Saturday, August 29, 2015

Amy n Andy - ants and apples

Who knew that ants and apples might be dog food!

Amy and Andy continue to make progress. Sit, come, doing well! Putting on weight - Amy is up to 39 lbs, Andy is at 44, down a couple from 47. Now we need to put on some muscle weight for Amy. Andy is pretty optimal.

They steal from each other at the first opportunity - food, attention, whatever. But they don't fight over it. If it a particularly good thing? Like a beef bone? One might growl a little at the other - and that is the end of it. Very nice. But guaranteed either one is watching for what the other gets and they are in their face trying to steal!

Noticed a while back they were smelling the ground in the yard, and then digging the spot. Seemed to be interested in something in the ground - so who knows - moles, voles, bugs, whatever. The other day, I thought I caught Amy chewing on roots she found in the hole.

But they are definitely smelling whatever it is that is interesting. Then today, Amy does the same thing, in a new spot. Sniff, sniff, sniff, dig a little, stick nose deep in the hole, sniff. Then she started licking at the dirt. Wtf, ok then? And I look closer, to see a couple of large ants on the ground. Could it be they are smelling the ANTS? It seems Amy might be looking at the ants as food.

I suppose that would fit with being starving and contained outdoors in a yard.

Then later, Amy picks up an apple that fell from our tree, and begins rolling it downhill and playing with it! Wow. We have been trying every which way to get them to play with dog toys or balls - with zero luck. So she picks up an apple on her own, and starts playing with it! Well, OK! Let me get you some more apples! Which I did - and they played. And between playing with them chewed on them. I think Andy thought them a bit tart!


Thursday, August 27, 2015

A requiem, a new start.

Dogs. Napoleon wondered how one dog could give him such heartache, when Napoleon himself had knowingly sent thousands of men to their deaths.

Sara was 14. She had been diagnosed with cancer months ago. We were looking for new dogs to join our family even as we helped her enjoy her last days.

Klinger was 7. He was a great dog. The best trained dog we have ever had. He was devoted to us. He started having problems, like a spider bite that went necrotic - like a brown recluse type thing. But he kept having other issues - and we could find nothing wrong. This went on for a couple of months. It always seemed like this was something that he could recover from. Except Klinger kept getting worse. Not eating. Painful joints. This went on about 2 months, and he slowly kept getting a little worse. But never really really sick, you know? Finally we decided to up the ante, and went to a specialist. Did an ultrasound, found lots of cancer, but small, and distributed all over. Which was why we did not find anything by feeling for lumps and painful spots. Klinger was dead 4 days later. And that was hard. Very, very hard.

Ok, that is done.

We'd been looking, right? We had found a couple great candidates. One had a strong prey reaction to cats - nogo. Another had 12 people in front of us on an adoption list. We saw a LOT of marginal candidates for us. I mean, sure, and I'd like to save all the dogs, but I don't have 100's of acres for them and I can't pay a staff to care for them. We've got to be a little selective and pick the best dogs that we can care for and that will fit best into how we live. A few days after Klinger passed, Suzanne looked at the Saveadog site. There were three excellent candidates there. So on Saturday, we went visiting. I wasn't much into it, but I knew I should go.

Well, turned out all three were super dogs. And two were a brother and sister act. And that was our intro to Amy and Andy. And that was how it went.

Amy and Andy. Ok - we have already had LOTS of adventures - and it has only been a week? No, a week + 1/2. First, Amy got sick - some sort of GI infection - and would not eat. Passed it to Andy, of course! But it was like a human 2 day "flu" thingy - sick as a dog for a short time - then better. Huh. The wordplay was unintentional, but I left it in - realized how bad it was as soon as I wrote it!

Anyway, after a week they are both eating MUCH better and are VERY vigorous and energetic. They got TWO daily runs yesterday and today and that still was not enough. Thank heavens they love to play with each other! Suzanne has posted a couple of vids of them playing on her page.
Past 3 days they've been eating well - about 150% of what they need to maintain their weight. At this point, that is A-Ok - as they still need to add some weight. Amy is still awfully bony. Andy is better - looks more like he has filled out to an optimal weight - but Amy needs to add some flesh.

When we started running a week or so ago - they would not break into a run. Dog trot was their fastest speed. Couple days ago was a red-letter day, when Amy was willing to break into a run. Today they went 2.5 miles in the aft, and then came home and chased each other around the house and yard at top speed. MAN, I am glad they can entertain each other! If they didn't, the boredom for them would be hazardous to us.

So let me tell you about the mischief! And they are mischievous! They get along with the cats 110% A-ok. But they WILL tease the cats. Today, both cats came indoors around lunchtime to munch on their kibble. Amy knows where that kibble is (on top of a buffet), and she has stolen it a couple of times already. But she knows she is not supposed to steal it. The cats come in and start munchiing, and Amy jumps up and pops her head up right next to them for the startle effect! "GOTCHYA!" Oy, the cats jumped and hissed, and Amy looked pleased. Mind you, the cats do not regard Amy or Andy as a particular threat - or this would have been a problem.

I've resorted to what I think of as shutzhund type training for these two - a treat within a few seconds - for excellent results. I know it isn't just shutzhund trainers that use this - it seems to be popular amongst trainers these days. But I've always regarded the offering of food at every performance as a sub-par method. Anyway, WHAT-ever, eh? Today I need what works.

Remember, Amy and Andy are adult dogs, and, hmmmm . . ., let me think . . . what mischief they might get into?  So far . . .they have opened a covered trash can . . . dug into the can recyling bin (for empty cat food cans) . . .picked up a number of shoes and socks as personal chew toys . . . pee'ed inside the house (in full view of us!) . . . jumped the fence . . . and I forget what else!

On the other hand, they are a dream on leash. On our afternoon run today, we startled live turkeys.  Andy in particular, but both were VERY interested! And they started to chase. But, they only pulled slightly and then settled down. Since I run them while riding a bike, this is important! Our last dogs - Sara and Klinger - pulled me head over tea-kettle more than once when we were working on running together. And, when A&A jumped the fence, they did not take off for parts unkown. They've stayed pretty much in our larger yard. When Sara used to get out - she was gone a mile before you could shout. And Klinger just followed right along!

When A & A run with me - they can run shoulder to shoulder - actually touching, no problem. They often look like they are in lockstep and it is beautiful. They already show understanding of come, sit, stay, down, get right, get left (very useful with me on the bicycle!), and more. We still have a lot of problem spots to work on. The indoor urination, the attraction to our shoes and socks, the jumping the fence, for instance.

And we have a number of lesser quirks. For instance, they seem afraid to get close to the pond that marks the midway spot on our long runs! Won't drink the water, won't go close to the water's edge.

They are smart enough, and clever enough, that training these guys is different from training Klinger or Sara. I can't quite tell what they are thinking or how they see a situation. Unlike Sara and Klinger. Well, we are working it, tho!

Smart, they are. Energetic. Yup. Playful, cheerful, a bit timid and cautious, great dogs. I hope we can continue to provide them with sufficient activity. I think leaving these two alone for 8 hours a day would not work very well. But they are obviously glad to have a home where they get some good feedback! And we are glad to have the company!

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Klinger, singin' a song for you. Just tryin' to say goodbye.

Well, fudge . Had the dog in for xrays and a new battery of bloods on Tue. Wed he was not just worse - but much worse - losing mobility in rear legs. Xrays and bloods showed mostly nothing. Two vets found no internal masses, neither by palpating nor by looking at the xrays. Thinking was, can't find anything wrong - maybe neurological disease?
Today we went to a high-priced specialist. They did ultrasound and found a lot of small masses everywhere. So, from two active dogs to none, in short order. No telling how much time this boy has left.

I had given orders which brought death to thousands. Yet here I was stirred, profoundly stirred, stirred to tears. And by what? By the grief of one dog. -- Napoleon Bonaparte

Klinger has been my buddy. I could walk into a room, and he would look at me. And I could see that looking at me made his day better. Looking at me literally made him happy. He would just look at me and smile. I don't think I've ever had a dog do that before. Spencer Quinn writes, in his Chet and Bernie mystery series, of Chet (the dog) as looking at Bernie (the dog's human) that way. He has Chet describe Bernie as beautiful and nice to look at. It is a heck of a compliment, ya know! Made me feel good in turn.

Klinger hasn't been a one-person dog, but not far off, either. He has pretty much been my shadow the past couple years. And I've found myself attached to him, as well. So when it comes time, I'll put him down myself, and cry like a baby. I won't have it done somewhere other than home, and not by somebody else. I'll miss this one. So I may cry between now and that next time, too.

He has gone downhill very rapidly. So quickly, that it has been more than a little confusing. We only started to notice anything wrong about two months back. And, even then, it all got confused with the other problems that he had simultaneously.

I took him to the vet 'cause he had not eaten for 3 days. And he had a modest fever, and was going through panting sessions.

At the same time, he had a hard cyst growing in his groin area. I pointed this out to the vet - and he figured it looked like a spider bite. Which could cause all the symptoms we had. The cyst got large, and hard, and it eventually became a dermonecrotic lesion. Which is a fancy word for a big hole in his gut - and a very dramatic time.

At the same time, he was having digestive issues, and neurotic issues over flies and other buzzing and flying insects, and eating issues. I figured that the fly issues stemmed from the bug bite. It all got very confusing, and very dramatic.

And up until we got the ultrasound done - there was nothing that could be found that pointed to any reason for him to be going downhill. No lumps, no localized pain, no pain sensitivity at any point, no growths. For all intents and purposes, he looked healthy. Which made his distress all the more confusing and painful to us.

But, although he appeared healthy, he wasn't. The ultrasound showed small distributed masses growing throughout many parts of his body.

And I guess he was telling us he was sick by not eating. I had been thinking that the fly neuroses was affecting his appetite. He has always been affected by outside things that hurt, like bees and wasps and biting flies. He learned quickly (too quickly) to avoid whatever he was doing when they stung or bit. So that idea seemed rational. But it was wrong. Looking back, I will say he just wasn't very hungry, which is what happens when cancer is eating you up inside. 

I like to use some of the ancient traditions for the passage to the next world. I know these motions - giving those who are passing something to go over with - are mostly for us who are still here. I gave my Dad a maple leaf when he went - trees were his life. And that kind of started it for me.

Sara - the old one who passed a few weeks ago - got a bunch of treats to carry her over the river. Sara loved food, and running, and sniffing, and barking. People and doing things with them (like obedience!) were somewhere lower on the priority list. Often much lower. But she was a happy, and game dog. People naturally took to her friendly, open, and smiling face.

For Klinger? This one will need a vigil. I'll probably do a fireside vigil for him. Being touched was the path to motivate Klinger. Treats were a secondary motivation. When he got distracted by other dogs or critters, treats were completely useless. But scratch his ears? Good any time!
For Klinger, dropping some food into the grave with him won't hold much meaning. Things, and food, didn't mean much to Klinger. He loved going out in the field to run - he was very happy then - always with a big smile on his face. And he liked being touched. Whether grooming or scratching his head and ears, he was a fool for that.

And he was my buddy.

Oft I sing for my friends
When death's cold hand I see
When I reach my journey's end
Who will sing one song for me

I wonder (I wonder) who
Will sing (will sing) for me
When I'm called to cross that silent sea
Who will sing for me

When friends shall gather round
And look down on me
Will they turn and walk away
Or will they sing one song for me

So I'll sing til the end
Contented I will be
Assured that some friends
Will sing one song for me

Don't weep for me when I am gone,
Just keep sweet song still rolling on;
Until from earth you are set free,
Remember, friends to sing for me. 

"Who will sing for me". Authored maybe by the Stanley brothers, or maybe by Thomas J. Farris. Last chorus from another version.

I'll sing for ya, buddy.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Grandpa said it would be like this

Grandpa told me about how it was. His brothers and sisters - all his family - were gone. Passed. His friends were gone. Passed. He, and Prilly, his 2nd wife, were the only ones left. Prilly was a bridesmaid at his first wedding - to Dorothea. Dorothea Bristol - my grandmother. But Grandpa was the last. It didn't take but a couple of sentences for him to say it. His friends had passed. His family had passed. The people of his generation - all passed.

So, I knew it would come to my life, someday. Of course, back then, when G-pa said it, it WAS "someday". Someday in the unknown and unknowable future. But, in the FUTURE.

I'd had a friend or two who passed away young - an auto accident - cancer - but they were very much the exception. I knew, someday, this would change.

And, today, it is changing. High school classmates are passing at an increasing rate. Famous people my age - many are passing. Which brings me to the reason for this post. I mean, life goes on - we all know that. When you get old you die, sooner or later.

But a few days ago Terry Pratchett died. He was 3 years older than me. He had a true gift for words - the like of which we only see less than a dozen in any generation. He was a genius for wisdom packed into fantasy and humor. His obit page on Yahoo linked to an animated movie of Wyrd Sisters - but I tell ya - it was pretty poor. They put all kinds of stereotypes on the words and characters Pratchett created, and asfaic, they didn't catch the characters much.

Pratchett managed to capture true wisdom in comedic characters. He had a viciously clear eye for the truth of human relations.

Note: I saved this as a draft when I wrote it, shortly after Terry Pratchett's death. I wasn't sure it would stand up to time, so I set it aside. But Pratchett was an exceptional mind for his vision of the human condition and the human spirit. We have lost a great man. I wrote this post in grief over Pratchett's passing, and never finished the thoughts here. 

To tie up the loose ends then: Terry Pratchett was a great man and a great thinker. Now, granted, he did his thinking in some novels that were typically light-hearted. But it was still some pretty deep commentary on humans and what being a member of that group called humanity meant. Some very pithy stuff buried at a rather shallow level - but buried enough that you could ignore the depth and just pay attention to the fun on the surface. 

The other loose end was the message Grandpa imparted. In short: we pass. Hang around long enough and everybody you knew will pass. And after many years of youth, when you might lose a few, a time will come when all those remaining will pass in quick step. And not a day will go by but what you are hit by what has passed. 

And my message is that, for my generation, that time has begun.