Sunny by Lori Cool Cuskelly / Lori Cool Cuskelly

Sunny came to me in June, 2000 at eight weeks of age. I didn’t feel like I wanted a dog since it had been about 12 years that I’d had one – since my Brandi left me in out 1988. All these years later, but then a former boyfriend brought Sunny home to me and I eventually fell in love! Sunny was such a cute puppy, the sun glistening her golden coat.
She was my Sunshine!

Sunny was always such a good puppy, so smart and willing to please. She potty trained instantly; I can’t remember her having an accident as a puppy (she would later on if she ate something “bad,” but she couldn’t help it and I know she felt bad – she was never scolded for it!). She understood everything I said and didn’t say. Sunny never chewed or tore anything up. She had an array of squeaky toys that she loved to pounce on and squeak, or, in the case of her favorite toys – her bird would go “tweet, tweet, tweet,” her cow would go “moooo, moooo,” her frog would go “rrribit, rrribit, rrribit,” and her hedge hog simply squeaked very loudly! Sunny took gentle care of her toys, never chewing or tearing, but “nibbling” ever so gently, then licking them. The only time we had to replace them is when the “squeak” wore out. Of course, when I went to the store, and she came with me, waiting ever so patiently in the back of “our” RAV or our truck bed (depending on the weather!), I would tell her before going in the store “I’ll be right back” and occasionally also “I’ll bring you a treat.” Oh, how she knew that word “treat!”

Sunny learned early on how to swim and it came easily and naturally for her. After I walked out in the water and called to her, she swam out to me and swam around and around me, going after sticks and eventually bringing them back to shore and swimming from the shore on her own. Her tail helped guide her along in the water and it slapped back and forth as she paddled around.
Sunny would go on horse rides with me starting when she was about six months old. She was often at the heels of my horse (my then boyfriend was concerned about that, but I knew it would be okay and so did Sunny!).

She’d learn to venture off on her own as she got a little older and more “brave.” She’d then go ahead of me – or beside me, up and down the hillsides, in and out of the creeks and streams along the trail. Likewise, when we were hiking together, if she was out in front of me, she’d go so far, then always stop and turn to look back at me to be sure I was still within her sight. When she saw I was, and I said “I’m okay, go have fun!,” she’d turn and continue trotting along, sniffing and having a ball. We went on so many nice, long rides and hikes during our nine years together.

She’d get so excited knowing we were going to the canyon. In the back of the truck when we’d get closer to the canyon and she saw “our mountains” in the distance, she’d jump up on the wheel hub (front paws only, she NEVER attempted to jump out – that would be dumb!), the breeze in her face and blowing her ears and smiling ear-to-ear! She’d often “tremble” with excitement too. In cold weather, Sunny always rode next to me in the cab of the truck, sitting there, such a happy passenger, looking out the window with such excitement and enthusiasm.

Sunny would be able to come in with me to the tanning salon (colder months usually). We’d generally walk over since it’s only a five minute walk. She’d trot in and say “hi” to the gal behind the counter and sniff for any food she might be having, then she’d greet others there on our way down the hall to my tanning room. Before closing the door, I’d tell her “I’ll be out soon..” and she’d lay down and be there when I opened the door 15-20 minutes later. The gal behind the counter always told me Sunny usually stayed right there at my door and was such a good, faithful dog.

Sunny was also allowed to come with me to our local Cal-Ranch store and happily trotted along the isles in the store greeting people and so happy when we were there. Her nose came alive when we went by the pet sections. She loved checking out the toys and treats! At certain times of the year, Cal-Ranch has baby chicks, ducks, etc., in large [water] troughs with lights keeping them warm. Sunny would always go straight for the baby chicks and stop and put her head at the edge of the trough, “frozen” there looking so intently at the chicks and listening to them chirp until I’d call her away. I’m pretty certain if I were to let her – say “go ahead, it’s okay,” she’d probably dive in the trough and have a hay day with those chicks. But, who knows, maybe she’d treat them like one of her squeaky toys and just “nibble” them and then lick them!
Ha! I doubt it!

Sunny loved the water for swimming, but didn’t care much for getting a bath, especially if she had to have it in the tub. I could say to her, “Sunny, wanna have a bath?” Or, “let’s go get in the tub,” and she’d lower her head and try to sneak away! The word “bath” alone was a serious four-letter word to her! So I’d usually give her a bath outside with the hose (“dry” baths in cold months). She’d stand good while I scrubbed and massaged her, then rinse and more rubbing with “The Towel!” Then I’d say “okay!” and she’d tear off running and roll, nose first, in the grass. Then I’d get “The Brush” and hold it up to let her see it and she’d come directly to me for “The Brush.” (As did Milo, he often came meowing when he saw The Brush, so I’d have to do “dual-brushings” between the two!)
Since she was a puppy, somehow Sunny acquired quite a taste for horse manure, going out to the horses with me constantly for their care! I told her since “Day One,” until her last weeks, “no, no, Sunny, that’s gross!” She’d stop for two seconds, then go back at it! (She never rolled in it though!)

So many rides and hikes we went on. When it was just she and I, which it usually was, I’d get off my horse at the top of a hill, or along the trail, wherever we were, to take a break and enjoy the scenery. We’d sit there together, my arm around her, my best friend, and her sitting there looking out at the beautiful views of the valley below and often enjoying a peaceful, pretty sunset.

My husband, Guy’s, job requires him to work out of state and he was in California for almost two years in Hanford. I took Sunny and drove out to stay two weeks and she had a great time. We’d go on walks to parks and drive to try and find better “out of the way” places to hike and swim. Guy and I took her with us on a weekend trip to the coast and she got to see the ocean and run along the beach. She enjoyed that!

Then I took her to Kirkland, Washington where Guy worked next and we stayed there for a couple weeks. Sunny was in lake Heaven there as Guy’s apartment was right across the street from Lake Washington! I took Sunny swimming every day and walks around all the “pet friendly” places there are in Kirkland. We even got to take her with us to have dinner at our favorite Mexican restaurant there, patio seating outside, she sat there or laid down, and was so well behaved and so happy to be a part of those outings with us. Then, Guy next went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming and I took Sunny there in September, 2008 for a week and a couple of long weekends in the winter. We hiked up Snow King and around that mountain quite a bit during September’s visit, and I also took her swimming in the Gros Ventre River near Kelly, WY. She was quite the river swimmer! It scared me watching her at first, then it was funny to watch her swim the river.

When I’d throw rocks or sticks in, she’d swim down super fast in the current after the stick, and then back up was a bit of a challenge for her, but she did it! She got quite the work outs. Sunny always played hard, so she slept hard too!

Sunny never needed “obedience school.” She understood me and knew what was “expected” of her, and she was what she was – a truly GOOD, smart dog. They say dogs are “man’s best friend” and I know Sunny was by far the best friend I’ve ever had and the truest “soul mate” there would ever be for me. Sunny knew my routine and schedule so well.

When I’d come home after being gone all day at work, and she stayed in the back yard, as I approached and drove in front of my house, I’d see her laying in the back yard in the corner where she’d be able to see when I drove by. At that instant when I saw her there (and she saw me!), I’d “honk” my car’s horn and she’d immediately jump up and run to the other side of the yard by the gate where she’d see me drive up our long driveway. I could come home from a long day at work and feel “grumpy,” but as soon as the garage door started to go up, Sunny came bouncing out and ran down the driveway towards me. I’d slow down and open my car door and say “Hey, it’s Sunny!” and she’d have this huge smile on her face, then I’d close my car door and continue driving into the garage with her trotting alongside. Then, in the garage, I’d open my car door and she’d jump on my lap and plant a big kiss on my cheek and then jump back down. Unless I had something “special” on after work, I’d ask her to not jump on me, and she wouldn’t, but most times, I didn’t care – it would wash! Then we’d go in the house and I’d change my clothes and our routine would begin! If we were going for a ride in the warm months, I’d quickly get ready (usually because we’d only have a few hours before dark) and ask her “do you wanna go for a ride?” and she’d get so excited. She’d ride in the back of the truck for the ten minute drive up to the canyon. Getting to our parking spot, she’d wait patiently, usually in or near the stream where we parked the horse trailer, while I groomed and saddled my horse. Then, finally on my horse ready to go (she knew when I started to put my spurs on it was time to go!), she was ready and off we went!

When I’d have to leave for work in the mornings, Sunny knew that routine all too well too. She always got a “good girl treat” before I left for work. Sometimes, just before I was ready to leave, I’d look in the house for her and she wasn’t there. Low and behold, I’d look outside at the gate to her backyard and there she was just sitting there, straight and tall, waiting for her “good girl treat!” I’d hand it to her and say “see ya later, sweetie pie,” and she’d grab it and run to the backyard and start eating it, then I’d quickly get in my car and drive away – that way, I wouldn’t have to see her sitting there, looking at me with “those eyes” as I left!

Sunny was in perfect health up until the month I lost her. My cat of almost 20 years, Milo, came down with kidney failure in August, 2009, and I was maintaining Milo from mid-August until he was finally ready to go on October 15, 2009. During that time, on September 19, 2009, I took Sunny to my vet for an “age exam” because I wanted to make sure she was okay at age 9 ½. My usual vet didn’t see Sunny (or Milo) and I was a little concerned for a new (young) vet, but I accepted her anyway. To my utter disappointment, I feel I need to blame that vet, and as of this writing, I cannot forgive the fact that she didn’t suggest to run blood work on Sunny during her “age exam.” Instead, she visually examined Sunny and said she looks great for a 9 ½ year old dog. I had told the vet I was surprised that she was almost 10 pounds less than she was the last time she’d been in, but the vet said her weight was perfect for her age, less to carry is best. I felt that was reasonable, and since I felt Sunny was okay too, I didn’t think to ask about blood testing, I thought I had a healthy 9 ½ year old dog and was happy to assume we had another three to five years left together.

Then, a month later (October 22, 2009), I left for a planned trip to Australia to visit my sister for two weeks. I left Sunny with my brother who had taken care of her many times before when I’d leave on weekends and such. A couple weeks before I left, I noticed that Sunny wasn’t eating as well as usual and might have lost a little weight, so I asked my brother to be cautious of that. She also had seemed “down” for quite a few weeks, but I put that off as her reaction to Milo being sick for two months then not with us any longer. I thought Sunny might be “depressed.” Also, I thought she seemed a little “stiff” after rides, so I got “Metacam” from my vet before I left – no questions asked.” (I had heard from another vet Metacam was good stuff for aches and pains.)

When I left Sunny with my brother, I gave him the Metacam and asked it be given to her one time every other day. Upon my return two weeks later, my brother picked us up at the airport with Sunny in the back seat. I gasped when I saw her! She had lost so much weight and was very lethargic. Not jumping around and kissing me like she normally would. My brother said he wondered if her teeth were bothering her, so he had “mushed” up her food and she apparently ate it that way (I would learn later that she didn’t have a good last week with him!).

She got out of the car when we got home from the airport and drank some water and within seconds, vomited it all up, along with what food she had eaten earlier as well. She would continue to vomit after she drank and struggled to try and poop, but nothing came out. In any event, I took Sunny straight to my vet when we got home from the airport, who again visually looked at Sunny. *I* finally asked the vet, “shouldn’t we take some blood or something!?” and she said “yes, we can do that.” Three days later I got the results – Sunny was in kidney failure like Milo just had been!

By that time, I had scheduled to take Sunny to a new vet for a second opinion, but with blood results like that, it’s pretty cut and dry. The new vet looked at the results and examined Sunny and said she had only about 10 percent function of her kidneys, if she were a human, she’d be on dialysis or looking for a kidney donor. I made the hardest and most painful decision to let her go and okayed the vet to euthanize Sunny while I held her head in my hands, my face to her face, while she went peacefully to sleep.

Since I’d forgotten at that time that I’d given my brother Metacam to give Sunny, when my brother and I finally talked after Sunny had already passed (I was mad at, and blamed, my brother for not taking Sunny to the vet while I was in Australia!), he reminded me about the Metacam. I immediately “Googled” Metacam and got the sickest feeling, my heart stopped! Metacam should not be given to a [senior] dog if they have underlying kidney or liver problems – it has caused kidney failure and death in cats and dogs! That would explain Sunny’s sudden decline while I was gone in Australia.

How can I live with this!? Did I help, or cause, my dog to die!? I can only assume if we did blood work on 9-19-09, it would have shown some issues with Sunny’s kidneys and we could have began a treatment plan back then. However, since that didn’t happen and my Sunny is gone, vets have since told me they’ve never heard of Metacam “causing” kidney failure. (However, many dangers and stories are all over the internet!) I pray that in Sunny’s case that I (the Metacam) wasn’t the sole cause of her kidney failure and ultimate demise! Assuming she had already developed kidney issues, unknown to me of course, the Metacam undoubtedly pushed them over the edge. One story I read stated a pet owner was able to hospitalize their pet and helped it after the Metacam poisioning. What if I had allowed Sunny to stay in the clinic and not jumped to have her put to sleep!? The “what if’s” and “should have’s” are killing me!!!

It’s been two months to the day today (January 10, 2010) as I type this. I know my grief, guilt and anger will eventually fade, but for now, I can’t let it go as I feel I let Sunny down – at the end- when she needed me most. I was too caught up with Milo to see that she too might have been getting sick and my vet didn’t follow through as she could have, and should have, at Sunny’s age exam. If I had any reason to believe Sunny was the least bit sick on September 19, 2009, I never would have gone to Australia so I could be with and give Sunny all my attention and care, like I did with Milo!

Every day I had Sunny with me was a gift and a blessing that I’m so grateful for. It’s so hard to go about my life now without Sunny by my side anymore. “Let’s go feed the horsies..” and she’d jump to her feet and to the door anxiously ready to go do our thing. Always by my side or with me, whenever possible, and I missed her so when she couldn’t be with me or I had to leave her if I went away for a weekend, or longer. I miss her so much and long to feel the softness of her velvety ears and kiss her pretty face. My house doesn’t feel the same without her (and Milo!) here anymore.

I always want Sunny’s legacy and profound impact to remain in my memories forever. She will forever live on in my heart and each time I get to the top of a hill, I’ll look up to the sky and talk to her, one day without crying so much perhaps, but, for now, that’s all I can do when I “try” to go on a hike!

I pray that one day we will have that joyful reunion. Until that day, Sunny Bunny, wait patiently for me and play hard and sleep softly, for as long as I live, you shall not die!

“Sunny’s Song”

Sunny, yesterday my life was filled with rain..
Sunny, you smiled at me and really eased the pain.
Oh, the dark days are gone and the bright days are here my Sunny one shines so sincere, oh Sunny one so true, I love you.
Sunny, thank you for the sunshine bouquet,
Sunny, thank you for the love you brought my way.
You gave to me your all and all, now I feel ten feel tall, Oh Sunny one so true, I love you.
Sunny, thank you for the truth you’ve let me see.
Sunny, thank you for the facts from A to Z.
My life was torn like wind-blown sand, then a rock
was formed when we held hands. Sunny one so true, I love you.
Sunny, thank you for that smile upon your face.
Sunny, thank you for that gleam that flows with grace.
You’re my spark of nature’s fire, you’re my sweet complete desire,
Sunny one so true, I love you!
Forever and always, you’ll be my baby girl.


Your Loving Mom,
Lori Cool Cuskelly