Tag Archives: dog

A Stranger in the Night (or, The Fluffy Dog Does a Good Job)

The Fluffy Dog is a happy guy!

 

I woke up to someone touching my foot. I assumed it was my sweetie passing by the foot of the bed, so I pulled my foot away to give him more room, and as I moved, I realised that he was actually still in the bed with me.

Must have been the dog, I thought, still half-asleep. So I stretched my foot out over the end of the bed to poke the Fluffy Dog and see if he was standing up. What I encountered with my foot was something that felt like a very large, tightly-packed duffel bag. That woke me up completely: oh my god, something fell on the dog!

I flung myself out of bed, grabbed my glasses, and reached for the light switch all at the same time. But what I saw when the light went on was confusing. There was something large on the floor wedged between the foot of the bed and the cupboard, and I could see the back end of the Fluffy Dog stretched out beyond it.

It took me a moment to understand what I was seeing: a large person was crouched right down on the ground, with their arms wrapped around my dog. I couldn’t understand what was going on! As a very light sleeper, it was incomprehensible to me that someone could have come right into my house and my bedroom at night without waking me up, especially given the mid-moving state of my house (think Obstacle Course meets Hoarders). (Meanwhile, my sweetie is out of bed: “what the hell…?”) The only thing that made sense to my groggy brain was that it was my brother who was somehow in trouble or drunk or sick and who decided to take comfort with the Fluffy Dog rather than wake me up.

So I said, “Hey. Hey!” and reached down to the scruff of the intruder’s neck, grabbed hold of their hoodie, and started hauling upward. The person offered no resistance, but as I pulled his head up, we could see that this was definitely not my brother. This guy was a stranger. A BIG stranger. “This dog brought me here,” he said. He was young, like late teens? He repeated: “This dog brought me here” and my sweetie said “Dude, you have to leave” as I moved away from the bedroom door so the guy could leave. “This dog brought me here!” By now he was almost standing; it all happened so fast. “Okay man, but this isn’t your home and you have to leave now,” my sweetie told him.

Now the stranger started turning around to face me and the door: “I thought this was my group home. Where’s my group home?”

“I think it’s across the street,” I told him. “I’ll show you.” He bent to pick up his backpack which he had placed neatly by the bedroom door, and looked back at the Fluffy Dog. “This dog. This dog brought me here. Where’s my group home?”

I flipped on the hallway light and let the confused young man precede me to the back door. He let himself out the side gate and I closed it behind him, not waiting to see if he got to the group home across the street.

And then I sat down with the shakes. Of course I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night, for many reasons. All of the “what ifs,” of course, the horrible things that could have happened if that person had been someone violent. Or if we had found him in my stepdaughter’s bedroom instead of ours. Or if my Fluffy Dog had made even a single squeak of pain or fear. All the violence that could have erupted from him or from us. But also the shattering of my belief that my sensitive hearing and my being a light sleeper will protect or forewarn me of this kind of thing. For thirteen years, I have slept most summer nights with that back door open for the breeze. No more. It is a huge change in my self-perception.

The young man smelled like he’d had a bit to drink, but he didn’t stink of booze. He seemed more lost, confused, and perhaps scared than drunk or angry. The next morning I texted the manager of the group home across the street but it turns out this wasn’t one of their clients. I sure hope he got home okay.

But the most amazing thing to me was the Fluffy Dog. He has really come into his own since the Brindle Dog died in May. That’s often how it goes: the next dog gets to bloom once the bossy paw of the eldest dog is lifted. It is clear now that he would have been a marvelous therapy dog.

The Brindle Dog would have gone ballistic if a stranger entered the house (which is probably part of the reason I felt so safe at night). Even when known people entered, she was all bark and growl and spit and gleaming fang.

But the Fluffy Dog is a different sort. As that stranger crouched down on the floor and clutched him, the Fluffy Dog was powerfully calm. He worked hard to comfort that confused young man, to create and maintain a safe little space for him, to make him feel seen and held.

And it worked. Not just on the mystery intruder, but also on me and my sweetie. In a situation where any of us could have panicked and escalated things, we were all calm and reasonable. I am actually quite amazed at that. I don’t know that young man, of course; perhaps he is always so low-key. But my partner and I can both lose our shit lightning quick if we or someone we love is being threatened. That night, with a stranger in our bedroom in the middle of the night, and my partner’s daughter in the room across the hall, we barely even raised our voices. Nobody moved quickly. Nobody lost their temper. I don’t know how to explain this other than by the hard work and skills of the Fluffy Dog.

It’s hard to write this and harder to tell people about it. Partly because I get flak for sleeping with my door open. But mostly because I am such an anti-woowoo person. I don’t want people to laugh at me for believing my dog has some kind of mental valium-like superpowers. Or for believing that my dog was a huge factor in getting us all through that situation safely and calmly. I’m the one who looks down my nose at blind faith, who adores the scientific method. I know there’s stuff we can’t explain yet, and I’m willing to reserve judgement on most of that, but the facts about a lot of things are already out there and I’m pretty contemptuous of people who ignore them (I’m looking at you, anti-vaxxers) or who put their faith in movie stars for health advice (jade eggs / glitter in your vagina, really?), for example.

But the Fluffy Dog has done this before, at least once that I know of:

A few weeks after the Brindle Dog died, I had a full-on panic attack for the first time in a long while. I was in the bedroom folding my laundry when the shakiness and nausea started, and then the tightness in my chest, and then the whimpering. I was trying to take calming breaths, to focus on things around me, to use my strategies. But the crying started and both my sweetie and the Fluffy Dog came rushing into the bedroom. I was crying and gasping “I’m sorry, I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I think I’m dying, I’m so sorry” and my partner was trying to parse out what was going on and what he could do for me.

But the Fluffy Dog shoved himself past my sweetie’s legs and pressed his body against me so I was tucked snugly between him and the wall. That good dog turned his head watched me very seriously, his expression calm but intense, and he didn’t let up the body pressure even when I threw my arms around him and sobbed into his fur.

The Fluffy Dog stayed with me that day until the last shakiness had subsided, and then he climbed onto the bed with me afterward when I was completely exhausted and ready for a nap. He took it all very seriously, and knew just what to do. It was immensely reassuring and calming to be “held” by the pressure of his body like that, and to feel seen and loved.

So as weird or woowoo or unscientific as it sounds, I think my good hardworking dog knew exactly what he was doing when he helped me through my panic attack. And he knew exactly what he was doing when he helped all three of us through that stranger’s visit in the night.

This dog is my dear friend and an absolute goofball. But also—no matter how self-conscious I am about saying this—, he is a creature of immense power. I believe in him and I feel tremendously lucky to be protected by him.

What I Learned from my Dog about PTSD

When the Brindle Dog was young, she was amazingly strong and focused. Her parents were bred for police work in the Netherlands, and that likely would have been her destiny as well if I hadn’t scooped her up as a house pet.

She could swim or train for hours. She would never give up on a task unless called off. She could joyfully chase a ball or Kong in the park for hours with breathtaking stamina and endurance. She took pride in her ability to execute commands perfectly, and she was also an enterprising problem-solver.

As she aged and got sick, her stamina waned. She weakened. She started to get confused. As her cataracts spread, as her hearing diminished, and as her cancer extended its tentacles and tumours further into her body, the Brindle Dog began to stumble and fall. Her back legs would sometimes give out. She would struggle to right herself and keep going, but I stopped taking her on walks, and just threw sticks (her favourite game) in the yard for her.

The day came when I couldn’t even throw sticks for her anymore, because she kept falling down when trying to chase them. I had to just drop the stick a foot or two in front of her, and she’d grab it.

It was heartbreaking. She used to have the strength and drive and form of an Olympic athlete. She was tireless! Her enthusiasm for work and play was incredible. And now she was a tottering little old lady, half-deaf, half-blind, exhausted from severe anemia, barely able hold her bladder for more than a few hours. I was angry and miserable. Fuck cancer! Look at how age and illness had taken this amazing dog and pounded her down!

But at the same time, I was so glad to be able to provide palliative care and to sweeten my dear dog’s last days with extra love and attention. As she drew closer to the end, and as I turned myself away from the “extraneous” things in my life to be as present as possible with her, I noticed one particular thing I had missed:

In her younger days, when she chased a thrown stick or toy, she would pounce on it with pride and enthusiasm. As she got weaker, her desire to chase that stick never waned, even though her body was failing. And near the end, when I would drop the stick pretty much right in front of her nose, she would still pounce on it with all the energy and drive she could muster, then look up at me proudly, panting from that slight effort, her gums white and her eyes cloudy, but still full of anticipation, wanting me to ask for the stick back so we could do it again.

She was always and only and forever living in the present. She was in pain, but she wanted that stick. She was confused, but her love of this particular game never left her. And whether she had raced across a field to retrieve that stick, or had pounced on it right at her feet, she was happy. She was doing a thing she loved, and it made no difference to her that she used to be able to do it better, or that other dogs could do it better, or that she would never race across a field again.

And that was the thing I had missed. It is okay to be happy doing the things I can do, even though my life will never be what it could have been without abuse and trauma. I will never have a life where my past didn’t happen to me. Therapy isn’t going to take it away or make any of it okay. What I do have, if I let myself have it, is the ability to pounce on that stick even if I’m confused or in pain.

The shit that was done to me will never be gone. I guess somehow I thought that recovery or healing meant I would be done with it. PTSD and the accompanying depression and anxiety mean that I am living with some very real limitations that have consequences in my everyday life, and I may or may not be able to change (some of) those. It’s hard not to be angry and bitter about the fact that my life is smaller than it could have been because of abusers.

But now I realise that recovery and healing, for me, are about figuring out how to live my life with joy and anticipation despite the pain. By example, the Brindle Dog showed me how to accept limitations and just keep living as fully as I can. If I can’t race across the field, I can still grab the stick at my feet with pride.

 

The Brindle Dog died peacefully last week. She carried her stick to the car on her way to the vet. She walked in to her appointment on her own wobbly legs. I cuddled her until she was gone. She was the best dog ever.

 

 

 

Why are Vets so %$#ing Expensive? (…or, an update on the Brindle Dog)

Last week, I took the Brindle Dog to the vet. (YES!!! The Brindle Dog is still alive! It’s amazing and wonderful!)

I took her to the vet because she continues to decline and sometimes the only thing that reassures me is having the wonderful Dr. Beggs actually lay hands on her and talk me through my worries.

This is the appointment where I finally made the decision to stop trying to keep my dear old dog alive. No more diagnostics, no more trying to figure out how the cancer is spreading. Now she just gets her painkillers and steroids and antacids and all the other pills and supplements she needs to be comfortably pain-free. She’s a sweet grey-faced old girl, wobbly in the back end, slowing down both physically and cognitively, with the start of kidney disease, pale gums due to anaemia, and a newfound tolerance for the cat. Her most favourite thing in the world is treats, and her second most favourite thing is cuddles.

All kinds of things are falling apart for her now, but I have had over two years since her initial cancer diagnosis to say goodbye. It is okay now if she has to go. She’s tired. Partly that’s the anaemia, partly that’s the cancer, partly that’s old age (fourteen is pretty good for a shepherd!), and partly it’s her anxiety to keep performing well and stay on top of things. I try to mitigate that for her by anticipating her needs, and encouraging her to follow the Fluffy Dog’s lead, but she has always been a dog who feels responsible for warning and protecting her pack.

The old Brindle Dog has to pee an awful lot now. I’m up once or twice a night with her. She clicks down the hardwood hallway to the back door and whines softly, not wishing to bother me, but in need. My “mommy ears” hear even her tiniest squeak, and I go out into the yard with her, squinting at the night sky while she sniffs out the right spot. Then time for a quick cuddle before we both lie down and fall back asleep.

But back to this vet appointment. We had done bloodwork, one last draw to see what was going on before I made my decision to stop trying so hard. I’ve spent so much money on this dear dog over the last couple of years, all the checkups and medications and supplements and tests…. It adds up to a lot.

So I went to pay my bill after this visit and bloodwork and when the number popped up, I was surprised. “Are you sure this is right?” I asked, and the staff nodded warily, no doubt ready for a rant about the cost. “It seems wrong,” I said. “Are you sure you got everything? We did bloodwork, too. This seems too low!”

Now it was the staff’s turn to be surprised. I guess it’s not very often that people think they’re not being charged enough at the vet.

But the thing is, a veterinary business has a lot of overhead. For this particular visit, the bloodwork was less than $70 and the follow-up visit was less than $50.  Basically that means they lost money on my visit.

Here’s the service I got for this single visit:

  • two different people dealt with me to book the appointment in two separate calls: in the first call, they kindly squeezed me in for a Saturday, then I called back and changed the appointment to another day.
  • on the day of the appointment, I showed up early and called from the parking lot (phone call number 3) to let them know I was there and ask if I could come in (the Brindle Dog is horrible with other dogs). I couldn’t go in yet, so…
  • when it was safe to go in, a staff ran out through the cold to knock on my car window and let me know I could go in.
  • the Brindle Dog was cooed over, petted, and weighed. Staff recorded her weight and took me to my favourite room, while skillfully and discreetly keeping the Brindle Dog away from any other dogs.
  • A vet tech came in and took a thorough history and listened to me describe my dog’s faeces, urine, energy, coat, lumps, appetite, water intake, oestrus, cognition, medications and supplements and treats, stamina, itchiness, and general demeanour. She took copious notes and was empathetic while at the same time asking pointed clarifying questions.
  • Before she left, the tech asked if my dog would like a blanket to lie on, and when I accepted, she returned with a large, thick, soft, clean blanket.
  • Before the vet came in, she and the tech reviewed the history.
  • The vet came in, took the time to greet both me and the Brindle Dog in a sincerely welcoming way, and admired my old girl profusely. We went over the history together, and the vet did a physical exam. She discussed her findings with me and we talked about various options (including a possible blood transfusion  and an ultrasound). I agreed that we should do a blood test, and the vet went to get two techs to do the test right away so we could have the results before I left.
  • Two vet techs came in to draw blood. Because many years ago I trained to be a vet tech and worked as one for a while, the people at this clinic always kindly allow me to be present for these kinds of procedures. I helped hold my old Brindle Dog while they drew her blood. The blood draw involves the education and expertise of the techs; their ability to soothe and manage an anxious, high-strung, confused old dog; the actual physical materials (syringe, alcohol, tubes, etc.); the lab equipment needed to actually analyse the blood, including not just the machines themselves, but the slides and the chemicals, and the knowledge needed to use them; and finally, the education and experience needed for the vet to interpret the results, explain them to an anxious owner, and make appropriate recommendations.
  • The vet came back and I told her I want to start just letting the Brindle Dog go. We discussed what that means to me (I’d give antibiotics for an infection or stitches for a wound, but not blood transfusions for her anaemia, for example). The vet had compassion for my decision and was able to outline all my options without pushing any of them on me, so that it was very clear what I was declining and what consequences that might have. When I asked the question that all vets must dread (“Am I doing the right thing?”), she was supportive of my decision and respectful of how difficult it is.
  • When we were done, the vet and staff worked together to make sure the Brindle Dog and I had a clear dog-free path out the front door to the car, and then I returned to pay my bill and discuss how cheap it was.
  • After I left, they had to clean the floor of the exam room of fur and drool, clean / sterilise / replace any materials and equipment used, replenish the generous amounts of treats they’d given her, launder the heavy blanket they’d brought in, add any notes to the chart, compile my bill, process my payment, and send me a follow-up email with some additional information I wanted. (Also, one of the techs drawing the Brindle Dog’s blood got a full-frontal canine sneeze in the face, so there was some clean-up and washing of glasses involved there!)

I know that’s a lot of detail, and maybe the service I get there is a particularly good because I am a long-time client who does my damnedest to be polite and appreciative to every person with whom I interact no matter how anxious or stressed I am. But my point is that when you pay for veterinary services, you are not just handing your vet that full amount to put in her pocket. You are paying for staff, rent, utilities, materials, continuing education, sick time, repairs and replacement of equipment, and on and on and on. I had face-to-face contact with one veterinary doctor, two veterinary technicians, and three reception staff on the day of my appointment, and a fourth staff on the phone beforehand.

There are people at my work who walk in every day with a grande latte from Starbucks. People with season tickets to the Jets and / or the Bombers. People who have season tickets to the symphony or the theatre or who go to Mexico for ten days every winter. So many of these people are happy to ask Google or ask me (with my outdated and limited vet  tech experience) what to do with their dog / cat / bunny / budgie because “I don’t trust vets. They’re just out to make money!”

Right? How horrible that vets and techs and their staff have to earn a living like anybody else! How awful that they are trying to give the best service possible at reasonable prices in a competitive market! How reprehensible that they are starting local businesses and creating employment!

A big part of the problem is that people feel like vets are guilting them into choosing the most costly diagnostic and treatment options. But honestly, they’re not. The guilt is all yours, and that’s your own issue to work out. Vets are explaining all of the options and the potential consequences of declining those options, primarily because that is the correct, professional, and ethical thing to do, but partly (wait for it) because they don’t want to get sued by your sorry ass when you make a stupid decision. (Oh, yeah, add insurance to the list of bills they have to pay!)

You should trust and follow the advice of your typical veterinary doctor as much as you trust and follow the advice of your typical family doctor. Yes there are better and worse ones, yes there are ones who care more or less, but it’s on YOU to be an informed consumer and take responsibility for the decisions you make based on the information they give you.

Take the Brindle Dog, for example. Maybe if we did an ultrasound we’d find out more about how her cancer is spreading and we’d be able to try some different treatments to help her. Maybe a series of blood transfusions would prolong her life enough for her to have this whole upcoming summer to nap in the sunshine. But I decided not to do this. Partly because she’s gone through enough already. Partly because the meds she’s on now seem to be keeping her comfortable and happy. And yes—partly because of the cost. I know she will probably die sooner than she otherwise might because of these decisions. But that is MY decision. I am not going to whine that the vet should give me a discount or freebie on potentially life-saving or life-prolonging treatments. I chose to have this dog and she is my responsibility. Dr. Beggs and her team provided me with the information I needed to make a decision I can live with. And I am going to own that decision.

And honestly, if you have season’s tickets to pro sports or a daily latte or an annual trip to Europe and that’s more important to you than paying a medical professional to take care of your loved one, you don’t deserve a pet. These animals trust us to make good decisions on their behalf. We owe it to them to get them the professional care they need to the very best of our ability, even if we’re grumpy that there is a cost involved. Medical care for your pets is not optional.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Brindle Dog Loves her Oma. And her Food. And her Massages. And her Stick.

The Brindle Dog’s tumour is hungry. Cancer sometimes works that way. She eats and eats but doesn’t gain weight. She eats about a third more than the Fluffy Dog who outweighs her by a good twenty pounds.

Until recently, I fed the dogs raw food. I hope to do so again soon, but there’s been a glitch in my system, so for now, they get grain-free Canadian kibble with extra toppings of delicious (ugh) organs like liver and kidney and spleen. After consulting with several vets (my regular vet, my friend who is a vet, and the complementary / alternative / holistic medicine vet), I’ve made some changes to the Brindle Dog’s diet. For the most part, she approves of these changes: Continue reading

The Brindle Dog Bares her Teeth

Have I mentioned that the Brindle Dog doesn’t like other dogs? The dog we had before her was very dog-aggressive, and the Brindle Dog learned it as a pup when she came into our home. Since we didn’t realise that would happen, we took no steps to prevent it. So the Brindle Dog learned from old Ratna how to sit, how to stay, how to play, and how to fear and charge at other dogs. Continue reading

The Brindle Dog Smiles for the Camera

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It’s been about eight weeks since I found a lump in the back of the Brindle Dog’s left thigh that is almost certainly a mast cell tumour.

The tumour grows a bit, and then shrinks suddenly as it releases histamines, heparin, and proteolytic enzymes (which break down proteins) into her system. Eventually, as the tumour grows and more of these substances are occasionally released all at once, she might start getting allergic reactions, stomach ulcers, and other damage.

Continue reading

Old Dogs: When the News is Bad

With a clump of snow on her adorable nose.

Ten years ago this month, when she was only two years old, the Brindle Dog developed a mast cell tumour in her neck. I remember very clearly the moment I first felt it, when she and I were playing and I was rubbing and tugging at the sides of her neck. She was wiggling and wagging, and I was laughing. Under my fingertips, I felt a lump deep in the left side of her neck and I thought that’s weird, I don’t recall that dogs are supposed to have a bump there, and at the same time I was reaching for the other side to see if it was bilateral. No, it was not. No matter how hard I poked and prodded, I could not find a corresponding lump on the right side, and my heart sank. I felt a deep fear in my belly and called the vet right away to make an appointment.

A veterinary surgical oncologist removed the malignant tumour, but due to the amount of structures in the neck, the margins were not as clean as desired. My then-partner and I were advised to send her to Saskatchewan for a month of radiation treatment during which time she would be fostered, undergo general anaesthetic every day for the radiation treatment, and require intravaenous feeding because her throat would be burned from the radiation. We elected not to do this. Continue reading

F*ck Cancer (or, Another Dog at the Bridge)

Poe's eighth birthday. Taken at Urban Canine by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Poe’s eighth birthday. Taken at Urban Canine by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Remember how my post about Cookie’s death nearly went viral last weekend? That was because Cookie’s mom finally felt ready to read it, and she shared it on Facebook, prompting many of her friends to read and share it.

In a heartbreaking coincidence, another one of her dogs, Poe, died on Friday. Poe was only eight, but he had a haemangiosarcoma on his spleen which ruptured. Haemangiosarcoma is an aggressive cancer more common in dogs than cats or humans. From what I understand, this shitty cancer (aren’t they all) starts in the lining of the blood vessels and leads to large blood-filled tumours which can rupture. That’s what happened to Poe.

Poe comforting his sister Cookie after her diagnosis of osteosarcoma (with my Fluffy Dog in the background comforting Poe). Taken by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Poe comforting his sister Cookie after her diagnosis of osteosarcoma (with my Fluffy Dog in the background comforting Poe). Taken by photographer Amanda Borsa.

Poe was a well-known and much-loved dog, and people who knew him have been sharing their memories and pictures of him on Facebook. Poe was adopted by my friend when he was about eight months old. He and his brother Jack and four of their siblings were running wild down in Ohio, and were live-trapped. The person who caught them remembers that all six of them were so scared that they were piled onto each other in a corner. It seems that the shelter there found them too feral to adopt out, and wanted to euthanise them because it was felt they would never make good pets. Continue reading

Two Dogs Humping (on me)

Warning: dog sex. With another dog, no worries.


 

This post is dedicated to Blair (The Shameful Sheep) in response to the post It All Makes Sense Now. If you read through the comments you’ll see a few references to dogs humping, which reminded me of this embarrassing story from my past. Continue reading

Behind the Scenes (or, My Brush with Going Viral)

I had an interesting WordPress experience this past weekend. It made me appreciate how this going viral thing works.

Back in May 2015, my friend’s dog Cookie died and I wrote a blog post about it (When Good Dogs Die). The pain of her loss was too fresh for my friend to want to read this post, and as time passed, it slipped both of our minds.

This past Saturday, I was at Cookie’s mom’s place with The Fluffy Dog for our almost-weekly playdate. We were talking about old dogs, and suddenly she exclaimed “Oh, I didn’t read what you wrote about Cookie yet!” And she felt she was ready. So when I got home later that day, I facebook messaged her the link to that post. She read it and shared it on facebook.

Now, Cookie’s mom is heavily involved with dog rescue and dog sport (agility and flyball, mostly). She has just under 200 facebook friends, and it seems that most of them are also committed Dog People. By the time I went to bed on Saturday, there were over a dozen comments and more likes on the post. Not too much. A nice number of people saying nice things about my tribute to Cookie, and remembering Cookie themselves.

What was fascinating, though, was what was happening on WordPress. My stats were jumping! Continue reading

Puppy Socialisation Classes: Trust your instincts

The Fluffy Dog at about nine weeks old.

The Fluffy Dog at about nine weeks old.

Puppies should be socialised. They should be socialised well, early, often, and as much as their growing little brains and bodies and spirits can tolerate. Some trainers and vets say that you should wait until the initial series of vaccinations is complete, but I disagree. I’m not saying take your vulnerable pup to the local dog park where she can roll in the poo of ill or unvaccinated dogs. But I believe that with a bit of thought, you can come up with reasonably safe ways to get your puppy started quite early with socialisation experiences.

With this in mind, when the Fluffy Dog was just a wee pup, his papa and I took him to a puppy socialisation class. It was a series of four sessions for pups under five or six months of age who had already had their first two sets of vaccinations. Mr. Fluff wasn’t that fluffy back then. He was a wee little round-headed fuzzy pup who showed no signs yet of the long-haired, long-legged, loudmouthed beast he’d eventually grow into. I already loved him with all my heart.

The puppy group started out as a lot of fun. We introduced the pups to various toys, and to each other. But I felt like the people running it were maybe new to this, since they put an awful lot of emphasis on self-control and calmness for such young pups (not really developmentally possible for the really young ones), and then they had us play a dangerous game. Continue reading

The Brindle Dog Goes for a Checkup

The Brindle Dog at the Vet

The Brindle Dog at the Vet: Holy “Tongue Out Tuesday,” Batman!

The Brindle Dog went to the vet for her annual checkup this evening. She was pretty sick in the spring, and I always worry about her. She’ll be twelve years old in a couple of weeks, and I am trying to enjoy every day with her while also preparing myself for the end. But she’s not dead yet, and part of continued life means regular vet visits. So this evening I lifted her into the car and we headed over to visit Dr. Beggs at St. Vital Veterinary Hospital for her annual checkup.

The news is good. I mean, she’s old and getting older, and every bit of her is aging. Her eyes are worsening and she’s got a cataract. Her hearing is going. Her sense of smell isn’t what it used to be. She’s starting to lose muscle tone. She’s full of lumps and bumps and warts and cysts and lipomas. Her teeth are wearing down to stumps (although all the chewing keeps them remarkably clean). Her stamina isn’t what it used to be. Continue reading

The Fluffy Dog’s First Halloween

The Fluffy Dog in his devil costume, gnawing on a squeaky toy.

The Fluffy Dog in his devil costume, gnawing on a squeaky toy.

 

Even though he’s six years old, this was really the Fluffy Dog’s first Halloween. Usually, I keep him and the Brindle Dog (and the Old Dog, when she was still alive) locked away in a bedroom so they won’t get freaked out by all the commotion. But this year, the Fluffy Dog and I got invited to spend Halloween with J and her new rescue dog, Little One (who is really little! Seven and a half pounds to the Fluffster’s eighty!).

So Mr. Fluff and I took ourselves over to Wolseley to hand out candy. Little One was in an adorable Batgirl costume, and J had picked up a devil costume for the Fluffy Dog. Continue reading

The Fluffy Dog Gets an X-Ray

The Fluffy Dog is dopey today.

The Fluffy Dog is dopey today.

About a month ago, I took the Fluffy Dog in for his annual checkup. He was perfect in every way except that his left hip didn’t extend as much as it should, and started bothering him at about 80%. The vet suggested an x-ray to see what’s going on with his hip. Because of the particular shot they’d have to take, the Fluffster would have to be under sedation. I had to think about it; that’s a lot of money to spend on diagnostics for something that isn’t even bothering him in daily life yet. Continue reading

Sleeping like a (Cranky) Baby

So apparently “sleep” is something I don’t do well anymore. The last couple of weeks have been a stressful struggle to figure out how to get more sleep. I’ve tried chamomile tea, and I’ve tried warm milk with honey. I’ve tried Gravol and Melatonin and Zopiclone (not all at the same time, but perhaps that would be worth an experiment?). No caffeine after 10 in the morning. Exercise early in the evening (long dog walks) but not too close to bedtime. No electronics in the bedroom. No heavy reading or political discussions before bed. Slowly trying to get my daily life under control so I have less things to be anxious about (that’s an ongoing life project and probably won’t get solved, but hey). Eat healthily but not too close to bedtime. Go to bed at roughly the same time every day. Some solutions I’m not willing to try:  alcohol or pot, for example. For one thing, if I drink, Continue reading

Nothing as wonderful as the love of an old dog

The Brindle Dog's sweet grey beard and stumpy teeth.

The Brindle Dog’s sweet grey beard and stumpy teeth.

The health scares my old Brindle Dog has had lately are eating at me. I find myself drawn to posts about dogs who have just died, dogs at death’s door, dogs whose euthanasia has been scheduled. I’m reading the eulogies and final farewells and fond reminiscences, and getting all teary-eyed and sniffly.

I refuse to believe this is my instinct speaking. The Brindle Dog is only eleven years, eight months, and three weeks old. I could have lots more time with her. She still chases after sticks and barks at other dogs and gobbles up her food and digs under the deck. She doesn’t do those things with as much speed or grace or stamina as before, but she is still fully engaged with her own life. Continue reading

Old Dogs: Premature Anticipation

The Tire toy and a couple of chewed-up sticks.

The Tire toy and a couple of chewed-up sticks.

Now that the Brindle Dog is old, I expect her to drop dead any minute. Which is obviously ridiculous: this dog is like the Duracell Bunny. Or maybe like a Timex (if she’d ever taken a licking, that is). Some days, it seem like she’ll keep on ticking forever.

After all the things she’s been through, the emigration from her birth country, the mast cell tumour in her neck at the age of two, the removal of a canine (root and all) after she snapped it trying to uproot a tree stump, the country life with skunks and the city life with racoons, the bone spur in her spine that sometimes makes the pee-crouch difficult, the recent liver problems, the canine and feline friends she has outlived and grieved, it is sad and rather pedestrian that what might finally kill her is a rotten tooth. Continue reading

Walking the Dogs: Finally some rain…

The Fluffy Dog on a hot day, defeated by the heat.

The Fluffy Dog on a hot day, defeated by the heat.

Over about three hours today, the temperature dropped from 30-feels-like-41 to 20-feels-like-26, and the rain started. Not the wild thunderstorms promised by the Weather Network, but a nice steady gentle rain. The dogs were wild with joy (granted, this is a common state for the dogs, but still): the Fluffy Dog got all uppity and started singing the song of his people, while the old Brindle Dog paced between me and the door, pointedly squeaking for attention. I get it, I told them (come on, we all talk to our dogs). You want a rain walk. Continue reading

Brushing Battles, Hot Spots, and the Cone of Shame

Super disturbing and easily misinterpreted picture of the Fluffy Dog's tail after shaving the hot spot.

Super disturbing and easily misinterpreted picture of the Fluffy Dog’s tail after shaving the hot spot.

It’s been hot and humid in Winnipeg for what feels like ages. The Fluffy Dog and the Brindle Dog are both blowing coat out of season, trying to cool down. Old Brindle is easy to defluff; her fur is so short that I just rub her enthusiastically when we’re outside, and the plucks of undercoat peel away and float to the ground. The Fluffster, though, is a different story. Continue reading

Old Dogs: When the News is Good

The Brindle Dog when she was a pup.

The Brindle Dog when she was a pup.

The Brindle Dog now at eleven years old.

The Brindle Dog now at eleven years old.

 

 

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My ex and I first met the Brindle Dog when she was two weeks old. Her mom Asja and dad Tommy were KNPV dogs, and through a complicated backstory, we ended up paying two hundred euros for a pup from this litter because Tommy’s owner felt sorry for us.

We visited the Brindle Dog and her littermates every week until we could take her home. When she was four weeks old, we chose her for three reasons: she was toddling around exploring more adventurously than her siblings, she had a lovely golden stripe running down the inside of her right front leg, and when my ex picked her up to cuddle her, she fell asleep all limp and trusting in her new papa’s arms. Continue reading

Walking the Dogs: Mud and Mosquitoes

The Fluffy Dog in his wading pool, with gunk in his fur and in the water.

The Fluffy Dog in his wading pool, with gunk in his fur and in the water.

My dogs could have a better life, I know. Mostly, they laze around waiting for something interesting to happen. We don’t do flyball or Schutzhund or agility or any other formal training. The Fluffy Dog goes to daycare one day a week, but the Brindle Dog doesn’t even get that. I try to take them each on a long walk every day but that depends on my internal stuff (stress, anxiety, depression) and my external stuff (work, physical health).

But when we do go for those long walks—or even for short ones—I try to let them do what they want. Continue reading

Walking the Dogs: Pride Fest weekend

A picture of Pride at The Forks, shamelessly stolen from www.pridewinnipeg.com. The attribution is Cynthia Bettencourt (at the bottom right).

A picture of Pride at The Forks, shamelessly stolen from http://www.pridewinnipeg.com. The attribution is Cynthia Bettencourt (at the bottom right).

I was planning on a quiet couple of days, but there was so much going on in Winnipeg last weekend! Bike Week, Jazz Fest, Pride, FIFA, farmer’s markets, parades and art openings and films and picnics and concerts, oh my! Plus in my own life, my dear friend got a new dog, and one of my French cousins whom I haven’t seen in ages was stopping by on his way across Canada to go pick cherries in the Okanagan. So much for a quiet weekend! Suddenly there was so much choice! New dog! Interesting cousin! House music at the Pyramid! Pride Fest and market and music at the Forks! Thunderstorms and BBQs! Continue reading

Walking the Dogs (Stress Management)

Picture of a picnic table and some trees with late afternoon sun coming through them.

Took this pic on a walk in the Exchange last week.

I resist doing the things that are good for me. I hate the little voice that snarls and nags at me to eat well, exercise, keep my house clean, be polite, stand up straight, be silent, be nice, keep up appearances, worry about what the neighbours will think, don’t rock the boat. That fucking awful voice from the past mixing up the things that would really work for me with the things that harm and crush and make a life small. Continue reading

When Good Dogs Die

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Picture taken by me in Winnipeg’s Exchange District. It seems appropriately bleak for today’s post.

Cookie died today. It was a safe and peaceful death, in the arms of her loving mama and at the hands of a compassionate vet.

I will miss her joyful grin and the way she wagged her whole body when I arrived at her home. I love how she would wiggle her substantial butt frantically while also hop-hop-hopping with her front paws. She had a lovely friendly wide head and the tips of her ears flopped down. When she gnawed on a bone, her powerful jaws flexed and you could see the Rottie in her. Continue reading

Finished this book: Dog On It (by Spencer Quinn)

Nothing is as great as dogs. But a good book with a dog as the main protagonist comes pretty close. I very much enjoyed Dog On It (A Chet and Bernie Mystery). Chet, the dog, narrates this story in which he and his human (private investigator Bernie) solve a case. Spencer Quinn has quite brilliantly captured the nonexistent attention span, excellent olfactory and gustatory memory, dignity / loyalty / pride, and instant gratification motivation of dogs. Continue reading