Tuesday, April 19, 2011

In Tribute to Julie

A friend of mine lost her service dog, Julie, today. To quote from the loving memorial published in a local newspaper, the News Herald:
Julie Rowen, adopted November 1, 1999, lost her battle to cancer at the age of 11. Julie's life and roles were extensive and versatile. Many people will remember her as a competitive agility champion, others as a dedicated service dog. Despite the magnitude of ribbons and trophies Julie won throughout her life, for agility, flyball, tracking and dock diving, that is not how she should be remembered as she was mostly a loyal, loving companion. Julie's achievements in her short life would surpass anyone's expectations. Tracking lost children or dogs and alerting loved ones, and sometimes strangers, of illness, her life was truly dedicated to service to others. Julie assisted with training other dogs with behavioral problems. She was also a co-author of the children's book, "Waggin' Tails" and very much enjoyed visiting children at schools or at their homes to entertain and cheer them. Instead of flowers the family request that donations be made to: ChaseAwayK9Cancer.org or LakeErieAssistanceDogs.org ~
Just last week, Julie was on a local television station "doing the weather" as a representative for all service dogs. Not that long ago, she was still competing in agility and she came to our training hall to do a quick run-thru in rally five days ago. This morning, Amy realized it was time to let Julie go and I know that there are many people grieving with her. 
I have been surprised by how much I have been affected by Julie's illness, her fight to live and now, her death. Since first meeting Amy, I have felt a kinship - we both had female yellow Labs who alerted to medical issues most people don't realize are possible. Amy has five other dogs - she'd like one of them to take over alerting but none have proven ability. I asked if she expected them to alert in the same way Julie had and suggested that she might need to look for something different. More recently Amy indicated that she thinks one of her other dogs might have tried to alert on occasion, but it's nothing that she would trust or count on. I'm very sorry that not only is Amy having to go through the loss of an incredibly special dog but she now doesn't have a dog to alert to a life threatening condition. 
Certainly, this is a big part of why I got Hardy while Laurel was still young and working. I'm hoping to extend her working life by having two dogs to handle the workload now as well as having a successor for when she needs to retire. I was hoping Laurel would teach Hardy to alert but I also knew that she might actively discourage him from "doing her job" and/or he might not think there was any need because she was already doing it. The fact that Laurel and Hardy take turns alerting (which means that the other one can be off duty and resting) is what we were hoping would happen and is more than we really expected! This is something for which I am extremely grateful!
On the other hand, although I've tried to prepare for the time when Laurel would need to retire and then eventually, to leave me; having another alerting dog won't lessen my grief. Besides being my first service dog, Laurel is the dog who taught me about the possibilities: I got her to be my mobility dog and that would have been enough but as my alert dog, she has changed my life in truly amazing ways!
I believe that is who Julie is to Amy and so I can empathize with her and wish that there would be something I could do to help. We'll be at her memorial service Saturday to show our respect to this amazing dog and to support Amy and all who love her. Godspeed, Julie and we hope you find comfort and peace, Amy!


  1. I hope that your friend finds peace in knowing her beloved companion is no longer ill or in pain. I've not had to go through it yet, but I know that when Phoenix goes it will be the hardest thing to get over. Even though he's been retired for 6 years, he's still a huge part of my life and I couldn't imagine a day without him.

    Watching your progress with Hardy and how much he's learned from Laurel, has inspired me to start the process of raising and training Cessna's successor. This will be the first guide that I've raised and trained on my own, but I know Cessna will teach her so much. she taught our foster puppies a lot about her work and it was neat to watch them begin trying to take over when she wasn't with me - Aiden used to actually guide me around obstacles without being asked :)

  2. Hi Y'all,

    It is always difficult when we lose someone, be it person or animal. However, when it is an animal as critical as an alert or guide dog, it would be devastating. Our prayers are with your friend as she struggles with her loss and tries to make a decision about a new dog.

    BrownDog's Human