I'm saddened to share that one week ago today we had to put one of our GTD Dogz (Faith) to sleep. Faith has blessed our lives and so many of our participants for nearly 15 years. She & her sister Courage "joined" GTD when they were 6 weeks old - a day after a bear came into one of our campsites and I decided to get a dog to be our "wild animal alarm". Faith & Courage instantly became part of my family & the GTD family and traveled with us on adventures throughout the southeast from the swamp trails of the Everglades, to the canoeing trails of central Florida, to the rock climbing mountains of Tennessee, to the waterfalls & gorges of North Carolina, and to the backpacking trails & State Parks of north Georgia. Faith loved going on all of these great adventures and both dogs did an outstanding job fulfilling their role as alarms for & deterrents of wild animals entering camp, alerts of strangers walking nearby, and most importantly they served as a fun-loving face-licking affection-giving representative for our ministry. In many ways they were as much of a GTD staff member as any employee or volunteer. Everyone loved Faith as soon as they met her, especially kids! No matter how God-awesome an event was this Labradoodle could always make it even better just by being the lovable & silly dog she was. I never used to understand how people could get so attached to pets until I got these dogs. Second only to God Himself, these dogs have taught me more about unconditional love, the power of asking and receiving (they were always asking for snacks, truck rides, belly rubs, & to go outside), unstoppable joy, not holding a grudge when others (me) let them down, and the importance of stopping office work & going outside for some fresh air. Faith was a much better dog than I was a owner, but she was always so happy when I walked through the door and would run over and start pouring out the love. And as much as she loved me she adored Laurie. They say that you don't pick your dog, your dog picks you. Courage picked me as her best friend, but Faith picked Laurie as her bestie. As happy as Faith was to see me she was a thousand times more thrilled to see Laurie. Laurie is a much better pet owner than me. I call her, "Laurie Finger - Friend Of The Animals". Faith would come alive and sprint to Laurie as soon as she saw her... it was like everyday was Christmas and Laurie was Santa Claus! With all that was going on with my parents over the past few years I never posted this on social media, but Faith has been aging very poorly over the past few years. She went completely deaf, had terrible arthritis in her hind legs that made walking difficult & caused her to fall many times throughout the day, and for about 18 months she has had dementia which caused her to walk aimlessly & stand facing the corner in any room. Even with all of that she was almost always happy. But there were also times when she would fall and be unable to get back up on her own and begin to panic. I was hoping she would make it to the end of the year, but last Thursday she took a sudden turn for the worse and lost all sense of balance. She couldn't sit, stand, or walk without falling and hitting her head. Her eyes were twitching uncontrollably. We believe she developed Nystagmus. I didn't want to put her down, but over the next 24 hours it became obvious that was the only option. We called Laps of Love who come out to your house. Laurie came over and slept next to Faith all night on Thursday night and then we had Faith outside (her favorite place) all day Friday feeding her rotisserie chicken & cheese. Faith's final act of affection was to nuzzle up into Laurie's lap just before the meds were administered. It was so touching and crushing at the same time. Faith passed painlessly while laying securely in her best friend's lap. She was a fantastic dog and lived a great dog life, and she served our ministry well for nearly 15 years! Thank You God for making animals... what a cool invention!! A few years ago there were 4 cats and 2 dogs living with me. Now it's just 1 dog. The house feels a whole lot emptier without all these fun-loving furry friends... but that's the hard & unfortunate part of having pets... they just don't live as long as you wish they did. Goodbye Faith! Thank you for your service and all the doggone good times!! And thank you to the thousands of people who loved on Faith over the past 14+ years on events and to the long list of people who dog-sat for her & Courage during trips and events that they weren't able to travel to (like Costa Rica, the Grand Canyon, etc). Check out all of the great pictures of Faith (and Courage)... from 6 weeks old to her last day... with thick hair, closely shaved hair and everything in-between :) . Faith was one-of-a-kind with so many quirky & hilarious behaviors... the house and our hearts are emptier without you Faith! That just shows what a great dog you were!!