The Harrells: Humans, Hounds, Horses

Linsey (Yellow Labrador)

July 22, 1994 - May 2, 2007

cayli photo Cayli and Linsey were an inseparable pair, so much of Linsey's life is captured in Cayli's memorial (and vice versa). There are so many Linsey stories that we don't want to forget the many ways she made us laugh and have tried to capture them here as a tribute to the "zest" she added to our lives. Some dog trainers would note that we were too lenient with her and she sure did a good job of training us - but that was our choice and we had so much fun together in almost 13 wonderful years.

Years 1 and 2
Our little Linsey Love was a monster of a puppy! After raising 2 easy puppies in '92 and '93, we just weren't expecting such an energetic and destructive terror. But Cayli adored her and her antics made us laugh even when Linsey re-landscaped the backyard by digging up the pansies (we have a classic photo with a pansy in Linsey's mouth and a clear "who me?" expression), jumping into the bird fountain and knocking over the statue, and chewing-up a new drip irrigation system. She had us scared when she broke through the living room picture window panes (we replaced the window with near bullet-proof glass). Linsey had so much enthusiasm she didn't just walk through the snow when we took her to Kirkwood but rather bounded/porpoised through it. Photos of her running around the backyard showed our "Flying Linsey" as a blur, who would eventually wear out and drop into a ball to sleep and apparently recharge her energizer batteries. Somehow, around her 2nd birthday, Linsey woke up to be a very good dog for the next 11 years (with still occasional laughs stored up her sleeves).

She was our first yellow Lab after 2 chocolates, and such a cute puppy in looks and personality. Linsey seemed to have lots of skin to grown into and didn't mind when we did sharpei impersonations with all her extra skin folds on her head. She also impersonated a Dalmatian one day after playing in the mud. It was amazing how dirty our lighter colored dog could get, but such fun to have another blonde in the family to match Mommy since we already had a brunette to take after Daddy.

The expressive food hound
Linsey was very motivated by food and made sure we remembered all the important food routines of the day. She would sit in front of Mommy first (who eats quickly) and then Daddy with long strands of drool until she got the expected pizza crust tid-bit or the like. Or anticipate the times of the day that she got treats - she would sit and look at her people then cookie jar and back until we remembered what happened next. Linsey learned lots of tricks-for-treats and always had her ambidextrous "shake" ready. Our pet sitter accurately described the Linsey-patented "foot-stomping meal dance" that she performed before every breakfast and dinner. And when we would walk to the garage with her "goodbye biscuit", Linsey would "dance" backwards the entire way to make sure she didn't lose sight of the treat. Even drinking water got Linsey excited and she would run to any fountain, bowl, pond, etc with her tail wagging the entire time she drank (we were sure her tail was connected to tongue).

We have a large avocado tree in our backyard and Linsey enjoyed avocado season since we couldn't pick them up fast enough (and she defeated all but one of the temporary fences we put up to prevent her avocado binges). We would find the remaining pits in Linsey's favorite places (the vet said the avocados were OK though did add on the pounds). One day we were perplexed that she had found an avocado just after we had picked them up - as she went back for more, we saw her hunting trick of sticking her head in the camellia bushes under the big tree where she could smell fallen avocados that we couldn't see! We would take avocados away from Linsey when we saw her munching and give her a dog treat instead. Linsey quickly decided she liked the "trade game" especially when there were only small/green ones or she had eaten enough already - she would bring us an avocado and drop it in our lap looking meaningfully at it to make sure we understood its "barter value". Linsey wasn't as fond of other fruits, but was always willing to give them a try. So when the apples were close enough to the ground in her Harrell grandparent's backyard, we saw her jump up to pick one off the tree. Perhaps she thought the apple was eligible for trading as well.

Sometimes she couldn't help but be bad if we left something unattended and within reach, and Linsey figured the crime was worth the punishment for KFC and birthday cake. Granddad Jeffries always had goodies in his trunk when visiting our Jackson place, so was it any wonder that Linsey ran right out to greet him?! Grandmother Harrell's kitchen was a favorite place to visit and Linsey's perfected begging face usually got her some yummy meat scrapes - such a symbiotic relationship when Neta found someone who never refused seconds, thirds, fourths, etc! The only food she didn't eat was one containing pills. Linsey was an expert at finding hidden pills and we had to get creative with countless ways to hide the pills she had to take in her later years (cheese of various types, peanut butter slices, breads, hotdogs, and the best was sausages)

The great communicator
Linsey was so expressive and let us know exactly what she was thinking. When we were driving near her favorite park or pond, she'd get up and start pacing between windows to make sure we knew to stop, often adding some "hurry up, Dad!" whines until we got there. Linsey let us know what she thought about our annual Christmas photos through many funny out-takes of sneezes and other facial expressions (while Cayli patiently and dutifully posed for the photos). Linsey tried to get the silly bow off her sister in the year we did elasticized bows around their necks which we fortunately caught before it snapped back on Cayli. And the year Amigo was nosing Linsey trying to get her off the straw bale he thought was food until she showed her canines to remind him who was predator and who was prey! Linsey did a lot of communication to other animals - she was an avid marker (especially for a female) leaving "p-mail" every few minutes for her friends to find out the latest doggie gossip. We liked to think of her as the supervisor of our Jackson projects - we have many photos of her looking at various phases of construction and even added her paw print of approval in our garage concrete (OK we helped and are anthropomorphizing a bit on this one ;). One of our favorite Jackson memories with our girls is their last year when Cayli couldn't walk to the pond any longer so rode in the ATV "chariot" trailer. Linsey watched Cayli ride for months and then decided she was tired of running alongside the ATV so put her paws up on the trailer tires asking to ride along with Cayli.

Living life to the fullest
Linsey had such an exuberant spirit and bold sense of adventure. Sometime this would get her in trouble but usually resulted in near misses that made us laugh after we knew she was OK - Cayli was always dependably by our sides saying she couldn't be her sister's keeper. For example, we were visiting friends on the Oregon coast taking a nice walk with all our dogs exploring the sights and smells. Linsey completely surprised us when she leaped off a ledge and went rolling down about 15' of sandy slope. She was fine but it was a trick getting her back up to the walking path. And one of the many Jackson visits where Linsey was bounding ahead to explore brought her face to face with a skunk. She was barking ferociously but standing back as the skunk danced around - that's how Troy found them after running to find out what was wrong. Linsey took his firm command seriously, but we're sure told the skunk as she was leaving "I'd tear you to pieces, but my Dad's calling so I have to go right now". Other funny stories also involved her hunting drive. Linsey loved running around a field chasing birds or swimming around a pond after flying bugs - passersby would think she was a nut case darting around as she did (especially if they couldn't see what she was chasing). One walk with her grandparents, Linsey tired herself out so much chasing birds that she just stopped and lay down on a neighbor's lawn to rest awhile before going home. Her favorite game was to slowly inch-by-inch stalk and then full-speed chase squirrels at the park. Imagine her surprise when she was chasing one squirrel and another ran out in her path - it's the only time she caught one but didn't think it was fair that the squirrel bit her in the lip (the squirrel got away and she redoubled her stalking efforts). Linsey never was fast enough to catch the prey but she loved the chase and would gang up with her sister when the opportunity came up (instinct is amazing to witness). Like when the foolish rabbit got trapped in our wire-mesh arena in Jackson - our girls had a great time trying to catch him, but he finally made it out the gate unharmed. It's a good thing we provided food since our Labs wouldn't make it in the wild.

She had much better luck with inanimate objects. Linsey loved to scavenge the already-dead deer on our Jackson property. Our "great white hunter" would come prancing back to us with all sorts of bones includes a set of antlers she was very proud of! Linsey was very wary of one strange creature on our Jackson ranch - a Styrofoam alligator head with moving eyes we left floating in the pond after a bad duck infestation. She couldn't figure out what the beast was doing in her pond so she walked around the pond several times staring at it, then swam progressively closer circling it until she was close enough that she bit "Al" on the nose! That satisfied her curiosity and "Al" was allowed to continue his guard duty in her pond.

(Skip this paragraph if your stomach is sensitive!) Linsey had a very active nose that frequently was twitching or getting her in trouble. In Linsey's book, the stinkier the better! Of our 3 Labs, Linsey was the one most likely to find the stinky spot in the park and roll in it. During our winter Kirkwood trips, Linsey was fascinated with the sleigh horses and the steaming piles they left behind. She found one of these piles just before we loaded up to go home, and puked it up in the car for our long trip home. What grossed me out the most though was the after-basketball ritual where Troy would take off his sweaty socks and Linsey would go nuts licking his feet - eeeew!

Favorite fun
Linsey played with her many dog toys and her favorite game was tug-o-war. She'd throw her whole body into the tugs game, and we have favorite photos and videos of Linsey thrashing back-and-forth to get the rope away from Cayli. We often held a tug toy for Linsey in one hand while throwing the ball for Cayli with the other hand. Linsey fetched occasionally (especially when carrying the toy/stick back with her sister), but thought tackling Cayli or stealing the toy from her sister much more entertaining. Cayli was such a saint and would retrieve whatever item had been dropped when something more interesting grabbed Linsey's attention.

Though Linsey found the "retrieving" part of being a Lab too mundane, she showed her breed when it came to swimming! She took to water like a duck and would even leave a wake when she was really motoring. Linsey had swimming races with her Dad who ended up with red scratches on his back if Linsey caught him. The 5 Shasta houseboating trips we took with our girls during their prime was Linsey's idea of heaven with swimming just outside the door all day/night. She was up and down the first night of her first trip going for moonlight swims and drinking half the lake (which necessitated getting up again for more swimming, drinking, peeing in a couple of hours). She played in water wherever she could from mud puddles at the park or splashing in creeks or swimming in lakes/ocean. True to her breed's calling, Linsey didn't mind how cold the water was and in Kirkwood springtime would jump in the melted snow ponds and climb upon the icebergs - brrr!

Cuddle and sleep time
We will always think of Linsey as our cuddly 85-lb lap dog with velvety soft ears. She loved being petted anytime, anywhere and would turn her belly up for a rub with her tail happily wagging. Linsey especially loved getting her face/ears rubbed when itchy from allergies and would boldly rub her head between a person's legs (surprising some guys!) and then position her butt in perfect position for her butt-scratching boogie. She loved to cuddle up with Cayli too, and we have many pictures of our girls sharing a crate, dog bed, car seat, or couch and often using each other as pillows. Linsey enjoyed all attention and didn't even mind the various nephews/nieces/cousins who did full body hugs lying down on top of her. And in her senior years when I was working at home, Linsey would spend the day at my feet keeping me company and providing needed stress-relief.

Linsey made us laugh even when she was sleeping. She had the most active dreams of any of our girls and we would watch her run miles in them sometimes even adding "woofs" or mouth movements like suckling and showing her canines. Linsey loved her crate and would put herself to bed in it when she was tired. Another favorite Linsey story also was when she was asleep - Troy was camping with the girls the first Spring at our Jackson place and the morning was a bit chilly, so Troy woke up to a shivering, teeth-chattering Linsey. He put his sleeping bag over Linsey so she wouldn't be cold. The girls were use to sleeping with us since they were allowed in the mornings on our bed for cuddle time when they were younger. Linsey was notorious for getting between her people and stretching to take up the majority of the space (Cayli of course was politely at our feet). Thus ended the dogs being allowed on the people bed.

Linsey was always putting her flexi-body in odd positions and showed her great joints even through her senior years. She would lie down and prop her head at 90 degrees against a chair leg or other furniture. Or shape her body in an "S" with front legs stretched in one direction and back legs going the other way. Or doing the "splits" with her back legs and belly on the floor like puppies do. And when she sat, she'd often sit so far back that her feet were pointing up. Linsey's great joints meant she had such a beautiful sweeping gait all her life that compared to Cayli's arthritic movement made it seem like she'd be with us for a long time.

Vet frequent flyer
Linsey had wonderful joints but her insides had numerous problems, made more complex by her get-into-trouble nature that taught us to watch her even more carefully. During her younger years she had too many emergency visits for foxtails stuck in throat crypts (we usually caught the nose ones before they were out of sight), an almost case of bloat when she got into the dog food container at Kirkwood, and reaction to anesthesia (dehydrated) and DHLPP/Rabies shots (swelled with hives)! More vet visits for puppy acne and many ear infections that were early indicators of the allergies that would annoy her more as she aged and led to allergy shots, pills, and topicals. Linsey always had a sensitive GI tract and had various episodes throughout her life including giardhia. And then there were all the large fatty bumps, benign wart growths and 2 rounds of malignant cancers that turned her into "frankendoggy" on a few occasions. Linsey was noticeably losing her hearing in her last year, and was mostly deaf near the end when we could sneak into the house without Linsey hearing us (what a guard dog!). It was interesting to see Linsey rely on Cayli as a "hearing guide dog" in their last months.

Her more serious issues started in fall 2006 when Linsey was diagnosed with a worsening condition called "Laryngeal Paralysis" where her larynx was no longer working to open up the throat for breathing (a nice detail in life). She was having increasing episodes where she could barely get enough air whenever she was excited, warm (since dogs cool by panting), or even the slightest exercise. The warm weather made this worse and we thought she was going to asphyxiate before our eyes at one point (not a nice way to go). In December, we found her kidney values were elevated but looked like they were failing slowly enough that we opted for the surgery that ties part of the larynx open -- some risks and complications but increasing problems with breathing meant we didn't have much choice. She was scheduled for surgery the week that Cayli died, so we delayed it and then again due to Linsey's vomiting as we tried to modify her diet for special post-surgical needs. An ultrasound, another medication and diet change finally got Linsey as stable as we could before her breathing got even worse.

But what we feared became a reality -- Linsey contracted aspiration pneumonia 2 weeks after her throat surgery. It's the big risk (25% chance) with an open airway since "stuff" has a higher likelihood of getting into the lungs and the reason we were doing everything we could to prevent her vomiting. Linsey had a crisis on Monday and spent the next 2 days in the hospital but continued to go downhill. We were able to bring her home Wednesday evening for a few hours before the vet came to end her suffering. It was quite a shock to lose Linsey so quickly when she had been bouncing back after surgery and had even gone on 4 very happy walks with us thanks to being able to breathe again. We know we had to do the surgery so can't regret it even though we hit the worst case scenario -- at least she didn't die from traumatic asphyxiation from her worsening airway. We buried Linsey beside her sister a mere 6 weeks after we laid Cayli to rest, so our girls will forever be together.

We intellectually knew we'd probably lose one or both of our old dogs this year but that doesn't make it much easier emotionally to let go of those we love -- it's so frustrating that their lives are so short. And losing them back-to-back was particularly difficult, though we've heard that many pets who have spent most of the lives together 24x7 often die close together. It's been an incredibly difficult 2 months, and our grief is intense losing both of our beloved little girls. Cayli was the sweet loving soul of our family and Linsey was our exuberant joyful spirit, so it is very sad and empty in our home without them. There will never be another pair like these two and we will remember them always with love.