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Loving couple treasure their last moments with their beautiful dog

Dogsarefamily_thumb By Dogs Are Family | August 05, 2013 | Comments (41)

Denali and her parents wedding

Denali came into Stephanie Klaamas' life quite unexpectedly. Stephanie was a public bus operator in Toronto, Ontario around 15 years ago. One of her regular passengers, a homeless man, travelled with Chow Chow (Denali's mother). But on this particular day, he boarded her bus with a "big ball of blonde fur".

"I asked him where he was going with the puppy and he told me that he was going to sell her to another homeless man he knew for $10. That was it for me. I gave him $20 and drove the rest of the night with her on my lap until I could bring her home after my shift," said Stephanie. "My husband and then young daughters immediately fell in love with her too! She was the best money I've ever spent!!"

Denali and her parents wedding

Denali and her family shared many happy years together. The Labrador Chow mix was the ringbearer at the Canadian couple's wedding. And after she was successfully treated for mammary cancer a year ago, Stephanie and Steve began planning one last trip with her to Alaska. They planned to celebrate Denali's 15th birthday and to visit the mountain she had been named after. Stephanie and Steve were excited about the summer adventure they were about to embark on, but sadly, it was not meant to be.

Here is Stephanie's account of their final journey together:

"A few months ago, my husband and I were going to take our beautiful dog Denali to her namesake Denali Mountain in Alaska for her 15th birthday. We had planned the trip for over a year. Denali had mammary cancer last year and we had brought her to a specialist in Calgary, Alberta - which is a 7 1/2 hr drive away from where we live.

Denali with her dad and mom

We purchased an RV months earlier than we planned to ensure that Denali had a comfortable trip to the specialist and for her ride home after surgery. She beat Cancer's butt and recovered incredibly well, so the trip planning to Alaska began.

A week before we were due to leave, my husband drove back to Calgary to take our RV in the shop to ensure a safe vacation and to have Denali checked by the specialist. She had a problem with her paws for several weeks. We had taken her to our local vet who gave us creams for her paws. We gave her a foot baths several times a day, rubbed the cream on her paws and occasionally bandaged them - also allowing for air to get to them. We had noticed that Denali was starting to struggle a little bit getting up and walking, but we figured that it was due to her sore paws and from the minor arthritis she had in her back legs and had hoped she would heal.

Denali in Jasper

Our local vet had signed forms to ensure travel to the U.S., stating she was healthy enough to enter from Canada. They were not concerned. I am incredibly grateful to the specialists at Western Canada Veterinary and Emergency Clinic in Calgary. Having done Denali's cancer surgery last year, they knew her history. It's thanks to them that we were able to have an extra year with Denali.

Upon examining her, they immediately knew that Denali was not well enough to make the journey to Alaska and that she was now suffering - there was nothing we could do - and we would have done ANYTHING we could to have saved her.

Denali was having problems with her liver and that was what was causing her paws to become infected. I immediately covered my husband's and my work shifts and flew to Calgary to be with them both and say goodbye to Denali.

I arrived the following day - May 29th - and spent it with Denali in our hotel room (my husband had rented a nice suite so she would be comfortable). My heart was breaking, but her breathing was starting to become laboured and it was obvious she was now in pain.


My husband and I spent the rest of the night with her on the floor (she didn't want to be in the bed), hugging her, cuddling her and loving her. As we knew there was nothing left to lose, we spoiled her rotten with all types of food. That night, I went to a restaurant across the street and ordered 2 of the best steaks they had for her. In the almost 15 years we had her, my husband Steve and I never saw her get full...she did this night, having eaten everything that she wanted (and no, it was not from the sickness!!! she ate like a little piggy!!!).

The next day, we brought her to Western Canada Vet and Dr. Malden (the specialist) agreed to help us end Denali's suffering. We completely trusted her as she had been so amazing at saving Denali's life the previous year and diagnosing her the day before. She and the tech Jen, were wonderful. They let us have time alone in a beautiful room - not sterile, more like a family's living room, and when we were ready, started the process.

Denali with dad

Denali was lying on a blanket on the floor. Steve was lying behind her, cuddling her and I was in front of her on the floor, cuddling her and petting her tummy. Steve always had a song he made up that he used to sing to her, so Dr. Malden allowed him to sing as the meds were administered. We both started sobbing as we realized Denali only had moments left. As he sobbed, she snuggled into his chest trying to comfort him. She died very peacefully, knowing how much she was loved and adored.

While we are both devastated, we know it was the most loving thing we could do for her. Alaska for her 15th birthday wasn't important as we realized she wouldn't understand and that it was more for us.

Denali and momI have NEVER known heartbreak more than after loosing her. I posted a lot on Facebook and received a lot of support, but found many to not understand - thinking she was only a dog...she wasn't just a dog, she was our furry child.

We decided to have her cremated. Arthur Magega at the Pet Cremation Care Center was so kind and patient with us. He allowed us to see Denali again and to escort her to be cremated. We wanted to ensure that Denali would be treated with dignity in her death. Arthur was very patient, understanding and sympathetic - not something you would expect from someone in his profession. He allowed us to pick up her ashes the same day as we didn't want to leave her alone.

It was the longest drive home the next day and then entering our house without her was devastating. The emptiness without her presence has been almost unbearable. I am however, so grateful that I had the privilege of sharing almost 15 years with Denali.

While I feel I have lost a piece of my soul, I gladly endure this pain than to have never had the love, friendship, loyalty and happiness that Denali brought to my life everyday since she was 6 weeks old."

Stephanie and Steve ended up cancelling their trip to Alaska, as they couldn't bear the thought of going without her. Now a few months have passed, Stephanie shared happier news with DogHeirs. She explained that Steve "could'nt bear to live without another dog" so they adopted a rescue two weeks ago. She wrote, "Her name is Keira. She was on her way to the SPCA when we 'adopted' her. She's 8 months old, a Border Collie/Lab cross, and gives us much joy."

She added, "While I initially felt like I was betraying Denali, I realized that she wouldn't want us to be so sad and it would make her happy to know we saved another doggy. We both have too much love to give not to give another fur baby a second chance."


She explained, "I realize now that we have enough love for both Denali and Keira. It's like having children - you can love them with all of your heart and still love more the same way. I am grateful for all of the years we had with Denali and look forward to sharing many years with Keira too...we are truly blessed."

Denali keepsake
"Steve and I were fortunate that the Pet Cremation Center had charms that we could put some of her ashes in. We both bought silver chains long enough so that she rests against our hearts - she will always be with us."

denali painting
"Portrait of Denali at Denali Mountain in Alaska that we had commissioned by a wonderful artist - Cherie Sibley Wasyliw"

Copyright 2015 DogHeirs. All Rights Reserved.

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Comments on this Article

Your story is absolutely beautiful! After reading it, it felt good to know there are other people out there that have developed this enormous amount of love for their pets and considered them part of the family and not just a dog. We have a shiba inu shepherd mix that we adopted almost four years ago, unfortunately we don't know how old he is but we do know he is a little on the older side because we had X-rays done as he suffers from arthritis. He has brought so much love and joy into our lives that I can't even put it into words. I think that when that time comes, a part of me might disappear which scares me so much but until then I will love and spoil him as much as I can.
I wanted to express my sincere gratitude for all of the love, support, understanding and kind messages that have been sent to me about Denali. It is such a blessing to feel the love and prayers sent to Denali, myself and my husband Steve from complete strangers all over the world. I would like to share one more story with everyone.... My husband is not a very spiritual person. I tried to tell him that I believed Denali was still with us and watching over us. He replied that he hoped so. The day we got home, something happened to make him realize that she really was with us. Denali used to sleep on a doggy bed beside our bed and would follow us both everytime we went to go to sleep.. When we got home, my husband went to go to bed..he was emotionally and physically exhausted. I was in the living room and I prayed to Denali. I asked her if she could, to please give her Daddy a sign that she was ok as he was so heartbroken and missed her so much...As he laid down, he noticed our cat Indy had followed him into the room..as Indy approached the spot on the floor where Denali's bed had been for so many years, he froze and then jumped straight up into the air 2 feet!!! Steve told me this smiling for you see, he realized that Indy sensed what Steve was too broken hearted to feel - that Denali had "followed" her Daddy yet again to bed!!! Steve realized that yes, her spirit was still with us..It gave us both a much needed sign from above For those of us who have lost a beloved fur baby, I will give you this advice: Please leave your heart and mind open..you too will see the signs.. Thank you again for all of your love and support. It does my heart good to know there are so many people all over the world who feel the way my husband and I do about our fur babies xoxoxo
I would like to thank all of the people who have responded about Denali. She was a beautiful member of our family and is truly missed. I've had some people ask "how did I know it was her time?" I just knew. I couldn't bear to see her suffer. I knew she would go on trying to comfort both my husband and myself but to allow her to do so would have been selfish. As she was in pain and nothing could be done to relieve it, the most loving thing we could do was to end her suffering. I am grateful we are allowed to do that for our furry loved ones. It has been almost 11 weeks since we said goodbye to her and the pain is still as sharp as it was the moment she died. Thank you to everyone for your support and kind words. It helps to know I am not alone and am not the only person to understand the pain and void loosing a fur baby creates. Keira has helped to put a smile on both my husband and my face. Although she could never replace Denali, we wouldn't want her to. She has however, helped to fill the void of lonliness that we both had after saying goodbye to our beloved Denali. I only wish everyone was able to experience the total joy, happiness and unconditional love having a fur baby gives a person. It sickens both my husband and myself to see so many animals suffer. If people could feel for an animal even 10% of what we felt for Denali, there would be no more shelters needed..
Most of you people need to read a poem called Rainbow bridge (a simple google search) will find it. I have 2 dogs and 1 cat waiting for me already. I am able to have pets put down now when it's time for them. They will let you know when they are near their end and you have to think of the animals needs not yours. I used to work on a petting farm and the amount of bottle feds I had was wonderful. Of the 12 I had only three are still living. The amount I took to the vets to have put to sleep was heartbreaking. But with each one the process became easier. I still miss my long gone friends very much but the poem I mentioned above should really help. Always replace your pet for your own comfort as soon as possible. A rescue animal is a good bet and your pet/s that has gone before will smile down on you for saving another and giving them a good life until their end. Our last dog Sasha was put to sleep on 19th November 2011. We then saw an Irish rescue pup called Chloe from www.pupsneedinghomes.co.uk in East Sussex. We wanted her straight away but her sister was not being re-homed until Jan 1st so we had to wait until then to get her. We were not heartless, we just had to replace Sasha because Buddy the Lab was moping around and even felt off colour with his food. Remember Rainbow bridge.
What Wonderful Owners You Were!, I Know Exactly What You Are Going Through. I Lost My Baby Boy (Chihuahua) Last Week And I'm Devastated. I Cry Constantly And Ache So Much For Him, He Was My Life. I Have His Ashes Next To Me On What Was His Side Of The Bed, It Does Make Me Feel Better Knowing He's Home And With Me. I Kiss Him Every Night, I Feel So Alone, No Pitter Patter Of His Feet, His Barking When He Got Excited, The House Is So Empty. I Can See Him Everywhere, I Feel The Need To Just Give A Dog A Huge Hug And Let Me Cry. It's Devastating I Don't Think I Could Go Through This Again.
thank you for sharing this wonderful story, i can´t stop crying, dogs are not only animals they are family member, my two dogs are my "4 paw kids", and i am afraid the day one of them pass away, because my family and others have a lack of understandig about my love to my babies.
I'm still crying. No, she was not 'just a dog', and anyone who thinks that is 'just a stupid human'. Dogs (and cats) give us so much more than we could ever give them. I wish I didn't know and understand the pain you're feeling, but I also know Denali would want you to share your time with and save another dog. Dogs have much bigger hearts and are so much more understanding and loving than people: that's why there's no doubt they'll be in heaven (so will cats).
Beautiful, beautiful story. I had a chow/lab mix, and she too lived to just after her fifteenth birthday. I had my Jetta from when I was eight until I was twenty-three. Your story touched my heart so much.
Well said Betty, we certainly owe our 4 legged friends a lot. The world would be a sadder place without them. I am sure your current pets know your love. We just have to survive when they go, as hard as it is to do so. Thank you for your post
Your story made me cry. I have had to this last favor, for so many pets, over 50 years, that I sometimes think it is why my heart is so broken. I have two more, that one day soon I will have to help leave this world, and the thought is unbearable. I know I will never be able to look at a picture of a hairy little terrier, or Jack Russell, without thinking about them. I don't understand how anyone can think of our furry babies as animals. They each have unique personalities, just as humans. They do most of the things humans do. But, unlike us, they don't need to build things, or wear clothes, or study. They have all that built in to them. Most of them can survive without us, but life would be very different if we had to survive without them. Maybe that is why humans insist on breeding in physical defects that make dogs more reliant on humans. Dogs have given us so much more than we have ever given them. We are parasites who use and abuse the animals who only want to love and serve us. It is so refreshing, but sad, to read about a family that truly loved their furbaby and were family rather than owner and slave.
I wrote a little something for an article back on Nov. 24.2012 and thought it might fit here as well. After a little time the light of understanding will shine through the shadow of grief. The sound of little feet running to greet you at the door, with eyes that hold love and nothing more. Jumping in the snow for the very first time, or covered in mud from head to toe. The sound of a bark you will always recognize, now only echo's in your minds eye. From the shadow of grief a light will shine through, a beautiful life has been shared with you..... I'm glad that Denali got to live her life with true dog lovers for 15 wonderful years. You should be very proud of the life you gave her. I like the charms that you keep around your necks, they're beautiful. I have gone through this two times in my life with long lived dogs. I have a little lock of hair from each of them that will go with me when my time comes. Keira looks like a beautiful dog, she's lucky to have you.
What a beautiful story. I know unfortunately the pain you suffered in losing your beautiful Denali. I too wear a locket with my Gibriens ashes close to my heart. We are so lucky to experience the unconditional love these animals give to us, those who don't understand are not as lucky and I pity them. Bless you and lots of luck with your new love. I too have a new puppy who makes me smile and my heart ache a tiny bit less.
We, who have gone back to a house that no longer holds our beloved pet and feel the gut wrenching, heartbreaking pain of loneliness and loss, understand just what it's like to have to make that decision. You made the right one but the hardest one. I'm so glad you adopted another furbaby. While she could NEVER REPLACE Denali, Keira will certainly fill that void left by her and I pray you have many, many years of happiness and joy together. God bless you all. :0)
I'm so very sorry for the loss of your baby, and so happy for your new baby ! As the proud mama of 4 cats, I know what you're saying, my kitties are not just cats, they're my babies ! Between the years of 2003 and 2007, I had to help my Gypsy, Terra, and Pearl , cross over the Rainbow Bridge, my heart was shattered in millions of pieces . But, I have since rescued , Zoe, Grace, Broca to, and James ! I will never forget my babies that have moved on, if anything, I feel as though they're still with me ! Wishing you all much happiness and continued love ! <3 Gina
I just can't stop crying...Denali was a beautiful dog and your love made her all the more beautiful...God bless you and your husband for giving her so much love and holding her close to your hearts even now...wishing you many many happy years with Keira who is also very beautiful....I lost my Charlie about 2 years back and that too in just a day...I just am thankful that my baby was in my arms till the last moment....and knew he was loved..I now have 3 more fur babies and there presence actually keeps me sane...I was devastated when Charlie crossed the rainbow bridge and I could never sleep in my room again...and I still don't...I now sleep in a diff room with my 3 babies who give me so much love and hope..Charlie was my special baby and he will always hold a special place in my heart...and am sure he will be waiting for me across the rainbow bridge....
i cant help myself , from the beginning of the story to the end, my heart really in pain, i cant stop crying. i lost many dogs also , the sad thing when my 2 lovely dogs died im not there besides them. i was here in China, only my sons left to them and i understand they cant take care of them the way i do , i miss them so much. i have a mother dog now and 5 puppies, hope i can do thebest care i can give to them. thanks for the people who love dogs, i salute you:)
What a wonderful love story. What a wonderful tribute to your wonderful Denali. My husband and I know all too well the whole in your heart when you loose a beloved companion. I lost my beloved Cocker Spaniel 14 years ago and still miss him daily. We have a golden retriever now that brings us much joy. So thankful that you and all the others that have made posts are loving owners and caretakers of fur babies. Wishing you many many years of joy and happiness with Keira.
What a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing. Denari was very lucky to have you both. I'm sure he/ she is having a wonderful time up there looking after you. I thank you for all the time and attention you have given Denari. Hats up!
A always say that you can tell the character of people by the way they treat their pets. Dogs in particular. You truly are amazing people. And I know also exactly how you feel, having lost our much loved GS on my birthday last August. Our family is still trying to recover from our loss. Like yourself we had to euthanize as he would not have survived the dreaded bloat. We also comforted him right through to the end and it is the most difficult day of our lives. To the people who say that 'it is only a dog' are really missing something so precious that true dog lovers know about. All the best with the new addition, I am sure many years of love and play await.
Beautiful story and don't worry, you are amongst many who get that Danali was NOT just a dog, but a true family member!
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