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.

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

Mia’s duck hunt

Mia enters cattails on her duck search

The difference that a couple of days make. Saturday morning was warm and windy, hunters lined the ponds and ducks filled the air, but Monday was 20 degrees colder, perfectly calm, few birds flying and fewer hunters shooting.

I missed several opportunities on flyovers and a couple of ducks that we flushed, much to Mia’s disappointment.  We had been hunting awhile when Mia went on a nice point and I flushed a rooster Pheasant. Unfortunately, Pheasant season wouldn’t open for a couple of weeks.

Mia on point

I dropped a hen Mallard on the far side of a large patch of cattails. Knowing it was asking too much of Mia for a blind retrieve through acres of cattails, I took her around to the opposite side to begin our search.

Mia with a flotilla of ducks behind her

It was about a quarter of a mile to where we could cross, but once we came to the general area where the duck fell, I sent Mia in to find it.

Mia with the duck she found and retrieved

Mia is a very cerebral hunter and has developed an interesting way of searching. She would wade through the cattails a few feet then stop, sniff, listen, and proceed a few more feet. I enjoyed watching her work the cattails in that manner and it wasn’t long before she burst out of them with bird in mouth.

Elvis’ Certificate of Achievement

I’d like to thank the SCOA (Spinone Club of America) for recognizing Elvis’ therapy work with a Certificate of Achievement for his AKC Therapy Dog Advanced title.

Two days after receiving his certificate, Elvis assisted in a patient’s physical therapy. Ok, all he had to do was lay on the floor, but during our therapy visit, a physical therapist who was working with the patient asked Elvis to lie on the floor. The patient then had to lean over and pet Elvis as a means of helping her regain balance.

Elvis’ certificate of Achievement

Mia’s training photos 8-19-17

Working the Irish Setter with Mia on point

Working with the Irish Setter. Mia established point and then the setter was brought in to work the bird.

Mia retrieving a pigeon

Mia on point while working her solo. She started out slow but was soon running big.

Mia and Maya on point

Mia honors Max, the English Pointer, while Chris moves in to flush

Doc’s training photos 8-5-17

setters, spaniels, and Spinoni

Working with Doc on a check cord. His only weakness is breaking on birds that flush wild and surprise him.

The Irish Setter on a check cord

Doc on point while working with one of the spaniels on honoring

Doc on point while the spaniel honors

Chris working with the Brittany/Springer cross

One of the Brittany Spaniels on point

Doc retrieving a pigeon. All of my dogs naturally have soft mouths and retrieve birds uninjured.

The Spinone combine

The NFL has their combine and last week was my Spinone combine. The guys haven’t pointed a bird since November and haven’t retrieved one since January, so I just wanted to take a look at them before we began our summer training. I didn’t do any training or give corrections other than a couple of “whoas” – it was just a matter of setting up the scenarios and let the dogs worked them.

Tracking consisted of dragging a goose wing for roughly a 100 feet with a couple of direction changes thrown in. Doc lost the scent but was able to pick it up again and found the wing without much trouble. Mia did an excellent job of tracking to the wing. For whatever reason, this particular video didn’t turn out too well.

Blind retrieve
I placed Pheasant wings about 250 feet out. By the time I planted Mia’s wing and brought her into the pasture, I had forgotten where it was and cast her in the wrong direction (more about marking and casting in an upcoming post). Regardless, she was able to hit the scent cone and work back to the wing. As with her “aunt Sophie”, retrieving is done on her terms. Doc doesn’t care about taking a straight line to the mark always ends up in the right place.

Point and honor
I braced Doc and Mia for pointing and honoring. Doc went on point which Mia honored from a good distance. I planted another wing and this time had Doc “stay” while Mia hunted. When she went on point, I called Doc and he honored nicely. There was a time when Mia was a speed demon like Doc, but she’s become a much more methodical hunter, and by this time, there was a lot of scent out in the pasture for them to work through.

In all, I was happy with Doc and Mia considering their 4-month layoff and it will be interesting to see what they look like after three months of consistent training.