In the summer of his sophomore year of high school, in 2004, my son, John, was in search of the perfect dog. He did quite a bit of research on the breed that he wanted, and he finally settled on a boxer. He had little success in finding one closer to home but luckily his oldest sister, Kelly, was in medical school in Denver and she was able to find a puppy for him there. After spending a night in Kelly's apartment, she brought Kerri (Kerrigan) to meet John and I in Wheatland.
Of course, she was about the cutest puppy ever. John had brought toys with him and it seemed at first that she was hesitant to play with them. She wasn't sure what was up. One thing that I remember her doing, which would come back to haunt her and all of us, was that when we would stop and let her out to relieve herself, she would try to eat the rocks, or anything she else she found on the ground. At one point she picked up a cigarette butt. I wish I had a camera handy as she it was a perfect picture, a small wrinkly faced puppy with the cigarette (looking like a cigar for her size) hanging out of her mouth. This propensity she had pretty much drove John nuts as he was always taking things out of her mouth, not regular puppy things, but mostly rocks and she wasn't chewing on them but wanted to eat them.
Kerri was also very hard to house train, mostly in the learning how to ask part. John had read different tricks, getting her bark, whine, ring a bell, anything...but she had many accidents. She knew exactly what to do when taken outside, but getting from point A to point B was a mystery to her.
She spent a lot of time in my office chair, being wheeled around to wherever John or I was, because the chair at least confined her when we were busy and kept her accidents to a minimum. Of course, this resulted in a lifelong habit of hers of preferring to sit in chairs, office chairs, kitchen chairs, and of course the living room chairs.
That summer John had a part-time job at the roller skating rink in Gillette and one of his duties was to help out at the birthday parties. After one party when he was cleaning up he came across some toys that were made of a soft rubbery substance, that were made to look real. I don't remember all of them, but one was a very soft pile of what appeared to be puppy poop. As this was something we were dealing with at home, John thought it would be a funny joke to play on mom, to leave the fake poop on the couch or someplace where I would especially not like it.
I am not sure that he ever got to the point of being able to play the joke on me, because Kerri found the toys and, of course, ate them. John spent the next few days checking all of her poop to make sure that everything was coming through, and he found bits and piece of everything he thought was missing. These were really soft pieces, so nothing we were really concerned about her being able to pass.
It was days later, and we had pretty much forgot about the toys. John was pretty sure he had found all the pieces, and she had been doing just fine. Besides, she was always into something and there was always another accident or puppy mess to deal with. John then started noticing she wasn't eating as well, and then not eating anything. We took her to the vet and they could find nothing wrong. They did x-rays which didn't show much of anything. They sent us home and she was worse the next day...a lot worse.
She spent the day at the vet, as did we, while they did more tests. John was at school and wasn't able to be there, and Dr. Lynde told me that if it were an obstruction, that sometimes the enema itself would help it pass, but they weren't even sure that was what it was. He said we could leave her there for the night or take her home, but it was pretty obvious that no one was sure she would make it through the night.
I wasn't sure how to tell John. When he got home from school, though, he took her outside to see if she needed to go. He put her down and she was obviously very uncomfortable and needed to relieve herself. All of the sudden something seemed to almost "shoot out" of her. She was immediately relieved, herself, and feeling better and he brought her in to show us. I sent him back out to find what it was that had shot out and he found that rubber puppy poop, that had shrunk to a fraction of its original size, but was the same shape and very hard - no longer soft and realistic looking.
We were all so very happy. She was able to eat a little bit and was exhausted and slept until morning. When she woke up she was a starving, skinny little puppy who couldn't give everyone enough kisses. I really think she learned this lesson as there was no more rock eating or toy eating. She still loved toys, but she stuck with eating food.
John was the youngest of my kids and the only one still at home full time. Kelly, of course, was in Denver and my next oldest, Jill, was in Laramie. I think my oldest son, Paul, was at home but he was in college and starting his own life. Thus, it was Kerri and I at home by ourselves much of the time. She was definitely John's dog and she loved him more than anything, but her job was to keep an eye on me while he was gone.
I remember one day I was outside weeding in the flower garden, feeling particularly lonely as that was something that Kelly and Jill would have done with me, while we sat and talked. Kerri laid next to me and watched for a while and then, I think as I was even tearing up thinking about my missing daughters, she came over and started digging with me. She didn't quite get the game, but she was more than willing to play.
Which brings us to games, of which she knew so many. Our house has a series of what I call circles. Almost every room has at least two entrances to it and to Kerri these circles were great for playing chase with John. She would chase him and then turn mid way in the circle and go back the other way to catch him and he would do the same. She would bark and carry on while she chased him. They would stand on either end of the circle, looking through doorways at each other while each decided which way to go next.
John also taught her hide-and-go-seek. She wasn't the best at hiding her eyes and counting, so I would hold her (didn't take much, she knew the game and that she had to wait), and then when John yelled she would make a mad dash to find him. He had some pretty good hiding places and sometimes it did take her a bit, but when she found him she would bark at him until he came out of hiding.
She also loved, loved, LOVED the laser light and would chase it everywhere. John would point the light down the halls, up the doorways (where she would jump almost to the top), and around in circles. He would stand in one place and make a small circle and she would run in a small circle, just a few feet in diameter, and bark with each rotation.
She loved to make her own obstacle courses and when they went outside to play she would run around, over, through the outdoor furniture and play sets. Later, when the grandkids came, she would climb the ladder into their playhouse and exit by going down the slide - on her bottom no less!
She also figured out a way to ask to play the laser game. John generally kept the laser pointer in his pocket, or in the kitchen drawer. She would use sign language and look at his pocket, or at the drawer, and then at the floor, moving her head back and forth, cocked at an angle. It didn't take us long to figure out that she was telling us it was time to play the light game.
Every afternoon I would tell Kerri when it was almost time for John to come home. She would run to the window and watch until he walked up the driveway.
Sometimes we would go pick him up at the high school and she knew the drill. She would scan the crowd of kids coming out the school doors watching for him. I would always try to see if I could find him first, but that seldom happened. Once she would find him in the mass of kids, her little button tail would start to wiggle and the rest of her body would join in uncontrollably. She loved her John.
Kerri loved toys so much and got so ridiculously excited when we brought her home a new one that I couldn't help myself...most bags from the grocery store did include some kind of toy for her. She loved grocery time and I loved watching the pure, infectious joy she got out of getting a new toy.
As John got closer to finishing high school, I started getting scared about the possibility of him taking Kerri with him. He certainly wanted to figure out a way to take her with him while he was in college. I started looking for another boxer of my own, but was not having a lot of luck. My husband, Jeff, had made a trip to Colorado Springs (where our family was) and his truck broke down. I went down to assist and while there started looking in the newspaper and found a male boxer, one-year-old, who was for sale. I called and the man who answered said someone else was already coming to take a look and if they didn't take him, then I was next in line. The family didn't want to give him up, but they were military and were being transferred to Germany. We didn't wait around to see what happened. We went to their home and waited for the other people to take a look. We saw them leaving without a dog and we went to meet Ali.
Ali was another fawn boxer, like Kerri, but he had more white on him and a much more masculine face, of course. He was having a grand time tearing through the very nice house with his brother, Tyson. The family had small children and both dogs were very careful about the kids, while going pretty crazy themselves. I asked the man if he would let me know if the other family decided not to take him, and he told me that they had their chance and if I wanted him, he was mine. I, of course, jumped at the chance, but he definitely was not mine...not yet.
He got in my truck with me and he tolerated going to a strange place, and a long truck ride home, but he wasn't sure about any of it. I remember very clearly when he decided to adopt me. We were almost to Wright on Hwy 59. He had been sitting in the passenger seat, watching me very intently. He seemed to make a decision and he got up from the passenger seat and crawled into my lap while I was trying to drive. He was a pretty big boxer and I had to pull over to get control of him and the truck. He did end up spending the rest of the 30 miles half on my lap and half on the passenger seat.
Obviously his name was meant to be pronounced like Mohammed Ali, the boxer (of course), but his name over time evolved to be Ollie, or Oliver, which much more suited him, I thought.
I was pretty concerned about introducing these two dogs to each other. Ali wasn't that much taller than Kerri but he was quite a bit heavier and we didn't know each other that well. I wasn't sure what he would do. We had introductions on leashes in the front yard, but obviously had nothing to worry about. This really was love at first sight. There was no hesitation, no fear, just pure joy at having a playmate. We let them off the leashes and they ran and played and wrestled and ran and played and wrestled some more.
Kerri had been working on her manners, and was house trained, but she had her vices for sure, and she taught them to Ali and Ali taught his to her. They loved to tear up boxes, any kind of boxes. The would pull books of the shelves and were known to tear up a few of those. As I worked at home, though, and only was gone for errands to town, they didn't have a lot of time left to their own devices.
We would put Ali in a crate while we were not home to minimize some of the destruction, which helped until Kerri figured out how to let him out of the crate. She would actually pull up on the latch and pull it over to the side, with very little mistakes. She had it down to a smooth movement. We then started leaving Ali in a crate in a locked bedroom, but when we got home we would just open the door and tell Kerri to go let Ali out and within seconds she would.
When they were three years old, Kerri and Oliver had one set of puppies. Ollie was the best mate and best dad ever. When Kerri was in labor and in the bed we had made for her, Ali knew what was up. He left her alone but he paced like the great dad/husband that he was. He walked up and down the hall and whimpered. At one point he got a rubber duck toy and gave it to Kerri. She pushed it next to her and kept it there. After the puppies were born, she kept that toy with the other puppies, as if it were one of them.
Ali would sit next to them and watch the puppies but he would never put his nose close to them or disturb Kerri in any way. When I would pick up a puppy to show him, he could hardly contain his excitement. He was very gentle, though.
As the puppies got older and could play, their favorite toy was their dad. He would roll in the grass and they would climb on him and bite him and terrorize him, and he loved every minute. Kerri was a wonderful mom, but she would get tired of them sometimes. Not Ali though...he never could get enough abuse from them.
During this time one of John's friends came to see the puppies and while John was showing off the puppies to his friend, I stood in the doorway and talked with the friend's father who was waiting. This was the first time I really noticed how seriously Ali took his job of being our caretaker. He was frantic going back and forth to keep an eye on the puppies with John's friend and to watch over me with the dad. He never was threatening, but he always watched and for that short time he couldn't figure out how to be both places at once so he just kept going back and forth and back and forth. He would have been much happier if we had all been in one place!
Like most dogs, as they got older, Kerri and Ali got over their occasional destructive episodes. They became very reliable and (usually) quiet dogs. They were always together. Ali liked to pretend that he was in charge and he was the Alpha, but when he got too noisy, too disruptive, or too bossy, Kerri would just give him a nip or a shove, and he would stop. It was obvious who was the real boss, but she didn't throw her weight around.
They loved to play and wrestle and never got over that. Kerri's favorite game was always the laser light, but Ali never really understood why she was chasing something she couldn't catch. He would get frustrated and try to wrestle and play with her when she was chasing the light, but Kerri was all about the light and didn't appreciate his interruptions. We started giving Ali a toy to distract him from Kerri, and that worked. He would play his own game while she played hers. After a while we could just tell him to get a toy when he was getting too frustrated and after a while longer, when the light came out, he just ran to get a toy.
After Kerri had their puppies she went through a few episodes of false pregnancy, which really were hard on her. She would adopt some toy or another and be very protective of it and stress over it. We had her spayed to prevent this from happening.
She never got over loving babies of any kind, though. When I got our first batch of baby chicks one year, she would fuss over them like a bunch of puppies. She would gently wash them and loved to go with me when it was time to feed and clean the pen.
When grandchildren first entered our lives both Kerri and Ali were completely enthralled with them. As grandchildren grew and increased in numbers, they were just more people to love and to take care of and, of course, faces for Kerri to wash.
It was during a Halloween party at our house that we first realized that there was something wrong with Kerri. She was 9 years old by then. She had an "accident" in the house, which just never happened. Kerri and Ali had doggy door and had free run to the yard and back, but she couldn't make it to the door. That was the first time and after a couple more we took her to the vet, thinking possibly a urinary infection...something like lymphoma hadn't even crossed our minds.
John was in college in Laramie when she was diagnosed, and she was going downhill fast. I wanted so much for them to be able to be together one more time. The vets put her on some medication, one of which was very expensive and had actually been donated by another client of theirs. I was so grateful! I also found a home-made dog food diet that was supposed to help, and if it didn't, at least she was very happy to eat it and it made me feel like I was doing something to help. She actually ended up going into kind of a remission for a few months and John got to see her a few times before she started getting bad again and we had to let her go.
Kerrigan "Kerri" Downey was born in the summer of 2004. She filled a void we didn't even know we had. She was John's best friend and loved him more than anything. Her mom must have told her what it meant to be a boxer, all the traits that she must possess, because she embodied them all. She was a clown, she was a jumper, she could wiggle every inch of her body and she loved to play! Okay...she LIVED to play.
She met Ali when she was 1-1/2 years old and from the first minute they were inseparable. They were partners in crime, partners in fun, and above all partners in taking care of all of their human family.
Kerri and Ali had one litter of puppies and she found that she loved taking care of babies. She was a wonderful mom and after that experience she insisted on taking care of any baby animals that came her way, whether that be her pug sister Amy, her great dane cousin Roy, or the many baby chicks she helped care for.
In her passing, we felt the void again and this time we knew it was there.
I was very concerned about how Ollie would take Kerri being gone, but he understood. I know people say that, but I hadn't seen it before. He just knew. He knew she was sick before that, and he knew when she was gone. He was sad and a little lost, but he didn't look for her any more.
A few months after we lost Kerri we got another boxer puppy, Josie. I was terrified at the thought of losing Oliver. We had Josie for about a year or so before deciding we needed another dog to give Josie someone else to play with as she was just too much for Ollie to handle and he was showing his age. We then got Nellie, a red heeler.
This gave Ollie time to relax and keep an eye on everyone. He took many naps with grandkids, but I think Ana was his favorite. I have many nap-time photos of the two of them.
He also helped take care of my mom who was suffering from Alzheimer's. He would spend hours with his head on her lap as she stroked his ears. He had a very calming effect on her.
Ollie never retired from his job of watching out for me. He had trouble getting in and out of bed and going up and down stairs but if I was going somewhere, he was going too. I was always making plans or trying to figure out how to make things easier for him.
I dreaded the time when I would have to make any decisions about him, and I think he even knew that because one summer night he just laid down in the grass, in the setting sunshine, and passed away. I believe he was even taking care of me with that last act.
Ali “Oliver” Downey, a beloved boxer dog, passed away peacefully at his home in Rozet, Wyoming on June 16, 2016, at the age of 12. He went outside on a beautiful evening, laid down in the grass and took his last breath.
Oliver was born in 2004 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. After a short time with a military family in Colorado, he adopted the Downey family of Rozet. With his newly adopted family came the love of his life, Kerrigan, another 1-year-old boxer. They truly loved each other and were inseparable.
Ali and Kerri had 5 puppies and Ali was a wonderful father. He had great respect for Kerri and the puppies, only venturing close when she had given permission. As the puppies grew, he loved playing with them in the grass, rolling around while being tackled by the bundles of fur with sharp teeth. He also helped to raise other members of his family including Amy (Pug) and Roy (Great Dane). Ollie knew that babies of every kind needed special protection, whether they be puppies, children, or even chickens.
He did have a wild side when he was younger and there were no boxes or books safe from being shredded.
Ollie always knew where Kerri was. If she was outside in the yard without him, he cried until he was with her. When she was lost for an entire afternoon he was the one who alerted everyone to her absence, and searched frantically himself until she was found. When she passed away from lymphoma, he still knew where she was and he sadly stopped looking.
Ollie had one job in his life and he took it very seriously. He kept us safe. He did so with honor and great care. He trusted and was trustworthy. He loved his family. He loved us all, but Kathy was his special person. He never willingly left her side.
Oliver was preceded in death by his mate, Kerrigan, and his daughter, Faith.
He is survived by his human parents, Jeff and Kathy, and by his sisters, Josie (boxer) and Nelly (heeler). He had special friends in John and Paul who were always great fun. He loved all of his adopted human grandkids, but especially Zach, who would help him remember to play like a puppy, and Ana, who shared her nap times with him.
He will be greatly missed by everyone he loved.
Every family should be lucky enough to have members like Kerri and Ollie sometime in their lives. We have had many family pets over the years and, unfortunately, with life always being busy with kids growing up and work, we weren't always able to give them the attention they deserved, or have the kind of relationship we had with Kerri and Ollie. They both came around when kids didn't need us as much but we still needed to be needed.
After Ollie passed away, we adopted a rescue "boxer" from California, named Bennie. After putting some weight on, Bennie looks much more like a bullmastiff. We still have Josie and Nellie, and we love all three very much. Although our grownup children probably wouldn't appreciate the reference, Josie, Nellie and Bennie are our next set of kids, and are treated that way. It is easier, though, this time around - no 4H, basketball, soccer or wrestling!
Even so, I still get rescue alerts for boxers in the surrounding area. I just keep looking, feeling like somehow I will look at a picture and see Ollie looking back at me.