Thursday, April 28, 2011

I'm alive, but not so great

The last three days have nearly done me in.  The weather has been horrendous.  We have had thunderstorms all three days, and my SCDS does not play well with fast moving low pressure systems that include frantic displays of lightning and incredible thunderous booms.  Last night and this morning were particularly bad, but not nearly as bad as those poor folks in Alabama.  Yesterday included 164 reported tornadoes, high winds and hail -- all over the southeast.  The TVA nuclear reactor had to be shut down.  Nearly 200 people already reported dead, and many places are still digging out.  We dodged a bullet.  We had many small branches from the pin oaks all over our deck and there were tornado warnings all around us, but this time we squeaked through when so many others weren't as lucky.  I fear tornadoes like nothing else on this planet.  Now with SCDS, if a tornado actually comes near, it will probably explode my brain right out of the top of my head.  The center of a tornado is extremely low atmospheric pressure.  Just a thunderstorm makes me cry from the pain.  I cannot even imagine what it would be like if it were worse.

Yesterday was awful, but today is still playing out.  The mess is still out there.  I'm praying it won't be as violent today, but there's just no way to predict it.  They are calling for clearing this afternoon and I so hope they are right.  I haven't had a decent night's sleep since Monday.  And if my issues weren't enough, I need to get some doggie downers for these dogs since two of them go completely bonkers every time there is thunder or lightning.  That always adds a little extra fun into the headache.

Sorry to be such a whiner, but I don't think I'm gonna be able to live through too many more of these springs. I can't believe we are stuck here until Bud retires -- in oh, ten to twelve years from now.

WARNING:  The videos on this site April Tornadoes Across the Southeast US will nearly scare you to death.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Some days it's shells

I can't seem to find my muse.  I can't seem to get motivated.  Things around here have returned to as normal as they ever get around here, but I'm just not with it.  I'm not really depressed.  Well, that's a relative statement.  I always have the possibility of being depressed.  That's why I take medication to help alleviate it.  But typically my most depressed times are during the late fall and winter.  It is spring.  And it is so beautifully, gloriously, obviously spring.  Everything is in bloom.  All the trees are in leaf, and many in flower.  It's time to cut the grass.  I love the smell of fresh cut grass, but my allergies don't.  I allergic to almost everything from early spring until late autumn, but again, that's why I take medication to help alleviate it.  Better living through chemistry.

So what's my problem?  I wish I knew.  Today I'm headachy because storms are moving in.  But yesterday was clear and pleasant.  Tomorrow should be clear and pleasant.  My dogs are healthy and happy, though I'm still upset about Abby and I'll probably be upset for many more months to come.  Bud is well on his way to recovering from the symptoms that brought about his hospital stay, and we are dealing with the chronic long-term effects of his illness.  I should be thrilled.  I should be happy.  I should be exuberant.  I should not be sitting here like a gigantic lump, with no motivation and no desire to find any motivation.  Yet, here I am.

Psychology Today says, "Don't wallow in a foul mood. Run, for the gym, and take your headphones."  I don't think so!  I can just see me now, breaking something when I fall off the stationary bicycle or falling flat on my face during Jazzercise.  Time says, "In this Age of the Blahs, many thousands of Americans are finding a new way to assuage money worries, insomnia, angst, neuroticism and neglect of liver and lungs. Their new-found route to tranquillity is yoga."  Again, NO!  I used to go to yoga classes.  I loved it.  It didn't love me.  I was clumsy and uncoordinated before I got SCDS.  I can just image how comical it would be now; not to say how much the instructor would so want to remove me from the class.

But apparently, I'm not alone in this smoky gray fog for I found this link: How to blog when you have the "blahs".  Must be universal.  So, I'll quit worrying about it; quit obsessing and quit Googleing blahs.  I'll just wait it out.  Sooner or later I'll get back to whatever is normal for me and you won't be able to shut me up.  See ya there.

Monday, April 18, 2011

When the caretaker becomes the patient

As we all know, I need a keeper.  Not just because I'm normally outrageous, but because I am now unable to take care of even the simplest of tasks.  Bud has willingly jumped in and taken over the job.  He manages to take care of me and pamper me and see that all my needs are met without smothering me.  I couldn't ask for a better caretaker.

Except, now, for the second time in a year, he has been admitted to the hospital under emergency circumstances.  We have now had to open our eyes to the fact that his health is far from splendid and unless we make some serious adjustments he just might not be around to keep me safe.  The big problem in that is I am so limited in the things I can do to help him.

The first scare, last summer, wasn't as bad as it might have been, because we have some truly dear and wonderful friends.  During his hospital stay, our friends made certain I had transportation to and from the hospital and groceries and other necessities to tide me over until he was home again.  When he came home requiring additional nursing and wound care, I was not able to properly care for the wound so our friend Ann dove right in and volunteered to clean, pack and treat his wound daily.  After six weeks or so, the wound was healed and our lives returned to normal.  I shudder to think what would have happened if she had not been such a loyal friend.

But Bud's latest hospital visit is far more serious.  As a result of long term exposure to methylene chloride and recent overuse of NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug), his liver is seriously damaged and scarred and barely functioning.  This condition is known as cirrhosis, and is common among abusers of alcohol, but Bud's condition has nothing to do with alcohol.  He was a social drinker, which meant he drank some red wine whenever we were out for dinner.  Rarely, he'd drink some scotch or bourbon when he was with "the guys".  But for the most part, alcohol was rarely consumed.  Now, it will never be consumed.  Not because he abuses it, but because it will seriously harm him.  He can no longer take simple medications like Tylenol, Aleve, Advil, Motrin, aspirin.  They could kill him.

And so we learn new rules to live by, but the key word here is live.  He is not so far gone as to be put on the list awaiting a donor liver for transplant, and I plan to do everything I can to make sure he never gets that far.  We already had some dietary restrictions because of his Type 2 Diabetes.  We don't add salt to anything (well, I sneak some into my grits).  We seldom have sweets of any type in the house.  He tries to limit carbs (me, not so much, though I really should).  Now, he also has an ulcer, which is probably another side effect of all those over-the-counter pain meds.  So, we'll be selecting foods that aren't gonna cause the ulcer to flare.  I guess it's karma or something because he always said "I don't get ulcers, I give them."  Well, that certainly came back to bite him in the butt.  Still, I think he'll continue giving ulcers to those with whom he fails to see eye-to-eye.

Bud's new best friends are the people in the Gastroenterology department at our family heath group.  They will monitor him regularly and try to keep him on the straight and narrow as far as living with cirrhosis is concerned.  It is necessary for those of us closest to him to monitor him regularly looking for noticeable weight gain (could be water retention), confusion and/or delusion (could be toxic build up of ammonia in his blood), changes in sleep patterns (could be other toxins building up) and various other little signs that should signal us when he is headed for trouble.  I'm not much of a nurse.  I do a whole lot better with logic, mathematics and technology.  My sister, Cathy, is the medical person. And believe me she has a boatload of medical knowledge.  She couldn't figure out what she wanted to be when she grew up, so she went to nursing school and became a Registered Nurse. Nope, that wasn't what she wanted.  So she went back to school and became a Registered Pharmacist. Nope, that wasn't it either.  Finally, she went back to school and became a Medical Doctor. Bingo!  And she's a damn good doctor.  However, I'm here and she's not, so I guess I get to be the poor example of nursing for my ever tolerant husband.

It's a bit like the patient running the asylum, but we'll get by.  How can we lose?  We've got love and we've got each other.  Nothing can beat that!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


As most of you probably already know, Bud is in the hospital and I am in depression/panic/caretaker/lunatic mode.  Not much time for blogging and it would be nonsensical anyway.  I spoke with him this morning and he was miserable.  He had not had much sleep during the night and so far no one had done anything to alleviate any of his problems.  His breakfast was runny egg substitutes and wall paste oatmeal.  I have recently attempted to call him twice to relay my plans for getting there, but no one answers the phone.  This does not make me a happy puppy.

I'll try to keep y'all posted and try to keep myself from going off the deep end.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Batter up!

Oriole Park at Camden Yard
Section 42, Row 27; Seats 1, 2, 3, and 4

It's that time of year again!  The picture above is the view of the ballfield from our seats.  We are most definitely in foul ball territory.  It doesn't get much better than this.  Some of you may remember my post last October.  If not, you can read it here Beisbol been berry berry good to me.  Tomorrow we are off to Baltimore for our first game this season on Sunday.  We will be attending this game with Mike and Andee.

The O's are off to a great start this season.  They played their opening season game on April 1st, but this weekend is the their first weekend home.  Currently, their record is 5 wins and 1 loss.  I hope they can sustain this momentum.  It would be wonderful if they could become a winning team again.  I'm no fair weather fan.  I'm an O's fan through and through, win or lose.  But, I have to admit I'm happiest when they are winning.

Y'all have a great weekend; I plan to.  After all the heartbreak and injury I've been through lately, this is looking like just exactly what I need right now.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


I have got to get this story finished so I can move on.  The people from Duke Energy have still not come to cut down the tree that is precariously balanced across our driveway and held in place only by the questionable strength of the power line to my house.  They estimate the power will be restored to everyone in Guilford County by 11:00 PM tomorrow night, so one would hope they will then have time to rescue me.  At least I have power.  Bud stopped by the Food Lion on the way home last evening, but the store was closed because they had no power.  I wonder what happens to all that refrigerated and frozen stuff in a grocery store when it goes for hours without power?

Anyway, back to the heartbreaking part of my doggie tale.  We went for a reasonably long time with just Bailey and Logan.  When we finally decided to get another dog, we decided we didn't want a small puppy.  We wanted a young, female dog because I wasn't anxious to go through all the training and maintenance involved in raising a puppy.  So in January, 2009 we went to the Guilford Country Animal Shelter in search of a dog to add to our family.  Of course, I wanted to give a home to every one of the poor babies there, but being realistic and looking only at dogs that fit our criteria, I was disappointed to not find a dog we could adopt.  I was trying really hard not to cry on the way home, and that wonderful man I'm married to said "Why don't we stop by PetSmart?  Sometimes they have dogs from the shelter there and maybe we'll find our dog if we go by there."  So we stopped, and sure enough there she was.  The perfect little girl for our home.

We named her Abigail.  Abby was a 13 month old little black dog, probably mostly lab, but on the small side.  She had black spots on her tongue, but I later learned that does not mean she was part Chow.  She was enthusiastic and playful and we fell in love immediately and took her home with us.  The introduction to Bailey and Logan went well, and soon we were one happy family again.  I'm sorry I don't have a better picture of her.  I know I took some, but mysteriously they have disappeared.  I don't even want to think about what that means.  Abby had some odd little personality quirks.  Whenever I would put all the dogs outside after breakfast so they could do their morning thing, when I would let her back in she would jump up on me and scratch my arms and legs with her sharp little claws.  At other times she would jump on me normally, but every morning she found some new place to leave a long scratch.  No amount of discipline or rewards would make her change this behavior.  She also had a thing about men.  It took her several days to warm up to Bud.  Whenever any of our male friends would stop by the house, Abby would go bonkers barking incessantly at whoever it was.  She did not behave like this toward females, so we assumed she had been abused by a guy and tried to work with her to fix this problem.  Eventually, she settled down and quit barking at the guys who are regular visitors to our home, but she never got over barking continuously at any other male who approached our home.  Abby was a very hyper girl and she and I would play chase games while I tried to wear her out.  Unfortunately, once I became a dizzy broad, chase games were extremely difficult.

We also put our name on the list of people interested in getting a dog from the Chesapeake Bay Retriever Rescue Group.  There were lots of dogs available for rescue, but most of them were so far from North Carolina, transportation was a major issue.  Also, we specifically wanted a female dog between one and five years old who got along well with other dogs.  It was during this period that I got in the shower one morning and leaned back to rinse my hair after lathering with shampoo and my whole world went to Hell.  I got so dizzy, I almost fell down.  I have continued to be dizzy, all day every day since.  That shower took place on August 27, 2009.  I started seeing doctors and specialists and more doctors and more specialists and yet more doctors and more specialists until finally in March of 2010 someone discovered SCDS was causing my dizziness.

In November of 2010, we found the perfect Chessie for us and went about arranging Georgia's adoption.  Georgia is a purebred Chessie who was apparently picked up as a stray in southern Alabama.  She had heartworms and had not been neutered, so the rescue organization was taking care of these problems before putting her into the system.  In early December, Ann, Rita and I made a trip to Atlanta (see Three rubes take a road trip) to pick up Georgia and bring her back to her new home.  Georgia is such a sweet little girl and she blended into our family almost seamlessly.  Once again we had our four dogs - two purebred and two mutts, and three girls and a boy.  All was right with the world again.

In February of this year things started changing in the dynamic of our pack.  I noticed Bailey was growling at Abby much more often and Abby was often being downright mean right back.  It usually was just a growling match, but I still didn't like it, and we started taking measures to put an end to the problem.  Some rivalry is natural.  Bailey is getting old.  She is probably pretty much past her heyday, and Abby was just reaching the age where she was starting to feel her oats.  Because of Abby's aggressiveness, I noticed Georgia becoming a bit more forceful with both Bailey and Logan.  Now you don't want to mess with Logan.  He's not gonna play silly little games with you.  He will let you act ridiculous up to a point and then he will put your little arse down on the ground, no more questions asked.  He is not vicious, and once you have been put in your place, he will walk away, but he will only stand for so much before he lets you know he isn't too old to whip your ass.  Bailey on the other hand, has never been aggressive and until recently had rarely growled.  This went on for awhile and though it was disturbing, it wasn't a big problem.

Until things went to Hell in the middle of the night in late March.   The dogs had all been sleeping in the house and about 3:00 AM decided they wanted to go out.   This is not unusual, and I'm just stupid enough to get up and let them out whenever they ask to go out in the middle of the night.  It really doesn't bother me.  I let them out and fall back in the bed and I'm back asleep within seconds.  Except for this night.  For whatever reason, the minute they all got out the back door, Abby went for Bailey with a vengeance and started trying to tear Bailey's ear off.  I ran back in the house and woke Bud up.  By the time we got back outside, Georgia had joined in and had hold of Bailey's other ear.  Logan had taken one look at the fighting women and wandered off into the yard.  We separated the girls, took Bailey back in the house, and made everyone else stay outside.  At 4:45 AM when I got up to start my day, I got everyone's food ready, just as I normally do, and set the bowls out in the proper places on the kitchen floor.  Bailey was still in the house, so she had begun to eat her breakfast.  I opened the back door to let the other dogs in for breakfast and Abby went straight for Bailey and started trying to tear her up again.  That's when I made the mistake of sticking my hand into the fray in order to separate them, and Abby tore into my hand just like she was tearing into Bailey.  And, Georgia once again decided to jump in against Bailey.  Of course, by now I was screaming for Bud and he came racing down the hall.  He jumped into the middle of it all, while I backed Georgia up into a corner.  Bud threw Abby out the back door and checked Bailey to see how bad it was.  She had torn both of Bailey's ears, but it wasn't serious enough to rush her to the Vet.  Unfortunately, the same could not be said for me and my hand.  After we got the bleeding to stop, Bud bandaged my hand as best he could to hold until I could get to see my doctor later in the morning.  After the three dogs in the house finished their breakfast, we brought Abby in the house and put the other three outside.  Bud dropped Abby off at the Vet's office on his way to work.  We wanted the Vet to examine her to see if there was some reason she had suddenly turned violent.  And this obviously blew gigantic holes in our theory that female dogs don't have violent dominance issues.

The Vet kept Abby from Tuesday until Saturday, when we came in with the other three dogs, all of whom were scheduled for their annual physicals.  Our Vet could not find anything wrong with Abby.  We put Abby and Bailey in pens out back of his office.  They were separated by a fence, but there was no growling or posturing and they seemed to get along okay.  We took Bailey, Logan and Georgia back home and then Bud went back and got Abby.  Her took her to PetSmart where he bought a muzzle and a crate for her.  He brought her home and we put the muzzle on her and let the other dogs in.  She immediately started growling and trying to snap at Bailey, but, of course, she couldn't because of the muzzle.  But she kept pawing and digging at the muzzle and finally managed to get it off her nose.  We knew then the muzzle would never offer the protection Bailey would need if they were all outside at night.  So we started playing musical dogs.  We would put Abby in the crate whenever Bailey was in the house.  Then we would lock Bailey in the bedroom so we could let Abby out of the crate so she could go outside.  Then we'd let Bailey have the run of the house until it was time to swap again.  At first, Abby was okay when she was with Logan and Georgia.  But on Wednesday last week she grabbed Georgia around the throat and started snapping and growling.  I was able to get her off Georgia and back into the crate without any bloodshed (doggie or human), but I spent the next half hour shaking all over from the experience.  I was no longer willing to allow Abby to be with any of the other dogs.  I doubted she would do any damage to Logan, but I was terrified he would kill her if she attacked him.  So for the rest of the week, we shuffled dogs in and out of crates and closed off bedrooms and closed off bathrooms and I got virtually no sleep.  By the end of the week, my last nerve had been shattered and I was crying constantly.  That's when we made the awful decision to do the one thing I swore I would never in my entire life ever do.  We decided to take Abby back to the animal shelter.  Bud took her back and surrendered her to the shelter on Sunday.

It broke both of our hearts and I'm not sure if either of us is ever gonna get over this.  My friend Ann tries to tell me it was best for all of us, and I suppose that's true but I can't help remembering that precious little girl and how great she was until she went nuts.  I miss her terribly and I feel as if I've let her down -- deserted her.  I should have been able to find a solution.  I pray some kind family with no other dogs will adopt her and take her home.  I worry about her all the time.

Our household is calm now.  Dogs come and go as they please.  Georgia does not show any aggression toward Bailey.  We believe her behavior was just part of the pack mentality when Abby was being so aggressive.  We have peace and quiet and happy doggies.  I'm no longer a nervous wreck and I am able to sleep at night.  I just can't look at myself in the mirror.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


Today's post is a brief interruption due to severe thunderstorms and tornadoes early this morning.  At about 12:30 AM, the NOAA weather radio starting blaring about every ten minutes with a new severe thunderstorm or tornado warning.  It finally shut up at 3:00 AM, but only because that's when the power went out.  Bud sleeps with a CPAP because he has severe sleep apnea.  Without the CPAP, he will either wake up every 15 seconds trying to breathe, or he will die.  Since he had to go to work today, he took his CPAP and our adapter that turns the cigarette lighter into a 3-prong plug, and went out to the van to sleep.  He had electricity, he was dry, he was warm because there's a Snuggie in the van and he turned the engine on so he wouldn't run the battery down with the CPAP so he had the heat on as well.  There is also a pillow in the van since I sleep most of the time when we are on trips to or from Baltimore.  It keeps me from getting car sick.  But, it still must have been hard to sleep with all that wind and rain battering the van all night.  I was tempted to go out and tell him to move the van out of our driveway so he wouldn't be near any trees, but it was raining and blowing so hard I didn't go back out; I just prayed.  I didn't get back to sleep because I had three very antsy dogs to handle.  Finally at 6:00 AM, I woke him up so he could get dressed to go to work.  He left the house with no coffee, more than a little rumpled, more than a little grumpy, and a brand new toothbrush and travel tube of toothpaste in his hand.  As he was getting back in the van to leave, we looked down the driveway and discovered the power of prayer and just how lucky he was.  The tree did not fall close to the van at all.


I went back to bed until the power came back on at 8:00 AM.  Then I called Duke Energy to report our little tree problem.  It is now almost 3:00 PM and I have not heard hide nor hair from Duke.  It may have something to do with the hundreds of thousands of other people in North Carolina without power.  Since it will only affect my house if this power line breaks, I suspect we are pretty far down on the priority list.  Still, I don't think I'll be walking down my driveway to the mailbox until that tree is gone.  I'll take the scenic route through the farmer's field next door and down to the road.  I sure hope they get here before that line breaks.

Monday, April 4, 2011

The tale wags on

Trixie was another one of those medical disasters.  She was plagued with ear infections throughout her entire life, and she had some sort of distended bladder or something that caused infections and leaking problems regularly.  But we were still relatively young, and both of us were working at steady, good paying jobs, so we could deal with the medicals bills and the upheaval.  All of our babies have been worth whatever expense in order to keep them healthy, but Trixie was such a screwball she kept me healthy too.

After Trixie, we decided to get a female Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppy.  We picked her out at the breeders when she was only two weeks old and brought her home when she was six weeks old.  We named her Hannah.  Until Hannah, all of our dogs had been pretty independent.  We have always allowed our dogs access to the inside of our home whenever they wanted to come in.  They eat all of their meals inside and sleep inside at night.  However, up until Hannah, they all preferred to play outside during the day, often in spite of snow or rain or sleet or hail.  The huskies, in particular, love colder weather and snowy days.  But Hannah was a clinger.  She attached herself to me and she was most unhappy if she couldn't be with me 24 hours a day.  She was never a problem dog, but she sure did want to be permanently attached to me.  And we were back to four dogs, two boys and two girls and two purebred and two mutts.  All the world was right again.

Well, I just went back through all our old snapshots and, apparently, I don't remember things in quite the order in which they actually happened.  That doesn't really surprise me except for the fact that the lives of my dogs have always been such an important part of my life.  Anyway, based on the photographic evidence we got Trixie and Hannah before we got Niki.  It may be I got confused because we didn't have Nik as long as we should have.

As I mentioned before, Niki was the best dog anyone could have ever wanted.  He grew to be much larger than most huskies and he had such an even, good natured temperament it astounded everyone who met him.  He walked on a leash without pulling.  It was just like you were out for a Sunday stroll.  We took him to a gathering of husky breeders where some of them were teaching their dogs to pull sleds (on rollers; we don't get enough snow for real sleds).  There were at least a hundred dogs there and Nik just walked around with us and never even barked (well huskies don't exactly bark) at any of them.  He got along with every dog and every person he ever met.  I do not cut my dogs toenails.  I'm a chicken, and I'm afraid I will hurt them, so I just let them wear their nails down while they play outside.  While we were at the husky gathering, one of the breeders volunteered to trim Nik's nails.  I told her he had never had it done and he might be a little jumpy, but he just laid down and let her do her thing.  You'd have thought he got a pedicure every day the way he acted.  Nik was just too good to be true.  Maybe that's why he died so young (5 years old).  He developed some sort of autoimmune disorder and all of his internal organs began to deteriorate.  Of course, we didn't know what was wrong when we took him to the Vet.  I told the Vet I was scared we were gonna lose Niki, and he told me Nik was young and we should be able to find out what was wrong and fix it.  A week later Niki was gone.  We sent his body to the School of Veterinary Medicine at North Carolina State University where they did a necropsy.  The report came back explaining about his internal organs and they said they had never run across anything like it before in any dogs.  I'm glad we provided them with an education, but it didn't bring our wonderful dog back.

The entire time we had Zeke he was truly a pleasure to have around.  He didn't fight with anyone.  He didn't cause any problems.  He loved everyone he met.  He had virtually no health problems.  You couldn't have asked for a sweeter, more gentle dog.  Then one evening when Zeke was 12 he started listing to one side.  At first we thought maybe he had pulled a muscle or something.  Later that night it started raining really hard so we went to get all the dogs in the house.  We couldn't find Zeke.  We finally found him wedged between the house and our tool shed.  It took me squeezing into a very tiny space in the sloshing mud to pull him out and it was clear he was not feeling well.  We kept him (and the others) in the house for the rest of night and I took Zeke to the Vet first thing the next morning.  He could not walk in a straight line; he continually walked in circles.  The Vet tried to assure me there were any number of things that could cause that, but I was afraid it was serious, as I was right.  Zeke had a brain tumor.  He had shown no symptoms right up until the time it got so bad there was nothing we could do about it.  Of course, we chose that he should not suffer any more than he already had.  And, once again we lost another piece of our hearts.

We live on what we jokingly refer to as the Great Eastern Stray Dogway.  Unfortunately, it's not a joke.  It seems every dumbass in the area who is too irresponsible to take care of the dog or cat they thought they wanted, drops them off out in the country (by our house) to let them fend for themselves.  It is not unusual for us to go outside because our dogs are barking up a storm, just to discover a stray outside the fence.  They usually run off when they see humans, or they decide four against one is not such great odds, but in most cases the strays don't hang around our house for long.

So, when we came home from work one day to see a young furry black dog with polka dot feet outside the fence, we assumed the dog would go away just like all the others.  Except she was still there the next morning.  She was hiding under Bud's pickup truck, which we weren't using at the time.  I gave her some water, but no food, hoping she would go off in search of something to eat.  I also called Animal Control and told them there was a stray at my home and asked them to go pick the dog up.  When we got home she was still there.  I didn't want the poor baby to starve so I gave her fresh water and a bowl of dogfood, and called Animal Control again.  We went out of town for the weekend, but I left a note for the friend who was coming to watch our dogs and told him about the dog under the truck and that Animal Control was supposed to be picking her up.  When we got back on Sunday night, she was still there.  I gave her fresh water and more food.  By this time she was great friends with our dogs inside the fence.  On Monday I called Animal Control again.  They told me they had been out to my house twice and they couldn't find any stray dog, but they would try again.  By the time we were headed home after work, I had decided I didn't want them to find her anyway, because I wanted to keep her.  I figured it would be just my luck this time they would have found her, but there she was wagging her entire backside and jumping all around in the driveway when we got home.  And that's how 11 years ago Bailey came to live at our house.  She was about a year old when she moved in.  I really felt as if Zeke had sent her to us.  She's been pretty healthy if you don't count ear infections, and she is a joy to have around.

It took us awhile to get over losing Nik, actually I don't think we are over it yet.  But eventually we got another male Siberian Husky puppy.  We named him Logan.  When we first contacted the breeder she was reluctant to consider selling us a puppy just to have as a pet.  All of her dogs were breeders and show dogs.  But, Logan had one undescended testicle, and would never have qualified as a show dog, so she relented and sold him to us.  Since we were going to have him neutered anyway, his testicles were not high on our list of items requiring perfection.  I wish I could say he's as good as Niki was as far as temperament goes, but like I said, Nik was unusual.  Logan is a normal, high strung, overactive, stubborn, bossy husky and we love him.  He's been a pretty healthy dog but he's ten now and showing some signs of arthritis.  Still he hasn't slowed down much yet.

Somewhere along the way, Bud and I decided that it would be more peaceful for everyone if we had only one male dog in our pack.  Remembering the fight with Shadow and Max, we weren't looking to have to go through anything like that ever again, so we started making our little family to be one male and three females.  We had not ever had a dominance problem with any females.

When Trixie was 12 years old, she gave out.  She had never been the healthiest dog and she was tired and ready to go.  We made arrangements with our Vet to have her put down on a Monday night.  He came to our home to take care of it instead of making us bring her into his office.  We try to have all of our dogs euthanized at our home because they are more comfortable in their own surroundings.  We also allow the other dogs to see the body after the death, so they can have whatever closure dogs get.  It's not always possible to do this at home, but whenever we can, it works best for all of us.  The morning after Trixie was put down, Hannah had some kind of seizure in the kitchen and just fell on the floor, unable to get up.  I screamed for Bud, but by the time he got there she had recovered.  Up to this point, Hannah had been perfectly healthy and had not had any problems.  We decided to keep an eye on her and nothing further happened that day or the next.  But on the third day, she had another seizure.  We took her to the Vet, but he couldn't immediately find anything wrong with her.  I was terrified.  I had not had any time to grieve for Trixie, and now it seemed I was battling for Hannah's life.  Friday night Hannah started wheezing and crying.  It went on the whole night long and nothing we did could comfort her.  On Saturday morning, Bud took Hannah to the Vet, and when he came home he brought her body with him.  I thought losing three dogs in 12 months was the most horrible thing that could happen.  I was wrong.  Losing two in one week can almost kill you.

Tomorrow the end of the doggie tale.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A dogs' tale

I don't know if I can write this post.  I am dying from a broken heart and crying so hard I can't see the monitor.  We are about to do something I swore I would never do in my entire life.

Anyone who knows us knows our dogs are not just pets.  They truly are our children, they just happen to be wearing little furry dogsuits.  We have had a number of dog-children since we moved into this house 30 years ago.  We started with a female purebred Siberian Husky named T.C, who was about seven months old when we got her.  The teenager who owned her named her T.C. for Too Cool.  But he became more interested in girls than he was in his dog, and after several warnings, his mother sold her to us for $50.  We soon learned that T.C. actually stood for Trouble Coming.

Next came a male stray who was mostly German Shepherd and we named him Shadow because he followed our every step.  Shadow was about nine months old when he wandered up to our house, filthy and hungry and with a load of buckshot in his butt.  Immediate Vet bills.  

Then came a stray who had been partially tamed by some friends of ours, but now they were moving and couldn't take her with them, so we took her.  She was just over a year old and already named Porkchop.  Porky was a 30 pound, furry something who looked as much like a fox as she did a dog and she was a medical disaster from the word go.  Our friends had her spayed, but it was such a botched up job she got a serious infection from it and almost died.  She also had heartworms when she came to live with us.  So we had her treated for the heartworms. Then came the emergency stomach surgery, and while she was recovering she broke one of her legs playing outside with the other dogs.  While we were keeping her in the house trying to get her leg mended, T.C. dumped an entire bucket of yellow paint on Porkchop, which, of course, involved a trip to the Vet to get the paint removed.  Porkchop also developed skin problems which we treated for years.  She was one gigantic Vet bill right after another, but we loved her, so we paid.

Maximilian Dexter Bear
Then we decided to get a male purebred Chesapeake Bay Retriever puppy, who we named Maximilion Dexter Bear, but, of course, we just called him Max.  That was an appropriate name it turned out, since Max finally topped out over 100 pounds.  His favorite playtoys were the logs we used in our fireplace.  He would steal them from the rack and carry them around all over the backyard.  He could fit three regulation size tennis balls in his mouth and you would never know they were there.  We finally had our full complement of children, two boys and two girls as well as two purebreds and two mutts.  Things were pretty good until Max starting growing up.  Then he and Shadow starting having some rather heated discussions about who was top dog.  Bud and I had to break up a serious dogfight only one time, but once was enough.

Dogs are pack animals.  If you have one dog, you and your dog are a pack to your dog.  If you have two dogs, particularly one of each gender, you and they are a pack but the male dog will usually be dominant over the female.  If the dogs are the same gender, there will be one who is more dominant, but that may not necessarily result in a power struggle.  Every time you add another dog to the pack, you change the pack dynamic and the results are often unpredictable.  By the time you are up to four dogs, it can get to be a bit of a sticky wicket.  When Max and Shadow started vying for top dog position, we originally solved it by having Max neutered.  We had already had Shadow neutered because he wasn't purebred and there was no possibility we wanted him to breed.  For a short while Bud thought he might like to breed Max, but once the fighting started, he quickly changed his mind.  Since then, there has never been any question.  All of our animal companions are neutered as soon as it is physically possible.  It keeps a pretty good lid on the behavioral issues and it makes certain no more unwanted animals are added to the already outrageous population.  I believe Max would have eventually won out over Shadow in the top dog department (Max was a whole lot bigger) but Shadow enjoyed climbing over our fence and running loose, no matter how many ways we tried to stop that behavior.  Shadow climbing the fence resulted in his early death at the age of five.  

After Shadow died we got another little male mixed breed puppy and named him Ezekiel, but called him Zeke.  Zeke looked to be mostly miniature Doberman.  We never had any dominance problems with Zekie, he just never wanted to be top dog in any pack, so he never fought with any of the other dogs about anything.  He was one of the most problem free dogs I have ever had the pleasure to know.

T.C. lasted until she was 13.  By then she was completely deaf and almost blind.  We kept her until it became obvious she no longer wanted to go on.   We got another purebred Siberian Husky, but this time we got a male and named him Niki.  The breeder told us male Huskies are not nearly as wacko as the females, so we figured we give it a try.  I don't think Nik was a good example though, because he was the most perfect dog a person ever could have asked for.

Six months after we had T.C. put down, we had to also euthanize Porkchop.   She found a hole in our fence and got out.  Apparently she got hit by a car, because the friend who was watching the dogs while we were in Maryland for the weekend, said he found her at the end of our driveway, and she was unable to use her back legs.  He took her to the 24 hour/weekend emergency clinic and they x-rayed her.  Because she had been on Prednisone for so long, her bones were very brittle and  her entire hips and back legs had shattered from whatever hit her.  She was also 13, and it just didn't seem to make any sense to try to repair that much damage at her advanced age with all of her health problems too.  Then, six months later it was Max.  He was only ten, but had been suffering from serious hip dysplasia for half his life.  We gave him prescription medication and glucosamine chondroitin for years, but when he was finally unable to get up and down the steps from the deck to the yard, we knew it was time.

Next came a female mixed breed puppy someone found stranded in the turn lane of a busy six lane thoroughfare in Greensboro.  She took the puppy to our Vet's office on the same day I told the Vet we were interested in adopting a female puppy if he knew of one.  So the Vet immediately called us and that's how we got Trixie.  She was about nine weeks old, and appeared to be a mix of husky and shepherd.  She was a goofball.  I have never laughed so hard at the antics of any dog, and I have to say Trixie saved my sanity.  After losing three babies over the course of a year, I needed someone to bring some joy back into my life and Trixie sure took care of that.

To be continued ...