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A Tribute to Kensie

Updated: Jan 26, 2023

It's been a little over a month now that I've been trying to write this post. A tribute post...a post I never wanted to write, but knew I would have to one day. Only written because it means that there has been a loss that needs to be memorialized. I've started and restarted it a million times now because I want to honor the life our beautiful Kensie lived through words, and I feel like they'll never do her justice. That, along with how painful this first month without her has been. There have been very few days that I haven't woken up to see the jacket she was wearing that day on the pillow next to me that tears haven't welled in my eyes. There have been so few days that I haven't had at least one moment when I see her framed paw print on my desk that my heart hasn't broken a little more. And today, beside me is the bag that contains what is left of our girl, her ashes.

I've always really struggled to put into words what dogs mean to me, and the impact of losing Kensie has been more heartbreaking than I could have ever imagined. I've cried through the loss of a dog with countless people, be it when I worked in the veterinary field or with JLDD, but nothing could prepare me for the loss of one of my own.

December 19th, 2022 - one of the darkest days of my life. The day the phone rang and the news that I knew would come day, but didn't expect for THAT day came crashing down on me. I was in a hotel room in San Francisco after delivering a puppy the day before, and already not in the best headspace due to the upcoming holiday season and my personal situation surrounding it. I was sitting on the side of the bed when I anxiously returned the call, and then...Seth's [my husband] voice on the other end of the phone, cracking as he said "It's Kensie...we lost her".

It was a call I knew would come one day, and is honestly the reason I had been apprehensive about even owning as many dogs as we did - being 6. I knew I couldn't handle the pain that would seethe through my body and heart when the day inevitably came that there was a void where they once lived. While it's a little bit embarrassing to admit, I have avoided even thinking about it since we first got all of them because the thought alone was too much to bear.

While it may sound dramatic, when this news hit me, it felt like an out-of-body experience. I imploded into the bed, almost yelling into the phone grasping for answers. I just saw her a few days ago before I headed to the airport - how could she be gone now? I didn't even get to say goodbye to her, and so although she was already gone, I asked Seth if he could at least put me on speaker phone so I could talk to her one last time. And so, as her body laid in his lap in the woods of our property, I asked from the other side of the country"Can she hear me?" "...yeah" he replied through tears. My heart was breaking in real time, but I owed it to her to let her know what her life had meant to me.

And so I told her how thankful I was for her, and how sorry I was that I wasn't there with her. And I thanked her for everything she had been to me, for the other dogs, for our program, for her strength, and her...just being her. It was honestly probably the hardest thing I have ever had to do, and it still causes physical pain in my chest as I recount this story. Seth and I both sobbed like we never have before as we tried to accept the reality that she wasn't coming back, until he needed to leave to bring her body to the vet.

That 31 minute phone call broke my heart in a million new ways that I had never experienced before. A confusing heartbreak that almost seemed surreal.

When I think about Kensie, I always smile because she was always smiling, and I'm sure she was on her last day. I love thinking back over the life she lived with us and how she changed us. I have over 300 photos of her I wish I could post and explain every single one of, because Kensie was such a special girl. It might just be memory lane for me, but telling the story of her life and why it mattered matters SO much to me, in a way that I've never really been able to explain efficiently.

I remember the first moment we met her, opening the airline carrier she came to us in at the Charlotte airport. When I looked at her, she cut her eyes and didn't seem so sure about us. She was a little shy and nervous, and it took her a minute to come out of her crate that she traveled to us in from Montana. She was light-footed and cautious, and warily quiet the whole car ride home. I remember creaking the front door open that night, and the minute crossed the threshold how she looked around to check things out. I had been told that she LOVED couches and watching TV from her previous home, (below are the first photos I ever got of her...on the couch, of course) and when she saw our L-shaped couch positioned in front of the TV, and made a beeline and popped right up on it as if she owned the place...and from that moment on, she DID own the place.

Her shyness continued to dwindle when she also decided that it was appropriate for her to sleep in between Seth and I the first night she came home. We always laugh about how she jumped up in the bed, went under the covers and came back out to lay her head on the pillow in the dead center of the bed as if she belonged there. And she did belong there.

At that time, our program was young and we only had a few dogs in a tiny, 800-square foot house with little to no modern amenities. We only had Pettibone, Armani, and Fendi, who was a puppy at the time. Kensie was already 2 when she came to live with us, and it didn't take her too long to become queen of the 'pack'. She had her own way of doing everything, accompanied by an attitude that COULD NOT and WOULD NOT be mistaken for anyone else. Not to mention a voice that was also quite unmistakable. She also demanded to be spoken to in what we now call the "poodle voice" that seems to charm ALL poodles across the board!

She was more athletic than all of our other dogs combined, and could sail through the air to catch a ball with unmatched grace to snag it every time. She was the first poodle we'd ever owned, and she made us fall in love with her (and her breed) fast and hard, to the point that it was quickly decided that she would stay a part of our core 'pack' instead of putting her into a guardian home.

Kensie ruled the roost, and she knew it.

...If any of the other dogs got into a squabble, she was the one to break it up.

...Attention to be had? Kensie's nose would somehow always pop through the chaotic sea of dogs demanding a pet first.

...An adventure to go on? Her shrieks of excitement were the first to be heard.

...Daily fetch time? No other dog could hold a candle to Kens, and they knew it.

...Drama? N-O-B-O-D-Y could make something out of nothing more than she could.

...Hide and seek? Her favorite game. I can still hear her tail tapping as if she was laughing quietly in the bathtub as she thought she'd found the best hiding place of all.

If you want to talk about what a rockstar momma looks like....Kensie paved the way for us and became what we compared every other mom to.

She had a tiny litter of 2 puppies before she came to us, but here, she gave us our very first litter of diversely colored goldendoodle puppies, and our first litter of bernedoodles. She gave us our very first parti colored puppy when we bred her to Armani, and it was incredibly special. (Looking at you, Salvatore!) and showed us what a truly natural momma looked like. She LOVED her puppies, and made it look easy to be a mom, from the day she was bred (...yeah, this girl was a floooooozie!) to the day her puppies arrived, she was a natural. She KNEW her puppies were the best in the biz, and there was no telling her otherwise.

Even if they weren't hers, she was always willing to lend a hand with other litters. If she had extra milk, she was happy to share. If that other mom wasn't doing what she considered a sufficient job disciplining their litter...well, let's just say that she would take care of it.

Kensie opened our eyes to a world of opportunities, and helped us understand that poodles were NOT just an accessory dog to prance about the streets of Paris. We watched her 'interview' people for her puppies by seeing her jump onto the couch behind them (again, she loved couches...) and monitoring them as they watched her babies scamper around. She actually would crate and potty train her puppies. She knew when to discipline them and when to let them go, she just all made it seem so natural. But, she also always made SURE that she got the appropriate amount of extra spoiling while she was pregnant - because I mean, she was the queen, after all.

Kensie and Pettibone were the ones who really made it possible for us to move back to Charleston in 2016, and opened the doorway for JennaLee Designer Doodles to become what it is today. Fendi followed up and held a candle to Kensie with her parenting skills, but it's hard to imagine our program becoming what it was without Kensie's contributions. The day we moved, Kensie, in her way of being Kensie, just jumped right in the truck and didn't look back. She never missed a beat. She had new paths to pave and bigger yards to run in, beaches to go to, other dogs to boss around, and more adventures to have.

We'll never forget the day we were supposed to close on our house in Charleston because Kensie was pregnant at the time, and of course, the closing date couldn't be moved and it was right around her due date. With any other dog, we probably would have divided and conquered, but Kensie told us that she would prefer to ride along with us and we could pull over on the side of the road and deliver her puppies if need be along the highway. She was just that kind of girl, tough as nails and absolutely FULL of FOMO.

It was a good thing that Kens spent her time in Mooresville preening her skills as the boss dog because once we got back to Charleston, she had a lot of bossin' to do as our program grew. New dogs came in, and after about a year when we realized we would have a few months of overlapping litters, we hired our first [non-canine] employee. Kensie gave her instructions from the first day, letting her know that each shift she worked would include a minimum of one hour of fetch time for she and her siblings. Well...really it was just so Kensie could show up her siblings, but still. She let them all play, too. She was a good sport like that.

Fetch was her favorite thing to do, and as the years passed, her game changed and it became a mind game along with exercise. She knew just exactly how far every person who worked for us could throw the ball, and so she would run to that point in the yard so she could be ready. She would always squeal with excitement every time the ball was about to be thrown, and the joy never left her every time she caught it. Even if she was beyond exhausted with her big pink tongue hanging out in the late summer months, every time we'd pick the ball up, she'd rally and get up, too. The girls used to throw the ball up on to the roof of the house so it was a guessing game where it would land and THAT was Kensie's favorite game. She stole everyone's hearts and loved all of them right back just as hard.

That's part of what is special about these dogs, my dogs, they're actually all of our dogs. I'll always be grateful to ALL of our employees who helped us love Kensie so much and for so long. As long as she was with us, I can confidently say that she was loved so well, every single day, and so much of that is because of our team.

If Kensie saw you pick up a leash, oh...she was right there at the door screaming with excitement because she just KNEW that she was going to be selected for a special outing with you. And truthfully? She usually didn't take "no" for an answer, so she came out with us all over the place. She was always very polite in public and loved to strut her stuff. She and I shared a common love for the beach, and so for a season in 2019 when the dogs outnumbered the humans living in our house, the humans got kicked out to a house on isle of palms until we could find a better situation for our growing business and housing situation.

Kensie also retired that year, and decided that it would be most appropriate for her to recovery from her spay surgery on the couch (of course) at the beach house where she could have all of our attention. Let's just say that she made the MOST of her time being pampered as she recovered from her spay and may have slightly overdramatized the pain she was in. Kensie had a knack for overdramatizing things in just the right way to make you think she might actually be dying of pain. I'll never forget the day she 'hurt her foot' so that one of the girls would drive back to the house to check it out, only to find that once they had gotten there, she had changed which foot 'hurt. One of the few mistakes she made in overdramatizing her 'pain'. She always stood true on screeeeaming every time her ears were cleaned. She always sort of hazed in our new employees with her drama, scaring everyone that they were actually killing her slowly with ear cleaner...

The time we lived on the Isle of Palms was truthfully a pretty difficult season in my personal life, as well as that of the business. We had what we now refer to as "puppygeddon" that year, and it was the first time we hadn't lived in the same house as the puppies and dogs. Kensie spent a lot of time with us though at Isle of Palms since she was retired now, and also because she demanded it. However, I never really argued with her because during that season, having her there made it a lot easier than it could have been. Seeing her smile all the time made it easier for me to do the same.

By the time that we moved everything over to our current property on John's Island, Kensie was in fully "GG" mode (that's "Grumpy Grandma", a term our Kennel Manager Catherine coined) along with Pettibone. Although...they were not actually grumpy, they were really doting grandmas to their puppies' puppies who had now become their successors in our line. Because Kensie was such a phenomenal mom herself, we wanted to keep back other puppies from her line so that we could keep the trend going within our program. Kensie was succeeded by Lilly (from her litter with Armani), Georgia and Stella (from bernedoodle litters with Coach), who are now succeeded by their babies, Stassi and Missy (from Lilly) and Lainey (from Stella). Georgia's last litter is coming up in a couple of months, and we plan to keep a couple of females from her line to hopefully carry on Kensie's spirit among them. We are lucky that we have the ability to have her spirit live on in her line and still hear her squeal with joy, and see her nurturing abilities among her daughters, and their daughters, and so on.

Kensie lived a big, full, no-breaks kind of life. The only breaks she knew were when there was a storm coming, and she knew before anyone. None of the other dogs were as afraid of storms, so she stayed with me this past year during the most recent Charleston hurricane threat this past fall. As she always did, soaked up every minute of it either snuggling into me for comfort, or hiding out from the weather in the bathtub or somewhere else small and dark. When it was over though, her nose was the first to be sticking out the door with anticipation to explore what was left over from the storm...even if it got stuck in her hair.

My friend in Montana just told me 6 months ago or so about Kensie when they picked her from the litter. They said she was the one in the back, kind of shy and backed away. They only picked her because they sort of felt sorry for her. That's just like her, to act some kind of way so that she can get what she wants, and boy, am I glad that she got picked by them, and then came into our lives.

Now that she's gone, it just feels funny that a life this big could now live in a small wooden box that sits by me on my desk, surrounded by sticky notes and littered with papers and plans for future litters. Papers and plans that might not be here if it weren't for that fateful day in January of 2014 that Kensie pranced into our lives.

I think that every dog that is born is here for a reason, and people are usually their reason. Kensie had a profound impact on the lives of so many people. From the various employees who she got to love and those who loved her, to the puppies she produced for us and the lives those puppies have touched. And the lives her puppies' puppies' will touch. And, not most importantly, but the life who I can speak to most closely - mine.

Kensie, thank you for your heart, your fire, your smile. For the way you loved your sisters and brothers, our employees, your puppies, and all of us. Thank you for the silly way you used to squeal and run and help us take care of everyone. For the way you used to curl your body around my head on my pillow at night. For the smiles and for the way you used to prance up to me smiling every time you saw me as if to say "hello mom, i'm number one in case you have forgotten". Thank you for the way you knew exactly who you were. Even if you were my rebellious teenager, thank you for standing in that, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Thank you for what you taught us, and for all you did for me, and for all of us. There will never be another like you, and I am so thankful that I'll be able to see your beautiful smile in your line for years to come.

Kensie girl, you were a dream. Our lives were better because you were in them.

We will miss you forever.

- Mom

In memory of Kensie Stone, July 2, 2013-December 19th, 2022



For those reading this post who have a puppy from Kensie's line (including her daughters/granddaughters Lilly, Stassi, Missy, Stella, and Georgia), her passing was nothing to do with her health, so please do not be concerned for your puppy's wellbeing. Kensie was incredibly healthy until her last day, when she was hit by a careless driver (and impacted by her own sense of 'adventure')

Owning a dog-centric business, I've tried to put into words what they mean to me countless times - but it's one of those things that seems more important than there is a word for. It literally makes me tear up every time I think about the way dogs love us, and how incredibly important I think they are to the world, and those of us who are luck enough to be loved by them.

Kensie taught us so much about poodles individually, and so for those of you who are wondering what they can do to support us during this time, we are asking for donations to the Carolina Poodle Rescue in Kensie's name so that others may have the chance to experience the same love that Kensie gave to us.

{You may click the photo below or click HERE to donate in Kensie's name}

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