Dogs and me

I’ve been lucky enough to have had the company of a few dogs over the years.  Each and every one of them has enriched my life in some way and taught me a thing or two about loyalty and love.  Whoever said that dogs have neither feelings nor  souls has never owned a dog and therefore does not matter, in my opinion.

My first foray into dog companionship kicked off when my grandmother came to live with us when I was seven.  She brought along her little terrier and I got to pretend that I finally had a dog for the next eight years.  That little dog put up with dress ups, my questionable dog grooming skills, posing for ‘portraits’, sharing her mat and was my first port of call when life sucked and I needed a unbiased ear.  I was hooked on the dog-bug for the rest of my life.

After I left home I decided on a larger ‘real-dog’ travelling companion.  I purchased a beautiful black German Shepherd pup and she became my copilot for my many adventures as I navigated up and down the coast working and generally having a good time.   Company aside, as she grew she was a marvellous deterrent for any would-be lotharios that were inclined to think that I was up for it.  I have one spectacular memory of her sitting on top of some unlucky sod after she ran him down because he swiped my ice cream cone.  To this day I am still not sure if she was after the ice cream or the thief.

I was companion to a beautiful silky terrier a few years later.  She became the perfect match to my grandmother when I had to move and I couldn’t take her with me.  She was as silly as a wheel but she suited my grandmother perfectly and I got to see her on weekends.  So began my love for the smaller lap dog when I met my future husband and talked him into purchasing my next dog.

Jackson came into my life just before serious illness struck me down.  He was a white ball of fluff that my husband took one look at and asked where the batteries went.  He was the perfect foil of patience, loyalty and love that would get me through the tough times ahead.  He was a gentlemanly dog, preferring to mind his manners at dinner time and always ask for permission before he did something.  Aside from his one grand adventure when he disappeared for hours only to be found curled up under the recliner chair bay sleeping and oblivious to the mayhem that surrounded him – he never put a paw wrong.  He was the light in my life when I needed it most and a joy to be around.  The day I lost him I lost a part of myself that I still haven’t found.

Jackson’s offspring, Dylan, was a completely different fluff ball.  He was brash at mealtimes and would barge in to get his share before somebody else got it.  He thought he was a giant but was scared of the budgie.  He loved to sleep on anything soft that was higher than the floor.  He loved attention and would sulk when anybody else got it.  He would show off to get an extra treat.  We lost him to cancer a few years ago after many operations and no hope.  I still grieve for my funny little soul who snored in his sleep.

These days I am entertained by my two Bichons, Angus and Ruby.  I love them dearly and I laugh often at their funny little ways and different personalities.  Angus is fearless and will bark at anything that moves until he gets outside his home turf.  He owns the world and has a strut to prove it.  His retrieval skills are unmatched and he can play until my arm has gone numb.  He is king of his domain, a bright little button in my life that simply must have his head elevated when he sleeps.  He has taken to carrying his own mini-pillow around with him for portable comfort whenever the mood suits.  Ruby is my lovely little fluffy girlie girl.  She knows her place in the household which is mostly wherever the food is at.  She will hear the fridge open from out in the front yard.  She will be at my side in moments when she hears the crackle of paper – just in case.  She is affectionate and soulful.  She loves nothing more than to lie on her back in my lap for a belly rub and will drop to the floor flat on her back at the hint of a possible spare hand doing nothing.

There is no question that my dogs have been spoilt.  I am probably over the top and am considered a little eccentric by some when it comes to my furry companions.  I would much rather be this way and experience all that a dog has to give and lose them one day than never to have had the opportunity to experience it at all.  Dogs enrich my life, they lighten my heart and they offer solace when I am feeling sad.  They are my constant companions, loyal to a fault and dependent on me to live their lives in the best way they can.  I can offer them a good home and a good life.  At the end of the day and of my life if this has been my only purpose then it will have been a magnificent calling.



Dog days

vet2I took my dog to the vet today. Again.

I take my dogs to the vet more than I go to my general practitioner.  And they cost a whole lot more than a general consultation.

Ruby, my beautiful Bichon Frise, has a regular appointment for a urinalysis and an anal gland check. Yes I know, too much information, so I will just call it a wee and a bum squeeze and leave the rest to the imagination.

I’m on a first-name basis with my vet these days. Considering that I probably paid a good portion of her mortgage in the first half of last year, it is not surprising but she still insists that I collect the urine sample myself.  The logic of this escapes me, as the end result is the same and she’s the one getting paid.

For the privilege of the do-it-yourself urine collection, I have to follow my poor dog around with a small tray for days before I can catch her in the act.  She’s become so paranoid lately that not even her favourite treat can coax her ‘to go’ when I am within a twenty-metre range of her back end.  A recent attempt resulted in urine everywhere but in the designated receptacle and a spooked dog who wouldn’t come near me for 24 hours.

I’m surprised that I haven’t been asked to perform the ‘bum squeeze’ myself but there’s a surcharge for that one so I guess I won’t be standing in the way of a profit anytime in the near future – for which I am extremely grateful.

My dog, for her part, conducts herself reasonably well, although she does try to crawl under the table and hide the moment she walks in the door.  She’s seen enough bum action in the last few months and she knows what’s coming, so I can’t blame her. It’s the aftermath that’s the problem.

She won’t talk to me for hours after we get home.  I guess she feels a bit ‘put out’ and wants to share it around. Whoever said that a dog can’t reason or understand has obviously never owned a dog.

She is off the hook next month. I have to take her brother, Angus, in for a teeth clean. As he is the drama queen of the pair, I can’t wait for the epilogue.

My love, my dog

I haven’t posted for a while. It’s been pretty hectic, and I have all sorts of interesting tidbits from my life to tell, but I will start with the most recent and the most traumatic right now.

My fur-kid has cancer.

It’s a hard thing to digest. My emotions are raw and my sadness is deep.

Dylan, my 14-year-old Maltese, my best buddy, and the resident senior fur-citizen, is going to leave me.

I didn’t  listen to the vet at first. Dylan had just come in for a teeth clean and a vaccination. Surely that lump I was concerned about was just a cyst? The vet shook her head and said the cyst was cancer. It had spread to his spleen and into his chest. She showed me the x-rays. I could see some lumps and dark spots. It didn’t mean anything to me, but I felt sick anyway.

I cried. I had brought him in 2 months ago with a smaller lump. She couldn’t feel anything because he was tensed up, so we didn’t do x-rays. She told me she was sorry. I cried even more.

He looked okay. He was eating and drinking. He didn’t seem to be in any pain. Was there anything that she could do?

She told me that if he was a younger dog, she would suggest an operation to remove the lump, the spleen, and follow it up with chemotherapy to the chest via a specialist. I cringed at the thought. His little body had been through a lot in this life, but I doubted that it would withstand the onslaught of chemo. I’d seen what it did to humans.

I took him home to his fur-brother and sister and made a big fuss of him. He took it all in his stride and snuggled into his favourite spot on the lounge after his favourite treat for dinner. He doesn’t know what’s happening, but he knows he is loved.

I have spent the last few days reminiscing and looking at photos of the holidays and places we have been together. The 3-hour bottle feeds when he was born when his mother rejected him. The chewed furniture and the spiteful poo on the bedspread when he got locked in the bedroom. The howls of delight when I came home from work.

We’ve had lots of adventures and he has had a good life with us. He’s been dressed up as Santa at Christmas time and dressed up as a bunny at Easter. He’s been photographed making himself comfortable on the train of my wedding dress, and balancing precariously on the seat of my stationary motorbike. He was first at my bedside when I was ill and last to leave when I recovered.  His good looks and his loving nature have negated his many vices in the past, although he has sailed a little too close to the wind when he has peed on my furniture on occasions.

One day I will remember him, warts all, and wish I was cleaning up the pee, but not today. Today I’m going to make the most of his presence, and feel lucky that I was fortunate enough to have known this special little being. I’m going to give him all he needs, love him as much as I can, and even look into some natural remedies to improve his disposition and prolong his comfort.

Better to have loved him and enjoyed our time together than to never have had the privilege of loving him at all.

The vet lament

I took my dog to the vet specialist the other day. Yes, my dog has a specialist.

My dog was referred to the specialist by my vet, who seemed to be reluctant to take the treatment any further until she had a professional opinion. Up until that point I thought that she was the professional. For her professional services so far, my dog has had examinations, antibiotics, more examinations, urinalysis, blood tests, and a final operation to remove the source of the problems – bladder stones. All of this treatment has cost us just on $2,500.

When the vet suggested that I take her to a specialist, all I could see were dollar signs. Vet specialists don’t come cheap, especially the ones at this pet hospital. They’ve cornered the market on vet specialist venues, that’s for sure, as it is the only one on this side of the city.  The only other one that I know of is 200 miles out of the city.

My vet faxed off the referral and the history to the specialist, and gave me the number to make an appointment.

The big day arrived and I bundled all of my dogs onto the ferry and then into the mainland car. This was not just a trip to the vet specialist, this was an all-day epic adventure. When one dog goes to the vet, the other two go for moral support. It works for me – and them.

The center was an intimidating large, white building with equally large automatic glass doors that opened onto a large, pristine reception area. People and dogs of all shapes and sizes were scattered throughout the waiting area, and 4 receptionists manned the large desk situated at the front of two entry points to the consultation rooms and the pet hospital.

I eyed the receptionists sitting under the fancy downlights and walked up to the last one, keeping a close eye on Angus and the Collie up the other end. Angus, my Bichon male, thinks he is a German Shepherd and will have a go at anything, regardless of size.  Ruby, and my Maltese cross, Dylan, wrapped themselves around my legs in terror, and then tried to pull me out the door. The receptionist looked down over the counter at my crew and smiled. She asked me if they were all here to see the specialist. I shook my head vigorously, and made it perfectly clear at this point that although I was taking all 3 dogs in, there was only 1 dog that had a problem. You only had to mention an extra dog’s name at this place and they’d charge you another consultation fee.

Pretty soon we were all trotting up to the consultation room with a man in a white coat. Ruby, my Bichon female, and the object of the exercise, took one look at the examination table and tried to crawl under the medicine cabinet. She’s seen too many of these in the last 2 months and she is not stupid.

The specialist rattled off some of the tests he would be doing in this session. After he got past ‘ultrasound’ I switched off. I started to mentally calculate how much spare cash I had in the bank and hoped I had enough to cover it all. I looked at Ruby. She was wagging her tail at me and looking up at me hopefully. I knew how she felt. I wanted to get out of there too.

I sat back out in the waiting room for about an hour for what should have been a half hour ultrasound. I started to conjure up all sorts of expensive scenarios, so I was pretty much resigned to my fate by the time they called me in.

My dog was what they called a ‘struvite dog.’ She was a dog who manufactured struvite stones in her bladder. It was a fault in the bladder and she was going to be predisposed to producing these stones if she was on the wrong diet. Her condition  would need life-long monitoring, tests, urinalysis, medications and special diets. I walked out of the consultation room in a daze.

When they gave me the bill for what would have been just under an hour’s work, I nearly fell over. There wasn’t any change from $850. One bottle of medication cost me $89. And it’s not over yet. They will be sending me out more medication in the mail, and some pH test strips for the privilege of following my dog around to collect her urine.

They also want me to go back and repeat all of this in approximately 6 weeks.

So far, Ruby  has cost us pretty close to $3,500 in 2 months. This is more than my Maltese cross has cost me his whole life, and he has just turned 14.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my dog to bits. She’s a good natured fluff ball of love. But she’s coming with a price tag.

I now know that I’m in the wrong profession. Why couldn’t my parents have seen the potential in me bringing home anything that lived and breathed to look after and encouraged me to be a veterinarian? I will never know.

My only consolation in this sorry tale is that I have pet insurance. I will get 75% of my outlay back eventually. But I’ve got to come up with the funds first.

I will, however, take care of my dog. She is a beautiful little soul whose main orientation in life is to love me unconditionally.

It is a fair swap, I think.

A wee story

I had to take one of my dogs to the vets a couple of weeks ago for what appeared to be her second bout of cystitis in as many months. She certainly wasn’t very well, and the vet wasted no time in getting her urinalysis done, blood tests, antibiotics, and painkillers organised. All at great cost too, I might add.

I asked the vet why it was that my dog appeared to have exactly the same thing that she had not so long ago, considering I had followed all the instructions and pumped those expensive antibiotics down her throat for 2 weeks.  The vet wasn’t sure, but she asked me to put my dog on a different course of antibiotics for two weeks and bring her back before they were finished with a sample, to make sure that they were working this time.

A sample? What kind of sample?

It was, of course, my dog’s urine sample. I looked at the vet disbelievingly. Wasn’t that what I paid these people all this money for? To gather pet pee among other things? How the hell was I going to get my dog’s urine sample? She doesn’t pee on command you know, and she certainly doesn’t know how to pee in any kind of pee-holding receptacle.

I thought about it when I left the vet’s and consulted the expert – my mother – who actually came up with an idea that had some merit.

An old plastic empty margarine or butter container.

I could cut one down with a pair of scissors, so it would resemble a small tray, and it would be small enough to slide right on in underneath my dog before she knew what was happening. Ingenious!

As it turned out, my dad had a stack of them hidden up in his cupboard for a rainy day. And that day was today. I was in margarine container heaven. I took two home with me, just in case.

Now all I had to do was pick my moment.

A couple of days before the vet’s appointment, I started to follow her around, but she became suspicious and wouldn’t do anything in front of me. She got to the point where she would sneak off to do her business so that I wouldn’t stalk her.

The night before the vet’s appointment, I was getting a little desperate. I filled my pockets with doggie treats and coaxed her out into the front yard. I even let her go out of the front yard to her favourite ‘sniffing’ tree that she loved so much. She followed the trail of treats and headed outside. I held onto the tray with anticipation. It was now or never.

I coaxed her, I praised her, I yelled at her, and finally I begged her, but she just kept on sniffing. And sniffing some more.

Right. That was it. The vet could get the damn sample herself.

I was just about to herd her back inside when she started to squat. If I hadn’t turned around I would have missed it. I tried to move as quickly as I could without causing her alarm as I swept the tray out out my pocket and underneath her tail end.

She nearly jumped a metre in fright to get away from me. I just managed to hold onto the darn thing as she shot away from me, through the gate and up the stairs.

I looked down at the tray. It was all over my hand, but it was also all over the bottom of the tray. It was at this point that I silently thanked my husband and his ‘never-know-what-you-might-need-em-for’ bulk sterile glove purchase some months ago. I had all the necessary equipment for urine collection. I also had all the urine.

I managed to transfer the hard-won sample into a more secure sterile sealed container that my father also had a stash of. Don’t ask.

I put this in another sealed container and put it in the fridge and covered it up. I might know that pee is  on the shelf next to the milk, but I don’t want to see it until tomorrow.

It took me an hour to coax my traumatised dog out from under the bed.

The love of dogs

You’ve got to love dogs. Or any pet for that matter. You have pets for a reason. Hopefully for a mutually beneficial arrangement that provides love, companionship, warmth and loyalty.

All my life I have been around animals, mostly dogs, but I’ve managed to find ‘strays’ in many furry variations over the years, including a mouse that I smuggled into my room when I was six. Not long after I had made a nest for him in my top draw, he disappeared, only to reappear in my mother’s top drawer. He was quickly dispatched to the kid down the road who was allowed to have mice.  I tried my luck again and again, and all sorts of creatures ‘followed’ me home, including a white kitten, a chicken, a turtle, a lizard and a rabbit. Most of them were given to good homes at a rapid rate by my mother, who was not an advocate of many things that had more legs and less toes than her.

Not long after my seventh birthday my grandmother came to live with us and brought along her furry friend, Angel, a black and tan terrier. Finally, something my mother couldn’t get rid of. My salvation had arrived! I was in dog heaven. I told all my friends I had a dog. I took Angel for walks, I fed her, shared my icecreams and lollies, washed her and talked to her. Angel lived until I was seventeen and she set the precedent for the rest of my life.

My first dog was a German Shepherd. I named her Nishka and took her everywhere with me. She was my copilot on the road, my wingman and my protector. She was loyal, loving, and gone too soon.

Many years later a wonderful little fellow came into my life, much smaller than Nishka, but my greatest love of all. Jackson was my main furball, my best buddy, and a true gentleman. He was with me through thick and thin, sickness and health, for almost thirteen years. When he left me a part of me went along with him on his journey.

Right now I am the proud mamma of two lively Bichons and a little old Maltese. They bring me a lot of joy, and keep me going through the good and the bad. They each have their own personalities, and they all have different views on how things should be done around this place. Ruby is the boss, although the other two think they have it over her. She swans around the house like a diva, and of course, expects all the trappings becoming to her status. Angus is the strutter. He struts around this place like he owns it. He is full of himself, but no match for the conniving diva. Dylan is the senior citizen of the troupe. He has been with me for nearly fourteen years, and is the son of my best buddy, Jackson. I treat him well and with the respect that he deserves. He’s seen it all and done a lot. How he tolerates Angus I will never know.

They are like children, my dogs. They are naughty, mischievous, loving and they are constant. They will always be what they are until they die. Dogs don’t pretend to like you, they don’t lie, take your money or stay out late. They are just there, and they are happy to love you for what you are, despite your perceived faults and failings.

I will always have a little piece of heaven as long as I have a dog.


Dogs like us

I find myself relating pets to their owners, often. Yes, I know the saying ‘that pets and owners often resemble each other’, but I see that phrase in action nearly everywhere I go.

Take the man down the road. He’s a hard worker – he’s always got a project on the go. He’s literally like a dog with a bone..and so is his dog Jack – the Jack Russell, obviously. Jack doesn’t sit still either. He digs, and digs some more. When he’s satisfied that he has excavated enough immediate terrain, he surveys his handywork for a moment and then goes off to investigate the possibilities of another dig. I’m pretty sure that man and beast put in a hard days work, take their respective breaks together and sleep the bare minimum necessary for a quality of life.

And then there’s sweet Lacy. She’s a long haired short something-cross with the same airy disposition as her ex-unhibited 70’s hippy child human earth-mother. Lacy has inherited the same wild curly locks as her mother, and lives her life in low gear, taking each day as it comes – which is fortunate really, as she is often left to wander and forage for herself while her Mum goes off au naturel to a day spa up the coast.

And what about Mini and Minor? A couple of pint sized Pomeraniums that don’t know when to shut up. They’ve got something to say about anything that moves in or out of their front yard, but they’ve got nothing on their owner – who runs the community newsletter and what she doesn’t know about locally isn’t worth knowing – apparently. Enough said.

And then there’s Buster. He and his Dad wouldn’t raise an eyebrow down on the docks at midnight. Between them they’d make up the size of the broad side of a barn, and a dark alley would look homey in comparison. Scarey stuff, to be sure, but roll either man or dog over and scratch his belly and they’d be putty in your hands.

And lastly there’s Jake, a jowly, cranky grunting little Bulldog that walks with a limp and is intolerant of just about anybody but his jowly cranky, arthritic, wheezing, old and short owner.

Bear in mind that this is just in my immediate community, and while it gives no real indication of the reality of the situation, the implications are there. Do we take on our dog’s persona or vice-versa? Or is it there all along and we unconsciously select a companion that we know we can relate to on some level? I have no answers, but I’ve noticed lately that my two out of three of my dogs’ penchants for comfort are starting to extend to elevating their heads on a soft surface while in the horozontal cushions. One has even taken it so far as to drag a little pillow around so that he can elevate his head on a whim.  I don’t believe I have encouraged this behaviour, but I haven’t discouraged it either. Are my dogs behaving like me? I don’t carry a pillow around the house – I don’t need to – they are everywhere, and I have been known to take my pillow with me at times when we are staying overnight elsewhere. What can I say – it’s my favourite.