RIP Father Tuck

RIP Father Tuck 1Many of my readers know that I have an Instagram account for my Labradoodle, Skylie, just as I had for Raegan. The news feed on Skylie’s account is full of adorable puppy photos but the meaning of her account goes far beyond oohs and aahs and cuteness and cuddles. Communities are formed and friendships (both online and off) are made.

Just about a year and a half ago I connected with a fabulously spunky Goldendoodle named Tucker on Raegan’s account​. Over the past year and a half, Tucker has regularly posted photos and I feel tremendously close to him and his parents through the photo-sharing platform. How is it possible to feel close to people (and dogs!) I’ve never even met? You see…it’s because the 1,317 photos that Tucker and his family have shared do a beautiful job at telling 1,317 stories. In a sense, I’ve been reading Tucker’s family’s journal since January 2014.

They’ve been reading my stories, too. When Raegan passed, they were part of the community that pulled together for me and made me exceptionally aware that they were available to support me. When I got Skylie, they were one of the first to welcome her to Instagram and to my life.

Tucker’s stories are tales of love, humor and fun. Oh, how Tucky loves going to Starbucks! He loves his playdates with friends (and makes us all wish we could play with him)! Squirrels (all of them…every single one) only exist to taunt Tucker. Tucker’s sassiness is abundantly transparent with his daily antics and fantastic mischief! I’ve looked at photos on my phone, laughed and said, “Ohhhh, Tucky!” aloud many, many times. I know I’m not alone when I say that Tucker brings a lot of laughter to my life.

Yesterday’s story took an unexpected turn, though. Tucker’s Dad was on a week-long bike trip, bicycling from San Francisco to San Diego.RIP Father Tuck 2 His recent photo posts have been taking us through the “journey” of sending his Dad off, progress on the trip and what was going on at home with Mom.

All was well until a group of us received the unthinkable private update late yesterday afternoon. Tucker’s Dad, Kevin Childre, was in a horrible crash on his bicycle and the injuries to his brain were too severe to battle. I had to read the message three times to understand its meaning and even after I read it for the third time, I seriously thought Tucker’s Instagram account had been hacked. How could Father Tuck (as he is affectionately called in the Instagram community) be gone? How does a naval officer who returned home from deployment just a few months ago pass away in a cycling accident? I still can’t wrap my mind around it.

Shortly after the private update, Tucker (and his Mom) put up a public post about Kevin’s accident and the photo sharing started with the hashtags #RIPFatherTuck and #foreverinourheartsFatherTuck. The purpose of the hashtags is so Margarget (Tucker’s Mom) can easily find the photos that people are posting when she has some time to read all of them. Hundreds of people are sharing truly loving tributes. It’s heart-shattering and touching. Clearly, I’m not the only one who feels such a connection to Tucker and his family.

This connection comes from the authenticity of Tucker and his parents. Sharing about deployment news, squirrel stalking, vet visits, Starbucks trips, beach activities and more give people a true glimpse of life in Tucker’s world. Oh, and if you don’t think that we all live in Tucker’s world, you’re wrong. :) Through descriptive captions that come with each photo, it’s very easy to understand exactly what Tucker thinks. It’s very easy to see that Tucker is NOT a fan of his limited diet. No treats?? No fair!! It’s very easy to see RIP Father Tuck 3the love that Tucker has for his Dad and that Father Tuck had for Tucker. It’s simply undeniable. Tucker’s photo gallery tells a wonderful tale of two BFFs. His gallery gives us the opportunity to learn about Kevin Childre, a veteran, doodle father, cyclist and all-around great guy who had an enormous amount of love for his family, his dog and his country.

In upcoming weeks and months, I hope that Tucker and his Mom feel the closeness that so many people feel for them. We can’t even begin to fathom what they’re experiencing but our hearts are broken along with theirs. I know I speak for many people when I say that we’re here for you, Margaret and Tucker. Your Instagram family loves you.

RIP, Father Tuck. You are already very, very missed.

If anyone would like to honor Tucker or Kevin, consider a donation to the EOD Warrior Foundation, a philanthropy that was very close to Kevin Childre’s heart.


Skylie Ryce’s Puppyhood

For the past few months, I’ve been helping my puppy, Skylie Ryce, get through her puppyhood and begin her adolescence. It is a lot of work! I’d actually forgotten how much work it is. I’d forgotten about the broken sleep. I don’t know how I forgot about that since Raegan didn’t sleep through the night until she was about 7 months old. Skylie seems to be following the same path. I’d forgotten that it takes a while for puppies to understand rules. I’d forgotten that it takes even longer for puppies to abide by the rules, once they understand them. I’d forgotten how fleeting puppy breath is. One day it was there and the next day it was gone. I know the same will be true of puppyhood…here today, gone tomorrow…

Skylie is 7 months old today. She and I have already experienced a lot together. We went to visit Santa Claus at Bergdorfs in NYC. We went to a doodle party at the Barkbox headquarters. We’re Puppy Kindergarten and Basic Obedience graduates. We’ve written several posts together for a variety of blogs, crafted countless Facebook posts, created numerous tweets, and posted hundreds of Instagram photos. Skylie is involved with affiliate programs to promote products that we love. We’ve started an online shop called the Sunshine Dog Shop and donate a portion of the sales to help sick dogs.

Still at Blue Ridge Labradoodles

Still at Blue Ridge Labradoodles

Skylie Ryce's Puppyhood

Our first smooch

Visiting Santa at Bergdorf Goodman

Visiting Santa at Bergdorf Goodman

Skylie Ryce's Puppyhood 3

Holiday card photo shoot!

First Christmas!

First Christmas!

Skylie Ryce's Puppyhood 6

Graduation from Puppy Kindergarten

First Valentine's Day!

First Valentine’s Day!

First BarkBox

First BarkBox

Graduation from Basic Obedience

Graduation from Basic Obedience

First NHL season! Let's Go Rangers!

First NHL season! Let’s Go Rangers!

All seasons are still a first for Skylie as she isn’t a year old yet but hockey season has got to be the most exciting of them all! The New York Rangers were awarded the Presidents’ Trophy, having finished the regular season with the most points in the league. I’d like to think that Skylie enjoys watching hockey but I think she might just be mesmerized by the different flashes of white and color on the TV screen during games and that’s what holds her attention. Either way, I’ll take her interest!

Skylie and I will be repeating Basic Obedience, to reinforce the lessons we learned, before starting the next obedience class. We’ll also be working hard on our writing assignments and online shop. Most of all, we’ll continue to enjoy puppyhood because it will be over before I know it. As I said, it’s here today, gone tomorrow.


{NOTE: If you’d like to visit the Sunshine Dog Shop, click here. Thank you!}


Back From A Blog Break

Back From A Blog Break 1

Skylie’s first week at home

Since I wrote about the loss of my miniature Labradoodle, Raegan, I’ve taken a break from this blog. Sitting down to write just hasn’t been on my mind and I never wanted to force it. I had a feeling that the desire to blog again would come back but I needed to let it come back on its own terms.

Saying goodbye to Raegan on November 5, 2014 was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. I knew I would have to do it eventually but I didn’t expect it to happen so soon. I thought I was going to have many more than 10 short years with the little girl who easily and quickly became my best friend.

At first, I still felt Raegan with me. Every time I turned around, I expected her to be there. Every morning when I woke up, I expected to see her in her bed. Every time I got into my car, I expected to have her next to me as my co-pilot. However, she wasn’t there. I physically moved on but my heart and soul didn’t.

Even before Rae passed, I made a decision that I would let my heart remain open. It was broken but I kept it open. That’s how I knew that it would be right to get another dog almost immediately. I need a dog in my life. Always. There’s something about the companionship of a dog that is unlike anything else. I sort of broke losing Raegan into two pieces: losing RAEGAN and losing companionship. I knew that I’d never be able to replace Rae (nor would I want to) but I did need a furry friend in my life.

Back From A Blog Break 2

Skylie’s first morning at home

When Raegan died, I think a lot of people wondered what I was going to do. Raegan was such a huge part of my life. How could I possibly get another dog but how could I NOT get another dog? After a few days, some people very gently asked what my plans were. I wanted another puppy but I couldn’t bring myself to do the research. A friend was kind enough to do it for me. She’s a Labradoodle Mom, as well, and I trusted her to know what to look for in a Labradoodle breeder. She sent me a handful of links to responsible breeders that had available puppies or upcoming litters that would be a “match” for me. I did have a few requirements. The puppy should be a miniature female with a fleece coat and calm temperament. I didn’t want another black dog because I thought it would remind me too much of Raegan. I came very close to putting a deposit down on a particular puppy but then I saw a photo of a little puppy named Hayden. Once I saw that photo, I had a strong sense that I’d found my puppy. Hayden shortly became my Skylie Ryce and the rest is history. Skylie has now been with me for just over 4 months. NOTE: For more about how Skylie got her name, click here.

I’m going to write a little bit about Skylie in a moment but I first want to touch on the beginning of my relationship with Sky. Honestly, it wasn’t easy. I was so hurt, tired and in mourning when she arrived. I never doubted that I was doing the right thing but I think I underestimated how painful the process would be. I just had to keep reminding myself that my happiness about Skylie had nothing to do with my sadness about Raegan and vice versa. They were completely separate dogs and completely separate emotions. It was OK to be happy with Skylie and it was OK to be sad about Raegan at the very same time. Both emotions had a place in my life.

I get to know more about Skylie each day. She’s funny, silly and goofy. She loves to toss her toys around and then look up at me, as if she’s wondering if I’m watching her act like a comedienne. She’s mega-cute and reminds me of a stuffed teddy bear. Her poofy hair is adorably out of control and I call her my Marshmallow Fluff! I’m also learning about myself. When people suggest that I cut Skylie’s hair, I turn into Momma Bear. NOTE: NEVER suggest that I cut Skylie’s hair or even ask when her next haircut is. I love the fluff. So there!

Back From A Blog Break 3

Meeting Skylie for the first time at the airport

Just like Raegan, Skylie is as sweet as pie. She doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She loves nothing more than my undivided attention. OK, she loves running in the snow more than anything but my undivided attention is a close second to playing outside right after a snowstorm.

Skylie is a people-pleaser but she does have a mind of her own. She’s still young so we’re doing a lot of work on impulse control and paying attention. With the right motivation, though, Skylie loves to follow through on commands and tasks. We’re working very hard at obedience school and have received a “thumbs up” from her teacher two weeks in a row!

Over the past few weeks, the thought of blogging has popped into my head a few times. I can’t remember why but the thoughts signaled to me that I’m ready to write again. Since everyone loves puppy photos, I’m going to share some highlights from Skylie’s first 6 months in my next post. Stay tuned. My blog is back…



Love Without End

I kissed my Labradoodle, Raegan Sydney, for the last time 10 days ago. She passed away on November 5, 2014 and I started to write this on that very same day. I couldn’t write, though. I opened this again a week later, on November 12, 2014 and I still couldn’t write. Now, it is 10 days after my Rae of Sunshine passed and I’m sitting down once again to write something that I don’t want to write. After all, how can I possibly string a series of words together and explain our unconditional love? I can’t. There are no words that can do it the justice that it deserves. How can I do a perfect job at describing perfection? I can’t.

Love Without EndHere are some simple but meaningful facts that I can say about our love, though. It is timeless. It is true. It is deep. It is complete. It is undeniable. It is without doubt. It is without question. It is without end.

We don’t only love each other every now and then. We have a love without end, amen. Raegan Sydney, you’re my Rae of Sunshine. Your brilliance will light the way for me and you have my heart forever.

XO- Mommy


Raegan’s 10th Birthday

Raegan's 10th Birthday1I already posted the content of this post as the caption to a photo on my personal Facebook page but since I use this blog as a journal of sorts, I decided to publish it here, too. Today is my dog, Raegan’s, 10th birthday. Below are the words that I shared with her on this special day.

“10 years ago today, my world changed. I had submitted an application to get a Labradoodle puppy from a breeder in Australia & I was watching the litters to see if any of the puppies “matched” my application. 

On October 26, 2004, a litter was born & there was 1 puppy in the litter who, depending on temperament, would be a match.

I had to wait, though, as puppies weren’t allocated until they were 7-ish weeks old. I looked at pictures of that litter closely as they were uploaded to the breeder’s website & I’m looking at “the” email now. It said, “I have a black girl available, if you would like her. She is going to be a large mini, somewhere between 16 and 18 inches. She has a fleece coat, and will be ready to travel the first week in January. I will be allocating her in the next day or so, so if you would like her just let me know!” If I would like her?? Yes, I’d like her! Yes, yes, yes!

On October 26, 2004, the little girl who would become my best friend, unconditional sweetheart, listening ear, shopping buddy, cuddle bum, & beautifully bright Rae of Sunshine entered this world. 

Over the past 10 years, Raegan & I have traveled together, laughed together, cried together, been silly together, done community service together, navigated through this thing called life together, & grown together. 

Raegan, I hope you understand how much I love you. I sometimes hear the phrase “to the moon & back” but that doesn’t even begin to explain it. People have been to the moon & back. I don’t think the incredible amount of love that I have for you can be measured. I’d have to say it’s infinite. 

My love for you has no end, like the George Strait lyrics that I altered & often sing to you:Raegan's 10th Birthday2

“Let me tell you something about our special love,
It’s a love that lasts forever & it’s just between us. 
We don’t only love each other every now & then.
We have a love without end, amen.”

My puppy girl, I cherish every day with you & can’t wait to see what else I’m going to learn from you & experience with you as we start this 11th year together! I’m blessed to be the one who gets to start a new decade with you. 

Happy birthday to my darling Raegan Sydney Huston!!”



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