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Leave No Dog Behind Writing Contest

“Your imagination, off the leash,” resonated to throngs of FIDO Friendly fans who channeled their inner author and released pooch prose. In FF’s first ever writing contest, we asked you to tell us about the most memorable trip with Fido. First, second and third place winners shared over $1,800 in succulent prizes, while five door prizes were awarded to runners up. Checkout Jul/Aug 2011 issue to read Grand Prize Winner, Sunny Kaplan’s story.

Five Door Prize Winners (Selected at random):

  • Priscilla Berggren-Thomas, who won the Earthbath line of green tea all natural dog grooming products (retail value $58.95).
  • Laura Dorfman, who won Gangs of New Yorkie personalized collar (value $30).
  • Steve Asmussen, who won a one-year subscription to FIDO Friendly magazine.
  • Sharon Gilbert, who won a Solvit Dog Safety Harness (retail price range $18.99 to $34.99 depending on size).
  • Lisa Darling, who won a one-night stay-over to Inn by the Sea in Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

Second and third place winning essays along with our five door prize winners selected at random appear below…

SECOND PLACE
The Trip Before the Storm
By Jill Schilp

They are the days you never forget. Their images are burned in your heart forever.

In September 2008, we were scheduled for our annual family vacation at a beach house in Galveston, Texas with Max, our Golden Retriever. We loved Max, and we loved Galveston. Max was one of those special, once in a lifetime dogs. He taught us so much about love, survival, and grace. On that September trip, Max and Galveston taught me their most important lesson.

Our romance with Galveston began years ago. We admired the Gulf city because she was a survivor. She was a bountiful, colorful, historic town that gracefully endured through tumultuous natural and economic challenges. As we returned each summer to Galveston, her renewal through the years reminded us that the struggle to survive and overcome adversity brings its own poignant and redemptive grace. This year, Galveston beckoned us once again. It was time to enjoy our favorite dog in our favorite city.

Max was 14 years old that summer and his health was failing. As September came, our vacation grew closer. Max seemed to slow down even more. We worried if Max would be up to making the trip. The long, steep, stairs to the beach house were difficult for us. They seemed impossible for an aging Golden with bad hips. Should we go?

Dogs live in the moment. We knew Max was never more alive than when he was being a beach dog. We needed to give him one more run on the beach, one more time to sit in his favorite place on the porch, and one more time to chase gulls on the beach. We decided to go to Galveston. No dog would be left behind who loved us and the beach that much.

As we pulled into the beach house driveway that brilliant September afternoon, Max seemed transformed. His ears went up. He stood erect. We marveled as he bounded up the long stairs to claim his position on the beach house porch. He was a young dog again. The next evening, I walked with Max along the gulf shore as the day was ending. The evening felt tranquil, calm and still. It seemed to be a perfect place and time. Max seemed restored to youthful vigor. He was a beautiful, vibrant and strong golden retriever, majestically walking the Gulf shore with the evening breezes embracing him and my love surrounding him.

Galveston felt more alive than ever on that evening. Her sights, colors, smell and gulf breezes, seemed richer, better, more intense, than ever before. I sensed, for some reason, Galveston was playing us a special, sweet Gulf symphony to create a moment of perfect splendor. I heard her song and succumbed once again to Galveston’s charms.

Max seemed to hear the music too. With new energy, he began a spirited dance down the beach. I saw that he had spotted a gull overhead against the Gulf sky. Watching Max, I marveled at the plume of his feathered tail that preceded me, held high and proud. It was wagging and waving as if to herald the arrival of the sunset.

Suddenly, Max stopped. He turned around just once. He sat a moment, looked at me, and then flashed me his famous, silly, golden retriever grin. Then he trotted on, as if dancing in step to the sound of Galveston’s song. I knew I would hold that moment and its memory forever, etched on my heart.

Later that week, Hurricane Ike came ashore and devoured Galveston Island.

When it first appeared that Hurricane Ike might come ashore, a mandatory evacuation was ordered for our area in the west end of Galveston. Our family and Max evacuated the beach house and abruptly ended our vacation. Ike’s fury later hit Galveston County for approximately eighteen hours, at times bringing winds of more than 100 miles per hour. In the days to come, the storm surge would flood eighty percent of Galveston. The island once again had been asked to endure and survive. But just as in the great flood of 1900, Galveston was battered, not beaten. Galveston’s recovery would stand once again as a model of enduring resilience through life’s storms.

Max also would have many storms to endure over the next months. His painful and gallant battle with cancer finally ended. He died a few months after we returned. Max had found joy in each moment until the end of his life. He lived his Golden life to the fullest.

Max and Galveston were never more alive than that day before the storm on that Galveston beach. Max and Galveston showed me that the beauty and grace of a person or place were never left behind. They are with us forever and remain in our hearts. On that trip, Max showed me the spirit of a life well lived. He taught me the grace that comes from loving each other in the times we share together. We must live in those moments. We can endure by seeing and holding the beauty of those places and times regardless of what future storms we must weather.

Max’s gallant sprit and Galveston’s resilience and charm are with me each time I walk along that Galveston shore. It is a place I love and to which I will always return. When I do, I often look out at the Galveston sunset and see a single gull fly by, as if a big, silly, smiling Golden is still chasing her.

Jill Schilp is a retired nurse. She is a community volunteer with DFW Metro Golden Retriever Rescue and several other animal welfare groups. She lives in Texas with her husband and their 3 year old Golden retriever, Junior. Jill and Junior often walk together on the Galveston beach.

 

THIRD PLACE
Puppy Love Honeymoon
By Peggy Frezon

I’ll just say it straight out: although I’d dreamed of my honeymoon often, I never imagined anything—not any part of it—involving our three-month-old Dalmatian puppy.

Like most brides, I pictured an intimate getaway—even if we were just driving a few hours away, the travel there would still be part of the romantic journey. On the day of the wedding, however, our puppysitter backed out on us. No one else seemed willing to step in. Board our baby in a kennel? We didn’t have the heart. So, our honeymoon became a trip for hubby and me and spotted puppy makes three.

Mike and I picked up our last-minute passenger at my father’s condominium, where he’d been waiting in the bedroom. He’d eaten my shoes.

“Not off to a good start, Schuyler,” I said.

Throughout the two-hour drive from Vermont to Montreal, Schuyler whined in his crate in the back. We pulled over to take him out for a walk. Again. And again. Three month old puppies don’t have the best bladder control.

Then a surprise storm brought snow and ice pelting the highway. We inched along in blizzard conditions. Gripping the wheel, Mike’s knuckles turned as white as the falling flakes. When Schuyler’s whines forced us to make another stop, I slogged through frigid drifts up to my knees. Finally we reached the border to Canada. We were almost there. Things were bound to improve now.

A border officer peered into our car. “May I see your immunization records?”

“Oh dear, I didn’t know I’d need them. I’m sure I’m up to date, though,” I stammered. “I just had a check-up.”

“Not yours. The dog’s.” The officer scowled.

Schuyler scratched at his crate door. Mike smiled at the officer hopefully. “Oh, he’s had his puppy shots, but we don’t have the papers with us.” He laughed lightly. “Strangely enough, we weren’t planning on bringing our dog on our honeymoon.”

It didn’t matter. The officer wasn’t interested. “He needs a rabies shot,” the man said.

“But our dog’s not old enough yet,” Mike replied. “He’s scheduled for one at 16 weeks.”

“Get him a rabies shot, or you can’t take the dog across the border.”

I shuddered a bit. That officer was intimidating. I glanced back at our puppy. Poor Schuyler, it wasn’t his fault. The officer gave us directions to a veterinarian about 5 miles back in Vermont. There was nothing else to do but turn around.

We considered giving up and going home, but the driving was treacherous, and the two hour trip back would surely take at least twice that long. Besides, Montreal was only a stone’s throw away, if only we could get across that border!

Happy to be out of the car, Schuyler bounded into the vet’s office. “Is the rabies shot harmful this early?” I asked. The veterinarian assured us it was okay. He very kindly administered the immunization, and very kindly charged us an exorbitant fee for his services.

“What a con,” Mike grumbled under his breath, counting out the bills. That veterinarian had a sweet deal being located so close to the border. Finally, we arrived at a pet-friendly hotel. Well, to be clear, the hotel allowed pets, but the experience was far from friendly. No special amenities in the room, no designated place to walk your dog. Once again, I climbed over mountainous drifts, Schuyler and I blazing a trail in the deep snow.

Back in the room, I changed into a slinky black dress to go out to dinner. We’d managed a passing glimpse of the dining room on the way in, and it looked inviting. Mike buttoned his new blue dress shirt. “We’ll be back,” he told Schuyler, scratching our pup’s ears. Schuyler looked at us with sad eyes. The minute we left the room, he started crying. As we made our way down the hall, the whines turned to torturous barks.

“We can’t leave him barking like that,” I said. “We’ll get kicked out.”

Dinner that night? You guessed it; room service, with an extra burger for Schuyler. And our wedding night was certainly cozy, as Schuyler squeezed his chubby little body between us and snored peacefully. We headed back home the next morning. What was the point? And yet, as we traveled along the winter-white roads, I couldn’t help smiling. At the next pit stop, Mike threw a snowball. I threw one back. Schuyler jumped; monkey in the middle. The three of us romped and played together until we were nearly frozen.

I let Schuyler join us in the front seat of the parked car as we sipped takeout cups of cocoa from a nearby restaurant. He wriggled until he found just the right position. Mike and I held hands. I rubbed my thumb across the smooth gold of my wedding band.

At that moment, I was glad we'd brought Schuyler. Everything was perfect; just being there together with the wonderful man I’d married, and our warm spotted puppy with his full, round belly, snuggled up on the car seat between us. I wouldn’t have dreamed it, but yes, it was romantic.

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