Sawyer the 14er Canine Dies

Dogs, dogs and even some cats
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Sawyer the 14er Canine Dies

Post by Inky6900 »

I regret to inform all of you that my dog, Sawyer the 14er Canine, died yesterday July 6th, 2014 at 8:30pm MST. He was 14 years and 28 days old. Sawyer climbed 60 out of 61 fourteeners (including Bill's 58, S. Elbert, S. Massive and N. Massive). This puts him in second place in the history books with dogs climbing 14ers. Only one dog has climbed them all.

If you've never heard the story of Sawyer it is an amazing one. Sawyer was my best friend and companion for his entire life. I got him in September of 2000 when he was only 3 months old. Over the course of the first 11 years of his life, we set out on a mission to become the 2nd dog/man team in history to climb all of Colorado's 14ers. I documented the entire quest and the book about his life is now in the second round of edits. Sawyer and I climbed all but one of the 14ers together. We never got to attempt Capitol Peak because he was too old and arthritic. I never finished the 14ers because my loyalty and love for Sawyer would not let me do so. I never plan to finish them without him. I have been away from this site since 2011 when I retired Sawyer from climbing. So many of you here now, probably have never heard of Sawyer and do not know who I am. Those of you in that position would have known so much more only 3-5 years ago when Sawyer was well-known throughout the entire 14er community. Many if not most people knew his name, while few knew mine. I was simply, "Sawyer's owner." But I was very proud to be just that.

Sawyer was essentially perfectly healthy until the final 5 hours of his life. Other than arthritis, there were no signs he was near his end. He had been swimming once or twice a week for 40 minutes each time, had perfect blood work, regular vet visits, good dental health and was an excellent weight. Just the day before his death he swam for 40 minutes in Lake Loveland, went for a walk and played. On July 6th, he collapsed at my parents house while they were watching him for a few hours. I was able to make it back to see him for about the last 3 1/2 hours of his life.

Before I got to my parents house, Sawyer was not responsive and in a coma like state. I had been in contact with my parents instantly after his collapse via cell phone on his state at the time. My parents were afraid he wouldn't make it until I got back to see him. They said he was just laying there breathing heavily. I was crying the entire drive back not knowing if I would make it to see him one more time. All the while praying to God He would let me see him one last time. All of us were praying.

Sawyer woke up as soon as I showed up at their house. We took him to the emergency clinic where, after 3 1/2 hours, I decided it was time to put him to rest. Sawyer was finally at peace during his last 30 minutes of life while resting on my lap as I pet him and kissed him in the end. I could tell he was finally at peace when they finally let him lay on me and took him off of the table. He laid on my lap happy, content and relaxed. He just wanted to be by me. He held onto life so we could see each other one last time.

The clinic said Sawyer died from a tumor that had developed on his spleen. The tumor finally bled, causing his blood to fill into his abdomen. This was the reason he needed to be let go and put down. He did not die in pain.

Right now I'm in a daze, shocked and heartbroken. I've been crying on and off and I already miss Sawyer in so many phases of my life. It is almost a full 24 hours now since he died. He was like my kid (and I have none), my best friend and my hero. Not one single person on this entire planet holds higher honors in my heart than Sawyer. I admire Sawyer far more than my childhood idol, Michael Jordan, or any other athlete or hero I've ever had. No one can hold a candle to Sawyer. Not one individual has shined that brightly in my life. Not one person has captured my heart this way. Seeing him die, with all we had done and accomplished together in life, is very difficult and confusing. I feel like a large part of me and my heart died with Sawyer.

I don't know why things happen the way they do and what life will bring now without Sawyer. I'm afraid of what the future holds but glad God blessed us with so many accomplishments, experiences and love for each other that can never be erased. My book will share so many of Sawyer's stories and I honestly believe people's hearts will be captivated by it all. My girlfriend finished reading my book only one week before Sawyer died. She was the first person to read it.

My faith in God will get me through this and I know I will see Sawyer again one day in heaven. But for now, it is tough. Today, things were minute by minute and I was struggling mightily just to do that. There are his bowls, his toys and all of his climbing gear reminding me of him. I have photos all over my house, up and down stairs, of us together on countless summits. It is beautiful and painful all at the same time. There are many things running through my head and part of me didn't even want to share this news with the community because I'm not ready to in many ways. But I owe this to Sawyer for his loyalty, friendship, love, commitment and all that he gave me. I gave that dog all I could of my heart and now I have to leave him in God's hands until I get there to see him again.

"Be thou comforted, little dog, Thou too in the Resurrection shall have a little golden tail." -Martin Luther

"God will prepare everything for our perfect happiness in heaven; and if it takes my dog being there, I believe he'll be there." -Billy Graham

Josh Aho
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Re: Sawyer the 14er Canine Dies

Post by MountainHiker »


I'm sorry to hear about Sawyer. I was there when Freckles breathed her last breath at 17.5 years old. I was 18. It was the toughest thing I had experienced thus far in my young life. I don't think there is any explaining the bond a person can have with a dog. It's just something many of us have experienced. The grief you feel right now is evidence of much much richer you are for having loved Sawyer. That's something you get to keep the rest of your life.

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Re: Sawyer the 14er Canine Dies

Post by Cookiehiker »

I am so sorry for your loss...nobody quite loves like our canine best friends. What a beautiful story you tell about your years with Sawyer, I can tell he will be deeply missed. My thoughts go out to you and may your book of accomplishments with your best friend do well when published.
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Re: Sawyer the 14er Canine Dies

Post by ulvetano »

Looks like an amazing dog and companion. Looks like he had a blast 14ering! A loss like that hurts, but glad you were able to say goodbye.
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Re: Sawyer the 14er Canine Dies

Post by kman »

Very sorry for your loss, Josh. Sawyer was a remarkable dog who was lucky to have you. He had a long, adventure-filled life that most dogs can only wish they had. They do become part of the family and it is hard to let them go. I have no doubt that Horton the Quandary dog has just gained a new best friend! Hang in there.
Last edited by kman on Mon Jul 07, 2014 7:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Sawyer the 14er Canine Dies

Post by DaveSwink »

My condolences, Josh. Your loving tribute to Sawyer choked me up. What a dog and a friend.
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Re: Sawyer the 14er Canine Dies

Post by Hungry Jack »

Sincere condolences. If you are lucky, you will outlive several pets in your lifetime. Each one is unique.

I think Sawyer would want you to go do Capitol.
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Re: Sawyer the 14er Canine Dies

Post by Nelson »

You and Sawyer were both very fortunate. You are true kindred spirits that found each other and were lucky enough to have spent a life together. It doesn't get any better than that.
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Re: Sawyer the 14er Canine Dies

Post by ThuChad »

That was a beautiful tribute. I climbed my first 14er in 2009, Mount of the Holy Cross. I crossed paths with a man and a golden retriever that looked similar to you and Sawyer in your pics. Whether it was you or not, I'm not sure but golden retrievers have always been high on my list since that day watching the owner and dog work in tandem. I'm sorry for your loss.
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Re: Sawyer the 14er Canine Dies

Post by mtnduck9 »

Josh, I'm sorry.

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Re: Sawyer the 14er Canine Dies

Post by polar »

Coming from another person who loves his dog like a child, I deeply feel your pain. As a dog's human companion, we all face the day when we have to say goodbye. If a dog can speak, they would say "I can't be your best friend for the rest of your life, but I'll be your best friend for the rest of my life." The best thing we can do, as you have done, is to give our dogs a life filled with happiness and joy. It looks like Sawyer had a great life.
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Re: Sawyer the 14er Canine Dies

Post by Theodore »

Getting a little dusty in here....

Sorry for your loss, but remember the incredible times you had together. A good dog is a damn near impossible relationship to match. The definition of unconditional love.
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