Goodbye little miss Mia

Mia’s first day home

Carrie and Mia the day she came home with us

Our Silver Anniversary was spent dining on pizza, watching TV, and snuggling with our beautiful little brown roan for the last time.

Wednesday morning, we were with Mia when she crossed the rainbow bridge.

Baby Mia

I had mentioned in a previous blog that she had a serious GI infection.

Her health briefly improved following treatment, then began declining rapidly.

I took her in for x-rays and they showed a large tumor on her spleen.

Mia visiting Nana

We were not satisfied with that bad news, and Carrie took Mia to our old vet in Pocatello who confirmed that not only did Mia have a cancerous tumor on her spleen, but strongly believed the cancer had spread to her heart. Mia’s time with us would be very short regardless of what we did.

Her favorite toy, a metal ball she carried over her nose. Maybe she smelled the chocolates that had come in it.

Mia, the little mischief-maker, Spinone clown, and who along with Sophie was the best hunting partner I’ve ever had.

It was as though we hunted with a single mind, and she was an absolute joy to hunt with.

Swimming with Mia at Martin Lake

My little huntress pushed herself harder than I ever would have and never slowed down or gave up on even our marathon hunts.

If there was anyone who would seek out the heaviest brush to hunt, it was Mia.

Mia passes 3 legs of her JH title. She didn’t fail a single test in earning her title.

Mia was our snug bunny whose place on the couch between us was undisputed. She was our talker, our “Moaning Mia” who was always happy to carry on a conversation with us. She crawled into bed with us on that last morning and for over an hour we lay snuggling, Mia talking to us the entire time. She even responded with “wawa” each time Carrie asked her to say “mama”.

And she was our first grandson’s favorite dog. He always had to know where his “MiYa” was.

Mia loved our bed

Mia beckoning me to follow her.

We were with Mia when she came into this life and we were with her when she left it. Hopefully the pain will fade long before the memories.

While we could curse God for taking her, instead we thank Him for bringing her into our lives. 

Goodbye little miss Mia, run free.

Mia was always carrying a toy.


Mia’s look when she wanted to show me something.

Posing with Mia and her two ducks

I could tell what the bird was doing and how far away it was by the way Mia pointed

Mia on a nice point

Mia and her mom Umbra at Nana’s

Mia retrieving a Pheasant

Mia, her last day with us

A leisure stroll through a park on Mia’s last day.

Mia stops to smell the flowers. We then took her on a drive through the foothills with the windows down, letting her smell the sage and junipers one last time.

Close call on a dog fight

A Malamute lives at one of the houses that we pass while walking the guys, and is either chained up or kept in the back yard. That wasn’t the case last Friday as the owners and dog, unchained, were in the front yard.

We came around the corner and the Malamute charged the moment he saw the guys. He came up to Elvis and stood head-to-head waiting for an excuse to attack. To Elvis’ credit, he didn’t respond but I was worried that Doc and Mia would. They stood tense, hackles raised, waiting for the slightest reason to go after the Malamute and they would have gone through Elvis to do it.

It would have been a very ugly pack fight and I’m sure more than one of us would have ended up in the hospital had it gotten that far. A lot of scenarios for breaking it up the dog fight went through my mind as we stood motionless while the owner collared his dog and led him back to the yard. He did apologize, and I praised the guys for keeping a level head, but from now on, we’re carrying pepper spray on our walks.

An off off-season

With six weeks until hunting season begins, I’ve still yet to do any training with the guys and have decided to scrap my plans for testing them this fall, instead, the focus will be on getting them in shape for hunting season. I haven’t posted much this summer but can pretty much sum it up here.

The river has been running dangerously high all spring and summer and people have been warned to stay away from it. There have tragically been several drownings from those who didn’t heed the warning. Needless to say, doing any kind of water work in the river was out of the question. A flare-up of gout had me hobbling around for a couple of weeks, but I got over it and was able to take Doc out to a nearby pond for some simple retrieves. I must not have cleaned his ears well enough because he developed an ear infection that took several weeks to clear up.

Then little Miss Mia destroyed a plastic bowl and I believe she ingested some plastic shards, because she became lethargic and stopped eating. I took her to the vet for blood work and she was suffering from a serious GI infection, from which she’s now thankfully recovering due to some heavy duty antibiotics and other medication.

Field work didn’t happen for several reasons – first, the ticks are very bad this year and I haven’t found a good place to train; one area that’s perfect for training is also infested with rattlesnakes. Second, I got rid of all my birds when we moved into town, and a wing on a bumper is a poor substitute.

But with that now all behind us and with the river at a safe level, I can now get the guys in the water for some retrieves. Except for the deadly algae (see hyperlink). Already one dog has died from the algae while swimming in the river.

So what have the guys been doing all summer?

Basking in the sun (or shade)

Chilling out after a long day of relaxing

Guarding the property and barking at neighbors

Elvis retires

Today was Elvis’ final therapy visit, ending his 6-year career as a therapy dog. Over the past year he’s been losing his enthusiasm during our visits, so I decided that the time had come for him to end his career.

Elvis passes one of his tests

Therapy visits take an emotional toll on dogs, and as a handler – whether therapy, hunting, showing, competing, you name it – your primary job is to look after your dog’s welfare. With Elvis, I could see the early signs of burnout; since Sophie passed away two years ago, he has been doing all the therapy visits each month.

Elvis earns his CGC title

Some guidelines provided by Intermountain Therapy Animals with whom we were certified include:
– be aware of stress on your dog, be their advocate;
– the maximum length of a visit should be no more than two hours;
– give your dog a break every 20-30 minutes;
– remember that your dog may need to be de-stressed following a visit;
– praise your dog and give them a special treat – for Sophie and Elvis, this usually meant an Arby’s roast beef sandwich.

Elvis and the Asti trophy

Both Elvis and Sophie were certified as a therapy dogs before the American Kennel Club (AKC) created Canine Good Citizen (CGC) as an official title, and I did want Elvis to receive his title before he retired, as recognition for all the great work he has done over the years.

Elvis visits the school

During his six years as a therapy dog, Elvis earned his CGC and Therapy Dog Advanced (THDA) titles from the AKC. He was awarded Asti’s Compassion Trophy by the Spinone Club of America (SCOA) for the year 2015 “In recognition of the Spinone demonstrating superior performance as a therapy dog”.

Elvis at his ITA re-certification test

He made 191 facility and hospice visits (just 9 visits shy of being eligible for Therapy Dog Excellent or THDX title) and visited well over a thousand clients. Not to mention all the staff members of these facilities who likewise benefited from his visits.

Elvis visits the Idaho State Veterans Home

Elvis’ legacy will not be limited to those whose suffering and loneliness he helped ease, but also in those whom he inspired to have their own trained and certified as therapy animals. Elvis can also take credit for inspiring the Veterans Administration (VA) home that we visited, into obtaining a live-in emotional support dog for the residents.

One of Elvis’ visits at the VA home

Retirement from one job does not mean retirement from all jobs. As long as he has the ability and desire, Elvis will continue volunteering for 4H and schools, hunting, fishing, and visiting grandchildren.

Sophie and Elvis, both wonderful therapy dogs

Doc goes diving

If Friday was any indication, Doc will never become a dock diving dog, as he sunk like a rock his first time off the boat dock.

Doc goes out after a bumper

The guys haven’t been swimming since duck season ended in January and I thought it was time to re-introduce them to the water. I combined fishing with training, and took Doc along with me to see how it would work out.

Doc loved getting back into the water

We did a few simple retrieves, both singles and doubles, before I switched over to fishing. I didn’t expect to catch anything since I didn’t start fishing until later in the morning, but fish were still jumping occasionally so I decided to try a fly and bubble.

Doc returns with a bumper

After fishing awhile without getting any strikes, I end it by seeing if Doc would be willing to jump off the boat dock for a retrieve. It would be good experience for him since some of the places we hunt ducks have sheer banks.

Doc making a double retrieve

I tossed a stick for him and while he was eager to retrieve, he didn’t know how to enter the water. He sat on the dock paddling with his front feet before getting up enough courage, then dove headfirst into the water which both surprised and alarmed me. It took him several seconds to swim back up to the surface but once Doc resurfaced and got his bearings, he made the retrieve and I pulled him back onto the dock.

Training should always be enjoyable for the dog but if they do have a bad experience such as this, you never want it to be the last thing they remember. I tossed the stick a couple more times so that he could retrieve from the bank, which entered the water at a nice gentle slope.


We came across some old videos of the dogs so I thought I’d share a couple of them.

The first video is special, as both Sophie and Dakota have crossed the rainbow bridge and the Spinoni pups are now seniors. I had been working with the guys on their “whoa” command and I believe this is the first time I tried it on all of them together.

The second video is one we had forgotten all about – baby Doc playing with Elettra.

Behavioral changes

Doc enjoying the snowfall

Since we moved to our new house last September, we’ve noticed some behavioral changes in the guys. Perhaps it’s because this house is twice the size of our last one, maybe because the floors are carpeted instead of hardwood, who knows.

Mia wearing the evidence

Mia has become Mia the Mischievous and for the first time, has began destroying things. On several occasions, she has gotten into our shred bag and scattered it around, and has a certain fascination with a certain rubber doorstop. Much more so after Dakota’s passing, so I’ve been setting manilla envelopes around to keep her from destroying anything important. She’s also much more playful as are all the guys.

Mia’s mess.

Elvis is rejuvenated and it’s clear that he enjoys our raised wooden deck much more than the cement deck at our old house. He and Doc now play with each other quite a bit and have become much closer.

Unlike our old house, this one has several windows that look out onto the street and neighborhood and are Spinoni-height, so they can sit and rest their chins on the window sill and watch the neighbors. We now have a city lot instead of four acres and take the guys for walks where before they ran in the pasture, but whatever their change in behavior, it’s obvious that they’re happier living here.

The guys obviously like our bed