stand, but she was alert and interested in what was going on.  She looked at us as if to ask, "What are we going to do today?  What's happening next?"  It broke my heart to see her alert and know she wouldn't be with us later in the day.

And it broke my heart not to be able to explain this last visit to the vet, what would happen there, and tell her how sorry I was and how much I loved her.  I wish I could have explained that I wasn't leaving her, that I would come find her when I get to where she was going, that there were other Airedales waiting there to meet her.  I wish I could have explained about the separation of body and spirit, about going to the vet, about needles and sleeping and death. 

We Airedale lovers like to imagine our 'dales waiting for us at the Rainbow Bridge, happy and carefree, without pain, and playing with other Airedales.  I hope that's true for Hannah.  But she really didn't enjoy playing with other dogs, or even humans, for that matter.  She loved me and the rest of her family but she didn't enjoy other people or dogs.  (At the dog park she would walk to the outer perimeter and sniff along it, ignoring the other dogs, including the Airedales.)  Instead of imagining her happy, I imagine her lying alone, watching what's going on, but not participating because she's lonely and waiting for the people she loves.

There have been a few times in my life when I've wished I could turn back the clock.  This is one of those times.  I would turn it back a dozen years and begin life with young Hannah all over again.  How I miss my dear girl! 


Wednesday, June 26, 2019

What Do You Want?

Early on, when Hannah first arrived knowing no language, I began teaching her words and commands.  Come, sit, down, wait, out, stay, go pee, go poop, etc.  But she learned other words and language, too.  I guess she learned to associate words with what happened when or after I said the words.  She knew what a toe clip and a brush were.  She knew the names of treats she liked such as Neccos and biscuits.  And she knew the names of some of the games we played.

Sometimes when she was bored and I'd been doing something too long (in her opinion), perhaps sitting at the computer or sewing machine, she would walk up to me, sit down, and stare.

I would ask a series of questions until I got a response.
"What do you want, Hannah?" I would ask.
She would continue staring.

"Do you want a toe clip?"
No response.

"Do you want to go lie on the couch?"
No response.

"Do you want to play Hide-n-Seek?"
No response.

"Do you want a Necco?"
No response.

"Do you want to go for a walk?"
No response.

"Do you want to play Find-It?"
She would stand and begin bouncing around as if to say, "Yes, yes, yes, please!  I want to play Find-It!"

We would both go to the kitchen where she would sit and watch me take down the treat box.  I would tell her to stay then go into another room where I would hide 4 or 6 biscuit halves.  Then I would call to her "Come find it!"  She would race into the room with her nose ready to sniff out the treats.  The game didn't last long but she enjoyed it.

To be accurate, her response was never the same from one time to the other.  She nearly never wanted a toe clip but sometimes she wanted a brush or a Necco or to play hide-n-seek or some of the other things I offered her.  What an independent thinker she was!

If only we could play find-it a few more times.  How I miss dear Hannah.


Monday, June 24, 2019

The Games Hannah Played: The Cupcake Tin Game

One of the games we occasionally played with Hannah was the Cupcake Tin Game.   I put treats in some of the cups and tennis balls in most of the cups, including the ones with treats.  She had to figure out which cups had treats and remove the balls to get to them.  The balls were covered by more than half of the tin so it was a challenge to get them out. 

This wasn't Hannah's favorite game but she enjoyed it enough that we played it occasionally.

How I wish I could play any game with Hannah again!


Saturday, June 22, 2019

Hannah Meets the Neighbor Cat (through the fence)

We had been fostering Hannah for a few weeks in late May, 2008, when she and the neighbor cat happened to be outside at the same time.  They were separated by a fence, which we thought a good thing.  It was clear she was interested in the cat, and the cat in her, but we didn't know what to expect.  Would she sniff, growl, snarl, try to lunge through the fence?

Hannah followed the cat as it walked along the fence, clearly curious about this creature with four paws.

The cat feigned disinterest in Hannah and interest in something in the distance.

Still, the cat rubbed along the fence as if trying to tempt Hannah into more than looking and sniffing.

Or perhaps it was just trying to be friendly in a cat sort of way.

When Hannah didn't do any more than watch, the cat sauntered to its tree and laid down.

At the time we didn't know how Hannah would do with cats but we know that if she moved to a forever home that wasn't ours, her new owners would want to know.  Our home became her forever home, of course, so it didn't matter because we didn't have a cat.

A number of years later her human sister married and moved to a farm where they had a cat.  We took Hannah to visit.  She and the cat greeted and that was that.  (She greeted the chickens in an equally calm manner.)

Two years ago Hannah's other human sister adopted two tiny kittens and brought them home for a visit.  We thought Hannah would be fine with them but we were cautious since the kittens were so tiny.  She was fine.  In the photo below Jack is crawling over her to play with a strip of fabric.

Unlike some Airedales we've known, Hannah seemed to love most other creatures.  We thought it a wonderful attribute.  She did, however, draw the line at Jack's sister, Jane, cleaning her ears or messing with her paws.  A low growl and we moved Jane to some other activity.  We didn't think it fair that aged Hannah should have to move.

How I miss her and her furry face!


Thursday, June 20, 2019

Hannah: Early Fostering Days

When a foster Airedale comes to stay nearly everything is an unknown.  Does she (or he) growl, bark, bite?  Steal food?  Counter surf?  Outside, does she jump fences to run away or stay close to hand?  Does she like and get along with other animals, especially cats?  What about children?  We try to learn as much as we can.

On May 12, 2008, the day after Hannah came,  we took her outside on a long line for some playtime to see how she would do.  I hoped she would not try to run away but we didn't want to take any chances. 

We were grateful she stayed close, interested in being with us.

I think her expression suggests worry, concern, apprehension -- all of which were the case with her during her first days with us. 

She was such a skinny girl, long, tall, and leggy, at only about 50 pounds.

She was interested in the ball and saw play potential.

I love the partial play-bow.

We learned that Hannah wasn't interested in jumping the fence or running away that day and that she was interested in playing.

How I wish I could turn the clock back ten years.


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Little Memories of Hannah

Hannah, 2008
We have cherry trees in our back yard (but, sadly, only winter photos).  They are horribly overgrown and at least one or two branches hang close to the ground -- and have for years.  We've thought about cutting them back but never have.  Some springs the branches are laden with cherries.  We often went outside to see Hannah picking and eating cherries, pulling them from the branches with her mouth, one after the other.  I think Hannah loved cherry season when cherries were free for the picking.

On warm spring and summer days Hannah enjoyed laying in the grass, sometimes in the sun.  When she was first here it was a surprise to us to pet her and find her skin and hair damp.  We decided it was sweat.  She's the only dog I've ever known to sweat.  We mentioned this to her vet and he said dogs don't sweat.  We dropped the conversation at that point because it would have required us to return to the office when she was hot and sweaty.  We tried to keep her cool enough not to sweat.  It's a pretty unusual thing about Hannah.

That Wild Outdoor Smell
In the colder months, and sometimes in the warm months, too, when Hannah came inside after being out for 10 or so minutes, her fur had an awful smell to it.  She hadn't rolled in anything awful, it was just a smell on her fur.  It was wild odor and clung to her almost as if the air and wind carried it and attached it to Hannah's fur.  Thank goodness it didn't last longer than a few minutes when she came inside.

Toeclips and Toepads
Hannah never liked to have her toes clipped, and she needed it more than any other Airedale we've had.  Her toenails and fur grew so fast.  I tried to clip her toes every week or two but I never succeeded in getting them short enough for her to walk on the tips of her toes like some Airedales do.  When she first came to us her paw pads were very soft.  We guessed it was because she had been confined by a chain to a short area around her dog house.  They became more leathery as we took her for walks.

Dear, dear Hannah.  How I wish she were still here.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

To Get My Attention

My daughter and I were talking about Hannah's big paw slaps the other day and she reminded me of two other things Hannah did to get my attention.

If I were wearing long sleeves and Hannah wanted me to do something different than what I was doing, she would grab a section of my sleeve and pull.  She was so insistent about it, almost as if saying, "You stop what you are doing NOW and do what I want you to do."  It was pretty much impossible to resist.  She held the fabric tightly and if, perchance, I were sitting in a chair with wheels, she would pull me along on the chair.  She usually got her way.

The other thing Hannah did -- when I had short sleeves -- was to pinch the least bit of my skin between her teeth.  Those pinches certainly elicited a reaction from me!  I don't know how she could pinch such a tiny bit of skin with her big teeth but she did, and it hurt.  She was efficient in making known what she didn't want me to be doing.

I wish I had photos of these two behaviors but, sadly, I don't.

I'm missing my Hannah.  I keep hoping it will get easier but no matter where I walk in the house there's something to remind me of her -- some game we played, some place she slept, something particular she did, some food she ate . . . . 


Saturday, June 8, 2019

"Ouch! That Hurt!"

On occasional evenings I sat at the computer working on family history or writing a blog post or a letter and Hannah would come stand at my side for a minute.   I was focused on what I was doing and was just barely aware of her.

Then suddenly she raised her huge paw and slapped it down across my arm.  My response was usually, "Ouch!  That hurt!  Don't do that again!"  I gave her a pet and a hug, then went back to typing. 

If you love or are loved by an Airedale, you probably know what happened next. 

She gave me a big paw slap again!  My response was the same the second time, except I usually added, "Hannah, if you can give me just five more minutes to finish this, I can spend time with you."  And I went back to typing.

Once again, a big paw slap!  "Okay, Hannah, let's go do something together."  And off we went.  She was happy to have my attention.

What I would give for a big paw slap as I sit here typing this post!  Dear, dear Hannah.


Thursday, June 6, 2019

Give Paw

I do not have small, dainty hands:  they are short and wide.  And Hannah's paw could nearly cover them.  She  had the biggest paws of any Airedale I've ever met.  She was not a particularly large 'dale -- maybe a little tall but comfortable at 58-60 pounds.  But her paws were huge!  I guess they matched her heart.

Early on I taught her "Give paw."  It didn't take her long to learn it.  She did it with great energy, almost like a paw slap instead of a gentle resting of her paw in mine.  She gave everyone in our family her paw but never anyone else.  Give paw was not a greeting for her, not like a handshake, but a show of trust.

Less than a year after she'd been in our home she'd settled in and felt completely comfortable lying on the couch with paws crossed.  I laughed out loud the first time I saw her like this.  And then felt grateful that she felt comfortable and safe enough to relax so completely.

She sometimes used her big paws to give paw slaps.  Ouch!  Those are part of another story.

Hannah never liked toe clips, though she endured them.  Her toenails grew incredibly fast.

During her last days her paws became swollen but never seemed painful to her -- thank goodness!

This is one of the last photos I took.... Wouldn't I love to hold Hannah's paw again!


Saturday, June 1, 2019

Aire-Angel Hannah

Airedale Hannah

Hannah came to us as a rescue girl in 2008 when she was two.  We'd never fostered an Airedale with a background like Hannah's -- neglect, abuse, tied to a tree with her brother -- but we decided to give it a try.  I cleared my schedule so I could devote my time to her. 

Airedale Hannah
My younger daughter and I drove to Kim Z.'s to get Hannah (who, at the time, was Maggie, though it didn't matter because she didn't know her name anyway).  As I drove home she drooled and panted, symptoms I didn't then recognize as carsickness.  After I pulled into the driveway and opened the door, we helped her out.  When we came to the steps into the breezeway, she stopped.  She had no idea what to do.  But there was worse to come.

We learned that she was afraid of everything--steps, doors, kitchen utensils, the computer mouse, lights, the TV, a sheet of paper, a change in flooring, men, hands, noises....  If it moved, she was afraid.  We could see it when she tried to move away or hide, and worse, we could see the fear in her eyes.  And did I mention that she wasn't housebroken, didn't know her name, and didn't recognize any English words?  She was pretty much a blank slate.  By the time I knew these things I was wondering what I'd gotten myself into and feeling the desire to move this Aire-girl to a forever home as soon as possible.  Particularly one that wasn't mine.

That first night I was a little nervous for our oak floors (which don't fare well with dog pee) but I wanted her to feel comfortable and safe.  I chose the room across the hall from the kitchen to sleep.  We lifted the rug and laid plastic underneath to protect the floors, then added some blankets and Hannah's bed.  She and I settled on the floor for the night.  I'm sure it had been a stressful day for her.  She nestled into me and fell asleep.  I didn't sleep well but she slept like a baby.

When the sun rose the next morning Hannah yawned, stretched, almost smiled, and did a little playbow.  Her eyes were alight with joy and, dare I say it, love.  I sensed that she recognized me as pack leader and felt that she belonged to this new place in her world.  That was when I began to fall in love with Hannah.

Unlike most Airedales, Hannah was an introvert.  At the dog park she wandered away to sniff on her own.  When visitors came she watched from another room.  When people approached her in the car and extended a hand for her to sniff it, she moved to the other side.  Probably because of early experiences she was wary of people she didn't know.  She always preferred me and when at home, moved with me from room to room.  The females in our family became her pack and, eventually, she included my husband.

Airedale Hannah
We knew a few weeks ago that her time with us was coming to an end.  In December she was diagnosed with kidney disease, spindle cell/soft tissue sarcoma, and lymphoma.  From the time a dog is diagnosed with lymphoma to end of life is usually 4 to 6 weeks.  We had the blessing of six months with her after diagnosis.  Losing a beloved Airedale is sad beyond words--heart-breaking, really--but for me, having to choose the time to say good-bye was wretched.  I wish that duty had been taken from my hands but it wasn't.  What made it harder was that she was alert and attentive (though extremely limited physically).

As Hannah's abilities decreased we scheduled her last visit to the vet for this morning.  I spent most of last night on the kitchen floor nestled next to her.  I didn't want her to feel alone and I especially wanted her to know that she was--and is--loved.  It seemed like we'd come full circle.

Being Hannah's adoptive mom has been one of the best experiences of my life -- both a blessing and a joy.  How I love her!  And how I miss her!!!

There's a new Aire-Angel in Heaven today.  And my heart is broken.


Monday, May 20, 2019

National Rescue Dog Day

Today, May 20, is National Rescue Dog Day.  Our Hannah is a rescued Airedale so we're celebrating her today.

We rescued her (or perhaps she rescued us) 11 years ago when she was just two years old!   She turned 13 in March.   Hannah's the dearest Airedale ever and I love her to bits.

I'm beyond sad that her life is coming to an end as she deals with lymphoma, kidney disease, and another cancer.  She sleeps a lot and the past two days she's been moving slower than usual.  Last night, when I asked her if she wanted to go upstairs to bed, she said she did but then she wobbled and fell.  I knew I couldn't carry her up the stairs (or down in the morning) so she slept in the kitchen.  Today her balance seems good, though she continues to move slowly.  She enjoys her food and sometimes finds a toy to play with.  

I always thought it would be easier to know in advance that the end was coming but it's not.  It's just a different kind of pain to suffer through.

Dear Hannah has never liked to be photographed so we have very few good ones.  She pulls her ears back, or turns her head at the last minute, or just refuses to look at the camera or person holding the camera.  I'm grateful for the few good photographs we have!

If you have a rescue dog, celebrate today!


Friday, April 5, 2019

Dr. 'Dale

My mum and pop found this Airedale hanger at a little antique shop.  They didn't buy it but mum snapped a photo. 

She calls him Dr. 'Dale even though the name on his scrubs shirt says "Dr. Appell."  She said she's sure his first name is 'Dale so he's Dr. 'Dale to her.

I would like an Airedale doctor but I don't think I would like Dr. 'Dale.  He doesn't look very friendly or welcoming or happy to me. Too serious.  We Airedales who have health problems need doctors who are happy, friendly, enthusiastic, and also sympathetic.  Maybe he would get lots of patients if he smiled a little.

I hope you are healthy and don't have to visit your vet very often.

--from Hannah.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Happy Birthday to Hannah!

Our dear and adorable Hannah turned 13 today. 

She's a rescue girl who's been with us for nearly 11 years.  We are thrilled that she's still with us considering that in early December, when we learned her diagnosis of lymphoma, another cancer, and kidney disease, we wondered if she'd be with us in January!  We count every day with Hannah as a bonus and a blessing.

Happy, Happy Birthday, Sweet Hannah!   How we love you!