The Puppy who Changed my Life

It was my birthday, circa 2014, when my puppy came home to live with us, and he was the best birthday gift I ever could have hoped for.

My kids and I picked him out at a foster home a few weeks before, but he needed to get all his shots and neutered before we could bring him home. When we went to the foster home to see this litter of Newfoundlands, Odin was the one that came right up to us. He showed us nothing but love from that very first second we met him. It was an easy choice to say this is the puppy we wanted. I had wanted a Newfoundland dog for years, and when I discovered a litter of Newfoundland puppies had been abandoned, and were available for adoption through a local shelter, it was like destiny. 

 Malcolm and Odin the day we met him at the foster home

Malcolm and Odin the day we met him at the foster home

 Regan and Odin. Love at first sight.

Regan and Odin. Love at first sight.

Odin fit right in to our family and I was absolutely smitten with him. He was a difficult puppy, no doubt, but worth the extra effort and training. My family often joked that to Odin, walls were a gourmet delicacy. As a puppy he literally ate drywall and chewed giant holes in the walls! He ruined so many pairs of shoes, and so many clothes, but after his first year home with us that all changed. 

Odin grew quickly into a 140 pound dog and he was unbelievably well trained. For how loyal and sweet he was, you would think I had spent thousands of dollars of fancy training academies. However, all it really took was love and time. Odin was well behaved because he loved us, and we loved him. 

 Odin and his big sister Zombie, July 2014

Odin and his big sister Zombie, July 2014

 Odin quickly grew much larger than his 90 pound sister.

Odin quickly grew much larger than his 90 pound sister.

When I started my weight loss journey, my first step towards success was walking. My other dog Zombie was never great on walks. She pulled and lunged at other dogs. However, Odin absolutely loved walking. He stayed right at my side and would never even so much as try to sniff another dog unless I told him it was okay. 

Walking turned to hiking and Odin and I hiked about six miles a day. I could keep him off leash on the trails and he always stayed close and kept me safe. Though now I have walked past the cows hundreds of times now, at first it scared me to be so close to such large animals. I knew, though, that if Odin was calm I could feel safe. His instincts would kick in if there was ever a reason to feel threatened. 

Odin's favorite past time on our hikes was to swim in the mud. He mad such a huge mess, but he was so funny! 

One night in July of this year, I found myself binge eating. I was stressed about money, and many other things. The next morning I just wanted to get a fresh start on the day and continue my weight loss journey, so I decided I wanted to do a long hike- about ten miles was my plan. It was a hot morning so I packed extra sunscreen and water. Odin had a bowl of water in the car and I brought an extra bottle just for him, because he was a giant black dog. 

On our hike, Odin followed me as he always does. But once we had hiked about four miles, he stopped. He didn't come when I called him- and he always did. I sat on the ground with him and I thought he was having heat stroke so I gave him all the water I had left. I tried to get him in the shade but I couldn't and he couldn't walk. He tried. He tried to walk with me because he was good and loving, but he couldn't.

I ran to get help until my phone had reception and I called 911. The call dropped about ten times but I kept calling back. Finally I got to them, told them where we were, and they sent help. I ran back to Odin only 20 minutes later, but he was dead. 

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Finding him there, knowing he died alone, and thinking it was heat stroke was the most awful feeling I had ever had. I thought of my kids and my husband- how sad they would be. I hated myself for bringing my dog out in the heat. It didn't feel real. I was so confused. I just cried and screamed, and shook.

911 sent the police, parks district, and animal control. The police officers loaded Odin in their truck and drove me back down the trail. They were very caring. Animal control was waiting in the parking area to help. I spent a long time just holding Odin and crying before Animal Control got to look at him. I walked/ drove away still thinking it must have been heat stroke. 

The kind officer that drove me down the trail, found out the real cause of Odin's death and chased me down and pulled me over. It was a little jarring at first to get pulled over, but he wanted to tell me that they discovered that Odin was killed by rattle snake bite. It was likely a baby rattle snake, as there were multiple bites and it happened so quickly. 

Odin died as he lived. Protecting me and loving me. I was so lucky to have him in my life. 

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Odin was my protector. He always made sure I was safe on all of our hikes, so in his honor I got a tattoo of the Norse God Odin's spear on the back of my leg. This tattoo is to remind me that my Odin is always looking out for me, and he would have wanted me to continue my journey to better health. 

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For about four months after his death, I could not hike the trail where he died. It was too painful to walk there without him. One day, when we were all ready, we did hike the trail. Me, my husband, and our kids, Regan and Malcolm. We shared stories of Odin and all he had been to us. I brought sage and we burned sage in the spot he died as a way to cleanse the energy on the trail. 

 Smudging the Stewertville Trail in Antioch, CA of the bad energy that loomed from Odin's death.

Smudging the Stewertville Trail in Antioch, CA of the bad energy that loomed from Odin's death.

Today I miss my dog fiercely, and I do my best to honor him in many ways. One of those ways is being vegan, and not consuming animals or animal products. It makes me feel better to know I could be saving the lives of other animals, after I could not save the life of my beloved dog. 

Rest in Peace, Odin.