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A Memoir and Celebration of Life of A Pup Who Loved Retrieving

Waggit March Featured Dog
On September 30th, 2015, a tiny little American lab retriever with a shiny black coat was born in Wisconsin. He was the runt of the litter, weighed 2 full pounds less than most of his litter mates, and wasn’t strong enough to fight for his portion of food so he was hand fed and carried around during much of the early weeks.

Spooner at 5 weeks old
The breeder thought he would continue to need special attention and thought Laurie and John, who weren’t necessarily looking for another dog at the time but had big hearts and the right experience, would be the right pet parents for him. Laurie and John gave him the name Spooner, as in being born with a ‘silver spoon’ in his mouth because he was a purebred and his father was a National Field Trial champion.
As a puppy, Spooner was “a handful to say the least”, said Laurie; yet he was adorable, willful, and gentle. He loved soft stuffed toys and other soft objects but he never chewed or destroyed any of them. Spooner was also a great counter surfer and laundry basket raider. He would put both front paws on the counter and do the "rumba" down the counter hoping to steal a dish towel, pot holder, or dish sponge. Whenever he would successfully grab an item from the laundry basket, he would run off with it hoping to get a reward (a.k.a. a tasty treat) for giving it back. He was a true opportunist :)

Spooner at 9 weeks old


Growing up, Spooner showed his passion for retrieving very early on as his paternal lineage would suggest. When he was 3 years old, Laurie and John moved from Michigan to Bald Head Island, North Carolina. It is there that Spooner discovered another love of his - the beach and the ocean, and therefore began a lifelong relationship with daily walks on the beach and retrieving in the ocean.

By that time, Spooner was no longer a runt by any means. He had grown to be bigger than any of his brothers and sisters. At 100 pounds from when he turned 1, Spooner was athletic and muscular, and a real force of nature.

You could tell that Spooner loved every minute of retrieving. There was no wave too high or distance too far. Retrieving provided endless fun for him and he was great at it! Laurie described watching Spooner retrieving like watching an Olympic athlete. He was strong, powerful, and determined.

While he loved to retrieve and seemed healthy, Spooner started getting tired easily after activities and began sleeping more not long after his 9th birthday. Laurie and John took notice and started observing him, but his symptoms didn’t point to an obvious health issue.
Until one day, he started coughing, gagging, and had difficulty breathing. At that point, Laurie and John took Spooner to his family vet and he was initially diagnosed with kennel cough. However, after several rounds of antibiotics Spooner did not show any signs of improvement.
Laurie and John made the decision to change vets. It was then they unfortunately learned that Spooner had an advanced case of Dilated Cardiomyopathy (DCM), a genetic disease not common to purebred labs. He was put on an aggressive heart medication regimen and Laurie was tasked with taking his heart rate and respiration rate multiple times a day in order to monitor the progression of the disease.

However, Laurie was concerned about the accuracy of doing this manually. It was especially difficult as Spooner was uncomfortable and couldn’t stay still long enough for Laurie to get good readings.

That was when the vet recommended using a smart collar to take the needed vital signs. The collar provided tremendous insight into Spooner’s overall health and it also gave Laurie and John piece of mind that they would be able to make the best decisions for their fur baby as the disease progressed.

Spooner wore his collar daily for 6 months until two years ago last month when he finally succumbed to congestive heart failure. Spooner was only 10 years old and an otherwise healthy pup.

Laurie and John learned from Spooner’s vet and an NC State Veterinary Cardiologist that the normal heart rate for a healthy big dog should have been around 60-100 beats per minute with a normal respiration rate of 16-20 breaths per minute. They also learned that along with body temperature and sleep patterns, heart and respiration rates were two of the most important vital signs that would have been clues to a potential heart disease like Dilated Cardiomyopathy.

Had Laurie and John had a way of capturing early signs of an abnormal heart rate and an abnormal respiration rate, Spooner might have lived longer as his heart disease might have been diagnosed earlier and he would have started his treatment earlier.

After a much needed mourning period, Laurie and John decided they were ready to bring another dog into their lives and found Trooper, a mix breed black lab. He had been picked up as a stray by animal control and luckily had been pulled out of a high kill shelter by Peak Lab Rescue headquartered in Apex, NC. After their loss with Spooner, Laurie and John decided that they wanted to invest in a smart collar to keep track of Trooper’s health going forward and decided on Waggit based on their research. In a heartfelt thank you email to Waggit, Laurie said “too bad we didn't know about smart collars for dogs before it was too late for him (Spooner)”.



When Laurie reached out to Waggit, it was apparent that Spooner’s story deserves to be shared with other pet parents. We want to celebrate Spooner’s life and the fact that he got to live it to the fullest and doing what he loved everyday. We also want to honor his passing by bringing attention to the importance of health monitoring.

Waggit was created by two compassionate pet parents who lost their fur babies too soon with scenarios very similar to Laurie’s and many others. Our mission is to enable pet parents to proactively manage their fur babies’ health and well-being, prolong life, and strengthen their bond. With that, we say wag on!