Saturday, February 20, 2010

Dog Trip with No Dogs but Dog People

SUMMARY: John Nunes' funeral.
It was supposed to rain today. But, when I got up bright and early, they had taken the rain out of the forecast. Clouds still hovered and threatened occasionally, but for the most part it was a beautiful day. John must have friends in high places to turn the weather around for us.
I carpooled with two agility friends the hour and a half to Patterson out in the Central Valley. Many of the orchards (almonds, peaches, not sure what all is blooming at the moment) bloomed abundantly, looking almost like snowdrifts across acres and acres and even miles and miles of perfectly trimmed trees. This is mid-winter in California:

I think it's hard to write about funerals. You can't sum up a large life in an hour or two, although of course we have to try. Plus it seems more personal than, say, weddings. I didn't want to take photos of most things, feeling that it would be disrespectful or intrusive. But other things called out to be memorialized as part of my memories of John and I hoped that many of the people who couldn't attend could get a small piece of what we experienced through these very sparse photos.

The Catholic mass lasted a scant hour; didn't seem tedious to me, although I also don't know all the rituals and responses and songs that so many of the attendees knew, so it felt new. We arrived about 10 minutes before the service started, and the church  already overflowed with mourners. I sat just a few rows from the back and couldn't see most of what was happening up front, but I could hear just fine, and smell the incense.

I love bagpipes, and Stuart--spouse of another agility friend--turns out plays the bagpipes, so he piped John into and out of the church. Haunting and dramatic.

Don't know how many rows the church had, at least 20, with 16 people per row, plus a couple dozen standing because the pews simply had no more room. I guessed maybe 300 people. John was a well-known and well-liked man.

The program for the ceremony used a photo of John wearing dark blue jeans and a fine-lined blue and green plaid shirt. The gray-haired man in the pew directly in front of me wore blue pants of the same shade and a fine-lined blue and green plaid shirt. I kept wanting him to turn around and be John and prove that this was all a little mistake.

After the mass, we drove to the cemetery for a brief interment ceremony. Again, I didn't want to take personal or close-up photos, but I did want to show what a popular and honored man John was. Again, the crowd all around the ceremony was so dense that it was hard to see.

The cemetery itself touched me--just past Valentine's Day, heart balloons and red and white flowers festooned many of the graves of the recently departed.

Couldn't keep dry eyes through many parts of the day, but I nearly lost it when I saw his two spaniels there at graveside.  I think it's because dogs just don't understand, and I imagine their confusion in waiting for Human Dad to come home. Fortunately these two are accustomed to spending time with other people and will settle in happily at their new agility home(s). Everyone fawned over them and they loved the attention.

Leaving the cemetery, we drove back into town to the Masonic Hall for a generous meal. We were certain that they'd run out of food, but no, they were able to feed everyone plentifully--someone said, "It's because they knew John [and therefore the huge masses of people that were likely to appear]"--although there weren't enough seats for for quite the entire tremendous crowd. We had potatoes, green salad, tri-tip, beans, fruit salad, and desserts while chatting both with people we already knew and people we met with a common experience of having had John in our lives. While dining, the wonderful slide show of John's life (mostly his dog agility life) played and replayed on the wall at the end of the hall so we could remember him all over again. Thanks, Toni, for doing that. Agility people have so many talents.

The church didn't allow flowers at this time because it it is Lent, so I was told, so huge displays of flowers surrounded and covered the coffin at the cemetery, lined the walkway into the Masonic Hall, and surrounded the table covered with photos and mementos of John, including the Caninetarian of the Year award presented to him by the Bay Team two years ago.

I sat at a table with a gentleman who had grown up with John and who shared some stories from their youth. All of them, still living in or near the same small town where they were born. Many agility folks made the trip in, like us, many from around the Bay Area and coast with an hour and a half to 2 hours drive out there. Hard to say how many agility friends attended, there was such a crowd and we could easily get lost in it. I'd guess 30 or more people I recognized and their significant others, and more who also  were involved in agility whom I didn't know before. And everyone wearing black, something most of us would never dare to attempt in our normal lives due to, yes, dog hair.

Midafternoon, we headed home again. The fresh winter-spring green of the hillsides glowed an amazing green as the sun touched it from behind the clouds, a nearly unbelievable green. Couldn't have had a more beautiful setting surrounding us to remember our last time with John. But--we felt a bit like we were staring out at the default background for Windows XP.
So--is it live, or is it Windows X(p)?


Complete list of labels

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Technology Fails Us Again

SUMMARY: Loss to the agility community.

I am not reconciled to my mortality nor to that of my friends and family. With all the modern miracles of technology and medicine, it just seems logical that nice, smart, generous, happy, productive, and loved people could go on being nice, smart, generous, happy, productive, and loved as long as they want to.

But no. They die.

R.I.P. John Nunes Feb 15, 2010.


Complete list of labels

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Grab Bag Day

SUMMARY: blog issues, sad week, funny list,  d*d rats.

* Blog: Just got notice from blogger that they are doing away with the mechanism by which I post and manage my blog. They have an alternative that they really like but doesn't fit my needs. I'm going to have to convert or think of something else by March. Sucks. I wasn't really planning on spending time figuring out new technology or finding a new blogging service that will support me. Sucks being a techie geek who wants to do things most people don't. I understand their reasons, but still--after 7 years... converting everything to another site will be impossible. Argh.

* Sadnesses: Can we erase the last week and start over? Wednesday, Jigs. Friday, Scully. Saturday, Shooter. Monday, Katie. (Suddenly discovered cancer; escalating kidney disease; age-related illness; unknown (just--found her lying there, she was 11).) Please let it stop for a while. Meanwhile--go do something special with your dog.

* Funniness: I really needed this--"You know you're an agility addict when...". It's a facebook group. I hope they'll post their list on a public site, too, because it's too good to hide just on FB. Meanwhile, if you're on FB, read the list.

* D[amne]d d[ea]d rats. Can't find. Place reeks. Too cold to have windows open. Argh.

* Have some nice photos of the Merle Girls from this weekend. Will post when I have time. They are SUCH GOOD-LOOKING DOGS! I am so lucky to have them.

Labels: , , ,

Complete list of labels

Friday, January 29, 2010

Statistics and Patterns Lie. I Hope.

SUMMARY: I'd like to break this particular pattern among my dogs' lives.

Six years after Amber died, Sheba died.

Five years after Sheba died, Remington died.

Four years after Remington died, Jake died.

It has now been three years since Jake died.

I'm just sayin', I'd prefer not to continue this pattern, thank you very much.

Labels: , ,

Complete list of labels

Goodbye Little Black Dog

SUMMARY: R.I.P. Scully
Scully the little black dog, whose breed is listed as Verwende Prinses ("the spoiled princess"), was going strong until just a little while ago. She made it ten days past her 14th birthday, still competing in a few agility classes here and there. Scully's human mom adopted her as a rescue because she was cute, but this cute little mixed breed (sometimes mistaken for a Tibetan Terrier) went on to phenomenal success in a wide range of canine sports.

Scully was, as I understand it, the most-titled dog in the history of the Mixed Breed Dog Club:
  • In USDAA, she earned both her regular and performance Championships (ADCH and APD), but went wayyyyy beyond that. She very nearly earned her Bronze championship (triple the ADCH), before moving do performance and doing it all over again, even getting all the way to a Gold Snooker championship. She was so utterly reliable in doing gambles--age made it hard for her to make time or get opening points (and she had such SHORT little legs!) but she always looked like she was flying through the gamble part at a distance, her long hair flowing and hiding those little legs.
  • In CPE, she earned her championship (C-ATCH) three times over and had made a noble stab at earning the C-ATE (like earning 10 championships but with more rigid requirements) before her aging body slowed her down enough to gradually withdraw from collecting more Qs.
  • In obedience, she earned her U-CD (UKC) and MB-CDX (MBDC).
  • In conformation (yes, the mixed breed dog club has conformation classes, too), she earned her championship.
  • She also earned Rally titles and participated in all kinds of activities.
  • As a result of all her activities, she earned her Mixed Breed Versatility title five times over, which required achievement in seven different areas.
But of course, more than that, she was a good girl who could be left on her chair while her Human Mom went out and about at competitions, and she'd stay there, waiting and watching. She loved being fed treats from a spoon, and often was. She was a cheerful and willing girl. She was hard to get photos of because of those little black eyes in that long black fur, often turned out to be a cute little black blob. I was always pleased when I could get a nice photo of her.

Goodbye, Scully; in so many ways, there's no other dog like you out there.

Gads, I hate it when dogs get old.

Labels: ,

Complete list of labels

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Focus Pocus

SUMMARY: Nancy Gyes graciously allowed me to post her tribute to Focus. (I was going to excerpt from it, but there's nowhere to shorten.)

"Focus Pocus"

Geri Hernandez' incredible dog Focus died this morning here at Power Paws. He would have been a very young five years old in just a few days.

It was a nice morning, Geri and a couple other friends were here to train, we walked the first course, Focus got warmed up, and Geri ran him through half the course. He did not take a cue to get into a tunnel, and while were laughing at the error, he just dropped to the ground and was gone. We did CPR all the way to the vet, but there was never a moment that he showed any life after that point.

He was such a cool dog; friendly, silly, intelligent, sensitive and curious. When Geri would come for training he would come into my home and like he did anywhere he visited, he had to poke around all over the house, just being nosy and checking out every piece of furniture in every room and stick his nose in every closet. That done he would return and sit in Geri's lap while we visited. It was just so "him".

He was one of the most remarkable agility dogs I have ever met. He read Geri's mind usually and was as biddable and willing a working dog as I have ever met. That is rarely combined with the athleticism, speed and teamwork that he demonstrated every time he competed or was trained.

I never ever saw him miss a weave entry or exit, but I was told he did so once:) And he never failed to make Geri laugh at the occasional errors. He was a star. At 4 years old, and Geri's first time on the World Team, he took 4th place at the FCI World Championships in Finland last year. He was her first border collie, and her first real agility dog. The 4th place finish was the "best ever" for a first time world team member. This was after he won the AKC Nationals at barely 3 years old. He had a couple MACh's, an ADCh, and a lot of friends and admirers in the agility world.

Geri was his biggest admirer, and the rest of us were close seconds. No one was luckier than her to have been owned by a dog like Focus. No one is sadder than her at his loss.


Nancy Gyes, friend to Focus

Labels: ,

Complete list of labels

Very Sad News

SUMMARY: Focus, Geri Fernandez' world team dog, died today.

We just got notice from the world team coach that Focus dropped dead on the agility practice field this morning. They said that he went from alive to gone, in half a second, no sign of life.

Focus, last year's (?) national AKC champion, is one of only four dogs on the U.S. Large Dog World Team (through AKC). World championships start Sept 18.

Focus, an amazing Border Collie, was slightly older than Boost is now. I can't imagine Geri's heartbreak in so many ways.

This is the third Border Collie around here in the last year or so who is gone just like that. A younger dog, out for a hike and swim, dropped dead on the spot. Another friend's older border collie bounded out to the start line, staggered, and collapsed.

In the last case, they found a ruptured tumor on the spleen, likely hemangiosarcoma, same thing that took Remington (and so many other dogs I've mentioned, including Knack, another agility friend's border collie, just last week). I've heard so many stories about dogs with hemangiosarcoma literally dropping dead with no warning. But I don't know that we'll know what causes all of these sudden deaths.

I knew Geri and Focus only slightly, as they're from SoCal. They came up and practiced in our class just a couple of weeks ago. None-the-less, once again I'm gut-punched by another sudden loss.

Here's a video of their amazing collection of runs at the AKC nationals last year. [Sorry for the repost, those who already got this via email.]

Labels: , ,

Complete list of labels

Saturday, May 30, 2009

A Tragic Loss

SUMMARY: R.I.P. Risk Scannell.

Our achievements and defeats over the last two days pale in comparison to this: That a friend's Border Collie went to the start line friday night eagerly playing tug as usual, basically took two steps and collapsed, and three hours later died at the emergency clinic. Necropsy showed a ruptured tumor on his spleen. The friend didn't say whether they specified the type of tumor, but the symptoms and manifestation are completely typical of hemangiosarcoma, which took my Remington.

They reminded us to hug our dogs and appreciate them, because you just never know what the next moment might hold.

I just sent a response--
I did hug my dogs several times today, thinking about Risk. I so carefully felt the textures of their coats under my hands and the weight and warmth of their bodies next to me. Tika wasn't thrilled about that and took the opportunity to squeeze loose and go run ferociously at a passing dog to ameliorate her the humiliation, reminding me that dogs bring things to our lives in so many ways, so often not what one might want or expect.

Risk was just 8 and a half, only four months older than Tika, and one Steeplechase away from his Gold ADCH (something that Tika will never achieve)--one which he might well have gotten today, as he has become a steady and reliable competitor. And he was a beautiful dog, too. I mourn his passing, but can only just imagine what his human family is going through.

I was lucky enough to have some photos of him from last July, when my dogs and theirs played in the field after a day of agility.

Labels: , , ,

Complete list of labels

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Old Age. It's Not for the Faint of Heart.

SUMMARY: A scare, sadness, and relief.

Over the last week, I've been talking to my first sister a bit about her 13-year old Lab mix who has been in declining health. But the dog still loved to go for walks, even if she could barely stand. Incontinent. Maybe a little senile, a little hard to tell. When was the right time to let her go? Would she make it easy by slipping away quietly some night in her bed?

No, she leaped down a couple of steps into the carpeted living room yesterday--the dog who could barely walk, needed a towel under her belly held by her human caretakers to help her stand, wanted to leap down the step--fell, and couldn't get up again. Her front legs were as strong as ever, but her back and hind legs had given up, couldn't hold her up. Had she damaged something, or was this just progressive deterioration? Could she feel anything in her rear legs? Could it be fixed? Guessing not--

My mother has had some serious health issues lately. She's still SO much "Mom"; no sign of the mental deterioration that she had so feared because all of her female relatives succumbed to it, but at 80, some other things have come up in rapid succession, landing her in the hospital or emergency room several times in the last half year. We've had some scares. I don't know whether she or we are more scared each time.

She's had some procedures last week to try to stabilize her heartbeat. Thought it was successful. Then problems, and to the emergency room. Then OK and home again. It's her heart, for goodness sakes; these aren't minor things. She's always been so strong, or seemed like it to me. Very active and healthy, mentally and physically and socially.

Last night I told my sister to call me if she decided to put the dog to sleep and needed company, someone other than her own daughters, whom she'd have to take care of more than they could take care of her at such a difficult time.

I've heard nothing all day. Headed out for an evening with my Master Composters group around 6:00. Home a bit after 9, and there are 4 messages blinking on my answering machine. Given that I usually have about one once or twice a week, and given the way things have been going, that couldn't be good.

The messages were from my dad, saying that he was taking mom to the emergency room again. From my first sister saying that she put the dog to sleep and shortly thereafter got the call about my mom and was now at the hospital with my parents. Two from my out-of-state fourth sister wanting reassurance, feeling outside of everything.

OK, that's not so bad--given that there were no additional follow-up calls.

I called my first sister for an update. Mom's back and legs seemed to be giving out, wouldn't hold her up, she fell or was afraid of falling (not clear on this), couldn't feel one leg. Couldn't get up. So they'd gone to the hospital.

The doctors had ruled out heart attack and stroke and were progressing through a variety of other tests. Mom was perfectly capable of chatting and being--well--just the same mom as always, just with a body that's not willing to play the same games the same way any more. Turns out that it's just a (probably) minor infection, and she'll spend the night there so they can keep an eye on her to be sure that the treatment is taking rapid effect.

I am greatly relieved.

But meanwhile the hospital can't find a copy of mom's Advance Directive. What does the directive say? If she falls down the steps into the living room and can't get up, what do we do? She's not a dog, not senile, still going to contribute a lot to her family and the world--we expect--and she's only 80, for crying out loud, that's not old enough to be frail. Is it? Isn't 80 the new 60? And 60's the new 40?

It's all so much really out of our control. We have to rely on the expertise of others, and we have no good way of knowing whether they actually have any idea of what they're talking about. We like to hope so. We have to hope so.

Because I expect mom and dad to still be around when I hit 100. That's just the way it's supposed to work. And by then, I'll have lost how many dogs to the Big Milkbone in the Sky? Four so far, two more on their way--Tika's 8, Boost's 4. Ten years from now, I don't expect that they'll still be with me. Some other young and bouncy and crazy and loving dog will most likely be in my life. It won't be the same as any of my previous dogs. It won't be as good as they were. And, in other ways, it will be better.

Not so easy to adopt a replacement parent from the local parent shelter; their screening requirements are REALLY tough. So I'll have to keep the ones I've got. And meanwhile my sister's dog is gone. In peace. But so hard for the ones left behind.

I have no clever line to wrap this up. Because the story really has no end. So I guess I'll go to bed.

Labels: , , , , ,

Complete list of labels

Friday, February 13, 2009

Sense of Forboding -- Can We Hurry On Into March Please?

SUMMARY: This certain month has some bad juju.

I am not a superstitious person. Really. But still I'm looking at the dates and feeling uncomfortable.

* Feb 8, 2009: Van run into.
* Feb 26, 2007: Jake put to sleep after violent seizures in the night.
* Feb 28, 2008: Van run into.
* Mar 8, 2003: Remington put to sleep after violent seizures in the night.

I'm sure there must have been other bad things in my life at other times, but these are particularly standing out at the moment.

I'm sure I'll be better after I get a little sugar into my system.

Glad I could add a little cheer to your day.

Labels: , , , ,

Complete list of labels

Saturday, September 27, 2008

My Heart Is Torn Asunder

SUMMARY: Paul Newman has died.

(Photo from

Labels: ,

Complete list of labels

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Joy and Grief

SUMMARY: Puppies and another tragedy.

Our Thursday-night agility class has more or less 8 dogs and handlers.

Boost's mom (Tala) had a repeat mating with Boost's dad, and two of the people in class are on the short list to get puppies from that litter. Just heard that Tala gave birth this weekend to 5 puppies. Those are Boost's full brothers and sisters, just not littermates. Pretty exciting that I'll get to meet them and hear about their exploits as they grow.

For both women, this'll be the first time that they've picked out a puppy for agility. (But will be the 2nd agility dog for one--and she's learning to be a great handler and has done very well with her aussie-- and the 4th agility dog for the other--and she's been on the Argentinian world team with two of hers already.) What prospects!

Another dog in our class has been Homer, another BC. His main handler's current dog was in last year's Scottsdale finals in Grand Prix, DAM Team, and Steeplechase (placing 2nd there), so this is no ordinary handler, either. And Homer has been learning running contacts, and Robert and Karen have been obsessive about them, and they looked like they could be unstoppable in the ring. Except that Homer, at 2 years old, collapsed this weekend after swimming and died.

It hit me in the gut. I try to picture Boost, when she was two (January 2007) just starting to compete, with all of her verve for living and those bright, intelligent eyes and her phenomenally fast weaves and drive and how she loves to do things with me, suddenly being gone. Oh, it hurts to think of what Homer's owners must be going through.

That is still the hardest part about knowing so many dogs so well now.

Labels: , ,

Complete list of labels

Friday, July 25, 2008

Time Goes On

SUMMARY: Double sad news outside my dog world.

Best Man (left) and groom, 1981.
Weren't we all so much different then!

Twenty-seven years ago, I got married. That lasted barely into the new millennium, but friendships from those years continued. I've stayed in touch with the mother of our Best Man. I always felt that they were a close and loving family (two siblings? Three?) and they always made me feel part of their family.

We'd drifted apart from the Best Man, who had descended into alcohol and drugs, had spent time more than once in jail on DUI convictions, owed everyone way too much money. Not part of our world. Never knew what demons drove him so far from the paths taken by the rest of his family, from whom he had become estranged.

Two weeks ago, the mother let me know that her husband had died very suddenly. They weren't that old, I don't think. Of course my perspective on what "very old" is has changed considerably through the years... 110 is "very old" now. Maybe in their 70s?

The bigger shock was to get another note today that our Best Man had just been found dead in a motel room, cause unknown. It is such a stereotypically sad and lonely death for someone who had gone in his direction. I wonder whether he knew that his father had just died, and if so, whether that was too much for him?

He was such a funny, energetic guy in the old days. Lots of dreams that never came to fruition, but he was fun to talk to and hang around with.

And image the Mother--what a month. And she's selling the house and has to find a home for the husband's basset/dachshund. Her whole life turned topsy turvy. I can barely imagine.

I am sad about all of them.

Labels: ,

Complete list of labels

Thursday, July 03, 2008

The Sad Thing About Dogs

SUMMARY: They're not here long enough.

I am melancholic.

For many years, in particular for agility, it has seemed to me that about 6 years apart in age is a good spacing for Taj MuttHall dogs. In reality, that means that one leaves me on average every six years. This is hard. The worst thing about being involved in dog agility is that now I know so very many more dogs, and so much better, than I ever did before in my "normal" life. Now it's not just my dogs tearing pieces out of my heart when they leave. And so much more frequently than every six years.

My dogs:
  • Jake - Nov 1, 1991-Feb 26, 2007
  • Remington - July 1, 1993-March 8, 2003
  • Sheba - 1980-May 1997
  • Amber - Nov 1, 1978-July 1992
  • Sam, the family dog - 1967(?)- 1980(?)

Other dogs:

Labels: , ,

Complete list of labels

Saturday, April 26, 2008

One Dog, Two Dog, No Dog, Three Dog

SUMMARY: Title chase this weekend, plus: What's the right number of dogs?

If all works well, this post will post itself while I am off having the time of my life making perfect weave entrances at the SMART USDAA trial in Prunedale. And working the score table. And maybe participating in:
  • Boost getting a Jumpers and a Standard leg to finish her MAD.
  • Tika getting a Steeplechase Q to finish her Tournament Master Gold.
  • Boost getting a Steeplechase Q, too, which will put them both halfway to qualifying for Nationals in the Big S.
  • Tika getting a Grand Prix Q, too, which will put her halfway to qualifying for Nationals in the Big GP.
  • Tika getting a Snooker Q to complete her Snooker Silver.

No, I don't really have anything I want to accomplish this weekend; why do you ask?

So, in case none of my dogs achieve anything this weekend and I need to replace them with something more qualifiable, let's talk about What's The Right Number of Dogs?

An agility friend is seriously in the midst of probably most likely adopting a third dog, first time she's done that (two was a leap, I believe), so wanted my opinion, me being an absolute wealth of useless, ambiguous opinions, and I agreeably rambled on about it. Here's my updated response, with photos.

One dog, December 1978 through August 1981

Amber joined me as a puppy. We were happy together. I took her many places with me. It's easy to travel with one dog. It's easy to play with one dog. One dog fits well into small spaces. It's easy to do training with one dog. And when all the Mystic Mints disappear from the box or there is poop on the carpet you know whom to talk to about it. And Amber was generally a Good Dog who generally came when called and stuff like that. Plus she'd hold a biscuit on her nose.

Two dogs, August 1981-July 1992

So I got married and figured that two people needed two dogs. Well, the new dog was very sweet but did NOT come when called and did NOT play and did NOT have any interest in doing training and could not hold a biscuit on her nose even if stapled it there (editor's note: Stapling is just a metaphor, no actual staples were used). At least Sheba and Amber got along--once in a while they'd chase each other around the yard, and they'd take turns eating from the same bowl even though we conveniently provided them with two independent bowls with actual food in both.

Sheba was not much fun to travel with and she always had to be on leash, always, or she would end up in Sheboygan. So we didn't go places with the dogs much. But at home one or the other was usually doing something entertaining, or being cute, so when one was slacking off and just hanging out, the other would gamely amuse us somehow. But if the carpet was torn to shreds, we couldn't ever be certain who was responsible, although we had a 99% probability guess on that one, SHEEEba!

One dog July 1992-May 1994

When Amber died, it just about broke my heart. This is one disadvantage of having dogs. They die. They break your heart. If you have one dog, they don't do it as often as if you have two or more dogs. The number of dogs dying seems to be proportional to the number of dogs in the family. I realized now that dogs die and furthermore, Amber died, and I would never be able to have another dog like her again and so why bother. Plus there was always dog hair everywhere and dust and dirt from the dogs everywhere and I was just tired of it, and Sheba was 11 anyway so if we just waited for her to die, which would undoubtedly be soon, then I could have a clean house again and no carpet ripped up and no spots on the lawn all the time and no worrying about dogsitters when we went places without the dogs, which was often.

Two dogs, May 1994-January 2002

When Sheba had rambled on to 13 and showed no signs of slowing down for or even being within a hundred miles of the exit from the highway of life (more metaphors, are you impressed?), it suddenly struck me that my own life would be very, very, very empty indeed if there were no dog in it, plus since Sheba did NOT play and did NOT hold a biscuit on her nose, she often bored me to tears, and wanted a dog who would be more doglike in those particular ways rather than just shedding everywhere and occasionally escaping and trying to thumb a ride to Sheboygan. And within a month, Remington came home.

Sheba was not happy about it. It was no longer easy to snuggle with both dogs, because one would be pissy about it. They did not share food bowls. Remington was generally a Good Dog but if we left him at home and took Sheba for a slow elderly walk, he shrieked, and if we left Sheba at home and took Rem for a brisk youngster walk, she'd be gone when we got back.

But, oddly enough, Sheba took one look at the young whippersnapper doing tricks for treats, and she wanted to, too! So the dog I had failed to teach even to sit when she was 3 learned, at 14, to sit and lie down on command, to shake, and to hold a biscuit on her nose! I loved it! And for the first time I really appreciated how dogs can affect each other in ways that are good for me. So maybe having more than one dog was a Good Thing.

Then I discovered dog agility. Rem went many places with me and learned many things. But Sheba was too old for that sort of stuff and her health was starting to fail. Meanwhile, "All my FRIENDS have two agility dogs, can I please please please, really, I'll take care of them!" The spouse wasn't smitten with the idea of three dogs (two dogs, two people, remember?), but meanwhile Jake became available and I really really wanted him to come home with me.

When Sheba died at 17, Jake was in our yard within a week. And we started doing agility.

So I discovered--duh--it's blatantly twice as expensive to have two dogs when you're competing in agility. It's not just twice the food and twice the basic vet bills and so on--it's twice the weekly lessons (money and time), twice the training in the yard (time), twice the entry fees (money), twice the work at a trial (pottying, warming up, cooling down, planning different handling strategies or courses because they run differently and have different strengths and weaknesses).

On the other hand, if one was injured, the other was still running. If one was having zero-qualifying weekends, the other was doing SOMETHING right so I wouldn't sink into a self-pitying pit of rancid despair (not quite worked into a blatant metaphor but close enough). So there were definitely advantages.

And, for two Basically Good Dogs, walking two dogs wasn't too hard, snuggling two dogs wasn't too hard, training two dogs wasn't too hard because one would wait when told.

But these two dogs despised each other. Fights were too common. It was extremely unpleasant. Plus they were boy dogs, so instead of making dead patches on my lawn, they peed all over the sides of things. And, once one did it, the other had to, too.

Three dogs, January 2002-March 2003

Both dogs were getting older. Jake had arthritis in his back. I figured that neither of them had more than a couple of good agility years left. I wanted to bring a third dog on board so that I wouldn't be left without an agility dog. After a divorce (really only very little to do with the dogs), and the purchase of a new Agility House, Tika came home with me.

Jake was grumpy about it, but Tika knew how to keep out of his way. It was a lot of fun having a new dog to teach from scratch to avoid making all the training mistakes I had made with the first two. I really enjoyed getting started with her, although, boy, training classes for THREE dogs was quite a wallet-unloader.

I used to go for nice peaceful mile-long walks every day with Jake and Remington, but Tika was a tremendous handful. I did it anyway because the other two dogs were manageable, but it became a bit stressful trying to walk her, too.

Tika entered her first trial with one run the same weekend that Remington first showed obvious-enough signs that something was wrong with him, so I never did have complete entry fees for three full dogs at a single trial, but my two "elderly dogs" up to that point (Rem 9, Jake 11) were still competing just fine so it could have gotten quite pricey--and REALLY busy--at trials.

But now I could take one dog for a walk at a time and not feel guilty because there'd be two dogs at home together. This didn't stop them from complaining about it, but I always felt much better that they were together. This way, I could work on Tika's leash-training by herself, could walk an ill Remington by himself, could walk Good Dog Jake for just a nice relaxing peaceful walk by ourselves. There were advantages to three dogs.

Plus, the things that Jake and Remington both did well at (not running out the front door, for example), Tika seemed to notice and learn from. (She was not so good at it later after Rem died, so actually having TWO other experienced dogs in the house was a very good thing for a rambunctious youngster.)

But three dogs on the bed was a real mess, especially with the two boys being picky about their personal space. I tried to train Tika to sleep in a crate off the bed, but my training failed--on me. So I had to manipulate myself all the time to sleep around 3 dogs on a king sized bed who didn't want to be within 3 feet of each other.

Two dogs, March 2003-2004ish

So, after Remington died, I discovered again how much I liked having two dogs. One on either end of the bed. One on either side of me for snuggling. One per hand when out walking. Two at a competition was plenty.

Three dogs, 2004ish-2005ish

And then I got a renter housemate who had a dog, too.

This actually worked out well, because I could play with and even dabble in agility with the third dog, but then turn him over to his mom for vet bills and feeding and walking and grooming and all that stuff.

Jake, whom I thought would have retired from agility years ago, kept going and going, but I knew that at his age (13ish), it couldn't last forever, and then I'd be down to only one agility dog again, and that's a terrible thing (what if one is injured? Then I'd have NO agility dogs!). I had thought that I might make little black Casey my 3rd, but then they moved out.

Two dogs briefly in 2005

When Casey left, Tika was already 4, and I figured it was time to bring in a 3rd dog again. It was a hard choice from a living perspective, though, because I REALLY liked having just 2 dogs everywhere except for competing at agility trials. But, still, Boost joined us shortly thereafter.

Three dogs April 2005-Feb 2007

Once again, I delighted in teaching my young new dog all kinds of wonderful new things. A puppy is a challenge, but also a joy in seeing her catch onto ideas.

But three dogs are harder. Harder to line up for photos. Harder to snuggle with--you just cannot do 3 simultaneously. More gear to carry and more space taken up at agility trials. One dog you can tuck in almost anywhere. Even with two dogs, you can get by without your own canopy if you're clever. But with three dogs, you gotta have the whole shebang (not to be confused with Sheboygan).

Harder to sleep with and manage in hotel rooms and vehicles. Two crates fit neatly across the back of the minivan, but not 3.

Two dogs Feb 2007-present

Abruptly, I found myself again with only two dogs. Sure, I missed Jake, but I don't miss having the three dogs. Except when I want to walk one dog at a time, or take one dog somewhere, I don't feel comfortable leaving the other dog home alone, so I am doomed to always have two dogs with me wherever I go. Don't like that part.

General discussion about how many dogs

First, I think that if you have found a dog that seems right to you and you have the time and energy for another dog, you should take him/her home. I've looked at so many dogs and thought "welllll allllmost but not quite," that I value it when I have a take-home response to a dog.

Second, I find two dogs much easier than three. I can walk 2 dogs at a time, pet 2 dogs at a time. Three dogs--depends on the dogs--gets to be a challenge, because now you're using one hand to manage two dogs. Some people just never do that--I've talked to folks who always just walk one dog at a time, whether "out for a walk" or just pottying at a trial. Tika is a tremendous chore to walk with. I managed it with Jake and Remington because they were pretty good on leash, but I find that her bad habits on leash tend to drift over to Boost and the thought of adding a 3rd dog to this mess deters me. So some of that really does depend on the dogs.

However, I also have the question lingering all the time about what happens when my current dogs get older, from an agility perspective. One answer would be to drop out of agility for a while. Sometimes I feel like I'm ready to do that. Sometimes I don't. Assuming that I'm still in an agility frame of mind, in 3 years, Boost will be 6 and Tika will be 10 and I'd want to start thinking about a puppy or young dog that year. I'm guessing that Tika won't be competing when she's 11 or 12. But I've been fooled before (witness Jake at 15). If I *don't* get a 3rd dog, and if these guys live good long healthy lives, let's say Tika dies at 15, boost will be 11 and might not be competing, either. That could be a long dry spell w/out competition.

On the other hand, having only one dog competing would be considerably less expensive. :-)

Somehow I've managed to keep 2 dogs competing most of the time. Tika had just attended her first couple of trials when Remington got sick and died, so I had 3 dogs entered in maybe 2 or 3 trials. Boost had just attended her first couple of trials when Jake suddenly went. At trials where I've had only one dog to run, it has been both relaxing and boring. And one or the other of them usually does *something* well, whereas back when I was one-dog with Remington and he didn't do well (which was often), it really bummed me.

Jake and Remington fought. I hated it. I don't miss that part, but that was the same whether I had just them or added Tika. But I wonder how I'd have felt if, say, I'd already had Rem and Tika and then added Jake. Dunno.

Adding Boost to the Tika/Jake combination was both good and bad. Jake was a grouch but there was something about the way Tika handled his snarfs that made them cautious partners. Tika's the only dog that Jake would play fetch around, and she'd run in and scoop up his toy or ricochet off him half the time and he usually let her get away with it (after a 2 or 3 month adjustment period, at least). And he'd imitate what she did and follow her around, and she'd pay attention to things he did to earn rewards. They were never friends, though. Tika loved Boost. They play with each other regularly. Jake hated Boost and she really felt the brunt of it, being a puppy. I tried to keep them apart but sometimes I just slipped up and he'd be all over her. And I don't know how much of it was because she was a puppy, because she was new, because she didn't know how to deal with him like Tika did, because he was jealous in his own weird way at her taking time from Tika, or because he could.

I am one of those sort of ambiguous dog people. I love having my dogs around. I am so tired of the dirt and the hair and the overhead. I would really miss not having a dog around. I might actually enjoy living without dogs (but it's been so long since I've really done so that I'm not sure about that). The thought of losing them both for some reason sometimes terrifies me. It happens to people, losing two dogs in a short period of time. Three dogs seems less likely that you'd ever suddenly find yourself dogless, sort of an insurance policy of unconditional love or something.

And I don't think that 3 dogs makes it any more complicated in feeding--I just use dry kibble--or keeping the house and yard cleaned. If I'm going to sweep the floor, it doesn't matter how many dogs have shed on it. If I'm wandering around the yard picking up poop twice a day, it doesn't matter how many individual poops there are.

But expenses definitely go up with a 3rd dog. Half again as much food. Half again as many medical bills. If for some reason you need to board them or otherwise cared for (I seldom do, but sometimes), the expenses are per dog. Same if you have them groomed (I seldom do because of the cost, but would if I could afford it). If you have all of them in classes of some kind, it's per dog.

Overall, I prefer being a 2-dog person. And the odds are good that someday I'll find myself with 3 dogs again. But here's the other thing: Several people have told me that 4 dogs are easier than 3, because you can do everything 2 dogs at a time without one dog feeling left out and making a fuss or being resentful. Huh. Dunno. But just in case you find TWO dogs you really like--well--you can give it a try and let me know.

Labels: , , , ,

Complete list of labels

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The End of A Wednesday Night Era

SUMMARY: I've resigned from the Wednesday night 8:15 class.

And my heart is breaking. I love that class. But, for various reasons related to finances, I have to cut back to one class, and, at the moment, I need Boost's particular class more.

More info: Feb 8, 11:15 a.m. Omigosh! How could I have left THAT out! Or THAT? Or THAT? (See below)


I've been in Wed. night 8:15 class for a very long time--don't ask me how long; it might give away how ancient I really am. I might have taken some time off while on disability with my back in early 2001, so Current Era might have started then, but it's also possible that I was in the class, then out, then back in again, for years before that.

Be that as it may, for a long time I had Jake in that class, with other old-timers who'd been doing agility since the dark ages: Gail and Flint the Corgi, Debbie and Reno the Corgi, Ellen and Cali the Corgi, Arlene and Scully the Little Black Dog (aka Verwende Princess). Hmm, lots of small dogs, where Jake jumped 22". And Gwen with Spike the Border Newf. We had all known each other a very long time, and we were friends. We had our own Wednesday-night email list (still do, in fact; still share our doggie and agility triumphs and sorrows with this same old list), we got together outside of class and outside of agility.

But, in two short and painful months or so in 2005, some of the old dogs were retired from class--Spike and Scully--and two dogs became ill and died very suddenly--Cali and Reno--and Flint moved to a different time that worked better for his handler, and all of a sudden Jake and I were the only ones in the class. I was a bit sad about that. We all got along well, and I just knew that anyone added to the class would be newcomers and not long-time bosom buddies with all those years of shared history. How could it ever possibly be as good?

A newer class

Over the next year or so, the class built up again. They added Ken with Apache the Terv--I didn't know them except as friendly competitors who often beat Tika's times in our novice classes (damn their eyes!). Along with Ken came Bobbie and her Golden, Jenny. Basically complete strangers.

Two AKC Sheltie ladies--Cathy with Trooper and Tracey with Flash--joined, and I wondered what I could possibly have in common with them. Our old classmate, Gail, who sometimes teaches novice classes, sent her promising new student, Ashley with Luka the Pyrenean Shepherd, to get a class with Jim, and he joined us and stayed.

And shortly after that, I retired Jake from class because I had Tika and Boost in classes as well, and three classes was too much for me. That's when Tika moved into Wednesday night 8:15. Later, Jennifer with Kye the Aussie, who reminded me a lot of Tika physically but whom I otherwise knew nothing about, joined. So, altogether, a whole bunch of strangers, most of whom didn't know each other from Adam Ant, thrown together randomly.

There was one late addition, in the middle of 2007, someone I had known for quite a while (and had had class with at other times): Lisa with her young Border Collie, Carson.

Results and Sayonara

I never would have dreamed how much I have come to love that class. We have laughed so hard, so often, at so many things. We've instigated running gags by the handful, without which any relationship is merely a shallow shadow of what it could be. There's the desperate race to pick up the most cones between runs--we elevated it to an art! or was it yet another sick competition?--and the invention of the Bars Sluts!

We have challenged each other to outdo the Cool Factor handling maneuvers--Ashley is absolutely fearless and became the King of the Serpentines, and Jenn and Ken run fast 26" dogs whose times are competitive with Tika's (and Lisa with Carson, too, but she's managed to avoid talking trash with us on a regular basis), and so we're always pushing each other to do better and better. Ken and Jenn and I in particular seem willing to try anything challenging if there's a chance that one of the others might try it and succeed, making them Cool and us Not.

Then there's Tracy and Flash, inexorably working their way towards MACH-37 and learning new moves in the meantime, even though they claim they don't really need them. And, of course, the influence of Instructor J, who drives us to run as fast as we can so the sound of the wind in our ears drowns out his puns, but also always points out the Cool Factor moves that we might not have thought of, or the challenging moves that "you probably can't get there," or "the Monday Night class had no trouble with this," or "everyone else had trouble with this," to which the response is always, "But this is the Wednesday Night 8:15 class!" and "Piece of cake!"

I don't think it's coincidence that Tika's Top Ten points went from 16 in 2005 to 76 in 2007. The mix of people in this class has been very good for me.

And we've become friends in an odd cliquish sort of way. There's always a Wednesday Night 8:15 party Saturday night at out-of-town trials (to which, incidentally, anyone dropping by is invited with wide-open arms; there's always too much food and plenty to drink). We skipped class and went out for Xmas dinner together this year. To my knowledge, that's never been done by any other Power Paws class, ever. And of course our nearly world-famous ABCs of food nights all last year made every night a celebration. Ken and Bobbie and Tracey in particular always had the most spectacular array of foods and were Party Meisters on all occasions, although Jennifer and Ashley were no slouches on upping the food-quality competition level. (My waistline doesn't thank them, but it was bonding and it was delicious and it was fun.)

But the fact remains that agility is a luxury for me and I have to pare back. And Boost and I need the kind of work that we're getting in the other class just a bit more than I need the kind of challenge that I'm getting in this class. They're both very important. But I have to choose. I waited until last night to say anything at all, because I really didn't want to go. I'd have burst into tears last night if I'd had to talk about it any more.

The funny/odd thing is that PP convinced Jennifer and Kye to move to Boost's Thursday class for various reasons, but in particular because another student needed Wed night 8:15 for his schedule, and there wasn't room for another student. But now I'm leaving, too, so there'll be an opening in Wed. night 8:15.

I'll tell ya, I'm so glad that Jennifer and Kye will still be in my class.

But, overall, I feel as if I have left a relationship, it's that kind of pain. Pretty sad, huh? I need another life--

Jennifer baked a Kye cake for the occasion of her last night in class. He even had a little Aussie nubber tail with a white tip. And he tasted very good, too.

Labels: , ,

Complete list of labels

Monday, April 16, 2007

A Dog's Final Care

SUMMARY: Are you a bad person if you don't do everything medically possible to try to save your dog's life, no matter the cost?

My sister-in-law, who has a dog whom she adores but is not active in "the dog world", posed this question after watching an episode of Judge Judy (?) in which it seemed to be implied that you were a bad person if you didn't spend the money, whether you had it or not.

I had just happened to read an article in DogSport magazine (May/June 2006) by Terri Arnold, whom I don't know because she's an AKC-only person, but I thought her conclusions described in "When to let go" are quite helpful. In summary, she says that she'll use the same criteria for her dogs that she'd use for herself on when to let go, and I quote:
  • Must not be a burden, neither financial nor emotional, to those who take care of me.
  • Must be able to communicate with those who love me--if not verbally, at least with my eyes and spirit. I must have an interest in the world around me.
  • Must not be in agonizing pain all the time.
  • Must be able to eat and drink and take my medicine in order to help myself.
  • Must have my dignity; I could never lose complete control of all my bodily functions and want to live. (For a dog in particular, this could mean separating the dog from the life he was familiar with.)
She goes on to describe how she made those evaluations for her beloved Stride when he developed a brain tumor. But she also said, "There is no one more capable to make this decision than the person who loves the dog."

UPDATE: May 12, 2008 - The full article is now online here.

I raised the question with agility friends at dinner this weekend, and we all agreed that there's so much that goes into the answer: The dog's age, personality, and physical condition overall. The owner's health (mental and physical) and energy and living situation and finances. The nature of the illness, the nature of the treatment. More than one of us had stories of how we fought with money and medical treatment into five digits of expenses for a beloved dog, to gain only a month. Or two. Or, in Remington's case, four. We all felt that we did what we needed to do and could do at the time, and we all felt that maybe we'd never do that again. Or maybe we would.

We talked about where the line is (as did the article)--you don't put a dog to sleep because you're moving and can't take the dog with you, or because he's, say, vomiting and you don't know why (given that the dog has otherwise been healthy and there's no other evidence of illness). Still, I don't know what you'd do if you had a young, sick dog and the vet couldn't tell more without tests and the tests would be $500 and you don't have $500. Most people I know, however, aren't in the situation where they really couldn't afford to have basic blood, urine, & xray tests done.

But there remains that huge gray area where it's just not completely clear, where the vet can't decide for you and the dog's body doesn't decide for you. I think that Terri's guidelines are a wonderful place to start.

Labels: , ,

Complete list of labels

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Dogs and Cancer

SUMMARY: Another sad day.

One agility friend has a Bernese Mountain Dog named Kintla, who is just barely 8 years old. Kintla is a lovely, agile, fast dog for a breed that looks so large and solid. They've done very well together in agility, earning both the USDAA championship (ADCH) and the AKC championship (MACH), which are beyond the reach of many, many dogs. But Katie told me last year that she knew that Kintla was living on borrowed time, because cancer is rife in this breed, that both her parents died young (6 years old, I think), and that the average life expectancy of the breed is only 8 years or so anyway.

I found out a week ago that Kintla's fate has caught up to her and she does, indeed, have cancer--very aggressive, and in her bloodstream, and metastasized to at least one vital organ. Today I found out that Kintla will be put to sleep tomorrow, while she's still bright-eyed and beautiful. She was more than happy to relieve us of our extra dog treats and cheese. But she apparently has trouble even walking and keeping food down, so her quality of life has deteriorated rapidly.

It's always heartbreaking to lose a dog, especially a special one like this one. And it brings back painful memories for all of us who've lost a dog to cancer. Boost's sister's mom and I were alternately fawning over Kintla and crying for our cancer-taken Remington (9 years old) and Morey (a Golden who died at 7).

Goodbye, Kintla.

Labels: ,

Complete list of labels

Thursday, January 26, 2006

The Ghost of Hemangiosarcoma

Really, I'm going to bed any time now. Earlier today (noon PST, to be exact), I was going to post something, but got this message:

Go figure. We seem to be back now, whatever time they think it is.

So—hemangiosarcoma. That was Remington's fatality. I'm thinking about it again because my housemate asked me (in response to something I said) about missing Remington, and the tears just came, even three years later. Then earlier today I got another random email from my web site's info about hemangiosarcoma, someone else's dog diagnosed and agonizing over what to do. Then later today, my friend whose dog went through hemangiosarcoma at the same time that Remington did wrote to me, not about that, but it was already on my mind. Then this evening, another editor on Wikipedia it turns out lost a dog not long ago, very abruptly, to the killer ("What happened to Sophie Marie").

Anyway, I started thinking about all those dogs out there and all their owners in shock, despair, and grief. And out of all of this, one tiny thing for me, that with all of Remington's information posted on the web, I get email after email from people, like me, bursting with the agony of their own story, wanting to share it, wanting confirmation that they're doing the right thing, whatever that thing might be, and finding some small comfort in Remington's story or some small tidbit of information to help them come to a decision they're comfortable with, or finding another voice in the wilderness who has gone through the same thing that they're enduring or have endured. My thoughts go out to all of them, and although I don't intend to provide a depressing experience, I do want to share some of those people who have reached out to Remington in their times of need or contemplation:
  • Feb 25, 2003: Tess, agility dog, 10; sudden illness, tumor on heart, put to sleep the same day.

  • March 1, 2003: Black Lab, 9 1/2, tumor on spleen diagnosed 2 months ago, gradually getting worse and worse.

  • March 3, 2003: Sydney, breed not specified, tumor removed from elbow, wondering what to do next.

  • March 17, 2003: Maggie, 9; ill, just deciding to try chemo even though prognosis is poor. March 31, Maggie not tolerating chemo well, tumor as large as the heart itself, thinking the end is close.

  • April 7, 2003: Alex, sheltie, 12; sudden coughing fits, tumor on heart, decided not to treat and wait for the right time.

  • May 9, 2003: Cedar, 11, and Zack, 10, golden retrievers, one died last month after 4 months on chemo, one 6 years ago 2 weeks after diagnosis.

  • July 1, 2003: Stacy, cocker spaniel, 13; kidney removed with h. tumor; struggling with what to do next.

  • Sept. 20, 2003: Kai, Boykin spaniel, large tumor on spleen, waiting for surgery and final diagnosis.

  • Jan 15, 2004: Puppy, Lab mix, 8 yrs old, sudden drastic illness, ruptured spleen tumor, put to sleep the same day.

  • Feb 28, 2004: Jose, Bichon, 15; subcutaneous h. removed; waiting for further test results.

  • Jan 11, 2005: Chamois, Golden Retriever, 11; whole story very similar to Rem's and just lost him a month ago.

  • Jan 20, 2005: Sunshine, Golden Retriever, older than 9; just found huge tumor on heart, nearest vet 3 hours away; diagnosis not confirmed h. but indications all match, agonizing over what to do next. Feb 7, decided not to treat, dog passed away at home.

  • April 7, 2005: Spencer, German Shep/Dobie mix, just diagnosed; shocked and looking for information

  • June 7, 2005: Max, Labrador; diagnosed Friday after sudden seizures; put to sleep Monday after reading Rem's site and reassured that being with him at the end was the right thing.

  • June 19, 2005: Sadie Rottweiler/Akita mix, 12; mass on spleen, putting to sleep tomorrow.

  • June 19, 2005: Buddy, Terrier, 14; healthy one day and then sick the next; just had splenectomy but not doing chemo. July 27, seemed to have recovered fine, then suddenly very ill and just had him put to sleep.

  • Aug 9, 2005: Akira, 8, just diagnosed but no symptoms; have decided to let him live it out without surgery or chemo, looking for info that'll help determine when the time has come.

  • Aug 12, 2005: Eddy, female yellow lab, 9; just had splenectomy and starting chemo.

  • Dec 6, 2005: Dog had h. 2 years ago, did surgery & chemo & put to sleep then. After reading Rem's site, reassured that she had done the right thing.

  • Jan. 26, 2006: 10-yr-old, sudden illness, surgery which found tumor on kidney, agonizing over what to do.

All these dogs, so loved. And, as always, all I can think to say is that the fact that they were so loved speaks well of the lives they had. There are so many other dogs out there whose people don't care, or wouldn't notice--or who don't have people. How lucky they all were to live in a place where they were cared for and spoiled in their last days and given a peacful ending with ones they loved.

Labels: , ,

Complete list of labels

Monday, April 25, 2005

Sad Corgi News

Both of the Corgis from our Wednesday night class died this week. There was a brief flash of hope for the older Corgi when another clinic thought that cancer might be a misdiagnosis, but his condition worsened overnight and he died quickly. The second Corgi's cancer was requiring more and more frequent transfusions and she wasn't generally a happy dog except immediately after the transfusion; she was put to sleep this weekend.

What a couple of shockers. And it makes me look at every little thing that my dogs do or don't do, wondering: Will s/he be next?


Complete list of labels

Friday, March 05, 2004

One Year

This is it. This is the one-year anniversary of the NADAC trial weekend when Remington died. It's Friday night. I and the three dogs went to bed early so we could get up early to drive to Elk Grove. By morning, I had only two dogs. I'm teary eyed; a little frightened in a superstitious way that I hate in myself; tied in knots.

It's hard to believe it has been an entire year. So much of it is still so fresh. I can still see Remington so clearly.

I am almost as much at a loss for words to frame my feelings and sense of loss as I was then.

We'll be getting up at 4 tomorrow morning to drive out there.

Labels: ,

Complete list of labels

Saturday, November 29, 2003

The Ghost of Nightmares Past

Last night I dreamed that Remington and I were sitting on the couch, his front end sprawled across my lap as was his usual wont. Suddenly he shot to a sit, his face contorting, and then the seizure started. He thrashed, his limbs stiff and jerking spasmodically, and I just held him as gently as I could so that he wouldn't throw himself off the couch like he threw himself off the bed the night he died.

As the spasms died away and he lay on his side, panting, eyes wide, I gently wiped away the foam and strings of saliva from his mouth and face. I stroked him slowly, comfortingly as my mother wandered in and asked casually what was going on.

"It's siezures," I said, "Just like the night he died. I thought they were done with. I thought they wouldn't happen again."

And I woke up crying.


Complete list of labels

Sunday, November 16, 2003

It's Been A Year--Part I

I've been very conscious that it's been a year this month since Remington's cancer diagnosis. It's hard to believe. I realize, in rereading my dog_diary entries, that the details are becoming fuzzy. But the emotions are still nearly as fresh as the days they were formed--feeling that my life had collapsed around me, wishing it were a nightmare I'd wake up from.

I was sorting through my Visa bills from last winter, which for some reason I never reconciled with the statements (gee--subconscious mind games?), and it was bad enough having receipt after receipt after receipt, often 2 or 3 a week, with the cancer clinic's name or the emergency clinic name--but then they stopped abruptly after March 8, and that's almost as jarring now as it was then.

And I've been finding that it's just as hard this month to find words for what I'm feeling as it was right after Rem died.


Complete list of labels

Saturday, March 08, 2003

Remington's Gone / Biography

[remphoto]Remington was put to sleep quickly and painlessly this morning before 6:00 after he started having violent seizures in the night. At the moment, I'm not in Elk Grove after all.

Sunset and evening star,

And one clear call for me!

And may there be no moaning of the bar

When I put out to sea.

Remington's biography moved to a separate page.


Complete list of labels

Saturday, March 01, 2003

How Do You Make A Decision? In Which Ellen Ponders and Curses the Inevitable.

I've received two nice letters this week from strangers on the internet who've found our site while searching for info on hemangiosarcoma. What a rough disease. One letter inspired the following thinking-out-loud dump of the load I'm carrying.

With Remington's current status looking like this might be his last week or 2, I can't help but wonder whether the medical fees have been worth the 4 extra months. (Without any treatment, they didn't think he'd survive a month.) I had the financial resources and I've tried to make sure that Rem has had a good time whenever possible, and we've done some things that I wouldn't have gotten around to doing for a long time, maybe never, if I hadn't known he had a fatal illness. If I hadn't had the financial resources, say a few years ago, I'd have had to let the illness take its course or possibly even have him put to sleep much earlier. That's not a terrible thing at all. In fact, Rem has had some unpleasant experiences during these months, too--long periods in the hospital without me, getting those 2 transfusions or whatever--so it hasn't all been gophers and home-cooked chicken. But--having spent the $--I don't regret it. Now, if I had to spend that much a month to keep *all* my dogs alive all the time, that would be wayyy different.

And I still have cash, and I could still spend more, but how much more do I spend on what is ultimately a losing proposition, and at what expense to *Remington*, who is, after all, the one who matters the most in all of this?

In some ways, it's a smarter decision not to fight it, since you know that the results are foregone and the end will be much quicker than you could possibly hope, and of course it's the *dog* who bears the brunt of all of our medical attempts to keep him alive. I think all they want is to be with their loving families.

I'm wrestling now with the dilemma that we have the power to prevent a dying dog from going through an extended period of misery, something we don't have for people. When is the dog's quality of life compromised enough that he would be better off closing his eyes and going peacefully on to the great milkbone in the sky? How do I know whether I'm keeping him alive because *I* don't want to lose him or because he's enjoying life enough? I don't really want him to slowly bleed to death, either. That doesn't seem fair to him.

I keep thinking back to the phrase, "Where there's life, there's hope--" but, with hemang., there's really no long-term hope. But there might be hope for another few good days. I don't see that Rem is in pain at the moment, although his energy is low. However, he's certainly so miserable when bleeding is going on that, if it happens too frequently, I can't see forcing him to continue to go through that. And there's only so much that a transfusion can do. It might give him enough energy for another day or 2, but it's just holding off the inevitable, and I'm not willing to trade a day in the hospital for a day or 2 of false energy. So I don't think we'll be doing any more transfusions. The other problem with transfusions is that they can increase the blood pressure, so if there's active bleeding going on, it can just keep it happening rather than leaving the lower blood pressure which possibly allows the rupture to close up.

I cried a lot the first days after the diagnosis while he was in the hospital. And every time he's bled badly inside, I lose him all over again and the tears come again. Thinking about all the holes that will be left in my life with him gone hurts a lot. I have gradually been able to build myself a usable mental image of life with the other two beasties. And this is just my dog, for crying out loud, who'd probably have not lived more than a few more years anyway. I can't imagine how people find the strength to handle the loss of a spouse or a child or a parent. I think that as people and dogs gradually age, you gradually build your own mental and emotional model in which the logical progression beyond very old age is death, and you also expect a gradual changing of activity level and slowly decreasing strength and robustness--not that frailness is inevitable, but someone's who's 80 just isn't going to be as robust as someone who's 40.

But when the illness or death comes suddenly, early, unexpectedly, you have to fight the whole "It's not fair." "Why me? Why now?" thing and the sudden unexpected change in your life and your plans and your vision of what your life would be like for the next however many years AS WELL as dealing with the loss.

I'm fortunate in that I work from home most of the time, so I am with him almost all the time now. He now won't eat anything other than meat, and I don't think it's because he's spoiled by all the extra stuff. He really just doesn't have the appetite or interest in anything else any more. And that's sad.

We went for a walk, just the 2 of us, again today, over in the field where there are gopher holes. Today he had the energy to try to dig one out. And he had the energy to sniff around at stuff and go looking for squirrels, too. Rest of the time he's on his bed, sleeping deeply, saving his small amount of energy reserve. Does have the energy today to get up and join the other annoying beasts when they start woofing at an imagined offender out the front window, and when he lifts his head, it's with bright eyes and raised ears, not with a sick dog's demeanor.

So we keep going.


Complete list of labels