Earlier this week, I ordered a Shutterfly photo book of 31 pages full of photos of the 13 years I had with Poppy. I wasn’t ready before this. She passed away on June 8, 2020. It took me awhile to process the loss to the point that I didn’t even want to talk about it with anyone for the first three days. I’ve lost pets before but Poppy and I had a special relationship.

Poppy and littermate before I adopted her.

I actually first met Poppy the day she was born. I lived next door and so was able to see her and her litter mates with their cute fuzzy roly poly bodies play and grow. I volunteered to take over their care when they were about five or six weeks old and ready for solid food because Momma dog wasn’t letting them eat. They were all cute but there was this one puppy that wasn’t as fuzzy as the others and was black and tan instead of merle. She was actually adopted out but came back the next day because one of the family members had allergies. That’s when I decided I would keep this one.

At training for Canine Good Citizen.

How did a 60 pound Aussie/Husky mix get the name Poppy? Well, when she was a cute little puppy, with a mom that was only about 32 pounds, I had no idea how big she would turn out. I named her after the California state flower. When she was just a few years old, I decided I had to know her lineage, even though I knew her momma dog, and I got her DNA done from Wisdom Panel. She was 49% Australian Shepherd and the rest was a combination made up mostly of Siberian Husky and undetermined. I used to tease and tell people she was a “Hussy,” ie, husky and Aussie. It always took a few minutes and then the laughter would start.

Halloween 2012.

When Poppy was three years old, I bought my own house after renting for many years. She had a huge backyard that she got to share with her pack mate, a stray shih tzu I had adopted the year before. They were soon joined by another rescue dog, a miniature poodle mix. This pack of three had a large back yard with a doggie door into the garage from the dining room. They had no complaints.

At the beach.

She loved the water and so we took many day trips to lakes and rivers in the area. There was even an aquatic center that would open for dogs for one day before closing for the season in October. She attended those events for a number of years. Anytime we were at a lake that allowed dogs, she would be in there swimming and playing. I couldn’t keep her out. Once, I left the other dogs with a babysitter and took Poppy just for the weekend to Dillon’s Beach, a dog-friendly beach in Northern California, for her birthday. We played at the beach all day and then stayed in a nearby motel before returning home.

Carmel dog-friendly beach.

When I discovered that Motel 6s take dogs with no extra fee, we tried to vacation as often as we could. We took a trip to Fort Bragg, a trip to Lake Tahoe, a trip to Monterey Bay, and a coastal trip all the way down Highway One to Pismo Beach. One of our highlights was a 3-hour whale watching tour on the bay, allowing dogs to attend free with a paying customer.

Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens — dog friendly.

I began taking them all camping, first with a tent and then with my covered pick up truck. It was kind of funny with a 60 pound hairy dog and two little ankle biters but we had some great times. During those years, Poppy loved hiking. The shih tzu would often be in a back pack or stroller but good ole’ Poppy never slowed down. Until she did.

Lake of the Springs campground.

When she was about 7, she was diagnosed with a bad vertebrae that I was told would get progressively worse. Over the years, as her discomfort became more noticeable, she went through many treatments. These included pain meds, acupuncture, laser treatments, CBD oil, and the like. We continued our camping trips, eventually evolving into full time motorhoming after losing the shih tzu to old age and selling the house in 2018. She still loved to hike in the woods but those hikes got shorter and shorter.

Caprock Canyon State Park.

Then she became incontinent and still, I tried to do what I could for her. We found a nice country vet in Texas that prescribed a new pain med and that worked for awhile. But eventually, life just got too hard for her. Every day was a struggle just to get up, allow me to change diapers, get a harness on to take a walk. She would still occasionally play ball for a minute or two at the dog park, giving me hope, but the moments she would smile at me and could walk without pain were getting shorter and shorter.

Her last little hike, Lake Livingston State Park.

It was a very tough decision to set her free and I don’t wish this upon anybody I know. You will always second guess yourself and wonder if you might have been able to do more. And the pain of loss never really goes away completely. I know because I still hurt when I think about my pets from years ago. I try not to think about Poppy too much right now because it’s too new and raw.

She started slowing down.

I like to think she had a good life. I remember my doctor telling me in 2006 that I needed to get a dog because I wasn’t getting enough exercise and I was having trouble getting out of bed except for work. Then I got Poppy and all that changed. She saved my life in so many ways. Rest In Peace, my dear girl.