Abbey: 1997 – 2013

Abbey in the snow

Abbey in the Zurich Snow


18 April 1997 – 21 December 2013

for Abbey’s extended family and friends 

Saying goodbye to the sweetest dog and friend feels impossible, but absolutely was the right thing for her. After 16 years and 8 months, her kidneys finally failed her this week. When IV fluids did not help to stabilize her, we hoped for a small miracle but actually we think she was ready to look for something better, where she could eat again, and find new energy to run and play.

Abbey was every bit a part of our big move to Switzerland earlier this year, and we don’t regret it for a minute. While we were full of worry about how Abbey would handle it all at her old age, we were thrilled to see how strong and happy she seemed to be when we found miles of snowy trails up the hill behind our apartment, where she ran and played almost like a puppy.

Our lives have included a lot of travel, several moves – both big and small – and Abbey was (to use a buzzword of the day) extraordinarily resilient.  Independent and patient with us as we went about our busy days, sweet and tolerant of her cat Max (and Biko), amazing with small kids, without fear of big horses, and always ready for a walk and a cookie.  We are so lucky to have had so many years with her.

Abbey traveled so well and seemed to love the adventures as much as we did, so she got to see many places with us. In some ways, Switzerland has been like a dream for a dog like her, and she even got a Swiss Passport. As we wrote in other posts, we have found Zurich to be super dog-friendly. She made friends on a regular basis and always charmed strangers she passed on the street. This summer, random strangers were even asking if they could take her picture and pose with her.

Abbey’s mostly good health for so many years, which surprised even the veterinarians, was also a result of the many generous and helpful friends who helped take care of her when we took trips without her. You know who you are, and we are forever grateful for your help. Since many of you only knew her for a short part of her long life, the rest of this post is to share some highlights with you of her almost 17 years.

Abbey Beer

New Belgium Abbey Beer

It all started with Beer
(as it should be for a descendant of the Six family).

April 1997.

puppycuteFort Collins, CO.  Conveniently timed barbecue at Alexandra and Greg’s house. Peter, the brewmaster at New Belgium Brewing was there and brought along a couple of kegs, a new beer they were launching, Saison, and their trappist-style dubbel (Aimee’s favorite), Abbey.  Four adorable month-old puppies were also taking their first steps. Their mom was half husky, half labrador; the father was unknown, but must have been a border collie.  We picked the cutest one (of course) and Abbey seemed like the perfect name given the atmosphere in which we found her.

Fort Collins, Colorado.  1997-2002.

Abbey in Ft CollinsBursting with energy, Abbey kept us busy and provided us with some balance while we worked on our PhDs. Even as a small puppy, she hiked almost everything we did, backpacked and camped with us, and kept Jo fit when he took her along for mountain bike rides before work along the “A Trail” in the foothills behind our house. Jo and Hide even took Abbey up to the top of the Pawnee Buttes when she was still small enough to fit in a backpack. She hiked around Horsetooth Rock, Arthurs Rock, Red Feather Lakes, and Greyrock peak countless times and doing double/triple times the distance in order to herd us people all together.  She climbed two 14‘ers — both in one day — Grays and Torreys.  Gray’s Peak is on the Continental Divide and at 14,278 ft (4,352 m) is the 10th highest peak in Colorado, and she braved doing it in therain. She walked away without a scratch from a bad car accident on the way up to an annual snowshoeing weekend on Cameron Pass, but absolutely loved these snowshoeing trips, showing off to her friends like Hawkeye how easy it was for her to run through the deep powder when they struggled to keep up. Abbey lived with several of our roommates during those years, but probably liked it most when Marni and her cat Biko lived with us.

I-80 East.  Abbey loved the car, and traveled easily (despite Rich’s one bad experience). One Christmas, we packed our bags and decided to drive to Long Island to surprise Aimee’s parents. Along for this snowy drive, Abbey saw all of I-80, from Wyoming east. Her surprise appearance at the front door in Centerport was extra special. On this trip, she got to see the Atlantic.

I-80 West. Our first big move with Abbey was from Fort Collins, CO to Davis, CA.  With promises of Pacific coast beaches and the Sierras as good replacements for the Rocky Mountains, we drove the other half of I-80 to our new home. Along the way, we detoured through Utah to visit Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks. Dogs are only allowed in limited areas of the National Parks, so while we didn’t get to hike too much, we all enjoyed these truly spectacular places.

Davis, California. 2002-2012.

MaxMost of Abbey’s life was in California and here she had too almost many adventures to recall. Davis was much hotter than Ft. Collins, but Abbey seemed to enjoy lying in the sun — even when she could be in an air-conditioned room, sometimes she preferred to be outside in the middle of the hot summer sun. We got her a sweet cat, Max, who loved her. They often sleptand even ate together on occasion. Coquetta also joined the family during this time and Abbey enjoyed many hours of trail riding with her through ag fields. She (irrationally) showed no fear of horses and could often be found standing directly beneath Coquetta. Coquetta never kicked, bit, or stepped on her, but was surely jealous of Abbey. On Abbey’s last morning with us, we brought her to the barn so Coquetta could say goodbye.

Trinity AlpsWe traveled most of the scenic Highway 1 together, from the Mendocino coast down to Santa Barbara. She got to play on the  gorgeous beaches of Point Reyes, Carmel, Pebble Beach and Santa Barbara. She waded in Monterey Bay, Lake Tahoe, and even the Pacific. She came wine tasting in Napa, Sonoma, and Santa Ynez.  The hiking and snowshoeing was mostly in the Sierras, but all of us preferred the Trinity Alps which maybe reminded us more of the Rockies. On these vacations, we saw Abbey slowing down, but also how much she still enjoyed to get out and play in the lakes and on the rocks

Zurich, Switzerland. 2013.

Abbey made our arriving in Switzerland unforgettable, from the first minute on, by her distinct bark sounding in the passenger cabin while the plane taxied to the gate of Zurich airport. We were both very happy to see her full of life coming down the luggage belt and ready to embark on the new adventure. One says that “old dogs don’t learn new tricks”, but Abbey is “the exception that makes the rule” because Abbey learned a hell of lot in the last year. She learned to deal with jet lag, to live in an apartment (even two different ones), to ride the tram, bus, train, and even the gondolas, to enjoy the inside of cafes and restaurants, to drink at the doggy bar, to do her walks in the city (meaning having to find a little spot of green to poop and pee or just be ok to do it in the middle of the street), and, if you believe Aimee, to speak Swiss dog language. And she did all of this between the age of 111 and 118 years old…

Summer in Zurich

During her 11.5 month adventure with us in Zurich, Abbey made new friends, especially Sonja, who looked after her when she needed more midday attention than we could give her. She also got in a couple of hikes, notably Uetliberg and Züriberg, on opposite sides of Lake Zürich, the beautifully clean lake in which she also got to play. Her trip up to the “Top of Europe” in August gave her incredible views of the Jungfrau, Mönch, and Eiger alps, as well as a chance to walk along the Aletsch Glacier.  This makes Abbey able to decide, from a dog’s perspective, which mountain range is most exciting: the Colorado Rockies, the Sierra Nevadas, the Trinity Alps, or the (real) Swiss Alps.

As the 118 years came closer and closer, Abbey did start showing her age: listening was an option, not a rule (which is actually not a strength for adapting to Switzerland…); rather than the sidewalk, the middle of the street seemed a better place to walk, and looking before walking into the middle of the street was not required anymore; staring at a wall for a few minutes was entertaining, and standing still under the dining table while we were eating was just a thrill. Abbey had clearly decided that she was just going to do whatever she wanted at her old age. It was cute and made for some laughs, but sadly enough, she was also not able to eat as much anymore (due to her kidney disease). She became skinnier and less active, despite being served chicken, steak, prosciutto, rice, egg, tuna, etc. The kidney disease took over and Abbey was too tired to do anything; it was time to go and she did so very peacefully with the help of the vet; her eyes blinked from tiredness to peacefulness…

She will be greatly missed but has left us with a wealth of memories…

We made a little photo gallery to celebrate her long life.


4 responses to “Abbey: 1997 – 2013

  1. I am sorry for the loss of your wonderful friend and companion. Her pain is over and I hope that soon you have smiles when you think of her

  2. I am so happy I got to spend a short time in October with Abbey. It was obvious she was getting old and tired. I especially remember the night Jo came back from a walk with her and announced he had lost her! Smart girl Abbey had returned to your previous apartment. She had forgotten she had moved. It is so sad but you will always have your beautiful memories of her. Thank you for sharing her with us in such a meaningful way. I feel your pain. Mom

  3. Dearest Aimee and Johan:
    I have been thinking about you and Abbey and Bob a lot in the last month. I know that you are still missing her each and every day- but she and Bob and happy and flirting it up in a much better place these days.

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