Happy Birthday Paladin!


Our Handsome Birthday Boy

Today is my big buddy boy’s 11th birthday.  Of course the number of years is a vet’s best guess, and the date is one that I arbitrarily picked as being appropriate for a big Irish lad.  But we are celebrating his 11th birthday today nonetheless.

All dogs are of course special, but Pal is especially so.  Now before I get ahead of myself, let us go back to the beginning – a place that many good stories start from.

Back then, my father and I were volunteering as foster parents for an Irish Setter rescue organization.  Our family’s association with Irish Setters goes back many years, as described in some detail in my post “The Saga of Cement Sue”.  Dad & I had fostered 9 dogs in the space of 2 years.  Then I got the call to pick up number 10.  The story I was told was that this big red boy had walked up to the Humane Society in Kankakee, IL.  The staff at the shelter had watched him walk down the road with a Collie at his side.  The two walked straight up to the front door of the shelter, and sat down politely to wait.  The staff found ID tags on the Collie and contacted the owner saying “we have your dogs here.”  The owner responded that he only had one dog, a Collie and didn’t know anything about an Irish Setter.  Based on his condition, the vet at the shelter estimated that this big boy had been on his own for about six months.  The shelter got in touch with our rescue group.  Arrangements were made for a volunteer to pick him up from the shelter and transport him north to New Buffalo, MI where I would pick him up and take him to our home for fostering.

When the volunteers arrived at our rendezvous point they came in one of those really big crew cab pick-up trucks.  This big 90 pound dog in the back of the cab looked quite frightened at the prospects of leaping to the ground from such a height.  I reached in and picked up the big lug in my arms and set him gently on the ground.  His big brown eyes communicated to me as clearly as could be “Thank you, that was a scary prospect.”


Look at those ears!

At this point I got my first good luck at this handsome lad.  He had such a noble countenance, with big brown eyes that you could swim in, and such long graceful ears.  He was simply the most handsome Irish Setter that I had ever seen.

As was my usual practice when transporting a foster dog home, we drove immediately to the closest fast food outlet, in this case a McDonald’s franchise, for a treat before starting the drive home.  When we arrived at the Magic Window, I got my first view of this master flirt in action.  He immediately went head and shoulders out the window, with no shame about standing on me to accomplish his goal.  The girl working the window was immediately taken with him and started petting him and whispering sweet nothings to him.  As we drove away, breaking the poor girl’s heart, I handed him a cheeseburger.  Again those communicative eyes spoke plainly and said “Thank you, this is the most wonderful, magical thing ever!”

On the drive back to Spring Lake I decided to name him after the hero of my late grandfather’s favorite TV show “Have Gun Will Travel”.  And so this boy became Paladin.

When we got home, Pal & Sue greeted each other, and Sue in her magical way let him know that this was her house and that she was the alpha dog.  Pal seemed OK with that, and performed a quick scout of the house.  He returned to stand in front of the living room sofa and look up and down the length of the couch.  Then he looked over at Dad.  Back to up and down the couch, and then back to Dad.  My father said “You can get up there if you want.” and Pal was instantly up on the couch and settled in like he belonged.

I was head over heels in love with this boy, but trying to be a good foster parent, I worked towards the goal of getting him adopted out to the right family.  Then one day Dad said, “We should keep this boy, he is on the same schedule as me – breakfast, then a nap, lunch, then a nap, supper, then a nap, bedtime snack, and then off to bed.”  And that was all it took, Pal was home.

Over the next few weeks, we learned how smart Pal was – he can open door knobs, that he was a total garbage hound – able to retrieve food scraps from any receptacle, and that he was a superb lady’s man – he would push his head into their legs, then roll his head up so that he was looking in their eyes and they would totally melt.  We also became aware of what a gentle giant he was, able to maneuver around Dad, without toppling him or his walker over.

While Pal was King of the Couch at home, we soon learned that at the Dog Park he was the Park Policeman.  Pal will not tolerate aggressive behavior in his vicinity.  If two dogs are behaving aggressively in the slightest degree, Pal will insert himself between them.  If that doesn’t settle the situation, Pal will rest his head on the aggressor’s back.  And if that doesn’t settle it, then Pal will push the aggressor over on to his back.  He may be the gentlest giant ever, but when his dander is up, you don’t mess with Big Pal.

Pal was a happy boy, and very content in his home.  But changes were in the wind.  In my initial conversation with Linda about moving to Durham, the first question I asked her was “Do you have a couch for Pal?”  Of course she had multiple couches for Pal, and she understood why that would be such a high priority to me.


Pal loves kissing his Mamma!

It shouldn’t have surprised me how much Pal loves his new home.  He has his new Mamma, Linda.  His greatest pleasure is walking up on her as she sits at her computer and kissing her face for as long as she will tolerate it.  And it isn’t just at her desk – he’ll happily kiss on her no matter where she is, even in the water at the beach.

I’m sorry big buddy, but I don’t know how to convey in words how special you are.  I am just so glad that you chose to be a big part of my family – and I hope that you know how much both Linda & I love you.  Happy Birthday Pal!


Setter Halloween Costume Contest

Save Our Setters is holding their annual Halloween Costume Contest.  If you have an Irish Setter, Gordon Setter, English Setter, or Irish Red & White Setter then you are eligible to enter.  The prize for the winner is a $30 on-line pet supply coupon.  Check out the details here.

We would enter, but neither SUE or LILLY will tolerate wearing a costume.  So you won’t face any competition from our girls!

Stop by the site and check out the previous winners.


I’ll post a reminder when the voting begins so that you can all vote for the bestest Setter.


Jim, Sweet SUE, & Miss LILLY

Angel’s Gate Animal Hospice

I wandered across this at the Angel’s Gate Hospice site.  It touched me, and I wanted to share it with as many animal lovers as I could.  Please visit their site, and thank them for posting this.

Animal Hospice Guidelines
1. Be present and be in the moment with me.
In the moment of now we will write the final
chapter of my life.
Your presence is everything. Listen to me
with your heart.
2. I have a right to compassionate, considerate,
respectful care. Choose for me a veterinarian
who will honor me physically, emotionally
and spiritually. One who will listen to you
because you are my advocate and no one loves
me as you do.
Choose a veterinarian who will offer her or
his wisdom so that you can make informed decisions
regarding my care.
3. Keep me free from pain and symptoms so that
I may enjoy my day and the precious time I
have left with you.
Seek to understand the different types of
pain I may have. Look for enthusiasm in my
eyes as a gage.
Celebrate my life with me till the very end!
4. Keep me well nourished so that my body will
have the fortitude that it needs to fight
disease and energy to function.
Offer me my favorite foods to entice me to
eat but honor my decision, should I choose
not to eat.
5. Keep me well hydrated; for this will keep
me in balance with the universe.
6. Keep me warm and comfortable. I will need
to be bathed more frequently-maybe several
times a day. My favorite bed and blanket gives
me security and lets me feel safe. I want
to smell fresh air and to feel the warmth
of the sun on my face.
I want to hear the softness of your voice
reassuring me of my importance in your life.
7. Let me stay active and continue to be a
part of the family I love so dearly. I want
to go for rides in the car, and long walks
on the beach, and snuggle with you on the
couch while we watch TV. Keep fun in our day.
8. Touch me. Your loving hands have fed me,
played with me, comforted me and now give
me strength. Linger just a little longer as
you scratch my ear. Your touch lets me know
you are there and gives me assurance that
you care.
9. Give me permission to leave- I need to hear
those words from you- I need to know you will
be OK. Let me go.
Know it is my time even if it seems like it
is too soon. Support me as I take my final
10. If there comes a time when you know that
I am suffering please euthanize me. I trust
that you will always make the right decision
for me for I am the blood of your heart. Be
with me- I want you to be my last vision.
11. As there has been great joy in our life
together now let there be joy in my passing.
Cherish and be thankful for our happy moments
together. Promise to keep my memory alive
in all you do everyday.

PEPPER’s Success

Our foster girl PEPPER is happy in her new forever home.  She has made huge strides (pun intended) since her surgery.

As a “Thank You” to everybody who contributed to her success, and to show the amazing results of her surgery, I made a quick video to show her new found four-legged walking skills.  Most of this was shot in her new backyard with her new family.

Thanks to everybody who contributed to her success and her new happy life!

CODIE JOE Is Waiting For His New Family

Dont you just love this face?

Don't you just love this face?

Our special little foster boy, CODIE JOE is waiting for his new forever family to find him.  CODIE has been with us since mid-October.  He is an amazing little fellow with a glistening coat that looks like well-oiled mahogany.  He is crate-trained and housebroken.

He loves to play, but only if you initiate it.  He enjoys being outside in all kinds of weather, just playing by himself and checking out the world at large.  When he plays, he bounces like Tigger in the Winnie the Pooh cartoons.  He bounces circles around SUE when they are playing together.

When he isn’t playing, he is either in his crate napping or looking for somebody to snuggle with.  I made a little adoption video for him, based on a poetry reading I did on my old WGHN radio show for Thanksgiving Day, 2007.

If you’ve got room in your home and your heart for this special little guy, you can adopt CODIE from Save Our Setters.  He is patiently waiting for the perfect forever family to find him.

CODIE is waiting - for you?

CODIE is waiting - for you?

Prop it up…

CODIE JOE is ready for adoption!



Our latest foster boy, CODIE JOE, who we are fostering for Save Our Setters, is ready for adoption.

CODIE is a great boy! He has the most beautiful coat I have ever seen. It absolutely glistens, like oiled mahogany. He is well mannered, very calm and contained, and is a super love bug. This may be the hardest one of the bunch for us to give up, but he really should be in a home where he is the number one treasured pet. Not because of any dominance issues, but simply because he is that special a boy.

keep reading…

How Could You?

I’ve seen this floating around the internet for quite some time.  And I couldn’t help but think of this a week ago when I picked up HUNTER from the shelter.  But today was the first time I’ve seen this piece with its proper attribution.  So, now I’m sharing it with you, just in case you haven’t seen it before.  This essay is copyright the author, Jim Willis.

keep reading…