April O’Neil, Canine News Reporter (2005-2020)

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So change of pace. On February 4th, 2020 I had to put my first puppy-girl April down due to health reasons. It was really hard for me, still is fresh and as a friend said “she represented all that was familiar.” So I though a healthy thing to do would be to do a memorial post so I could appropriately remember her as well as let people see a little into the world of April and I. Careful-its long. She was 14.5 years old when she passed. 

image of April at 8-weeks old being held by a shelter staff member. This was her photos from the website I would watch.

April was born on July 9, 2005. She was part of a litter brought straight to the humane society upon birth where she had 4 brothers. The brothers were named after the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and she was the lone girl-hence being called April. When I graduated from college, I worked HARD preparing to take on getting a dog and I had watched April since was added to the website of the Vanderburgh Humane Society (https://www.vhslifesaver.org ) I worked at Starbucks and lived in a little 1-bedroom apartment on the north east side of Evansville, Indiana. At work-some one found out I wanted a dog and talked about how they were getting puppies of a lab husky mix that they could give me. So I went to what I thought was the shelter to get information on how to get a dog. I walked in, talked to the desk clerk and 1) found out there were a rescue and 2) go across the street. But as a general rule of thumb, I always promised I would take out a dog to play with them whenever I could to help them let out energy from living inside their kennels until adoption.

So October 14, 2005 it was 2 hours before my work shift when I first met April. She was a happy puppy, excited to see and play with me. I took her out into the yard to play. Now, keep in mind, the other dogs I had taken out always ran from me, so excited to see the world and get some bent up energy out. That day, April walked out, I went and sat down on the ground in a spot in the middle of the wood chips and she walked straight up next to met, sat down and cuddled next to me. I remember asking “you don’t want to run around and play? Go be yourself! Play!” … and she didn’t move. Almost as though she knew her place was next to me. I walked to the door to leave after putting April back in her kennel with the staff and I always promised if it ever came down to I couldn’t leave the dog, I knew it was time to adopt. Well, that was that day. I literally turned around at the door, walked back and said “so what would it take for me to take her home.” I was surprised by the little paperwork, minimal cost ($90 by the way I found the receipt) and here was my new dog, Christmas collar and all

image of April-dog and I when after a few weeks of having her in my first apartment in Evansville. She was about 4 months old in this picture

I rushed home to get everything I had written down on the white board planning for a dog for months. I called my mom who was not supportive of me getting a dog on my own and thought I should take her back (keep reading-she doesn’t think this for long.) I was so happy. I had my first puppy.

The next few months consisted of me taking my dog for walks around 3am (work shifts) or learning what “potty training” is and that baby gates are for the weak-minded because April learned to claim 6 feet of baby gate blocking her in the bedroom while I was at work. I took her to Petsmart (where people were so happy to see her get a home-they knew her from the shelter’s events at the store), to work on my days off and she learned about the awesomeness of our local mail man and about snow (I have several photos of her jumping and playing in it.) At the same time, my mom’s health was not in a good place, so she insisted along with my secrete desire to go home to move back to California. So I drove 3 days with 4 hotel stays (I left at 2am the first night because I couldn’t bare getting up so early to leave and ended up staying in St. Louis, MO with her mid day so I could make it to Oklahoma City the first night.) We fought getting pulled over with no lights on (forgot to turn them on), tole roads, hotel potty training, stopping often to walk and stretch our legs. But the memory of her curling up in my lap while I drove was one of our happiest cuddle moments.

image of April on pastel colored bed sleeping

When we arrived home, my mom tried hard to adjust. My mom’s friend Holly offered to watch her when I was out of town on road trips with boyfriends because physically and mentally my mom wasn’t quite ready. I moved in temporarily with my childhood friends nearby where I struggled with April chewing toys, spa tubs (yep-I paid for that) and with me working at Disneyland long hours. So I looked for affordable training and someone mentioned a facility where they kept shepherd for the local german shepherd rescue of Orange County (gsroc.org). Yep, that’s right. April is the reason I got into shepherd rescue. I also got into dog training at that time so April went with me to SEVERAL classes and become the example dog who excelled at sitting and giving paw for treats.

Image of April giving Shawn a lick on the side of his face

When I met Shawn, April had to make sure he smelled right. She loved him and enjoyed playing with him. They had this game where he would yell “get the puppy” and she would go into zoomie mode, running around and eventually jumping onto the bed to bed “safe.” It was adorable.

Now remember me saying my mom asked if I could take her back? Well–April and her began to form a special bond. April would always sit next to her in the chair, my mom would gradually pet her and she would also sit nearby almost to say ” I’m here Grandma.” My mom began to love her and befriends her in the best way. When my mom would fall, she would stay close by and come get me. When she went into a nursing facility before she passed, we took April to go on a walk with her (wheelchair ride-same thing.) My mom’s friends became “Auntie so-and-so” to April as they loved her as much as my mom refused to admit.

Image of April resting her snout on my mom’s had, looking directly at her eyes

After my mom died in Nov. 2011, I knew I wanted to have more dogs in the house, how many spending on how April felt. I thought I would be working hard to adopt a shepherd from the rescue I had volunteered with for years, but when a black & white husky walked across my path off the streets of Anaheim, he didn’t leave 🙂 I was super worried he wouldn’t like April or April wouldn’t like him–but in the end they ended up being the best bonded pair of pups I could ever want.

image of me laying on the couch, with April laying in front and Scout trying to lay on her hind quarters

The dogs and Shawn and I had so many adventures together. April and I had so many adventures together before Scout that’s its impossible to catalog them all. We went to In&out, road trips, did training together, took April to the Red Faire once, learned that I truly had an amazing dog. As she grew in age, she began to slow down. I knew early arthritis was going to be a reality some day so I learned to take things slow. Scout wanted to play but she would get angry and bark but I knew deep down, she was still a puppy at heart. Over the last few months, over the holidays, April started to slip on the tile more, fall over, have anxiety attacks about falling (she would shake) and eventually, when she couldn’t stand to eat or relieve herself, I knew it was time. I came home from work, took her to the vet with Scout and Shawn and we said our goodbyes to the best dog in the world. My Aprilgirl

I think I’m going to end this blog with just photos because its the way I want to remember her. She was always with us–and still is. From the movie “Togo”, it is said best:

image of April sitting perfect-photo taken by Petsmart photography

“If you were lucky enough to know a great one, they never really leave. They stay with you as long as you live. Harnessed to your heart, giving their all.”

(i’m not crying, you’re crying. thank you for getting thru this)

image of April and Scout laying on their “beds” when we first moved. Scout on an actual dog bed and April curled up on a blanket