Meet ‘Twix’ – New Service Dog and Family Member

Hi everyone! Below are some “firsts” and an introduction to my new sweet “Twix”.

A big shout out of thanks to Canine Assistants, a fabulous organization that brings joy and life to many individuals and families!

During our week of camp ten of us who all had previous Canine Assistants were individually paired with several dogs. It’s amazing how the dogs “pick” their recipient!

Below: Twix and I meet on Monday, the first day of camp. Our class was all second and third time service dog recipients.

First meeting with Twix

Tuesday all the recipients were matched with their dog! We traveled to our hotels or our homes together for the first time!


Class continued through Saturday. Outings to restaurants and shopping areas acclimated us to each other.


TWIX the service dog

Our first family photo together!

Family Photo

Our first Saturday frolicking in the backyard – after class it was a great stress reliever! Doesn’t he look happy?

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On our first Sunday together we went to Costco and Brent gave me this box of candy lest we forget his name! Twix came from the “Candy-themed” litter!


And then on Monday we went for a long walk in the cold weather, played in the backyard, then I fell out of my chair and broke my legs! It’s put a damper on some of our learning together but strengthened our bond and relationship.

Thank You Tahoe – The Life and Death of My Service Dog


 My heart is torn as I reflect on the life and death of my service dog, Tahoe.  A devoted family member full of cheer, comfort and amusement, he was a gift from God and no words can fully express the deep bond we shared.


Tahoe picked up my phone…again and again

As  a service dog he helped me with important tasks like picking up cash, keys or my phone and  the countless objects I frequently dropped!   His face lit up and paws pitter-pattered across the wood floor any time he heard something fall. Laughter, silliness and joy flowed as we threw rubbery indestructible ‘Kong’ toys for what seemed like hours each day.  Linked together, literally 24 x 7, we became part of each other.  We knew we were meant to be together the moment we met seven years ago.  After pairing with other potential canine companions ready for a forever home and forever companion, the search for the unquestionable ‘perfect match’ was over on that cool March day at Canine Assistants Recipient Training Camp. Tahoe nuzzled against my thigh and gently jumped on my lap and although we barely knew each other, our hearts solidly linked.


Saying hello. Moments after we met, we knew we were meant to be together.

After 13 years with Murray, my prior canine assistant,  I had no idea what was in store with Tahoe.

I didn’t know a creature could be so inherently sweet and outrageously affectionate, nor did I realize that not only would I need him, but he would need me and my husband desperately. He loved with passion and overtly needed safety and  acceptance.  He opened  his heart to everyone, but longed for our devoted, tight-knit family. Inspired by his transparent neediness and vulnerability, our hearts and our ministry grew.


First time in my van.

The immeasurable love exuded by Tahoe melted any hard heart. Attractive eyes, smile and soft fur made adventures with him purposeful. People lit up and opened hearts to Tahoe with just a glimpse.  Often children and adults asked to pet and visit with him for stress relief and comradery.  Hyper-sensitive to emotions, he knew how to comfort. On the flip-side, he showed  his emotional needs openly.

Perhaps we fostered his insecurities, but I believe they were part of what made him so special. He reminded me a bit of the character Adrian on the television show Monk. He was afraid of balloons, crowds, loud noises, anything hanging from the ceiling, thunder, loud trucks, rocking chairs and crowded aisles in a clothing store.   The Golden Labrador retriever was afraid of swimming when we first got him! We taught him to swim. Of course he loved it once he learned.  Despite all his quirks and undoubtedly because of them we had an incredible full life with him!


Tahoe loved travel to mountains of Colorado…

Bravely, he was happy to jump on a plane, go on long journeys in the van, ride the subway, stay in dozens of hotels, visit many camps and classes full of kids. His affection buzzed  as a dozen toddlers simultaneously touched him.

Memories of fun times with Tahoe live in our hearts, in photos and videos. One of my favorite trips with Tahoe was to the wonderful dog park in Amelia Island. Occasionally he enjoyed a run with the other dogs but he wasn’t interested in them – he wanted to play with us and his floating Kong in the doggie swimming pool.


A rainy downpour didn’t phase us as we admired Roosevelt and his pup in Washington DC.

I hate that his life had to end in a hospital room. There was beeping, barking and whining during his hospital stay.  He tolerated it like a champ. He felt so bad it broke our hearts. Every time we left him to let the caregivers tend to him we would return to a sad story of decline. For three days each time we gathered hopes we were stunned with nothing but negative news.

Tahoe laid quietly on the floor or on the gurney and seemed so peaceful – if you didn’t see his IV or his tired face his illness was invisible…he looked sleepy. Three days of medications and care led to decline after decline. One of the saddest,  bittersweet moments was when we got close to his face.  He made the effort to give us a peculiar kiss. We always laughed about his rough ‘cat-like’ tongue that could take skin off, but in the hospital, his kisses were soft and velvety, much like that of our former dogs, but not at all like our Tahoe. The muscles in his body from his paws to his tongue were declining each day.  Myasthenia Gravis ravaged his body with persistent progression.  This autoimmune disease caused his nerves and muscles to lose connectivity and showed no mercy other than it’s aggressive, short-lived suffering.

Late Sunday night, a week after symptoms started and three days after our hospital admission, we realized we did not want him to suffer any longer when were asked to leave while they cleaned him and he needed resuscitation as he choked during the process. We wished we had been there to comfort him.  He was a trooper, never whiny, just obviously sad and confused.  He knew something was very wrong.


Goodbye Tahoe – minister, friend, companion, helper, ambassador, comedian, family, playmate, comforter. We love you.

We spent our last hours together cuddling and talking to him and loving on him and telling him how uniquely special he was to us. We cried and cried some more – he even licked our tears with his soft tongue.  Then we said our final goodbyes.  He was so peaceful. He looked so perfect, innocent and loving.


‘If you feel like giving me a lifetime of devotion – I second that emotion.’ Thank you Jesus, for such a faithful and kind friend.

We are forever thankful for seven wonderful years with Tahoe.  It’s been over three months since he died and as we prepare for a new young service dog full of life and energy, we continue to grieve in the most healthy ways we know.  Nervous and excited we anticipate a new family member.
No pup will ever replace our precious Tahoe and will certainly have big paws to fill, but we have hearts full of love to share with a new forever furry friend.
We love and honor our Tahoe.  Our heart aches in his absence. Shortly, our home will hear the pitter-patter of paws again. I think we’re ready… I hope we’re ready.


Dog Days At Our House

puppy post of JuneIt is time for a puppy fix. Hot summer days require refreshing water nearby. June is our neighbor’s precious golden retriever pup.

puppy post from CAThis is one of Canine Assistants’ puppies. I imagine Tahoe looked much like this pup…wish we had early photos of him.

another puppy post from CAPirelli was born at Canine Assistants without a foot and is now 11Alive’s morning mascot. Certainly Tahoe was this cute as an older pup. Wish I had pictures of him at this age.

puppy post with neighborsTahoe meets neighbor ‘June Bug’ for the first time. He loves other pups…as long as they don’t interfere with his meals or play time. After all, he’s the one who gets to go everywhere.

puppy post with friends from churchTahoe loves children and helps them overcome canine fears.

puppy post with davis girls

…and he loves more darling little visitors.

Hooper, a friend’s golden doodle, recently stayed with us for several days and decided to dominate and take over the bed. He’s a snuggler and almost makes Tahoe jealous.

Zeek, a neighbor’s German Shepherd, loves Brent’s attention when he comes to the Williams hotel. Yes, Tahoe is patient with company and his dog whispering dad.

Our nieces visited for a week and when we were waiting for their departing flight Tahoe was sad and needed comfort. See how he suffers.

Leah gives love as she says good-bye. She has a special bond with Tahoe.

Now that all the company is gone, at least for a few days, Tahoe just wants to go inside…run to the backyard…

…. play some Kong

…and happily go to bed with mom and dad and no visiting dogs, kids, friends or cousins.

Happy dog days from our house to yours. -Madge

The Best Dog Park

When we go out of town we look for nearby dog parks where Tahoe can freely run and enjoy some playtime. As we rolled in to the parking lot of Nassau Humane Society Dog Park in Amelia Island, we had no idea that Tahoe would enjoy the best dog park we have ever visited.

It took less than a minute for Tahoe to make his way to the pool.  Such a happy dog. “Why don’t you come in, mom?”

“Okay, while I’d rather play with mom and dad, I’ll cautiously check out the the other dogs!”

There are nice benches and tables under grand oak trees for human parents.

Tahoe prefers to play with mom and dad over other dogs with few exceptions! He sure loved to swim in between fetching his Kong across the large grassy fenced-in field.

A moment for a happy family photo opportunity. We came to the park every morning after breakfast.

Tahoe habitually dropped his Kong in to the deep end and waited for Brent to fish it out with a net. After Brent was forced to wade waist high to retrieve Tahoe’s Kong we went to Petco and bought a floating Kong to use for the remainder of our trip! See Tahoe in the background just waiting to run for the Kong again!

Tahoe wasn’t a fan of doggie diving and enjoyed the floating orange Kong.

At 60 lbs, Tahoe qualifies as a ‘Big’ dog! There was a separate agility training area fully equipped with tunnels and jumps!

When you are on your way out, stop for a quick bath in one of four bathing areas. Complimentary shampoo, conditioner and towels are available in case you forget your own.

This black lab named Goose was our favorite doggie friend. He entertained us by diving for toys and he and Brent were instantly best buds. Ashly, we are still his godparents, right?

Say goodbye..until next time.