When Diane got her first vizsla, he literally saved her life. Now the proud owner of four of these Hungarian pointers, she’s decided to include her dogs in her end-of-life plans. We spoke to Diane about the special bond she shares with her dogs and why our Berkshires memorial forest is the perfect place to spend eternity with them.

Diane had never owned a dog until she was 50. She’d always wanted one but due to family allergies as a child and later a busy life as an art consultant in New York, the time had never been right. When she took early retirement at 55 due to illness, she saw it as the perfect opportunity to fulfill her lifelong dream.

In her 40s, Diane was diagnosed with lupus. Because of this, many of her friends advised her against getting a dog. They warned that she wouldn’t be able to cope — particularly because she had her heart set on a vizsla, a high-energy Hungarian hunting dog. But her rheumatologist thought that getting a dog was a great idea. So Diane moved her business into her apartment and got her first dog, a vizsla named Raleigh.

“He literally saved my life. Because he made me walk every day — even when I didn't feel like walking,” said Diane. “He was my companion in all the physical activities I thought I would never do again. And that was a pretty extraordinary experience.”

Constant companions

Raleigh was the first of Diane’s vizslas. She has since owned six of the Hungarian pointers, two of whom have sadly passed on. As well as reminding her of her Hungarian roots, Diane loves the fact that vizslas are so intelligent, trainable, and energetic. Her dogs compete in dog shows, are trained game hunters, and take part in “fast cat” recreational racing. Three of her dogs are ranked among the 20 fastest vizslas in the country. For Diane, seeing her dogs thrive has brought her joy even when her health was at its worst.

“I can remember a time when I was so disabled, I could barely walk. I had Banner, who was an unbelievable dog,” said Diane. “And I would take him to hunt training and stand leaning against my car on the hill, with Banner training in a little valley below. I would watch him, barely able to stand, let alone walk. He would be running and coursing, looking for birds, and tracking with such joy. I used to stand and think ‘run for me’ — because I couldn't.”

Diane has also suffered from cancer and heart issues, but her vizslas have been her constant companions. “In a little less than 10 years, I had seven major surgeries. Through it all, they were right there with me. And as active as they are, they seemed to know that they needed to be quiet and be gentle,” said Diane. “I feel like they're a part of my family.”

A place for everyone

When Diane began making her end-of-life plans, it felt natural to include her dogs. She told her friends, “whatever I decide to do, my dogs are coming with me.”

When she heard about our forest in the Berkshires, she immediately loved the idea. Her own home is in the foothills of the Berkshires and she walks her dogs in the area every day. While she previously felt a stronger connection to the ocean and considered scattering her ashes there, her love of the forest deepened over time and became the right choice for her.

“I'm much more attached to forests now because I walk with my dogs in them every day,” says Diane. “It feels like home to me now.”Any memorial tree at Better Place Forests can include pets. Like many of our customers, Diane chose to customize her package so that she and her dogs could share this tree as their final resting place.

Diane recently invited two of her closest friends, Laurie and Loretta, to visit the Berkshires forest with her. Afterward, she said, "It was a very loving and joyous experience, quite different than I expected. I can honestly say when we left [the forest] I was even more pleased than I thought I would be. The forest was gorgeous, my tree was gorgeous, the location was perfect, the people I was with couldn't have been nicer. It was a wonderful experience.”

A poignant moment for Diane was when she laid her hand on the tree. “I said to Laurie and Loretta: ‘You know, at some point, I will be part of this tree.’ And I just love the idea of it.”

And of course, not only will she be part of a tree in the beautiful Berkshires forest, but her beloved vizslas will be right there by her side. This brings Diane great comfort. “I can't imagine being without them. Quite honestly, I just can't.” And now, she never will be.

Book a forest tour to learn more about choosing a memorial tree for you, your family, and your pets.