2020 was beyond the worst year ever imaginable. When we had to shutdown due to the NY 2020 spring lock down, I never could have imagined the full extent of what 2020 would become. I hope everyone has been well and managed to stay healthy. While the end is in sight now with the vaccine, it will still be a long road and our world has been forever changed.
Like many, I had been really hoping the pandemic would not have lasted so long. I put K-9
Magic on pause in the hopes that things would get better soon. When the 2020 mandatory lock down was released, I had to make the difficult decision to not open K-9 Magic right back up because I did not think it was in anyone's best interests. While we all loved the doggie parties, doggie parties with groups of people socializing and touching the same dog toys, did not seem to be a responsible choice in the face of the massive pandemic. Unfortunately, with classes, there has been no feasible way to safely reopen in our previous location. If we kept larger class sizes, it would not be safe. If we went to smaller class sizes, longer term we would have run into financial problems. Given personal high household risks, it has not been possible to do one on on sessions with the pandemic going on. And so, K-9 Magic had to temporarily close and wait for things to get better. While the vaccine offers hope for the future, in 2020 things just kept getting worse instead of getting better.
Personally, both 2019 and 2020 have been difficult to deal with for different reasons. 2019 my day job sent me traveling all over the country. For months, almost every week meant a different state to teach a cybersecurity class and quite often a different time zone. K-9 Magic staffing issues meant by the end of the year I had to completely take over. There was also numerous other issues to deal with as well. While I have the experience and ability to take over the K-9 training program, 2019 became the ultimate time management nightmare. I would not have changed all the experiences and people I met, but it was challenging to say the least. Many weeks went something like Monday or Tuesday fly to whatever state I was teaching in, teach a cyber security class, see whatever I could see in that location
before I hopped on a redye back to NY. Get home Thursday or Friday, try to catch up on all I missed in my cybersecurity day job, head over to K-9 Magic to teach classes and host the doggie party. There were even times I was getting home and flying back out on the same day with only time to repack for the next trip. Weekends were drive 3-6 hours one way for USAR training or train my search dogs locally with my wilderness SAR team depending on how training schedules fell. Somewhere in there I also had to do all my homework to keep up with my cybersecurity doctoral degree, fit in one on one sessions to help more people, as well as run a cybersecurity business (https://www.ap-cyber.com/), try to give what time I could to other groups I had commitments to and manage some resemblance of normal life. Somewhere in there I also managed to fly my two disaster dogs out to CA for seminars and take my human remains detection dog out to a seminar in Ohio. To say the least 2019 was beyond crazy. I ended 2019 with an injury that made just getting out of bed and moving around feel just about impossible.
You always think there will be more time. In 2019, I was just trying to keep my head above water. The travel was supposed to slow down in 2020, so I pushed many things to 2020.
Luckily I had a family member willing and able to care for my dogs at home, but all the travel still meant I was not there for them as much as I would have liked in 2019. My old girl, Liberty Rose decided on New Years that she was done fighting. 2020 started by losing my 14 year old wilderness search dog on 1/2/20. Shortly after that we lost a long time client and friend as well that was with us from when we opened our doors in 2017.
My 8 year old GSD, Quincy, I had big plans for. I was pushing to expand the scope of his search work. I managed to have him evaluated by other search groups in 2019, but getting the additional certifications was just one thing too many. I decided we would work more on that in 2020 when the work travel slowed down. We had also been having a blast competing
in a lot of different dog sports events, but in 2019, it also was just one thing too many. I assured myself 2020 would be better.
I was not yet fully recovered from my injury when work started asking me to travel again. By the time I got back from my early 2020 trips, the pandemic was in full swing. Like everyone else, I raced around trying to figure out where to get the basics. Between the injury and the travel, the cupboards were bare. Stores kept being out of everything and online was an insane race to buy things before they were sold out.
Shortly after the start of the pandemic, Quincy suddenly started having his own medical issues. Towards the end of 2019, when I had Quincy out in CA, I saw a few odd movements in his hip. It came after he was snuggled under an airplane seat for hours to get out to CA and followed by working challenging disaster piles. He had not been on that level of pile for a number of years, and with all my 2019 travel, he was mostly sitting home not doing all that much while I was gone. I gave him a break when we got home and
then put him on a more in depth exercise program. It didn't take long before the issue completely disappeared so I didn't think much of it at the time. I just figured he was sore from the seminar and travel.
With the pandemic just starting to go into full swing in 2020, Quincy suddenly started having more and more trouble walking. We got Quincy to his regular vet who thought it was something in his spine. Then we had to struggle to get him into an orthopedic. The orthopedic had devastating news. He thought it was DM, a disease similar to ALS. Quincy was going to become paralyzed and then would reach a point he couldn't take it anymore and have to be put down. It was a terminal diagnosis and he was given 6 months from April 2020. From that point on, 2020 became a race of taking Quincy to different vets. While there were various timelines given, the diagnosis was the same everywhere. We took him to a herbalist and got him on some herbs. We took him to a neurologist. We tried rehab, we tried acupuncture and laser. Since DM is a genetic condition, one of his vets was trying to get him into a genetic study through Cornell. However, he could not get the study off the ground. We tried to get at home rehab equipment, but couldn't get it because of the pandemic. We made do, doing a lot of therapy in the hot tub.
Little by little Quincy got worse, until it became clear there was absolutely nothing that could be done. We could only slow the disease. Quincy was suffering and it is horrific to watch. All the things we were trying to do for him to slow it down, was not the right answer for him. It was only prolonging his suffering. We had to give up and let it run its course.
While we had a good breeder and did a lot of research, 8-9 years ago genetic testing was not prevalent. It was not something I knew to ask about and even when the breeder found out
it was running in her line, she choose not to tell people. If she had let us know, while the outcome would have been the same, I would have done things far differently. If we had known and gotten him on some of the therapies before hand, this special K-9 might have had more time with us before it got so bad. By the time it was in full gear, it was too late for anything to work.
October 2019, Quincy was a happy active search dog in his element, finding people and enjoying life. We were gearing up for additional SAR certifications and sport titles thinking we had all the time in the world in 2020 to get it done.
As I write this in January 2021, I know Quincy probably only has a few months left. He can not walk without help anymore and is little by little losing control. I have been lucky in that the only people I know that I have gotten COVID have all been fine. But its horrific seeing what is happening all over the world and worrying about the people in my life that are extremely high risk. In addition with dealing with the pandemic, 2020 for me was watching Quincy struggle and die slowly bit by bit. Still, if it was not for 2020, and the mandatory stay at home and slow down time, I probably would not have gotten to enjoy spending so much time with him.
I don't know what 2021 holds. I don't know when the pandemic will finally stop or if we will ever be able to open for in-person events in our old location (or somewhere new). But I do know that Quincy is the only reason there ever was a K-9 Magic. There is no way with the pandemic going on K-9 Magic can offer in person in events. However, towards the end of 2020, as it became clear we could not do what we used to do any time soon and we had exhausted all options for Quincy, I started looking more into online options and building an online training curriculum. While I don't have an ETA, I am hoping 2021 will see K-9 Magic getting re-opened online until the pandemic is over and then we can figure out a new plan in whatever the post-pandemic world looks like. I hope you all will join me on this online migration journey as I get things prepared and opened back up online. Quincy started me on this journey and I owe it to him try and keep it going after he is gone in his memory.