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Our Betsy Girl

It’s REALLY hard for me to deal with losses and the last few years have shown me almost more than I can handle. A couple weeks ago marked one year since my grandmother passed away. That’s a whole other mess of emotions.

Something I haven’t been ready to post about yet is that it’s been three months since we had to say goodbye to our sweet Betsy girl.

She was 12. Her back legs didn’t work at all anymore and she had a few other issues. too.  It just wasn’t fair to keep her with us any longer. It was time.

Last week our good friend Jen from Three Sheets shared a video from two years ago that had Betsy swimming and running on the beach. Of course, I totally lost it. I’ve buried the pain of losing her just to be able to get through the day and stay strong for Brig. I’ve still got a lot of grieving to do for Betsy (and more losses than this) but it helps to finally talk about it.

Betsy and Gunner both loved running on the beaches and swimming in the warm Caribbean sea. They both got to spend the last few years of their lives with us down here on the boat. The Virgin Islands are home to us and White Bay BVI is one of the most iconic and memorable places around – where that video was taken. I shared Jen’s video on our Facebook Page and it’s exactly how I remember both of our dogs – wherever they are now, for all eternity. It’s such a perfect vision of exactly what they would be doing and I just had to share it with you all.

There are SO many photos of Betsy that I couldn’t possibly post them all here. Literally, over 500. They are all over my computer, phone, these blog posts, and all over our Facebook and Instagram pages but I’ve tried to gather my favorites. She was the sweetest, most kind and gentle dog I’ve ever met. She got to meet a LOT of people over her 12 years, and traveled a LOT of miles. Nearly everyone she met wanted to take her home. The world would be such a better place if everyone had a dog like Betsy. People that were allergic to dogs cuddled with her. People that were afraid of dogs held her. People that missed their own special animals let her lick them all over. She was amazing.

The one thing I’m most grateful for is that Betsy finally got to have a little boy of her very own. Brig was still too little to understand when she was gone, and she couldn’t get around very well this past year, but she did get to run and play with Brig on the beach a few times. He loved her and she loved him. She loved all kids and I’m SO glad she got to finally have her very own.

Thank you to EVERYONE that helped make Betsy such a good, happy dog <3 We will remember her always!!!

11.15.06 ~ 4.8.19

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DIY Custom Shaped Dog Bed

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There’s this funny little space next to our bed in the aft cabin. I think it was originally designed to be an extension of the sleeping area since there’s one on both Port and Starboard sides. Our previous owners decided to remove whatever used to be there and they had a custom “real” mattress made.

With the mattress in place, it left a perfect Betsy-sized area. For the first two years we put a pillow there with a blanket on top to make a nice, cozy bed for Betsy. Gunner was too big so he always got to lay at the foot of our bed, but we wanted to utilize this cute little spot too. Even though we try telling her it’s her Princess Bed she still sneaks up onto the mattress in the middle of the night!

I couldn’t think of anything better to do with the space so I wanted to make something a bit more permanent and easier to clean. After completion of my Throw Pillow Project I had some leftover scraps of Sunbrella Canvas in Taupe and decided to make a custom dog bed. It was a dark color which would help to hide the dog hair and dirt Betsy leaves behind. It’s also a very durable material and cleans up easily.

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When designing this new dog bed, I used a basic box cushion design, just like I used for my salon cushions. I had already learned the technique from watching the incredibly helpful Sailrite videos. The edges finished nicely and I was pleased with the thickness. I had decided on 5″ thick boxing and for the stuffing I got a little creative…

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Instead of buying new foam and/or batting for this custom creation, I cleaned out a few cubbies on the boat to see what I could use for stuffing. I had an old worn-out pillow, a big cotton quilt with ugly colors on it, and an old sleeping bag! All of these items either needed to be thrown away, donated or repurposed, so I used them for my dog bed project :) The sleeping bag got cut into pieces which I layered up around the old pillow and put that inside the old quilt. Together, they formed the perfect thickness for stuffing into my new cover.

With some extra zipper supplies on hand, I measured the back end to form an extra long zipper plaque where I could easily take the new cover off to wash it.

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This whole thing had to be cut into a custom shape with each side being a different length. Although I can’t flip it over, it fits perfectly!

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Thanks to Sailrite and my awesome LSZ-1 sewing machine, I have another home-improvement project checked off the list :)

 

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Broken Hearts

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The last week has been difficult for us all after the loss of our sweet boy, Gunner. Our broken hearts will never be the same again.

He was by my side for so many years, it just doesn’t make sense for him to be gone.

I can still hear his impatient bark at 5:00 to let me know it’s time to eat dinner. I can still hear the scraping of his nails on the floor when he would have wild running dreams. I can still feel his soft ears against my face when I would cuddle with him. I can still see his legs stretch out so far as he rolled on his back waiting for someone to scratch his belly. I can still feel his wet nose touch mine when he would ask for a piece of my food – the only trick he knew – to give kisses for a treat.

Time seems to stand still and our tiny floating home feels so empty. I miss my boy.

We all miss him.

Yesterday, Betsy laid in ‘his spot’ on the rug in the galley. It was his very favorite spot to lay in the whole boat – I think because it was the same size as his old crate. He felt safe in there. Betsy had never laid in there before, maybe because Gunner was always there, but never even when he was somewhere else. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen her lay there, and she stayed there all day. She usually prefers to be on the couch or the bed, but since Gunner has been gone she has been laying in his favorite places or at my feet.

We are giving her extra love. It helps her and it helps us. She misses her brother just as much as we miss him too.

It’s been so hard to motivate myself to do anything. It would be easier if I had a job to be distracted with but all the boat projects just seem to not matter right now. We’ll be working soon enough but for now its just so hard to get through the day.

 

If you haven’t seen the tribute article I wrote for Gunner, please take a few moments out of your day to hear our story and see our adventures together here: https://www.wherethecoconutsgrow.com/2015/11/for-gunner-with-all-my-love

Win a FREE HelpEmUp Harness

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I am so happy to announce that Blue Dog Designs (the makers of the HelpEmUp Harness) has graciously offered to let me host a giveaway for one of their amazing harnesses, in honor of Gunner!

As you all know, our sweet boy, Gunner, recently passed away. Without his special harness, we could not have had him on the boat with us for the last two years. A 75lb senior arthritic dog on a sailboat seemed crazy to many, but it was never a thought in our minds to leave him behind. It was because of HelpEmUp that he was able to live out his retirement by our sides 24/7 and be a part of our endless adventures sailing around the Caribbean, Where The Coconuts Grow.

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I recently published an article sharing 8 Reasons Why We Love The HelpEmUp Harness. Since then I’ve received countless comments and emails from all over the world about how this harness has been a miracle for their family. It brings tears of joy to know that I can help introduce so many people to HelpEmUp, in hopes that it will do for them what it has done for us.

Visit www.HelpEmUp.com for information on how to choose the right size and style of hip lift.

If your furry companion could use a little help getting up or down from the bed, car or boat, or has any mobility issues at all, take this opportunity to enter to win a FREE HelpEmUp Harness! Just enter your email address in the form below. Email addresses will *ONLY* be used to contact the winner.

**THIS CONTEST HAS ENDED**

Winner will be contacted via email to obtain size, style and shipping information. Entries must be received by Monday November 16th at 11:59pm EST.

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Even if you don’t win, I highly recommend giving HelpEmUp a try. These harnesses are worth their weight in gold!

For Gunner, With All My Love

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Some of you already know, but I made the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make on Friday 10.30.15. I made the decision to put my sweet boy to sleep and set him free from his old body.

I had been struggling with this decision for quite awhile and everyone told me I would just know when it was time. I prayed they were right. I prayed Gunner would tell me when it was time, though he was such a stubborn, crotchety old boy that I knew he probably wouldn’t. There were a few moments during his last days where he would  lick my hands clean, then lay his head on my lap and I knew it really was time. It was such a faint feeling though, because I didn’t want to see it. I didn’t want it to be time yet and I kept my doubts strong.

His accidents grew more frequent and he almost couldn’t get up the ramp anymore to go outside. The nerve damage in his rear end had made it so hard for him to move around. The length of our boat was about as many steps as he could take before he would lay down and rest again. When he stopped eating his food, I knew his body was shutting down.

My sweet boy was 14.5 years old and his poor body just couldn’t keep up with his mind anymore. I know in my heart it was the best thing for him and it would have been selfish of me to keep him here any longer. Still, I wonder everyday if I made the right decision. I’ve lost loved ones in the past, but losing Gunner hurt so much more. He was my baby. I took care of him like he was my child.

I still can’t believe he is gone… I never knew my heart could hurt so much.

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I want to share the story of our time together.

It was the summer of my Senior year in high school, 2001. I had been wanting a large-breed puppy and had always grew up around dogs. My mom called me one day to tell me about this Weimaraner that needed a home. The breeder had just died of a heart attack and no one had found her, the momma dog or the puppies for three days. The breeder’s friend owned a kennel in Snohomish, Washington where she took the puppies in to find homes for them. Four whole months later, all but one had found homes.

This little boy was lanky and shy. He timidly came out to greet me in the parking lot. I was told that he was the last to get picked because of how big his feet were, meaning he was going to be the biggest one of the litter. How big could he really get? His floppy ears went past the end of his little nose and his little butt was so skinny. His legs were long but he was still so tiny.

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I just couldn’t leave him there! I just couldn’t bare to see his little sad face turn away from another stranger that didn’t want him. From that moment on he was glued to my side. I crate trained him early on but it only took a few nights for him to melt my heart enough to have him sleeping under the covers with me. Everyone knows weims are like velco, and that he was.

I left this little ball of energy with my grandparents for my first year of college at Western Washington University while I lived in the dorms. I would come home on the weekends to do laundry and see my sweet boy. He was so mischievous! His weim-crimes were frustrating but so loveable at the same time. He chewed a hole in the drywall once. I got him the toughest chew toys I could find and did what I could to train him and get him the exercise he needed. He loved to swim, chase the geese in our backyard and play with his toys. Most of my pictures from the early days are in photo books back in California but I have hundreds of pictures of him snuggled up in piles of clean laundry, on the couch and on my pillows. If you’ve ever been around Weimaraners, you know just how human they think they are. He loved popcorn and Cheetos, especially when my grandpa would sneak them to him.

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During the remaining years of college, I lived in houses with roomates and Gunner came up to Bellingham, WA to live with me. I remember there was this one lake we would go to and he would swim for hours retrieving sticks I threw for him. He loved every minute. He was like a small pony galloping around. I always felt safe with him by my side. It was a lot of responsibility to have him while working and going to school full time, but I think it was good for me. He kept me in line, as I did for him.

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After college we moved out to the countryside in Blaine, WA and lived on 20 acres. At one point we had a total of 6 dogs, 21 puppies, and 9 goats. Gunner loved his brothers and sisters – Magnum, Ayla, Missy, Aaron, Gage, and temporarily Remmi and Boone. During these years he learned to hunt and went for several-week long training camps with some other hunting dogs. He got a taste for what he was bred to do. Running through the tall grass and open fields chasing birds was what he loved the most. He could run so fast! He was so lean and shiny and muscly back then.

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A series of circumstances brought us down to Huntington Beach, California in the summer of 2008. Him and I soon found a little studio apartment in Costa Mesa where we grew to love the warm weather and sandy beaches. Another move to San Diego allowed us to finally meet Peter and Betsy in April of 2011. Ever since, it has been non-stop adventure!!

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We’ve taken several trips to Baja California, Mexico. We went camping in the Eastern Sierras where Gunner ran wild through the cow patties along the riverbed and roamed around near the campsite. We took a road trip up to see my family in Washington. We took the dogs through an Old Gold Mine and Peter had to carry Gunner up a tall rickety ladder. He’s gone swimming in the SoCal surf with his daddy and he went to the office with me to work on the weekends. He always loved going in the car, wherever we went. The adventures were endless.

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He was 12 when Peter and I decided to buy a boat and sail through the Caribbean. We knew he was getting old and that eventually the day would come when we would have to say goodbye, but there was never a doubt in our minds that he would come with us on our biggest adventure yet. We sold and donated most of our belongings, packed up the rest and drove across the country to our new home aboard a sailboat in Punta Gorda, Florida. It was that year that I first remember noticing his back feet drag a little during our evening runs. I found this amazing harness that made getting him on and off the boat a breeze. After four months on the dock we untied the lines for good and headed to the Bahamas!

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We sailed through the Bahamas, past Turks and Caicos, along the North coast of the Dominican Republic, South coast of Puerto Rico, USVI, BVI and all the way down the Eastern Caribbean island chain to Grenada for our first hurricane season on the boat. We returned to the Virgin Islands that winter, back to Grenada this year and back to the Virgins again just a few weeks ago for a total of 5,000 nautical miles. Gunner got to run and swim on so many beaches and he smelled so many good smells on all the islands we visited. He ate fresh sashimi on many passages with us, said hello to some turtles and iguanas, and lived out his retirement by our sides 24/7 as we sailed around Where The Coconuts Grow.

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Luckily we were able to get him back to USVI where it feels most like home to us. We made a few trips to the vet and finally I decided it was time. For Gunner’s last dinner he got to eat fresh Mahi Mahi and sleep on the bed with us all night long. We stayed at a dock where we could run the air-conditioning all night and I swear he didn’t move a muscle. I cuddled with him the whole time.

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In the morning he got a bacon cheeseburger and fries for breakfast. I was so glad he had enough of an appetite for one more special treat. We had rented a car and drove him to a nice grassy place by the water where I let him walk around (only about 20 minutes) until he couldn’t take another step. He sniffed every single bush and tree. Then he rolled around in the grass before eating three mini cheeseburgers and some more fries for lunch. He knew something was different this day. I could finally see that he was ready. Staying was just too hard.

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We climbed back in the air-conditioned car, made a stop at a peaceful place by the beach and drove to the vet’s office. Up in the trees where we parked there were yellow and white butterflies everywhere! It was almost magical. Though I knew in my heart it was time, nothing could have prepared me for how much my heart would hurt from that moment forward.

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Everyone tells me I gave him an amazing life filled with love but it’s so hard to focus on the love when the pain is so thick. I didn’t want him to suffer anymore than he did already so I keep reminding myself that it was because of the love that we had for each other that I made the decision when I did.

Betsy is sad too. Her brother was her partner in crime and cuddle-buddy. She loved him so much. In the last few days I’ve found her sleeping in Gunner’s spot on the bed and even sleeping on the ground by the bed where he liked to lay. Just yesterday she was in the galley just standing there facing the corner. I don’t know what she was doing but that was his favorite place to be, probably because it felt like his crate. We are giving her some extra attention, knowing she is just as sad as us.

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Most of our sailing adventures are catalogued here on this blog, but there is still so much I haven’t posted yet. Eventually I’ll get around to posting all the pictures, but in the meantime I’ve put together a slide-show gallery of some of my favorite photos of Mister, my sweet, sweet boy:

For Gunner, With All My Love…

Thank you so much to everyone that has reached out with love and support. It truly does help to hear your stories – to know we are not alone but also to give us hope that someday our love for Gunner will help the heartache fade away… Even if we don’t respond, please know your words and prayers are appreciated during this hard time for our little family.